In a few days, Bulgaria will be passing on the Presidency of the European Union to Austria. We take this opportunity to look back at some of the key issues that the Bulgarian Presidency has put forward in these 6 months and to present our office in Sofia.
At the helm of the EU for the first time, 10 years after the accession to the European Union, the Bulgarian Presidency placed particular emphasis on strengthening the stability and security in Europe with the Western Balkans and the relations with Turkey..
Security has become of the main topics for EU policy makers, ranking high on the list of concern of EU citizens. During the Bulgarian Presidency, the European PNR rules became applicable and an informal agreement was reached with the European Parliament on three regulations on the use of the Schengen Information System in the fields of:
(1) police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters;
(2) border checks and
(3) return of illegally staying third-country nationals.
One of the main achievements of the Bulgarian Presidency was to place the Western Balkans back into the spotlight. The new Enlargement Strategy was published in February 2018, re-energizing the EU – Western Balkans relations. The Sofia EU-Western Balkan Summit, that took place on 17 May 2018, reinforced a mutual commitment to the European perspective of the region and set out concrete measures to boost cooperation both with the EU and within the region. This was followed by the launch of the Digital agenda for the Western Balkans during the Digital Assembly that took place on 25 & 26 June, promising more efforts in the region towards improving broadband infrastructure, strengthening cyber security, improving digital skills and fostering economic grown by digitizing the government and industry.
The Digital Assembly in Sofia gathered more than 1,000 stakeholders and high-level policymakers to debate the EU digital policy and the implications of recent technological developments. This year's edition came at a crucial time as the European Council has called for the full implementation of the Digital Single Market strategy by 2018. At the same time the Commission proposal for the next MFF is being discussed by Member States and the European Parliament. Part of the future long-term budget of the EU will be used to bridge digital investment gaps between Member States and tackle challenges in key areas of the digital economy.
The Bulgarian Presidency also stressed the importance of introducing digital and entrepreneurial skills in school programmes, and has led discussions on “Research Infrastructures beyond 2020 – sustainable and effective ecosystem for science and society” as well as on social Europe after 2020. In this regard, it highlighted the benefits of an EU student’s e-card, which is set to be introduced after 2021. The e-card will ensure full mobility within the European Union. It will provide all the information about the students’ status, eliminating the need to over proof information such as references for enrolling in semesters, passed exams, credits etc.
Regarding the Employment files, the Bulgarian Presidency has successfully taken a lead on key legislation. At the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumers (EPSCO) Council in June, EU Member States have reached an agreement on three legislative files: the revision of the rules governing social security coordination, a new work-life balance directive and the directive on transparent and predictable working conditions replacing the Written Statement Directive.
Did you know…?
- Did you know that the Bulgarian Presidency kick started discussions on the next EU budget in May 2018?
- Did you know that through 10 national programmes, Bulgaria has been allocated 9.88 BEUR from ESI Funds over the period 2014-2020?
- Did you know that so far Bulgaria has absorbed 1.78 BEUR (3.46 BEUR) from 2014-2020 ESI Funds in more than 10 600 projects?
- Did you know thatas a result of the EU investment, 220 000 people will be served by an improved water supply and 1 473 384 by improved waste water treatment?
- Did you know that using EU Funds, 332 enterprises in Bulgaria are developing new products?
- Did you know that, in addition to the ESIF funding, for the period 2014 – 2021 Bulgaria will benefit from 210.1 MEUR from the EEA and Norway Grants?
- Did you know that the first Schuman Associates’s office outside Brussels was established in the capital of Bulgaria – the city of Sofia? It started its activities 15 years ago, 5 years before the big EU enlargement in 2004.
The Schuman Associates office in Bulgaria has closely monitored all the developments during the Bulgarian Presidency and has participated in a number of events that helped shape the EU policy in 2018, such as "EU cohesion policy: post-2020 perspectives for convergence and sustainable regions” or “2gether 4 Strong Digital Agriculture”.