SPEECHES AND STATEMENTS
Statement Made by President Rosen Plevneliev at the Joint Press Conference of the Leaders of the States from the Arraiolos Group
Esteemed Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to thank the presidents of all countries from the Arraiolos group for their participation in many productive talks that we held within the past two days. Bulgaria delivered an excellent performance as host of a meeting of the Arraiolos group. The great trust that our partners placed in us, assigning us this responsibility, is a clear sign of the recognition our country receives for the balanced, friendly and principled foreign policy it pursues.
The presence of the presidents of ten EU member states at the current forum is a clear demonstration of the importance each one of us attaches to finding a solution to the problems the Union is facing. The topics we discussed were very topical: how to boost the trust in the EU in a period of increasing risks and an unstable international order. The current crises outline the strong need for a better, long-term and coordinated decision-making process.
In the current globalized world we all agreed on the view that we need partners to cope with the challenges and to guarantee our security and democratic development. We agreed that currently it is more important than ever before to show the strength of cooperation. In our opinion, integration and cooperation are the correct response to the crises we are facing.
We all want a functioning EU. We agree that we should not let Europe experience a crisis of the European values, a crisis of the lack of solidarity and unity. Europe needs strong institutions so that we can progress. And each one of us should contribute to restoring the trust in the EU institutions.
We have agreed that the solution to the current crisis should not be sought day by day. We support the better long-term and coordinated decision-making process in the Union. No matter whether we are speaking of migration or security, of course, these were the important topics of our debates – whether we are speaking of terrorism or the economic crisis, we will stand side by side. Every member of our family should contribute.
The challenges we are facing are global and require adopting a coordinated approach. We all agree that cooperation is not a matter of choice, but a matter of necessity for all of us. And only by ensuring the rule of law and a strong EU can we make Europe a region of peace, democracy and human rights.
The meeting in Bulgaria reconfirmed our wish and ambition to be united to overcome the crises. We agree that in order to solve a problem it must be pinpointed. We had an extremely honest and open debate on the problems we are facing today. Yes, the number of crises in the EU today is record high. And we asked ourselves: which one of them can be resolved in an efficient and sustainable manner by a national state? Migration, terrorism, unemployment, the financial, economic and debt crises, the Ukrainian crisis, the Greek crisis, Brexit, Schengen, the crisis in the relations with Russia – which one? The national states cannot cope with them on their own and it is an illusion that the national state can cope with these crises better than the EU because these crises are global and require coordinated actions.
Therefore we are united and say it loud that the only workable solution is the pan-European one. We also know that the EU is a daily plebiscite of our willingness to live together. And we say “yes” to the EU. We believe in its potential. We would like a functioning Europe, we want a strong EU of strong national states.
We agreed that unless the problems are pinpointed, we will go in the wrong direction. If they are swept away, if they are conveniently postponed for the next government or the next generation, this will be a mistake. Therefore, talking about the migration crisis, about the crisis related to terrorism, we know and we agreed that there is no easy and prompt solution. However, we agreed that the security of the EU citizens is top priority. Only together can we give an efficient response. We will strengthen the control over the external EU borders. The uncontrolled crossing of big groups of migrants through the EU is unacceptable. We will increase the European institutions’ capacity for management in times of crisis.
We share the position that the agreement with Turkey is fragile, yet is workable. It will be necessary to negotiate and sign agreements for readmission with tens of other countries. The conditions of life in the countries which are sources of migration should be improved. Decisive efforts should be pooled to end the conflicts in the countries that cause migration. And only a strong and efficient EU can contribute to this end.
We agreed that flexibility is important. The most affected member states should be assigned priority on the different crises. They should lead, however we should make decisions together by full consensus. Because achieving a consensus among all EU member states is a great strength and is no way a weakness.
Consensus is strength and everyone should contribute to finding a common solution. This is how we acted both yesterday and today, here, in Bulgaria, the ten presidents together. We agreed that the EU should not be associated solely with regulations and restrictions. We would like to show the good things it brought. The EU is a symbol of freedom. It is a symbol of open borders. The EU should not be overcentralized. The approach adopted should be less bureaucratic. It should be comprehensible for the people. The people’s fears should be taken into consideration, the reactions should be prompt, adequate and proactive, because the reaction to some problems we are facing was rather reactive, slow and insufficiently efficient.
As for the Balkans and their historical transformation – we agree that Southeast Europe looks different today. We are observing an unprecedented level of cooperation and connectivity in the region. Of course, this democratic transformation of the Balkans is an incomplete process, which should be supported. The Southeast European Cooperation Process, which Bulgaria was a proud host and chair of in the past year, 13 countries with a population worth 150 million, was successful. We marked the 20th anniversary of this initiative and there are lots of other initiatives we support because the success we have achieved is a fact. However, there is much more work to be done and every project, every idea, every initiative, is important to us.
The European project will not be completed unless the Western Balkan countries are fully integrated. We all agree on this issue. We together express our common will about the importance of the Balkans in the European Union. It is critically important. And this was what was precisely observed in the migration crisis during its peak in 2015. Peace here is particularly important for the Balkans because the memory about the war is still vivid. The wounds have not healed yet. And all of us would like to see the reconciliation in the Balkans be completed. This process should continue. We are united in our support for the Western Balkan countries and their prospects to become EU member states. The Thessaloniki process is effective, it is important and should even be speeded up.
We share the opinion that Brexit is sending out a worrying signal about disintegration. However, the Western Balkan states’ EU membership will convey the opposite message – about integration, about prospects. We all support the prospects for the Western Balkan states’ EU membership. The door is open, there are prospects.
Thank you because we all agreed that today the times are hard and difficult, which also means that we should not seek easy solutions. We should not seek to find the convenient guilty, but to find the real causes for this situation. This is namely what we did in the past two days. We honestly saw what the situation in the EU is and established that integration is not the problem. On the contrary, it is part of the solution. Unfortunately, sometimes integration and bureaucracy are confused. Because I am sure that neither the thousands of officials in Brussels, not the increasing number of new rules, which people often fail to understand, neither of these should be a symbol. This is simply a technique, not a symbol.
The symbol of the European project is integration, human rights and freedoms, democracy, the freedom of the peoples in Europe. Disregarding the details, we agreed that we will overcome together what is a stumbling stone to us, what delays us. And this is namely what happens at such forums, all of us together. This is real integration and we demonstrate that we are together and we are strong, we do not conceal the problems and pinpoint the mistakes we have made. Nothing that man has created is completed. And, of course, every president can make a mistake. However, our common task is to achieve progress, to improve the EU, to show its best characteristics, to make all citizens see the progress made.
I would like to thank you for being together, for the fact that we outlined concrete ideas and measures in support of the EU. For all of us, the EU is a unique project for peace, for democracy in Europe and in the world.
Thank you once again!