Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ekaterina Zaharieva took part in a regular meeting of the General Affairs Council, held in Brussels today. Ministers began preparations for the December European Council by discussing the topics on a provisional agenda: defence, social matters, culture and education, migration.
The defence topic will be discussed within the context of a notification on the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), signed on 13 November by 23 Member States, including Bulgaria. Leaders will review progress of EU-NATO cooperation and in other fields as well. Heads of State and government will also consider the outcome of the Social Summit for Fair Jobs and Growth in Gothenburg on 17 November, when a Proclamation of the European Pillar of Social Rights was signed and steps in the field of culture and education were outlined.
Minister Zaharieva backed the topics set on the Leaders’ Agenda, stressing their importance. “Just a year ago few people believed that the PESCO could be launched so soon. Last week we set the beginning of a long-term team effort, and I hope that all Member States will join in,” the chief Bulgarian diplomat said. “At the same time, we must continue to work for deepening EU-NATO cooperation,” she pointed out.
“After the successful Gothenburg Summit, the European Council should continue the debate on the future of the EU social dimension,” Ekaterina Zaharieva said further. “EU leaders will have to come up with clear guidelines on how to carry on our work to ensure fair jobs and growth,” she pointed out.
The General Affairs Council exchanged views on the European Commission’s Work Programme for 2017, which stresses the need of specific measurable results of tangible added value for EU citizens. “Bulgaria, which will take over the Presidency of the EU Council as from 1 January 2018, supports the Commission’s ambitious Work Programme,” Minister Zaharieva said. “We prioritise the migration and security dossiers, reinforcing the Economic and Monetary Union, completing the Banking Union and reducing risks in the sector. We expect the Commission’s proposal for the next Multiannual Financial Framework, and we believe that Cohesion Policy should keep its place in the EU budget beyond 2020 as an important instrument to guarantee sustainable development. We will build on the efforts of the current Estonian Presidency as regards Digital Europe.”
As is the established practice, the present Estonian Presidency and the upcoming Bulgarian Presidency of the EU Council presented a roadmap for the European Semester for 2018. It outlines all key steps for implementing the Semester next year and provides provisional guidelines on the focus of discussions in the respective Council configurations.