Ms. Еkaterina Zaharieva,Deputy Prime Ministerand Minister of Foreign Affairs, hosted the informal Gymnich meeting of her peers from the EU, which was held on 15-16 February 2018 in Sofia. Among the issues discussed were Syria, the Western Balkans and DPRK. The strengthening of cooperation and partnership in the field of security and defence was discussed jointly with the candidate countries.
The focus of the discussion on Syria was on the EU input into the resolution of the conflict, including in the context of the upcoming conference on Syria and the region, which the EU will organize on 25-26 April of this year in Brussels. Minister Zaharieva and the other Member States underlined the need for all efforts for resolving the conflict to take into account and to support the leading role of the UN and Mr. de Mistura, the UN special envoy for Syria. The Bulgarian side placed an emphasis on the humanitarian dimension, the need for ensuring support for the population of Syria and the upcoming conference in Brussels. The EU should be prepared to take part in the reconstruction of Syria, following the political transition in that country.
The Ministers of Foreign Affairs discussed the Communication of the EC, published on 6 February this year, entitled “A credible enlargement perspective for and enhanced EU engagement with the Western Balkans”. Minister Zaharieva welcomed the inclusive character of the document of the EC. She noted the major importance of the strengthening of the region’s security; the opportunity provided for countries of the region to mobilize resources and to achieve tangible results in meeting the requisite criteria; resolution of open issues prior to the accession to the EU; development of good neighbourly relations and regional cooperation; support by the candidate countries of the positions of the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the EU. Bulgaria considers crucial the development of all dimensions of the connectivity in the region. She noted the importance of the EU-Western Balkans summit, which will take place in May 2018 in Sofia.
The EU policy vis-à-vis DPRK was also discussed at the meeting. It is important for the positive trend towards normalization of relations between DPRK and the Republic of Korea to continue after the end of the Olympics as well. This will be an important test. The EU should continue to exert pressure on DPRK by means of restrictive measures and by diplomatic efforts. The topic will be reviewed at the Foreign Affairs Council, to be held on 16 February 2018. The Bulgarian diplomatic mission in Pyongyang is currently representing the EU in DPRK.
Opportunities were discussed for improvement and deepening the cooperation with the candidate countries in the field of security and defence. The participants called for deepening of the cooperation for combating modern-day threats, such as terrorism, radicalization, organized crime, hybrid and cyber threats. It is also important for the candidate countries to support the positions of the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the EU. Minister Zaharieva emphasized the interconnection between European security and the security of the Western Balkans. The EU should be closely involved with the countries of the Western Balkans, including for increasing their stability in the face of both domestic and external challenges. Also, the EU should support projects in the Western Balkans for capacity building in the area of security and development. The importance of energy security should not be overlooked.