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Ekaterina Zaharieva Takes Part in a Discussion on Brexit

19 June 2018 News

‘Brexit is a very important topic to the entirety of the EU and to all Europeans. The United Kingdom’s leaving the Union constitutes a loss as it is one of the countries which have contributed greatly to establishing the its values. It constitutes a loss for London, too.’ Those were the words of Deputy Prime Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva during a discussion on Brexit entitled The Influence of Brexit on Bulgaria: What will Change and What will Stay the Same, which was organised by the Bulgarian Chevening Association.

Bulgaria’s highest-ranking diplomat highlighted that the key objective of the two teams of negotiators should be finding the precise formula allowing for participation in policies of common interest under the same conditions.

Ekaterina Zaharieva offered a review of the state of play as regards the negotiations. ‘About 75% of the texts in the Agreement have been agreed upon. The first stage of negotiations saw the teams uniting around the need to guarantee the rights of all Europeans, a priority issue for Bulgaria,’ Minister Zaharieva explained. She added that agreement had been reached on the financial obligations of the UK, London contributing to the EU budged under the current MFF ending in 2020. ‘Progress has also been made on technical considerations. The matter of the border of Ireland and Norther Ireland remains serious,’ Minister Zaharieva noted. The Bulgarian Minister of Foreign Affairs noted that negotiations were still underway concerning the steering of the agreement itself, the position of the remaining 27 Member States being that the Court of Justice of the EU should spearhead the process.

Ekaterina Zaharieva explained that during the so called transitional period London would still have to enforce EU legislation, but would not be able to take part in decision-making. She stated that, for the UK, leaving the EU meant signing out of 750 agreements, which would undoubtedly affect all spheres of public life. ‘We are pressed for time. The deadline for closing negotiations on all texts is in October. It is very important that we ensure predictability and certainty for EU citizens and businesses,’ Bulgaria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs added. During said transitional period, EU nationals will enjoy all their requisite rights.

Bulgaria attributes great significance to maintaining visa-free travel for EU and UK nationals as well as to avoiding future formal complications related to the administrative procedures for EU nationals who have decided live in the UK post-Brexit, Bulgaria’s highest-ranking diplomat shares. Minister Zaharieva explained that Bulgaria, too, is looking into ways to ensure simplified procedures for Britons living in the EU.

‘In March, European leaders agreed that they wanted close trade relations with the United Kingdom very much: no any quotas, tariffs, or excessive burden included,’ Minister Zaharieva said. She noted that London had taken the same view, but the specific texts were still to be agreed upon. According to the Minister, relations between the United Kingdom and the EU should not remain limited to a Free Trade Agreement. She said that basis for cooperation ought to be sought in the fields of security, foreign policy and defence, in the social sphere, with an emphasis on labour mobility, culture and education. ‘The teams of negotiators will do their utmost. We have to look for solutions that are in everyone’s best interest with a spirit of optimism,’ Bulgaria’s highest-ranking diplomat believes.

Ekaterina Zaharieva explained that the substantive, and much more intensive, work on the specific relations could only begin after London had left the EU.

‘In the aftermath of Brexit, we realised that the European project is not an irreversible process. When something worries our citizens, we have to work towards overcoming it,’ Minister Zaharieva stated. She highlighted that, as the current Presidency of the Council of the EU, Bulgaria had managed to maintain the unity of the 27. ‘United we stand strong. This is the motto of our Presidency. We have offered more unity, and we did well,’ the Deputy Prime Minister said.

Bulgaria’s work during the Brexit negotiations was also highly praised by the Ambassador of the UK to Bulgaria, Mrs Emma Hopkins, who also took part in the discussion.

‘I would like to thank Minister Zaharieva and Bulgaria for their pragmatic approach during these negotiations. You have indeed been a fair partner,’ the UK Ambassador stated.

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