A delegation of the European Integration Committee took part in the meeting of chairpersons of the Conference Parliamentary Committees for Union Affairs of Parliaments of the European Union - COSAC organized under the auspices of the Bulgarian Presidency of the European Union Council in Sofia on 21-22 January 2018. The delegation comprised National Assembly Deputy Speaker and European Integration Committee member Gordana Comic and European Integration Committee member Dragan Sormaz.
Opening the meeting, Tsveta Karayancheva, President of the Bulgarian National Assembly, said it was essential to continue to develop the EU as a place of peace, freedom, democracy, prosperity and justice. Kristian Vigenin, COSAC Chair and Chair of the Committee on European Affairs and Oversight of the European Funds, emphasized the importance of national parliaments, as stipulated by the Treaty of Lisbon. He reported on the Troika meeting, presented the draft programme for the June 2018 COSAC Plenary and spoke about the initiative to establish a focus group for subsidiarity and proportionality.
Lilyana Pavlova, minister in charge of the Bulgarian Presidency of the European Union Council, presented the presidency’s four chief priorities: the future of Europe and young people; European perspective and “connectivity” of the Western Balkans; security and stability in a “strong and united” Europe and, lastly, the digital economy. She said that she hoped for a consensus on the outstanding issues in 2018 and announced the Summit of Heads of State and Government in Sofia on 17 May.
Great many parliamentarians spoke about the Western Balkans’ EU accession prospects stressing that each state’s progress on the European path should be evaluated individually. The representatives of the Cypriot and Spanish parliaments objected to the COSAC Chair’s decision to invite Pristina representatives to the meeting who attended it as special guests. The representatives of the Spanish Parliament said that they would not take part in the EU Summit in Sofia in May if it is attended by representatives of Pristina.
Frans Timmermans, First Vice President of the European Commission, Iliana Iotova, Bulgarian Vice President, and Iskra Mihaylova, Chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on Regional Development, all spoke at the second session dedicated to the future of the European Union. Timmermans said that each member state has its responsibilities in specific areas, stressing that the migration crisis made it clear that the EU must stand united in order to achieve consensus and security. He urged the national parliaments to be more active and support the European Commission and endorsed the establishment of a focus group for subsidiarity and proportionality to assist the working group established by European Commission President Juncker on 14 November 2017.
At the second session, National Assembly Deputy Speaker Gordana Comic said: “Serbia welcomes Bulgaria’s decision to make the Western Balkans one of its priorities. The future of Europe is being built through the incessant efforts of the member states and those who wish to join it, hoping that that future would be good for all and fighting against those who want to drag us back into the past. Stability, security and economy are one side of the coin that is prosperity, the other being the rule of law, human rights and freedom of the media. Meeting these priorities hinges on our joint efforts”, Comic concluded.
Session three was dedicated to the role of EU macro-economic strategies for sustainable development, stability and security. The parliamentarians concluded that the economic crisis had caused many problems and stressed that unity is the only solution for a strong Europe ready to take on any challenge. EU strives to perfect technological development with a special focus on investment into a digital single market accompanied by the development of an education system responsive to the needs of young people.
The meeting was attended by the delegations of the EU member states, EU candidate countries Albania, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Turkey, as well as Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Pristina as special guests, and the representatives of the European Council and the European Parliament.
The programme for the 59th COSAC Plenary to be held in Sofia on 17-19 June was also adopted at the meeting. The National Assembly delegation had a number of bilateral meetings at the margins and also presented COSAC Chair Kristian Vigenin with an official invitation to the Bulgarian Parliament’s Committee on European Affairs and Oversight of the European Funds to visit the National Assembly in April/May.