A delegation from the Committee on European Affairs and Oversight of European Funds expressed support for Serbia’s accession to the European Union during its official visit to the country.
The delegation, led by Committee Chair Kristian Vigenin, met with Minister of European Integration Jadranka Joksimović, three parliamentary committees – on European Integration chaired by Nenad Čanak, Foreign Affairs chaired by Prof. Žarko Obradović, and Stabilisation and Association chaired by Vladimir Orlić, - and Chair of the Serbia-Bulgaria Friendship Group Novica Tončev. Members of the delegation were deputy chairs of the Committee on European Affairs and Oversight of European Funds Ivelina Vasileva and Peter Petrov, and Committee member Ivan Ivanov.
At the meetings, the Bulgarian MPs emphasised the consistent work of all Bulgarian institutions towards making the Western Balkans a priority for the European Union – efforts that were highly appreciated by the hosts. The forthcoming Summit in Sofia on the Western Balkans should on the one hand express clear political support for their accession to the EU, and also confirm concrete commitments to improve connectivity in the region, including with guarantees for funding large infrastructure projects, emphasised Chair of the Committee on European Affairs and Oversight of European Funds Kristian Vigenin at the talks. He promised to make a recommendation to the European Commission that the new pre-accession instrument (IPA III) for 2021-2027, through which the preparation for EU accession is funded, should be developed in coordination with candidate states, in order to make it flexible and easy to use.
Deputy Chair of the Committee on European Affairs and Oversight of European Funds Ivelina Vasileva mentioned the importance of the ongoing debate on the future of the European Union also for the Western Balkan countries and said that on the 2nd May the draft of the next multiannual financial framework would be presented (the 7-year EU budget), which will financially secure the leading EU policies, including those on enlargement.
The hosts introduced to the Bulgarian delegation the progress of the Republic of Serbia and the challenges in the preparation for accession. The most serious issue is with Kosovo, especially in the light of the recent events and tension. “Historically, SEE countries have been often set against each other. However, now we have the chance to stand up to our interests together within the EU, because only the EU can give a systemic answer to the systemic problems in the region,” emphasised Kristian Vigenin and recalled the slogan of the Bulgarian Presidency: “United We Stand Strong”.
The progress in the work with national minorities, and the Bulgarian minority in particular, was also discussed at the meetings. The Serbian representatives assured the Bulgarian MPs that legislative amendments were to be adopted, which would provide a solution for the textbooks in minority languages, a topic of concern for Bulgaria.
In addition to their official programme, the Bulgarian MPs laid flowers at the memorial of Vasil Levski and Georgi Sava Rakovski in Belgrade.
As part of the visit to Serbia, the delegation of the Committee on European Affairs and Oversight of European Funds had a meeting with the mayor of Dimitrovgrad municipality to discuss opportunities for strengthening the municipal capacity for implementing EU-funded projects, including through enhanced partnerships with Bulgarian municipalities. At a meeting with representatives of the Bulgarian national minority in Dimitrovgrad with a focus on education in the Bulgarian language and the media in Bulgarian, the MPs learned about the problems and promised to pass on the information to the competent parliamentary committees. The lack of investment, the unemployment and low income lead to depopulation of the region. In this relation, the Bulgarian MPs promised to speak to the executive authorities in order to discuss all opportunities for encouraging patriotic Bulgarian businesses to invest in Dimitrovgrad and Bosilegrad.
The delegation of the Committee on European Affairs and Oversight of European Funds laid flowers at the monument of Vasil Levski in the town centre of Dimitrovgrad.