Bulgaria's Simeon Saxe-Coburg Gotha: It is Time to Leave a Mark After so Many Years of Isolation
''We have to leave a mark after so many years of isolation'', Simeon Saxe-Coburg Gotha said in an EURACTIV interview on the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU, quoted by BGNES.
Simeon Borissov Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (or Sakskoburggotski), born 16 June 1937, is the last reigning Bulgarian monarch, who served as prime minister of Bulgaria from 2001 to 2005. During his reign as Simeon II, King (or Tsar) of Bulgaria, from 1943 to 1946, he was a minor, the royal authority being exercised on his behalf by a regency. In 1946 the monarchy was abolished as a consequence of a referendum and Simeon was forced into exile. He returned to his home country in 1996 and formed the political party National Movement for Stability and Progress (NDSV) and became Prime Minister from July 2001 until August 2005. In the next elections he, as a leader of NDSV, took part in a coalition government with the ex-communist party BSP, when Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007. In 2009, after NDSV failed to win any seats in the Parliament, he left politics.
''The presidency is indeed a historic moment and a chance, of course.I think it was in 2009 when I said we should be preparing for (the presidency in) 2018. Then the interlocutors looked at me as though I was from another planet because I was speaking for eight or nine years ahead. But now we are here, the presidency was brought forward (six months ahead) because of Brexit, and it is a very important moment. My personal opinion is that we must be well prepared and at all times carry out the presidency in a meaningful way. But my personal opinion is that this will be the first and last presidency of Bulgaria. The second is in 2032 or so, and by then there will probably be more EU members and it is unclear whether this rotation will be possible at all, so we might as well try to produce the necessary effect now'', he said.
Concerning the risks for the Bulgarian presidency in the context of the geopolitical situation and the big challenges coming from Syria, Russia and Turkey, he says: ''We always have unpleasant and difficult moments, but hopefully all of this can be done in a balanced way and, ultimately, we look at our interests as well, because there have been cases of distraction and coming out of the context on topics that are neither in our competence nor in which we are able to influence.''
Saxe-Coburg-Gotha agrees that the most logical and useful priority of the Presidency for us is the Western Balkans. Asked what Bulgaria could do to help the Western Balkans on the road to EU membership, he says: It can be useful with experience, it's years of experience, and we also have a mutual affinity with these countries, which always facilitates dialogue.
On the question for two - speed Europe, his answer is the it cannot depend on us. ''It is one thing to have an opinion and another to know what is doable. I think it is good to focus on education and new technologies because we have many capable people and this is recognised abroad. Otherwise, I fully share the priorities that have been announced. But at this meeting, I said that we should not be too ambitious in the sense of trying to cover too many priorities, but to focus on a few priorities that really are priorities. We must leave a mark of this presidency, as a “new” country in quotation marks, but also after so many years of isolation as a country, as you said, in the driving seat.''
Talking about Brexit, however, he thinks that most people regret it. ''If England could reverse course, it would be the most celebrated event, but it is hardly possible. This precedent is weighing on Europe'', he pointed out.
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