Brexit Set to Dominate Graft-Plagued Bulgaria's EU Presidency
The presidency of the European Union moved from the Baltic to the Black Sea on Monday, as Bulgaria took over from Estonia for a six-month stint that is likely to be dominated by Brexit wrangles and growing strain inside the 28-member bloc.
Sofia has declared four priority areas for its first presidency: the future of Europe and its young people; the membership aspirations of Balkan states; security and stability; and developing the digital economy.
In reality, Bulgaria will hope to nudge forward accession prospects for its neighbours and smoothly host hundreds of EU meetings and events, while avoiding embarrassment over rampant corruption, threats to press freedom, and the far-right firebrands in its coalition government.
The Bulgarian presidency’s slogan is “United we stand strong” – a motto from the nation’s coat of arms – and unity will be a key aim as the EU seeks to maintain a common stance on Brexit and to tackle threats to rule of law and democracy emanating from Hungary, Poland and increasingly Romania, too.
On a recent visit to Sofia, EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said that during the next six months “we must take four important steps on Brexit, which is why we strongly rely on you to keep up the common European position in the negotiations”.
He said these steps involve drawing up directives for talks on the transition period, preparing a draft treaty on Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, mandating the European Commission to negotiate with London on the transition period and reaching a common position on future relations between the EU and Britain.
The Irish Times
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