For years it has been a tradition in Bulgarian political practice for any newly appointed foreign minister to pay their first visit abroad to Brussels. Ekaterina Zaharieva did not stray from this practice and on 15 and 16 May met with the President of the European Council Donald Tusk, with the European Commission’s diplomat No. 1 Federica Mogherini, with the First Vice-President of the European CommissionFrans Timmermans and with Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn. She also held a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Thus, in just one visit, the Bulgarian foreign minister established her first contact with the leaders of the EU and of NATO, organizations whose work has a direct bearing on her own responsibilities as cabinet member.
Without doubt, one of the main objectives of the foreign minister’s meetings was to reiterate that there will be continuity in the European and Euro-Atlantic policy of the Borissov 3 cabinet. Continuity is something Bulgaria’s partners abroad appreciate and it was no coincidence that European Council President Donald Tusk welcomed the idea of continuing to work with the new government of Boyko Borissov, as he did with the previous cabinet. Continuity was at the core of Minister Zaharieva’s talks with the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security PolicyFederica Mogherini which centred on different items from the international agenda, among them the situation in Ukraine and in Macedonia. The Bulgarian foreign minister reiterated Sofia’s position that the EU must speak in one voice on foreign policy issues. Minister Zaharieva spoke of a unified approach by the EU at the General Affairs Council on migration, security and defence, jobs, growth and competitiveness. As to the processes of migration, Sofia continues to maintain that the EU must monitor the situation across the central and eastern Mediterranean simultaneously and reform the common European asylum system in a way that will guarantee the shared solidarity and responsibility of all member countries.
As to the common European defence policy, at a meeting of the Foreign Affairs and Security Council, Ekaterina Zaharieva argued that it will not be significant as some kind of replica of NATO’s policy, but as a way to improve the defence capability of the EU, adding that she expected agreement to be reached soon on the formation of common European defence bodies.
Security was at the core of the meeting the newly elected Bulgarian foreign minister had with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Minister Zaharieva reaffirmed that Stoltenberg welcomes Bulgaria’s stated intentions of hiking investments in defence up to 2 percent of the country’s GDP. Confirmation was also given of the two sides’ interest in security in the Black Sea region, cooperation in combating terrorism and coordination between NATO and the EU.
Continuity in Bulgaria’s relations with the EU and NATO – this was also part of the message conveyed by President Rumen Radev after his inauguration. The assurances Minister Zaharieva gave yesterday and the day before during her meetings in Brussels come as confirmation that on issues regarding European and Euro-Atlantic policy, there is institutional consensus in the country.
English version: Milena Daynova