The Macedonian Parliamentary Committee on European Affairs will visit Bulgaria after a break of more than ten years. “No country in South-Eastern Europe is strong enough to lead, but each is strong enough to contribute to our common goals. Throughout history we have often opposed each other following the principle “Divide and conquer”, but it is time we recognised our common interests and followed the slogan of the Bulgarian Presidency: “United we stand strong””, said Chair of the Committee on European Affairs and Oversight of European Funds Kristian Vigenin to the participants of the Conference of the Parliamentary Committees of countries involved in the SEE Stabilisation and Association Process. The event was hosted by the Macedonian Parliamentary Committee on European Affairs and attended by parliamentary delegations from Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Turkey. The main topic of the conference was the European Commission’s strategy, published at the beginning of February, for a reliable prospect for enlargement and a stronger commitment of the European Commission to the Western Balkan countries. The conference was also attended by MEPs, NGO representatives, foreign diplomats, and the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Justice of the Republic of Macedonia. Speaker of Parliament Talat Xhaferi delivered a welcome speech.
In his address, Kristian Vigenin emphasised that the European prospect for the Western Balkans and connectivity were a strategic priority of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU and its Parliamentary Dimension. He mentioned the fact that despite the initial scepticism, not only the European Commission, but also key EU member states were showing a desire to make faster progress on this issue, and expressed his confidence that the Treaty for Friendship, Good Neighbourly Relations and Cooperation had created new dynamics in the whole region. “For the first time the European Commission’s Strategy for Enlargement has a serious second focus, and that is the preparation of the European Union for accepting new member states; the six leading initiatives also give hope for a serious commitment of the EU institutions”, explained Vigenin. He also outlined the future initiatives and ambitions of the Bulgarian Presidency and its Parliamentary Dimension. “We hope that the leading initiatives announced in the strategy will be implemented in the roadmap at the Summit in Sofia in May. We expect that a decision will be made then to strengthen the high-level and top-level political dialogue: involving Western Balkan ministers in sector councils of the EU, and having regular EU-Western Balkans Summits”, said the Chair of the Committee on European Affairs and Oversight of European Funds. He expressed his hopes that the end of the dispute over the name of the Republic of Macedonia would allow the countries to make a decision in June, during the Bulgarian Presidency, to launch negotiations for membership with the Republic of Macedonia and with Albania. “In June in Sofia, the Western Balkans will be again the leading topic of the forthcoming COSAC plenary meeting, where not only the results achieved by the Bulgarian Presidency will be presented, but also that there will be support for this issue to remain in the focus of the next presidencies of Austria and Romania, said Vigenin in conclusion.
In the context of strengthening political dialogue and deepening bilateral contacts on the parliamentary level, Kristian Vignenin invited his Macedonian colleague Artan Grubi to visit Bulgaria with the delegation from the Parliamentary Committee on European Affairs before the end of the Bulgarian Presidency, after a break of more than ten years. The visit is expected to take place in the second half of April.