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EU General Affairs Council meeting

14 December 2021 News

The Permanent Representative of Bulgaria to the EU, Ambassador Rumen Alexandrov, was leading the Bulgarian delegation to participate in the regular meeting of the EU General Affairs Council. Among the main topics in the work of European ministers were the preparation of the conclusions of the December European Council, the EU enlargement process, the Conference on the Future of Europe, the rule of law in Poland and Hungary, the legislative program and the European Semester.

The Council prepared draft conclusions for the European Council meeting on 16 December. Among the highlights were measures against the development of the COVID-19 pandemic, high energy prices, security and defence, the situation in Ukraine. The continuing rise in energy prices is a major challenge for businesses and households. “We need to have enough flexibility to adopt measures at the national level”, Ambassador Rumen Alexandrov said. He noted Bulgaria's expectation that EC would publish an additional delegated act on taxonomy so as not to limit the possibility of future investments in nuclear energy and natural gas.

Ministers discussed the epidemic. Particular attention was paid to the spread of the new version of the Omicron virus and related advances in the vaccination process, countering misinformation, booster doses, EU-wide harmonization of the Digital COVID-19 certificate, and the proposal of EC for the introduction of a single EU form for passengers localisation.

The Council adopted conclusions on EU enlargement policy, which send important messages to the Western Balkans and Turkey. We welcome the consensus among the Member States after almost two years without conclusions of the Enlargement Policy Council. Our country has confirmed that it cannot approve the draft negotiating framework and setting a deadline for convening the first Intergovernmental Conference with the Republic of Northern Macedonia, as the requirements of the national Framework Position, supported by a Declaration of the National Assembly, have not been met. At Bulgaria's insistence, the Council confirmed that the full implementation of the letter and spirit of the 2017 Treaty of Friendship, Good Neighbourliness and Cooperation is part of the accession process. Ambassador Alexandrov expressed Bulgaria's readiness to continue the direct dialogue with Skopje with a view to finding a solution to the problems that have arisen over the years, related to the non-implementation of the Treaty and the protection of the rights of citizens with Bulgarian identity. Bulgaria reaffirmed its support for the consensus on the adoption of the Negotiating Framework and the convening of the first Intergovernmental Conference with Albania on its own merits. Our country remains committed to the European perspective of the six countries of the Western Balkans and Turkey.

An EU Intergovernmental Conference with Serbia was also held, during which cluster 4 was opened. In the presence of Prime Minister Ana Bernabic, Ambassador Alexandrov stressed the need to respect the rights of the Bulgarian national minority in Serbia, guaranteeing the activities of National Councils of National Minorities without interference, as well as the need to address long-standing problems with environmental pollution, including water in transboundary rivers.

The European Commission informed the Council of the current status of the procedure under Art. 7 (1) of the Treaty on the European Union v. Poland, relating to the rule of law. In connection with the same article of the Treaty, the Commission provided information on the European Parliament's resolution on the state of law in Hungary.

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