17 февруари 2018







Sofia, 15-17 February 2018

Opening Address 

by Dr. Dzhema Grozdanova, 

Chairperson of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Bulgarian National Assembly

Ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues,

Once again, welcome to Sofia!

I am happy to start the discussion on the future of the Common Foreign and Security Policy and the Common Security and Defence Policy in Europe.

Europe is changing and this is not news any more.

From the very beginning, the EU has been a promise of prosperity; a belief that the interdependence will reduce tensions and will lead to economic growth.

Today, we are facing a different picture. European societies are no longer satisfied with what was enough before.

What we see is declining unemployment, while increasing insecurity in our countries; we see rising budgets and, at the same time, diminishing trust in the institutions.

That is why one of the most important tasks for us, as parliamentarians, is to understand the change of public attitudes. Economic growth and declining unemployment are no longer winning elections, they are not satisfying the Europeans any more. Citizens are demanding something else: they want security. They understand that the situation in the world is different, and that the new times bring new dangers that can disrupt what we in Europe have achieved.

Photo: Desislava Kulelieva

As politicians, we need to understand and embrace this need for a Europe that protects

It is a Union that knows how to guard its external borders, a Union, which has the vision of keeping peace in its closest neighborhoods, and a Union that has the resources and determination to intervene in international conflicts in order to preserve its interests. 

As you all understand, this requires enhanced cooperation in the field of security and defense.

Not only Europe has changed, however. The whole security environment around us has changed.

Some 10 years ago the EU was the only possible model for rapid development, today it is not.

International terrorism has reached our streets and neighborhoods. Networks of extremists are trying to infiltrate our societies and we are still struggling to find the right answer.

Thousands of refugees and migrants are testing our physical borders and the limits of the European humanitarian potential.  

And we do not have a unified response.

All this requires that Europeans realize the need for a major upgrade of our security cooperation. EU countries can no longer rely on someone else to take care of our own security, especially in the face of all these challenges. 

We need to respond with a clear commitment from all Member States to improve cooperation.

We have made the first step with PESCO as a midterm goal. Short-term steps may be faster exchange of intelligence, clear analysis of what we lack, and possibly finding appropriate relations with the UK after Brexit, or non-EU countries.

Presidency Troika : Heads of the Delegations  of Austria, Bulgaria, Estonia and European Parliament                        Photo: National Assembly

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We do not need to look further than our front door if we are seeking to hone our skills in foreign and defense policy

More than anywhere else, the EU is competing for influence in the Balkans. 

And our policy must respond to this changed environment. 

The region already has problems with organized crime. It is also vulnerable to the influence of extreme religious ideologies. The countries in the Western Balkans are part of the refugee routes.

                                                                                                                                             Photo: National Assembly

That is why it is of the utmost importance for us to find the necessary instruments to make sure that these countries do not fail. There is a political momentum in the region to cease the opportunity and change the history of the Balkans: from a source of problems to a region that could be part of the solutions.

It is of particular importance for us to ensure that all those who want to join the EU truly share our European values, particularly when it comes to foreign and security policy. 

 Failure to do that will make the EU less capable of taking important decisions and will endanger its global role. Therefore, we must pay special attention to the alignment of CFSP positions by the candidate countries.

We should have no illusions: the societies of the Western Balkans are pragmatic. One of the possible approaches to them is a fair and open conversation on security issues. 

We should state that the solution to problems, such as terrorism and the management of migration flows, is not in the hands of any individual country. 

In the case of the countries of the Western Balkans, a failure to do that could pose a real threat to the stability of the countries in the region, but also for the EU. That is why cooperation in foreign and security policy is a desired option for both sides.

I hope that during the next two days we will debate in more detail all these challenges.
Change is the only inevitable thing in our life, thus we need to try to embrace it in our policies.

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.

The Team of Ms. Grozdanova for preparation of the event. From the left :  Elena Naydenova, Vladimir Beron, Dr. Dzhema Grozdanova - the Chairperson of the Committee of Foreign Affairs, Latchezar Toshev, Antonia Parvanova, Desislava Kulelieva(phtographer), Stefka Ivanova, Maria Grouycheva.

Introductory speech of  

Mr. David McAllister
of the
Committee on Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament
12th Inter-Parliamentary Conference on CFSP/CSDP,
Sofia, 2018

                              David McCallister                      Photo: National Assembly

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,  

It is a great pleasure to see you all today. Thank you for being here in Sofia for two days of intense discussions - indeed we have a very interesting and dense programme!

I would like to congratulate the Bulgarian Presidency on the efficient organisation of this Conference and thank our hosts for the warm welcome; in particular, I would like to express my gratitude to Ms Dzhema Grozdanova, the Chairwomen of the Foreign Affairs Committee, for the good cooperation in the preparation of this Conference.

                                                                                         David McCallister,             Photo : National Assembly

I am very happy to see that we will discuss so many topics related to this region and its impact on European security. It is always important to look from the regional perspective and learn from the regional cooperation success stories.

A few months ago, in Tallinn, we mostly focussed on the European Union’s immediate neighbourhood. This week, we will prioritise wider, global issues whilst also addressing the Balkans, the Black Sea region and current developments in security and defence.

As you may know, the six Balkan countries are very dear to me.

 It is evident that they could turn into Europe’s Achilles heel if we, politicians on the both sides, do not live up to our responsibilities. Only by making difficult choices can we ensure democracy and lasting peace on our continent.

For some, riding waves of populist nationalist rhetoric looks more appealing than making bilateral concessions for stable and prosperous neighbourhood; drawing red lines – more tempting than resolving border disputes; glorifying history – easier than judging war criminals. As citizens feel uncertainty about the future, it is easy to offer imaginary quick fixes, which breed nationalism and xenophobia.

It took the European continent too long to start learning from own mistakes, so let’s not repeat them again. We therefore need a coherent and holistic internal, neighbourhood and foreign policy approach. Our neighbours face exactly the same challenges and threats as we do: migration flows, foreign interference, disinformation, propaganda. We can only tackle them together.

Step by step, we must more firmly embed the Western Balkans into the fabric of EU processes and structures, be it through co-operation with EU agencies, participation in the EU’s policies and programmes or involvement into the EU’s CSDP missions and operations. In this regard, I welcome the ideas spelled out in the new Western Balkans Strategy of the European Commission.

Let us not forget that every enlargement (since the first one 45 year ago) is an opportunity for the EU to renew and reform itself, and the ongoing accession process is not an exception.

14 years ago the EU underwent its biggest-ever enlargement- In 14 years from now, the EU will yet again have a different shape and form. Let’s bear in mind the profound changes that Europe and the world went through from the first enlargement of the European Communities in 1973 to its latest round in 2013.

As regards the soon-to-be members, there can be no shortcuts for the rules and values which are at the very core of the EU and thus non-negotiable. Let me underline that there can be no double standards - we in the Union must live up to the same ones we expect our partners to follow.

I welcome the action-oriented Bulgarian focus on the Western Balkans, which I am sure will be further pursued by our Austrian and Romanian friends.

Bulgaria itself is a case of a positive EU-supported transformation, and it is leading by example on the good neighbourly relations, as the recent ratification of the Friendship Agreement with the FYROM demonstrates.

Bulgaria, which joined the EU eleven years ago and continues its profound transformation triggered by the EU membership, is well placed to make 2018 a year of breakthroughs, ushering irreversible positive changes in the enlargement countries. EU membership is not an end in itself - it is a path towards peaceful, democratic, open and prosperous societies.

The parliamentary dimension is an essential component of the accession process, not least because parliamentary consent is required for such fundamental decisions as the enlargement. Let me assure you of the European Parliament’s continued support in your engagement with South East Europe. Let’s do everything in our hands to ensure we enlarge the circle of effective democracies (and not “defective democracies”).

Furthermore, I would like us to reflect upon the EU’s role as a global actor and about our responsibility that results from this aspiration, but also about the nature of our multipolar world and about the rules that shape the global order today. I believe the ongoing shift in the global balance of power requires the EU member states to act more as a collective on the world stage. The multilateral system can no longer rely on top-down solutions for global problems.

I guess all of us are happy to see that the EU has made progress on building a more competitive and integrated defence last year.  Finally, the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) was established. 25 member states decided to strengthen cooperation in this area. That was a very important step indeed. Now this new cooperation framework needs to be filled with life. 2018 will be crucial for further progress in this area.

2018 will also be a crucial year for EU foreign policy because we will start the deliberations on the EU's financial resources for the post-2020 period. The Commission will put forward its proposals for the next Multiannual Financial Framework and the next generation of external financing instruments before the summer. The outcome of the ensuing negotiations between the Member States and the European Parliament will be decisive for the EU's ability to exert influence and promote its values in its wider neighbourhood and on the global stage.

I firmly believe that the EU needs to be endowed with sufficient resources for its external action. The recent mid-term review of the financing instruments has shown that these instruments are by and large effective in promoting the EU's foreign policy interests. Therefore, despite Brexit the financial allocations for these instruments should at the very minimum remain constant if not increased. We simply cannot afford to lose further influence at a time when other players are massively stepping up their global engagement in ways that often run counter to our interests.

In the meantime, I look forward to all the other debates we are about to hold during this conference. I take this opportunity to reiterate the importance for us, as parliamentarians, to actively engage in the debate on our common European foreign and security policy, both at EU and national levels.

Thank you very much and I wish us all an excellent conference!

Workshop : 
Strategic Energy and Transport Connectivity in the Western Balkans.

Moderator: Mr. Assen Agov

Speakers :
Mr. Goran Svilanovic,Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council, Serbia
Mr. Zhecho Stankov, Deputy Minister of Energy, Bulgaria