The visit of the European Union leaders to Bulgaria continued today with a series of meetings of European commissioners and their president Jean-Claude Juncker with Bulgarian cabinet ministers and members of parliament. After the talks of Mr Juncker and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov the two gave a joint press conference which opened with the signing of a project aimed to support the development of Bulgarian agriculture. It is worth 100 million euro and is guaranteed by the European Fund for Strategic Investments. The investment is expected to result in opening of 200 new jobs.

Regarding the topics that senior European officials discussed with their Bulgarian hosts, highlights included the EU budget and its impact on the cohesion policy, the European integration of the Western Balkans and gas connectivity in the region.

The Bulgarian Presidency is taking place at a crucial point in the fate of the European Union, Jean-Claude Juncker told the press. He pointed out that improvement of connectedness with the Western Balkans and the policy towards Turkey are of primary importance for the European Commission. According to the EC president, there is no doubt that the Western Balkans as states have close ties between themselves but the point is to connect them with Europe.

Jean-Claude Juncker supports Bulgaria’s accession to the Eurozone. Bulgaria is on the right track, he said. Government debt is, with clearly below 30%, one of the lowest of the European Union and of the eurozone, budget deficit is an unknown term in this country, unemployment is falling, which also shows that bigger improvements have been made concerning real convergence in Bulgaria.

We discussed gas supplies in the region. I know that it is of the highest political interest of Bulgaria and I wanted to say that as a Commission we are supporting these ambitions formulated by the Bulgarian government. We do think that connecting not dividing gas supplies is of utmost importance.

During the press conference, the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker gave to the Bulgarian premier a scheme ofthe Balkan Gas Hub. According to Boyko Borissov this hub will secure energy independence to the country and the opportunity to be supplied with natural gas from various sources including Russia, but also Azerbaijan and Romania.

If there is something that Bulgaria will insist on, it is the subject of cohesion funds, the Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said in turn and added that this was a commitment the government had made in terms of domestic policy imperatives. Besides we do think that these funds are vital for the Balkans, for the new EU Member States.

With a view to the Western Balkans Borissov said it is important they obtained a realistic European perspective. And the most risk-free perspective for EU is building the infrastructure of the Balkans – railwaylines, highways, ports, water treatment plants. This includes the European corridors IV, VIII and X which will open the door to greater competitiveness, more investments, tourism, conversion of cultures and more contacts between people across EU.

In his statement he paid attention to EU’s ties with Turkey and Russia and voiced hopes that a course would be taken to their normalization.

English Daniela Konstantinova

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