The training in Belgrade of the “Konstantin Preslavsky” class ended with a round table on “What Kind of Europe Do the Balkans Want ?”. Within a week the course participants took part in various lectures, and a special guest lecturer was Ivica Dacic, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Serbia.
Participants in the debates with the Bulgarian politicians were Alexandra Iosimovic – President of Belgrade Foreign Policy Center; Alexander Pejovich – former Minister of European Affairs 2016-2018 and chief negotiator for Montenegro membership in EU, a diplomat and a political scientist; Georg Georgiev – Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria; the Bulgarian MEP Andrey Kovachev, and Denitsa Zlateva – Deputy Chairman of BSP and others.
Alexandra Joksimovic said that Serbia is grateful that Bulgaria so strongly advocates for the accession of the countries from the Western Balkans to the EU.
“There are so many domestic problems in the society that the European integration is not the main topic among people. However, they consider it is very important to observe all the issues that are being debated and decisions made by the Union because they need to be aware of what Union they are going to join”, she added. According to her, the crises the community has already gone through require decisive consolidating actions, including the mechanisms for making common solutions.
Joksimovic also added that Serbia is carrying out serious reforms to meet EU requirements, but the Serbian society wants to have constant membership criteria to avoid precedents by changing them.
The country has the impression that in the process of enlargement of the EU, some countries have been adopted speedily and with much less requirements, while a tendency for ever higher criteria is now observed. ” The current member countriess could hardly meet today’s requirements and could match them if they were candidates,” she added.
Alexander Pejovich joined the debate, saying it was a unique forum that brought together not only representatives of different Balkan countries, but also politicians from different political families at a table to discuss the vision of a successful and useful Europe for the people.
“As for the issue of ‘What Kind of Europe does Montenegro want?’ – it is that they would like a Europe where parties of different political families can sit at a table and speak in a common language, and conduct a constructive dialogue. 70% of the population of Montenegro strongly supports EU accession. Euroscepticism is based primarily on social policy issues, i.e., not to lose their social benefits, jobs, etc, ” added Peyovic.
According to him, fear is also provoked by the expectations that if Montenegro becomes a member of EU, most of the jobs will be occupied by immigrants mostly in the tourist business sector. The other biggest fear of Montenegrins is not to lose their identical cultural image. They want Europe that respects their national culture and values, and where small countries are protected. This corresponds to the EU decision-making process.
Denitsa Zlateva, Deputy Chair of the BSP, said that for their political family the vision for Europe is related to a more social and righteous Europe. “We insist on policies that would strengthen the development of Bulgaria with its specific needs and specifics,” she said.
She thinks Europe is a debtor to the young people. According to Zlateva, their discouragement is one of the serious problems to solve. It is important for her a stronger debate to take place about what kind of Europe the Bulgarians want. “Bulgarian citizens need to understand that they really have a role to play in defining the policies of the Union by choosing MEPs,” added Zlateva.
The Bulgarian MEP Andrey Kovachev added that the EU is what each member state permits it to be. In his view, it is important to ensure the highest possible degree of physical and social security for the citizens, to continue with the cohesion policy and to have more in-depth integration.
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Georg Georgiev said that a common language and consolidation should be found around the constructive approaches for achieving the Bulgarian priorities in the EU. According to his words, the global security of the European Union as well as the security of its external borders are also important issues.