Bulgaria's position on the future of Europe should be convincing and loud, this was the general conclusion of the Economic and Social Council of Bulgaria and the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) from the discussion on the five scenarios of the White Paper on the future of Europe.
Europe is at a crossroads and the voice of its citizens must be heard, including that of the Bulgarian people, even more so during the upcoming Bulgarian Presidency of the EU. Minister Liliana Pavlova, who opened the forum at the Sofia Hotel Balkan, said that one of the ideas for continuation of this debate is to organize a high level forum in Sofia. At this forum, Bulgaria will come forward with a declaration on the priorities of the Presidency and Bulgaria's position on the future of Europe. Minister Pavlova also said that the question is not whether the European project has a future, but how to move it forward, how to make it more efficient, with simpler rules and processes, more balance and control, with a clear cohesion policy.
The forum was attended by the Minister of Labour and Social Policy, Bisser Petkov, the Chairmen of the National Assembly Commissions Hassan Ademov, Petar Kanev and Kristian Vigenin, the Deputy Head of the Representation of the European Commission in Sofia, representatives of employers' organizations, the trade unions, the academic community and non-governmental organizations.
The main topics of the debate were the economic dimensions of the future of Europe and possible alternatives, the social dimension of the future of Europe, the five scenarios presented in the White Paper.
Professor Dr. Lalko Dulevski, chairman of the Economic and Social Council, stressed that the basis of any act that the Council adopts and proposes to all state institutions is preceded by dialogue and wide-ranging discussion. This is why the initiative to hold this debate in the 27 EU Member States immediately received a wide response in Bulgaria. The EESC is expected to adopt an opinion after the discussions in all Member States have been completed.
During the discussion, various positions were heard about which one of the five scenarios proposed by EC President Juncker is the best for Bulgaria. Various arguments were advanced in support of different scenarios - the continuation of the EU project as it stands; for a more effective Europe, but with the important emphasis on pursuing the cohesion policy; for the fifth one - envisaging full integration - receiving the strongest support from the participants in the debate; and for a new sixth scenario in which more interests of civil society are taken into account in an integrated manner.
However, there was a very clear focus on the issue of the social dimension, which according to the trade unions is not reflected and adequately developed in the White Paper. For Bulgaria, as well as for Europe, solidarity is the main pillar of all policies, especially in the social sphere. These were the words of ESC President Prof. Dulevski, who emphasizes that a measure for social justice is the fact that Bulgaria is a EU Member State that has not created any financial or other problem for the EU. While Bulgarians have paid a very high price in terms of the emigration of almost 2 million People and this should be recognized by Europe. When young people stop leaving our villages, cities and our country, then there will really be European justice and solidarity, Prof. Dulevski added.
The development of new technologies, new challenges to the labour market, education, health care and all social systems must be the focus of discussion when addressing our future, said the representatives of employers and the trade unions. The level of remuneration and employment, the quality of life in our country, the level of social services, the functioning of social systems, social security, social protection, the strength of civil society, the creation of a European civil society, the trust in the EU and the institutions - were among the discussed topics.
The forum raised the question of Bulgaria's self-confidence and the participants expressed their agreement that it is high time for Bulgaria to shake off the sense of Euro-Provincialism. The expectations of civil society are that, during the upcoming Bulgarian Presidency our institutions will perform up to the standard set by their EU partners and will defend Bulgarian ideas and interests.
The three Chairmen of National Assembly Committees Petar Kanev, Hassan Ademov and Christian Vigenin called for continuation at the National Assembly of the discussion about the future of Europe and the role of Bulgaria in it.