Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ekaterina Zaharieva and Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Affairs and Minister of Immigration and Asylum Jean Asselborn agreed on Bulgaria and Luxembourg to work together on the European perspective of the Western Balkan countries after the lack of a decision for the start of the negotiations with the Republic Northern Macedonia and Albania.
“If we join forces and help the Republic of Northern Macedonia and Albania start negotiations, we will not only help them and their people, but we will help the whole Europe,” said Minister Zaharieva, who received Jean Asselborn at the Foreign Ministry’s first official bilateral visit.
The European integration of the Western Balkans, which both countries support, was one of the main topics of the discussion.
According to Ekaterina Zaharieva, the accession of these countries to the EU will also help for one of the biggest problems in the Western Balkans region – the emigration of young people. For example, three percent or almost 60,000 of the Albanian population left the country last year.
“Europe has made a big mistake by not agreeing to open negotiations with the Republic of Northern Macedonia and Albania at the last European Council. This is really not good. We will do our best so that the EU does not forget the Balkans. Back in 2003 at the Thessaloniki summit, we said that all countries in the Balkans should be able to become EU members by fulfilling the necessary conditions, ”said Jean Asselborn.
Luxembourg and Minister Asselborn personally were some of Bulgaria’s biggest supporters during her first European Presidency in 2018, including on the priority for European integration in the Western Balkans.
“Luxembourg is one of the six EU founding countries with a lot of experience from previous presidencies and your experience and support, especially from the European perspective of the Western Balkans, have been extremely important to us,” said Ekaterina Zaharieva. She stressed that Bulgaria and Luxembourg have 90 percent similar positions on European issues, including combating climate change, the digital market, convergence and reducing differences between EU countries, and neighbourhood policies.
The two ministers also discussed the future of the European Union and the new European Commission, expressing the hope that it will begin full-fledged work on 1 December. Ekaterina Zaharieva and Jean Asselborn were unanimous on the importance of maintaining unity in the EU, especially in the face of challenges such as Brexit, migration pressure and uncertainty in international relations.
“Very soon, on November 9, we will be together in Berlin to mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. This event has led to changes that, in a word, can be described as “freedom” for Central and Eastern Europe, ” Bulgaria’s Foreign Minister said.
“The fall of the Berlin Wall was the beginning of a new time for Bulgaria and a new European Union. It is based on the idea of putting all our energy into making Europe better and solving problems together that we cannot solve ourselves. The issue is to support this community, “said Jean Asselborn.
He reaffirmed Luxembourg’s full support for Bulgaria’s integration into the Eurozone, the start of membership negotiations with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and full membership in Schengen.