BREAKING: Borissov spoke to journalists at the EU summit on 19 October, touching issues such as Brexit, Catalonia, the Western Balkans and Turkey.
He left the Council meeting to see the press at the time when Parliament President Antonio Tajani finished his speech (The Parliament President always speaks first at EU summits, and leaves the room). This is the transcript of the Q&A, more will follow.
Question: You met today [bilaterally] with [UK Prime minister] Theresa May, with [Council President] Donald Tusk and with [EU’s foreign affairs chief] Federica Mogherini. What issues did you discuss?
Answer: There are many issues. Some are linked to Brexit, and whether it would be possible to continue to work as well as until now with our intelligence, counter-intelligence services, on proliferation, traffic of people, exchange of information and data, which at the moment we do, within the EU and in the Atlantic framework. […] I don’t expect problems. They count on Bulgaria, David Cameron was in Bulgaria and [acknowledged] we can handle migration, [that we can] fight smuggling and corruption. You remember, there were time Crown Angels came to Bulgaria, the biggest firm, but they succeeded to recover only 100 million [leva] more [€500.000]. When we got organized we recovered several billion and we continue. In one word, we reconfirmed our good relations, she wants to come to Sofia, she [Theresa May] invited me to London, I expect by the end of the year these visits to take place.
With Ms Mogherini we coordinated [our activities] on the Balkans. I mean those countries already in the EU, Slovenia, Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria and Greece, and the six [Western Balkan countries]. And [we discussed] Turkey as the largest neighbor not only of Bulgaria, but of the EU. It is appreciated that the Treaty on good-neighbourly relations and cooperation with Macedonia [concluded between Bulgaria and Macedonia on 1 August 2017], the meetings we had with Macedonia, Greece, Serbia, Romania, the multilateral encounters we had and that we will have in the near future, get a wide echo, because they are not a very common phenomenon. [Those meetings] are pro-European, and aim at [being useful] for the six [Western Balkan countries] and take advantage of the Presidencies, because after Bulgaria [from 1 January 2018] follows Austria [from 1 July 2018], a neighbouring country, and Romania and Croatia follow, also Balkan countries. This means for two years we can hold the matter and if it is not possible with these six countries to take steps and that they move forward as a package, I think this will never happen again.
RECORDED European Council – Bulgarian doorstep – https://t.co/j8nxxstgEI
— Georgi Gotev (@GeorgiGotev) October 20, 2017
Question: Do you really mean as a package?
Answer: With different steps. Now Serbia and Montenegro are much more advanced, Albania and Macedonia haven’t started [accession negotiations], Montenegro was admitted to NATO, the countries are in different positions. But we want all peoples in the Balkans to feel this perspective, and with Ms Mogherini we are not only of the same opinion, but we have made a plan for November, December, for the different meetings which shall take place also in Bulgaria, at the level of ministers of Interior, of Prime Ministers, together with her.
Do you want the Western Balkan countries jointly to join the EU?
[…] More precisely to move forward jointly, and that each one of them would have the perspective. It also concerns Serbia and Kosovo, […] they have to move forward. I hope their political elites understand this. Because if their peoples don’t obtain now the perspective for joining the EU, we don’t need to wonder about the influence of countries outside the EU in the region.
Question: But is the EU ready to accept them as members? Some countries need to ratify the accession.
Answer: If it depended on me – and some people in Bulgaria wrongly understand the Presidency, they think that we will decide what will happen in Europe. With President Macron we discussed the issue, we spoke to the PM of Croatia [Andrej Plenkovic], who said why don’t you invite us [at recent multilateral meetings with Romania, Greece and Serbia], [this shows that] with quite steps, with Donald Tusk, with Juncker, with other colleagues [to prepare the ground], so that on 17 May in Sofia, it is already confirmed, it will not only be a summit of all the EU, but with the leaders of the Balkans, that we would have news. This should not be a parade meeting, and other colleagues start to realise that these countries should start feeling the perspective, and not only during our presidency, but during the next two years. This is a very good coincidence of circumstances.
Question: You met Theresa May at a very key moment. Does she have the good will for agreeing to move forward with the negotiations tonight?
There will be no consensus.
Question: Does it make more difficult the work of the Bulgarian Presidency?
Answer: It would. They were laughing at me in Bulgaria [when I said this], but the divorce is always bad for the children. Divorce never brings happiness. Especially when money is concerned. And this is the case. And also, maybe even before that, the case of the [expatriate] citizens who live in the UK and in the EU.
Question: Does Bulgaria prepare for a hard Brexit?
Answer: I will also say it in my statement: we need to take distance from the emotions and [concentrate] on pragmatism in decision making. At the end of the day, it’s the UK that leaves the EU. And I agree with Chancellor Angela Merkel and other colleagues. For us what is important is the future of the EU and after that – of the UK.
Question: What can you tell us about Catalonia?
Answer: Mariano Rajoy informed us of the situation. This is what their constitution and their court have decided.
Question: And what is the Bulgarian position?
Answer: The constitution should be respected, in any country.
Question: Turkey will be on the menu tonight. Chancellor Merkel has a concrete proposal. What is the Bulgarian position?
Answer: In public one can say what the majority wants to hear, and the ant-Turkish thesis wins elections. However the largest neighbor of the EU, and also of Bulgaria, is Turkey. I also told my colleagues, and by the way with Theresa May we share the same opinion, the EU-Turkey statement [on migration] should not be touched. During our presidency definitive breaking of accession negotiations should not be mentioned. I will tell you why. Only seven-eight months ago some of you were reporting from Harmanli [Bulgarian city close to the Turkish border] and from other places, and it was about thousands of migrants. But imagine a few hundreds of thousands of migrants and what will happen to our country. Up to now Turkey strictly abides by the agreement, President Erdogan stands by his word in this respect, and we have zero migration. So my position will be: to respect the EU-Turkey agreement, not to cut [accession] negotiations, to use all the leverage we have to improve relations, of course it is ridiculous to talk about Turkey EU accession today, but the relations with Turkey need to be preserved. Secondly, to those who so easily speak about Turkey, I ask if we decide today that Turkey is our main enemy, and we cut relations, then what do we do about the Southern flank of NATO? Bulgaria will become the southern flank of NATO. Can we withstand, Bulgaria, the pressure that would come from the other side? Can we, with 7 airplanes [MIG29 fighter jets] withstand such pressure? The entire defensive conception of Bulgaria and the Union would crumble down, if we accept such proposals. But we must preserve those relations. And what would happen if Turkey passes to the opposite camp? 80 million population, a million army, 560.000 at our border. Those politikants who say Turkey should disappear, they may win elections, but they cannot win a war. This is why we [in Bulgaria] prefer to think with our heads, instead of saying what would be liked more publicly.
When Borissov left, I told him if he said the same to EU leaders. He replied that he was more careful with journalists and much more outspoken with his colleagues.
— Georgi Gotev (@GeorgiGotev) October 20, 2017