Now that Bulgaria has concluded its EU Council Presidency and passed the baton on to Austria, Heiko Maas praised his counterpart’s commitment: “We are all most impressed by the Bulgarian EU Council Presidency. Congratulations! I think that Bulgaria will greatly benefit from this."
Fresh impetus for the Western Balkans
The EU Council Presidency has injected a great deal of impetus into the prospects of Western Balkan countries joining the EU, including the EU‑Western Balkans summit. The topic of EU enlargement was far from easy, he said. ”I believe that, were it not for Bulgaria’s efforts, there would have been no result at all,” Maas added. At last week’s meeting of the European Council, the EU committed itself to maintaining these prospects in principle. This result was also thanks to Bulgaria’s efforts, said Maas, and was important with respect to the reforms initiated in Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. “I hope that this signal will be interpreted in such a way that the reforms will continue,” said the Foreign Minister.
A new Ostpolitik
Relations with the countries of Eastern Europe were particularly important to both Bulgaria and Germany, said Maas.
In recent weeks, we have spoken out very strongly in favour of a new, European Ostpolitik, one offering better prospects for countries such as Armenia, Georgia and Ukraine.
Bulgaria and Germany are closely linked owing to their membership of the EU and NATO. Germany is a key strategic partner for Bulgaria in the EU. Moreover, Bulgaria’s economic relations with Germany are also close. Since 2014, Germany has established itself as Bulgaria’s most important trading partner ahead of Italy, Romania, Russia and Turkey, and is the country’s number‑one importer and exporter. Around 5000 companies are doing business with Bulgaria, of which 1200 have a branch in the country, run for the most part by Bulgarians. With a total turnover of 49.7 billion euros of foreign trade in 2016, bilateral German‑Bulgarian trade amounts to around 6.6 billion euros.