On 1 February 2018, the first meeting of the EU Club at BCCI for 2018 was held, dedicated to “The Future of the Western Balkans in the EU: The Benefits for the Business”.
The Deputy Minister for the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU 2018 Monika Panayotova and the President of BCCI Tsvetan Simeonov opened the meeting, which was attended by more than 80 guests, including 18 Ambassadors and Commercial Attaches of the EU member-states and of the countries from the Western Balkans. Mr. Simeonov said that he felt hopeful that the Bulgarian Presidency will work against Euroscepticism, because the role of the EU Club at BCCI since its establishment has also been to maintain a high level of support for EU integration in the Bulgarian society.
Mrs. Panayotova pointed out four reasons why the EU is the best alternative for the countries from the Western Balkans, namely: 1. The uniqueness of the Union which guarantees peace and stability; 2. Constant implementation of reforms that yield real results in the efficiency of administration, education, the rule of law, and the economy, which supports growth and employment; 3. The important role of the EU as a donor to the countries from the region and a main trading partner; 4. The European values and the idea of peace, freedom and democracy.
The representative of the Energy and Water Regulatory Commission Mr. Alexander Yordanov, presented the topic of energy connectivity in the context of the Western Balkans, the stages and benefits from expanding the scope of connectivity in the region and achieving an Energy Union.
Mr. Tony Thompson, World Bank Representative for Bulgaria, presented the support for the countries in the region, especially with regard to the implementation of infrastructure projects that contribute to improving the conditions for trade.
Ambassadors of the countries from the Western Balkans also took part in the discussion, stressing their willingness to take the necessary steps for accession to the Union. Mrs. Slavica Panić, First Counsellor for Political and Consular Affairs at the Embassy of the Republic of Serbia, presented the important role of setting up a Secretariat of the Western Balkans Chambers Investment Forum, which will contribute to the sustainable development of the countries and their integration into the EU. In this regard, Mrs. Panić mentioned one of the tools which will assist in this process, namely an online platform with information about investment opportunities in the Balkans.
H.E. Radomir Bogdanović, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Bosnia and Herzegovina and H.E. Marjan Gjorchev, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Macedonia expressed gratitude to Bulgaria for its support and determination in relation to their countries’ desire to become full members of the EU. The meeting ended with a lively discussion with the participation of the Chairmen of the Bulgarian Institute for Standardization and the Bulgarian Gas Association.
The meeting of the EU Club was held with the support of Enterprise Europe Network – the world’s largest business support network.