Bulgaria will assume the presidency of the EU Council in the first half of 2018 for the first time. President Leuthard acknowledged the positive dynamic evident since the beginning of the year in relations between Switzerland and the European Union (EU). The Bulgarian Delegation set out the aims of the next EU Council presidency where the key themes include security, unity and stability, the process of integrating further Balkan states in the EU, and competitiveness. President Leuthard welcomed these priorities.
Both sides praised bilateral relations between Switzerland and Bulgaria, which have deepened in recent years as a result of the cooperation as part of Switzerland’s enlargement contribution. Support was provided amongst other things to Swiss style dual-track vocational education and training projects. Ms Leuthard explained that the combination of theory and practice was an effective way of tackling youth unemployment. The talks also touched on economic cooperation, cooperation between the two countries in police and justice affairs, the protection of cultural assets and the environment.
On international issues the talks turned to regional neighbourhood and security policy, particularly in the Western Balkans, and the possibility of bilateral cooperation between Switzerland and Bulgaria in this area.
At the start of her visit to Sofia, Ms Leuthard laid a wreath at the grave of the Unknown Soldier. She also attended the last in a series of events in Sofia on dual-track vocational education and training. The last stop on the programme was an event at Bulgaria’s oldest university, Hl. Kliment Ohridski in Sofia. The two presidents gave opening addresses on the subject of democracy, education and digitalisation in Europe and after which they took questions from the audience.
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