Top priorities for Europe in the next five years should be Circular Economy, AI, Defense and Security, Africa and the Rule of Law
Vice-President Jyrki Katainen
On 7 October 2019, Vice-President Jyrki Katainen participated in a Citizens' Dialogue in Sofia, Bulgaria, with around 65 citizens. His stage partners were the Bulgarian MEP Eva Maydell and the Deputy Mayor of Sofia Doncho Barbalov. The main topic of the debate was “What Europe do we want? EU’s new priorities.”
The dialogue started with each of the participants’ introductory speech, in which they talked about their vision for Europe, the challenges we face and the current state of play in the Bulgarian municipalities.
Vice-President Katainen presented his vision, which focused on the Circular Economy, AI, Defence and Security, Africa and the Rule of Law. MEP Eva Maydell placed her priorities on the local level, making a direct reference to the purchasing power of Bulgarian citizens.
She put an emphasis on boosting small and medium enterprises, which can resonate on the average GDP and allow cities to develop and tackle the local challenges. Deputy Mayor of Sofia concentrated on the rising average salary in Sofia, but emphasized that Europe is still not reaching all cities to the same extent.
Questions from the audience followed promptly. They mainly tackled the priorities mentioned by Vice-President Katainen. Climate change was one of the hottest topics. Vice-President Katainen acknowledged the need to encourage the private sector to do more investments in sustainable and more energy efficient projects.
His message was that “climate change is solvable”. MEP Maydell stated that climate change measures and economic development must go hand in hand. Mr. Barbalov joined his stage partners, referring to the priority of energy efficient public transport in Sofia.
Another hot topic was the Juncker Plan and the EU structural funds. According to Vice-President Katainen, Bulgaria is the fourth largest beneficiary of the Juncker Plan and he reminded that it is possible to obtain combined project funding from the Structural Funds and the Juncker Plan.
Another question referred to the prolonged delay of Bulgarian membership in the Eurozone and Schengen and the continued CVM. Vice-President Katainen stated that Bulgaria is substantially progressing in all of the three, but “it must do its homework”, because there is no short cut.
The EU Mobility Package was also touched upon. According to one of the participants, the Bulgarian transport sector was not successful in its demands, to which Mrs. Maydell responded that it is quite the opposite, because the Mobility Package is still not implemented due to disagreements.
The final exchange of arguments referred to the EU youth policy, the ERASMUS programme, and the significance of Rule of Law standards in all EU member states.