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Ilhan Kyuchyuk: Bulgaria is interested in being part of a a fully integrated EU

Ilhan KYUCHYUK in the European Parliament in Strasbourg

Interview for 

Ilhan Kyuchyuk is a member of the European Parliament of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) and vice-president of the ALDE Party. He graduated in Political Science and Law at the Veliko Tarnovo University “St. St. Cyril and Methodius”. He is the President of the youth structure of the Movement for rights and Freedoms. In March 2018 he received the MEP Award in the category “Culture and the Media”. He was born in Sevlievo, where in 2017 he received an honorary sign for his active public activity among young people in the municipality. We are discussing the MEP’s political work, current topics of the European agenda, the priorities of the EU and the future European Parliament.

Mr Kyuchyuk, would you share the main aspects and news from your work at the European Parliament?

I work primarily in the Foreign Affairs Committee, I am the ALDE Group’s rapporteur for Albania. The enlargement of the Western Balkans is a priority for me. The European Union as a whole has failed to make significant progress on this matter. We are expecting some good developments at the upcoming council for Northern Macedonia and Albania, but recently, I am hearing some discouraging statements from leading EU countries which do not want to enter this conversation. I hope that this is just pre-election fever, and after May, these countries will change their attitude towards realizing their belonging to the European project. I also put in place my own web page “You and Brexit”, where Bulgarian citizens in the UK can pose questions about their status in view of the political situation in the country.

Is it possible to renegotiate the support for agriculture in order to boost local production and protect the unique products? Bulgaria is still an agrarian country, and according to the narrative of the traveler Evlija Chelebi, Sevlievo in the past used to be a rose garden?

In the sphere of agriculture what lies ahead of Bulgaria is sending its strategy to the European Commission to indicate what agriculture the country wants to have. One option is that it is an agriculture of the big grain growers only, and the other – an agriculture, oriented towards organic products, fruit-trees growing, vegetable growing, livestock breeding or the production of unique products. The second option is the better one according to me. Up until now, our agriculture has been geared towards a profitable sector, but it was only so for a limited number of the producers.

The elections to the European Parliament are approaching, how would it be constitued, and what is your forecast for the new relationships in it?

It is important for Bulgaria to send people that are well prepared. During this mandate, we had good working cooperation between the Bulgarian MEPs and we managed to defend some important national issues. Because here we support the European values, but also the national interests. With a joint effort, we have managed to delay the process on the so called “Macron” package. The big battle in the new EP will be between the two extremes – whether Europe should continue on the current path or make a sharp turn and become a Europe of the extremes and nationalisms, of the exit of EU countries, which is by no means any good for Bulgaria. If the Bulgarian nationalism wants to show itself off, the French and German nationalism will likewise want to show off. Our nationalism can not be stronger than theirs for objective reasons – geography, population, economic power, they have created the rules in the EU, we have adopted them when we entered the EU. It is in our interest to be part of an integrated EU at the right place – through Schengen, through the Eurozone. That does not mean it will happen today or tomorrow, and no one promises that. We need to work consistently and with self-confidence, because if we only protect certain topics and do not participate fully, it reduces our quality and strength.

How would Brexit affect the next European Parliament, as well as the termination of the accession talks with Turkey?

As far as Turkey is concerned, in my view, Europe is taking actions that are throwing the whole process back with 15 years. In 2004, the same parliament decided to start negotiations, and today it says that the process should be terminated because it is ineffective. It is up to the final vote to show, but my opinion is that the choice is pre-made in the direction of ending Turkey’s accession negotiations with the EU. Concerning Brexit – no matter which scenario is chosen, it will affect the fate of 3 million and 200,000 European citizens, about 1.5 million British citizens, it will also have impact from a military and energy perspective. Britain made some of the largest contributions to the EU. It is in our interest to keep such a country, because it has a major influence on the redistribution of the cohesion funds, which are 1/3 of all funds. In 2015-2016 there was a real danger that the cohesion fund would be stopped, while many sectors in Bulgaria expect resources specifically from it. The EP has pledged about BGN 18 billion for Bulgaria for the period 2021-2027 on the basis of an estimated multiannual financial framework of 1.3% of the gross domestic product of the Member States. But the Council and the Commission hold different opinions, and if they decide that the  percentage should be set to 1.1, the funds will be less. At the earliest, we can have a multiannual financial framework during the Finnish Presidency, and during the latest in the German. So the debate on that matter lays ahead.

Тази публикация е достъпна и на следните езици: Bulgarian