On January 11, 2018, in Sofia’s “Ivan Vazov” National Theater the ceremony for the opening of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU was held and attended by leaders from the Union and Bulgaria.

Bulgarian President Rumen Radev said in an address: “We in the Balkans know well that division breeds tragedy. Europe is too big to be monolithic and too small to be divided. That is why the motto of the Bulgarian EU Presidency is ‘United We Stand Strong.'” The President noted that Bulgaria has given the European family a lot, and has a lot more to give.

National Assembly Chair Tsveta Karayancheva expressed her confidence that Bulgaria will be a successful rotating President of the Council of EU and the driving force for its activities.

European Council President Donald Tusk surprised and delighted everyone by delivering his whole statement in Bulgarian. He started out by reciting the opening lines of “Beloved Fatherland,” an iconic poem by the patriarch of Bulgarian literature Ivan Vazov, who has lent his name to the venue of the ceremony. Tusk went on to say that, as a Pole, he knows how much work, courage, and determination it must have taken the Bulgarians to achieve their European successes. He hailed the fact that the future of the Western Balkans is one of the priorities of the Bulgarian EU Presidency.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Bulgaria will be leading Europe during the next six months and beyond. Juncker observed that the current Presidency comes at a crucial moment when a number of initiatives are rolling out to shape the bloc’s future. He pointed out that Bulgaria’s place should be in the Schengen and Eurozone.

European Parliament President Antonio Tajani said that, together, we should overcome the challenges and “make Europe fit for the future.” Discussing one of the challenges, Tajani thanked Bulgaria for its “strong engagement for the defence of our external border.”

Prime Minister Boyko Borissov listed some of the important matters on the EU agenda, such as the cohesion policy, an expected 10 billion euro decrease in the bloc’s budget, the dispute between the EU and Poland, the Western Balkans, common European defence (PESCO), and the migration crisis.

After the statements а rich and varied concert followed.