Bulgaria wants to play more important role in India-EU relations: Bulgarian lawmaker

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Sofia (Bulgaria), Jun 11 (PTI) Bulgaria’s geographical position as the first member-country connecting the European Union (EU) with India gives it the added advantage of playing an important role in fostering closer ties with the 27-member economic bloc, according to a senior Bulgarian parliamentarian and former foreign minister.

Kristian Vigenin, Deputy Chair of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and Chair of the Bulgaria-India Friendship Group in the Bulgarian Parliament is expected to be among the newly-elected members of the European Parliament (MEPs) after the results of the EU-wide elections are officially declared later this week.

In his future role, the Vice-Speaker of Bulgaria’s National Assembly said he wants to champion greater India-EU parliamentary cooperation that has slowed down due to "stresses in the system" of the COVID pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

“Although the size of India and Bulgaria are not comparable, I believe that we need to do more as a country which is part of the EU to foster the EU-India relations,” Vigenin told PTI on Monday as the EU election results were being tallied.

“Bulgaria is at the door of the EU if you see where India is (on the map). So, the projects involving economic and trade corridors basically go through Bulgaria, making us the first country of the EU for India. From that point of view, I think we can play a more important role,” he said.

On the political front, the parliamentarian believes Bulgaria has "more in common" with India than other global players.

“I believe that India is increasing not only its economic influence but also its political, foreign policy and geopolitical role in the world. And from that point of view, I would like to see better coordination, better communication between the EU and India,” he said.

According to official statistics, the EU was India’s third-largest trading partner in 2021 and second-largest export destination. The two sides have been negotiating a free trade agreement (FTA) for a few years, with the hope of enhancing the trade and investment partnership.

“I believe the time is coming for much stronger relations. I think we can be very helpful for each other… and I would like to be one of the people in the European Parliament who champions this,” noted Vigenin.

The final make-up of the European Parliament is yet to fully crystalise after one of the world’s biggest elections, second only to India, concluded across the EU member countries on Sunday.

However, the growing popularity of right-wing parties has been a common theme in countries such as France, Germany and Austria.

“We have to make a bit of a distinction because one thing is extreme right, another is right conservatives who may have different views for the European project, but they are not anti-EU," he said.

"They just want to change the EU in certain ways. So, I think we will find the balances,” said Vigenin, who said he is “not that worried” because membership of the EU is valued by most in these turbulent times.

“We'll find a way to change the EU, to make it more efficient and even more democratic. We do need some rebalancing, but that at the end, I believe, would make the EU even stronger,” he added. PTI AK GRS AKJ GRS GRS