By Georgi Gotev
(EurActiv) — Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov skipped the Africa-EU summit in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, and went instead to Saudi Arabia, a country with which Bulgaria has an almost virgin track record of relations.
In Saudi Arabia, Borissov is joined by his foreign minister, Ekaterina Zaharieva. This meant Bulgaria could only send a deputy foreign minister, Todor Stoyanov, to the summit.
The snub does not augur well for development being given top billing in the priorities of Bulgaria’s upcoming Presidency of the Council of the EU, despite communication on Twitter suggesting the opposite.
Teodor Kalpakchiev, a Governance and Political Inclusion Fellow to the 5th African Union – European Union Summit, who is currently in Abidjan, criticised his country’s leadership for lack of strategic vision in Africa. In an op-ed published on 13 November, he wrote:
“The lack of transparency in who, how and why represents Bulgaria in multilateral formats such as the currently ongoing UNFCCC’s COP23 in Bonn and the 5th African Union – European Union Summit in Abidjan that will take place 29-30 of November 2017 speaks of the lack of Europeanization of institutional practices, as well as of the lack of strategic vision.
“Although COP and ASEM meetings take place each year, the AU-EU (formerly Africa-EU due to the exclusion of Morocco) meeting is convened once in three years and is instrumental in discussing questions relating not only to development cooperation, but also sectoral collaboration in education, business and investments, trade, culture and intellectual property, etc.
“The lack of interest in Africa that transliterates into a possibility of non-representation, as the prime minister will be in Saudi Arabia and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is preoccupied with the preparations for the Council of EU Presidency.”
No official list of participants at the summit is available. According to the family photo in Abidjan, in which not all faces are visible, Central and Eastern Europe was represented as follows in Abidjan:
- Estonia, holding the EU Presidency, by Prime Minister Jüri Ratas;
- Poland, by Prime Minister Beata Szydło;
- Slovakia, by Prime Minister Robert Fico;
- Hungary, by Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó;
- Czech Republic, by Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek;
- Lithuania, by Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius;
- Latvia, by Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs;
- Slovenia, by State Secretary Andrej Logar;
- Romania, by State Secretary Monica Gheorghiță (not visible in the photo).
Most of the older EU members were represented by their heads of state or government: France by President Emmanuel Macron, Germany by Chancellor Angela Merkel, Spain by PM Mariano Rajoy, Italy by PM Paolo Gentiloni, Belgium by PM Charles Michel, the Netherlands by PM Mark Rutte, Luxembourg by PM Xavier Bettel, Sweden by PM Stefan Löfven and Portugal by PM António Costa.