(from Sofia) ”It is important for the Bulgarian presidency to have put the Western Balkans as a priority, as, at the beginning of the mandate of our Commission, it was clear that taking in new member states could have not been possible because the states were not ready for it”. This was said today by the president of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker, at a press conference in Sofia, to coincide with the start of the Bulgarian Presidency. In his opinion, “this shall be accomplished within the mandate of the next Commission”. “Otherwise – he added –, the dramatic events of the Nineties might happen again in this region of Europe”. Juncker stated that “the Western Balkans are very close to each other, but we want to make them close to Europe as well”, and promised that the next budget of the European Commission will include plans for the Western Balkans through a moderate increase in expenses. According to the president of the European Commission, “the Brexit negotiations cannot by any means affect the accession of the Western Balkans”. Special emphasis was placed on Turkey as well, because of its geographical proximity to Bulgaria. Juncker considered relationships with Turkey to be important, but he pointed out that there can be no European ambition or progress when journalists are in jail. One of the main issues discussed at today’s plenary session by the members of the European Commission and the Bulgarian ministers was the EU’s budget for the next period.