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"With the medium-term budget forecast for the period 2016 - 2018 we have envisaged funds in the central budget to ensure the preparation and conduct of the Presidency. We have taken the necessary actions to adjust the planned funds by years and by types of activities in line with the revised timetable of the preparatory activities connected to the change in the time of conducting of the Bulgarian Presidency six months earlier than planned." Caretaker Minister of Finance Kiril Ananiev said the above during his meeting with Mr. Stephen Quest, Director-General of DG TAXUD of the European Commission. Mr. Quest and his team are visiting Bulgaria at the invitation of the Ministry of Finance in relation to the preparation of our country for the Presidency of the Council of the EU in 2018. "I am here in Sofia to help the preparation of the Bulgarian Presidency starting in January 2018. This first visit aims at discussing the tax and customs files that could potentially fall under the Bulgarian Presidency, including important issues such as VAT fraud, corporate tax rules and closer customs cooperation. Bulgaria will have an important and visible role and this early engagement with the Commission is a great initiative. We look forward to continue our close cooperation and we will provide the best possible support to make the Bulgarian Presidency a success" Mr. Quest said.

The Head of the European Commission's Representation in Bulgaria Ognian Zlatev and the Deputy Prime Minister for the Preparation of the Bulgarian Presidency Deniza Zlateva also took part in the discussions at the Ministry of Finance. Deniza Zlateva pointed out that the preparation of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU had been identified as a major priority for the whole caretaker government. "We have made a detailed analysis of the aspects of the preparation that have outstanding issues and delays. The excellent communication among the line Ministries will enable us to tackle, in the shortest possible period, the challenges which are related for the most part to institutional coordination and clear allocation of funds under the various strands of the preparation. The fact that in our work we are guided by the principle of continuity helps us very much. We are aware that it is very important, in the light of the changes in the executive power in this crucial moment of our EU membership, the preparation of the Presidency not to be impeded by political factors. For this reason we make efforts to provide the teams working on the Presidency with a sufficient number of qualified persons. We consider a success the fact that the political programme of the Trio includes issues of key importance for Bulgaria, such as EU-wide measures to ensure a fair corporate tax system as well as a reliable arrangement to tackle tax fraud", Deputy Prime Minister Zlateva said.

The participants in the expert meeting held at the Ministry of Finance discussed the priority files in the areas of taxation and customs and the possibilities for provision of expert and technical assistance by the Commission. The meeting was attended by Lyudmila Petkova - Director of Tax Policy Directorate of the MoF, Rozalia Dimitrova - Director General of National Customs Agency, Galya Dimitrova - Deputy Executive Director of National Revenue Agency, and officials from the Ministry of Finance and the two revenue agencies members of the team of the Bulgarian Presidency.

"Considering the strategic and programming documents of the European Union, the proposals and the work program of the European Commission, the global context, as well as one of the main priorities of the Bulgarian Presidency - "A Union for Jobs, Growth and Competitiveness", the efforts of the Bulgarian team will be targeted at achieving significant progress on the European initiatives in the area of direct taxation towards sustainable growth, promotion of investments and creation of favourable business environment through a fair and efficient taxation of corporate profits and prevention of the possibilities for tax avoidance and evasion, while having strengthened administrative cooperation and effective exchange of information among Member States", Lyudmila Petkova pointed out during the meeting.

The priority areas in the six-month programme of the Bulgarian Presidency also include achieving a Single EU VAT Area by means of reforming the regulatory European framework on cross-border trade in goods between Member States and by introducing a simpler, more efficient and fraud-proof system to reduce the administrative burden and costs for businesses and tax administrations and to significantly decrease cross-border VAT fraud.

The participants in the meeting also discussed the possible files in the area of customs to be covered by the Bulgarian Presidency. The identified topics include Customs Union governance, UCC IT implementation, import of cultural goods as part of the package with additional measures to counteract terrorist financing, international cooperation on customs and Commission legislative initiatives on exchanges of information between the EU and third countries. The participants emphasised that the Bulgarian Presidency of the EU Council in 2018 coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Customs Union which - together with the fact that Bulgaria is an external EU border - could be commemorated by organizing an appropriate event.

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