Opening the 12th two-day Arraiolos meeting of EU state leaders at Plovdiv's Ethnographic Museum, President Rosen Plevneliev said the main goal is not to allow Europe to plunge into a crisis of values and a lack of solidarity and unity. "Whether we talk of migration or security, we should stand shoulder to shoulder," he said.
The following heads of State are visiting Bulgaria at Plevneliev's invitation: Germany's Joachim Gauck, Italy's Sergio Mattarella, Latvia's Raimonds Vejonis, Malta's Marie Louise Coleiro Preca, Poland's Andrzej Duda, Portugal's Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, Slovenia's Borut Pahor, Hungary's Janos Ader and Finland's Sauli Niinistoto. The Presidents of Austria and Estonia are also taking part.
This top-level informal forum for political dialogue was first held in the Portuguese town of Arraiolos in 2003 on the initiative of then President Jorge Sampaio. It brings together the EU heads of State who do not represent their countries at the European Council.
Bulgaria joined the Arraiolos Group at the invitation of Poland and Portugal in 2013, and was chosen unanimously to host the 2016 meeting at last year's forum in Germany.
The Presidents of the EU's parliamentary republics will discuss the future of United Europe and the Balkans, as well as the challenges facing the EU: the migrant crisis, counter-terrorism, and post-Brexit Europe.