Sofia, August 1, 2016/Independent Balkan News AgencyJoint DeclarationThe Prime Minister of the Republic of Bulgaria, Mr. Boyko Borissov and the Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic, Mr. Alexis Tsipras at the close of the Third meeting of the Bulgarian-Hellenic High Level Cooperation Council, held in Sofia on 1st of August 2016 and attended from the Bulgarian side by Mrs. Rumiana Bachvarova, Deputy Prime Minister for Coalition Policy and Public Administration and Minister of Interior, Mrs. Meglena Kuneva, Deputy Prime Minister for European Policies Coordination and Institutional Affairs and Minister of Education and Science, Mr. Tomislav Donchev, Deputy Prime Minister for EU Funds and Economic Policies, Mr. Daniel Mitov, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mrs. Zornitsa Roussinova, Minister of Labor and Social Policy, Mr. Nikolay Nenchev, Minister of Defense, Mr. Peter Moskov, Minister of Health, Mr. Vezhdi Rashidov, Minister of Culture, Mrs. Ivelina Vassileva, Minister of Environment and Water, Mrs. Desislava Taneva, Minister of Agriculture and Food, Mr. Ivaylo Moskovski, Minister of Transport, Information Technology and Communications, Mr. Bojidar Loukarsky, Minister of Economy, Mrs. Temenuzhka Petkova, Minister of Energy, Mrs. Nikolina Angelkova, Minister of Tourism, Mr. Krasen Kralev, Minister of Youth and Sports, Mr. Valentin Poriazov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mrs. Denitsa Nikolova, Deputy Minister of Regional Development and Public Works, and from the Greek side by Mr. Georgios Stathakis, Minister of Economy, Development and Tourism, Mr. Nikolaos Kotzias, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Georgios Katrougkalos, Minister of Labor, Social Security and Social Solidarity, Mr. Panagiotis Skourletis, Minister of Energy and Environment, Mr. Christos Spirtzis, Minister of Infrastructures, Transports and Networks, Mr. Ioannis Mouzalas, Alternate Minister of Migration, Ms Marina Chrysoveloni, Deputy Minister of Infrastructures, Transports and Networks,Reiterating the excellent relations between the Republic of Bulgaria and the Hellenic Republic, based on mutual respect, trust and confidence, as well as the strong ties of friendship and solidarity connecting our two peoples,Confirming that during the last decades our two countries have established a strategic partnership on a bilateral basis, within the European Union and NATO, as well as in other regional and international organizations,Emphasizing the importance of genuine good-neighbourly relations and substantial regional cooperation, as the basis for lasting stability and security in Southeast Europe,Recalling their constructive role in Southeast Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean and recognizing the role of trilateral co-operation formats in the broader region,Reiterating our belief that the European Union continues to play a decisive role in maintaining peace, stability and prosperity in Europe, including in those countries, which aspire to become part of the EU,Reconfirming the fundamental importance of the principles and objectives set out in the 1992 Agreement on Friendship, Good Neighbourliness, Cooperation and Security and the 2006 Declaration of Friendship, Good Neighbourliness and Cooperation between our two countries,Recalling the results of the First and Second High Level Cooperation Councils, held in Sofia in July 2010 and in Athens in December 2012,Have agreed to Continue to deepen our strategic partnership through regular intensive political dialogue, concerted efforts and common initiatives on bilateral, regional and international issues, including in the relevant international fora with a view to consolidating peace and stability in the region and beyond;Reiterate that solidarity should remain the cornerstone of the European project in the wake of the recent challenges for the European Union’s future and in this regard underline the importance of coordinating our national stances in strengthening economic convergence, enhancing social justice and democratic accountability aimed at fostering the internal cohesion and unity within the EU;Further deepen our cooperation on sectoral issues including infrastructure, energy projects, economy, trade and transport, as well the relevant technical dialogue;Emphasize our firm common commitment to effectively guarantee, including through joint efforts, the free movement of goods, capital, services and people between our countries, in accordance with the relevant EU single market rules and regulations;Welcome the substantial progress that has been achieved as a result of our joint efforts in the realisation of the gas interconnection pipeline project between Greece and Bulgaria. Commit to intensify our co-operation for the implementation of the vertical gas corridor aiming to ensure access to diversified supplies, both through Interconnectors and LNG terminals, as well as storage facilities. Reaffirm our commitment to accelerate the implementation of the second electricity interconnection between our two countries. We stress our will to promote sustainable energy supplies at competitive prices, based on the EU’s energy strategy, through the realization of Projects of European Common Interest (PCI’s), consolidating the operational infrastructure as a prerequisite for an efficiently operating integrated energy market and improving the security of supply, as well as diversification of sources and routes in our region;Confirm that modern well-connected infrastructure is essential to achieving competitiveness, growth and social connectivity in the region, including the Western Balkans, and underline in this context the importance of its further development in the framework of TEN-T Corridors. Particular emphasis will also be placed on the multimodal link “Alexandroupolis-Ormenio/Svilengrad-Burgas”;Welcome the substantial progress that has been achieved in the establishment of a framework which will facilitate and accelerate the railway border crossings cooperation and will regulate trans-border railway traffic between Greece and Bulgaria with the adoption of the relevant Agreement;Cooperate closely on the realization of the “Transport and Transit Corridor Persian Gulf - Black Sea”; expressing the willingness to develop and improve capabilities, to facilitate transport and transit of goods in this region, in accordance with the relevant international conventions and agreements;Stress the importance of strengthened coordination between all stakeholders for achieving the strategic objectives of Interreg V-A Greece-Bulgaria 2014-2020 Cooperation Programme during the current period with a view to increase efficiency of interventions, including the implementation of projects;Reiterate the importance of the Joint Declaration on understanding and cooperation in the field of use of water resources on the respective territories of the shared river basins between the Republic of Bulgaria and the Hellenic Republic, adopted in Sofia on 27th July 2010 and our willingness in good faith to further promote cross-border water management cooperation on the basis of relevant bilateral agreements, other relevant treaties and EU Directives, in particular the 2000/60/EC and 2007/60/EC Directives, and reaffirm our commitment to cooperate in a coordinated way to address the issues of integrated water management in the transboundary rivers in the respective territories of the shared river basins, with the aim to achieve the objectives of the above Directives, i.e. good water status and reduced risk of adverse consequences associated with floods. In this context, we shall ensure the efficient operation of ‘early warning systems’ between our two countries for shared river basins, so as to guarantee that the relevant forecast data about any critical situation is conveyed in advance to the respective local and national authorities for emergency response;Further broaden and promote our cooperation in the fields of culture, education and science, including cooperation between universities and research centers on projects of mutual interest, such as environmental protection, alternative sources of energy and climate change;Promote our co-operation within the EU in the sector of agricultural products of Protected Geographical Indications and Protected Designation of Origin, especially during the negotiations of Free Trade Agreements between the EU and third countries;Welcome and encourage further the cooperation between the National Social Security Institute (NOI) and the Social Insurance Institute (IKA - ETAM), aimed at securing the best interests of our citizens;Cooperate closely in addressing the multiple complex challenges posed by mixed migration flows at the regional, European and global level and jointly contribute towards establishing truly integrated European asylum and migration policies in accordance with the provisions of EU law and taking into consideration as well the relevant European Council Decisions, on the basis of the core principles of solidarity and fair burden sharing between the EU Member States;Emphasize that the prompt accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the Schengen Area will contribute significantly to the internal security of the EU;Recall the positive and constructive efforts and contribution of Greece in order to cope with the reception and accommodation of the refugees in the country, especially in the current context of long-standing economic crisis, as well as the consistent efforts of Bulgaria to protect the external borders of the EU;Express our determination to enhance our cooperation in order to effectively counteract the rise of terrorism, radicalization and violent extremism, which constitute serious global threats, as well as with regard to illegal trafficking, including small arms and cybercrime;Stress the importance of the Western Balkans Counter-Terrorism Initiative as a tool in the fight against terrorism in our region;Reconfirm our commitment to creating synergy between numerous initiatives and processes for fostering inclusive regional cooperation in Southeast Europe;Intensify our cooperation and coordination within NATO and the European Union, alongside our bilateral defence cooperation, through regular consultations on issues of common interest, including on pooling and sharing of capabilities;Recall that the region of the Western Balkans was recognized as being of strategic importance for the EU and NATO;Reconfirm our readiness, as Member States, to continue to support the European and the Euro-Atlantic perspectives of all EU enlargement and SAP partners, as well as countries aspiring to join NATO in Southeastern Europe, depending on the will of their people and on their full compliance with all accession criteria and established conditionality, set by the two respective Organizations;Reiterate, in this respect, that the irreversibility of the European integration process in the Western Balkans is contingent to the rule of law, democratic values, fundamental rights, civil society inclusiveness, as well as achieving tangible results in good-neighbourly relations and enhanced regional cooperation, ensuring both stability and democracy in the region;Emphasize that the pace of the accession process depends entirely on the principle of own merits and that the necessary reforms should be consistently pursued and implemented through a mature inclusive democratic dialogue among all sectors of society in order to secure both stability and democracy, instead of making a choice between either of them;Underscore, in this regard, the continued relevance and significance of the implementation of the Thessaloniki Agenda, as evolved in a series of European Council and Council Conclusions that followed;Express willingness for closer bilateral cooperation during the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU in the first half of 2018 in promoting the Enlargement Process and the European perspective of the area;Note with concern recent developments in the region and encourage leaders to demonstrate a true commitment to the values and principles of democracy, rule of law, human rights and respect for the interests of all citizens;Deplore nationalistic rhetoric and undemocratic practices and point out that all Southeast European countries have committed themselves to following irreversibly the path of European integration by abiding to EU values and principles and by abandoning the negative mentalities and attitudes of the past;The Republic of Bulgaria and the Hellenic Republic remain fully committed to further deepen our strategic partnership and to work closely together towards the fullest realisation of its potential, to the benefit of our nations, the wider region and the unity of Europe.