The historic reconciliation on which a united Europe is built must be achieved in the Balkans as well, Bulgarian President Roumen Radev told a news conference in Belgrade on June 21.
At the joint news conference with his Serbian counterpart and host Aleksander Vučić, Radev said that protecting the European perspective in the region requires courage, constructiveness, a hindrance to the language of hatred, establishing lasting good neighbourliness and respect for the rights of national minorities.
Serbia’s European integration, bilateral co-operation, and raising the standard of living of the Bulgarian national minority in the country were the leading themes of the meeting between the two presidents, the Bulgarian President’s press office said.
“Today in the relations between Bulgaria and Serbia, positive processes dominate and we are resolved that this trend should become irreversible.
“The language of hatred and disunity in the Balkans must remain in the past, and reconciliation and co-operation take their place,” Radev said.
He described the building of good neighborly relations in the region as a historic chance that will guarantee European integration in the Balkans and show that lessons from the past have been learned.
Radev expressed Bulgaria’s readiness to continue to support Serbia for EU membership.
“Serbia’s European perspective has been a leading topic of our meeting and Serbia can count on our support – working together for the Balkans perspective in the European Union. Only in this way can we have real stability and prosperity,” Radev said.
He said that the time frame for Serbia’s EU accession, set by the European Commission to 2025, is an ambitious but achievable goal that requires solid mobilization and will for reforms in the political, economic and social life of the country.
The two presidents also highlighted the importance of the general infrastructure projects connecting Bulgaria and Serbia – the completion of the Belgrade-Sofia motorway, the electrification of the Nis-Dimitrovgrad-Sofia railway line, the construction of a gas interconnector.
“When we talk about connectivity, we need to apply a comprehensive approach,” Radev said, and called for more active work in the field of river tourism and trade and activation of the work on joint projects for cross-border cooperation.
Radev described Serbia’s inclusion in the European airspace as a key overall priority.
“An official invitation to Serbia to join the Functional Airspace Block was made by Bulgaria and Romania – an important objective that is in line with the strategic interests of our countries in terms of the safety and efficiency of air transport and the European integration of the Republic of Serbia,” Radev said.
He also called for the establishment of a new border checkpoint at the border between Bulgaria and Serbia.
On the second day of the visit, Radev together with his Serbian counterpart will hold a first-ever joint meeting with representatives of the Bulgarian national minority in Dimitrovgrad.
“We expect our national minority to feel the strong support of the Serbian state and the positive changes in Serbian minority legislation to bring real changes to the daily lives of our compatriots,” Radev said, and called for constructive dialogue and concrete actions to improve the access of the Bulgarian minority to healthcare.
The opportunity was also discussed to improve cooperation between the two countries in the field of education as well as the Bulgarian language training for Bulgaria in Serbia. Mutual readiness was expressed for signing specific agreements to regulate cooperation in these spheres.
Vučić confirmed Serbia’s readiness to take practical steps to develop the cross-border region and to provide funding for native language media for the Bulgarian minority.
He noted the excellent bilateral dialogue between Bulgaria and Serbia, which is producing practical results in trade and growth in tourism.
“These achievements are particularly important because they draw our two nations ever closer. It is of utmost importance for us to look to the future, not to the past, to honour our dead heroes together and to open a new page,” Vučić said./IBNA