Sofia, February 2, 2015/ Independent Balkan News Agency
By Clive Leviev-Sawyer of the Sofia Globe
Bulgarian President Rossen Plevneliev held talks with the presidents of four Balkans countries who attended the February 1 state funeral in Sofia of Zhelyu Zhelev, Bulgaria’s first democratically-elected president, who died on January 30.
Plevneliev met Gjorge Ivanov of FYR Macedonia, Bujar Nishani of Albania, Atifete Jahjaga of Kosovo and with Mladen Ivanic, chairman of the presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The talks with Plevneliev’s counterpart from Skopje saw tribute paid to former president Zhelev for the fact that Bulgaria was the first to recognise its neighbour by its constitutional name, Republic of Macedonia.
Plevneliev said that the fact that the delegation was a high-level one was an important sign of the good-neighbourly and friendly relations that the two countries were developing.
The Bulgarian President added that words should be backed by deeds and it was time to sign the good neighbourliness agreement, which would give a clear sign to the Balkans and Europe that Bulgaria and FYR Macedonia are true friends.
According to a media statement by the Bulgarian President’s office, Ivanov said that FYR Macedonia was willing to sign the agreement.
Ivanov said that every opportunity should be taken to develop bilateral relations, including at economic and cultural level and developing transport infrastructure to connect the two countries.
Meeting Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Ivanic, Plevneliev said that Bulgaria would continue to support the countries of the Western Balkans on their European path, while he emphasised the need for the implementation of reforms that should have international support.
Plevneliev told Ivanic that Bosnia and Herzegovina could rely on Bulgaria’s support within the EU and experience in the European integration process.
Bulgaria was the main driver in the region of closer integration with the EU, Plevneliev said.
Ivanic briefed Plevneliev on reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina, telling him that the plan co-ordinated with international partners has as a priority measures to revive the economy, which is expected to later improve dialogue so that the key political issues are solved.
Plevneliev said that success required the strengthening of the main democratic values and rule of law.
Plevneliev and Ivanic also discussed the situation in eastern Ukraine and the risks of a new populist wave in the countries in the region and Europe, the Bulgarian President’s office said.
In talks with Albanian president Bujar Nishani, he and Plevneliev agreed that there was no alternative to the European perspective of the countries of the Western Balkans, the President’s office said. The EU should continue to support these countries’ efforts towards fully-fledged EU membership, the two heads of state agreed.
“Albania’s joining the EU is one of our main priorities and it is important for us to know we can always rely on the support of a true friend such as Bulgaria,” Nishani said.
Plevneliev confirmed Bulgaria’s readiness for more active co-operation at all levels with Albania.
Nishani is due to pay an official visit to Bulgaria in 2015. A business forum with the participation of Bulgarian and Albanian business representatives is expected to be held during the visit.
Kosovo will draw on Bulgaria’s experience in the process of stabilisation, EU association and the adoption of EU legislation, it emerged at the meeting between Plevneliev and Kosovo president Jahjaga, a statement said.
Kosovo and Bulgaria will also work to advance their political dialogue, commercial, economic and cultural ties.
“Collaboration and integration are the real force that can make people’s lives better,” the two presidents agreed, the media statement said.
They exchanged views on the process of European integration of the Western Balkans and called for more connectivity between the countries of the region.
The two heads of state agreed that the geographical proximity between the Republic of Bulgaria and the Republic of Kosovo is an advantage that should be used for the development of trade and economic co-operation, the statement said.