Athens, July 31, 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Spiros Sideris
For more than 20 months Alexis Tsipras “plowed” the world and met with leaders from both the West and the East. Russia, USA, China, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Cyprus Turkey were some of the countries he visited. He met, discussed, signed agreements and tried to change the image of Greece in the four corners of the Earth. Time will tell if he succeeded, although the truth is that his image abroad has a positive sign.
Upon completion of the evaluation and the relative calmness, both inside and abroad with the lenders, Alexis Tsipras begins a new round of contacts, starting with neighbouring countries in the wider region of the Balkan peninsula, implementing the multi-dimensional and active foreign policy .
Of course the groundwork with the Balkan countries has been done by Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, with repeated visits and contacts with the leaders of the Balkan countries, paving the way to the Greek Prime Minister to certify the mood for cooperation between Greece and the Balkan countries.
The first visit of Alexis Tsipras to a country of the Balkan Peninsula is on Monday, August 1 in Sofia, where he will meet with his counterpart Boyko Borissov and the two men will chair the High Level Cooperation Council between the two countries. In the delegation will participate from the Greek side the Ministers of Foreign Affairs – Nikos Kotzias, Economy – Giorgos Stathakis, Infrastructure – Christos Spirtzis, Energy – Panos Skourletis, Migration Policy – Giannis Mouzalas, Citizen Protection – Nikos Toskas.
Although according to diplomatic sources there are issues to be resolved between the two countries, the issues to be discussed at the Council are many and important and are related to developments in the region, the economy and energy cooperation.
The stability of the region and the developments in Turkey and FYROM will be some of the issues that will be at the focus of the summit. Bulgaria and Greece, two EU countries that have common borders with the two countries, have reason to be concerned with developments, since any instability in these countries would have a direct impact on Greece and Bulgaria. What’s more, the refugee issue, migration flows and cross-border cooperation will also be issues to be addressed by the two governments.
These issues will also be discussed in a bilateral meeting between Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and his Bulgarian counterpart Daniel Mitov, to be held at the sidelines of the Supreme Council meeting. The firm position of Greece for the inclusion of Bulgaria in the Schengen zone, the initiative of the two countries for the establishment of the cooperation and understanding axis of the Balkan countries and the common position in the EU and NATO issues, will be confirmed at the meeting.
Energy cooperation between the two countries is high on the agenda of the discussions, as the activation of IGB and its connection to the TAP, the construction of a floating LNG terminal in Alexandroupolis, as set forth by the American envoy Amos Hochstein, and the apparent mobility from Russia for the reactivation of the Burgas Alexandroupolis pipeline, create expectations for investment and the promotion of the two countries in energy nodes.
Also on the agenda will be the improvement of infrastructure and interconnection of the two countries, both on roads linking Egnatia Highway with Thrakia, and the rail link Alexandroupolis – Burgas – Varna and Thessaloniki – Sofia. Furthermore, there will be discussion on the issue of water management and better cooperation between the two countries in order to avoid the floods that occasionally marked the Evros River.
The pension differences for Bulgarian nationals residing in Greece as well as the business activity in Bulgaria by Greek entrepreneurs will also be in the focus of the staffs of the two countries, aiming at better cooperation and overcoming any problems that exist.
Alexis Tsipras will also meet with Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev. The visit will begin early Monday morning and will be completed early in the afternoon of the same day. After end of the Council there will be a joint declaration.