Sofia, December 16, 2015/ Indeoendent Balkan News Agency
By Clive Leviev-Sawyer of The Sofia Globe
Greek president Prokopis Pavlopoulos has reiterated Greece’s firm support for Bulgaria’s membership of the Schengen area and also issued an assurance that Greece will also support Bulgaria’s future accession to the single European currency zone.
“Greece will continue to support Bulgaria in its consistent European road. Bulgaria has proved that it has always followed this road showing a European mentality, respect and enjoying high prestige because it participates in the European project not only with its economy, but also with its culture. The Bulgarian people deserves their future in the European family and we will be among the first to support you,” Pavlopoulos said at a meeting in Sofia on December 15 with Bulgarian and Greek business people.
His host, Bulgarian head of state President Rossen Plevneliev, told the meeting – organised by the Hellenic Bulgarian Business Council – that the fact that Pavlopoulos’ first state visit in the region was to Bulgaria was a clear sign of the special relations between Bulgaria and Greece.
“We would like the Greek business to succeed and profit in Bulgaria and the Greek investments to increase – the Bulgarian people and state will also benefit from these,” Plevneliev said.
Plevneliev said that Greek investments are a factor in the Bulgarian economy that could not be disregarded.
He said that 11 500 Greek companies provided more than 40 000 jobs, and Greek business is a leading one in strategic sectors in the Bulgarian economy, such as the banking sector, machine building, trade and food production, textile industry, real estates and many others.
“We will respond to the correctness of the business by conducting reforms and ensuring stability,” Plevneliev said, according to a statement by his media office.
He said that Bulgaria and Greece were the engines of the European integration of the Western Balkan countries.
“Integration opens up new horizons in a region with 12 countries and a population of 150 million people. This is a dynamic market and we will pool efforts to ensure that the positive development of the region continues, in line with European values, with the principles of good-neighbourliness and with the principle that history should be respected, not manipulated,” Plevneliev said.
He reiterated that the solution to the migration crisis lies in strengthening the control over the external EU borders, pan-European solidarity and solutions of the migration problem, and also in drawing a clear distinction between economic immigrants and those who are escaping from the horrors of war. “These solutions will become possible also thanks to the efforts of Bulgaria and Greece,”Plevneliev said.
He issued an assurance that the Bulgarian state is a partner of the Greek business and at the same time encouraged the Bulgarian companies to be more active and ambitious in the region. “Together we are stronger and we can work at third markets,” the Bulgarian President said.
Pavlopoulos said that the business environment in Bulgaria is better than that in Greece and welcomed the interest of the Greek companies in operating on the Bulgarian market.
“Although the economic and political relations are very good, they could be even better. We are on the right road and we have already shown what development of trade and economic relations means by signing the final investment decision for building the gas inter-connector between the two countries,” Pavlopoulos said and highlighted the importance of the project for the whole region’s energy independence.
Pavlopoulos voiced Greece’s readiness to work on implementing additional projects on bilateral co-operation, including those within the framework of the Southeast European Cooperation Process, the chairmanship of which is currently held by Bulgaria. “We would like our neighbours to develop on their European road, to become aware of their European prospects and to work for meeting all criteria, as Greece and Bulgaria did before they joined the EU,” the Greek president said.