Plevneliev: Only together can Balkans succeed in European integration, coping with migration

Plevneliev: Only together can Balkans succeed in European integration, coping with migration

Sofia, October 6, 2015/ Independent Balkan News Agency

By Clive Leviev-Sawyer of The Sofia Globe

Only together can the countries of South Eastern Europe achieve success and resolve issues related to the deepening of regional partnership, the process of European integration and coping with increased migratory pressures, Bulgarian President Rossen Plevneliev said in Sofia on October 6 at a joint news conference with his Albanian counterpart, Bujar Nishani.

Albanian president Nishani is on an official visit to Bulgaria at the invitation of Plevneliev.

Plevneliev said that poor connectivity in the Balkans was a major obstacle to economic development in the region and to attracting foreign investment.

Bulgaria and Albania remain committed to the completion of Transport Corridor № 8 and the completion of the railway line Sofia – Skopje – Tirana – Durres railway line, the two presidents confirmed.

“For Bulgaria and Albania it is important to be connected by railway and motorway, and why not, a direct air service,” Plevneliev said.

The two presidents agreed that better connectivity would increase energy security, the supply of energy resources and would enable the diversification of suppliers and the achievement of competitive electricity prices.

“The countries of South Eastern Europe should unite and build their regional market for gas and electricity,” Plevneliev said.

He said that connecting the electricity networks of the Balkan countries would encourage the export of electricity from Bulgaria, which is a traditional supplier of electricity to the region.

Establishment of good neighborly relations bale is key for enhanced regional partnership and to achieve progress in the European integration process, Plevneliev and Nishani said.

European integration will not be complete without the Western Balkans, Plevneliev said and issued an assurance that Bulgaria will continue to support Albania in the process of EU accession. Bulgaria was ready for signing by the end of 2015 a bilateral memorandum of cooperation in this regard, he said.

The changed security situation as a result of conflicts in the Middle East and Eastern Ukraine was also discussed at the meeting of the two presidents, who confirmed their support for NATO measures to increase security in the Black Sea region.

As chairman of the Cooperation Process in Southeastern Europe, Bulgaria will propose the adoption of a joint declaration on the inviolability of borders in the Balkans and will rely on the support of Albania for the successful implementation of this initiative, Plevneliev said.

He called for active co-operation of all countries in the region to implement the three main priorities of the Bulgarian presidency of the SEECP in the field of transport, energy and infrastructure; support civil society in the region; in terms of increased migration and refugee flows.

Western Balkan countries that aspire to EU membership, must become part of the general European debate on illegal migration and the search for common solutions, Plevneliev said.

He said that Bulgaria will continue to fulfill its obligations as a responsible EU external border and to take all necessary measures for the security of the European external borders in accordance with European standards.

“The migration situation will continue to deteriorate until a lasting political solution is found for the ongoing wars and violence and acute social problems in the Middle East and Africa,” he said.

In his words, a distinction should be made between refugees coming from regions where their lives are threatened, and economic migrants, and he urged countries of the region to not continue to seek individual, but joint decisions on this issue.

“Transferring refugees across semi-closed or semi-open borders is not a solution,” Plevneliev said.

“Not registering refugees and each government conveniently transporting them to another [country] is not a solution; what happened between Serbia and Croatia, including border blockades, threats, and the customs war, is not a solution, either,” he said.

Plevneliev said that Bulgaria will seek a joint solution between all countries in the region on the basis of clear criteria.

“The right to asylum is a basic human right and no one can deny it when they are people fleeing a war and fighting for their lives,” he said.