Sofia, January 15, 2014/ Independent Balkan News Agency
By Clive Leviev-Sawyer of the Sofia Globe
The visit to Sofia by UK foreign secretary Philip Hammond saw statements of commitments on bilateral co-operation against terrorism, on security and diversification of energy supply and strong support for EU enlargement “on the basis of firm and fair conditionality”.
Hammond and his Bulgarian counterpart Daniel Mitov released a joint statement after their January 14 meeting detailing a lengthy set of areas of agreement.
“Today we reaffirmed our commitment to deepen the cooperation between Bulgaria and the UK and to further develop our bilateral relations. Allies and partners in the EU and NATO, our countries share common values and a range of common interests. This is the backbone of our relationship in today’s complex international environment,” the joint statement said.
“We exchanged views on the escalation of terrorism and the need to deepen our bilateral coordination to fight all its forms, including those coming from ISIL and other extremist organisations that recruit foreign fighters. We condemn the terrorist attacks in Paris and express our full solidarity with the French people at this time,” Hammond and Mitov said.
Bulgaria and the UK would continue to work together and with all allies to implement the Wales NATO Summit commitments, in particular the Readiness Action Plan, in order for the alliance to be fully prepared and ready to tackle 21st century security threats.
Hammond and Mitov also discussed the situation in Ukraine, the challenges and opportunities facing South-Eastern Europe, developments in the Middle East and North Africa.
“We confirmed our enhanced cooperation in the context of the situation in the wider Black Sea region. We underlined our commitment to the stability and independence of Ukraine.”
They said that the EU should continue to support the reforms in the countries of the Eastern Partnership and the implementation of the Association Agreements/Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas with Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia.
“We will continue our intensive dialogue and co-operation on the security and diversification of energy supplies in South-Eastern Europe and within the European Union,” the two foreign ministers said.
The UK and Bulgaria reiterated what the statement called their strong support for EU enlargement on the basis of firm and fair conditionality.
“We encourage the countries of the region to carry out the necessary reforms that will ensure functioning state institutions, democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights, including minorities.”
The two ministers said that they had discussed the important issues facing the EU and its member states: the urgent need to complete single markets in services (including financial services), digital and energy; applying proper measures for reducing the regulatory and administrative burden for businesses, especially medium and small enterprises; and increasing the level of investments, as well assigning ambitious free trade agreements, including TTIP.
“We discussed the issue of democratic accountability in the EU and exchanged ideas on mechanisms to reinforce the voice of the electorate.”
The statement said that the two ministers highlighted that “as partners in the EU our countries cooperate to achieve the highest standards in justice.”
” The Strategy on the Reform of the judiciary, adopted by the Bulgarian government, is an important step to achieving an efficient judiciary that functions in the interest of its people.”
Hammon and Mitov said that they hoped that with the creation of the new British-Bulgarian Business Association, “our trade relations will deepen trade and investment between both countries will increase”.
Reform in the EU and co-operation between Bulgaria and the UK in the EU and Nato topped the agenda of the talks between President Rossen Plevneliev and Hammond, the President’s office said.
Hammona and Plevneliev declared themselves in favour of accelerated measures for the completion of the Single European Market, which would make the EU more competitive after the period of economic and financial crisis and would ensure growth and new jobs.
The EU needed to reform for the purpose of enhancing the efficiency of the European institutions, easing regulations and restructuring the labour market, the statement after the Plevneliev-Hammond meeting said.
The EU should reform itself in order to keep the confidence of the European citizens and meet the challenges of the 21st century, Hammond said.
Plevneliev and Hammond discussed the energy security of Europe and, in particular, of the countries of South Eastern Europe, the President’s office said.
Plevneliev and Hammond emphasised the need of accelerated diversification of sources and the routes for the supply of energy resources, noting that the European Commission’s Investment Plan for Europe could be used for this purpose.
At the meeting, it emerged that Bulgaria would count on British support for the financing of projects on energy connectors, with which the country will apply for financing from the European Commission.