Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva and Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, who began his tour of the region from Sofia, reaffirmed the strategic nature of the relations between the two countries.
In a very friendly and constructive atmosphere, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and Bulgarian counterpart Ekaterina Zaharieva met in Sofia during an official visit by the head of the Greek diplomacy to Bulgaria, where he met with state and political leaders.
“I am very happy that your tour started in Bulgaria. This shows that our relations are at a strategic level. It is an example of how historical overlaps can be overcome and turned into mutual support and friendship”, Ekaterina Zaharieva said during their joint statements after their meeting.
Zaharieva and Dendias also discussed about the strategic partnership within the EU, emphasizing common positions on cohesion policy, budgeting, migration, energy security and EU enlargement.
“We will always be grateful and we will never forget Greece’s support for EU membership, which we joined in 2007”, said Ekaterina Zaharieva, adding that it was time to express the same support to the Western Balkan countries for entry in the EU. Both agreed that the future of the Western Balkans lies in the EU. “Bulgaria will continue to actively and firmly support the European perspective of the Western Balkan countries and in this respect we particularly appreciate Greece’s partnership”, Zaharieva said.
Nikos Dendias, for his part, underlined Greece’s full support for Bulgaria’s efforts to join the eurozone and the Schengen area. The Greek Minister also agreed with his counterpart on the European perspective of the Western Balkans, stressing that “in this context, and with regard to the Republic of North Macedonia, we attach particular importance to the full and consistent implementation of the Prespa Treaty”.
The two ministers discussed the development of economic relations, energy relations and the IGB’s interconnection between Bulgaria and Greece, increased mutual investment and connectivity. Currently, Greece is among the top five major investors in Bulgaria in areas such as finance, telecommunications, metallurgy, trade. For 2018, trade between the two countries amounts to approximately EUR 3.3 billion.
The two Ministries, in co-operation with their countries’ home ministries, have agreed to work for even faster border crossing procedures, as 1.5 million citizens from each side visit the other, including not only tourists but also the transfer of workers and businessmen. “We can’t afford to have kilometers of queues – we have to find a mechanism to make it easier for travelers”, Zaharieva said.
For his part, Nikos Dendias noted: “We discussed issues related to the various multilateral forms of cooperation, in which both countries are involved. In this context, Greece is ready to host the 4th Supreme Cooperation Council, which will give new impetus to our cooperation”.
Finally, the Greek FM said he informed his counterpart of Turkey’s illegal behavior in the wider region. “As you know, despite strong and clear messages from the EU, as well as the concerns of the international community, which have explicitly been expressed, Turkey continues to violate international law with its continued illegal activities within territorial waters and the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Republic of Cyprus, which is an EU member state. It also demonstrates an increasingly dangerous behavior in the Aegean region”, the Greek Foreign Minister noted.
Nikos Dendias and Ekaterina Zaharieva also agreed to work on organizing the Year of Bulgaria in Greece and of Greece in Bulgaria on the occasion of the 140th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations in 2020, as well as a joint meeting of the two governments./ibna