President Radev: Bulgaria, Croatia Share Common Responsibility for Balkan Region Development

2023-05-25 18:42:00

Croatian President is on a formal visit here at the invitation of head of State Rumen Radev

Bulgaria and Croatia, as responsible and active members of NATO and the EU, have an important role and responsibility in strengthening security, stability and developing prosperity in our region. This is what President Rumen Radev said today when he welcomed his Croatian counterpart, Zoran Milanovic, at the Presidency. The Croatian head of State is on a formal visit to Bulgaria at the invitation of the Bulgarian President.

Zoran Milanovic and his wife Sanja Music Milanovic were welcomed with an official ceremony by Rumen Radev and Desislava Radeva in front of the presidential building. The two heads of state held a one-to-one meeting and chaired plenary talks between the official delegations of the two countries.

The European integration of the Western Balkans is of key importance for the stability of the Balkans, was the common position of the two presidents. Croatia and Bulgaria are actively cooperating with the countries of the region to advance this process as quickly as possible, but at the same time, it must be irreversible by permanently establishing the principles of good neighbourliness based on European values. This means achieving the real criteria for membership, which should not be subjected to pressures caused by geopolitical challenges and motives, the Bulgarian President said.

The deep regional and global turmoil caused by the war in Ukraine showed the need for measures to strengthen security and develop connectivity, President Rumen Radev further said. He highlighted the two countries' efforts to develop energy sustainability and connectivity, hailing the commissioning of the liquefied gas terminal on the Croatian island of Krk. The head of State also recalled the agreements reached by Bulgaria on access to the liquefied gas terminals of Greece and Turkey, which increase the opportunities for diversification, independence and security of energy supplies for the entire region. Both countries are making efforts to achieve a carbon-neutral economy, the President further pointed out, adding that Bulgaria and Croatia share the conviction that this transition should be carried out smoothly, fairly and guarantee a bearable social cost for our citizens.

The President of Croatia declared his full support for the membership of Bulgaria and Romania in the Schengen area. Both Rumen Radev and Zoran Milanovic underlined that this country had met the necessary technical conditions for accession and no unjustified additional requirements beyond the established criteria should be put forward. In this way, the Bulgarian President pointed out, the very decision-making mechanisms of the EU are undermined. At the same time, not allowing Bulgaria and Romania into Schengen brings losses to the economies of Bulgaria and Romania and humiliation to the citizens of both countries. This decision hinders the free movement of people, goods, services and capital, which is at the heart of the Union, at a time when an enhanced security is needed, fighting the economic crisis and inflation in Europe, said President Radev.

The untapped potential in the development of the transport infrastructure is an obstacle to the development of more fruitful economic and social relations between the two countries, Rumen Radev further said. In 2021, a regular airline was opened between Zagreb and Sofia, but we have yet to work even harder to develop road and rail transport, Corridor 8, the possibilities for shipping along the Danube and intensifying maritime links.

Responding to a question during the joint press conference on the possibility that the Republic of North Macedonia (RNM) and Albania could be separated in the negotiation process for their accession to the EU, President Milanovic said that there is such a possibility. In his words, the RNM has committed itself to certain conditions, which, if not met, it will not be able to start the negotiations. For his part, President Rumen Radev reminded that an irrevocable condition, not of Bulgaria but of the EU, for the start of negotiations with the RNM is achieving equal rights for Bulgarians in our south-western neighbour by including them in the country's constitution and providing legal guarantees for their equal status along with all other peoples listed in the basic law. This is clearly not a bilateral issue, but a problem linked to European values, because it is human rights that lie at the heart of the Copenhagen membership criteria.

When asked about the war in Ukraine, President Rumen Radev explicitly stressed that from the first day of the Russian Federation's aggression, Bulgaria had strongly denounced the military actions in violation of international law. The Presidents of Bulgaria and Croatia jointly reaffirmed their support for Ukraine in its struggle for independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. It is worrying that the bloody conflict is escalating, involving more weapons and leading to more casualties, with growing risks of escalation, the Bulgarian head of State said.

During the plenary talks, the Bulgarian and Croatian presidents underlined the friendly relations between the two countries, based on historical ties and cooperation, which today are built upon in their partnership as members of the EU and NATO, and within the regional and international formats in which we collaborate.  The talks also focused on the prospects for a a steady increase in trade, which has doubled in the last three years, as well as the potential for expanding cooperation in education, science and culture and security and defence cooperation.




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