Greece and Bulgaria are ‘guarantors of stability’ in the Balkans, Bulgarian diplomat tells ANA

Greece and Bulgaria are “the guarantors of stability and progress in the Balkans”, the ChargĂ© d’Affaires of the Bulgarian Embassy in Athens Vesselin Ivanov told the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA) in an interview published on Sunday. Ivanov, who has been serving as acting ambassador in Athens for the past year, also stressed that the accession of the Western Balkans to the European Union is not only a wager for the stability region but for Europe as a whole.

The EU prospects of the Western Balkans also ranked high in the list of priorities announced by the six-month Bulgarian presidency of the EU Council, as Ivanov noted while speaking to the ANA about the Bulgarian presidency’s plans, ahead of the official presentation of Sofia’s programme at the European Parliament’s offices in Athens on Monday.

Talking to ANA, the acting ambassador carried out an extensive analysis of Greek-Bulgarian relations and the prospects for developing these further, with emphasis on energy issues.

He noted that the European perspective of the Western Balkans was a viewpoint shared by Greece and Bulgaria and pointed to Bulgaria’s initiative to host an EU-Western Balkans summit in Sofia on May 17 that aimed to continue the dialogue launched in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki in 2003.

Ivanov described relations between Athens and Sofia as “excellent,” as indicated by the active political dialogue on all levels and the fact that the newly-elected Bulgarian president’s first trip in the region was a visit to Greece. Over the years, he said, the two countries had built relations of strategic partnership and alliance in the EU and NATO, which was based on friendship and mutually beneficial cooperation.

On energy issues, Ivanov emphasised Greek-Bulgarian cooperation in implementing the Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria (IGB) pipeline, noting that this was a key natural gas project for the region, and highlighted the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) project that formed a part of the southern natgas corridor, as well as the LNG platform near Alexandroupolis.

He also noted the significant margins for even deeper and closer bilateral cooperation between the two countries, emphasising trade and economic ties in commerce, energy, transport, science, education, culture and tourism.

With regard to the FYROM name issue, he pointed out that Bulgaria had expressed its optimism about the prospects for its solution in the most official way, through the interview given to the ANA by Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boyko Borisov in Strasbourg last Wednesday. In this, Borisov had avoided any reference to FYROM’s ‘constitutional’ name and referred to the country as Skopje, while expressing his support for direct talks between the Greek and FYROM prime ministers and pledging Bulgaria’s immediate assistance if this was requested.