An agreement signed by Greece and Bulgaria to build rail connections between ports in Bulgaria and northern Greece had “historic and geopolitical significance,” Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Wednesday, after the two countries signed a Memorandum of Cooperation. He was speaking during a joint press conference with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, who also announced plans to extend this cooperation to include Serbia and Romania in the future.
The agreement concerns the interconnection of Greece’s three major ports of Alexandroupolis, Kavala and Thessaloniki with the Bulgarian seaports of Varna and Burgas on the Black Sea and Ruse, a port on the Danube River.
“This is a historic agreement for Greece and Bulgaria’s common course toward growth,” Tsipras said, adding that Greece’s co-operation with Bulgaria was crucial.
In the field of energy, “we are opening up new horizons for Europe’s energy map, as we rapidly proceed with the IGB pipeline,” the prime minister noted.
In the transport sector, “we are working together, with new opportunities and perspectives emerging for trade relations and the economic prosperity of both countries,” he added.
We also have a significant cooperation on security issues, Tsipras stressed, noting that this focused chiefly on the refugee crisis where both countries had managed to begin a dialogue in order to address this problem.
“It would not be an exaggeration to say that after the trilateral summit (Greece, Bulgaria, and Serbia) last July, there is the formation of a regional dynamic pivoting on the Greek-Bulgarian axis,” he said.
Replying to an Athens-Macedonian News Agency’s journalist, Tsipras said the government’s vision was to put the Balkans in the limelight, pointing out that the Balkans formed the eastern border of Europe.
“As it overcomes the economic crisis, Greece will play an important role. We want to have a positive role as a force of peace and stability, as a hub between three continents,” Tsipras stated.
This goal was supported by Greece’s multidimensional foreign policy in the last two and a half years, which was now bringing results, the prime minister added, as well as Greece’s unrelenting efforts to exit the economic crisis.
Taking questions from a Bulgarian journalist, Borisov said that he had the opportunity to speak with his counterpart about the problems of the Balkans during their dinner on Tuesday. In the spirit of avoiding potential pitfalls, he said, “we are proceeding in a climate of modesty with smaller things, such as infrastructure projects (construction of highways and railway connections).”
Borisov said that if the infrastructure projects are completed, then the Aegean Sea could be linked to Ruse port (via Kavala port). “If this plan is implemented, Kavala could develop trade relations with Ruse and a large inland economy.”
In conclusion, he revealed that the discussion with Tsipras also touched on the possibility of Serbia joining and expanding the railway interconnection project at the Thessaloniki trilateral meeting (Greece-Bulgaria-Serbia), while adding that Romania could also join once the project was completed.
“That is why we decided to meet in Varna on October 3 and have a quadrilateral meeting with the participation of Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia and Romania to complete the project,” he said.