Bilateral talks and the second joint meeting of Bulgarian and Greek government leaders, held on December 17 2012 in Athens, saw the signing of memorandums of co-operation, as well as discussions on key infrastructure, energy and foreign policy issues.
The meeting was a sequel to the July 2010 joint meeting between the governments of Greece and Bulgaria.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov held talks with Greek president Karolos Papoulias and with prime minister Antonis Samaras, before the two heads of government led the Cabinet ministers accompanying them into a joint sitting.
The governments of Bulgaria and Greece signed a programme of co-operation in education, science and culture for the period 2012 – 2014. Also scheduled for signing were a memorandum of understanding between the two countries’ ministries of foreign affairs, while a joint declaration by Athens and Sofia was expected at the end of the session.
At a joint news conference after the talks with Borissov, Samaras said that the Makaza checkpoint on the Bulgarian-Greek border would be opened in March 2013. Samaras said that the opening of the checkpoint would facilitate communication and tourism between the two countries.
On foreign policy issues, Borissov and Samaras both underlined their countries’ support for the EU and Nato accessions of all the countries of the Western Balkans, provided that the criteria required for accession – including the principle of good neighbourly relations – were met.
“We are clear and categorical – good neighborliness is a very important issue,” Borissov said, asked by a Greek journalist about Bulgaria’s position on EU enlargement into the Western Balkans, local news agency Focus said.
“We have been categorical in our foreign policy – and my personal opinion is the same – the sooner the Balkan countries join Nato and the EU, the better for the peace and prosperity of the whole Balkans. Now Serbia, which is a non-EU state, stands between Bulgaria, Croatia and Slovenia; it should not be like this. Kosovo – it is like a black hole in the Balkans; it should not be like this. The sooner we overcome these processes, the better. That’s why when a decision was made about visa-free travels for the people from the Western Balkans, Bulgaria and Greece I think were the strongest supporters,” Borissov said.
Also expected to be discussed at the talks in Athens was the proposed construction of an LNG terminal near Alexandroupolis and Kavala, linked to the Bulgarian gas pipeline network, Bulgarian media said ahead of the meeting.
Speaking in an interview with Bulgarian news agency BTA ahead of the Bulgarian ministers’ visit to Athens, Greek foreign minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said that Greece and Bulgaria have a lot of potential for broad co-operation in the energy sector.
“We are neighbouring countries that are strategically positioned for transporting hydrocarbons to Europe. Don’t forget that a few years ago, when Bulgaria was facing problems with its natural gas supply from the north, Greece immediately made up for the shortages, keeping the homes of our friends in Bulgaria warm during the winter,” Avramopoulos was quoted as saying.
“That experience taught us that we need to step up and expand our co-operation. South Stream is an important project that has Greece’s support, as does the linking of Greek-Bulgarian natural gas pipelines, the TAP, and even the Bourgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline, which remains, in our opinion, a useful plan for our neighbourhood and Europe,” he said.
The construction of a gas interconnector between Bulgaria and Greece would start in March 2013, Borissov said at the joint news conference with Samaras in Athens, Focus said.
The interconnector between Bulgaria and Romania will be ready in May and a few days ago a memorandum about an interconnector between Sofia and Nis was signed in Brussels, Borissov said.
(Photo, of a view of Athens: Vangelis Thomaidis/sxc.hu)