Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov briefed French president Francois Hollande on Bulgaria’s energy ambitions while the two leaders also discussed the fight against terrorism and the situation in Ukraine, according to a Bulgarian government media statement.
Borissov held talks in Paris with Hollande while in the French capital for the official opening of an exhibition at the Louvre, “The Saga of the Thracian Kings – Archaeological Discoveries in Bulgaria”.
The statement said that Borissov briefed Hollande on Bulgaria’s potential to diversify gas supplies associated with the possibility of building a gas hub; South Stream developments; the construction of interconnectors from LNG terminals; gas exploration in the Black sea carried out by OMV, Total and Repsol; natural gas extraction carried out by Melrose Resources; and Bulgaria’s well-developed gas transmission network.
“We found the necessary motor that can help us in the realisation of this idea. France is a country which has a great impact in the European Union, the Commission, in relations with Russia, “ Borissov said.
Hollande emphasised the political link between Bulgaria and France, the partnership between the two countries, including in the cultural domain. Hollande also emphasised the fight against terrorism.
“I want to thank Mr. Borissov for the work of his government to help us deal with this threat and with terrorists who transit to conflict zones. We must fight against radicalisation over the internet and against the movement of European citizens to conflict areas, “ the French president said, according to the media statement.
With regard to Schengen, the EU’s visa zone that Bulgaria is campaigning to join, Hollande expressed confidence that a good balance would be found.
“We are well aware of the Bulgaria’s exposed geographical location and we are interested in using Schengen in the best way,” Hollande said.
Borissov congratulated Hollande and German chancellor Angela Merkel for their contribution to the Minsk Agreement, which had so far saved thousands of lives. “I hope that Russia will comply with it – the sanctions weigh on so many European countries, on Bulgaria (we virtually suffer losses in every aspect), on Russians themselves – in order to find a peaceful solution to live the life that we all want: in peace and understanding,” Borissov said.
Hollande said that Bulgaria was right in its position to support the Minsk agreement.
“Mrs Merkel and I, personally, participated in the creation of this agreement and we believe that the best way to solve the problem in Ukraine is to observe this agreement. Also, we do not want Bulgaria to be the victim of what is happening in this country, as is currently the case. France is ready to help Bulgaria so that the country can truly be in the best situation in this conflict, and I will personally use all means to speak with Russia, Ukraine, that we really deal with this situation and benefit Bulgaria, “ Hollande said.
The French president said that energy diversification was extremely important for Bulgaria.
“We want French companies to be fully engaged in this process. With prime minister Manuel Valls, we want EDF to be present in Bulgaria, so that we can contribute to the energy security solution,” Hollande said. With regard to economic development, he said that the Bulgarian economy had huge potential to accommodate French companies, according to the Bulgarian government statement.
Ahead of the opening at the Louvre Museum in Paris, Borissov said that Bulgaria was a country with rich history and culture, spanning back three eras. “People need to know Bulgaria and see it as much as possible. This is the way to Europe – better understanding [of the country],” Borissov said.
Separately, a media statement by Borissov’s centre-right GERB party quoted UMP leader and France’s former president Nicolas Sarkozy as telling Borissov that he was the “most surviving” Bulgarian politician and congratulating him on every effort that he had made and succeeded in forming a workable government.
The GERB statement said that Sarkozy had told Borissov that he had supported GERB in the European People’s Party from day one and there was perfect co-operation between UMP and GERB.
“The moment when I saw you I knew we would become friends. I love Bulgaria. I am delighted that thanks to GERB, Bulgaria took its rightful place in the European Union,” Sarkozy said.
Borissov congratulated Sarkozy on the UMP victory in the latest elections in France, the GERB statement said.
Borissov briefed Sarkozy on the political situation in Bulgaria and the functioning of the coalition cabinet.
“Our good relations with president Hollande and Prime Valls and party colleague Sarkozy, who won the local elections, are a chance for Bulgaria. Our meeting today with my friend Sarkozy gives further confidence to French business that Bulgaria is a predictable country, and regardless of the political situation, we are a good place for doing business.
“Not accidentally, all major companies from France already wanted to see and talk about investment opportunities in our country,” Borissov said.
A Bulgarian government media statement on April 14 said that Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Roumyana Buchvarova, among cabinet ministers accompanying Borissov on his visit to the French capital, had held talks with her French counterpart, Bernard Cazeneuve.
Buchvarova noted the good level of co-operation between the two countries in the areas of law enforcement and security, the Bulgarian government statement said.
“I attach great importance to international cooperation – the topics you raise are crucial and important not only for our two countries, but also on the European level,” Buchvarova said and emphasised the co-operation between Bulgaria and France in the law enforcement and security domain.
She briefed her French counterpart on government reforms in areas falling within the competence of the Ministry of the Interior, as well as on judiciary and anti-corruption reforms, the government media statement said.
“We are confident and strong in our determination to make changes and we hope that you could see that soon,” Buchvarova said.
Also discussed were measures for better management and control of the Bulgarian borders.
According to Buchvarova, Bulgaria was performing “100 per cent” control at the border with Turkey, and of flights from risk countries.
The construction of the “defence facility” along the entire land border with Turkey was to be completed. Buchvarova said that the existing facility had already proved effective.
Video surveillance systems would be built in order to achieve more effective border management and control.
Buchvarova emphasised the importance of co-operation with Turkey and Greece, as well as Bulgaria’s desire to develop it even further. “We protect EU borders professionally and responsibly, as a stable European partner,” she added, stressing that tackling common problems was possible through common European policies.
Cazeneuve assured Buchvarova of France’s readiness to strengthen bilateral co-operation with Bulgaria in the fight against illegal migration and human trafficking, as well as in countering organised crime in all its forms, the Bulgarian government statement said.
According to Cazeneuve, the role of FRONTEX in border control was of great importance for pan-European co-operation. He emphasised that in 2014 alone, 270 000 people originating from risk countries had tried to enter Europe.
With regard to Schengen and the Mechanism for Cooperation and Verification, Cazeneuve assured that “Bulgaria’s efforts were visible and France would support them,” the statement said.
The two interior ministers agreed that the effective management of migration flows, good border control, as well as good and close co-operation between European and international partners were at the basis of the fight against terrorism and ensuring the security of European citizens.
An example of good cooperation between France and Bulgaria was the detention, under a European arrest warrant, and subsequent extradition of French citizen Fritz-Joly Joachin, suspected of involvement in an organised criminal group with a terrorist aim.
Bulgaria and France also participate together in working groups within the global initiative to combat the foreign terrorist fighter phenomenon and terrorist financing.
The French side thanked Bulgaria for the participation of Prime Minister Borissov in the January 11 march in Paris that followed the terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices and a kosher supermarket.
“This was a great sign of your solidarity and support, which has remained in our hearts,” Cazeneuve said, according to the Bulgarian government statement.