The willingness of both Greece and Bulgaria to step up bilateral and regional strategic cooperation and lay the foundations for "an even more meaningful and mutually beneficial collaboration," was expressed by the Greek and Bulgarian foreign affairs ministers - Nikos Dendias and Ekaterina Zakharieva, respectively - at a Wednesday meeting in Sofia. The two ministers also noted that next year will be the 140th anniversary since the two countries established diplomatic relations.
They exchanged views on a wide range of bilateral, European and regional issues, including the various challenges facing the European Union and energy matters.
In joint statements after their meeting, Dendias expressed his pleasure at the opportunity to meet with Bulgaria's state and political leadership during his official visit to Sofia, during which he met both Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and the President of Bulgaria Rumen Radev.
The Greek foreign minister highlighted the "major role" played by the two countries as "close partners and allies" (...) "for the stability and development of our region", and in making "every effort to contribute to the European course of our neighbours."
He also referred to the two countries' economic relations, noting that "Greece ranks among the major investors in Bulgaria".
"We always encourage Greek investments in your friendly country, while at the same time, we invite potential Bulgarian investors to Greece," he added.
"Greece is ready to host the 4th Bulgaria-Greece Supreme Cooperation Council, which will give new impetus to our cooperation," said Dendias and reiterated the Greek government's wish "to finalise an inter-governmental agreement between Greece and Bulgaria on the work of the Gas Interconnector Greece - Bulgaria (IGB)." During his meeting with the Bulgarian prime minister, Dendias said, he had informed him that Greece fully supports Bulgaria's efforts to become join the Eurozone and Schengen area.
"As a pillar of stability and cooperation in the Balkans," Dendias said, "Greece has always been a staunch supporter of EU enlargement policy. We encourage and support the European perspective of the Western Balkan countries, provided that the relevant criteria are met."
Referring to the Republic of North Macedonia, Dendias stated that "we attach great importance to the full and consistent implementation of the Prespes Agreement."
Dendias also briefed his Bulgarian counterpart about Turkey's illegal actions in the wider region. Zakharieva noted that "despite clear and strong messages from the EU and the concerns voiced by the international community, Turkey continues to infringe international law with its illegal activities within the territorial waters and the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Republic of Cyprus, which is an EU member-state."
Turkey also displays "increasingly dangerous behavior in the region of the Aegean," the Bulgarian foreign minister added, while noting that Bulgaria will never forget Greece's support for its efforts to join the EU.
Referring to bilateral trade, Zakharieva said that this was "growing every year" and was valued at 3.0 billion euros in 2018.
She also expressed Bulgaria's willingness to cooperate with Greece on the gas interconnection project and the design of the LNG terminal in Alexandroupolis.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov's statement also referred to the importance of speeding up the implementation of the Greece-Bulgaria gas interconnector project, stressing that this was a priority for Bulgaria.
"We are strategic partners. The four-member cooperation among Bulgaria, Greece, Romania and Serbia is working very well, especially with regard to the implementation of infrastructure projects," Borissov said.
Dendias also met with representatives of the Greek Business Council, with whom he discussed the opportunities and challenges presented to Greek entrepreneurs in Bulgaria and analyzed the initiatives of Greece's new government and the greater role the foreign ministry is taking to promote extroversion and attract investment.