Your Excellency, Mr. President,
On behalf of the people ofGreece, I wish to welcome a friend, the President of Bulgaria, to Athens. I personally treasure the memories of my last visit in Bulgaria and the warm reception you gave me back in February 2007.
This occasion is yet another opportunity to confirm the excellent level of our bilateral relations and exchange views on a number of critical, international and regional issues.
The Balkans have been through dire straits. And though there is no conflict today, there is a lot that needs to be done to create conditions that foster real stability for the whole area. It is vital that pending issues be solved in a way that certainly bears the mark of international legitimacy.
Our countries have overcome the problems of the past. Our close and constructive cooperation is both a model and a valuable pillar of stability and security for the entire region. Moreover, your country’s accession to the European Union had a beneficial impact on our bilateral relations overall.
Our bilateral economic relations, in particular, have greatly benefited. It is with satisfaction that I notice the ever-increasing interest Greek business people show in entering new business partnership schemes in Bulgaria.
I would also like to stress the active involvement and cooperation of our countries in regional cooperation fora and organizations and the Regional Cooperation Council which, through its Secretariat in Sarajevo, constitutes a quasi institutionalized tripartite cooperation initiative we have developed along with our neighboring Romania. And there is also our certainly excellent cooperation in the critical area of the Black Sea through the BSEC, the presidency of which Bulgaria will be handing over to Greece next May.
Greece, Bulgaria and Romania have established a very close cooperation in the energy sector. This partnership is beneficial to all. The construction of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline and South Stream are shifting the region’s energy centre of gravity towards our respective countries. This is a wager that can be won in the foreseeable future and one that provides clear political and economic benefits. We can become a fundamental hub for energy transport to Europe and international players in the global energy field.
Such developments allow us to jointly manage great challenges within the Balkans. It is exceptionally positive we are on the same wavelength as concerns our views on those major issues that touch on regional cooperation. We share similar concerns, identical worries as well as one single vision for this region, the countries and the peoples of the Balkans. It is a vision of peace, stability, security and economic growth to the benefit of all.
In this region, our own region, Greece and Bulgaria can and should proceed with undertaking common constructive action in the abovementioned direction. Thus, within an international, multi-polar system that counts on alliances and cooperation, we can proceed with self-confidence and overcome biased mentalities, which shall have a positive impact on the whole region.
What I would like to highlight in particular is the message of optimism your accession communicated and the boost it gave to our neighboring countries. The countries of the Western Balkans have drawn and continue to draw strength and self-confidence from the successful example our countries have set and are picking up speed as regards the reform process which is called for by the EU. Greece is supportive and will continue to prop up, in practice and in essence, the EU accession course of those countries.
Yet, this support is not without any preconditions whatsoever. The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is under an obligation to negotiate a mutually acceptable, final name. According to the UN Security Council resolution as well, this name is not meant for international or partial use. It shall be a final name to be used at all times.
I wish to be clear about this issue for this is our national stance. The persistence of the Skopjan government on the fallacy of ‘Macedonianism’ will take a high toll on this state. Monopolising the term ‘Macedonia’ and its derivatives in the name of a state, ethnicity and language does not correspond with reality. It is abusive. As long as Skopje persists in making false claims, it keeps the door to NATO shut and the accession process to the European Union to a standstill.
I would like to warmly thank you for the unfailing and undividing support your country has given for a comprehensive solution to the Cypriot issue. The problem of Cyprus still is one of invasion and occupation. It is an international affair that profoundly affects Greek-Turkish relations. It is a substantial impediment to the relations of the European Union with Turkey.
Greece is advocating a solution which should respect the principles of freedom, democracy, state of law and human rights; a European solution in line with the acquis communautaire, a solution of guaranteed viability, without any foreign troops or settlers, inclusive of the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Cyprus, a solution without arbitration, timelines and deadlines.
This coming December the European Council will judge and be judged. Turkey must comply with its contractual obligations. Should it fail to do so, the European Union will subsequently have to make decisions that will not be pretextual.
And with these thoughts in mind and my best wishes for health and creativity to you and your spouse as well as my wishes for progress and prosperity to our friends, the Bulgarian people, let me raise my glass and welcome you once more to Athens.-