Vice President Yotova: We Are Determined to Go Ahead with Thessaloniki Process

Thessaloniki, December 15 (BTA) - "Fifteen years on, we have the ambition to go ahead with the Thessaloniki Process," said Vice President Iliana Yotova during a meeting with Maria Kollia Tsaroucha, Deputy Minister of the Interior for Macedonia and Thrace, here on Friday.

The Thessaloniki Process was launched at a EU-Western Balkans summit held in Thessaloniki in June 2003, at which the EU reiterated its unequivocal support to the European perspective of the Western Balkan countries.

During the six months of the Bulgarian EU Presidency all of Europe will be focused on the Balkans, said Yotova, adding that "one of Bulgaria's tasks is to overcome the stereotypes that this part of Europe is less developed."

Among the important topics at issue was the migrant crisis. Yotova said that at the beginning of the crisis Europe left countries such as Greece and Bulgaria on EU's external borders to cope on their own. She said it had cost a lot of effort to convince Europe that decisions cannot be made in the offices in Brussels without taking into consideration the specifics of the individual countries. In her words, the readmission agreement with Turkey isn't working.

Yotova underscored that a discussion on changes to the Dublin Treaty will be launched during the Bulgarian presidency of the EU Council. She voiced concern that the current proposals are vague. She speculated that the texts will be blocked by the European Council bearing in mind the opposition of the Visegrad countries to the solidarity principle and migrant quotas,

For her part, Greek Deputy Minister Kollia-Tsaroucha said that this issue is very important for Greece as it is not possible for Greece to take in so many migrants and countries to the north to close their borders.

The two discussed the issue with the name of the Republic of Macedonia. The Greek host voiced hope for a positive decision which will be true to Greece's history.

For her part, Yotova voiced confidence that in 2018 the issue will be resolved through an acceptable compromise for all countries in the region.

Bilateral projects between Bulgaria and Greece and venues for new initiatives topped the agenda of the meeting between Yotova and Voula Patoulidou, Vice Governor of the Region of Central Macedonia.

Later, Vice President Yotova met with Thessaloniki Mayor Yiannis Boutaris. He outlined the major projects in the city and shared an idea for wine makers from Thessaloniki and the Bulgarian town of Melnik to establish the Wine Road. Boutaris voiced willingness for joint projects with Plovdiv which is set to be Europe's Culture Capital in 2019.

Source: Thessaloniki