Russian Prime Minister Medvedev Arrives on Two-day Visit to Bulgaria, Confers with Prime Minister Borissov, President Radev
Sofia, March 4 (BTA) - Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev arrived on a two-day official visit here on Monday and conferred with Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and President Rumen Radev. Medvedev is in Sofia at Borissov's invitation.
The Russian Prime Minister was welcomed by Borissov in the St Alexander Nevsky Square and laid a wreath at the Monument to the Unknown Soldier.
One-on-one talks between Borissov and Medvedev were followed by a plenary meeting of the two delegations. The focus was on bilateral cooperation in the fields of economy, energy, welfare and tourism.
Opening the plenary meeting, Borissov said that Bulgaria should not give up plans to develop further its gas transmission system. He added that Bulgaria is seeking various sources to fill the capacity of its gas system. Borissov stressed that Bulgaria is interested in building a gas hub, which has been cleared by the European Commission.
Of the Belene N-plant, Borissov said that Bulgaria has two nuclear reactors and that the project will be implemented on a market principle.
The Russian Prime Minister Medvedev congratulated Bulgaria on the occasion of the 141st anniversary of its Liberation from Ottoman rule, noting that 2019 marks the 140th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Russia and Bulgaria. Medvedev said that Bulgaria and Russia share large projects in energy and nuclear cooperation and a high level of cooperation in tourism.
Speaking at a news briefing after the meeting, Borissov voiced concern that Monday's meeting takes place at a time when the arms race is more intense than it was during the Cold War. Borissov voiced hope that common sense will prevail because a military conflict would be disastrous for the world and said that Bulgaria is willing to cooperate.
Borissov said that the Black Sea should be an area for tourism and pipelines but not for military conflict and urged Russia to return to the negotiating table.
The Bulgarian Prime Minister said the two sides had discussed the launch of a ferry service between Bourgas and Novorossiysk and stepping up law enforcement cooperation in connection with the large number of Russian tourists in Bulgaria. Borissov stressed the benefits of the construction of the Bulgarian extension of the TurkStream pipeline and a market solution to the Belene N-plant project. Borissov said that currently Bulgaria transits some 14-16 billion cu m of natural gas to Turkey, but once the TurkStream pipeline becomes operational, this country's gas transmission network will dry up. Bulgaria wants to continue to transit at least the same quantity of gas and is working to diversify its natural gas supplies, said Borissov.
The Bulgarian Prime Minister said that the tender for the construction of the Belene N-plant will be transparent and fair and stressed that the project is in Bulgaria's interest as it is not clear for how much longer coal-fired thermal power plants will continue to operate with regard to the rising prices of CO2 allowances.
For his part, Prime Minister Medvedev said that Borissov and he had laid out plans for the future and reaffirmed their desire to develop all aspects of bilateral cooperation. Medvedev placed high hopes on the Bulgarian-Russian Intergovernmental Commission for Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation, which resumed work in October 2018. Two-way trade stood at 5 billion US dollars before the sanctions on Russia and has decreased to 3 billion US dollars. "This loss of jobs is bad for both Bulgaria and Russia," said Medvedev. He added that currently economic relations between Bulgaria and Russia are "complicated", however Russia remains among Bulgaria's largest trade partners. Medvedev voiced hope that two-way trade will return to at least its 2012 level.
The Russian Prime Minister was adamant that the European extension of the TurkStream pipeline will be built only if there are guarantees by the European Commission that there will be no obstacles in the future.
Russia is ready to consider the possibilities for construction of the Belene N-plant, added Medvedev, underscoring that ROSATOM has extensive experience in the construction of such projects in the European Union.
Russia's Prime Minister expressed hope that cooperation in education, science and arts will develop. Medvedev thanked his hosts for the warm welcome, expressing hope that the future meetings will continue to be positive and honest.
On the Russian delegation are Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Olga Golodets, Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov, who is also the Russian side's Chairman of the Bulgarian-Russian Intergovernmental Commission for Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak, Minister of Economic Development Maxim Oreshkin, Minister of Labour and Social Protection Maxim Topilin, head of Russia's Federal Agency for Tourism Zarina Doguzova, Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko, ROSATOM Director General Alexey Likhachev, Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller, among others.
The Bulgarian delegation includes Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva, Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Donchev, Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov, Labour Minister Bisser Petkov, Economy Minister Emil Karanikolov, Energy Minister Temenouzhka Petkova and Tourism Minister Nikolina Angelkova.
President Radev's meeting with Medvedev
"Bulgarian-Russian dialogue could contribute to restoring the trust between the EU and Russia, which is something all of us have an interest in," said President Radev during his meeting with the visiting Russian Prime Minister.
Radev said he is happy to welcome Medvedev in Sofia after restoring dialogue at the highest level with President Vladimir Putin, despite the differences on bilateral and international matters. There are deep historical and cultural ties that have persevered through time and go beyond the political environment, Radev said, noting that there are areas, such as tourism, where relations are sustainable and promising. Russia is a strategic partner in the energy sector and there is potential to work transparently and at a favourable price. Bulgaria provides good investment conditions and this country's economy could offer much more to Russian consumers, who is familiar with Bulgarian goods, the Bulgarian President said.
Medvedev recalled his meeting with Radev in Moscow last year, adding there is a good occasion now to congratulate him on Bulgaria's National Holiday, March 3, when this country celebrates its liberation from Ottoman rule.
The historical memory has always been typical for the Bulgarian and Russian people, and has not misled them. "We must be guided by the good relationship between our peoples and make a quality leap forward in our relations," the Russian Prime Minister said. There was a time when large economic projects collapsed and mutual insults were accumulated, Medvedev recalled.
The Russian Prime Minister once again invited President Radev to participate in the economic forum in Saint Petersburg, voicing hope that this will contribute to the better understanding between the two countries.
On Monday the Russian Prime Minister will confer with National Assembly Chair Tsveta Karayancheva and together with Borissov will open a Bulgarian-Russian business forum.
As part of Medvedev's visit to Bulgaria, the Russian and Bulgarian foreign ministries signed here at the Council of Ministers building a plan for consultations between the two institutions.
The document was signed by Bulgarian Deputy Foreign Minister Yuri Sterk and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko. The consultations are to include consular matters, different regional and international topics, such as the Middle East, Africa and the UN, as well as talks for settling questions about to the two countries' diplomatic properties.
The last consultations between the two ministries were held five years ago.
Bulgaria and Russia signed a Protocol to amend and supplement an Agreement on Social Security between the governments of the two countries. The amendments retain the possiblity to acquire social rights by Bulgarian and Russian nationals who have worked or resided on the territory of both countries and settle practical issues related to the implementation of the agreement so far.
Within the framework of the visit, a Joint Action Programme in the Field of Tourism between 2019-2021 was also signed. MY/PP