Foreign Minister Zaharieva Meets with German Counterpart Maas

May 20 (BTA) - Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister
 Ekaterina Zaharieva Monday met with German Foreign Minister
Heiko Maas, who is paying an official visit to Bulgaria at her

Zaharieva said Germany has always been Bulgaria's strategic ally
 and major trading partner. "We have seen eye to eye about the
important matters and challenges," she said. One third of the
largest investments in Bulgaria come from Germany, some 5,000
German companies are doing business here and two-way trade in
2018 was the largest since 1950, with a small surplus for

Zaharieva said they discussed what Sofia and Berlin can do
together for the countries of the Western Balkans. She thanked
Germany for its support for the region, stressing that European
integration is the best path to democratization, economic
prosperity and peace in the Balkans.

Discussing the situation in the Middle East, the two chief
diplomats reaffirmed the EU's view. Zaharieva said they also
discussed EU-Turkey relations, on which they hold identical

The Bulgarian Foreign Minister said the two countries have
strong ties in culture and education, German being the second
most studied foreign language in this country. She noted that
all 12 members of the Bulgarian delegation speak excellent
German. At the same time, Bulgarian language and literature are
taught at eight German higher schools.

Zaharieva stressed that Germany, which is the EU's largest
Member State and strongest economy, always reckons with the
interests of the smaller Member States.

For his part, Maas said he was glad to be in Sofia in the
important week before the European Parliament elections, which
will be held on Sunday in both countries. He expressed hope that
 the MEPs who will be elected will work for a strong, sovereign,
 united Europe. Bulgaria is a strong partner, it will speak with
 a strong pro-Europe voice in the future European Parliament.

The German Foreign Minister noted that being familiar with the
region's traditions and culture, Bulgaria is an important
partner and advisor on the EU's Balkan enlargement.

Zaharieva and Maas said they don't know whether the scandal with
 the Austrian Freedom Party will have an impact on the influence
 of the Euroskeptic parties. Maas said that despite the scandal,
 Austria remains an important partner of his country.

He voiced concern over the mounting tension between Iran and the
 US and said that Germany is exploring all options for a
political solution to the crisis in the Middle East.

Asked by the press whether his government can support Bulgaria
as it is trying to attract Volkswagen to build a new plant here,
 he said he knew this question was coming but politicians stay
out of the decisions of private companies.

He hopes that Volkswagen will make public its decision soon, so
he does not have to answer such questions again.

Later the two top diplomats turned the first sod for a new
building of the German Embassy in Sofia.

Later on Monday, Germany's top diplomat was received by
Bulgarian President Rumen Radev, the latter's press secretariat
reported. The challenges facing Europe require mechanisms for
prompt decision-making and reaction, as well as tighter
integration in the area of defence and security, said Radev.

The Bulgarian head of State listed migration and the protection
of the external European borders, as well as the crises in
neighbouring regions, as security factors requiring a united and
 strong Europe.

For Bulgaria, Germany is a strategic partner in the EU and a
very close partner in NATO, President Radev said, adding that
this country relies on Germany's support for the modernization
of the Bulgarian Army, and the Bulgarian defence industry and
science's full integration as part of the joint European
projects, including those financed under the European Defence
Fund. The Bulgarian defence industry is a preferred supplier in
a number of countries and Germany could participate in its
technological transformation, Radev further said.

The common view is that the sustainable tendency of growing
bilateral economic exchange creates the conditions for a
subsequent increase of investment cooperation. It is especially
important for Bulgaria that German investments are not only in
the area  of financial institutions and instruments, but are
above all in the real economy and in manufacturing, the
President said..

Late on Sunday, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov met with German
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. They discussed bilateral matters of
 current relevance and topics on the EU agenda, the government
information service said.

Borissov and Maas noted their countries' good cooperation,
emphasizing their strong political dialogue and strategic
partnership in trade and investments. In 2018, two-way trade
stood at 8,153 million euro, up by 11.8 per cent on 2017, and
German investments totalled 153.7 million euro.

The Prime Minister said Bulgaria remains committed to the upward
  trend in two-way trade and to increasing the presence of
Bulgarian products on the German market in sectors including
electronic and electrical engineering, mechanical engineering 
and information technology.

The two officials also discussed ways to deepen partnership in
tourism, education, science and culture. The introduction of 
dual vocational education in Bulgaria is a good example of 

Maintaining stability in the Western Balkan countries,
supporting their EU perspective and protecting the EU's external
  border were also on the agenda of the meeting. Borissov and
Maas talked about Bulgaria's energy security, including through
 diversification of the natural gas sources, routes and 
suppliers. LI,RY/DD,LN,MY

Source: Sofia