site.btaUPDATED Deputy PM Gabriel: Zelenskyy's Visit Showed Bulgaria Can Be Viewed as Trusted Partner and New Government Can Act Responsibly
Interviewed on bTV on Sunday, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mariya Gabriel said the Sofia visit by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the start of his tour of four countries sent a strong signal that Bulgaria is seen as a trusted and predictable partner and that the new government can act responsibly. At a time when Ukraine is fighting for its independence and territorial integrity, responsible conduct means not just expressing support, but also being consistent in it and meeting the challenges, including in the most difficult moments, she added.
Asked if there is diplomatic symbolism in the fact that Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov hosted the meeting with Zelenskyy, Gabriel recalled that during the visit two documents were signed - a declaration on Ukraine's Euro-Atlantic integration and a Memorandum of Understanding in Energy. The deepening of cooperation in these areas is in the remit of the executive, Gabriel said.
"We should make it clear that it is important for Bulgaria to send a signal that it can speak with one voice, the way Parliament, the government and the presidential institution do. We are strong when we speak with one voice," Gabriel added.
Commenting on Vice President Iliana Iotova's statement on Saturday that the attack on the presidential institution is meant to deflect the public's attention from the government's commitments to Zelenskyy, Gabriel said: "The Bulgarian government speaks in one voice, for us the guiding principle is enshrined in the declaration of the National Assembly - Bulgaria may be asked to supply things, but its security and the combat capability of the Bulgarian Armed Forces must not be jeopardized."
"When we talk about military aid, there are three areas: the first one is related to stockpiles, the second to common procurement, and the third to legislation, which was adopted this week after talks on production capacity," Gabriel said. In her words, Bulgaria has missed the time for the first area. "Let's see what we will do in the second one so as to protect our strategic national interest and, above all, give ourselves a chance to be part of the initiative that was finalized this week and will enable, with a funding of EUR 500 million, the EU to have a clear picture of production capacity, where it can be strengthened and how this can benefit both the Member States and the EU's position in this type of conflict affecting the security of each of us," Gabriel said. Asked if Bulgaria will be compensated by the EU, Gabriel said this is one of the existing mechanisms and it is up to this country to take advantage of it.
Any decision on aid to Ukraine will be based on analysis done by the General Staff.
Asked about the position Bulgaria will express on Ukraine's NATO membership at the upcoming Vilnius Summit, Gabriel recalled that Bulgaria has supported the open-door principle since 2008. Clearly, this membership cannot become a fact before the war ends. "The point is how we will work together with Ukraine so that it can feel the full and complete support of the Alliance. That is why one of the strong actions of the Summit will be the transformation of the NATO- Ukraine Commission into a council. At this summit, Ukraine will be placed on an equal footing with the other Member States to talk more specifically about individual areas," Gabriel said.
The Foreign Ministry has organized an information campaign to explain the importance of understanding Bulgaria's NATO membership. "We do not only share the challenges of being a NATO member, we also have a key influence on how they will be resolved. We should make sure that our NATO membership is active and shows the Allies that Bulgaria is a predictable partner that can be trusted," Gabriel said.
Asked if the resignation of the Netherlands government will affect the closure by the European Commission of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) for Bulgaria, Gabriel said the process was far from over. The Commission has proposed to the Council to pronounce in early September on ending the CVM. "There is no need to be overly optimistic, we need to be pragmatic," Gabriel added. "To go forward with its priorities - entry in the eurozone and Schengen, I would like Bulgaria to be an active, equal partner, which does not make excuses, but sets the course and shows facts, arguments and results," she said.