site.btaUPDATED Sofia, Skopje Declare Readiness to Strengthen Defence Cooperation
The Defence Ministers of Bulgaria and North Macedonia, Dragomir Zakov and Slavjanka Petrovska, declared readiness to strengthen cooperation in defence. They were speaking Friday during a joint news conference on the first day of Petrovska's two-day official visit to Sofia.
Minister Zakov declared Bulgaria's readiness to enhance defence cooperation with North Macedonia. He was speaking to the press after his meeting with Petrovska. "Bulgaria and North Macedonia share the same values and have a common fate, shared history and shared future. I believe that there will be a future of prosperity and security for Bulgaria and North Macedonia," he said.
Zakov also said that the visit is a sign that the two countries, as NATO members, have an important role in the region to maintain security and stability. "We have a clear goal before us and the future generations: to make sure the Balkans are never again mentioned as 'Europe's powder keg'," Zakov said, adding that he is happy that in recent years nobody has had reason to say this about the Balkans. "The responsibility of Bulgaria and North Macedonia is to make sure the Balkans are never a source of tension and military conflicts in Europe," he added.
The two Defence Ministers discussed the situation in Ukraine. They shared the opinion that there are many serious risks for the countries in the Western Balkans and the wider region. "As members of NATO, we have to do our best to make sure the war in Ukraine does not spill outside its border," Zakov said.
Cyber-attacks and hybrid attacks were also discussed and Zakov said that the two countries have been the target of both. "We have a serious responsibility, as Defence Ministers, to also cooperate bilaterally as we work to manage these risks and threats," the Bulgarian Minister said.
He also said that Bulgaria has been consistent in its support for the Euro-Atlantic integration of the Republic of North Macedonia and that Bulgaria was among the first countries to ratify the Skopje's NATO accession protocol. "To us, North Macedonia's NATO membership is a guarantee for the territorial integrity and security of the country, and we were guided by this understanding when we ratified the protocol," said Zakov.
The two sides also discussed cooperation in military education. Zakov said there is a huge potential for that, including in the field of military medicine. Bulgaria has the capacity to train military medics and the first class of them is about to graduate.
He also mentioned the active participation of service persons from the two countries in joint trainings and exercises, describing it as a way to increase confidence and achieve high level of interoperability.
Zakov thanked the guest for being open to discuss the maintenance of Bulgarian military cemeteries in North Macedonia.
Slavjanka Petrovska said that Europe is not the same after February 24. "The unprovoked aggression against sovereign and independent Ukraine showed that there is no lasting peace and that peace and stability are something we all need to stand up for."
She said that the new geopolitical architecture in Europe calls for unity and cooperation. "The national security of our countries is stronger when it is part of a collective security system," she added.
Petrovska said that her country supports the NATO bid of Sweden and Finland.
North Macedonia's Defence Minister said that the two countries are in the final phase of coordinating an agreement on training of military medics in Bulgaria's Naval Academy in Varna and Sofia's Military Medical Academy. "We are encouraged by the excellent experience we have had with the training of our officers at the Sofia Defence College and agreed to continue that," she said.
Petrovska invited Bulgarian service persons to participate in joint training in the Krivolak facility in North Macedonia.