site.btaSofia Steadily Backs Tirana's EU Accession, National Assembly Chair Tells Albanian President

Sofia Steadily Backs Tirana's EU Accession, National Assembly Chair Tells Albanian President
Sofia Steadily Backs Tirana's EU Accession, National Assembly Chair Tells Albanian President
Albanian President Bajram Begaj (right) welcomes Bulgarian National Assembly Chair Rosen Zhelyazkov, Tirana, February 26, 2024 (National Assembly Photo)

On Monday, the second day of his two-day official visit to Albania, Bulgarian National Assembly Chair Rosen Zhelyazkov conferred with Albanian President Bajram Begaj, Bulgaria's Parliament said in a press release.

"Bulgaria consistently supports Albania's EU accession and takes an active stance in favour of the key decisions for the country's European path," Zhelyazkov said at his meeting with Begaj.

"The enhanced commitment to the Western Balkans and the Eastern Partners has become an integral part of the EU's response to the new geopolitical reality that has emerged as a result of Russia's aggressive war against Ukraine," the National Assembly Chair pointed out. He noted that Bulgaria has never supported an artificial linkage of the the European paths of Albania and North Macedonia. "Integration processes cannot and should not be accelerated at the expense of the own merits principle," Zhelyazkov emphasized.

President Begaj expressed his exceptional gratitude for Bulgaria's consistent backing for his country's progress to EU membership. "Your friendship and help are priceless for Albania's future," he stressed. The head of State wished Bulgaria to be able to take full advantage of its full-fledged Schengen membership as soon as possible.

"We assess our relationship as excellent and steady, resting on a solid historical foundation, traditional friendship, cooperation and partnership," the National Assembly Chair emphasized. "There neither outstanding nor contentious political issues between our countries, and we enjoy an active and fruitful dialogue, including at a high and highest level," he added. In his words, the active approach to bilateral relations will help both countries to improve their regional and global effectiveness and competitiveness. "Let us keep the peace and expand our mutual trust," he called in conclusion.

"There is a potential for deepening Bulgarian-Albanian cooperation in the economy, trade, tourism and infrastructural regional connectivity," Zhelyazkov pointed out. He highlighted the strategic importance of Corridor VIII and added that, as a EU Member State, Bulgaria has made substantial efforts for the inclusion of that corridor in the expanded Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) as part of its Western Balkans/East-Med Corridor.

The West-East Crete Corridor VIII runs from the Albanian Adriatic port of Durres and via Tirana, Skopje, Gyueshevo (on Bulgaria's border with North Macedonia), Sofia, Pernik and Kyustendil to Burgas with a branch to Varna (on the Black Sea).

"Even though the volume of two-way trade has nearly doubled in the 2018-2022 period, our economic cooperation lags far behind the level of our political dialogue," the head of Bulgaria's Parliament pointed out. He singled out tourism as the sector in bilateral trade and economic relations that has been making the most vigorous progress in recent years, with a steady increase in the number of visits of Albanians to Bulgaria and of Bulgarians to Albania and a gradual recovery of the tourist flows to their pre-pandemic levels. The launch of a scheduled air service between Sofia and Tirana is at a very advanced stage, and flights will hopefully start within a year, Zhelyazkov said. In his words, this will undoubtedly facilitate contacts between companies of the two countries and the tourist exchange.

Cooperation in education, science and culture is also important in bilateral relations, the guest pointed out. He emphasized that his visit to Albania reconfirms the two countries' will to keep discussing a further advancement of their relations in all areas of shared interest.

"In the Bulgarian national minority in Albania, your country has some of the most industrious citizens for their fatherland's prosperity and strong advocates of Albania's European future," Zhelyazkov said. "We are looking forward to the publication of the results of the recent population census in Albania - the first since the recognition of the Bulgarian national minority," he added.

"The Bulgarian minority has every opportunity to develop and enjoys absolutely equal rights with the rest of the citizens of Albania," Begaj said for his part.

The Bulgarian minority in Albania was officially recognized in 2017. In 2019 its size varied by source from 60,000 to 170,000. The range is broad because the number includes representatives of the oldest diaspora, dating back to the 12th-14th centuries. In 2019, there were approximately 12,000 Bulgarians in Elbasan, 4,000 in Tirana, over 3,000 in Durres and smaller communities in Mala Prespa, Golo Brdo and Gora.

The Bulgarian parliamentary delegation, which arrived on an official two-day visit to Albania on Sunday at the invitation of Albanian Parliament Speaker Lindita Nikolla, includes National Assembly Culture and Media Committee Chair Toma Bikov MP of GERB-UDF, Vanina Vetsina MP of Continue the Change - Democratic Bulgaria, Economic Policy and Innovation Committee Chair and Movement for Rights and Freedoms Deputy Floor Leader Hamid Hamid, Bulgaria-Albania Friendship Group Chair Kliment Shopov MP of Vazrazhdane, Rumen Gechev MP of BSP for Bulgaria, and Pavela Mitova MP of There Is Such a People.

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By 05:43 on 15.04.2024 Today`s news

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