Successful first day of the visit to Bulgaria
Sofia, Bulgaria, 06/17/2003 | press release
The President of the Republic of Slovenia, Dr Janez Drnovšek, is on a two-day official visit to Bulgaria at the invitation of the Bulgarian President Georgij Parvanov. Slovenia and Bulgaria have good relations and hope to strengthen their all-round cooperation. The trade in goods has been given strong impetus with Bulgaria's membership of CEFTA. Last year, both countries achieved the strategic goal of being invited to become NATO members, which will additionally strengthen their cooperation in the Euro-Atlantic institutions. Slovenia's entry to the European Union next year will undoubtedly lead to an even closer cooperation. Slovenia has expressed its readiness to offer Bulgaria all the necessary support and help in its preparations for EU membership. To this end, Dr Drnovšek's visit to Sofia will also include a seminar entitled “The final phase of negotiations: gathered experience”, at which the Minister of European Affairs, Dr Janez Potočnik, will present Slovenia’s experience with the last phase of negotiations with the EU.
On his arrival, President Drnovšek was met by his host, President Parvanov. After being received with military honours at Alexander Nevski Square, President Drnovšek laid wreaths at the Monument to the Unknown Soldier. In their official talks, the presidents expressed the readiness of Slovenia and Bulgaria to continue the intensive political and cultural dialogue. As the Bulgarian President noted: the two countries share common roots and goals, both of which call for active cooperation. The presidents also emphasised the importance of shortly concluding certain agreements between the two countries, in particular the Agreement on Avoiding Double Taxation, which will enable a strengthened trade in goods. Dr Drnovšek noted that the trend of economic exchanges was positive, and pointed to the readiness of Slovene companies to increase investments. He was furthermore of the opinion that the processes of European integration should also pay further attention to the Slavic context. He used this opportunity to acquaint his Bulgarian colleague with the preparations for the Slavic Cultural Forum to take place in Slovenia with the support of numerous Slavic countries. The Presidents also exchanged opinions on the possibility of deepening cooperation in the area of defence, particularly after both countries have gained full NATO membership.
Following the bilateral meeting, the Slovene President stated at the press conference: “Mr President, I am very glad to be paying a visit to Bulgaria. Our relations are excellent and have been developing ever since Slovenia’s independence in 1991. This visit gives us an opportunity to define new fields of cooperation and to assess the necessity of concluding certain agreements. There are many possibilities for economic cooperation, indeed the trend is already positive. When I talked to our Slovene businessmen, I noticed that they were interested in more investments. I am certain that Bulgaria will successfully conclude negotiations with the EU by 2004, and become its full member by 2007. Slovenia strongly supports Bulgaria's imminent entry to the EU. Next year, your country will hold the chairmanship of the OSCE, to be followed by Slovenia in 2005. Our countries have thus been entrusted with very important tasks, therefore our cooperation in performing them will be both necessary and useful. Bulgaria and Slovenia represent significant elements of stability in South-Eastern Europe. They both border on the countries of the former Yugoslavia, where a certain instability is still present. We will endeavour to help these countries become fully stable and to be given the opportunity of gradual integration into the European Union. I see very many positive elements and possibilities for future cooperation in our relations,” added the Slovene President.
In answer to the question by TV Slovenia on how Slovenia could help Bulgaria with the negotiations, Dr Drnovšek responded that he was accompanied by the Minister of European Affairs, Dr Janez Potočnik, and that European issues were the predominant topic of the talks. He added: “Tomorrow, the Ministry of European Affairs will hold an expert meeting on the final financial negotiations, where Slovenia has gathered considerable knowledge and experience. It is very important for Bulgaria to know how to avail itself of the existing possibilities and funds already in the pre-accession period. We will of course share other experiences we have already obtained, as well as those to be obtained in the future. From May 2004 onwards, Slovenia will be a full EU member with the right to participate in decisions, and I believe that our cooperation and support will be important in this context as well,” said President Drnovšek.
Later on, President Drnovšek was received by the leader of the Orthodox Church, Patriarch Maxim, and together they discussed the need to promote the dialogue between civilisations and religions, as well as tolerance and cooperation between members of different religions. President Drnovšek underlined the role the Bulgarian Orthodox Church has played in the history of the Bulgarian nation and the state, which made him glad to be able to visit the Patriarch. He recalled that both nations were also linked by a Slavic element, which meant that they had much in common. He concluded by conveying his wish that our cooperation be as diverse and broad as possible.
Tomorrow, President Drnovšek will visit the renowned Rila monastery, and meet the Bulgarian Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg Gotha, as well as the President of the National Assembly, Ognian Gerjikov.