The meeting of heads of state and government of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) concluded on Wednesday in Sofia, with Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos representing Romania. The participants, who discussed the developments at regional level and the European perspective of the states from the Western Balkans, adopted a joint declaration on the 20th anniversary of the SEECP.
Ciolos addressed the meeting in the first part of the plenary session, then he met separately his Bulgarian counterpart Boiko Borisov (photo) and attended the official lunch offered by Bulgarian president Rosen Plevneliev.
“All crises cross the borders, and only together we can overcome them; only together we can ensure the energy independence, and only together we can be a large enough market to get the interest of strategic investors. Two decades ago, this region was divided by conflicts and tensions. We perfectly remember these things. We were all at the periphery of the European Union’s expansion; our collaboration was not significant enough. Now we are building bridges, highways, interconnections; we produce and market together. (…) The countries in this region were never before so well interconnected with the rest of Europe. (…) We never before had such good collaboration and neighbourhood relations,” President Plevneliev said in his opening speech.
Hosted by Sofia Tech Park, the first science and technology part in Bulgaria, the event marks the end of the Bulgarian chairmanship of the SEECP, started in July 2015. The next term is taken over by Croatia.
“The Process has proven to be complementary to the European integration, and has brought a direct contribution in support of the EU rapprochement efforts in the region.
There is also an obvious need for further development of synergies with other regional fora, increasing the interaction and cooperation with EU institutions and other regional similar formats.
Out of the 12 SEECP participating countries, 8 are also taking part in the EU Strategy for the Danube Region (EUSDR). I would like to encourage a deeper engagement within the EUSDR of countries with shared interests,” PM Ciolos emphasized in his address.
“We need to build more local projects of cooperation and put more in contact the people using also bilateral resources. Romania is very committed to do more next year, on this, using also European Union funds, and I am sure that the European Commission will support this process, knowing the commitment of Commissioner Hahn, Vice-President Mogherini, I am sure the EU member states as well, which are part of this process, can be more encouraging with our partners in the Balkan area, in order to advance more in this direction,” he added.
Among the regional gas projects that represent a priority for Romania, Ciolos mentioned BRUA (Romania-Bulgaria-Hungary-Austria) including Romania-Bulgaria interconnector; the interconnection projects between EU and the Republic of Moldova; and the Black Sea offshore gas resources.
“Romania is also working hard on completing the electricity interconnection with Serbia. We encourage also the diversification of energy supply also by approaching some new technologies, energy efficiency, and smart solutions for the energy grids. I think we can discuss also all together of good means of energy supply and diversification of the sources. On the economic cooperation, we progressed a lot in trade exchanges but we still have to mention the good opportunities and the facilities of trade exchanges between the European Union and the neighboring countries, and I think the countries in the region should do more to encourage trade exchanges not only by means of state but also by putting together our business centers,” Romania’s PM emphasized in his speech.
On the infrastructure level, Dacian Ciolos underlined the need of the SEECP states to start working intensively with the European Union instruments, even the financial instruments in order to promote strategic transport projects in the area. “I am also glad that the future Croatian chairmanship can enhance more the cooperation in higher education and research, using bilateral cooperation and also European cooperation in the field of learning mobility in our countries, and a stronger cooperation between our universities,” Ciolos told the meeting.
PM Ciolos: Hopefully, Danube gas interconnector will be ready by late autumn
Romania’s Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos said Wednesday that hopefully the natural gas interconnector to be built on the bed of the Danube River could be ready in some months’ time.
“Some days ago, a contract was signed for the construction of the gas interconnector on the Danube River’s bed and we hope, according to the terms of the contract, that the work will be complete in some months’ time, anyhow by the end of this autumn, as it is an essential component to establish a joint natural gas distribution and transmission network in the region,” Ciolos said at the Bulgarian Government’s House in Sofia after a meeting with his Bulgarian counterpart Boyko Borissov.
PM Borissov said in his turn that the works development will be monitored by him and Ciolos, so that the interconnector may be ready for operation in two-three months’ time.
“As far as the gas interconnector is concerned, as you may know, there used to be some barriers to its building, but two days ago we signed an agreement for its construction and the deadline for its commissioning was set at two-three months’ time (…) and we will monitor the process,” said Borissov.
On the other hand, Ciolos said that Romania is supporting Bulgaria’s endeavours against illegal migration, adding that Bulgaria behaves like a member state of the border-free Schengen Area.
“I told [the Bulgarian prime minister] that he has our full support also for the measures he takes against illegal migration. (…) We have noticed that in terms of border security and defence, Bulgaria behaves like a full member of the Schengen Area, same as Romania does. We have undertaken these responsibilities, and Bulgaria doing its job well in protecting EU’s external border is an advantage both to the European Union and Romania,” said Ciolos.
Also discussed at the meeting of the two prime ministers on the side-lines of a summit meeting of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) were cooperation between Romania and Bulgaria inside NATO, preparations for the upcoming NATO summit in Warsaw and harmonising positions in support of strengthening NATO’s eastern flank.
For the consolidation of bilateral cooperation, the two prime ministers decided to resume ministerial meetings at the end of this summer as well as joint meetings of the two national governments, patterned on the models of the years before.
Joint diplomatic efforts with Bulgaria to cancel Canada visas
Romania and Bulgaria are making joint diplomatic efforts to eliminate travel visa required by Canada for their citizens, Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos said after meeting his Bulgarian counterpart Boiko Borisov on Wednesday.
“We’ve tackled the approaches we have started and will continue to make together to support the waiver of travel visas to Canada for the citizens of Bulgaria and Romania, who are also European citizens. Also, in the talks and negotiations between the EU and Canada, there are some commitments we want to be observed, and we have agreed upon several joint diplomatic efforts,” Ciolos stated for the press at the Sofia Government seat.
Premier Borisov mentioned that one move consisted in a joint letter to the Canadian authorities on this matter.
“Both countries have shown they behave much better than some Schengen states. And we advocate that these visas are no longer an obstacle, because we have very good relations with Canada, and yet we are certain we have to defend the interests of the Bulgarian and Romanian peoples so that our citizens travel without visa to Canada. We have drafted a joint letter to send to Canada and we have invited the Canadians to see how we defend our borders as we are Schengen states and we cooperate on this topic with Romania’s Prime Minister. (…) We hope that shortly these visas will no longer exist,” said Borisov.