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(DF) Foreign Ministers of Bulgaria, North Macedonia Discuss Joint Governmental Sitting Scheduled for January 25

January 18 (BTA) – Meeting here on Tuesday, the foreign affairs ministers of Bulgaria and the Republic of North Macedonia, Teodora Genchovska and Bujar Osmani, welcomed the renewed dialogue between their countries’ governments, as well as the importance of continuing the active high-level communication. They are convinced the new dynamics in contacts will exceed the necessary upgrade of bilateral ties. The meeting was held within Tuesday’s visit to Skopje of Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov and a government delegation led by him. The talks between Genchovska and Osmani focused on the forthcoming joint sitting of the two governments to be hosted by Sofia on January 25, as well as the introduction of new dynamics in the bilateral cooperation through the creation of working groups in specific areas for potential progress. In this way Bulgaria and North Macedonia will give a clear signal that there is strong will to find mutual understanding in the spirit of goodneighbourliness and European values. Minister Osmani said that the visit takes place on the 30th anniversary of the first recognition of his country’s independence, which came exactly from Bulgaria. He added that this is also the first visit of Bulgarian Prime Minister Petkov to the Western Balkans as a whole, which sends a very strong message for the bilateral relations and the importance of the process’ dynamics. He expressed the belief that there is now a new approach to overcoming the challenges Bulgaria and North Macedonia are facing. It is important to plan specific steps for cooperation through initiatives, activities and projects for which the two countries’ foreign ministries and other institutions will contribute, Osmani also said. The two ministers confirmed that the EU integration of the Western Balkans is of national interest both for the candidate countries and the Member States. Regarding economic cooperation, the ministers praised the growth in bilateral trade by 30 per cent registered in 2021, and expressed the hope that this year will see a continuation of the positive growth rate of their economies and bilateral trade, as well as of the positive trend in new investments, which needs to be backed by both countries, the Foreign Affairs Ministry of North Macedonia reported. Bulgaria’s Government Information Service reported that during the meeting, Minister Genchovska said her country’s position on the EU integration of the Republic of North Macedonia is clear: to support this integration, Bulgaria needs specific results and guarantees for lasting and irreversible implementation of the 2017 Treaty of Friendship, Goodneighbourliness and Cooperation, as well as observation of the rights of citizens who identify themselves as Bulgarians. “For us it is of key importance to put a stop to hate speech, and we rely on your help for the protection of the rights of Bulgarians living in the Republic of North Macedonia within the constitutional and legal order in the country,” Genchovska is quoted as saying. The two ministers discussed specific steps in the development of bilateral ties. Genchovska stressed the importance of direct communication, the parliamentary dimension and the interaction between the two countries. She described as an important and positive signal in the bilateral dialogue the sending of a note to the UN by the Republic of North Macedonia regarding the use of the country’s shorter name, North Macedonia, which was a long-awaited step by Bulgaria. Minister Osmani said that after the meeting with his Bulgarian counterpart he is a bigger optimist. He expects the joint working groups to be determined by January 25 so that they could begin work on the very next day. Among the discussed topics was also the conclusion of Pan-European Transport Corridor 8 as a project of importance for bringing the two countries’ citizens closer together and for collective security, the Government Information Service said. Later in the day, the Executive Director of Bulgartransgaz EAD, Vladimir Malinov, met with the management of Skopje-based National Energy Resources JSC to discuss ways to deepen cooperation between the national gas transmission operators of Bulgaria and the Republic of North Macedonia in the context of the development of the regional market in natural gas, the Bulgarian company reported. The building of a second gas interconnector between the two neighbours, linking the towns of Petrich and Strumica, as well as the expansion of the existing capacity for cross-border gas transfer and the partnership in building a liquefied natural gas terminal at Alexandroupolis, Greece will be the main projects in which Bulgartransgaz will cooperate with National Energy Resources. The executive directors of the two companies concurred they should promote their cooperation in view of achieving an integrated regional market in natural gas. Meeting with North Macedonia’s Transport and Communications Minister Blagoj Bochvarski, his Bulgarian counterpart Nikolai Sabev said: “Bulgaria will create all necessary conditions for the citizens of North Macedonia to travel quickly and conveniently to our mountain and Black Sea resorts.” Sabev noted that the planned resumption of flights will put the two capitals just 20 minutes apart. He vowed that his government will do everything to encourage Bulgarian air carriers to fly between Sofia and Skopje. He also promised expert help in designing the Deve Bair cross-border railway tunnel as part of Corridor 8 between the Black Sea and the Adriatic Sea. Sabev and Bochvarski discussed the upgrading of crossings on their countries common border and the building of a new one at Klepalo, between the municipalities of Strumyani and Berovo. The host assured the Bulgarian minister that Skopje has a will to complete the railway link between the two countries as soon as possible. BTA correspondent Marinela Velichkova contributed to this story. DS/VE //