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Chancellor Scholz Meets with PM Petkov, President Radev in Sofia

German Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz met with Prime Minister Kiril Petkov in Sofia Saturday as part of a Balkan tour that has already taken him to Kosovo, Serbia, Greece and the Republic of North Macedonia. 
On the agenda of talks were bilateral relations, the Ukraine war, energy security and the European integration of the Western Balkans. “Bulgaria and Germany are strategic partners and the trade exchange exceeds EUR 10 billion – this is our largest partner in the European Union,” Prime Minister Petkov said at a joint news conference with Scholz adding that the two sides agreed that this strategic partnership can only expand further.
He said they also discussed the energy independence of Bulgaria, Germany and the entire EU, as well as strategic issues for the two governments, including the war in Ukraine, the common EU position, and working together to overcome this crisis. 
In the Prime Minister’s words, a position was expressed that Bulgaria and Germany have always looked at the Western Balkans with a view to their EU integration. “The issue of North Macedonia was also discussed, it was agreed that the two governments continue to work in this direction, and the Bulgarian government made clear Bulgaria’s position about the conditions that need to be met for us to move forward,” the Prime Minister said.
Chancellor Scholz said that the Republic of North Macedonia needs to have solid European perspective. He agrees that Skopje must fulfil all conditions to start accession talks.
He said he strongly supports reaching an agreement to start accession talks with Skopje and Tirana, and expressed optimism that progress will be made before the end of the French Presidency at the end of June. There is a common understanding of what the outcome should be and the problem is how to get there, said the German government leader.
Scholz added that it was clear to him that it was not easy to overcome the historical differences between the Sofia and Skopje. “Our historical experience shows, however, that it is enriching for all countries when mistrust is overcome and friendly relations are built with neighbours,” he said.
Scholz said that he was in Thessaloniki on Friday and recalled that it is 20 years since the Thessaloniki decisions which promised a European future to the six Western Balkan countries. “We thought then that the process would be completed within 10 years. They are long gone and it is our task to make progress and not to dash the European hopes.”
The Chancellor pointed out that Bulgaria and Germany have excellent relations, both on bilateral level and within the EU, and that the Bulgarian community in Germany is most important for bilateral relations. He also said he is happy that interest in German language and culture is so strong in Bulgaria.
“We are faced with many challenges today that we want to face together, so we are looking for close coordination with our European partners, including Bulgaria,” the Chancellor said. He added that the Ukraine war brings further challenges, clearly shows what values have to be defended and proves that the EU member states have to keep working to make the EU strong and resilient to economic, geopolitical or social challenges.
Scholz said the two sides have agreed that the energy dependence on Russia should be ended as soon as possible. “Our countries are in a similar situation. That is why today we discussed how we can continue our cooperation in the energy transition,” Scholz added.
The one-on-one talks of the two government leaders were followed by a plenary session of the two delegations.
Later in the day the guest met with President Rumen Radev for a one-to-one meeting. Plenary talks between the two countries’ delegations followed and no statements were given to the media.
It is the first visit of Chancellor Scholz to Bulgaria.