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Diplomacy

Speech of Bulgarian Premier Minister Academician Nikolai Denkov

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by Nikolai Denkov

First Published in: Sep.16,2023

Oct.06, 2023

Dear Mr. Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic / Dear Kyriakos

Dear Ministers, Dear Governor, Dear Mayor of Thessaloniki

Dear Mr. Dzikas, 

Dear Greek friends

 

It is, indeed, a privilege to address you in the context of the Thessaloniki International Fair. I thank the organizers of the HELEXPO and I thank the Greek Prime Minister for his kind invitation.

 

Let me start by saying that during the last days and weeks we have witnessed the worst possible consequences of the climate crisis. We have seen scenes of destruction that we could not imagine we would see in our lifetime. Some of these tragic events happened here in Greece - our closest neighbor and most friendly country, just a few kilometers from our common border. Allow me to express my deepest condolences for the victims of the recent floods in your country and our full solidarity with the friendly Greek people. Tonight I want to send a message loud and clear: Greece is not alone. You have many partners and friends and we will spare no effort to help you mitigate the consequences. Bulgaria and the whole Europea Union stands with you. 

 

We also have victims from the floods in Bulgaria. Both countries face similar problems, such as floods and fires. Helping each other and working together is a must. As an example, this year we have twice deployed Bulgarian firefighting teams to help you overcome devastating fires. Climate change is a global challenge, which demands a common answer. We need to work more closely together to share information and technologies, to integrate our weather forecast systems and our early warning systems to better prevent disasters in the future. I can assure you we are ready for such a mutually beneficial cooperation.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Bulgaria is the honoured country at this year’s Thessaloniki International Fair. This is great honour for us, but above all, this is an acknowledgement of the exemplary level, which the relations between Bulgaria and Greece have reached. This is also an acknowledgement of the important role, which my country plays in the region.

 

The presence at such an important international forum provides a broad range of opportunities to enhance further our already excellent economic ties. Bulgaria is represented in several related sectors such as IT, hi-tech, energy, infrastructure, construction, education, tourism and the food industry. Bulgarian companies with a strong international presence participate, including EnduroSat, a significant player in the satellite industry and space technology, and Telerik Academy, providing accessible and innovative digital technology training. Among the participants is Sofia Techpark which provides a platform for global, regional and national companies to develop innovative technologies and to exchange know-how. The Bulgarian Investment Agency, which supports the creation of projects leading to new jobs, exports and transfer of know-how, is also here. The Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, whose experts conduct scientific research, training and activities of international importance, is present as well.

 

Dear Prime Minister,

This is the right occasion to acknowledge the fact that your leadership has transformed Greece into an attractive destination for international investments. Let me assure you that this is valid also for the investments from Bulgaria. At present, they are mainly focused in the energy, infrastructure and tourism sectors. I hope that in the near future we will witness Bulgarian investments in new fields, such us communications and information technologies.

 

The IGB project for the gas interconnector between Greece and Bulgaria, in operation since October 2022, in which Bulgaria participates with a 50% stake, is a clear example of a strategic, long-term investment with a broad regional scope. The same applies to the project for a floating LNG terminal near Alexandroupolis in which Bulgaria participates with 20%. We are jointly working on a project for an oil pipeline connecting Alexandroupolis and Burgas where we have the biggest refinery in the Balkans.

 

Bulgaria has a particular interest in the plans for the future development and management of the Greek ports of Kavala and Alexandroupolis. Bulgarian businesses are also showing strong interest in using these two commercial ports, especially in the context of the blocked trade routes in the Black Sea due to the Russian aggression against Ukraine. 

 

All this implies the establishment of a much better, let me call it by its proper name, a modern connecting infrastructure between our two countries, relevant for two members of the European Union and bringing new opportunities for our economic cooperation in the next decades. These new realities are best embodied by the Sea2Sea initiative, which aims at connecting Bulgarian ports on the Black Sea and the Danube river with the Greek ports in the north Aegean Sea through a modern transport, energy and communication infrastructure. In practical terms, it would be an alternative route to the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles.

 

Undoubtedly, Greece and Bulgaria have the potential to create together an energy and transport hub in Southeast Europe, the importance of which would be not only of regional, but of pan-European scale.

 

Dear friends,

I am scientist by profession. As such, I cannot offer a magic formula how to transform the Balkans into a prosperous and modern European region. But I strongly believe in three factors which might do the “miracle”:

1. The consolidating and transformational role of the European Union;

2. The regional connectivity

3. The good-neighborly relations. 

 

Good-neighbourliness is an indispensable guiding principle for the regional transformation. What we have to ensure is that words turn into deeds by all countries in the region. 

I am proud to say and I hope that my dear colleague Kyriakos Mitsotakis would agree with me that our two countries, Bulgaria and Greece, are leading by example. An example for the whole region. 

 

The history of relations between Bulgarians and Greeks is very, very old. I can think of no other two nations in Europe who have a longer history of relations. We have been neighbours for centuries. We have shared a turbulent past, marked by ups and downs, wars and peace, opposing blocks and alliances.

 

It is not a miracle that after more than a thousand years of controversies, today Bulgaria and Greece enjoy such exemplary good-neighbourly relations. The truth is that it has taken decades of joint efforts of wise Bulgarian and Greek politicians, incl. Konstantinos Karamanlis, who was born here in Northern Greece. It has taken a lot of good will and dedication from diplomats and ordinary people to overcome the shadows of the past and to build mutual respect, trust and confidence. 

The Greek-Bulgarian relations have flourished because they have a solid ground –our common values and our strong belief in a democratic international system, based on the principles and norms of international law.  

We are proud with our strategic partnership which plays a crucial role for the stability of the whole region of South-East Europe. 

Our nations share common hopes and concerns.  We are allies and friends. We are good neighbours who respect and trust each other. Such relations have an enormous potential for the future generations of Greeks and Bulgarians and they deserve our dedication.

 

Dear Greek friends,

 

A thought by the famous Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard comes to my mind: You can understand life only looking backwards, but you can live your life only looking forward.   

 

We cannot change history, but we can definitely shape our common future. Through leadership, strategic vision, more connectivity and mutually beneficial cooperation. 

 

I believe we can do it together.

Bulgaria and Greece.

Hand in hand, leading by example.

 

Thank you!

First published in :

Office of the Prime Minister of Bulgaria

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Nikolai Denkov

Prime Minister of The Republic of Bulgaria. 

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