«BULGARIA CONTINUALLY SUPPORTED UKRAINE’S ASPIRATIONS FOR VISA LIBERALISATION»
Ukraine and Bulgaria are connected not only by close historical ties, but also by the fact that today Sofia is the biggest trading partner of Kyiv in the Balkan region; during the first three months of 2017 our total trade amount increased by 10% and it equals nearly $140 million.An important factor for the friendly international partnership between our countries is, as well, the Bulgarian community in Ukraine, which consists of more than 200.000 people and is considered to be the largest diaspora outside of Bulgaria.The further development of relations between Kyiv and Sofia, the Bulgarian experience along the path of European integration, economic, political and cultural ties are the topics of this exclusive interview of the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Bulgaria Ekaterina Zakharieva with The Diplomat Magazine.
IN 2016 THE PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE, PETRO POROSHENKO, VISITED BULGARIA AND IT WAS THE FIRST PRESIDENTIAL VISIT OVER THE PAST 15 YEARS. HOW WOULD YOU ASSESS THE BILATERAL RELATIONS BETWEEN UKRAINE AND BULGARIA TODAY?
– The official visit of President Poroshenko last year to Bulgaria was actually very important because thanks to it we could return to a regular rhythm of bilateral contacts. Good traditions, ties and close relations between Bulgarians and Ukrainians also provide for an intensive dialogue between the two countries.
Our President, Rosen Plevneliev, visited Ukraine in 2015 and 2016 and he was awarded the prestigious Ukrainian «Person of the Year»Award in the Foreign Policy category; this was widely reported in Bulgaria.
The political dialogue between Bulgaria and Ukraine was actively promoted at the ministerial level. At the end of 2016 we celebrated the 25th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations between Bulgaria and Ukraine. This active political dialogue demonstrates that Ukraine is an important international partner for us not only because of our historical ties and the 200.000member Bulgarian community in Ukraine, but also through business and trade opportunities.
WHAT WAS AND IS NOW THE POSITION OF THE BULGARIAN MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS ON THE SITUATION IN UKRAINE – I MEAN THE CONFLICT IN THE EAST PART OF OUR COUNTRY?
– Bulgaria from the very beginning of the crisis in Ukraine has supported the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the country. At all international levels the Republic of Bulgaria acted in concert with the other EU and NATO member-states; it joined international efforts aimed at reducing tensions in the combat area and at finding peaceful way to a long-term solution of the problems in Eastern Ukraine.
We think that the measures to implement the Minsk Agreements adopted in February 2015 has no alternative.
The efforts of the Normandy Four, the Special OSCE Monitoring Mission, and the Trilateral Contact Group are supported by our country. And not only that… Bulgaria not only makes financial contributions to the budget of the Special Monitoring Mission, the EUAM Consultative EU mission in Ukraine, where our experts are part of the team, but it also assists in the humanitarian sector, both under the auspices of the International Red Cross Committee and at the bilateral level.
Our country has leading positions in the NATO Special Fund for the rehabilitation and further treatment of Ukrainian servicemenwho became victims in the Donbas Region. During my visit to NATO Headquarters in Brussels on 16 May this year, the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg expressed his special gratitude to Bulgaria for this contribution. Children that lost their parents as a result of the crisis in Ukraine continue to come to the Bulgarian Black Sea coast.