Rumen Radev and Alexander Van der Bellen: the Danube Strategy Should be Reaffirmed as a Real Instrument for Economic and Social Cohesion in Central and Eastern Europe
Alexander Van der Bellen confirmed Austria’s support for Bulgaria’s accession to Schengen and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
Bulgaria and Austria will work to reaffirm the EU Danube Strategy as a real instrument for promoting growth, applying high ecological standards, ensuring economic and social cohesion in Central and Eastern Europe. This was the common stance shared by Presidents Rumen Radev and Alexander Van der Bellen, who held a meeting in Vienna today. The Bulgarian Head of State is on an official visit to the Republic of Austria at the invitation of the Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen.
2019 marks 140 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries and currently Bulgaria and Austria share common positions on a lot of topics on the EU agenda and within the multilateral partnership in the Danube region.
The two presidents were unanimous that the joint projects in the Danube river region affect 14 countries and 20 percent of the European citizens and require an active support from the EU, including the establishment of a financial fund for their implementation. The topic is expected to be yet again placed in the focus of the European agenda at the forthcoming presidency of Croatia of the Council of the EU.
“Social and economic cohesion in Europe is extremely important. However, a sustainable overcoming of the differences between East and West Europe cannot be achieved only with the help of the European funds for building infrastructure. The scientific and educational infrastructure in Europe should be evenly distributed, so that the EU member states can have an equal access to high-quality education and the development of a high added-value economy, based on knowledge,” Rumen Radev called for. The Head of State highly appreciated the partnership with Austria in the sphere of education and science and particularly upon introducing dual education in Bulgaria.
Both Rumen Radev and Alexander Van der Bellen highlighted the dynamic bilateral trade as a factor for a follow-up deepening of the partnership between Bulgaria and Austria. In 2018 the trade exceeded 1.3 billion euros and in the past two decades the Austrian investments in Bulgaria have been worth 4.5 billion euros, which makes Austria the second ranking country in terms of foreign investments in Bulgaria.
The meeting of the two presidents also focused on the cooperation in the security sphere, the protection of the external EU borders, the fight against illegal trafficking and migration. Rumen Radev reiterated the necessity of drafting a European reaction plan in the case of an abrupt increase of the migration flows towards Europe and of solidarity and support of the countries located at the external EU borders. The situation along the Bulgarian-Greek border and the registered increase of the cases for its illegal crossing by migrants was also discussed. Alexander Van der Bellen, for his part, confirmed Austria’s support for Bulgaria’s accession to Schengen and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. It was further noted that Bulgaria met all technical criteria for Schengen membership back in 2011.
The two presidents shared the stance that the European integration of the Western Balkan countries serves the interest of the stability, security and economic development not only of the region but also of Europe. President Radev emphasized that our country most strongly supports the Republic of North Macedonia’s progress in this direction and voiced Bulgaria’s position for a quicker solution of the disputable issues, related to our common history and language and also the irreversibility of the development of good neighborly relations. “We insist that each country should join the EU without importing unresolved neighborly issues, good-neighborliness is a basic criterion and our relations with the Republic of North Macedonia should develop on the basis of historical truth,” the Bulgarian President added.
Taking a question from the joint press conference regarding whether the EU should work to ensure the lifting of the economic sanctions imposed by the Russian Federation, President Radev said that the topic was not discussed at the meeting. The Head of State recalled that the EU has a clear position on the issue and a condition for such a step is the complete fulfillment of the Minsk agreements. “This issue should be considered also through the prism of the EU strategy for a leading role on the world arena, and this means a stable security architecture in Europe, which cannot be achieved without a dialogue with Russia. Europe is also building a strong economy, which requires using all resources and intense work with its neighbors in economic terms,” the President further said.
Head of State Rumen Radev and his wife Desislava Radeva were greeted with a formal ceremony by President Alexander Van der Bellen and his wife Doris Schmidbauer.
In Vienna President Radev also held talks with Federal Chancellor Brigitte Bierlein and with the President of the National Council of Austria Wolfgang Sobotka.