Sofia, 31 October 2012
Press statement by Commissioner Štefan Füle following the meeting with Bulgarian Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikolay Mladenov in Sofia
I had a very frank and constructive discussion with the Foreign Minister and earlier I had good meetings with the President, Prime Minister, and members of the Parliament.
The European Union is still facing consequences of the economic and financial crisis, and in response is addressing its problems and is deepening its integration. The EU must continue to look outwards too: Enlargement has always been a part of the solution and not a part of the problem. Maintaining the momentum is the most powerful tool to stimulate reforms and bring stability and growth in the neighbourhood but- and this is equally important- to the EU and its Member States.
Bulgaria plays a key role in enlargement - a very welcome role. Thanks to its experience with successful transition and its unique geographic position, Bulgaria has a lot to gain from the enlargement process and also a lot to offer especially when it comes to its immediate neighbours - former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey. I came today to discuss how Bulgaria's potential vis-à-vis the region could materialise fully and how the European Commission can help Bulgaria play an even more prominent and positive role.
Bulgaria as a Member State sets an important example to the countries of the region striving to become part of the Euro and Euro-Atlantic structures. I also came to Bulgaria today to better understand how Bulgaria's current policy especially when it comes to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, is matching its own enlargement vision and potential as a key player in the region.
We understand that Bulgaria has concerns in this respect. But Bulgaria and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia have strong and deep ties and we are convinced both countries can address and solve any open issues in a good neighbourly spirit based on the EU values and we are also making this point in our contacts with Macedonian authorities. I welcome the fact that Presidents have exchange letters, and that Ministers Mladenov and Poposki are contributing to improving relations between the two countries. I am confident that through constructive dialogue and common understanding real progress can be achieved.
Moving forward on the path of accession negotiations encourages reforms, strengthens inter-ethnic relations and creates a favourable climate to develop and strengthen good relations with the neighbours.
We look forward to continuing to work together with Bulgaria on this important European project.