The Deputy Prime Minister for Judicial Reform and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ekaterina Zaharieva had a total of 15 bilateral and six multilateral meetings in New York on the sidelines of the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly.
On the last day of the Bulgarian delegation’s participation, Zaharieva conferred with the newly appointed Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Office, as well as with the foreign ministers of Algeria, Colombia, Kuwait and Vietnam.
“I am grateful to Bulgaria for supporting, right from the outset, the establishment of our newest service, the Counter-Terrorism Office, as well as myself personally. We need more advice from UN Member States on the priorities of our future work, and I count on you for this,” Under-Secretary General of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Office Vladimir Voronkov said, addressing Zaharieva. He took office in June 2017 and heads the UN Counter-Terrorism Office, established by Secretary-General António Guterres.
Voronkov will prioritise combating the so-called foreign fighters, tightening border control, countering online radicalisation, and protecting the victims of terrorism.
“Your priorities require urgent action. Proactive counter-terrorism is just as important as damage control. Terrorism knows no borders anymore, and it turns out that quite a few of the attackers were born in Europe and were radicalised later,” Ekaterina Zaharieva said. She advised Voronkov to cooperate with the social media, following the example of the European Union, which has signed an agreement with part of them on the suppression of hate speech. The new Under-Secretary-General suggested that young Bulgarian experts join his team.
Counter-terrorism also figured on the agenda of Minister Zaharieva’s meeting with her Algerian counterpart Abdelkader Messahel. He stated that very few citizens of the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria are in the ranks of Daesh because the Government gives good prospects to young people. Minister Messahel handed his Bulgarian colleague a report on the way Algeria is coping with radicalisation.
Minister Zaharieva and her counterpart Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, considered ways of fostering business contacts between Bulgaria and Kuwait. “We have had diplomatic relations with Bulgaria for 54 years now and we have signed 21 treaties, but we must intensify our high-level contacts,” the chief Kuwaiti diplomat emphasised. Deputy Prime Minister Zaharieva agreed with his words and pointed out that the job of diplomacy is to help businesses and citizens. This year invitations for visits were exchanged between the two foreign ministers.
Zaharieva familiarised Sheikh Sabah with the priorities of the Bulgarian Presidency of the EU Council. The two discussed a broad range of topics on the international agenda, the political situation in the Middle East and the fight against terrorism, which proved to be a priority topic during the UN General Assembly session.
Minister Zaharieva also conferred with the Foreign Minister of Colombia, María Ángela Holguín Cuéllar, inviting Latin American companies to explore the conditions for business with Bulgarian partners. María Cuéllar promised to include Bulgaria on the route of the European visit of the Colombian Minister of Commerce and asked her Bulgarian counterpart to present the opportunities for business with Colombia to Bulgarian branch organisations. Zaharieva listed the sectors in which successful partnerships can be pursued: IT, health care, pharmacy and education.
The possibilities to catalyse business contacts were also the centrepiece of the session with Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Phạm Bình Minh. “We can serve as a gateway for your goods to Europe. You can count on us: we offer plenty of opportunities, and Bulgaria has many friends in your country, because many citizens of Vietnam have studied in Bulgaria,” Ekaterina Zaharieva stressed.
“We have a long history of traditional relations. Last year we organised a large Bulgarian Rose Festival, which was very popular,” said Deputy Prime Minister Minh. He was in Bulgaria in the 1980s but promised to visit the country next year.
For her part, Minister Zaharieva was pleased to accept an invitation to pay a visit to Vietnam.