Bulgaria and Netherlands Unanimous about Strong EU of Solidarity27 June 2019 News
SOFIA – “Bulgaria and The Netherlands rally behind the idea of a strong European Union of solidarity, pursuing a more active foreign policy,” Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ekaterina Zaharieva emphasised after conferring with the Foreign Minister of The Netherlands Stef Blok, who is paying his first visit here on the occasion of the 110th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Sofia and The Hague.
“We want a strong and united European Union of solidarity,” the Bulgarian Foreign Minister said, congratulating the citizens of Bulgaria and The Netherlands on the pro-European choice they made during the European Parliament elections on 26 May.
The two countries also share common ideas on ways of improving the efficiency of operation of the EU Council configurations in which the two foreign ministers participate: the General Affairs Council and the Foreign Affairs Council. “The European Union must activate its common foreign and security policy,” Ekaterina Zaharieva stated.
Stef Blok stressed Bulgaria’s role for stability in the Balkans. “Your country epitomises security and development,” the Dutch Foreign Minister said. He highlighted the significant achievements and prospects of Bulgaria’s economy, its growth potential, as well as its beneficial membership of NATO and the EU, and the successful first Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union in the first half of 2018.
“We have excellent bilateral relations. We are linked by the economy and the social sphere as well as by the numerous Bulgarians who live in The Netherlands. We believe that we must benefit more from these links,” Stef Blok said.
“In our opinion, high technologies, innovations and agriculture offer the best opportunities for deepening economic interaction,” said Ekaterina Zaharieva. She also stressed the importance of the contacts between the two countries’ citizens: the Bulgarians living in The Netherlands and the Dutch in Bulgaria, for the advancement of these relations. “Bulgaria can serve as a gateway to The Netherlands southward and eastward from the European Union, and The Netherlands can serve as a gateway to Bulgaria northward,” the Bulgarian Foreign Minister said.
The Netherlands tops the list of home countries of foreign direct investments in Bulgaria with a stock of EUR 7,800 million for the 1996-2018 period. Bilateral trade for 2018 amounted to EUR 1,994 million and increased compared to the previous years.
The sides also expressed a shared interest in cooperation in the field of migration and illegal migration. Stef Blok emphasised that The Netherlands, which is on the receiving end of illegal migration, relies a lot on Bulgaria which guards the external border of the European Union. “I am much impressed by the progress you have achieved in your border control,” Blok said.
Ekaterina Zaharieva called for a speedier admission of Bulgaria to the Schengen Area by sea and air, stressing Bulgaria’s achievements not only in taking care of external border security but also in fighting human trafficking and the record of success in combating corruption.
“Bulgaria is doing an excellent job in protecting the external border of the European Union. We expressed a position that it is high time for our country to join Schengen by air and sea,” the Bulgarian Foreign Minister said. A special invitation was extended to her Dutch counterpart to visit the Bulgarian border and see for himself the adequate fulfilment of our obligations to protect the EU external border.
During their talks, the two ministers also discussed the EU policy of enlargement with the Western Balkans. In this context, Bulgaria confirmed its commitment to press ahead with efforts for the adoption of a decision on the start of negotiations with the Republic of North Macedonia and Albania.
As a token of friendship and partnership between Bulgaria and The Netherlands, the two ministers exchanged certificates of symbolic gifts. The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry presented The Netherlands with 110 Bulgarian Damask rose plants, whereas The Hague has developed a special “Bulgarian” tulip cultivar, called Serdica, featuring the red, green and white of the Bulgarian tricolour flag.