- Friday, February 16, 2018 5:27 PM
Skopje, 16 February 2018 (MIA) - The Presidents of Macedonia and Bulgaria, Gjorge Ivanov and Rumen Radev respectively, at their meeting Friday in Skopje agreed to initiate signing of an agreement for strategic cooperation between the two countries.
Speaking at a joint press conference after the meeting, Ivanov said that following the friendship treaty, expected to vastly contribute to the development of overall bilateral cooperation, it would be beneficial for Skopje and Sofia to conclude a strategic partnership deal.
Macedonia has already signed strategic partnership agreements with the United States and Turkey.
"The migrant crisis has shown us the urgent need to share information related to security, intelligence, and to join forces in order to prevent any possible threat to the entire region," Ivanov added.
Bulgarian President Radev called the initiative on signing a strategic partnership agreement 'very important' adding he would inform the government in Sofia about it. Such an agreement, he said, will enhance security in the region.
"A friendship agreement signed with a country that is also a member of the EU and NATO is the strongest evidence that the Macedonian Constitution contains no provisions on territorial claims or irredentist ambitions, Ivanov said noting that Bulgaria had been the first country that recognized the Republic of Macedonia under its constitutional name.
On the friendship treaty, President Radev said that the document shouldn't be turned into 'a dead letter', instead it should be promoted into an unstoppable, always-advancing process.
The two presidents also discussed the EU's Western Balkans Strategy with Ivanov acknowledging that Bulgaria had played a major role leading to the adoption of this document.
Ivanov expressed gratitude for Sofia's support to Macedonia's aspirations to join the EU and NATO saying the expectation Macedonia to be given a date for start of accession talks with the EU as well as NATO membership invitation during Bulgaria's EU presidency was realistic.
President Ivanov expressed gratitude for Sofia's support to Macedonia's aspirations to join the EU and NATO saying the expectation Macedonia to be given a date for start of accession talks with the EU as well as NATO membership invitation during Bulgaria's EU presidency was realistic.
"Bulgaria has always been one of the strongest advocates of Macedonia's EU and NATO perspective. But, a lot more needs to be done in various spheres and Bulgaria stands ready to help Macedonia in the process, Radev stressed.
The two presidents told the press conference that they also discussed regional cooperation, infrastructural connectivity, economic ties, etc.
An accent was placed on Corridor VIII and activities aimed at completing railway connection between the countries, building highways and road infrastructure.
"The best litmus for improving relations between countries is business and relations between people," President Radev said noting a rise in trade and the number of tourists had been registered only a few months after the signing of the friendship treaty.
Moreover, Bulgaria's Radev said Sofia supported a solution to the name row between Skopje and Athens that wouldn't include territorial parts of Bulgaria and wouldn't affect third parties.
"Bulgaria's position is clear - solution to the name dispute with Greece should not include a geographical qualifier that will in itself include territorial parts of the Republic of Bulgaria," Radev told a news conference alongside President Gjorge Ivanov answering a journalist question.
Bulgaria, Radev said, doesn't intent to introduce sanctions against Macedonia as regards its European and Euro-Atlantic integration involving the name negotiations, which were 'conducted by two sovereign countries under the auspices of the UN.'
The Bulgarian President stated that the negotiations affected his country too, but he said he believed that a solution would be found that was acceptable both for Macedonia and Greece, one that wouldn't affect third parties.
Furthermore, President Ivanov stated that negotiations over the issue of Greece with the constitutional name of Macedonia would continue at the UN noting Macedonia would make efforts towards finding a solution without affecting third parties and without getting them involved.
Macedonia and Bulgaria, their presidents said, have intensified efforts to set up expert commissions with one of them tasked with focusing in matters in the history and education of the two countries. The goal is to settle any differences, they stressed.
Bulgarian President Radev said intensive measures were taken for establishing two commissions of experts.
"It is very important for the commission on historical and educational affairs to determine whether there are any contentious issues between us and if any, how they can be resolved. We share a common past and the European perspective of Macedonia itself depends on how the past will be treated," he stated.
This whole process, according to President Ivanov, should look to the future avoiding getting stuck on issues that can leave us in the past.
"The agreement should be perceived as leading us toward the future. Therefore, the commission should be concentrated on the future of our relations without getting stuck on issues which we view differently. Let us leave these issue to those who are in charge, namely the academies of sciences," stated Ivanov.
Meanwhile, Radev invited Ivanov to visit Bulgaria on May 6, Bulgaria's Army Day.
Bulgarian President Radev is paying a two-day official visit to Macedonia, where he is set to meet with Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and Parliament Speaker Talat Xhaferi. On Saturday, he will take part in a Macedonian-Bulgarian Business Forum alongside his host, President Ivanov. ba/17:25
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