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Source: Republic of Greece – Foreign Affairs

JOINT DECLARATIONOF THE 4TH HIGH LEVEL – COOPERATION COUNCILBETWEEN THE GOVERNMENT OF THE HELLENIC REPUBLIC ANDTHE GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF BULGARIA(ALEXANDROUPOLIS, 26.02.2020)
The Prime Minister of the Republic of Bulgaria Mr. Boyko Borissov and the Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic Mr. Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the close of the Fourth meeting of the Bulgarian – Hellenic High Cooperation Council, held in Alexandroupolis on February 26th, 2020 and attended from the Bulgarian side by Mrs. Ekaterina Zaharieva, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Krassimir Karakatchanov, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, , Mr. Mladen Marinov, Minister of Interior, Mrs. Petya Avramova, Minister of Regional Development and Public Works, Mr. Boil Banov, Minister of Culture, Mr. Rossen Zhelyazkov, Minister of Transport, Information Technology and Communications, Mr. Emil Karanikolov, Minister of Economy, Mrs. Temenuzhka Petkova, Minister of Energy, Mrs. Nikolina Angelkova, Minister of Tourism, and from the Hellenic  side by Mr. Spyridon-Adonis Georgiadis, Minister for Development and Investments, Mr. Nikolaos-Georgios Dendias, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Michail Chryssochoidis, Minister of Citizen Protection, Mr. Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos, Minister of National Defense, Mrs. Styliani Mendoni, Minister for Culture and Sports, Mr. Konstantinos A. Karamanlis, Minister of Infrastructures and Transport,  Mr. Theoharis Theoharis, Minister of Tourism, Mr. Georgios Koumoutsakos, Alternate Minister for Migration and Asylum, Mr. Konstantinos Fragogiannis, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs for Economic Diplomacy and Openness and Mr Gerassimos Thomas, Deputy Minister of Environment and Energy Underlining that the Republic of Bulgaria and the Hellenic Republic have established a strategic partnership covering a large spectre of thematic areas of bilateral cooperation,Emphasizing the excellent relations between the Republic of Bulgaria and the Hellenic Republic, which have been based and evolved upon mutual respect and trust, and underscoring the strong ties of friendship and cooperation connecting our two peoples,Stressing that our two countries are close partners in the European Union, allies in NATO and participate actively and cooperate in many regional, European and International organizations, institutions and fora, as well as in various trilateral and quadrilateral cooperative schemes in the region,Reiterating our strong and unwavering support to the European and Euro-Atlantic perspective and/or integration processes of the Western Balkans, based on the relevant conditionality. Reiterating the EU’s historic commitment stressed in the 2003 Thessaloniki Declaration that “the future of the Balkans is within the European Union”,as well as the unequivocal support for the European perspective of the Western Balkans reaffirmed in the 2018 Sofia Declaration and Priority Agenda and looking forward to the forthcoming EU-Western Balkans summit in Zagreb as a continuation of our efforts.Emphasizing that the European Union is pivotal in maintaining peace, stability, growth and prosperity in the entire Continent, including in those countries which aspire to join the EU, while reiterating that solidarity remains at the heart of the European project,Upholding the principles, values and objectives of the European Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy, Recognizing that the need to promote multilateral solutions, a key principle of the EU’s international action under the Treaty on European Union, is more urgent than ever.Underlining our full respect for international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), as well as our lasting commitment to the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, good neighbourly relations and close regional cooperation, which are of the highest importance for the peace and stability, security and development of Southeast Europe and Eastern Mediterranean,Underscoring the key importance of our neighbouring regions for the security and stability in Europe and acknowledging that a safe, peaceful and prosperous neighbourhood of our countries is of direct interest for the EU as a whole,Reiterating the significance of the principles and objectives set out in the 1991 Agreement on Friendship, Good Neighbourliness, Cooperation and Security, signed between our two countries, and in the 2006 Declaration of Friendship, Good Neighbourliness and Cooperation,Confirming our determination to further reinforce the positive momentum in the bilateral, regional and multilateral cooperation by developing and enhancing our relationships in all fields of mutual interest for the benefit of the people of our countries,Taking into consideration the results of the First, Second and Third High Level Cooperation Councils, held in Sofia in July 2010, in Athens in December 2012 and in Sofia in August 2016 respectively,Stressing that 2020 marks the 140th anniversary of diplomatic relations between them, resulting in their contemporary multifaceted and growing cooperative partnership at bilateral, regional and international levels.Jointly declare the following:Continue to enhance and deepen our strategic partnership on a bilateral basis, including by employing intensive political dialogue on a regular basis and undertaking concerted efforts on bilateral, regional and international matters with a view to consolidating peace, stability and security in the entire region and beyond.Invest sustained efforts in deepening our cooperative synergies in many thematic areas, including economy and trade, investments, energy, infrastructure and transport, cross-border cooperation, environment, defence and police cooperation in the interest of our citizens, countries and the region as a whole.Deepen further our cooperation on sectoral issues, including infrastructure, energy projects, economy, trade and transport, as well as the relevant technical dialogue. Emphasize our firm common commitment to effectively guarantee, including through joint efforts, the free movement of goods, capital, services and people between our countries, in accordance with the relevant EU single market rules and regulations.Building on the strong ties and existing economic cooperation between our two countries, and taking into account the EU policy framework for SMEs, encourage cooperation in the fields of Industry and Small Medium Sized Enterprises; strengthen networking and exchange of information among appropriate entities and further explore the participation of Greek and Bulgarian businesses in joint European projects. Referring to the potential for a closer cooperation regarding the digital transformation of industry, confirm that there is scope for the exchange of know-how and good practices. Acknowledge that the simplification of business regulatory environment is pivotal for growth and competitiveness of SMEs, taking into account their needs, constraints and growth potential. In this regard, the Greek side informed the Bulgarian side that a major regulatory reform is underway in the Hellenic Republic, aiming at simplifying licensing procedures and consolidating a coherent institutional framework for the licensing and supervision of all economic activities. Welcome the substantial progress that has been achieved, as a result of our joint efforts, in the realization of the gas interconnection pipeline project between Greece and Bulgaria, namely the IGB pipeline.Having in mind that the Intergovernmental Agreement regarding this project was signed on October 10th 2019 in Sofia and the construction phase of the project is already underway, reiterate that the IGB pipeline contributes to the establishment of a vertical gas corridor aiming to ensure access to diversified supplies for the region. The two governments will implement all efforts to accelerate the construction of IGB in tandem with TAP. Underline that this new vertical corridor is implemented through new Gas Interconnectors such as the functioning Gas Interconnection Bulgaria – Romania (IBR) and the planned Gas Interconnection Bulgaria– Serbia (IBS) pipelines, as well as new LNG terminals such as the Alexandropoulis Floating Storage Regasification Unit and new storage facilities like the Kavala Underground Gas Storage and the expansion of Underground Gas Storage Chiren. The two governments will undertake a common assessment of synergies that may arise from the co-operation between the Bulgarian and Hellenic energy exchanges and the “Balkan” gas hub. Reaffirm our commitment to accelerate the implementation of the second electricity interconnection between our two countries, namely Maritsa East-Nea Santa, now entering construction phase. The construction of the Bulgarian part of the interconnector will be launched on 12 March 2020.Stress our will to promote sustainable energy supplies at competitive prices, based on the EU’s energy strategy, through the realization of Projects of European Common Interest (PCI’s).Consolidating our operational infrastructure constitutes a prerequisite for an efficiently operating integrated energy market and the enhancement of our region’s security of supply, via the diversification of sources and routes. Reiterate the importance of the Joint Declaration on understanding and cooperation in the field of use of water resources on the respective territories of the shared river basins between the Republic of Bulgaria and the Hellenic Republic, adopted in Sofia on 27th July 2010.   Confirm that modern multi-modal, well-connected infrastructure is of utmost importance in order to achieve competitiveness, growth and interconnectivity in the region and, in this respect, underline the importance of its further development in the framework of TEN-T Corridors.Welcome the Agreement signed between the Government of the Republic of Bulgaria and the Government of the Hellenic Republic regulating railway trans-border traffic, which aims at establishing a framework that will facilitate and accelerate the railway border crossing cooperation between our two countries  and will regulate trans-border railway traffic and related procedures for all railway undertakings having access to the current railway infrastructure, according to the EU acquis and the national legislation of the Contracting Parties.Highlight that interconnectivity remains an important issue of EU enlargement and neighbourhood policy and underline the importance of the Sofia Declaration of May 2018, where the EU-Western Balkans Summit pledged to increase connectivity in all its dimensions, transport, energy etc. Seek to strengthen partnerships and mobilize public and private investment in sustainable connectivity so as to drive productivity and create growth and jobs. Our joint effort will play a crucial role in regional connectivity cooperation.Enhance the transport sustainable connectivity together with our neighbours and promote cross-border and interoperable multi -modal transport. More specifically:    Connecting the well-developed Trans-European Network for Transport (TEN-T) framework with networks in Asia.    Increasing the competitiveness of rail connections, including along the Orient – East Med Corridor, by reducing the transit times and improving the load factors.    Extending the Trans-European Network for Transport (TEN-T) to Western Balkan countries.    Reducing negative externalities such as environmental impact congestion and accidents.Confirm their intention to examine further cooperation in the implementation of the development of the “Thessaloniki-Kavala-Alexandroupolis-Bourgas-Varna-Russe” railway connection (‘Rail T-K-A-B-V-R Project’). Emphasize that the management of migration on EU level, in a comprehensive and coordinated way, in accordance with the principles of solidarity and shared responsibility, remains a priority for our countries. Underline the importance of the full and effective implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement of 18th March 2016 by all parties and reaffirm our commitment to cooperate closely in the area of migration management, particularly as the Eastern Mediterranean Route continues to be the most heavily affected route in terms of migration flows. Reaffirm our unequivocal support to the European perspective of the Western Balkans, at this critical juncture for Europe. Opening accession negotiations with the Republic of North Macedonia and Albania, the soonest possible, is important in order to consolidate the reforms momentum in both countries. At the same time, particular emphasis must be laid on fundamental principles of own merits, vigorous and fair conditionality, as well as good neighbourly relations and regional cooperation as horizontal criteria at all stages of the consensus based Enlargement Process. Recall the importance of full implementation of bilateral agreements, including the Treaty on Friendship, Good Neighbourliness and Cooperation between the Republic of Bulgaria and the Republic of North Macedonia, signed on 1 August 2017, and the Prespa Agreement, signed on 17 June 2018.Maintain and intensify the increasing momentum and to further explore and develop new aspects in our bilateral defence cooperation, as well as the cooperation and coordination in the framework of NATO and the European Union, in order to address security challenges in the Balkans and the Black Sea to promote peace, stability and prosperity in the broader region.Reassert that our bilateral defence cooperation is aiming to serve issues of common interest, to share knowledge and experiences and to combine capabilities and comparative advantages in productive ways through the participation in training programs and joint military activities.Reiterate the importance of the accession to the Schengen area of Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia taking into account that the three countries have already met all accession criteriа.Express support for consolidating the EU in the area of security and defence, on the basis of principles of solidarity, and cohesion among Member States, while reaffirming the centrality of the Transatlantic link and the role of NATO. Express readiness to explore additional avenues for cooperation within PESCO that respond to the regional security concerns of our countries. Underline the need to continue working in coherence with the Level of Ambition in the area of security and defence, adding value in the process of shaping the future.Promote further and enhance bilateral cooperation in the fields of culture, education, and science. Recognizing that climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time and bearing in mind the Greek initiative ‘Addressing climate change impacts on cultural and natural heritage’ that was presented in the framework of the 2019 Climate Action Summit with the supporting partnership of UNESCO and WMO, reiterate our willingness to establish synergies for addressing the protection of cultural and natural heritage. Explore ways to cooperate on projects of mutual interest in the framework of UNESCO. Strengthen cooperation in the field of cultural heritage protection and restoration, museum management, exchanges of exhibitions, personnel training, exchanges of know-how and organization of educational programs. Enhance cooperation in the area of Cultural Creative Industries and contemporary culture. Cooperate in the field of conserving cultural heritage, both tangible and intangible, from anthropogenic and non-anthropogenic risks and challenges. Enhance cooperation on combating illicit trafficking and illicit trade of antiquities. Emphasize the importance of tourism for both countries and  its contribution to the economic development and social prosperity, we state our willingness to cooperation in the field  of Special interest Tourism, with focus on cultural tourism, religious tourism, SPA, MICE, winter tourism, maritime tourism, ecotourism as well as destination management, with respect to sustainable development principles.Foster cooperation in the field of sports, and encourage contacts between trainers, sport administrators and sport teams.  Reaffirm the importance of our cross-border cooperation within the Interreg V-A ‘Greece-Bulgaria Programme 2014-2020, with a total budget of more than 130 million euros, which co-finances projects having an immediate positive impact on the people residing in the cross-border regions between the two countries. Remind that the Program’s projects are in the thematic areas of entrepreneurial support, flood protection, protection and promotion of the natural and cultural heritage, enhancement of regional mobility, health and social entrepreneurship. Highlight that these projects are composed of solid partnerships, utilize common approaches on issues of mutual interest and are aiming towards a balanced social and economic development, building on the results and the solid foundations of the previous programming periods with a view towards a promising future. Confirm readiness to continue the cooperation within the new programming period (2021-2027) by developing and implementing a more focused and results-oriented Interreg programme, aiming to ensure a strong impact on the cohesion and economic development of the cross-border regions.Express willingness to develop and improve capabilities to facilitate transport and transit of goods in our region without obstacles, in accordance with the relevant international conventions and agreements, and cooperate closely in the realization of the Border Crossing Check Point “Rudozem – Xanthi” that will improve cross-border accessibility, allowing the development of tourism, industry and trade in both countries by improving mobility of goods and people.Bulgaria reaffirms its full solidarity with Greece and Cyprus in line with the European Council Conclusions of 12-13 December 2019 in the light of Turkey’s illegal actions in the Eastern Mediterranean and Aegean Sea and its previous Conclusions on Turkey of 22 March 2019, 20 June 2019 and 17-18 October 2019. In this regard Greece and Bulgaria reiterate that the Turkey-Libya Memorandum of Understanding on the delimitation of maritime jurisdictions in the Mediterranean Sea infringes upon the sovereign rights of third States, does not comply with the Law of the Sea and cannot produce any legal consequences for third States. Remain fully committed to enhance and further deepen our strategic partnership and to work closely together towards the realization of its full potential to the benefit of our nations, the wider region and the unity of Europe.

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