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Tuesday, 24 April

The quadrilateral high-level meeting of Romania, Bulgaria, Greece and Serbia

Joint press statements by Prime Minister Viorica Dancila, President of the Republic of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić, Prime Minister of the Republic of Bulgaria Boiko Borisov, and Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic Alexis Tsipras, following the quadrilateral high-level meeting of Romania, Bulgaria, Greece and Serbia

 

Viorica Dancila: I welcome the presence of President Vučić here shortly after the meeting we had in Bucharest, on the occasion of his visit. I hail Serbia’s role as factor of stability in the Western Balkans and its positive contribution in the cooperation and reconciliation process and I assure President Vučić of all our support in the negotiation process for EU accession. I hail at the same time the presence of Prime Minister Borisov at this meeting and I reassure him of our support for the objectives of the Bulgarian Presidency of the EU Council, in which Western Balkans have an essential role. It is a special pleasure for me to have today as guest for the first time in Bucharest, Prime Minister Tsipras. Greece is a key partner for Romania in the region and we want to boost bilateral relations, our collaboration at bilateral, regional and European levels.

This format of consultations provides a good opportunity for strengthening dialogue and identifying ways of cooperation in the south –east-European region, especially from the economic development standpoint. We discussed today about economic cooperation, concrete projects that the four states can develop, about the 16+1 format, about a meeting in which we materialize projects we are only discussing today.

Aleksandar Vučić: Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, first, I would like to thank our host, Prime Minister Viorica Dancila, for the extraordinary hospitality shown, I would like to thank colleagues Borisov and Tsipras and the friends of Serbia for the support they offered us along with the Romanian Government and state, for the fact that they offered Serbia an European path.

Today, we had very concrete talks, the conclusion we reached is that we will set up a joint working group, to which the Ministers of Communications and Transports of our countries will be represented, and we will discuss more precisely the joint projects and we will work closely to prepare ourselves with a view to organizing the meeting in 16+1 format, to be held in June, this year. We also discussed aspects related to funding and a set of joint activities, the trade exchange between Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria and Greece grew over the last years. The flow of tourists to Serbia grew, and also from Serbia to these three countries.

We consider that these meetings are very relevant for our countries, Serbia being the only one of them that is not yet an EU Member State. It is very important to benefit from the support of Romania, Bulgaria and Greece on Serbia’s European path, so that Serbia, in its turn will do its best to help these friendly countries and we will do it in a direct manner. We will accept an even greater support from Bucharest, Athens and Sofia on our European path. We want you to help us, because if we were in your place, we would have helped you too. We want to become EU Member State but without your solid support, we could not achieve this. I am delighted with the concrete results we delivered today. For the Serbian citizens, we discussed opportunities such as the Moravita-Timisoara highway, also the construction of a highway to link us to Bulgaria, completion of our part of the highway leading to Skopje. We discussed possibilities to modernize railways towards the Bulgarian border. We also discussed ways to improve digital infrastructure and ways to improve cooperation with these EU states. We discussed the possibility to solve joint problems and the implementation of some joint working groups may help. Once again, I want to thank you, Prime Minister Dancila. I would like to thank my friends, Mr. Tsipras and Mr. Borisov and I want to reaffirm that we will further promote cooperation in this format. Thank you, once again.

Viorica Dancila: We thank you too, President Vučić. Prime Minister Borisov, you have the floor.

Boiko Borisov: I would like to congratulate the Romanian Prime Minister for the new position held and also for the fact that we have a female Prime Minister with us . In the morning, I was in Ljubljana, where we started in an active manner the cooperation on the Balkan issues theme, starting with preparatory discussions for the 16 + 1 meeting to be held in Sofia, and we also had the opportunity to acknowledge all the positive developments in the Western Balkans. I remember a meeting held in 2003, 15 years ago in Thessaloniki, which placed the Western Balkans issue on the agenda and supported the integration process of the Western Balkans. One year ago, Bulgaria once again stressed the need to bring the issue of the Western Balkans to the European agenda and, together with my colleagues in Romania and Greece, we must do our utmost to bring the states from this area back to the European family to which they belong, and I must mention that I am very pleased with the activity of Mr Jean-Claude Juncker. And Ms. Mogherini had the opportunity to pay a visit to the Central Balkans. I also have to mention Mr Tusk's visit to the Western Balkans. Years ago, in Trieste, I had the opportunity to talk to Ms. Angela Merkel. We discussed the Balkans issues. I returned from there with an optimistic attitude, knowing that many good things could be done in this direction. Emmanuel Macron mentioned these positive trends in the European Union, and I think Chancellor Merkel is certainly on the right track supporting the development and progress of this area of the Western Balkans. As you can see, it is very easy for a conflict to return or the tensions to be revived in this geographical area, and I said each time: when something appears somewhere in Balkans, this immediately reverberates in other part of our continent. History showed us that this entailed huge destructions. I would say that the simple fact that this cooperation format continues to exist is a clear sign of the fact that it was a constructive format, productive one, and we want to mention the fact that we want to continue to achieve things to bring us closer, not to separate us, we want to have an infrastructure to connect us to Europe and the rest of the world; we want to boost the degree of economic development, to improve tourism, and to achieve progress in all the other economic sectors. The Romanian Prime Minister put forward a set of very important projects, one of which consists of a new bridge over the Danube, in Ruse, we will give you details in this regard. We also mentioned the possibility of building a motorway linking capitals. Also, connecting the Port of Thessaloniki with the ports in Bulgaria and Romania, improving the connectivity with Belgrade, with Bratislava, and Skopje. Greece and Serbia were also involved in this initiative to improve regional connectivity with Pristina, Pristina related decisions, the decisions my colleague Vučić has to take are not easy, but otherwise the Western Balkans issue cannot advance, so I have to say that I am very proud of the current Balkan political elites, because I do not remember ever having in history such responsible elites in the Balkan states, and I think we all realize that we are now part of the European family and there is no alternative to the European perspective for Western Balkans. We will continue in this quadrilateral format at the end of June, we will perhaps meet again, afterwards, the format 16+1 meeting will ensue in June. Unlike other times, this meeting will not take place in autumn, but in June, and this has also a constructive purpose. On the part of our country, we must have a more active attitude in order to get ready for specific projects that we can present in this format, 16+1, this means concluding some protocols designed to prepare a productive meeting in the format 16+1. I want to thank once again, our colleagues, for hospitality today.

Viorica Dancila: Thank you, Prime Minister Borisov. Prime Minister Tsipras, you have the floor.

Alexis Tsipras: I am very delighted that I am today, in Bucharest. We can see that all these talks and relations were initiated less than one year ago, this initiative of meeting in this format, of those Balkan states, three of them EU member states, and the fourth -Serbia that wants to join EU, we notice that it is a very solid initiative, its purpose being to cooperate in order to be able to secure peace, stability and security in our region. We are all very aware of the fact that Balkans are an area which always faced serious challenges. A region which generated a whole array of problems at national level, wars but on the other hand, it is a region offering very promising possibilities and we are here to cope with these challenges and I think it is very important for us to have this institution of cooperation at quadrilateral level between the four countries. We, the Balkan states, are called to establish the region’s development manner, based on our countries’ wishes, on the wishes of our citizens and not based on an agenda set somewhere else, by a third party. Our aim is to develop the region and to turn this cooperation into a permanent initiative , in a difficult period, in a period of globalization. That means that we should cooperate closely and to fully benefit of all the possibilities provided. It is not a new vision, it is older, it was offered to us many times along history, but I think that today, it became more stringent than ever. We have modern conditions and we do not want any participant to be left out, and this development in Balkans will prove this. I have to declare myself totally in agreement with what Boiko Borisov mentioned, in connection with the development possibility of Western Balkans, which represents in fact an European development chance. I think that our initiative is very solid, and I think we should focus on the European future of our countries. Today, we should build an European vision on the future of this region, meeting at the same time the criteria put forward by the European Union, and ensuring the good neighborhood principles. I would like to remind the fact that Greece is the country that always backed this initiative. This discussion started and the the cycle closed in fact on the moment when on the agenda of the Thessaloniki meeting, on Western Balkans and the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the European Union, along with other countries, that was the starting point, and it is very important to resume this topic on the agenda, which was mentioned for the first time in Thessaloniki, some 15 years ago. Now, in Sofia, we will resume the same discussions, we will continue these debates on the Western Balkans. I want to remind the fact that this meeting in Sofia resulted following our meetings, and was anounced for the first time, in Varna, during the first meeting in 3+1 format. My colleague Boiko Borisov described the Bulgarian Presidency as a Balkan presidency, and I think it is very important for us to be able to cooperate, to make sure that this presidency is successful. Surely, the presidency that Romania will undertake in six months from now on, in early 2019, is very important. This will also be a particularly relevant presidency for the Balkan area and we will strongly support it. It is very important that we have today the opportunity to be here alongside the President of the Republic of Serbia, and we want to come up to the support of Serbia’s accession to the European Union. Serbia has always worked its European perspective, it is a very important country for our region, a country that during the last years, had to face the results of some wrong options and fortunately, it managed to take the measures necessary to heal the wounds suffered. In the end, I would like to add few words on today’s discussions and namely, specific talks related to projects, the way of capitalizing on our current opportunities. We had a series of constructive talks on all these joint projects. I would like to remind the importance we attach to the interconnection of the countries in the Balkan area and attracting investors – here, we refer to both the rail, sea and road transport sectors. We have a series of projects of great importance. I would like to remind the link between the ports in northern Greece with the Black Sea ports and with Danube ports. Other very important project is the one of the road connection between Thessaloniki, Sofia and Bucharest. This is the project designed to increase the number of tourists crossing Bulgaria from Romania towards Greece and the viceversa. We also discussed about the rail line between Thessaloniki and Belgrade and I would like not to forget other important project, in the energy area, based in Alexandroupolis, Bulgaria, and the vertical branch stemming from this pipeline towards Romania. These are projects that can improve the economic cooperation dimension between these countries and for these projects, we will request funds from EU, and also, from other investors or initiatives such as the 16+1 format initiative, in which, so far, Greece had only the status of observer but intends to become full fledged member. I would like once again to thank Madam Prime Minister of Romania, Prime Minister of Bulgaria, and the President of the Republic of Serbia for this particularly important meeting. Today, we had the opportunity to deepen our relations and I would like to announce you that I will be glad to host the next meeting by the end of June, in Greece, and thus, we will assign a more concrete character to all these initiatives, and at that time, there will be present all Transport Ministers from all these participating countries, this is because we want to attach greater importance to transportation projects. Currently, we are looking forward to materializing all these initiatives. Thank you.

Viorica Dancila: I would like to thank our distinguished guests for their constructive approach, and we want us to be able to implement as many projects as possible. Thank you.

 



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