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Foreign Minister Avramopoulos’s statement and responses to journalists’ questions at the joint press conference following the Greek-Bulgarian-Romanian tripartite meeting in Sofia, Bulgaria

November 13, 2012

Source: Greek MFA, 12.11.2012

D. AVRAMOPOULOS: Thank you, thank you for giving us this opportunity, Nikolay, but I would also like to thank you very much for this initiative, for your warm welcome, and for the opportunity you gave us all, along with Titus, to talk about issues of common interest.

It is very important and very useful for neighboring countries, and especially friendly countries, to be in permanent contact, for whatever has to do with our region, but also for our common European perspective. I am really more than happy to be here for this trilateral meeting, during which, as Nikolay said before, we discussed and exchanged views on a number of important issues of common interest to our countries, to our region and to our new big country, which is Europe.

Greece, Bulgaria and Romania are partners and allies in the European Union, in NATO, joining our forces as factors of security, stability, friendship and cooperation in our wider neighborhood, and to promote the major issues we are confronting in the context of our European and Euroatlantic partnership.

European Union enlargement was high on our agenda today. We reaffirmed our joint commitment to assisting the countries in the Western Balkans, in order to work together towards membership in the European family. We also agreed once again on how important it is that these countries meet all the criteria of European Union membership, including the development and maintaining of good neighborly relations.

We all know that ‘the Balkans’ is a positive and historical term, but it also has a negative connotation in the eyes of the world. We are determined to change this connotation, and in the course of time, this is our vision: to make the Balkans an oasis and a paradigm of cooperation and friendship for the rest of the world. We are determined to do that.

We also exchanged views on how we can further intensify our efforts to promote regional cooperation, including within the framework of the South-East European Cooperation Process.

Another critical issue was discussed in security on the European Union’s external borders; a challenge that all three of our countries are striving to meet, but that presents particular challenges, especially for my country, Greece, with pressure on our extensive, as you all know, sea borders, exacerbated by tensions and crises in the region, such as the current crisis in Syria, which is a topic we are going to talk about in the second part of our meeting today.

And finally, we talked about the very pressing issue of the European Union’s multiannual financial framework, as Nikolay stressed before, because the outcome of the current negotiations on this new budget will bear heavily on the future of our three countries and the European Union as a whole; it will bear on how and when we can hope to emerge from the current economic crisis.

In broader terms, I want to stress the importance to Greece of the cooperation between our three countries. Together, Romania, Bulgaria, and Greece comprise a pillar of stability in Southeastern Europe. We want to enhance this relationship, this shared vital role even further, and we are doing so through collaboration that is already under way between various Ministries from our three countries, including our Foreign Ministries of course.

Once again, I want to express my thanks to Nikolay for his initiative and my great joy at being together with Titus and himself here, in Sofia, today.

JOURNALIST: Question on the FYROM name issue.

D. AVRAMOPOULOS: You all know about this issue that is pending for the last 20 years, which has to do with the name. It is a prerequisite for good neighborly relations in order to pave the way for our neighbors to enter the European Union. You know very well that from the very beginning we have extended messages of friendship and cooperation. Even recently, we proposed to our neighbors that we sign a memorandum of understanding. Allow me to tell you that being constant in the way they see things, they sent us a letter, as a response to our initiative, we opened it, but the answer has not come yet. Let us wait for this answer, and then we shall tell you what we are going to do.

On the other hand, I want to declare once again our best sentiments for all our neighbors. We want to see this part of Europe become a part of the big European family, but there are some conditions and terms that we must all respect, so given the initiative taken by the United Nations and the terms already set by both the United Nations and the European Union to solve this problem, we are waiting – always in a spirit of good will – to receive the answer from our neighbors. We extended a message, but as I told you before, we have not gotten an answer yet.

JOURNALIST: Question on the importance of the trilateral co-operation between Greece, Bulgaria and Romania in the framework of the E.U.

D. AVRAMOPOULOS: As you know, ten years ago, Greece, under its European Presidency, paved the way for Bulgaria and Romania to become full members of the European Union. It was the enlargement of that time. It is the destiny of our country to be always in the Presidency when the enlargement is taking place.

We have great experience with that, and I can tell you today that we are working very hard in order to open the door for all countries of our region to enter the European family.

Of course, the European Union has set some conditions and terms that all countries must respect, but enlargement will be the main issue of the agenda of the Greek Presidency as from January 2014.

We talked about it today and I can tell you that what you see in front of you today, the three Ministers of Foreign Affairs of these three countries, represent exactly what we want to achieve in our region. We work together in a spirit of unity, of friendship, of good faith, of solidarity and of common European perspective. And actually, if I am allowed on behalf of all of us, Nikolay, although it is your job to do that, to send a message, it is exactly what I told you before: that we are determined to move ahead and, as I said in the beginning, to create an oasis of friendship and stability in this area and an assured European future for everybody.

This is the spirit within which we work together. This is a good example of how countries that had been through difficult moments in the past can really work together for a better future, and this is our common will for all countries of our region.

JOURNALIST: Question on Belgrade-Pristina talks.

D. AVRAMOPOULOS: Thank you. As we said today, we are all working in order to transform this part of the world into an oasis of friendship and stability. We really want all our neighbours very soon to be members of the European family, and Serbia is a friendly neighbouring country. We all maintain good relations with Serbia.

But as it was said before, there is a dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade. We all wait, expect and hope for the outcome of this dialogue to be in the positive direction.

The European Union has set its criteria and its rules, and everybody has to respect them. At the same time, we support, we encourage, and we urge the two parties to work together, to deepen their dialogue, and to come out with the definitive solution. We want them all to be members of our family, so it is in this positive spirit we hope as soon as possible to have the results of this dialogue, which is of great importance, because according to its outcome, we shall all see – and of course Europe and NATO – whether the conditions are there in order to move ahead.

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