Bulgarian Foreign Minister starts Western Balkans tour

Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolai Mladenov, who has underlined the Western Balkans’ place in his country’s foreign policy priorities, has started a tour of the region that from May 5 to 14 2010 will take him to Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania.

Mladenov, Foreign Minister in the Government that took office in Sofia in July 2009, has since taking office in January 2010 emphasised that Bulgaria, as a European Union member, wants to have a leading role in the bloc’s engagement in the Western Balkans and to assist in the region’s countries’ Euro-Atlantic integration.

On May 5, Mladenov and his delegation are in Skopje, where he was scheduled to meet his counterpart Antonio Milososki, prime minister Nikola Gruevski and representatives of Macedonia’s parliament.

Mladenov will confer an award of those who helped in rescuing people in the Lake Ohrid tragedy, in which a leisure cruise boat carrying Bulgarian passengers sank, and is scheduled to deliver a lecture at the University of Tetovo. Among other events, Mladenov will open an exhibition at the city library of photographs entitled The Roofs of Sofia, by Bistra Boshnakova.

Relations between Sofia and Skopje have been troubled on occasion, on issues related to disputes about history and about claims related to ethnic minorities, and Mladenov will be pursuing an agreement on good neighbourly bilateral relations.

On May 6, Mladenov is scheduled to be in Belgrade, where he is to meet his counterpart Vuk Jeremic, with deputy prime minister Bozidar Djelic and with members of Serbia’s parliament and with other officials.

Bulgaria’s has backed Serbia’s EU membership aspirations although Belgrade took offence in 2008 when the government in Sofia joined most other EU states in recognising Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia, and there were renewed tensions when representatives of Bulgaria gave evidence in the International Court of Justice in favour of the legality of Kosovo’s independence.

In Montenegro on May 10, Mladenov will be in Montenegro, for a visit that will include meetings with president Filip Vujanovic, prime minister Milo Dukanovic and with Mladenov’s counterpart

The following day, Mladenov is scheduled to be in Pristina for meetings with Kosovo president Fatmir Sejdiu, prime minister Hashim Thaci, foreign minister Skender Hysteni, as well as representatives of the international and ethnic Serb communities there.

On May 12 and 13, Mladenov will be in Bosnia and Herzegovina for talks with various leaders, including with the leaders of the Republika Srpska, and the trip ends in Tirana, where talks are scheduled to be held with Albania’s prime minister and foreign minister, along with an address at a Bulgarian – Albanian business forum.

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