Bulgarian PM Voices Support for Balkan EU Hopefuls

Bulgaria believes that all Balkan countries must join NATO and the EU, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said on a state visit to Tirana on Monday.Borisov spoke during a joint press conference with his Albanian counterpart, Sali Berisha.

He stressed that his cabinet and country adhere consistently to a balanced diplomatic strategy and to the opinion that all Balkan countries must become EU member states, including Albania, Kosovo and Serbia.

Borisov noted that Bulgaria was among the first to recognise Kosovo and to call for an end to the visa regime for the Balkan countries, and the first to support Macedonia for EU accession.

He noted that Bulgaria should be remembered for its contribution to peace in the Balkans, and thanked Berisha for appreciating his country’s efforts.

For his part, the Albanian PM said every Albanian citizen should be free to decide his or her ethnicity.

His statement came in response to a question from a Bulgarian journalist, who asked if Albanian citizens who consider themselves Bulgarian would receive the status of official minority in order to obtain more rights.

“In Albania, there are no restrictions on ethnic self-determination. There are no limits for those Albanian citizens who want to position themselves for what they are, or for what they want to be,” Berisha said, adding that Tirana supports policies that “lead us faster towards Europe.”

During the two-day official trip to Albania, Borisov and the official delegation will sign bilateral cooperation agreements in the fields of science and education, culture, economy and the readmission of illegal immigrants.

Possibilities for expanding Bulgaria’s presence on the Albanian market include exports of wine, furniture, cigarettes, medications, and oil products. There is also an increased Albanian interest in tourism in Bulgaria. There were 26 percent more Albanian tourists vacationing in Bulgaria in the first half of 2012 than in the same period of 2011.

Borisov also noted that Bulgaria would like to import asphalt from Albania for road construction.

“They can export bitumen to Bulgaria. They have the best bitumen, it’s natural. There are so many roads in Bulgaria built with Albanian bitumen that haven’t had a scratch in 30 years. We need it, we will take as much as we can,” Borisov said at the joint news conference.

Bulgarian and Albanian business representatives are set to hold talks Monday evening.

The delegation includes the Ministers of Regional Development, Culture, and Economy and Energy, as well as the Deputy Interior Minister and the Mayor of Sofia.

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