I. Diplomatic Relations
Diplomatic relations between Greece and Bulgaria are excellent and constantly developing on all fronts, especially since Bulgaria's accession to the North Atlantic Alliance (May 2004), and in the European Union on 1st January 2007. Following the successful conclusion of the relevant chapters in the negotiations, on April 25, 2005, the EU Accession Treaty of Bulgaria and Romania was signed, and is now in the process of being ratified by EU member-state parliaments. Bulgaria itself ratified the Treaty on May 11, 2005. During the 4th Greek-Romanian-Bulgarian Trilateral Summit Meeting, which was held in Athens on November 2, 2005, the Bulgarian and Romanian Accession Treaty was signed in a special ceremony by the plenary session of the Hellenic Parliament, with Greek Prime Minister Mr. Kostas Karamanlis, Bulgarian President Mr. Georgi Purvanov and Romanian President Mr. Traian Basescu in attendance. Greece was the fifth EU member state and the first old member state to ratify the Bulgarian-Romanian EU Accession Treaty. Never before has dialogue between the two countries been so intensive and effective. Apart from the Greek Embassy in Sofia, there is also a Consulate-General in Sofia and a further one in Plovdiv.
DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS IN BULGARIA
Parliamentary elections were held in Bulgaria on June 25, 2005. In accordance with the announcement issues by the Central Election Committee, the following seven parties are in the Bulgarian Parliament:
G E R B - 39 % , 116 seats ;
SDR - 15 % , 39 seats ;
Attack 8 %, 20 seats;
United Democratic Forces (The Blue coalition - European NP ) 7 %, 16 seats;
RZS - 6 % , 11 seats ;
II. Framework of Treaties
These are the main Inter-State Agreements signed over the past 15 years:
1. Avoidance of Double Taxation on Income and Capital (Athens, 15/2/1991)
2. Police Cooperation (covering clandestine immigration, terrorism, organised crime, and police training) (Athens, 8/7/1991)
3. Cooperation between Ministries of Defence and Armed Forces (Athens, 28/11/1991)
4. Agreement on Seasonal Workers (Athens, 15/12/1995)
5. Agreement on the Waters of the River Nestos (Sofia 22/12/1995)
6. Agreement on the Opening of Three New Border Posts and Arterial Road Links between the two countries (Sofia 22/12/1995)
7. Military and Technical Cooperation (March 1998)
8. Scientific, Educational and Cultural Agreement (Sofia 12/6/2002) (in application of Article 13 of the Bilateral Cultural Agreement (Athens, 31/05/1973)
9. Five-Year Development Cooperation Agreement within the framework of the HIBERB (development Aid to Bulgaria of 54,29 million euros) (28/08/2002)
10. Bilateral Environmental Protection Agreement (Athens, 01/11/2002)
11. Aviation Agreement (Athens, 01/11/2002)
12. Scientific and Technological Cooperation Protocol (Athens, December 2002)
III. Political Relations
- Inter-Balkan Cooperation
The initiative was taken by Greece and Bulgaria to revive inter-Balkan cooperation (Summit Meeting, Crete, November 1997). Given that the problems of the Balkans can more effectively be dealt with by the Balkan countries themselves and by the peoples of the region, the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) is a useful tool for regional cooperation, which could be upgraded to become an organised institution for the Balkans.
- Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organisation (BSEC)
There is close coordination between the two countries within the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organisation. Greece attaches particular importance to this regional formation, which is crucial for promoting economic development and stability in the participating states. Greece also considers Bulgarias contribution to all sectors of common interest covered by the BSEC to be particularly useful. Since the events of September 11th 2001, it has become obvious that there is a need for joint initiatives to be undertaken to combat international terrorism.
- Tripartite Collaboration (Greece - Bulgaria - Romania)
This tripartite collaboration between Greece, Bulgaria and Romania has been stabilized through annual summit meetings. After the first Summit in Delphi (3rd and 4th October 1998) and the regular tripartite meetings of the Foreign Ministers, the second Summit was held in Borovetz (4th and 5th November 1999). The last Summit was in Bucharest (18th and 19th April 2002). The main issues discussed were the further strengthening of economic relations between the three countries, the speeding up of infrastructure development projects in the region, cooperation on combating terrorism and organized crime, as well as the promotion of security and stability in the region by reinforcing the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP).
The excellent political relations between the two countries have entered a new and dynamic phase with joint activities and regular exchanges of visits at the highest level.
The official visits which have been conducted provide confirmation of the excellent level of bilateral relations:
- The President of Bulgaria Mr. G. Purvanov to Greece (05-07/11/2003)
- Working visit by Bulgarian Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Athens (31/10-01/11/2002) and attendance at the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony (13-17/08/2004).
- The President of the Hellenic Republic, K. Stephanopoulos to Bulgaria (11-13/10/2004)
- Meeting between the two Presidents in Thesssaloniki (11/04/05)
- Working visits by Foreign Minister, P. Molyviatis, accompanied by Deputy Foreign Ministers Valinakis and Stylianidis to Sofia (16/11/2004) confirm the excellent level of bilateral relations. The President of the Hellenic Republic, Mr. Karolos Papoulias, met with his Bulgarian counterpart, Mr. G. Purvanov, in Thessaloniki (11/4/2005), immediately upon taking office, and visited Bulgaria within the framework of the Regional Forum on Cultural Corridors in Southeast Europe, which took place in Varna (20-21/5/2005). Moreover, Public Order Minister Mr. Giorgos Voulgarakis paid a two-day visit to the country (19-20/5/2005) at the invitation of Bulgarias Minister of the Interior at the time, Mr. G. Petkanov.
Greece has contributed actively to Bulgarias accession to, whilst continuing to assist Bulgarias path towards E.U. accession. She intends to be one of the first countries to ratify the Accession Treaty of Bulgaria to the European Union after its signature in Luxembourg on 25th April 2004.
BOURGAS-ALEXANDROUPOLIS OIL PIPELINE
On November 4-5, 2004, in Athens, representatives of the governments of Greece, Bulgaria and Russia initialled the political Memorandum of Cooperation on the construction of the Bourgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline. Within the framework of the promotion of this project, a trilateral, intergovernmental Committee met in Moscow on January 26-27, 2005, which ended in the signing of a relevant protocol. A new meeting of this Committee took place in Moscow on March 10, 2005, and the sides agreed on the signing by their governments of the trilateral political Memorandum of Cooperation on the construction of the Bourgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline. On April 12, 2005, the Political Memorandum of Cooperation in question was signed in Sofia by representatives of Greece (the Greek delegation was headed by Development Minister Mr. D. Sioufas), Bulgaria and Russia. On May 26-27, 2005, in Sofia, the Trilateral Working Committee and Group of Companies that will undertake the initiative for the setting up of the International Company that will construct the Bourgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline held their first meeting.
NEW BORDER CHECKPOINTS
The opening of three new border checkpoints is pending. Specifically, the opening ceremony of the new border crossing point between Greece and Bulgaria in the Exochi area (Drama) through the Greek-Bulgarian Friendship tunnel is expected to take place in the near future, while the opening must be preceded by the signing of a relevant agreement with the Bulgarian side on the operation of this tunnel. The border checkpoint at Komotini (Nymfaia-Makaza) is expected to go into operation in 2006, while the technical study on the Xanthi (Ehinos-Roudozem) border post has not been completed at this stage. With regard to the opening of a fourth border crossing point (Kyrinos-Ivailovgrad), funding has yet to be secured, and the signing of the draft agreement is pending.
Completion of the draft agreement between the two countries on social security issues (the first 15 Articles have already been agreed upon) is pending, as is the settlement of seasonal employment issues and Bulgarian driving licenses in Greece. At the present time, draft bilateral agreements on road transport, police collaboration and border checks are in the planning stage.
MAJOR BULGARIAN NATIONAL ISSUES
Greece actively supported Bulgarias incorporation into NATO, and continues to be a firm supporter of the countrys course toward the EU.
IV. Economic Relations
Bulgaria is an important trading partner for Greece, with an increasingly significant role in our countrys foreign trade. According to provisional data from the National Statistical Service for January-July 2005, Greek-Bulgarian bilateral trade relations increased by about 30%. Greek exports during this period increased 29.5% as compared to the same period in 2004, while Bulgarian imports into Greece increased by 31.59%.
Greek exports during the first 7 months of 2005 came to 452.6 billion, against 349.5 million in 2004, while exports were at 333.8 million, up from 253.7 million the previous year. Based on this, Greek exports to Bulgaria in 2005 are forecast to exceed 1 billion, with Bulgarian imports approaching 600 million. As a result, bilateral trade volume will come to about 1.6 billion, with a surplus of about 400 million. Bulgaria ranks fourth among destination countries for Greek exports, receiving 6.4% of Greek exports in 2004, and 6.1% in 2003. Greece exports some 800 different products to Bulgaria, importing 580 products from Bulgaria.
In the investment sector, there is an ever-increasing interest by Greek investing companies in Bulgaria despite a number of lingering issues mainly related with bureaucratic red tape. Greek capital made a fairly dynamic recovery in the third quarter of 2005, coming to 85.6 million, up 86% from 46 million during the same quarter in 2004, with a total of 126 million during the first three quarters of 2005, against 133.2 million in the first three quarters of 2004, for a fall of 5.4%. Greece holds second place among investors in Bulgaria behind Austria and ahead of Germany, over which it widened its lead. Greek investments are made in all sectors, with 40% in industry, 32% in services, 24% in trade and 4% in construction.
The two countries have excellent tourism relations. Greece is Bulgarias main source of tourists, with 300,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2005 (19.5% of the total), while Bulgarians are the second largest group of tourists visiting Greece (40,000 in the first six months of 2005 7% of the total).
V. Cultural Relations
- Major Greek Cultural Activities (recent):
Under the Greek-Bulgarian Cooperation Programme, close collaboration between the two countries continues undiminished across a broad spectrum of educational and cultural issues (collaboration between universities, exchanges of scientists, scholarships, seminars). With the help of the Greek Ministry of Education a prize has been established for outstanding students in the Modern Greek Faculty at the Universities of Sofia and Plovdiv. Also, for the 2004 Olympic Games, the Cultural Olympiad financed the organisation of a grand gala with Bulgarian and Greek performers. Language faculties for Modern Greek have been opened at the Bulgarian city universities and the G.S. RAKOVSKI National Defence Academy,
The Ministry of Culture has awarded 20.000 euros to the Sofia National History Museum and Sozopolis History Museum for excavation and publication work on Greek antiquities in the Apollonia region. Finally, the Embassy library has been named the Stephan Getser Room in memory of the Bulgarian poet and philhellene, with a book published in his honour.
Bulgarian Olympic Gold winners Maria Grozdena (Shooting) and Milen Dobrev (Weightlifting) were made honorary citizens of Athens at an event organized by the Embassy (20.04.05). On July 1, 2005, within the framework of the Netherlands initiative Wall-to-wall painting, the unveiling of the Greek poetic wall was held with the poem Oso Boris (As much as you can), by K. Kavafis.
- Greek Cultural Organisations:
The following cultural organisations are all active in Bulgaria:
Sofia Hellenic Educational Society (housed in the Greek Embassy)
Greek-Bulgarian Friendship Associations (Black Sea Federation of Greek-Bulgarian Associations)
Federation of Cultural and Educational Sarakatsani Societies of Bulgaria
Kostis Palamas Bulgarian Cultural Association of Neo-Hellenism
Friends of Stephan Getser Society
International Society of Friends of Nikos Kazantzakis, Bulgaria.