Thursday, 5 March 2009
SPEECH GIVEN IN THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF THE REPUBLIC OF BULGARIA
Distinguished President of the National Assembly of the Republic of Bulgaria, Mr. Georgi Pirinski,
Distinguished Members of the Assembly,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honour for me to be able, from the floor of the highest democratic and legislative house of the Republic of Bulgaria, to address you, the legitimate representatives of the Bulgarian citizens. The honour and satisfaction, but also the responsibility are even greater given the fact that the Republic of Macedonia and Republic of Bulgaria are neighbouring and friendly countries with advanced political, economic and cultural links, as well as intense ordinary, daily relations established by the citizens of our two countries.
Considering these facts dating back not from yesterday, but which have deep historical roots, I want to stress that the Republic of Macedonia has ever since its independence defined the good-neighbourly relations as a constant commitment in its foreign policy. These relations need to be continuously promoted and upgraded, while respecting the differences and specifics - national and cultural, religious or any other - as those are today the basic democratic standards.
Therefore, allow me in the very beginning to recall the words of my distinguished colleague, Mr. Georgi Pirinski expressed a year ago in his address in the Assembly of the Republic of Macedonia: "It is very important to stop the stereotypes of the past, the reciting of the propaganda through hate speech that occurs sometimes in statements that undermine the atmosphere of respect".
I fully share these considerations, distinguished President of the National Assembly of the Republic of Bulgaria, Mr. Pirinski, as they are in the interest of both the Republic of Macedonia and the Republic of Bulgaria, but in the interest of the entire region, as well. Because it is exactly these stereotypes, the disrespect of the differences and the hate speech that we have had in large quantities in the history of the Balkan peoples, so that it is not surprising that only until yesterday the Balkans was synonymous of a powder keg. But in today's world of globalisation one cannot live only on the history, which we in the Balkans produce more than we are able consume.
Therefore the Republic of Macedonia - with full political consensus and huge support by its citizens -has opted for the Euro-Atlantic integration, i.e. NATO and EU membership. We know very well that expressing a desire is not enough for this to come true and that criteria for full membership have to be fulfilled. Republic of Bulgaria, today member of the EU and NATO, has successfully passed this road. I want to assure you that we have received this fact with sincere contentment and as an impetus for the Republic of Macedonia, too, to pass successfully the same road so that, with the help of our friends including the Republic of Bulgaria, we can become European Union and NATO member.
It is well known that the Republic of Macedonia has fulfilled the NATO membership criteria. But it is also well known that the Republic of Macedonia is today not a NATO member state, due solely to the absurd dispute over our name imposed by our southern neighbour. However, whatever bitterness was caused to us by this non-principled attitude of a NATO and EU member-state - which is in violation of the basic documents of these associations - we will anyway continue to seek a compromise solution through the negotiations held within the United Nations; solution which will at the same time not affect the national identity of the Macedonian people.
I want to stress also that the Republic of Macedonia will continue its active participation in the peace missions around the world, providing its contribution in the preservation of the world peace.
Distinguished Mr. President,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Looking from historical, cultural and even civilizational viewpoint, Republic of Macedonia and its citizens, together with the other countries and peoples in the region, belong to the large European family. The Assembly of the Republic of Macedonia as the supreme legislative house, feels and fulfills its responsibility when it comes to our approximation and accession to the European Union. I am convinced that there is much along this path that we can learn from the experience of your Parliament. Therefore, I would like to appeal from the floor of this legislative house to the parliamentarians of the two countries, members of the parliamentary friendship groups that they intensify their cooperation. Their strengthened cooperation would represent a further impetus for increased cooperation between the other institutions of the two countries and the business communities of the Republic of Macedonia and Republic of Bulgaria. Such cooperation in all areas will be beneficial for both countries, and for the overall cooperation in the region. And regional cooperation is today one of the basic European principles and standards and part of the EU's foreign and security policy.
When talking about the European standards and commitments, I want to emphasise that as a candidate country, Republic of Macedonia continues the realisation of its tasks and fulfillment of the obligations that will lead to its full membership in the European Union.
By the end of this month, as you know, we will have presidential and local elections - elections that must be fair and democratic. And I am convinced that they will indeed be so, because, I want to assure you, all political parties and leaders are aware that otherwise we would lose everything. That is the responsibility we have for the citizens of the Republic of Macedonia and for the international community and our friends among whom the Republic of Bulgaria has a special place.
As the European Union and its institutions expect us to continue with the reforms and hold free and democratic elections, similarly do we, the politicians who hold the responsibility, and the citizens of the Republic of Macedonia, expect that Brussels will fulfill our expectations, following the democratically held elections. Firstly, it is the visa-free travel for our citizens and obviously getting a date for starting the negotiations by the end of this year. I believe that Bulgaria as a neighbour and a friend of ours - being at the same time a European Union member - will continue through its representatives in the European institutions its principled support for the realisation of our strategic goal.
Distinguished Mr. President,
Ladies and gentlemen parliamentarians,
We live in a world in which the globalisation becomes our daily fact and encompasses all areas of our lives and work. Numerous are the challenges of globalisation, but I believe the biggest one is how to ensure one's own safety - and I do not mean only security. How to carry out one's interests, while ensuring security and interests of the neighbours, the region and beyond? Obviously the responsibility lies primarily with the politicians, the people's representatives who articulate here the interests of our citizens and adopt laws, but also with the other social structures, from the non-governmental sector to the media. It is right now that we face the problem of the world economic crisis, and more recently we have felt the consequences of the energy crisis, i.e. difficulties with the gas supply. It is natural that each country, starting from its specifics and interests, will adopt adequate measures for overcoming of the economic crisis. However, these solutions and measures - as recommended by the economic experts - should aim beyond state borders and national economies.
Of particular importance in that sense is the realisation of the regional - and European at the same time - Corridor 8 Project, which includes transportation, telecommunication and energy links between the Black Sea and the Adriatic Sea, i.e. establishment of full infrastructure link between the Republic of Bulgaria, Republic of Macedonia and Republic of Albania. As Parliaments, we do not manage the national budget which is the responsibility of the Government. But as Parliaments which vote for the budget, we may encourage our Governments to begin with the implementation of the Corridor 8 Project. I have discussed recently this issue with the respected President of the Parliament of the Republic of Albania, Mrs. Jozefina Topalli, and similarly have you, distinguished Mr. Pirinski. We have also exchanged a couple of letters. What I would stress now is that the three of us have agreed that Corridor 8 is needed and that as Parliaments we will take concrete steps.
Next moves of this important regional initiative have to be taken by our Governments in the future budget projections, and hopefully with a strong financial support and understanding on the part of the European Union.
I should also like to inform you that the President of the Chamber of Deputies of the Italian Republic, Mr. Fini similarly expressed readiness to join this imitative of ours. I am convinced that the initiative will provide a true impetus for the businesses not only in our countries, but beyond as well.
When I mentioned economy and economic cooperation, I want to underline that the Government of the Republic of Macedonia and the Assembly, being guided by their constitutional authority, have created legal basis and truly favourable business climate to attract foreign investment. In that sense I should like to invite the investors from you country to come and invest in Macedonia; we are not afraid of any foreign investment, let alone investment coming from the neighbouring countries - at least we know each other very well.
Distinguished Mr. President,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Much could be said about the bilateral relations between the Republic of Macedonia and the Republic of Bulgaria, but I want to highlight once more that we highly appreciate your principled support. I am convinced that the past stereotypes are slowly but steadily getting forgotten. The recent meetings speak enough of the developed bilateral relations - recently the President of the Republic of Macedonia, Mr. Branko Crvenkovski paid an official visit to the Republic of Bulgaria, and shortly before that the Bulgarian Prime Minister, Mr. Sergej Stanishev visited Macedonia. Today I have the honour to address you in this respected legislative house.
The Parliaments are today not challenged any more with how to establish good bilateral relations, how to establish and build trust, but rather how to further that relations through new forms and how to broaden this positive atmosphere and energy throughout the region. That is what our citizens require from us, that is our responsibility for the next generations, our responsibility for Europe and the international community at large.
Thank you for your attention.