Bulgaria becomes Asia-EU gate for high technologies

Sofia will cooperate with the UAE in the fields of defence, education and energy

Photo: Council of Ministers PM Boyko Borissov and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Bulgaria may become a gate between Asia and the European Union for the development of technologies. This possibility emerged following Prime Minister Boyko Borissov's meeting with Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Borissov was on an official visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on 20 and 21 October.

The Crown Prince said that he wanted to see the ties between the two countries develop and strengthen, and that he knew many things about Bulgaria and Borissov, the government information service said.

Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan expressed a wish to visit Bulgaria. He showed an interest in Bulgaria's Presidency of the Council of the EU in the first half of the year and its priority - support for the EU integration of the Western Balkans. Borissov said at the meeting that Bulgaria and the UAE have shared strategic interests in economy, agriculture, construction, IT and the defence industry. The Crown Prince asked Borissov about the transport corridors Bulgaria is negotiating with its neighbours.

The Bulgarian premier spoke about the 2 November high-level meeting of the Council for Cooperation between Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia and Greece in Varna. Borissov also told the Crown Prince that Bulgaria would like to participate in Expo 2020 Dubai.

Meeting with Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Borissov said: “It is in the interest of Bulgaria and the UAE to build an effective partnership in strategically important areas, including security and the fight against terrorism.”

Borissov expressed satisfaction with the shared political will to step up bilateral cooperation, and stressed the importance of exchanging information and experience in the fight against crime and smuggling.

“As you know, the UAE also has a military presence in Afghanistan; Bulgaria has not recalled its troops from there either. The fight against terrorism and in support of the righteous religious beliefs that do not preach radical Islamism, let alone encourage terrorist attacks, is ongoing. Because of this scourge, which descended upon Europe, and Bulgaria in particular, several years ago, we need to ensure effective coordination between our intelligence agencies and law enforcement bodies,” Prime Minister Borissov said.

After his Abu Dhabi talks, Borissov told a news conference that Bulgaria and the UAE would sign a strategic partnership agreement. He expects the document to be prepared and signed by the year's end. “We agreed, however, to promptly start working in the fields of artificial intelligence, digital economy, digital technologies and cybersecurity,” he added.

Borissov said the UAE hailed the EU membership perspective offered to the Western Balkans. “Our good neighbourly relations, our desire for peaceful and prosperous Balkans, and our ethnic tolerance are met with great interest,” the premier said.

He believes that cooperation among the Balkan countries can open up opportunities for trade with the UAE, especially in agriculture and animal husbandry. “Bulgaria cannot supply all the lambs they want to buy, but we can work together with the other Balkan countries and be competitive with Australia and other exporters,” said Borissov.

“Feeding people is on the agenda in Africa as well, and the Balkans can produce large amounts of food,” he added.

“After the breakthrough we had in Saudi Arabia, this is the latest evidence of the attention and treatment that, and I quote the Sheikh, our 'great nation' gets,” noted Borissov, alluding to his last year's visit to Riyadh, the first high-level one in the history of the two countries' diplomatic relations.

Prime Minister Boyko Borissov gifted Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan with a uniform of the antiterrorist troops of the Bulgarian army. Al Nahyan is a collector of such uniforms. For his part, the Sheikh presented Borissov with a hand-woven carpet made by an Afghani woman for charitable purposes.

Prime Minister Borissov's visit to the UAE is the first at this level in the history of bilateral relations. It follows up on the efforts for stepping up cooperation, including the opening by the two countries of embassies in Abu Dhabi and Sofia at the beginning of 2018.

Borissov's delegation included Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ekaterina Zaharieva and Minister of Finance Vladislav Goranov.



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