German President Steinmeier pays official visit to Bulgaria

Photo: BTA Boyko Borissov and Frank-Walter Steinmeier

Bulgarian President Rumen Radev Thursday met with his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who is making an official two-day visit to Bulgaria. Speaking at a joint news conference after the meeting, Radev said the two had discussed the prospects for a strategic German investment in Bulgaria.

Asked if Volkswagen is likely to open a plant in Bulgaria, Steinmeier was non-specific but said that Germany has a strong interest in building closer political, cultural and economic relations with Bulgaria. Radev said the two countries' successful economic partnership gives sufficient grounds to believe that Bulgaria is able, ready and worthy of having a strategic investor with closed-cycle production. He assured the German President that all Bulgarian institutions are ready to join their efforts and offer the best opportunities and a safe environment for such an investment.
Radev called Steinmeier "a close friend with a personal contribution to the development of bilateral relations" and noted his contribution to the resolution of the Libyan trial of Bulgarian nurses.
Five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor were detained in 1999 and sentenced to death by a Libyan court in December 2006 on charges of intentionally infecting some 400 Libyan children with the HIV virus. The six were released and returned home in July 2007 thanks to diplomatic efforts.
The Bulgarian President also noted that the two nations have always been close, regardless of the challenges of history.
Two heads of State were very pleased that Germany is Bulgaria's largest trading partner, with trade in 2018 exceeding 8 billion euro. Radev expressed a hope that the upturn in trade would continue, stressing the importance of sizable German investments and a strong business presence in Bulgaria.
Radev also noted that Germany's contribution to the development of dual education is strongly appreciated in Bulgaria, and emphasized the two countries' excellent relations in education, science, culture and tourism. The two presidents also discussed the importance of cooperation in judicial reform, internal security, the state administration and the protection of the EU's external borders.
Radev noted Bulgaria's wish to deepen cooperation with Germany as a NATO ally. The European Defence Fund also offers cooperation opportunities where Bulgaria has the ambition to be more than a beneficiary. It wants to integrate its defence industry and military science in German-led joint European projects.
The two presidents discussed the internal and external challenges to the EU and the resolve to work together for a united, secure, prosperous Europe.
Radev praised highly Germany's role as a factor of contacts and balance between the countries of Western and Eastern Europe, contributing to the faster and better convergence and catch-up development of the East European countries. He stressed that for its part, Bulgaria plays an increasingly important role in guaranteeing the Western Balkans' stability, security, connectivity and prosperity.
The two heads of State also discussed the major energy infrastructure projects: the diversification of gas routes and sources and the direct relevance of those projects to Europe's security and competitiveness.
Radev stressed that Bulgaria will continue to rely on Germany's support for its accession to Schengen, the euro zone and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
He commented that contacts among people are the most valuable part of bilateral relations: there are more than 300,000 Bulgarians who live, study and work in Germany and a growing number of Germans who live and work in Bulgaria, acting as a live bridge between the two countries and peoples.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said relations between the two countries had never been closer or more intense, adding that there are data showing that this also applies to economic relations. He described Bulgaria as an important investment destination for the German industry.
Talking about Bulgaria's position in the EU, Steinmeier noted that during its EU Council Presidency in 2018, this country showed that it is not just a stabilizing factor in European cooperation but that it has important neighbours. He mentioned Bulgaria's expertise on certain topics.
The two heads of State also discussed Brexit. The German President believes Britain should stay in the EU where it has a unique contribution, but right now the EU is not in a position to predict what will happen.
For his part, Radev stressed that the top priority is to protect the UK citizens' rights in Bulgaria and the Bulgarians' rights in the UK. He spoke about the crucial importance of a single EU position on Brexit, adding that the UK's withdrawal should not be allowed to block Europe's ability to make timely, important and joint decisions.
Visiting German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier conferred with Prime Minister Boyko Borissov during a working lunch at the Lozenets Residence here on Thursday, the Government's information service reported. The two discussed bilateral trade and economic relations, as well as issues related to security, migration and the European agenda. Borissov noted the beneficial cooperation between the two countries on matters of mutual interest, stressing the excellent bilateral political dialogue.
The topic of security was emphasized during the meeting. Borissov noted that Bulgaria successfully meets its commitment to protect the EU's external border. "Without much noise and while observing the European norms and goodneighbourly relations with Turkey, Bulgaria has brought the migration flow down to zero," Borissov said. According to the Bulgarian Prime Minister, a sustainable common European mechanism is needed to address the issues related to migration.
Bulgaria is a stabilizing factor for the region, the German President said, commenting this country's economic role. Borissov in turn noted Bulgaria's good financial performance and exceptional financial discipline, which has led to it being among the three countries in Europe with the lowest external debt. The Bulgarian Prime Minister noted that Bulgaria's external debt has dropped from 28 per cent of GDP to the current 20 per cent of GDP, since his last meeting with the German President back in 2017. Borissov also noted that given the stable tax policy, economic environment and a huge fiscal reserve, foreign investors, including German ones, have a good economic foundation for doing business in Bulgaria.
The Prime Minister noted that trade between Bulgaria and Germany exceeded 8 billion euro in 2018, which is an increase of over eight per cent since the previous year. He also stressed the fact that Germany is once again among the top foreign investors in Bulgaria, with investments of 3.219 billion euro between 1996 and 2018.
German investments added up to 153.7 million euro in 2018 alone. According to data of the InvestBulgaria Agency, around 30 per cent of the top 100 largest investors in Bulgaria are either German or with German participation.
President Steinmeier also met with National Assembly Chairperson Tsveta Karayancheva, who noted that in 2019 the two countries are marking the 140th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations. She stressed they have always had excellent contacts, and expressed a hope that cooperation will continue in various fields, including justice, public order and migration. German investments support the Bulgarian economy and help reduce unemployment, Karayancheva said. The number of German tourists in Bulgaria is increasing, which is a sign of the quality of tourist services, she said.
The German President said he would never forget his visit to Bulgaria on 1 January 2007, when he felt the Bulgarians' emotions on joining the EU. He thanked Bulgaria for its EU Council Presidency, which took place amid serious challenges.

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