Presidents of Bulgaria, Portugal discuss EU enlargement

Photo: BTA Marcelo de Sousa (L) and Rumen Radev

No one is more interested in the European integration of Bulgaria's neighbours than Bulgaria itself, said President Rumen Radev during a joint press conference with his Portuguese counterpart, Marcelo de Sousa, who is on a two-day official visit to the country.

However, Radev noted that the enlargement of the Union should not be treated as a formality. “This is not a sprint where we have to cross the finish line under a certain time, this is a journey on which friends embark together in a sustainable and irreversible process,” the head of state said.

Asked specifically about the European integration of the Republic of North Macedonia, President Radev reiterated that the most important objective at this point in time is for true dialogue between Sofia and Skopje to be restored at all levels. Asked whether Skopje is successful in fulfilling the requirements, Radev said that there is an entire list of formal requirements that have to be met, but stressed that the biggest goal is for young people from the two countries to not hate each other, to be open to interacting with each other without bias and to share respect and goodwill once national borders are opened. “This is the most important goal we are working on,” said President Radev, adding that he has instructed the interim government to explore ways of bringing young people from the two countries together. According to President Radev, instead of paying for measures aimed at merely keeping the tourism sector afloat, the government should give money to hotels to accommodate students from Bulgaria and the Republic of North Macedonia for free. He even proposed the idea to President of North Macedonia Stevo Pendarovski during their recent joint visit to Rome. President Rumen Radev expressed hope that this will become a significant step forward, which will open the door to a sustainable, stable future. One in which the two countries share a friendship that translates from statements in official documents to real life, where people on both sides of the border show respect for one another.

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