Focus: Mr Mladenov, the second part of your Balkan Tour starts with your visit to Montenegro today. What will be the main messages you will send to your colleagues in the remaining 5 Balkan countries, you are about to visit?

Nikolay Mladenov: There are two main accents of the visit. The first one will be in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where Bulgaria supported the decision of NATO to prepare and action plan for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s NATO membership. This was tied with the fulfilment of certain requirements. Now, together with our NATO allies, we must initiate specific measures, which would support Bosnia, so that it could fulfil the requirements and start its preparation for its future membership in the Alliance. Bulgaria did not only support that decision, but played an active part in its elaboration; that is why we have certain commitments at the moment, and we must come up with specific initiatives in Sarajevo.

The second accent will be Kosovo. My will is to become more familiar with the real information in the country, as well as to try and see what would be the means and ways to strengthen the institutions in Kosovo, so that they would have a modern administration, which would support the rights of both Kosovo Albanians and Kosovo Serbs, as well as the rights of all other minorities on Kosovo’s territory.

We start in Montenegro, where we have a very good dialogue with the Montenegrin government. It is also working on its preparation for NATO and EU memberships, and Bulgaria, from the very declaration of Montenegro’s independence, has come out with specific initiatives in support of the young country, on many occasions. Now we have to make a clear evaluation of the current stage of Montenegro’s progress, so that we could support it in its debate with EU.

Focus: This is the first Balkan Tour of a Bulgarian Foreign Minister since 2004, when Solomon Passy was minister; the configuration of the countries was a bit different back the, compared to the current situation, as Montenegro and Kosovo had not declared their independences. What will be your general message to your colleagues, as you have already met some of them at different international forums; what would you like them to see in the new Bulgarian government and its policy?

Nikolay Mladenov: I would like to say that I have met all of them, although some of them in the past. Firstly, I would like to show that Bulgaria shows real interest in the Balkans, and not only with words; secondly – we should show that there are a lot of issues that need to be resolved individually in each country, and that they should be solved through cooperation between all Balkan countries. Maybe, from a strategic point of view, the most important message should be that the policy on the Balkans should not only be seen in a paradigm “in order for one to win – another must lose”. We have a lot more possibilities to work together, and our cooperation should be made for the better interest of all countries. Last but not least, we must keep the debate for EU’s enlargement alive, within Europe, as considering the current situation in Greece, and the Lisbon Treaty, and all other internal issues that EU has to deal with; the enlargement topic seems to be left behind. It is of strategic importance for Bulgaria that all its neighbours fulfil the criteria for EU membership and become part of the EU family, eventually. I would consider these the accents of my Balkan Tour.

Focus: How will you convince the EU member states in the necessity for the enlargement in the Western Balkans? There were doubts regarding Bulgaria and Romania, and now the economic crisis and the situation in Greece…

Nikolay Mladenov: This is not a process that will be finished today or tomorrow. The important thing, however, is that our neighbours start gradually fulfilling the EU accession criteria, and to move step by step towards their EU membership. Our neighbours’ road towards the EU is very important for us. The gradual implementation of the European legislation’s common rules by all countries will lead to improved stability in the entire region; and it would imply general regulations that would be positive not only for the relations between the countries, but also for the investments. Bulgaria has the unique opportunity to be very useful with its experience from its EU accession – both positive and negative. We have learnt a lot of things on our way to Europe, and some of them – very painfully. I think that we should not be ashamed of our mistakes, or to try and hide them, on the contrary: if we admit our mistakes, we will be more useful to our neighbours, and we will be regarded more highly from our EU partners, if we behave in this manner. And not, as many people unfortunately react, to approach the issue in a slogan-like manner.

Focus: You had meetings in Macedonia with representatives of the Albanian political parties, and you read a lecture in the university in Tetovo, which is populated predominantly with Albanians. What was your main message towards them, and not only to the Macedonian politicians in Macedonia?

Nikolay Mladenov: During my entire Balkan Tour, I plan to have at least one public event in each country, where I address not only the politicians but the people, as well. Because the message Bulgaria sends has to be comprehended not only by the politicians but by the entire population, also. The main message I sent was that it was about time to stop looking for certain, be it hidden or not, confrontation. We must start working together. Bulgaria has always done everything in its power to help Macedonia, ever since the country’s independence. I think that not only Albanian political parties, but all political parties, realise this. I will not allow, however, people to continue using abusive adjectives towards Bulgaria, like the ones I heard in Macedonia. Bulgaria is an EU member state and it reaches out its hand to Macedonia to help it. This is the very meaning of the treaty for friendship, we have offered to them. I think that the good tone in the conversations with the representatives of the government was very constructive. I hope that this area of trust would expand and we could show the EU that the Bulgarian – Macedonian relations are an example for good neighbourly relations, which help Macedonia become an EU member. There are a lot of reforms that need to be made in Macedonia, and many requirements need to be met, in order the country to walk its way to the EU. The more good examples Macedonians give in its cooperation with Bulgaria as an EU member state, the better for them.

Nikolay Mladenov: I think that if we are careful and straightforward in the expectations of both countries, we will be able to do everything possible to find the right text, the appropriate formulations, which will help us sign it. The proposal for this treaty is a reached out hand to Macedonia. We hope that they take the hand and judge it on its merit. I think that the good dialogue, I heard during my visit, will be very helpful.

Focus: In Serbia you told the representatives of the Bulgarian minority that Bulgaria does not have an alternative to its support for Serbia’s Eurointegration. Did the Bulgarians from the Western Outlands understand why Bulgaria has to support Serbia’s Eurointegration?

Nikolay Mladenov: Yes, I think that they did. At the end of the day, this is in Bulgaria’s and Serbia’s best interests, as well as in the best interest of our fellow countrymen living there. What I saw in Nis and in Dimitrovgrad was that these are places that have not seen new investment for quite a while. The people there lead a very limited life. This should be changed. It cannot be changed unless Serbia continues on its way to the EU. More specific issues will be solved in the pre-accession process.

Read the article on Focus Information Agency (Bulgaria)

Nikolay Mladenov, Bulgarian Minister of Foreign Affairs, in an interview for Focus News Agency

Focus: Mr Mladenov, the second part of your Balkan Tour starts with your visit to Montenegro today. What will be the main messages you will send to your colleagues in the remaining 5 Balkan countries, you are about to visit?

Nikolay Mladenov: There are two main accents of the visit. The first one will be in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where Bulgaria supported the decision of NATO to prepare and action plan for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s NATO membership. This was tied with the fulfilment of certain requirements. Now, together with our NATO allies, we must initiate specific measures, which would support Bosnia, so that it could fulfil the requirements and start its preparation for its future membership in the Alliance. Bulgaria did not only support that decision, but played an active part in its elaboration; that is why we have certain commitments at the moment, and we must come up with specific initiatives in Sarajevo.

The second accent will be Kosovo. My will is to become more familiar with the real information in the country, as well as to try and see what would be the means and ways to strengthen the institutions in Kosovo, so that they would have a modern administration, which would support the rights of both Kosovo Albanians and Kosovo Serbs, as well as the rights of all other minorities on Kosovo’s territory.

We start in Montenegro, where we have a very good dialogue with the Montenegrin government. It is also working on its preparation for NATO and EU memberships, and Bulgaria, from the very declaration of Montenegro’s independence, has come out with specific initiatives in support of the young country, on many occasions. Now we have to make a clear evaluation of the current stage of Montenegro’s progress, so that we could support it in its debate with EU.

Focus: This is the first Balkan Tour of a Bulgarian Foreign Minister since 2004, when Solomon Passy was minister; the configuration of the countries was a bit different back the, compared to the current situation, as Montenegro and Kosovo had not declared their independences. What will be your general message to your colleagues, as you have already met some of them at different international forums; what would you like them to see in the new Bulgarian government and its policy?

Nikolay Mladenov: I would like to say that I have met all of them, although some of them in the past. Firstly, I would like to show that Bulgaria shows real interest in the Balkans, and not only with words; secondly – we should show that there are a lot of issues that need to be resolved individually in each country, and that they should be solved through cooperation between all Balkan countries. Maybe, from a strategic point of view, the most important message should be that the policy on the Balkans should not only be seen in a paradigm “in order for one to win – another must lose”. We have a lot more possibilities to work together, and our cooperation should be made for the better interest of all countries. Last but not least, we must keep the debate for EU’s enlargement alive, within Europe, as considering the current situation in Greece, and the Lisbon Treaty, and all other internal issues that EU has to deal with; the enlargement topic seems to be left behind. It is of strategic importance for Bulgaria that all its neighbours fulfil the criteria for EU membership and become part of the EU family, eventually. I would consider these the accents of my Balkan Tour.

Focus: How will you convince the EU member states in the necessity for the enlargement in the Western Balkans? There were doubts regarding Bulgaria and Romania, and now the economic crisis and the situation in Greece…

Nikolay Mladenov: This is not a process that will be finished today or tomorrow. The important thing, however, is that our neighbours start gradually fulfilling the EU accession criteria, and to move step by step towards their EU membership. Our neighbours’ road towards the EU is very important for us. The gradual implementation of the European legislation’s common rules by all countries will lead to improved stability in the entire region; and it would imply general regulations that would be positive not only for the relations between the countries, but also for the investments. Bulgaria has the unique opportunity to be very useful with its experience from its EU accession – both positive and negative. We have learnt a lot of things on our way to Europe, and some of them – very painfully. I think that we should not be ashamed of our mistakes, or to try and hide them, on the contrary: if we admit our mistakes, we will be more useful to our neighbours, and we will be regarded more highly from our EU partners, if we behave in this manner. And not, as many people unfortunately react, to approach the issue in a slogan-like manner.

Focus: You had meetings in Macedonia with representatives of the Albanian political parties, and you read a lecture in the university in Tetovo, which is populated predominantly with Albanians. What was your main message towards them, and not only to the Macedonian politicians in Macedonia?

Nikolay Mladenov: During my entire Balkan Tour, I plan to have at least one public event in each country, where I address not only the politicians but the people, as well. Because the message Bulgaria sends has to be comprehended not only by the politicians but by the entire population, also. The main message I sent was that it was about time to stop looking for certain, be it hidden or not, confrontation. We must start working together. Bulgaria has always done everything in its power to help Macedonia, ever since the country’s independence. I think that not only Albanian political parties, but all political parties, realise this. I will not allow, however, people to continue using abusive adjectives towards Bulgaria, like the ones I heard in Macedonia. Bulgaria is an EU member state and it reaches out its hand to Macedonia to help it. This is the very meaning of the treaty for friendship, we have offered to them. I think that the good tone in the conversations with the representatives of the government was very constructive. I hope that this area of trust would expand and we could show the EU that the Bulgarian – Macedonian relations are an example for good neighbourly relations, which help Macedonia become an EU member. There are a lot of reforms that need to be made in Macedonia, and many requirements need to be met, in order the country to walk its way to the EU. The more good examples Macedonians give in its cooperation with Bulgaria as an EU member state, the better for them.

Nikolay Mladenov: I think that if we are careful and straightforward in the expectations of both countries, we will be able to do everything possible to find the right text, the appropriate formulations, which will help us sign it. The proposal for this treaty is a reached out hand to Macedonia. We hope that they take the hand and judge it on its merit. I think that the good dialogue, I heard during my visit, will be very helpful.

Focus: In Serbia you told the representatives of the Bulgarian minority that Bulgaria does not have an alternative to its support for Serbia’s Eurointegration. Did the Bulgarians from the Western Outlands understand why Bulgaria has to support Serbia’s Eurointegration?

Nikolay Mladenov: Yes, I think that they did. At the end of the day, this is in Bulgaria’s and Serbia’s best interests, as well as in the best interest of our fellow countrymen living there. What I saw in Nis and in Dimitrovgrad was that these are places that have not seen new investment for quite a while. The people there lead a very limited life. This should be changed. It cannot be changed unless Serbia continues on its way to the EU. More specific issues will be solved in the pre-accession process.

Read the article on Focus Information Agency (Bulgaria)

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