The Balkans: peace, stability and prosperity
The prime ministers of Bulgaria, Romania and Greece and the president of Serbia reach agreement on common goals in Varna
7 October, 2017
A Varna group has been born (an allusion to the Visegrad Group – editor’s note). This is how Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, a teasing smile on his face, summarised the results of the quadrilateral summit between the premiers of Bulgaria, Romania and Greece and the president of Serbia, held at the Euxinograd Residence in Varna, 3 October.
Prior to the meeting between Boyko Borisov, Mihai Tudose, Alexis Tsipras and Aleksandar Vucic, the residence hosted a joint session of the Bulgarian and Romanian governments. Borisov and Tudose also opened the Kaynardzha-Lipnitsa border checkpoint.
The leaders of the four countries sent a message of peace and prosperity, as they rallied behind the idea of a strong Balkan region and Serbia’s accession to the European Union.
“Our wish is for the Balkans to be a place of peace, stability, prosperity, rising incomes and thriving businesses and tourism, as well as a symbol of successful joint projects. Together with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, we view Bulgaria’s upcoming presidency of the Council of the EU as a concerted effort because it is important for Bulgaria and Greece to be driving forces in that aspect. Serbia is of great importance and its place is in the EU,” explained Borisov following the meeting. However, he was quick to clarify that this alliance is not a step toward the creation of another version of the Visegrad Group. “We, on the Balkans, are in agreement that there should be no dominant powers but that we should develop our relations in a way that would make the peninsula a place of peace, stability and prosperity. Combined, our four countries represent no small market. GDP is increasing. This is not an alliance against someone. We want to help the EU be at ease when it comes to our region. Our voice is heard because we have good arguments, programme and understanding. We offer a coming together for the sake of Europe. Today, we are doing something beneficial for Europe,” Borisov noted.
“Serbia is on a steady course to joining Europe and I am grateful to these three countries for their support. I believe that together we can do a great deal for our citizens and our standards of living,” commented Aleksandar Vucic. Tsipras is also of the opinion that the four countries have the potential to play a crucial role with regard to the region’s stability. “The Balkans are a key region. In the past, it was an area of conflict, but today it can be a source of hope for cooperation and joint efforts. All four countries, teaming up together, have the chance to multiply its influence,” Tsipras said.
According to the four leaders, stability can be achieved through infrastructure and energy projects and connectivity, for the implementation of which funds will be sought from the World Bank, the Juncker Plan, EBRD and investors such as China.
Earlier, following the meeting between Borisov and Tudose, it was revealed that joint investments are in the works for three infrastructure projects – a second Danube bridge near Rousse that would have a road connection to the Hemus highway; a possible Nikopol-Turnu Magurele bridge; and a 200km highway from Constanta to Burgas via Varna. Bulgaria and Romania also signed an agreement that allows them to provide each other electric power in cases of emergency. At Tudose’s suggestion, the two countries will also work towards setting up trade ventures for joint exports of chilled lamb and livestock, as well as fruits and vegetables. Tudose predicts that the Schengen area membership is a realistic possibility next year and expressed support for the Balkan Gas Hub. “It is apparent that our two countries are islands of safety, security and stability for citizens. These situations are becoming increasingly rare both in western European countries and globally speaking,” Tudose noted.