The latest actions of the Boyko Borissov’s cabinet only confirm the truth in his statements that the Western Balkans priority would be kept within this country’s foreign policy even after the end of its rotational EU Presidency. Borissov’s talks in Thessaloniki the other day and yesterday in Bosnia and Herzegovina not only confirmed, but also objectified some of the major policies of Sofia in that sphere. This Balkan activity was shown by the government right before the Sofia-held meeting of the 16+1 initiative. Its major goal is to develop economic cooperation and the investments between China in Central and Eastern Europe - and the Western Balkans are an integral part of the latter. Infrastructure is one of the initiative’s areas of priority this year and infrastructural projects were the major topic during the visits of PM Borissov in Thessaloniki and Sarajevo.
At the quadrilateral meeting in Thessaloniki of premiers of Bulgaria, Greece and Romania and the president of Serbia, Bulgarian PM Boyko Borissov paid most attention to the infrastructure and transport connectivity issues of the region. Now he linked the subject with the necessity of the development of the railway systems and marine, also river transportation – that should be accompanied by efforts for the maximum easing of cargos’ import into harbors. The same thesis was further developed during the Thessaloniki meeting of the four states’ ministers of transport. The Bulgarian party informed there on its readiness as of early 2019 to introduce digital taxation of vehicles on highways. It also proclaimed its stance in favor of the achieving of operative compatibility for the taxation systems of the neighboring countries and confirmed its readiness to work for the construction of the greatest number possible of roads and railways, which would guarantee transport connectivity of those states, strengthening the trade and economic links with them.
The Sofia cabinet has also approved this week a Memorandum for the Establishment of an Executive Council for the Alpine – Western Balkan rail freight corridor. This infrastructure also aims at improving the connectivity and turnover with the Western Balkan states. A March 2018 decision stated that the corridor should be commissioned within two years as part of the European railroad network for competitive freight transport.
However, both in Thessaloniki and Sarajevo PM Borissov reminded a key prerequisite for the European integration of the Western Balkans. At the quadrilateral meeting he stated the need of friendship, compromise and understanding between everybody in the region. In Sarajevo his words were that the Western Balkans priority remained into force, but the countries of the region should overcome their differences. Borissov outlined the good neighboring treaty between Bulgaria and Macedonia as an example of overcoming of differences, and also the Athens – Skopje treaty on the name of Macedonia. We are about to witness whether these examples will be followed, mostly in the complicated relations between Serbia and Kosovo and the solving of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s domestic discrepancies.
English version: Zhivko Stanchev