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SPEECHES, INTERVIEWS, ARTICLES

09.07.2014

Interview given by Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, to Focus Bulgarian news agency, published on 7 July 2014

Question: In the 135 years of the diplomatic relations between Russia and Bulgaria, our countries have experienced all the turbulences in the European continent, lived through different regimes, types of political order, wars and conflicts. What is most important for the Bulgarian-Russian relations today? What should we know, remember and transfer to next generations?

Sergey Lavrov: It is important to see the main thing behind all the turns in the history of the Russian-Bulgarian relations – the deep mutual affection between two fraternal nations.

The special nature of Russian-Bulgarian ties is mainly conditioned by the closeness of our people, common Slavic roots, and spiritual and cultural heritage. When we are talking about the many-age old fundamentals of friendship between Russian and Bulgarian people, we remember Saints Cyril and Methodius, whom Russians and Bulgarians respect equally the names of Cyprian, Metropolitan of Moscow, and Metropolitan Kliment of Turnovo, General Mikhail Skobelev and Duke Nikolay Ignatyev.

Russia has always respected the Bulgarian people for the fact that they choose their development path independently. For instance, the instruction to the Russian Imperial Commissary in Bulgaria, Alexander, Dondukov-Korsakov, of 10 April 1878 emphasised: “The task of Russia is … not to destroy, but to create, not to arouse discord in the population, but to make all the elements closer and harmonise them”.

Our unique traditions of friendship hark back to our modern victories, which we secured in the fight for liberation of Bulgaria. The today’s evidences of them are the monument to Plevna Heroes in the centre of Moscow and the monument to the Tsar-Liberator and a monument temple to the Saint Alexander Nevsky in Sofia.

I am convinced that these common historical memories should be carefully preserved and transferred to the future generations, ensuring sustainability and the consistent development of equal and mutually beneficial Russian-Bulgarian cooperation for the benefit of our countries and people.

Question: What are the most important characteristics of our relations at the moment?

Sergey Lavrov: Russian-Bulgarian relations are characterised by fruitful interaction in different directions.

Our trade and economic ties are developing successfully. In 2013, the turnover of goods between our countries was 2.9 billion US dollars. In the past decade, the volume of Russian corporate investments into the Bulgarian economy reached 2 billion US dollars.

The most significant investment projects include the large-scale modernisation of the fuel and petrochemical refinery of the Russian KN Lukoil in Burgas, which is the largest in the Balkans. Today this company brings us about 25 percent of the total tax income to the Bulgarian budget. Other successful examples of cooperation are the creation of a unique Resort Complex of Kamchia, which was built on the Bulgarian coast of the Black Sea for the funds of the Government of Moscow and the development of the network of petrol stations of OAO Gazprom.

According to the available assessments, over 300,000 Russian bought real estate in the territory of Bulgaria for the total amount of 4-5 billion US dollars. The growing trend of the flow of tourists to Bulgaria, over 680,000 of our nationals visited your country last year, confirms the genuine interest of Russians in Bulgaria.

Active contacts within the ambit of parliaments, sectorial ministries and agencies, regions, community and religious associations contribute to the extension of multifaceted Russian-Bulgarian ties.

Of course, cooperation in the cultural and humanitarian area is an important component of Russian-Bulgarian ties. Last year, large-scale events devoted to 135 years of liberation of Bulgaria from the Osman yoke were held in our countries. This year we celebrate 135 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Russia and Bulgaria.

There is a great potential for further extension of Russian-Bulgarian ties. The implementation of large joint projects, including in the area of energy, will contribute to Bulgaria’s economic development, reinforcement of its energy security and the increase of welfare of its nationals.

Question: In your opinion, are Bulgaria and Russia countries, which are related by history, traditions, Slavic roots and Orthodox faith, equal partners or opponents members from confronting blocs?

Sergey Lavrov: There are no confronting military and political blocs in Europe today. The logics of bloc confrontation, geopolitical games with zero result are part of the archaic ideological baggage of the “cold war” and is counter-productive in today’s world. The events in Ukraine and surrounding area are a particular evidence of this.

It is evident that only by combining our efforts, we can flourish and achieve welfare in the European continent, reinforce our stability and successfully fight against trans-border challenges and threats. The most important landmarks in this work are ensuring equal and undivided security for everyone and the use of international law as a foundation and reinforcement of the central role of the UN.. Principles of respect for the sovereignty of states, non-interference into their internal affairs are vital, which means that any attempts to stimulate anti-state coups and destabilise internal political stability are unacceptable.

In its foreign policy Russia consistently believes that we should search for a resolution to global and regional problems though the search for compromises. We believe that on such foundations Russia and the EU, the two largest players on the European continent, will be able to advance in the prospect of the implementation of creating a common economic and humanitarian space stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean – with participation of all other interested states, of course. I am convinced that we have all necessary prerequisites for the implementation of this ambitious task – common civilizational and cultural roots, high degree of complementarity of our economies, commitment to single trade rules of trade according to WTO norms.

We view Bulgaria as an important partner, and we build our dialogue with it in a pragmatic and mutually beneficial way. For us, Russian-Bulgarian relations have value in themselves – we are convinced that they should not become a hostage of external factors, dependant on fluctuations in the political climate. In particular, it is important that Bulgaria’s membership in the European Union does not negatively affect our bilateral cooperation, including the implementation of mutually beneficial projects, including in the energy area.

Question: Europe criticised the South Stream many times. How should Brussels and Moscow work to tone down the contradictions with regard to this project, and what is the role of Bulgaria in this process?

Sergey Lavrov: It is evident for us that the South Stream will make a weighty contribution to the complex energy security of Europe, contributing to the diversification of gas supply routes, which will allow to reduce transit risks. Everyone will benefit from it – Russia and European consumers, including Bulgaria, of course. With regard to our country, I mean, in particular, the participation of Bulgarian companies in the construction of the gas pipe, the creation of new jobs, the inflow of billion investments and new technologies, and prospectively large transit duty income and guaranteed long-term gas supplies. The demand for the South Stream of Bulgarian and the entire Southern Europe was generally emphasised many times by Bulgarian leaders.

We know that the European Commission has its own vision with regard to the construction and further functioning of the gas pipe in the context of provisions of the EU Third Energy Package. For our part, we believe that the bilateral intergovernmental agreements concluded between Russia and members states of the South Stream are fundamental legal documents for the implementation of this project. European Union laws should not be applied retrospectively, to impede the performance of earlier agreements.

We intend consistently promote this project. We should not allow for Europe to be used for somebody’s interests, so that our joint continent becomes a hostage to short-sighted ideology-driven approach.

We are ready for a constructive dialogue with all the interested parties. This January, a special Russia-EU work group on issues of implementation of the South Stream was created, within the framework of which experts started to develop potential outcomes. Earlier we offered to the EU to conclude a special bilateral agreement regulating the principles of the functioning of trans-border energy infrastructure. A draft of this document was prepared and submitted to Brussels.

We are convinced that the countries of the European Union, including Bulgaria, should play a more active role in the dialogue between Russia and the European Commission, because this project is significant for their national economies and increasing of energy security.

 




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