© Copyright Embassy of Greece 1996-2005. All Rights Reserved.
27 August, 1998
Prime Minister Costas Simitis held talks focusing on economic issues yesterday with his Bulgarian counterpart Ivan Kostov, who was in Athens on a one-day working visit. After the meeting, attended also by Development Minister Vasso Papandreou, Mr. Simitis hosted a working luncheon for Mr. Kostov, at which the two leaders were expected to discuss issues related to the Balkans, the crisis in the Yugoslav province of Kosovo and developments in the European Union.
Speaking to reporters before the lunch, Mr. Simitis said Greek-Bulgarian relations were at a very good level, stressing that any problems which did arise were effectively dealt with, while both countries are getting nearer to attaining their common objective, namely, excellent communication. Underlining the importance of frequent contacts and exchanges of views between Greece and Bulgaria, but also among the Balkan countries in general, Mr. Simitis said the aim was "for us to attain the level of institutional contacts which exists among EU countries".
Commenting on his first round of talks with Mr. Kostov, Mr. Simitis said they had discussed the planned Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil pipeline, the nuclear plant at Kozloduy in northern Bulgaria, road connections along the Greek-Bulgarian border, cooperation in the customs sector, avoidance of double taxation and matters related to vis a requirements.
Regarding the oil pipeline, Mr. Simitis said he had agreed with Mr. Kostov that Bulgaria "must put certain questions to the Russian side about matters requiring some clarification and then we shall examine any problems which there may be". Replying to a question, the premier said that as far as the Greek government was concerned, the feasibility of the pipeline project was "taken for granted".
"The Greek side believes that the project should go ahead but it also believes that it is a project involving private enterprises, not the Greek state," he said, while clarifying that the Greek state would support the companies involved but would not assume any of the risk. Regarding the Kozloduy nuclear plant, the safety of which has repeatedly been questioned, Mr. Simitis said Mr. Kostov had supplied a series of data, on the basis of which the Greek Atomic Energy Commission would examine any problems which may exist.
He stressed also that the primary concern of both sides was for the safety of the two countries' populations.
Mr. Simitis described as "satisfactory" the progress in the construction of road connections along the Greek-Bulgarian border and announced that the two countries would be working closely to combat smuggling.
Mr. Simitis said a solution had been found for the avoidance of double taxation, noting that both sides had agreed any regulation of the matter should be adapted to meet developments.
On the issue of visas, Mr. Simitis said the foreign ministries of the two countries would be in contact to minimise any problems. He also announced that the possibility would be examined of creating a Free Movement Zone in a depth of 25 kilometres on either side of the Greek-Bulgarian border.
Mr. Kostov said his talks with Mr. Simitis were positive and underlined the readiness of the two countries to make further efforts to develop bilateral relations through "open contacts".
Referring to the Kozloduy issue, Mr. Kostov listed the information he had given to Mr. Simitis and stressed that there had been no accident at the plant during its entire period of operation.
He acknowledged though that some "low level minor incidents" had occurred which however did not involve any leaks of radioactivity. Mr. Kostov agreed that the oil pipeline constituted a plan for private enterprises and interests, which nevertheless was of great importance for both Greece and Bulgaria.
He said the issue would be raised in Moscow today by ministers accompanying Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov on a trip to Russia. Mr. Kostov expressed satisfaction with the progress of work for the construction of three new border crossings as well as the level of cooperation between the customs authorities of the two countries. "We would be very pleased if progress was made regarding the issue of visas, particularly for businessmen," he added.
Mr. Kostov thanked the Greek government for its assistance in Sofia's efforts to attain what he described as Bulgaria's two most important foreign policy objectives, namely the country's accession to the European Union and NATO.
Source: Athens News Agency