Bulgaria is expecting tolerance from its neighbours and regarding Macedonia, there is no change in the openness of Bulgaria. This is what the Bulgaria foreign minister Ms. Rumyana Zheleva said at its first press conference after the formation of the new government more than a month ago. She answered a question of euinside on whether the attitude of Bulgaria toward Macedonia will change. For more specifics in her answer, she invited her deputy Mr Marin Raykov who is responsible for bilateral diplomacy and political relations.
"If there is a change, it is related to more sincerity in the communication with Macedonia because it is obvious and there should be no illusions that Bulgaria will insist on the Copenhagen criteria, including human rights and the rights of those people in Macedonia who define themselves as Bulgarians. These people are a live bridge between Macedonia and the EU. I believe that the communication of this country with its neighbours who are EU member states, is a very important precondition. In our relations with Macedonia there will be more sincerity and expectation all anticipations of Macedonian and Bulgarian citizens to be fulfilled", Mr. Raykov added.
euinside asked this question because of the case of Spaska Mitrova who has both Macedonian and Bulgarian citizenship and is jailed for 3 months for preventing her ex-husband from seeing their child. The child is temporarily taken by the social services in Macedonia. This case caused tension in the bilateral relations of Skopie and Sofia because of the speculations that the sentence of Mitrova is related it her Bulgarian citizenship. (you can read a commentary on the issue here)
Minister Zheleva added that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in a constant contact with Bulgaria's ambassador to Skopie, She said that this is a humanitarian and family issue: "We are doing everything possible the mother and her child to be reunited and this humanitarian and family issue to be solved with the due respect to all institutions, including the Macedonian court. But, in the same time, we are looking for possibilities to see what the violations are and what can additionally be done".
Beside this, Ms. Zheleva defined in short the main priorities of her team: full access to the EU funds, acceleration of Bulgaria's membership to the Schengen security area, active participation in all EU policies - for the Western Balkans, the countries of the Black Sea and the Danube policy. The new team of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has the ambition to increase the role of Bulgaria in global economy by finding new markets for Bulgarian production.
Minister Zheleva also announced that she is planning changes in the Diplomacy Law, that entered into force in the Autumn of 2007. The changes will affect the political appointments n diplomatic posts. The team of the ex foreign minister - Ivaylo Kalfin - planned 10% of all appointments to be political ones but the Parliament changed it to 20%.
Soon is expected a new concept to be developed for a communication strategy that is supposed to create a positive image of Bulgaria abroad. As part of this concept will also be the opening of the consular services not only to Bulgarians abroad by providing good services but also to foreigners who are interested in our country.
And regarding Russia, the position of the Bulgarian foreign minister is to avoid abrupt movements. Responding to the question of the Sofia correspondent of the ITAR-TASS news agency, she said that Bulgaria has traditionally quite food political relations with Russia. "We have extraordinary strong diplomatic relations and we have no reason to review them. Just the opposite, we will continue to develop them and to participate with a serious engagement in the EU's policies toward Russia". Rumyana Zheleva also reminded that the EU and Russia will soon sign a new partnership agreement.
You can read more details about one of the main priorities of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs - the EU funds - a little bit later on euinside.