site.btaUPDATED President Radev: Bulgaria to Guarantee Energy Security of Partners in the Region
On his arrival in Brussels on Thursday for the two-day European Council summit, Bulgarian President Rumen Radev told reporters that Bulgaria is becoming a guarantor of the energy security of its partners in the region.
He said Sofia's proposal to link up the gas transmission networks of Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Austria had received very high praise. This will make it possible to transmit Azeri gas supplies. Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev is going to pay a visit to Bulgaria. A memorandum will be signed, turning Bulgaria from a country through which Russian gas was transited into an active distributor of gas from various sources, Radev said.
The President said the caretaker government had not waived EU funding for energy transition. He put down a statement by European Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms Elisa Ferreira to a misunderstanding. This year Bulgaria is to get EUR 800 million provided it submits plans by the year's end, Radev said.
Ferreira said on Tuesday the Commission had been informed by the government in Sofia that this year it would not be interested in starting the implementation of the Just Transition Plan.
The President said Bulgaria would insist on technological neutrality in the future EU legislation on environmentally sustainable production methods, which for now provides for the exclusion of certain nuclear technologies. Only small modular reactors and Gen 4 reactors, which are still being designed, are included, he said. He insists that the legislation should include all the existing nuclear technologies, and noted that Bulgaria had already lost much by shutting down the four 440-megawatt reactors of its Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant. "We are still bearing the consequences of this," he said.
President Radev also commented on the EU's plan to supply 1 million rounds of ammunition to Ukraine within a year, Russian assets, illegal migration, Bulgaria's Schengen entry and Skopje's policies towards Macedonian Bulgarians.
Radev said Bulgaria and nine more EU countries are not part of the EU plan to provide Ukraine with one million artillery shells. Bulgaria is an important part of the European Peace Facility, which envisages strengthening the EU Member States' defence capabilities. "We highly appreciate the visit by European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton," the President said, referring to Breton's meetings with defence industry manufacturers last week.
"We will work with the European Commission towards larger investments in Bulgaria's defence industry so as to increase its capacity, upgrade operations, replenish our stocks and help EU and NATO countries replenish their stocks. Bulgaria is not participating in the joint provision of shells to Ukraine," Radev said.
Asked by the press what happens if a country buys shells from Bulgaria and it turns out that they are going to Ukraine, the President said that it is the responsibility of the buyer country.
A reporter then asked the President: "If today, at 15:30, any country asks [to buy shells from Bulgaria], are we going to set a condition that they don't end up in Ukraine?". The President answered, "Of course we are going to!".
He further said that he expects - and calls on the next parliament to put first increasing the defence capacity of Bulgaria. "If parliament, again, calls for arms supplies for Ukraine by the Bulgarian army, it should have the courage to form a regular government to take the responsibility before Bulgarian people."
"I cannot say if Bulgaria has frozen Russian assets. The parameters are yet to be discussed, this is a very complex process," he said, referring to the EU's intention to use seized Russian assets for the reconstruction of Ukraine.
The caretaker government has made progress in curbing illegal migration, Radev said. Talking about the European Commission's pilot project with Bulgaria on preventing irregular arrivals, strengthening border and migration management, he said the technical support which will be provided on EU funding is no less important than the border fence.
Traffickers from almost all EU Member States have been arrested in Bulgaria. Upon questioning, it emerges that the masterminds and the financial centres of this powerful international network are in countries which are attractive to migrants. "Until we tackle those centres, there will always be traffickers," Radev said.
Bulgaria is receiving increasing support for its entry in Schengen, he said, adding: "We have been given a specific time-frame, I hope the next government and the next Parliament will keep this momentum and will adopt the necessary laws. If we implement all the important steps and the very important legislation, Bulgaria can join the Schengen area in October."
Radev also commented on Skopje's decision to remove the Ivan Mihailov Association in Bitola from the register. This is considered very bad news in the EU, he said. This decision is a sign of panic, of frustration, because the authorities in Skopje should finally recognize that there have been Macedonian Bulgarians, a Bulgarian presence in the Republic of North Macedonia, for centuries, for 1,300 years, that there is Bulgarian history and cultural-historical heritage, he said. Deleting the names of the Bulgarian clubs will not erase the determination of Bulgaria, the EU institutions and Bulgaria's European partners to have the Republic of North Macedonia include Macedonian Bulgarians in it Constitution. "This is the starting point for our neighbour's EU integration," he said. The problem is clear enough, the question is when the Republic of North Macedonia will finally meet not Bulgaria's, but the EU's expectations and requirements, Radev added.