Frank‑Walter Steinmeier visited EU partner Bulgaria on 10 March. In the capital Sofia, he held talks with the President, Prime Minister and his Bulgarian counterpart, as well as with the Chairman of the Socialist Party and representatives from civil society.
Foreign Minister Steinmeier arrived in Bulgaria on Tuesday morning (10 March) after a slight delay owing to heavy snowfall in the capital Sofia. The political talks in the capital focused on current foreign and economic policy topics, as well as bilateral relations between Germany and the EU partner country.
Shortly before his trip, Steinmeier emphasised the following in an interview with the Bulgarian Kapital newspaper and the Dnevnik news portal:
In a conflict-stricken neighbourhood, a stable Bulgaria is a boon for all European partners. At the same time, this country benefits enormously – just like Germany – from the EU as a guarantor of peace, stability and solidarity.
Political talks in Sofia
Steinmeier first met his opposite number in Sofia, Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov. After their meeting, the two ministers gave a joint press conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Steinmeier and Mitov had last seen each other on Saturday at the EU foreign ministers meeting in Riga and will meet again in Brussels on 16 March. Foreign Minister Steinmeier said the following about these frequent opportunities to hold talks:
At the same time, this close dialogue is an expression of our long-standing and close relations (...) and is also important in view of the challenges that we are facing in very different ways.
Steinmeier cited the challenges facing common European security policy with regard to Ukraine and the economic difficulties that have yet to be overcome in the EU with respect to the crisis in Greece.
Looking to the conflict in Ukraine, Steinmeier emphasised that no one underestimated “the path that still lies ahead of us”. Economic aid for Ukraine is also important in the future, he said, adding that he continued to place his trust in a common European position.
Dialogue on economic relations and energy policy
Foreign Minister Steinmeier held intensive talks with Prime Minister Boyko Borisov on bilateral economic relations and energy policy issues.
Germany is Bulgaria’s most important trading partner, ahead of Russia and all other EU partners. Some 5000 German companies are already operating in Bulgaria. “However, German investors are hesitant. Indeed, some have even withdrawn because they found it difficult to deal with corruption and legal ambiguity”, said Foreign Minister Steinmeier.
Modernising the general conditions for foreign investment by carrying out measures and reforms in the judiciary and taking steps to fight corruption is, in Steinmeier’s view, “the best course of action”. In Sofia, Steinmeier assured the Bulgarian Government that Germany would help Bulgaria to implement “still necessary reforms”.
After talks with representatives from Bulgarian civil society and a meeting with the Chairman of the Bulgarian Socialist Party Mihail Mikov, Steinmeier was also received by President Rosen Plevneliev for a long meeting, which concluded his visit. The German Foreign Minister returned to Berlin on Tuesday evening.