Three Balkan countries aim to jointly tackle regional and European challenges.
By Paul Ciocoiu for Southeast European Times in Bucharest
Romanian, Bulgarian, and Greek ministers of foreign affairs pledged to co-ordinate their countries' EU enlargement policy on the Western Balkans, regional and cross-border co-operation, and EU external border security in an effort to bolster common growth and regional stability, with an emphasis on fighting illegal immigration and trans-border criminality.
The ministers met in Sofia this month at the eighth trilateral meeting of foreign ministers in Sofia. The meeting, which aims to foster lasting co-operation and co-ordination among the three countries on their European and regional issues, is also part of the mission to dispel a widely-perceived disunity prejudice in the Balkans, officials told SETimes.
"The trilateral format evolved and is currently focusing on both co-ordinating the three states' positions on the main themes on the European agenda, promoting in EU and NATO where the three countries have a significant expertise and share common interests: the Western Balkans and Black Sea region," Romanian ministry of foreign affairs told SETimes.
First launched in 1995, the trilateral meetings focused on the three main issues -- politics, regional developments dialogues and economic co-operation.
During the meeting, Bulgaria's Nikolay Mladenov, Romania's Titus Corlatan, and Greece's Dimitris Avramapoulos agreed to strengthen economic co-operation, focusing on energy and infrastructure projects, opportunities within the EU strategy for the Danube region and other EU initiatives.
In a final joint declaration, the three countries voiced support for an accelerated EU accession of the Western Balkans states, provided that the accession criteria are fully met. They also renewed their support to maintain the liberalised visa regime for the region.
"The aim is to remove all the black holes in the Western Balkans so there'll be no dysfunctions in the region," Niculae Mircovici, a lawmaker representing the Bulgarian minority in the Romanian parliament, told SETimes.
Diplomats hailed the Sofia meeting achievements as historic.
"The trilateral meeting demonstrates the determination and willingness of the three countries to represent a pillar of stability in this historically entrapped region of Europe," Georgios Poukamissas, Greek ambassador to Romania, told SETimes.
"This historical chance is really important, that the three countries have a common goal on the Western Balkans, Black Sea region, with other timely developments in the EU, for instance, the discussion envisaging the 2014-2020 financial frameworks. I hope such meetings with a spirit of resolve and solidarity bring the three countries even closer one to one another," he added.
Mircovici emphasised that "a common voice in Sofia on various important themes, and this is even more important since it paves the way for the three countries' rotating EU presidency."
Greece, Bulgaria, and Romania are scheduled to take over the presidency of the EU council in 2014, 2018 and 2019 respectively.
"The level and intensity of discussions suggest that a regional approach could expand in the future, which will only benefit Southeast European countries and the EU," Mircovici said.
The trilateral meeting joins the other regional co-operation structures, such as the Southeast Europe Co-operation Process and the Regional Co-operation Council, which aim to realise the EU perspective of all the states in these organisations.
"This is why Romania will promote, during the [Southeast Europe Co-operation Process] presidency in June 2013-June 2014, a future-oriented approach, and bend on achieving visible results to benefit both, the region, and each member state," the Romanian ministry of foreign affairs said in a statement.