On October 21st, the Bulgarian Vice Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva visited Moscow and had a bilateral meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
In opening, Lavrov stated:
“Dear Madam Minister,
We are glad to welcome you in Moscow and continue the dialogue, which has recently gained stability and dynamics. It seems to us that this reflects the interests of the peoples of our countries.
The relationship between us is based on deep historical and spiritual traditions. Last year, we celebrated the 140th anniversary of the liberation of Bulgaria as a result of the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-1878, and this year we celebrated the 140th anniversary of diplomatic relations. We are grateful to you for accepting our invitation. This is a good opportunity to discuss the full range of bilateral ties and exchange views on the situation in Europe and the world as a whole.
This is the first time a Bulgarian foreign minister visits Russia since 2011.
On July 7th, 2019, Russia and Bulgaria celebrated 140 years of diplomatic relations. The scientific conferences and the joint issue of the anniversary postage stamp took place on that date. A documentary exhibition based on materials from the Archive of the Foreign Policy of the Russian Empire was held at the Russian Foreign Ministry.
In recent years, there has been an intensification of political dialogue between our countries. In May 2018, Bulgarian President Rumen Radev and Prime Minister Boyko Borisov made working visits to Russia. In October of the same year, on the sidelines of the Asia-Europe Summit (ASEM) in Brussels, the Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation, Dmitry Medvedev, met with Prime Minister Boyko Borisov.
2019 was also full of political contacts: Dmitry Medvedev had an official visit to Sofia in March. Negotiations between President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and Bulgarian President Rumen Radev took place on the sideliens of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in June, as well as an official visit by the Chairman of the Bulgarian National Assembly Tsveta Karayancheva to Russia in the end of June provided Russian-Bulgarian relations an additional impetus.
The meeting between Lavrov and Zaharieva covered various topic, mostly focused on trade and economic cooperation. Russia is one of the main foreign trade partners of Bulgaria and one of the main countries for inbound tourism in Bulgaria.
511,000 Russian tourists visited Bulgaria in 2018, which ranks Russia sixth in number of tourists that come to Bulgaria.
According to the Russian side, about 300,000 Russian citizens own real estate in our country. The Bulgarian Consular Service in Moscow annually issues around 200,000 visas, which is about half the number of visas issued by all Bulgarian overseas missions.
Russia remains one of Bulgaria’s main foreign trade partners. Russia is responsible for 5.8% of Bulgaria’s total foreign trade. Russia is also a major supplier of oil, LNG and nuclear fuel to our country, as well as a major partner in the modernization of the Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant. In 2018, the State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom made it possible to safely operate the 5th and 6th power units of this nuclear power plant in excess of the design term of up to 60 years.
According to the Federal Customs Service of Russia, in 2018, bilateral trade amounted to $ 3.47 billion (+0.6%). Over the eight months of this year, there has been a decline in mutual trade by 10% compared to the same period in 2018 ($ 2.04 billion; our supplies decreased by 12.7%, Bulgarian supplies grew by 4.9%).
Constraining factors in the development of trade and economic ties remain the sanctions policy of the European Union and the response of the Russian Federation.
The primary role in the development of economic relations is played by the bilateral Intergovernmental Commission on Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation. On September 16-17th, 2019 in Varna, the XVII meeting of the Intergovernmental Commission allowed for the successful dialogue in terms of energy, and cooperation in the field of sports.
The Bulgarian authorities are taking steps to organize gas transit through the second branch of the Turkish Stream, which would allow delivery of up to 15.8 billion cubic meters annually to Europe.
In September 2019 in Bulgaria, formal procedures related to the selection of a contractor for the expansion of the gas transportation infrastructure under the Turkish Stream capacity were completed. And the project is reportedly moving towards full implementation.
The Bulgarian leadership continues to resume the construction of the Belene Nuclear Power Plant. Rosatom is a main party to the negotiations.
Quite a few Bulgarian students go to study in higher education in Russia, and Russian language is still one of the most popular foreign languages to learn in the country.
For the year 2019/2020, 230 Bulgarian students enrolled into free higher education in Russia. The Russian Foreign Ministry and the Russian Ministry of Education and Science are considering the possibility of increasing quotas for Bulgarian citizens.
Of course, the relationship is not without its issues, with Bulgaria taking part in some of the Western establishment’s attempts at history rewriting, claiming that the Russian army that liberated the country in 1878 wasn’t simply Russia, but also Romanian and Hungarian, and so forth.
In addition, the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry condemned an exhibition by the Russian Embassy in Sofia, since the Red Army’s success against Nazism was rejected and was claimed that the Bolsheviks only brought repression to Europe, and to Bulgaria.
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