The Defense Ministers of Bulgaria and North Macedonia: We are Ready to Strengthen CooperationDefense | May 20, 2022, Friday // 12:22| views
Hours after EU Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi left Bulgaria with a message that he would return in three weeks to seek Bulgaria's consent to start talks with the Republic of North Macedonia, the military minister of our southwestern neighbor arrived in Bulgaria. Slavjanka Petrovska and her Bulgarian counterpart Dragomir Zakov want to speed up dialogue between the two countries in the field of defense.
"This meeting is a great sign that as NATO members Bulgaria and the RNM have an extremely important role in the region to maintain stability and security. We have a very important task before us and future generations - never again the Balkans and in particular the Western Balkans to be mentioned as Europe's powder keg. It is the responsibility of both sides to ensure that this continues to be the case in the future - that the Balkans are never a source of tension and military conflict in Europe." This was stated by the Minister of Defense Dragomir Zakov after the meeting with the Minister of Defense of the Republic of North Macedonia.
“We were unanimous that because of the war in Ukraine there are serious risks for the countries of the Western Balkans and as NATO members we must do everything necessary to prevent the war from spreading beyond Ukraine's borders”, Zakov added.
“Both countries are victims of cyber attacks and hybrid attacks, and we must cooperate bilaterally to manage these risks”, Zakov said.
He reminded that Bulgaria was one of the first countries to ratify the protocol on the accession of the Republic of North Macedonia to NATO. “For us, North Macedonia's membership in NATO is a guarantor of the country's territorial integrity and security”, Zakov said.
He reminded that servicemen from both countries are actively participating in joint exercises.
A number of other issues were discussed at the meeting, such as the way we can work on Bulgarian military cemeteries.
Bulgaria is ready to strengthen bilateral cooperation in the field of defense because we share common values, destiny, history and future, said the Minister of Defense.
For her part, Slavjanka Petrovska said that they had agreed to further strengthen the joint work so far. The negotiation of the education of military doctors at the Naval School in Varna and the Military Medical Academy in Sofia is in the final phase. Officers from the Army of the Republic of North Macedonia will be sent to the Military Academy in Sofia. Bulgarian soldiers were part of the exercises in Macedonia in 2019-2020. An invitation was issued for a joint exercise at the RNM in the Krivolak Center.
Petrovska said North Macedonia supports Finland and Sweden's NATO bid. According to her, after February 24, nothing is the same. Russia's aggression against Ukraine has proved that there is no lasting peace. The new geopolitical architecture of the continent requires cohesion and common work and collective security.
Petrovska's visit is a continuation of high-level contacts launched earlier this year in a bid to normalize relations between the two countries in the context of the European integration of the Republic of North Macedonia, vetoed first by France and then Bulgaria since 2020.
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