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Visit of Foreign Minister Schallenberg in Bulgaria

AUSTRIA, May 8 - On Europe Day, Foreign Minister Schallenberg visited Bulgaria and met with representatives of the Bulgarian government in Sofia. In addition to meetings with Foreign Minister Teodora Genchovska and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Assen Vassilev, the itinerary also included a meeting with President Rumen Radev. Aside from the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine, the talks mainly focussed on the EU expansion process in the Western Balkans.

We cannot lose the Western Balkans. We need to move quickly now. Bulgaria will see a massive benefit when it is almost completely surrounded by EU states,

emphasised Foreign Minister Schallenberg.

Just as Austria had already fully supported Bulgaria's EU accession in the mid-2000s, Austria has also always been a strong supporter of expanding the EU to include the Western Balkan states. In particular, the early start of accession negotiations with Albania and Northern Macedonia must be a priority here. For Foreign Minister Schallenberg, this is not a bureaucratic process but an absolute geostrategic necessity, and an opportunity to export the Western model of life.

In Sofia, Schallenberg expressed his sympathy for the “sensitive areas” between the neighbouring countries of Bulgaria and Northern Macedonia. Nonetheless, he called on Bulgaria to lift its veto and to resolve these problems during the accession negotiations.

The importance of stability for Europe can also be seen from the severe effects that the Russian war of aggression is having well beyond Ukraine’s borders. Not only are supply chains being disrupted, but Europe’s entire energy security is at risk. Just this April, Russia halted its gas deliveries to Bulgaria and Poland.

The Russian attempt to weaken energy security in Europe by stopping gas deliveries to Bulgaria and Poland is absolutely unacceptable. In the medium term, as this Russian move shows us, there is no way around transforming our energy supply chains and massively increasing investments in renewable energies,

said Foreign Minister Schallenberg.

The visit to Bulgaria not only demonstrated the close friendship between Bulgaria and Austria, who among other things sit next to each other at the European Council, but also the economic ties between the two countries. Around 350 Austrian companies now provide 20,000 jobs in Bulgaria.

Following the visit to Bulgaria, Foreign Minister Schallenberg continued his trip and visited Northern Macedonia.