President Vladimir Putin:
On the eve of my visit to Bulgaria I would like to share my thoughts about our current relations and the prospects for cooperation between our countries.
We share common spiritual and cultural traditions and linguistic affinities, as a result of the heroic efforts made by two saints esteemed equally in Russia and Bulgaria, Cyril and Methodius.
The most vivid pages of our joint history involve the liberation struggle of the Bulgarian people, when Russian volunteers fought for Bulgaria. These years marked an important stage in the establishment of civil society in Russia.
At that time, hand in hand with the Bulgarian militia, the Russian army contested every inch of ground, fighting for Bulgaria’s freedom and independence. Through the ages the Battles of Shipka Pass and Plevna have become part of our history. These were genuine people's conquests, and the sense of unity, steadfastness and heroism they represent will remain forever in our hearts. That is why in 2007 we celebrated the 130th anniversary of the liberation of your country from the Ottoman yoke, a truly momentous occasion for all of us.
The rapid and fundamental changes that have occurred in recent decades have of course affected Russian-Bulgarian relations. Our relations have traversed a new stage, caused by the formation of a new configuration in Europe and the world, and by the need to focus on the profound internal transformations in both countries.
I am pleased to note that today this phase has been completed and that together we are developing new relationships to meet the demands of a new era. They have been determined, not by ideological dogma, but by clearly defined national interests, a healthy pragmatism, mutual respect and mutual benefit.
We are convinced that, in a globalized world, security and prosperity are as inseparable as ever. Only on this basis can we build a peaceful future for our continent. We remain realistic and respect the motives that have guided you in your choice of national security systems.
The main thing for us is that Bulgaria’s interests not be implemented at the expense of the security of other countries. Bulgaria’s new alliance commitments should not become a barrier to the expansion of its relations with Russia. This approach enjoys broad public support in Russia and, I hope, in Bulgaria.
Only by taking into account each other’s positions and rejecting the stereotypes of the past, which, as experience shows, simply reproduce the old lines of division, can we achieve peace and prosperity. It is our conviction that a united Europe should be based on the time-tested principles of strict compliance with international law. By acting in this way, through joint efforts we can find ways to solve the most complex regional problems, of which the most obvious example in the Balkans is of course Kosovo. Here, our position is crystal clear: any solution for Kosovo must be approved by both parties. It is equally clear that any solution for Kosovo must be in keeping with international precedent and practice.
For our countries the obvious priority is the creation of conditions, including external conditions, for the systematic improvement of our citizens’ lives. We believe that a pragmatic approach based on people’s actual lives and genuine interests contributes to the strengthening of regional partnership in the economic field. Here our bilateral format fits naturally into pan-European cooperation. Several major joint energy projects, begun last year, constitute a clear example of this.
A dependable source of energy is becoming an increasingly important factor for progress. On the agenda today are the diversification of energy supply routes, the introduction of new insurance schemes and the sharing of financial risk among various partners. Such projects as Burgas-Alexandroupolis and Southern Stream are clearly in the long-term national interests of Russia and our European partners, including Bulgaria. Like the North European Gas Pipeline, they serve to strengthen energy security in Europe and to stimulate economic activity and job creation.
Another visible example of our interaction in the sphere of energy is the Belene nuclear power plant, Europe's largest construction project, launched in November 2006 with the participation of the Russian company Atomstroyexport. I am confident that its implementation will enable Bulgaria to become one of Europe's leading exporters of electric power by the start of the next decade.
The Black Sea region has always been a zone of shared interests for us. We are in favour of closer cooperation in the Black Sea region with any country genuinely interested in this. This approach defines our position in the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organisation (BSEC) and our pioneering role in the formation and development of the Black Sea Naval Co-operation Task Group (BLACKSEAFOR). Today, we are facing a broad range of challenges: from growth, to the conservation of the ecosystem of the Black Sea, to the preservation of its unique cultural heritage. We all have a responsibility to meet these challenges, in the interests of the stability and prosperity in our region generally.
We in Russia treasure the very close, centuries-old spiritual links that permeate the entire fabric of Russian-Bulgarian cooperation. The exchange of national years, which will begin during my visit to Sofia, will be a symbolic confirmation of the deep tradition of friendship and mutual respect of our peoples.
In conclusion I would like to emphasise the main thing: good relations between Russia and Bulgaria are ultimately an historical given. If you like, we are fated to be partners, and neither considerations of a new political conjuncture nor the rapid course of development in the modern world can change this reality. Therefore, we look forward to a new visit to Bulgaria and its hospitable people, and I contemplate the future of our relations with confidence.