It is a great pleasure for me to be in Bucharest. I would like to thank the Prime Minister of Romania for the warm hospitality and to congratulate her on taking office. It is clear that this initiative, which began a few months ago, a year ago, less than a year ago, the initiative of the meeting of four Balkan countries, three member states of the European Union and Serbia, a country that wishes and is working in order to become a member of the European Union, is an initiative that is of particular importance as it aims at the cooperation for co-development, peace, stability, security in our wider region.
It is well known to all of us that the Balkans are an area that has always faced multiple challenges. It is an area that has been tested by nationalisms, controversies, wars, conflicts. But it is, also, an area that has significant potential and we are here to face the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities. Therefore, I believe, that this form of quadrilateral cooperation between our countries, which is becoming an institution, it is extremely important that it has as its primary objective that we, the Balkan countries, are to determine the developments in our region based on our own priorities, the priorities of our peoples, our countries, and not on the basis of third-party targets and agendas. With the aim, I repeat, with the aim of the Balkans of growth, stability and outward-looking at a difficult time, in the era of globalization, and that means we must work together to seize the opportunities that we have before us.
The vision of cooperation and co-development of the Balkan countries is not a new vision. It is an old vision, which has been tested many times in history but, I believe, today it not only remains but it is timelier than ever. Under modern terms, of course, under the terms of dialogue and not exclusions and unilateral actions, such as those we unfortunately have experienced in the Balkans in recent years. I would, also, like to say that I agree with what Boyko said about the prospect of the Western Balkans and the Balkan countries, which is the European perspective. And I believe that it is clear that our initiatives must be oriented towards European integration and the European perspective of the Western Balkans. Today, we need to build a European vision for the future of the region, in terms, of course of fulfilling the criteria set by the European Union regarding reforms and ensuring good neighborliness.
I would like to remind you that Greece is a country that has supported this prospect. This debate began and its first round was completed with the accession to the European Union fifteen years ago with the Thessaloniki agenda for the Western Balkans and the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the European Union among other countries, of course, and it is important that we will continue from where we were on the agenda of the 2003 Thessaloniki Summit, in Sofia in a few days, on May 16 and 17 at the Balkan Summit, the European Union – Western Balkans Summit. I would, also, like to remind you that this idea of the Sofia Summit for the Western Balkans was an idea that was a result of our meetings and we first announced it, if I am not mistaken, in Varna at the first quadrilateral summit. Boyko had, in fact, described the Bulgarian Presidency as a Balkan Presidency, and in this sense it is of particular value and importance that we all work for the Presidency in order to succeed the Bulgarian and Balkan as well as the Sofia Summit. And, of course, the Romanian Presidency is also of particular importance in the second half of 2019, as it will also be an important presidency for the Balkan region and we will support it with all our strength.
Of particular importance is the fact that we are here today with the Serbian President and we are actively supporting the European perspective of Serbia, a country that has worked hard and is working hard on this prospect, its European perspective. An important country for the wider region and a country which in the past has suffered severe consequences of wrong choices on the West side and perhaps it is time to capitalize on these efforts and heal the great wounds scribed in the Balkans centered on Serbia in previous years.
Finally, I would like to say a few words about what we have discussed and about specific projects, how we will take advantage of the opportunities that we have before us.
Today I believe that we had a constructive discussion as we focused on many different projects. I hold on to the particular emphasis we have placed on attracting investment, what we call the interconnectivity of the Balkans. The interconnection of road, rail, digital, between our countries.
A number of projects that are of particular value and importance. Of course, I have to mention the interconnection of the ports of Northern Greece with the Black Sea and the Danube, with a railway line. I have to point out the extremely important project of the road interconnection between Thessaloniki-Sofia-Bucharest, a project which will obviously increase the already excellent tourist flows from Romania and Bulgaria to Greece, and vice versa. Of course, I have to mention the railway link between Thessaloniki and Belgrade. And obviously not to forget the great project on the energy sector, which is the IGB from Alexandroupolis to Bulgaria and the vertical axis to Romania. Projects that can give another impetus to the region and show the value of our countries’ cooperation in all areas. And projects for which we will obviously claim funds from both the EU and other potential investors and other important initiatives such as the 16 + 1 initiative, to which Greece has so far been an observer and intends to embrace this initiative more closely the following period.
Therefore, I would like once again to thank the Prime Minister of Romania, the Prime Minister of Bulgaria and the President of Serbia for this substantial cooperation that we have been building and we had the opportunity today to deepen and to announce that the next Summit , I will have the pleasure of hosting in Greece, in Thessaloniki, around the end of June, in order to be able to make these initiatives more concrete, possibly with the presence of the Ministers of Infrastructure and Transport of our countries, because I have the feeling that we focused especially on transport and infrastructure projects and therefore their presence in the next meeting might be essential to move on to the next step, the step of starting the implementation of such initiatives.
Thank you very much