Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov and his visiting Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu signed on July 7 2011 a declaration pledging co-operation between the two countries’ governments in a wide range of areas.
Speaking to journalists, Netanyahu underlined that it was his "personal mission" to introduce the Israeli business community to the opportunities offered by Bulgaria.
He described Bulgaria as a gateway to European markets, offering opportunities for mutual benefit to both countries’ business communities, people and economies.
Netanyahu spoke of the "chemistry" between himself and Borissov, with whom he first became acquainted at a meeting four years ago.
The Israeli prime minister said that the two countries’ difficult histories meant that there was a connection between them that went beyond words, and their discussions were held in a spirit of great closeness and friendship.
Borissov said that attracting Israeli investments in infrastructure in Bulgaria was a major goal, while he and Netanyahu also discussed the future of food security and the creation of a food bank.
Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolai Mladenov was among ministers who held talks with their counterparts and members of the delegation.
In discussions with Israel’s deputy foreign minister Daniel Ayalon, Mladenov said that Bulgaria would continue to support efforts to find a lasting solution through Israel and Palestine holding direct negotiations.
Apart from the peace process, Mladenov and Ayalon discussed the upcoming July 11 meeting of the Quartet of international mediators (Russia, UN and EU) to resolve the conflict in the Middle East.
Mladenov and Ayalon described bilateral relations between Israel and Bulgaria as very good.
The joint statement signed by Borissov and Netanyahu "noted with satisfaction" progress made in relations between the two countries within the agreements signed on July 7 in Sofia, and in intergovernmental consultations.
The two prime ministers emphasised their desire to further strengthen relations between the governments of Israel and Bulgaria and co-operation in a wide range of areas of strategic importance.
"The prime ministers wish to thank all who worked tirelessly to develop links between the two countries."
On foreign affairs, the governments of Bulgaria and the State of Israel noted with satisfaction the growing friendly relations between nations based on shared values and confirmed the mutual recognition of their needs in the political field of security and the economy.
Both governments reiterated their goal to strengthen the already close relationship and strengthen the special historical ties between the two peoples and two cultures.
The two governments welcomed the teaching, study and teaching of knowledge about the fate of Jewish people during the Holocaust.
The government of Israel noted with appreciation the decision by the government of Bulgaria to examine the possibility to join the working group on international co-operation to preserve memory, learning and research on the Holocaust.
"The rescue of Bulgarian Jews during World War 2 on one side and the lesson in the fate of Jews in Thrace and Macedonia on the other hand, should support the cause of countering any attempts to revive anti-Semitism."
The two governments affirmed categorically that calls for the destruction of Israel and Holocaust denial are "absolutely unacceptable".
The two governments welcomed the unique contribution of Israeli citizens of Bulgarian origin for strengthening ties between two nations and societies.
The government of Israel expressed, on behalf of the people of Israel, gratitude for the vital assistance and services provided by the Bulgarian authorities and the important role they played against the great fire of Mount Carmel during the month of December 2010.
The joint declaration said that the governments of Bulgaria and Israel recognise the importance and mutual benefit for Israel and the European Union to further develop their co-operation within the European Neighbourhood Policy.
"Relations between Israel and the European Union face common global challenges and threats are characterised by increasing co-operation and achievements in political, economic and trade, scientific, technological and cultural areas based on common values and interests."
The governments of Bulgaria and Israel are committed to co-operate within the UN and other international organisations in the interest of both parties.
"In this context, the Government of Bulgaria reiterates its firm position against any attempt to de-legitimise Israel."
In the light of fundamental changes in the Middle East, the governments of Bulgaria and Israel share the conviction that just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties, the declaration said.
These negotiations can be based on the principles of the Quartet, to achieve two states for two peoples - Israel as a Jewish state and homeland of the Jewish people and an independent, democratic and viable State of Palestine as the homeland of the Palestinian people, co-existing in peace, security and mutual recognition.
"The government of Israel wishes to express his gratitude for the continued efforts made by the Government of Bulgaria to support the peace process in the Middle East and promote the resumption of negotiations between the parties. "
Both governments, through their respective Ministries of Foreign Affairs, will continue to encourage dialogue and develop strategic economic research and development.
Ministries will also consider programs to support innovation and promote the exchange of diplomats, informal opinion leaders, journalists and young people.
The governments agreed to strengthen and expand co-operation on internal security, especially in the fight against radicalism and terror.
"In this regard, governments will exchange knowledge in the field of information systems for border security, border crossings, airports and ports."
The governments would co-operate and assist each other in emergencies caused by natural disasters such as fires, earthquakes, floods, etc," the declaration said.
The two governments will strengthen their co-operation in the field of capital investment and attract foreign investors in industry and agriculture, and expansion of trade relations between the countries.
The governments agreed that Bulgaria has introduced a consistent and transparent policy for investment promotion, including favourable tax and other incentives for foreign direct investment.
"The Bulgarian Government emphasied the benefits for companies involved in the development of technology parks and industrial zones in Bulgaria."
The governments agreed on the opportunities for increased Israeli investments in Bulgaria.
Both sides shared the importance of mutually beneficial co-operation in new areas of growth, including information, clean industries, the health and biotechnology, electronics and electrical engineering and others.
Moreover, the government will promote bilateral co-operation in industrial research and development in the private sector, leading to the following objectives:
• Promote private sector activities in their countries to enhance joint industrial research and development co-operation.
• Facilitate the identification of specific projects, partnerships and co-operation between entities in Israel and Bulgaria, which could lead to co-operation in industrial research and development.
• Facilitate and support co-operation in industrial and commercial exploitation of project results for research and development.
• Promoting joint projects in industrial research and development between the entities on both sides.
Governments will co-operate to further promote and protect investments in their respective countries in accordance with an agreement on promotion and mutual protection of investment signed between them on December 6 1993 and the Protocol amending the Agreement signed during these consultations. In addition, the governments will develop bilateral co-operation in the field of public finances, leading to the following objectives:
• Development of co-operation in financial markets and financial services and promote participation of Israeli investors in the Bulgarian capital market.
• Strengthening contacts between financial regulators of both countries and exchange information on best practices in banking and financial supervision.
• Joint participation in projects and programmes funded by the Israeli and Bulgarian investors in third countries.
• Continued exchange of views on developments in the euro area.
Among other issues the Financial Stability Pact and the anticipated constitutional changes in Bulgaria were discussed as a good example of strong government measures and prudent financial policy.
On tourism, the declaration said that the governments will co-operate and act to increase the number of tourists from each country visiting the other. Moreover, governments will co-operate and assist each other in international tourism organisations.
The two governments agreed to co-operate in the field of energy and priority areas identified as energy security and efficiency.
They highlighted the importance of developing renewable energy sources, energy efficiency and innovation in energy and agreed to cooperate and exchange experiences in these areas.
The governments reaffirmed the importance of ensuring a diversification of energy sources and the need for further co-operation relating to generation, transmission and supply of natural gas, given the potential of Israel and the growing role of Bulgaria in the transportation of gas in Europe.
On agriculture, the joint declaration said that the governments will co-operate and support innovation in agriculture, including in the following areas:
• Joint research projects using EU funds for Bulgaria with Israel as a partner in the system of EU research programmes
• Promote regular participation of Israeli enterprises in agricultural fairs held in Bulgaria to display the achievements of Israel.
• Promoting the integration of Israeli agro-technology enterprises in projects in Bulgaria, financed by third parties (mainly the EU), mainly in the following areas:
o Improving the infrastructure of dairy farming;
o Intensive aquaculture;
o Intensive technologies and vegetable greenhouses;
o Technology for processing after harvest and storage;
o Technology for artificial insemination and embryo transfer in livestock.
On environmental protection, the governments will co-operate on environmental issues, with particular attention to other issues of water management and climate change, in light of the recent decision taken by the government of Israel on the National Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and implementation of policy in Bulgaria EU climate change.
The governments will co-operate and exchange knowledge in the field of water management, preventing loss of water and waste water treatment.
On construction and housing, the governments will exchange information on construction standards, methods of industrialisation of construction, energy saving construction, affordable housing and others.
The governments will exchange information on the renovation of buildings and related technologies and energy efficiency and water management related to construction.
On ICT, the governments will co-operate in the areas of information security, e-government, participation in specialist international organisations and the process of policy making in the field of information technology and communications.
The two governments will co-operate by sharing information about high-tech parks and business incubators, as well as identify the most opportunities for direct business relationship.
On transportation, the governments of Israel and Bulgaria will co-operate in the transport sector with emphasis on exchange of experiences and best practices to improve road safety and road infrastructure safety.
In the field of culture, the governments will continue to support initiatives for cultural exchange, providing favourable conditions for direct co-operation between state, public and private organisations and entities. In cinema, the governments will encourage the relevant ministries to conclude an agreement on film co-productions.
Netanyahu also held talks on July 8 with Bulgarian President Georgi Purvanov.
According to a statement by Purvanov’s office, at the meeting the President welcomed the deepening of political dialogue between Bulgaria and Israel and the holding of the joint meeting between the two countries’s governments.
The overall assessment was that the traditional relations between the Bulgarian and the Jewish people and the existing trust between the two countries should lead to more pragmatic and concrete results in the field of trade and economic co-operation, the Presidency statement said.
Purvanov and Netanyahu noted the trend of continuous growth of bilateral trade, but agreed that the volume of mutual trade was still unsatisfactory.
They discussed opportunities for expanding co-operation in the fields of agriculture, medicine, education, information technology, energy and others.
Purvanov noted Bulgaria’s interest in attracting more investments in the Bulgarian economy from Israel.
Netanyahu told Purvanov that there were no differences between the political forces in Israel on the need for a comprehensive deepening of ties between Israel and Bulgaria.
Netanyahu briefed Purvanov on Israel's position on the development of the Middle East peace process.
According to the President’s office statement, Purvanov expressed hope that international efforts will bring soon a lasting solution to the conflict, including the creation of an independent Palestinian state and the guaranteeing of Israel's security. The two also discussed the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, the statement said.