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Posts Tagged ‘EU’

Innovation and growth are key to economic revival in Europe

16/04/2012 Leave a comment

As we meet in London today, the European economy remains weak. Growth has stalled across the continent. Unemployment is high. After several years of crisis, our citizens and businesses are still uncertain whether the future offers prosperity or stagnation. William Hague and I outlined some ideas on how to bring growth back into the European economy and published them in The Telegraph. This is how it looks when you see it from Sofia and London…

As well as responding to the immediate debt crises, we believe that Europe must focus more on growth. We outline here a programme of reforms which Europe needs to undertake to remain competitive and confident.

Neither of our countries is in the euro, but it is in our national interest that the currency should succeed. We have a major stake in a stable and growing eurozone. A large share of our exports goes to this area and its volatility has a chilling effect on both economies.

As well as the fiscal compact, markets must be assured that the eurozone firewall is big enough; that Europe’s banks are being adequately recapitalised; and that the problems in countries like Greece have been properly dealt with.

At national level, the UK and Bulgaria are working hard to address the problem of government debt. We have put forward an aggressive set of plans to get our economies back on their feet. We are reforming our welfare and pension systems, restraining public sector pay, and streamlining our public administrations.

By taking bold decisions, we have shown it is possible to earn credibility in international markets.
Beneath the surface of the recent crises is a bigger and more important challenge for Europe. A fundamental shift in the global balance of economic power is under way – from West to East and from North to South.

This is about competitiveness. The European Commission’s 2012 Annual Growth Survey observed that “long before the current crisis, overall EU performance has been weaker than key competitors”.
The only long-term solution is to encourage and promote growth. In our meeting in London we are discussing a number of ways to do this: extending the single market, promoting free trade, reducing red tape and using the EU’s budget to promote innovation and competitiveness.

First, to complete the single market we must widen its remit to focus on the digital economy, on energy, low carbon development, defence, and further liberalisation of the services sector. One of the reasons major companies invest in Bulgaria and the UK is because they want access to the single market. But in some crucial areas, internal trade is still obstructed.

The single market has not kept up with the shift to services and changes in technology. Further liberalisation of services and the creation of a digital single market could bring over €800bn (£660bn) to the European economy.

Second, promoting free trade. The EU has had a good track record of promoting international trade but we must do more. We’d like to make 2012 the year of EU trade deals, by concluding negotiations with India, Canada and Singapore, launching negotiations with Japan by the summer, and injecting momentum into EU-US economic integration.

The deals currently on the table could add €90bn to EU GDP. Above all, we must reject the temptation to seek self-defeating protectionism in trade relations.

Third, reducing the burdens on businesses. The average cost of starting a business is higher in the EU than in our major competitors. It costs €644 to set up a business in the US compared with €2,285 in the EU. Big businesses say EU regulation is having a negative effect too.

We have made some advances in Europe on reducing regulatory burdens for small businesses. This is a step in the right direction, but we will push for a more ambitious EU programme to reduce overall burdens, specific measures to help small businesses and new sectoral targets to benefit industry.

Fourth, Europe needs to focus more on innovation and infrastructure for a modern economy. Connecting Europe’s energy grids is one milestone. In addition, we should make EU research and investment funds more flexible and simpler to use.

As President Rosen Plevneliev of Bulgaria said in his inauguration speech, innovation is at the heart of growth. Europe must create the best environment for entrepreneurs and innovators to turn their ideas into commercial projects, and thus create jobs.

Finally, we wish to stress the transformational power of EU enlargement. The process of accession has helped to entrench democracy, the rule of law and human rights across the continent. It has also increased investor confidence. We believe membership of the EU should be open to any European country that wants to join and meets the rigorous accession criteria.

Seven Steps to Boost the Arab Awakening

01/04/2012 Leave a comment

When a Tunisian fruit vendor set himself on fire in a small town’s public square, barely anyone expected this act to lead to a revolution in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and the Arab world. The fall of the three dictatorships initiated a new phase in a worldwide democratic wave that has been remaking the world since 1989.

Commentators of the “Arab Awakening” are tempted to draw a parallel between recent events in the Middle East and Northern Africa and those in Central and Eastern Europe of twenty years ago. The integration of the latter to two of the most democratically recognized international organizations–NATO and the EU–have led Western decision makers to believe they know the “recipe” for successful transition. However, the mechanic “copy-paste” of ideas and solutions should be approached with caution.

Back in 1990, the European Union responded to the young democracies by opening up and offering the prospect of membership to all who came in from the cold. This was the driving force for changes in Central and Eastern Europe over the next 20 years. Back then this happened because of visionary European leaders.

For many reasons, mainly immigration waves and the rise of xenophobic parties, the international community lacks the magnitude of such vision today. The danger of falling in weightlessness is real. The countries in transition need visionary leaders to be inspired to continue with the changes to achieve prosperity.

Seven crucial steps can assist in reaching this.

First, there should be a close association with the European Union. The EU should provide enhanced association status of all countries that subscribe to its values, linking this to easier movement of goods (tough but not impossible), institution building and extended cooperation between universities/students. This will create an attractive package for the ever-growing young Arab constituency.

Second, Central and Eastern Europe has much to offer. It has learnt the lessons of transition, of do’s and don’ts, of moving from dictatorship to democracy. How to deal with transitional justice? How to handle constitutional reform? What comes first – political or economic reform? How to fight corruption? How to establish civilian control over the armed forces? This resource should not be wasted.

Third, Arab countries should remind themselves of their common roots, rather than pointing out differences. Europe is a great example of integration. The Arab world should likewise kick start the process of an Arab-League-that-turns-to-Arab-Union. That would certainly be bold, but is worth exploring. Surely such a Union should be based on an integrated market, but also on shared values of a representative democracy and human rights.

Fourth, the role of European political leaders has to be reconsidered. They should reach out to religious parties in the region and not cringe from them. Yes, these groups are all very different. It is nevertheless important to be engaged and to work with those who are more moderate.
Fifth, the EU should finally set up a “European Endowment for Democracy”. The project can work at arms-length from governments and help build both sustainable political parties and civil society across democratically aspiring Middle Eastern countries.

Sixth, the Council of Europe should have a proactive approach vis-à-vis these countries. It should not only sign agreements, but should instead offer a form of membership to those countries in the Middle East and North Africa, willing to subscribe to the common values of the Council of Europe. The organization has high legal standards and criteria, offering protection of human rights, minorities, and media freedom. The countries that join the Council are to provide the same set of rights to their citizens.

Seventh, NATO can have an important role by sharing its experience in developing civilian security and defense expertise. Arab countries coming out of dictatorships lack such experts and knowledge. In the long run if they don’t work on civil-military relations and civilian control over the armed forces, they are in for many problems. And so are we.
It is in our collective interest to be out there driving the debate and putting the assistance programs together today, not when it is too late.

As published by the Atlantic Council

Nickolay E. Mladenov is the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria.
Hristiana Grozdanova is a member of the Atlantic Council’s Young Atlanticist Working Group.

End of Violence and Free Elections Only Way Out of Crisis in Syria

15/11/2011 Leave a comment

20111115-172831.jpg

На вчерашното заседание на Съвета по външни работи на ЕС взехме решение за поредно разширяване на санкциите спрямо Сирия. В тях са включени лица, свързани с репресиите на управляващия режим, както и замразяване на заемите, предоставяни от Европейската инвестиционна банка.

Тези действия ще продължат, докато в Сирия не се прекрати насилието, за което виновните трябва да понесат отговорност. Изходът от тежката криза в Сирия е само в незабавно спиране на насилието и провеждане на свободни избори под международно наблюдение, в които сирийският народ сам да избере пътя, по който страната да се развива.

България категорично осъжда факта, че сирийските власти допуснаха да бъдат извършени нападения срещу дипломатическите мисии на Саудитска арабия, Катар, Турция и Франция в страната.

България заедно с другите държави от ЕС подкрепя продължаващите усилия на Лигата на арабските държави за намиране на изход от кризата, включително чрез засилване на международната изолация на режима в Дамаск.

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Statement at the 66th Session of the UN General Assembly

24/09/2011 Leave a comment

66th UN General Assembly Debate

Let me begin by praising His Excellency Nassir Abdelaziz AL-NASSER for the steady stewardship as the President of the 66th session of the General Assembly. In your work, Your Excellency, you can count on the constructive engagement of the Bulgarian delegation. But allow me also to personally praise you for the theme which you have selected for this session.

I take this opportunity to also pay tribute to your predecessor, His Excellency Joseph DEISS, for his outstanding leadership of the previous session’s busy agenda.

Last, but not least, let me congratulate the Secretary General Ban KI-MOON for his re-election at the helm of the United Nations.

Mr. Secretary General, you have proven yourself as a diligent, hard-working leader who believes strongly in consensus and harmony – qualities that the UN needs now in its top administrator and will undoubtedly need even more in the years to come.

Let me begin by welcoming the work of our delegations in UN High Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases. Cancer, cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes are now responsible for more deaths than all other causes combined. Bulgaria welcomes the negotiated final document. Over 80% of cardiovascular and diabetes deaths, almost 90% of deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and more than 2/3 of all cancer deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.

To quote the UN Secretary General’s Report to the GA: “Knowing how to reduce such diseases is not the problem; the problem is lack of action.” Focusing on this “new frontier” now is an important challenge that can be addressed only if we all work together.

Bulgaria also particularly welcomes the High Level Meeting on Nuclear Safety and Security. The effects of nuclear accidents have no respect for national borders. To adequately safeguard our people, we must have firm international consensus and action, as well as agree on stringent international safety standards. As many other IAEA member states Bulgaria considers nuclear power as a viable option to meet our energy needs. Nuclear energy has a key role for providing base load power to our economy with a share of 35% of the total energy mix.

Today we stand on the doorstep of historic change in the Middle East. Change, the scale of which can be only compared to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the sweeping transformation of Central and Eastern Europe after the end of Communism.

Both processes are quite different, but share a fundamental similarity — people have come out of the bondage of fear. Although the circumstances in each country are divergent, the root causes for what is happening in the Middle East are similar.

  • Corrupt leadership breeds dissent and with no democratic process in place, this dissent pours out onto the streets;
  • Young people want to be engaged in the future of their countries, not forced into a world of virtual reality and frowned upon by aging dictators;
  • Millions of people who live on the brink of poverty and see a privileged few reap the benefits of economic freedom will demand fair economic opportunities for all.

Add to that the feeling of revival, the demand of millions of young Arabs to be respected not to be denied the opportunities that others have, not to be talked down or discriminated and you have the makings of a revolution of Arab dignity and self respect, a historic revolution indeed.

Human dignity is a right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I quote: “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood

As change swept across the Middle East and North Africa, some leaders cringed in fear, others embraced it. Those who opposed their people are no longer in positions of power; their countries are moving on and looking to democratic elections. Those who embraced change have initiated far-reaching reforms and responded to the legitimate demands of their people. His Majesty King Abdullah of Jordan and His Majesty King Mohammed VI of Morocco need to be commended for their vision and willingness to reform. They are showing the way forward.

At the same time the international community has been appalled by the developments in Syria. Instead of responding to the legitimate demands of the Syrian people by fulfilling promised reforms, the government cracked down violently  on protesters. They did not have unrealistic demands; they did not ask for anything out of the ordinary. According to the UN over 2600 people have been killed since March. The government in Damascus questions these numbers. Even if only one person had been killed, it would been one person too many. The responsibility for the repression lies squarely with the authorities and no one else.

I use this opportunity to call on President Assad — who has made many promises to his people and the international community — to come out from the shadows, change the constitution, dismantle the machinery of repression, and immediately call internationally supervised elections. The people of Syria have the right to elect their own government and hold it accountable. The time for transition has come.

Ladies and gentlemen,

at this session we welcomed the hundred-and-ninety-third member of the United Nations. Our hearts go out to the people of South Sudan who have struggled for independence and we commend the visionary leadership of their new government for paving the way for their independence in a peaceful manner.

We also welcomed the new representatives of Libya, free from the oppression of the Gaddafi dictatorship. It was at the gates of Beghazi in February that he international community, acting on a mandate of the UN Secuirty Council, acted swiftly to prevent a massacre and protect civilians against attacks from their own government. The people of Libya proved that they can stand up and defend their right to freedom. Our thoughts go out to the families of all who lost their lives in this struggle, who fell victim to the crazed ambitions of a deluded dictator.

Bulgaria stands ready to assist the people of Libya in rebuilding their country. Our friendship is strong and has been tested through the years. We know first hand of the brutality that Gaddafi was capable of. The five Bulgarian nurses and a doctor who spent eight years of their lives in a Libyan jail, much of it on death row, are still haunted by their tortures. “We died every time the cell door opened” said one of them in an interview recently. Now safely back home they need to be able to close the chapter of their nightmares. Like the nurses — innocent victims of a brutal dictatorship, the Libyan people do not want to see revenge, but justice. Such justice will be sought when the dictator and his cronies are brought before a court of law.

Ladies and gentleman,

No matter how successful we individually are, we cannot truly bear the fruits of our own development if we live in an insecure environment. Regional cooperation and good neighborly relations are vital for the wellbeing of our countries and our societies. With this introduction let me turn even closer to home — the Balkans. Allow me to use this opportunity to reiterate Bulgaria’s unfaltering commitment to the European future of the Western Balkans. So I will not tire to repeat exactly the same thing I said last year from this podium:

The European Union was created to make war impossible in a continent that has seen at least a century of conflicts. Europe shall not be whole and complete until our neighbours in the Balkans are not part of our Union.

It falls on us – those who joined the EU late, not by their own choice, but because of the ideological divisions of the Cold War – to say it loud and clear: to make war impossible in the Balkans we must see all countries that have emerged from former Yugoslavia be part of the European Union. This is our historic mission. Its our destiny.

This is why we will continue to work tirelessly to remove the obstacles to EU enlargement in the Balkans, to strengthen regional cooperation and develop good neighbourly relations in a region that has seen too much division. With particular vigor we will continue to encourage the EU facilitated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. Bulgaria welcomes the pragmatic approach taken by both Kosovo and Serbia during their first meetings. It is important that they build on this momentum and continue to engage in a constructive and pragmatic manner. All must show restraint and prevent the build-up of tension. This is vital for the security, prosperity and – ultimately, for the European perspective of the region.

Bulgaria will continue to contribute actively to regional reconciliation. Because we believe that our role in South East Europe and beyond is to bring people together, not divide them; to seek solutions, not watch from the sidelines.

We must constantly reaffirm our European commitment to bring in our neighbours in the Western Balkans into Europe, when they meet the criteria for membership. Our neighbours also must reaffirm their own commitment to undertaking often very difficult reforms, and to strengthening regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Bulgaria is a country that has had a proud but turbulent history. Our history teaches us that nations are strong when their civic spirit is strong. It teaches us that you must find pride not only in great historic battles and ancient legends, but in great feats of civic activism, in the standing up for your values and protecting your neighbors. One such inspiring example is that fact that the Jews of Bulgaria survived World War II because hundreds of religious and community leaders, politicians, ordinary men and women stood up and refused to be part of Hitler’s madness.

I stand tall and proud of the spirit of my predecessors. Their example of tolerance inspires much more than the Medieval stories of greatness and empires that we have so many of in Europe.

Two days ago we celebrated our national independence day. After 500 years of foreign occupation and domination in 1878 Bulgaria reemerged on the map of Europe. Our full independence however came only in 1908, some 30 years after the re-establishment of the Bulgarian state.

My country today is the product of the traditions of Christians, Jews and Muslims who all form the fabric of the Bulgarian nation. This is our richness, this makes us quite unique in the Balkans. This is why we cannot remain uninterested in developments in the Middle East, particularly to the elusive prospects of peace between the people of Israel and the people of Palestine.

Over the course of the last year we have seen the tireless efforts of the US administration and the EU High Representative for Foreign Policy to find a way to resume direct negotiations. These efforts, including the agreed Quartet statement of today, need to be applauded, encouraged and supported by all.

It was in the United Nations in 1947 that the State of Israel was born. It was born as a home for the Jewish people, a beacon of hope to a community that has been persecuted and oppressed for thousands of years; becoming the only truly democratic country in the region.

Today this landscape is changing. Slowly but surely the region is moving towards democracy. Democracy, accountable government and the rule of law are ultimately in the long term interest of all — Jews and Muslims; Arabs and Israelis.

The Palestinian people have a right to a state of their own. Indeed we — the international community — have an obligation to support the establishment of a viable and democratic, Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.

A Palestine that lives side-by-side with the State of Israel;

a Palestine that lives in security and mutual recognition with the State of Israel;

a Palestine that has secure borders, based on 1967 with mutually agreed swaps.

Both Palestine, as the home of the Palestinian people, and Israel, the home of the Jewish people, must guarantee that all ethnic and religious groups have full rights and protection under law.

But let me also make one point very clear — to refuse the right of Israel to exist means to refuse the right of the Palestinian people to also have a state of their own. I can accept criticism of the policies of any government, but I cannot stand idle when the right of existence is denied to anyone — no matter their religion or ethnicity. To dismiss such policies in passing, would mean to fail the values of our civilization.

Bulgaria will never accept that and nor should any other nation in the global community.

Bulgaria believes very strongly that the definitive solution to peace can only come through direct negotiations. But direct negotiations can resume only on the basis of trust and a real understanding of the security concerns and the legitimate aspirations of both sides. Rebuilding trust between both parties is a prerequisite to resuming negotiations. Unilateral action, changing the realities on the ground cannot be a substitute for negotiations. Obstacles should be overcome and preconditions should be removed. If the leaders of Palestine believe that settlement policy is an obstacle to peace, the leaders of Israel must refrain from such activities. To give peace a chance. If the leaders of Israel believe that no preconditions to a final settlement should be put in place, then the Palestinian leaders must refrain from such actions. To give peace a chance.

Bulgaria has recognised the Palestinian state in 1988. We hold our friendship both with Israel and the Palestinian people dear. This is why we urge the immediate resumption of negotiations as the only road to peace. Bringing both sides back to the negotiating table remains out top priority. I am sure that the United States, working in concert with the European Union, can facilitate this process, based on a vision outlined by President Obama.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The challenges of peace in the Middle East today are challenges of leadership.

Allow me now to turn to my delegation’s vision for the kind of leadership, the kind of United Nations we need for the the next decade. Our organization, in its reform, must be adequate and accountable, brave and bold in its actions, credible and compassionate.

An organization created by 51 member states functions today with 193 members. In order for the UN to be adequate today its institutions need to be reformed, first and foremost, in the composition of the UN’s main body guaranteeing international peace and security. We must build on progress achieved so far within the negotiations on the Security Council reform and move the process to a more result oriented phase. Bulgaria considers enlargement of the Council in its two categories — permanent and non-permanent members as one of the options that enjoys the support of a considerable number of delegations. The increase in the number of non-permanent seats should provide for a just representation of the Eastern European Group, whose membership has more than doubled over the last two decades.

Transparency is impossible without accountability. First, the UN must be accountable to its member states through a continued strive to improve management and the enforcement of strict budgetary discipline, especially in the current period of economic turmoil.

We, the member states, ought to be accountable to the UN by fulfilling all our commitments, including by paying our financial contributions to the organization fully, unconditionally and in time – a principle that Bulgaria upholds and adheres to: by June 2011 my country has paid all its due contributions for 2011 to the regular budget, the Capital Master Plan, the tribunals and the 2010-2011 peacekeeping missions’ financial period.

We all need to be accountable for our actions to future generations. It is easy to speak of “sustainable development”, but at the moment we are not even remotely close to making it a reality. On the contrary: the damage we have done to the planet’s geology, climate and ecosystems for most of the last century is so significant that scientists are increasingly asserting that the human race has actually managed to push the Earth, way faster than usual, into a new, eventually more unstable and dangerous geological period.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We need both wise and courageous leadership from the UN in our efforts to guarantee peace and security. Wise so as to avoid the temptation to use force when it seems to get results faster than mediation and protracted negotiations. Courageous to take responsibility when the use of force is a must.

In this context, I would like to acknowledge the initiative of Turkey and Finland to introduce a resolution on the topic which Bulgaria readily co-sponsored.

The United Nations will benefit much from strengthening its cooperation with regional security organisations. The cooperation with NATO in Afghanistan is an excellent example. International support has to continue beyond 2014. We were all saddened by the brutal murder of a great Afghan leader — former President Rabbani.  His work must inspire us to continue supporting the Afghan government ‘s efforts at reconciliation and reintegration.

It is high time for bold and decisive actions in the field of disarmament and nonproliferation as well. It is the legal and moral obligation of all of us to honor the commitments undertaken with the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Outcome document of the 2010 Review Conference. A strengthened and robust NPT regime is in the interest of all States, especially with the growing risk of non-state actors getting access to weapons of mass destruction. All States Parties, including DPRK, are bound by the NPT regime. Leaving the NPT should not be without consequences.

Cooperation with IAEA is also essential. As long as Iran continues to not provide greater transparency of its nuclear activities, the concerns of the international community will remain valid. Full compliance with the Security Council resolutions and with the provisions of the IAEA safeguards agreement is paramount for the diplomatic solution of this case.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The sad anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in New York we commemorate this year, the more recent tragic events in Oslo, Mumbai and other cities of the world prove that terrorism is a global cancer that does not discriminate against developed or developing countries and societies. Its eradication requires decisive actions. The successful conclusion of the negotiations on the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism has Bulgaria’s full support.

Bulgaria attaches great importance to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) as the principal judicial organ of the United Nations and the only international court of universal character with general jurisdiction. We welcome the fact that the Court has acquired a solid reputation as an impartial institution with the highest legal standards that enjoys the trust of the Member States.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I opened my presentation by focusing on the challenge of tackling non-communicable diseases. Human suffering caused by various illnesses is further exacerbated due to the effects of the series of global crises in food, finance and energy and the threats associated with climate change. Taken together, these and other new challenges impede progress towards the achievement of the MDGs.

Our world today faces challenges that will shape its tomorrow. We need to be able to meet these challenges in a bold manner, with a clear vision for the future and tackle them together as a global community of nations.

Thank you!

Сирия се нуждае от диалог, а не от репресии

02/08/2011 Leave a comment

AFP Photo

Безпрецедентна и ужасяваща е агресията, която упражняват сирийските власти върху собствения си народ. Не един са случаите на насилия, убийства, хиляди хора са арестувани при протестите срещу режима.

България, както и всички страни от Европейския съюз, категорично осъжда това насилие и твърдо апелира то веднага да спре. Очакваме  и ясната осъдителна реакция на Арабската лига, на съседните на Сирия държави, които не могат да останат безучастни към трагичните събития в страната.

Сирийското общество има достатъчно сили да преодолее различията и да тръгне по пътя на истински диалог между управляващи и опозиция. България винаги е изразявала готовността си да помага за осъществяването на този диалог, който да обедини обществото в определянето на бъдещето и да изключи всякаква употреба на сила.

На 1 август Европейският съюз разшири сакнциите върху сирийския режим.

Our Commitment to Multilateralism

28/09/2010 Leave a comment
All nations must put a strengthened NPT at the centre of its national diplomacy

Every year we come together in this great chamber of the United Nations, to reaffirm our commitment to multilateralism. Nations big and small, rich and poor, from the four corners of the world gather at the United Nations driven by the conviction that if we work together we will find solutions to the challenges of today and tomorrow. And as these challenges grow and become more interconnected, so grows our conviction that only through cooperation and dialogue can we resolve them.

This is the fundamental belief with which for over 55 years the Bulgarian delegation, like many others, has come to the United Nations.

Like every day, today will be unique. Because our actions on this day will forge our tomorrows. We can spend our time dwelling on the past, or we can invest our time in the future that we will face together.

Today our world faces a complicated web of challenges, but also of opportunities:

The challenge of addressing global climate change by creating opportunities for sustainable development.

The challenge of reducing conflicts and the opportunities that come from providing sufficient clean water to millions of people.

The challenge of developing an ethical market economy and countless opportunities that will emerge from reducing the poverty gap.

The challenge of reducing ethnic conflicts, terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction; and the opportunities that come from good governance, democracy and freedom.

And perhaps addressing the most paramount challenge of our time – to prove wrong all those who believe that the world is heading for an irresolvable clash of civilizations.

Because none of the global challenges that we face today can be understood, tackled or addressed without respect for different opinions, without dialogue between faiths, and without adherence to the global values enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations.

On behalf of the Government of Bulgaria, I congratulate H.E. Mr Deiss on the assumption of the Presidency of this 65th session of the General Assembly and by our full confidence in Mr. Deiss’ stewardship of this Assembly’s deliberations during the next twelve months.

Our appreciation also goes to H.E. Dr. Ali Treki for his able leadership during the previous session and to H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon for his unfailing efforts to strengthen and promote the United Nations Organization.

Let me begin by welcoming the results of the high level plenary meeting of the General Assembly on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Regardless of the fact that the achievement of the MDGs remains off-track, their attainment is still within our reach. Reaffirming the principle of solidarity between those who have and those who need is of the essence.

My country – like most today – faces challenges imposed by the global economic and financial crisis. We have committed to develop our own donor capacity and so we shall. Because Bulgaria – like a number of countries that have joined the European Union since the fall of the Berlin Wall – understands that the solidarity which was extended to us, now needs to be extended by us to those less fortunate.

To be effective we shall work in close coordination with our partners, avoid duplication and aim at addressing the root causes – not the symptoms – of today’s problems. Otherwise we will not be building a better tomorrow. In this effort the role of the United Nations shall always remain vitally important, particularly in helping mitigate the development impact of the crisis on the leas developed and most venerable countries.

As dangerous as the current global crisis is, it also gives us a chance to “green” our economies by putting them on a sustainable and low-carbon path. 2010 has been proclaimed as the International Year of Biodiversity. Economic growth and the preservation of the environment must go hand-in-hand across the globe.

Today there can be no excuses, not in developed countries, not in developing countries. Because any excuse that we find today will cost us more tomorrow. That is why Bulgaria believes that the United Nations must be given the tools to adequately respond to the increasing challenges of environmental preservation.

Today, much more than in the past, we see increased demand and pressure on international humanitarian efforts. The devastating earthquake in Haiti last year killed hundreds of thousands, left a staggering 20% of the population homeless and crippled the economy of one of the world’s poorest countries. Haiti’s call however was heeded throughout the globe.

Allow me to praise the work of the United Nations and its agencies in responding quickly, but also pay tribute to all countries, NGOs and individuals who came quickly to its assistance. The Bulgarian government and people were quick to respond by providing financial and in-kind assistance, including educational opportunities to young Haitians whose universities had been destroyed.

This year we have to help in the struggle of 20 million people in Pakistan who’ve been affected by the terrible floods that have wrecked lives, ruined crops and destroyed economic opportunity.

The Secretary General and the UN were swift to react and deserve praise for their efforts. As does the rapid reaction of the European Union, the United States and other partners throughout the world.

Allow me to use this forum to call on all to strengthen their efforts in assisting the people in Pakistan in tackling the humanitarian crisis of the floods.

But I also call on governments across the globe to help in removing barriers that can assist the Pakistani economy in its recovery the in the medium term. Helping today and creating opportunities tomorrow – that should be our goal in a country that is vital to global stability and security.

In this, let me assure you that Bulgaria – small as it is – will also shoulder its share of the needed solidarity. Already the Government and the Bulgarian Red Cross have launched a nation-wide campaign to raise funds and contribute to the rebuilding efforts.

No matter how successful we are in our development and humanitarian efforts, the cannot fully bear fruit in an insecure and unstable environment. Allow me to briefly look closer to home – the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean.

The European Union was created to make war impossible in a continent that has seen at least a century of conflicts. In Europe, however we have unfinished business. Europe shall not be whole and complete until our neighbours in the Balkans are not part of our Union.

It falls on us – those who joined the EU late, not by their own choice, but because of the ideological divisions of the Cold War – to say it loud and clear: to make war impossible in the Balkans we must see all countries that have emerged from former Yugoslavia be part of the European Union. This is our historic mission. Its our destiny.

Bulgaria, which has struggled with its own transition and accession to the EU, knows the benefits and the challenges best. This is why today I am proud to stand here and commend the United Nations for unanimously approving the joint EU-Serbia resolution on the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice on the Declaration of Independence by Kosovo.

Bulgaria supported it wholeheartedly because we firmly believe that dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina is key both to the stability of the region but also to their European perspective. It will be a difficult process, charged with emotion and scarred by history.

But it will be a process that today can lay the foundations of a better tomorrow for all. This is a process that the Bulgarian government is not just willing, but eager to support, and will lend all assistance necessary to the efforts of the EU High Representative on Foreign Policy that she needs to succeed.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina the international community faces many challenges. But the struggle between the fears of yesterday and the opportunities of tomorrow can be resolved today by the people of Bosnia themselves.

Bulgaria will more than actively than ever contribute to reconciliation. Because we believe that our role in South East Europe and beyond is to bring people together, not divide them; to seek solutions, not watch from the sidelines.

We must constantly reaffirm our European commitment to bring in our neighbours in the Western Balkans into Europe, when they meet the criteria for membership. Our neighbours also must reaffirm their own commitment to undertaking often very difficult reforms, and to strengthening regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations.

There are cynics who say that the world cannot live together, that for peace to exist we must build walls of separation between peoples, religions and ethnic communities; that civilizations must clash.

I come from a country that is in a turbulent part of the world, yet has managed to prove that people of different religions – Christians, Muslims and Jews; of different ethnicities – Bulgarians, Turks and Armenians can live together. Bulgaria has seen stellar moments in its history, for example when civil society rose during the Second World War and refused to allow its Jewish population to be sent to concentration camps; or when it integrated its Turkish population after the end of communism.

But it has also seen its dark moments – when it failed to save the Jewish populations of the occupied Northern Greece and Vardar Macedonia; or when the Communist regime expelled a large part of our Muslim citizens to Turkey. Our history has taught is to be able to make the difference between good and bad. Our history proves that the cynics were wrong, that people can live together in peace.

That is why Bulgaria cannot remain uninterested in the Middle East. We believe that just as the Jewish people have a homeland in the State of Israel, so the Palestinian people have the right to an independent state of Palestine that lives in peace with its neighbours.

During the last months we have all witnessed the efforts of the US administration to restart the direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. Many of us have made passionate speeches of the need and urgency of peace.

Today the Palestinian and Israeli leaders face the historic challenge of looking to tomorrow and not being tied down by yesterday. The Middle East cannot afford a failed peace process. The world cannot afford a process that does not have the end goal in sight.

Today we must all recognize that hard decisions are in the making and lend our full support to President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu to be able to walk the hard road to peace. Obstacles should be overcome and preconditions should be removed.

If the leaders of Palestine believe that settlement policy is an obstacle to peace, the leaders of Israel must refrain from such activities. To give peace a chance.

If the leaders of Israel believe that no preconditions to a final settlement should be put in place, then the Palestinian leaders must refrain from such actions. To give peace a chance.

The choice today is not between peace negotiations and economic development, because peace and prosperity go hand in hand. No one should feel singled out or left behind.

Because the enemies of peace are many – those who feel that walls are safer than bridges; those who feel that religions cannot coexist. Because you can kill a man’s life, but you cannot kill their faith or dignity.

This is why I call on all of the United Nations of the world to stand firmly behind the efforts of the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to achieve peace. In doing this we must recognize the legitimate concerns of both sides – Israel’s security and the viability of a Palestinian state.

In this effort we must not forget the 1.5 million people who live in Gaza – Palestinians who have the right to a better life. Just like the children of Sderot have the right to go to school without the threat or rockets.

We have an obligation to help open up access to Gaza without compromising the security of Israel. History has proven that isolation and deprivation breed radicalism and it is in the interest of peace that more opportunities be created.

It is not enough to have a vision, it is a must that we all work to support such a vision. This is why Bulgaria will stand in support of all efforts to achieve reconciliation and to advance negotiations.

Today the world faces other grave security challenges that will shape our tomorrow.

We must reconfirm our commitment to halting the spread of nuclear weapons. This mission is above politics and diplomacy, above national ambitions and personal egos. It is our universal obligation and a joint commitment which we undertook 40 years ago.

Bulgaria believes that every nation must put a strengthened Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) at the centre of its national diplomacy. The uncovering of clandestine nuclear networks has brought the spectre of non-state actors equipped with weapons of mass destruction closer. We must not allow this to continue.

All nations must recognize that the nuclear non-proliferation regime is undermined if violators are allowed to act with impunity. We consider all States Parties, including the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), to be bound by their NPT obligations.

Leaving the NPT cannot be without consequences.

Justified concerns about the nuclear programme of the Islamic Republic of Iran remain. We call on Iran to deploy the necessary confidence building measures to provide for a greater transparency of its nuclear activities. Bulgaria believes that it is important to find a diplomatic solution.

The recent attempt by Turkey and Brazil illustrate that there is will in the international community for dialogue. Therefore a swift return to the negotiation table and full compliance with UN Security Council Resolutions, as well as IAEA standards and safeguards is a must.

International terrorism is one of the most serious contemporary threats to global peace and security. It cannot be vindicated by any political, philosophic, ideological, racial or ethnic considerations, or by any other ideology.

The end-goal of terrorism is to hinder our efforts to guarantee human rights, basic freedoms and democracy. Within the framework of the European Union, Bulgaria has fully endorsed the implementation of the United Nations Global Strategy to Counter Terrorism. I appeals for a prompt finalization of the negotiations to reach a Comprehensive Convention to Counter Terrorism.

An old nefarious practice on the High Seas – piracy – has been resurrected and added to the already long list of today’s security risks. Bulgaria is being directly affected by the escalating activity and audacity of the pirates in the Gulf of Aden and off the Coast of Somalia. This fight against piracy leaves much to be desired:

We need a firm international legal framework for the trial, detention and imprisonment of persons suspected of having committed acts of piracy.

We need coordinated actions in the High Seas to protect our shipping.

Perhaps most of all we need to address the root causes of piracy – poverty, isolation and lack of opportunity.

In Afghanistan we face a threat that demands a continued military and civilian commitment of the international community that hinges on two important factors.

The ability of the Afghan Government to pave the way for reconciliation, tackle corruption and deliver services to its people; and

The renewed commitment of the international community and the regional neighbours to strengthen the Afghan National Army and Police, while maintaining the pressure on radicals and insurgents and limiting their scope of action.

In these tasks the coordinated efforts of all, but foremost the UN, NATO and the European Union, are vital. I would like to strongly support the work that UNAMA and the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General Steffan de Mistura are doing.

Their efforts should be appreciated and fully supported by the international community. I want to also pay tribute to the brave men and women of all ISAF contributing nations, including the 600 odd Bulgarian troops who risk their lives to bring security to the people of Afghanistan.

Bulgaria’s commitment to the future of Afghanistan is unfaltering. Because we understand that it is our joint obligation to bring security to this tortured country whose people deserve to be able to enjoy the freedoms and opportunities that many of us have.

Bulgaria has increased its input to ISAF, including through more training units that will work to build the capacity of the Afghan Security Forces. We contribute to the reinforced the EU Police Mission in Afghanistan, which, jointly with NATO’s Training Mission plays an important role. We support the Afghan Governmental Program for Peace and Reintegration in which the key role should be played by the Afghan State.

Our commitment to Afghanistan is because we firmly believe that if we succeed today we will live safer tomorrow.

A comprehensive security system can rest only on a robust partnership between UN and regional organizations. This is why Bulgaria believes that the partnership between the European Union with the United Nations is a strategic one. As the EU High Representative for Foreign Policy Catherine Ashton put it, “our commitment to the multilateral system of global governance through the UN and other bodies is clear; and we work with conviction and clarity on the major challenges that face us, be they climate change, poverty, conflict or terrorism”.

The transformation of the EU into a legal subject of international relations after the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon has to be also adequately reflected in a resolution of the General Assembly regarding the representation of the EU at the United Nations.

In closing let me briefly touch on the reform of the UN. Bulgaria is convinced that if we are to effectively tackle the challenges of tomorrow, we must continuously adapt and improve the UN system. Therefore it is imperative that we continue the course of reforms, initiated by the 2005 World Summit.

We believe that the reform of the Security Council is part of the comprehensive agenda for change of the United Nations. Bulgaria declares itself in favour of an enlargement of the Security Council capable of generating a largest possible consensus. In this context Bulgaria has endorsed the enlargement of the Security Council in its two categories, i.e. permanent and non-permanent members.

As member of the Eastern European Regional Group, Bulgaria shall continue to uphold its position as to the need of allotting at least one additional non-permanent seat for a State representing the Group, especially given the fact that in recent years its membership has doubled.

I started by reiterating our firm commitment to multilateralism. The agenda of the United Nations is broad and diverse and I have attempted, on behalf of the Government of Bulgaria, to briefly touch just some of the issues that ought to be discussed in the forum.

Our commitment to multilateralism can only be equaled by our unfaltering belief that dialogue and diplomacy can achieve more than confrontation and war. More than half a century ago the United Nations came together and enshrined these principles as the cornerstones of international law.

Since then, with various degrees of success, we have attempted to live by them. It is time for us to realize that the global challenges of tomorrow can only be tackled by collective action today. Impossible is nothing, but only if we work together, discuss, disagree and agree but share a goal – a peaceful and prosperous world that is safe for all.