Ferrero-Waldner opens large-scale Austrian exhibition in Sofia
Foreign Minister pays visit to Bulgaria to celebrate the 125th anniversary of diplomatic relations
Sofia, 7 July 2004 - Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner went to Sofia in order to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Austria and Bulgaria in 1879. In the evening the Foreign Minister will open a jubilee exhibition in the Gallery of Arts from Abroad in the Bulgarian capital. Prior to her visit, Ferrero-Waldner praised the long-standing and excellent relations between the two countries: "The fact that we can celebrate this anniversary today shows us probably more than anything else that our two countries have had very close relations dating back to the very beginnings of modern Bulgaria." In this context the Foreign Minister stressed that Federal President Klestil, who had died the night before under tragic circumstances, would have insisted that this important visit should take place as planned, because he, more than any of his predecessors, was committed to maintaining firm relations to our neighbours from Central and Eastern Europe.
In the evening Federal Minister Ferrero-Waldner will celebrate together with high-ranking representatives of the Bulgarian government - among them Vice-President Angel Marin, Deputy Prime Ministers Plamen Panayotov, Lidia Shuleva and Nikolai Vassilev as well as Minister of Finance Milen Velchev - the conclusion of the sale of MobilTel. This is the largest economic transaction in the history of Bulgaria. MobilTel is Bulgaria’s largest mobile telecommunication operator with about 3 million customers and has now been sold to a consortium consisting of leading international financial investors and Austrian business people.
The Foreign Minister underlined the importance of the turn of the era in 1989 for Bulgaria’s current development and drew a parallel to the present: "We are all happy that the time of this artificial division of Europe is over. Just like 125 years ago, Bulgaria is on its way to Europe, but this time it is not the Europe of competing great powers, but the Europe of joint forces, peace and wealth. As in the past, Austria is a partner on whom Bulgaria can rely. A partner that is impressed by the massive efforts Bulgaria has made to achieve integration into Euro-Atlantic structures only within a few years. We fully support this endeavour."
Ferrero-Waldner also emphasised the great significance and diversity of the present Austro-Bulgarian relations: "Our bilateral relations have become unprecedentedly close and are characterised by the intensification of our economic relations, by cultural exchange and mutual official visits at a high level as well as at the highest level. We have every reason to hope that our mutual efforts will be beneficial also in the future: trade between our two countries is growing strongly, Austrian investments in Bulgaria have increased sharply in the recent past and are expected to continue their upward trend. The important cooperation in the field of justice and domestic affairs is exemplary and is further developed on an ongoing basis. Our cultural cooperation is also very fruitful."
Ferrero-Waldner, who will meet numerous representatives of the government as well as the economic and cultural arenas, concluded: "We are united by 125 years of close relations. Let us all hope that many successful years in our common home, the European Union - which we expect Bulgaria to join very soon - lie ahead of us."