BTA News

“Bulgaria and Greece Have Common Border Which Must Be Fully Opened as Soon as Possible,” BTA Director General Valchev Says

“Bulgaria and Greece have a common border which must be fully opened as soon as possible, and we must insist that Bulgaria should be part of the Schengen agreement for land-border-controls-free movement of people and goods,” Bulgarian News Agency (BTA) Director General Kiril Valchev said here on Tuesday. “The common future of Greece and Bulgaria also passes through news connectivity,” he added.

Valchev spoke at the 5th Cross-border Conference on “Europe in the Balkans: A Common Future” in which Bulgaria’s national news agency, in partnership with the European Commission, presents the European policies for increasing closeness between Bulgaria and its neighbours. This follows up on a previous project, “Europe in Bulgaria: A Common Future”, in which BTA presented the European cohesion policies between the regions in Bulgaria itself.

“We have common waters: rivers that flow from Bulgaria to Greece and agriculture in Northern Greece depends on them, but also seas through which goods, oil and gas come, as Bulgaria is interested in participating in the development of the ports in the Aegean Sea in Alexandroupolis and Kavala, as well as to use the port of Thessaloniki.

“We have common roads: highways and railways, which we need to modernize and build new ones together.

“We mostly have ‘common people’: Bulgarians and Greeks who travel to the other country for tourism, business, education, cultural events…

“Greece and Bulgaria have many more things in common, and news about them helps to be closer, as well as for positive pressure from the societies on the rulers in both countries to develop connectivity.

“BTA works for the common future of information connectivity on the Balkans.

“The European Commission rightly chose BTA to organize this joint project on cohesion policies and the common future of the Balkans, because for 126 years ‘B’ in the name of the agency has referred not only to ‘Bulgarian’ but also to ‘Balkan’.

“Balkan news has been present in BTA since its first day – of the six news items on February 16, 1898, two were datelined from Constantinople and Athens.

“There has been a self-contained Balkan news desk since 1951, and since 2021 ‘Balkans’ is already a directorate.

“Since 1973, BTA has also held A Balkan Athlete of the Year – a ranking that it makes with the participation of the sports desks of all Balkan news agencies.

“In September 2022, BTA became the headquarters of the Association of Balkan News Agencies – Southeast Europe (ABNA – SE), in which 12 agencies participate. The first president of the registered association became the Director General of the Greek national news agency ANA-MPA Aimilios Perdikaris, who is one of the most active advocates of this Balkan unification. BTA maintains the updated website of ABNA – EU, in which every day there is one news item in English from each Balkan agency – a member of the association.

“One of BTA’s first agreements for the daily exchange of news with national news agencies was with the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA-MPA).

“Because information is the basis of any understanding, and that is why BTA makes great efforts to provide more knowledge on Bulgaria’s neighbours.

“The agency is expanding the network of permanent correspondent bureaus – there are such in Skopje in the Republic of North Macedonia, Bucharest in Romania and Ankara in Turkiye, and plans to add more in Athens in Greece and Belgrade in Serbia, and in the future also here in Thessaloniki. In Bosilegrad (Serbia) and Istanbul (Turkiye), the agency also has stringers. The idea is for BTA’s correspondents everywhere on the Balkans to have a national press club, which will be a media centre for meetings and events.

“Over the past three years, BTA has assigned special correspondents to cover all newsworthy developments in the Balkans: elections, economic forums (including the Thessaloniki Fair), sports competitions.

“Thanks to its correspondents in the Balkans, BTA shares Balkan news with the rest of the world through partner agencies globally, and also through the European Newsroom – a platform for cooperation between European news agencies, in which it has participated since its first day and later joined by ANA-MPA.

“This successive dissemination by BTA of news from the Balkans is a continuation of the policy of Bulgaria, which dedicated its first Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2018 to the enlargement of the Union to the Western Balkans, as well as the common European policy to promote the development of regional cooperation through funding with cross-border cohesion funds.

“And today here in Thessaloniki we will talk about the efforts to ensure more connectivity through these funds. Because the Balkans still have a lot to do for their proximity in the transport of people, goods and energy by rail links, motorways, power lines, gas and oil pipelines.

“For the common future of the Balkans in Europe, however, news connectivity is particularly important, for which news agencies have a great responsibility. This was discussed last Saturday at the ninth edition of the Delphi Economic Forum, in which we participated together with Mr. Aimilios Perdikaris.

“We are having this discussion three weeks before Easter and, therefore, I will point out that on the Balkans we are feted for a common future in Europe and because of our connection through the common faith as for centuries we carry God in our hearts in the same way: Greece, the Republic of North Macedonia, Romania and Serbia are Orthodox countries like Bulgaria, and Turkiye keeps many Christian shrines, including in Constantinople – the seat of one of the Orthodox patriarchs. Together we also honour St Demetrius, whose relics are kept in the church dedicated to him in Thessaloniki, and the Holy Brothers Cyril and Methodius, who invented the first Bulgarian script, were born here. Therefore, with more humility, to which the common faith calls us in these days, with God’s help, we will have a better common future based on the values in Christianity on which Europe has built itself – and these values all have a common human nature because there are in other religions.

“In conclusion, I wish that this discussion in Thessaloniki about the joint projects between Greece and Bulgaria be as specific as possible. Bulgarian poet Atanas Dalchev, who was born in Thessaloniki exactly 120 years ago, says that ‘we must stick to concrete things, they protect us from general phrases and big but empty words’. And the Greek poet Manolis Anagnostakis, whose birth in Thessaloniki 100 years ago we will celebrate next year, said something similar: ‘Like nails, words must be nailed so that the wind does not blow them away’,” Valchev said, wrapping up his remarks.