Prime Minister Boyko Borissov Friday held a one-to-one meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who arrived on a four-day official visit here Thursday night. It was followed by a meeting between the two delegations.
Premier Li is in Sofia for the 16+1 Summit between China and the Central and Eastern European countries. The event aims to deepen trade ties and economic cooperation between the participating countries and to promote bilateral and multilateral partnerships.
Borissov said: "We discussed cooperation opportunities in tourism, the economy, the cultural heritage and education. We have a Confucius Institute in Sofia." He added that Bulgaria and its people like the Chinese people. "We have the rare opportunity to develop industrial, economic and business relations, with a pragmatic approach and in keeping with the EU rules," said Borissov.
For his part, Premier Li said: "We reached agreement on important matters at the one-to-one meeting with Prime Minister Borissov, who invited me here. This is my first visit to Bulgaria and the first leg of my European tour."
After the visit, Li will leave Sofia for Berlin where he is meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Li thanked for the welcome offered to the Chinese delegation and the formal dinner given by Prime Minister Borissov. We are proud of the courage of Bulgarian mountaineer Boyan Petrov. I was given a flag sent by his wife. I also managed to see artefacts dating back seven thousand years."
China was strongly involved in the rescue operation for Bulgarian mountaineer Boyan Petrov, who attempted an ascent of the summit of Shishapangma (8,027 m) in May. Petrov's wife thanked Li with the words "The heart of the brave never freeze" written on a Bulgarian flag.
Borissov said Friday's meeting sent a message that the 16+1 Summit is not intended to divide Europe but to step up bilateral exchange. "Its aim is to help the less advanced countries increase their GDP and people's incomes," the Bulgarian Prime Minister said after meeting with Li. This is not a geopolitical alliance and it is not opposing anyone in Europe, it only seeks to improve people's economic welfare. According to Borissov, China is already aware of Bulgaria's geopolitical importance and of its growth prospects.
Li said China was ready to invest in the region while respecting the law, the rules of free trade and of the European Union. China is not seeking a trade war with anyone, but it will defend the interests and rules of free trade if necessary, he said. China will commit to open its markets and ease the access of foreign companies, guaranteeing that their interests will be protected, the Chinese Premier said.
The 16+1 format is not a political platform and is not intended to divide the EU, said Li. Europe is important for global prosperity and there can be no global development without it. China supports democracy in international relations, he said.
China and Bulgaria have complementary economic interests: Bulgaria's agricultural goods are in demand in China, and China's industrial goods are in demand in Bulgaria, said Li. He stressed he was fascinated with the gold artefacts made seven thousand years ago and discovered in Bulgaria, and urged the reporters accompanying him to tell the Chinese people about them. Saying that tourism is a two-way process, Li called for an increase of Bulgarian tourist numbers in his country.
Li said China is interested in a project using nuclear equipment available in Bulgaria and in implementing infrastructure projects in the region. He was referring to China National Nuclear Corporation's expression of interest in investing in Bulgaria's Belene nuclear power project, abandoned by the government in 2012. It has since been trying to revive the project but has ruled out any State financing, guarantees or long-term purchase of the electricity to be generated by the plant if and when it is built. China is also showing an interest in Bulgaria's transport link with the Aegean. However, everything should be done transparently, in keeping with clear rules, and with the possible involvement of third countries or banks, said Li.
The two government leaders are confident that the steady upward trend in two-way trade will continue.
With the leaders of 15 countries of Central and Eastern Europe arriving in Sofia for the 16+1 Summit, Borissov said Li and he would hold many bilateral meetings.
At the Council of Ministers, Bulgaria and China signed documents promoting economic and trade cooperation, including a financial agreement worth 1.5 billion euro between the Bulgarian Development Bank and China Development Bank, and an agreement with Navibulgar worth over 94 million dollars for the construction of six bulk ships.