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September 5-6, 2003
Mr. Simeon Saxe-Coburg Gotha
Prime Minister of the Republic of Bulgaria

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure for me to welcome you at today's forum. Besides being excellent occasions for discussion and generating new ideas for the future, events of this kind attest to our will and capabilities to work together for the achievement of our common goals.

I would like to thank the organizer of the conference, the Center for Study of Democracy, for this initiative and the big efforts, which Boyko Noev and his assistants have put. It is a pleasure for us to welcome here personalities who have made an undisputed contribution to the contemporary history of South East Europe: Lord Robertson - Secretary General of NATO, Dr Erhard Busec - Special Coordinator of the Stability Pact as well as personalities who have a big prestige in this common initiative and goal.

It is not an overstatement to say that the issue of security in South East Europe is of paramount importance. We bear the responsibility for its successful resolution because the prosperity and well-being of our countries are not possible without a stable environment for development. We are also accountable in this matter to our partners from Central and Western Europe. No doubt, the transformation of our region into a zone of lasting stability will enhance security for Europe as a whole.

Despite the progress in the efforts of the international community to restore peace in the Western Balkans, we are still facing a number of serious challenges. The slow pace of democratic reform, organized trans-border crime, traffic in people, arms and drugs are, as you know, factors with high-risk potential. Their elimination is possible only with the united efforts of the countries in the region and of key partners.

Therefore, it is necessary to maintain the international presence in the Western Balkans and more closely involve the countries of this region in the field of security, economy, infrastructure, and humanitarian issues. As examples, I would point to the Stability Pact, the Process of Cooperation in South East Europe, the Initiative for Cooperation in South East Europe and the Initiative for Development of the Southern Balkans.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
The mechanisms for military cooperation and enhancing military-political confidence are important for security in South East Europe. Contributors to this end are the meetings of the defense ministers of the countries in South East Europe and the Multinational Peacekeeping Force, both of which are of great importance in terms of foreign policy. They are a distinct precedent in generating security with regional resources which, I believe, diminishes the need of "foreign aid" in guaranteeing peace.

We all know that economic progress is a stabilizing factor and, therefore, we support the accelerated implementation of regional and bilateral infrastructure projects. For Bulgaria I would point to the pan-European transport corridors ? 4 and ? 8, the new border check points, the Vidin - Kalafat bridge across the Danube river and the Bourgas - Alexandroupolis pipe line.

For our country, regional policy is inseparable from our integration into NATO and the European Union. I believe that South East Europe needs a clear vision of its future and an unequivocal commitment to its implementation. Today no one doubts the fact that the region is an inseparable part of united Europe. Bulgaria will become a convincing proof of this upon the implementation of its strategic goals - membership of the Alliance in 2004 and of the European Union in 2007.

At the same time Bulgaria strongly supports the idea of continuing the "open door" policy of NATO and the European Union. I believe that membership of the two organizations is the only option for the return of the countries of South East Europe to the family of democratic states from which they were once driven out unjustly and against their will. Sustained democratization and stability in the region are possible only by applying European standards of behavior and action.

Our partners from NATO and the European Union have repeatedly confirmed their commitment to the integration of the region into the European and Euroatlantic structures. At the end of July this year, the two organizations managed to negotiate and adopt a concept for a coordinated approach to security and stability issues in the most sensitive part of South East Europe - the Western Balkans.

Ladies and gentlemen,
The items on the agenda for security in South East Europe have clear and concrete definitions - reform and irreversibility of the transition to democracy and a market economy, continuous and open dialogue, cooperation in all fields of mutual interest, lasting commitment and active support on behalf of the European Union and NATO partners. To put it in another way, the security agenda encompasses everything that we must consistently and responsibly implement as countries where peace, security, friendly neighbor relations, and prosperity have been adopted as core values.

I wish you every success in your work.
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