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Bulgaria enhancing relations with Africa

1 April 2018

Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva met with South African International Relations and Cooperation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu in Pretoria, South Africa.

"Reviving our traditional and long-standing excellent relations with the states in Africa is a priority of our foreign policy. There are 25,000 expatriate Bulgarians in the Republic of South Africa, who serve as a bridge between our two countries. I hope that bilateral business contacts will be intensified further," Zaharieva told her South African counterpart.

The two discussed combating illegal migration, human trafficking and hate speech, as well as a number of subjects on the international agenda.

"Over the years, in search of new partnerships, which is quite normal, it seems that we somehow forgot about our old traditional partnerships. My objective is to re-establish and enhance and strengthen our role in the African continent because many countries are doing business here. I think that our business is sufficiently strong, I think that we are strongly interested in increasing trade and attracting investments. It is important to restart the traditions we used to have in educating students from this continent," Zaharieva said. South African students now attend universities in Plovdiv, and others will be enrolled in Stara Zagora shortly.

"Quite a few people of my party, the African National Congress, have graduated in Bulgaria. My late husband, a Kenyan by birth, also studied political science in Sofia, and I have learnt a lot about your country from him. Some of our ambassadors are fluent in Bulgarian because they have earned their university degrees in your country," Sisulu said. She appreciated Bulgaria's interest in training students from her country and stressed that South Africa now urgently needs farming experts to implement the latest trends in crop husbandry.

Zaharieva recalled that several South African investment funds acquired three shopping malls in Sofia in 2015. South African interests are also negotiating on another three malls in Sofia and own lots with building permits for the construction of shopping malls in Plovdiv and Varna. Another sizable South African investment has been made in Moussachevo, where more than 450 Bulgarian workers are making upholstery for luxury BMW cars which is exported to the automaker's German assembly works.

The two foreign ministers exchanged invitations to visit each other's country. Zaharieva highlighted Bulgaria's advantages in tourism and the IT sector. Bulgarians, too, regard South Africa as an attractive tourist destination.

Zaharieva asked for assistance to speed up the issuance of a building permit for the construction of Bulgaria's first Orthodox church in Africa. Financing has been provided for this project which was initiated by the Bulgarian community in South Africa.

The last Bulgarian foreign minister to visit South Africa was Ivailo Kalfin, in 2009, during a tour of six African states. South Africa's International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane visited Sofia in 2011.

The two countries established diplomatic relations on February 2, 1992 at embassy level.

Ministerial meeting between the EU and the Southern African Development Community


While in South Africa Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ekaterina Zaharieva co-chaired the ministerial meeting between the EU and the Southern African Development Community.


"The European Union has two major programmes in the pipeline for southern Africa within the European Development Fund: one is dedicated to peace and security, and the other one – to migration. I would like to announce that this week the EU approved a EUR 15 million package for the peace and security programme that hopefully we will be able to launch sooner rather than later," said Minister Zaharieva.


Minister Zaharieva led the European delegation in her capacity as foreign minister of the rotating presidency of the EU Council. She was accompanied by senior diplomats from the European External Action Service, from the European Commission, as well as by EC Delegations from several countries in the region. "We need an innovative and bold approach to help us meet the challenges of modernity," Zaharieva argued. "I am glad to be here, in the Republic of South Africa in this historic year when we honour the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela's birth and the legacy he bequeathed us."


The Peace and Security Program to which the EU commits EUR 15 million, is designed to bolster the long-term monitoring of electoral processes in the countries of the region, to promote mediation as a conflict prevention method, to stimulate international police cooperation aimed at fighting organised crime, and especially drug trafficking.


The Bulgarian Foreign Minister emphasised how important SADC was for the stabilization of this part of the continent. "We need to discuss what can be done to strengthen democracy and peace, in order to make sure that transparent elections are held throughout the region in the years to come.


They are the only way to give us certainty that we will witness reforms backed by society," Zaharieva said. The Bulgarian deputy prime minister also highlighted the importance of giving the region's young people a promise for the future and allocating resources to their education, which is directly linked to another important issue, migration.


SADC was established in 1992. It involves 16 countries: Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Comoros, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Seychelles and Tanzania.


The EU and SADC delegations also discussed the results of the November 2017 EU-African Union Summit in Abidjan; the ways to boost the flow of investment to the region’s agriculture, energy, pharmaceuticals; how to promote labor market-related education programmes; and how to deploy the Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020 programmes.

Foreign Ministry of Bulgaria

Photo: Dirco




February/March 2020

















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