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The President of the Republic began his state visit to Bulgaria

State Visit to the Republic of Bulgaria 25.-27.05.2005President Arnold Rüütel and Mrs. Ingrid Rüütel arrived in Sofia late yesterday night to begin the state visit to the Republic of Bulgaria. The Estonian Ambassador to Bulgaria Aivo Orav, the Bulgarian Ambassador to Estonia Venelin Cachevski and Estonia's Honorary Consul in Bulgaria Boris Halatchev greeted the presidential couple at Sofia airport.

Today, in the morning, an official welcoming ceremony was held in Alexander Nevsky Square in downtown Sofia. The President of the Republic of Bulgaria Georgi Parvanov and Mrs. Zorka Parvanova greeted the Head of Estonian state and his wife. President Rüütel laid a wreath on the grave of an unknown soldier. After that, the Estonian official delegation proceeded to the Presidential Palace where a tete-ą-tete meeting of the presidents and a meeting of the delegations took place.

At the meeting, Estonian-Bulgarian bilateral political, economic and cultural relations as well as the further EU enlargement and cooperation within the framework of NATO were discussed. President Rüütel noted that the Estonian-Bulgarian relations had always been good, but had not been very intensive already for years. In the words of the Head of Estonian state, in recent years high-level mutual visits have facilitated the deepening of relations between the two countries, but also more lively economic contacts and rapid growth in trade and tourism. President Rüütel added that while developing cooperation between the two countries, it is necessary to have in mind also some common future goals, for example, the Estonian and Bulgarian EU Presidency in 2018. At the meeting, Minister Edgar Savisaar highlighted Estonia's experience in energy sector, the implementation of tax reform, and the cooperation of the Baltic Sea countries in the joint protection of natural environment. Vice-Admiral Tarmo Kõuts spoke about close cooperation between the Estonian and Bulgarian defence forces.

At the press conference following the meeting of the delegations, President Parvanov thanked Estonia for the support given to Bulgaria's aspirations to the EU accession. In the words of the Head of Bulgarian state, during his visit to Estonia two years ago, he had been deeply impressed by the progress Estonia had made in developing information technology. In that field, but also in the field of European integration, Bulgaria is interested in getting advice from Estonian experts.

In the afternoon, the President of the Republic addressed the Estonian-Bulgarian business forum at the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. In the words of President Rüütel, in recent years, the Bulgarian-Estonian political relations had reached an entirely new level, but also possibilities of developing economic relations were at least as good as of political relations. "The speed of Bulgaria's economic development and favourable investment environment arouse great interest on our part to intensify our relations. A good basis for further development has been created by successful reforms and the forthcoming EU accession. The size and representability of the business delegation we have with us demonstrates our lively interest in Bulgaria as a cooperation partner," President Rüütel said.

At the business forum also the President of the Republic of Bulgaria Georgi Parvanov, the Estonian Minister of Economy and Communications Edgar Savisaar, and the President of the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Bojidar Bojinov, as well as the President of the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Toomas Luman made presentations.

Visiting the Bulgarian National Assembly, the Head of Estonian state met with the Chairman of the National Assembly Borislav Lubenov Velikov. The meeting addressed the possibilities of further development of Estonian-Bulgarian relations, including the interparliamentary cooperation. The chairman of the Bulgarian National Assembly spoke about the parliamentary elections that would be held on June 25 and told that the serious tasks of the 40th composition of the Parliament involved the reform of court system, but also continuing harmonization of legislation for the EU accession. As Speaker of the Parliament Velikov had been elected to the National Assembly from Montana agricultural district, he was especially interested in the EU experience of Estonia in the field of rural economy, and President Rüütel gave an overview of the situation in Estonia.

The members of Estonian official delegations had their separate meetings. The Chief of the Defence Forces Vice-Admiral Tarmo Kõuts met with the Chief of Staff of the Bulgarian Armed Forces General Nikola Kolev and the commanders of the General Staff, and visited the Air Sovereignty Operational Center (ASOS). Minister of Economy and Communications Edgar Savisaar met with the Bulgarian Minister of Economy Milko Kovachev. President of the Bank of Estonia Vahur Kraft met with Governor of the Bulgarian Central Bank Ivan Iskrov.

Mrs. Ingrid Rüütel had a special programme and met with the wife of the President of the Republic of Bulgaria Zorka Parvanova, and visited Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and its Museum of Icons (Kripta), as well as the Institute of Folklore.

The 24-member business delegation, accompanying the Head of Estonian state, visited the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry where they were given an overview of Bulgaria's foreign investments, terms of foreign trade, business environment and real estate development. After that, the business delegation participated in the Business Forum.

The President of the Republic will continue his state visit to Bulgaria tomorrow, and will arrive back in Estonia at Saturday night.

Public Relations Unit of the Office of the President
Kadriorg, May 26, 2005

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