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Bulgaria: Shipping Agreement Proposed With Greece

Sofia, 27 November 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Bulgaria and Greece are considering granting each other's ships priority access to facilities in a number of harbors.

Bulgarian Vice Prime Minister Evgeni Bakardjiev, who is also minister of regional development and public works, has returned to Sofia from Athens, where he met Greek Prime Minister Kostas Simitis and other officials.

He said that the proposal is for Greece to grant Bulgarian ships preferential access to Thesaloniki, Kavala and Alexandroupolis on the north coast of the Aegean Sea. In return, Bulgaria would provide to Greek ships the same privileges at Vidin, Lom and Rousse on the Danube River, and at Varna and Burgas on the Black Sea.

Bakardjiev said he was encouraged by the Greek reaction to his initiative. He said officials have scheduled further talks in Athens on December 4 and 5.

Bakardjiev said he's convinced that a port facilities agreement, cutting ships expensive waiting time in ports and attracting vessels to shorter routes, would decrease costs of Bulgarian goods in markets to the west. He said Greece would benefit from a shortcut to destinations in East Europe and to a number of former Soviet republics around the Caspian Sea.

Also at the December meeting in Athens, a newly created tripartite engineering committee for a proposed Transbalkan oil pipeline project will meet for its first session. Participants are Russia, Bulgaria and Greece.

The proposed pipeline would extend 250 km between the Bulgarian port city of Burgas, on the western coast of the Black sea, and Alexandroupolis, the Greek port city on the northern coast of the Aegean sea.