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Digital Archive International History Declassified

April 22, 1989

OFFICIAL TALKS BETWEEN TODOR ZHIVKOV AND ANDREAS PAPANDREOU, PRIME MINISTER OF GREECE

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    Official talks between the President of the State Council of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria Todor Zhivkov and the Prime Minister of Greece Andreas Papandreou regarding Greek-Bulgarian relations.
    "Official talks between Todor Zhivkov and Andreas Papandreou, Prime Minister of Greece," April 22, 1989, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Central State Archive, Sofia, Fond 1-B, Record 60, File 414. Translated by Assistant Professor Kalina Bratanova. Edited by Dr. Jordan Baev, Momchil Metodiev, and Nancy L. Meyers. Obtained by the Bulgarian Cold War Research Group. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/112045
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OFFICIAL TALKS
Between the President of the State Council of the People's Republic of Bulgaria Todor Zhivkov and the Prime Minister of Greece Andreas Papandreou[1]
22 April 1989, Alexandroupolis[2]

ANDREAS PAPANDREOU:
I once again have the chance to welcome our country's friend Todor Zhivkov and his assistants. I hope that the warmth with which residents of Alexandroupolis welcomed you is indicative of our people's feelings towards you.

I guess that our meetings are of a more specific nature this time; today the meeting is taking place on our territory, the next will take place on your territory. I believe that we will have enough time to discuss important issues during our talks. It is true that we share a common view on topics related to the preservation of world peace, the situation in the Balkans, and understanding between the Balkan countries.

Mr. Zhivkov, I suggest that tomorrow we have a private meeting, where our foreign ministers will be present, so that we can discuss the problems concerning our countries, as well as certain European and global issues.

TODOR ZHIVKOV:
I think that our present meeting will be fruitful and I am optimistic about it. Our meetings offer many favorable opportunities for our delegations to carry out serious work. My and your mission consists in giving our blessing to the results achieved by them.

I agree to the agenda you offered, I do not mind our delegations starting work today, and our meeting being held tomorrow to discuss certain aspects of our bilateral cooperation, the problems on the Balkans, as well as global and European issues.

We are now meeting as friends and there are no problems between us that might break up our relations. On the contrary: all that has been achieved so far provides solid grounds for further progress. I believe that we will live up to our wonderful peoples' expectations. Watching your people today and in the past during my previous visits, and, taking into consideration our people, I see that they are very much alike, sharing common feelings and problems. And it is often the case that we, heads of state, mislead them; I do not mean you and me in particular, I have in mind heads of state in general.

ANDREAS PAPANDREOU:
Mr. Zhivkov, first of all I would like to thank you for the warm words. Talking about our problems, I must point out that PASOK,[3] during his 8-year term of office, brought about our people's advancement along the road to peace, democracy and progress. PASOK mainly succeeded in balancing the economic development of the urban and the rural areas. Nowadays it's equally pleasant to live in the countryside and in the big cities of Greece. It's even better to live in the village. This was not the situation even only ten years ago. This is what determines, Mr. President, our positive attitude towards you, as you yourself defined it. There is indeed a feeling of respect and love that we cherish towards you.

I would like to mention some other simple truths.

Our government contributed to laying the basis of sustainable peace in the Balkans, although the region is only a micrography of the world; your government took this mission up several years earlier, of course. The Balkans present a mixture of various structures and policies, such as NATO and the Warsaw Pact, the Common Market and non-aligned countries such as Albania and Yugoslavia. Nevertheless we succeeded in organizing a meeting in which all Balkan countries participated for the first time. That is a significant achievement.

Yet another truth is that our bilateral relations can be evaluated as excellent. Our countries are an example of a united duet in the Balkan region with no severe problems between them.

I must admit that there is one fact that disturbs me. That's the unsolved yet both clear and not so clear problems; certain problems in the relations between Turkey and Bulgaria, between Turkey and Greece; other well-known problems as the ones we have sometimes with Yugoslavia. We are really concerned about the events that have been taking place these days in the Balkans. Such are the internal problems within Yugoslavia in connection with the Albanian problem. Our friend Romania has also been creating problems. Since both Greece and Bulgaria are a positive factor in the region, we keep asking ourselves whether we might help normalize the situation in the region by any means. I think that stable relations between Greece and Bulgaria provide the basis for establishing good relations between the Balkan countries in general. This is an important and interesting issue we would like to hear your opinion of.

Another problem is East-West relations. The USA has a new government. There are no indications so far of any change in US policy towards the Soviet Union, compared to the times when Reagan was President; however Americans are more skeptical about their policy nowadays. The question is how long the USA will be able to sustain its policy in the totally new situation created with Mikhail Gorbachov's taking power. Therefore the USA is uncertain about whether it will maintain its policy for a longer period. There have been fears that changes might take place in the Soviet Union. This is the skepticism I had in mind.

Another issue. The USA is painstakingly making efforts to prevent a euphoric atmosphere from setting over Europe, i.e. raising hopes for peace and disarmament which would weaken NATO's influence and significance. Serious problems have arisen in NATO; an example of such a problem is the upgrading of small-range nuclear weapons. This issue has been given due attention on the part of the USA. Upgrading presupposes producing new types of weapons, much more effective and with a wider range of action within the medium-range missiles. Therefore this upgrading means producing weapons we have already put aside, the weapons so called medium-range, that have been put out of use both by the Soviet Union and the USA. West Germany strongly opposes such upgrading; this position is based on both national and political arguments. This is a problem we will further dwell on.

I must admit that there is some hesitation and caution in the ice-breaking process between the two superpowers; the former might be an obstacle to the progress of the talks between the two superpowers on strategic weapons. A period difficult to predict and foresee is ahead of us. Our view of the situation is the following: we must reinforce the importance of peace and nuclear disarmament; we shall thus contribute to promptly resolving the problem of the decrease in the number of lesser-range weapons.

I am convinced that our initiatives and statements on peace and disarmament played an important role. At the present moment they may have an even greater relevance. I believe that we will have the opportunity to discuss this issue tomorrow at our talks with the foreign ministers.

To wind up I would like to say that we have taken the right direction; the first clouds have appeared however; we must do something to clear them away so that the sun can once again shine along our path. Many negative qualities may be attributed to Reagan; yet we must admit that he manifested the political courage to move on and give effect to disarmament. I cannot perceive the same courage in the present US administration.

I believe that if we take our time to talk and reach agreements feasible for our two small countries, we will undoubtedly contribute to strengthening world peace. Apart from that, we shall take advantage of all the favorable opportunities to stimulate the further development of our bilateral relations.

I am happy with your words, Mr. President, that neither the elections in Greece, nor my short illness were an obstacle to holding our meeting.

TODOR ZHIVKOV:
Thank you for everything you said. We shall obviously carry out a more detailed discussion of these issues tomorrow.

Let me make a brief comment on certain issues as well.

I do share your view on the newly established international situation that causes us concern and results in slowing down disarmament. I don't know if the major factor in this situation is the new US administration, along with the fact that the dialogue between the US and the Soviet Union has not started yet. All statements, made prior to their talks, are the cause of our concern. An issue that causes concern is the one about tactical nuclear weapons. What do these weapons and especially the new upgraded ones suggest? If our two countries have such weapons deployed, then we can destroy each other within a couple of hours. Conventional weapons have reached the level of nuclear weapons in terms of their destructive power. The question is: will we find the appropriate ways and means to preserve the achievements in disarmament so far, or will we push this disarmament process back? This is indeed a question that cannot but cause our concern. We do hope, however, that there are forces both in Europe and the USA that will impose the new mode of historical thinking, adequate to the new realities, so as to prevent at any cost a thermo-nuclear war.

As for the Vienna forum and the final documents adopted there, we do approve of them. Moreover, at the forthcoming 9th and 10th session of our Parliament next month legislation will be passed so that these documents take effect. We have no objections to these documents, we approve of them, and we are willing to do our best to adapt ourselves to the new global realities, despite our awareness of the obstacles and difficulties that we will face. It is quite clear that we have to live a civilized life. All laws that have been drawn up together by us, must be observed, otherwise they will be perfunctory.

Therefore world progress towards thermo-nuclear war prevention, as well as environmental and other global issues are yet to be solved. The revolutionary step has not been taken yet; there is the danger of delaying the process and even pushing it back. This process undergoes ups and downs in its evolution. But the social energy building up in adopting the new political thinking and action in international affairs under Gorbachev's leadership, and the public capital that is being raised in this process, has captured people's hearts since we are witnessing the establishment of a new world order and a new stage in the progress of mankind. Before reaching the agreements of the Vienna forum, we held the Helsinki summit;[4] unfortunately its agreements were not implemented to the full extent. I think that the Vienna forum is taking place in the realities of the new world. The next stronghold of the past that has to be abolished, since it hinders the establishment of the modern civilized life style on our planet, is nuclear arms. Even if there is a five-fold cut in the number of nuclear weapons, what is left will suffice to wipe us out completely. Hence the importance of making progress step by step to prevent a delay of the disarmament process or of pushing it back.

I completely agree with you that there is a new situation in the Balkans. We are of the same opinion that there will be obstacles and hardships to overcome by our joint efforts along our way that will by no means be easy. I emphasize it once again: the Balkans are a region where the super powers have their influence; therefore we must remind them to undertake their political moves bearing in mind the region's willingness to live in peace and understanding.

Although I am thus pessimistic, in general I am even more optimistic. An optimistic feeling takes the upper hand. We are still young, there is enough time before us to live and go on with our talks. I mean we're biologically young.

ANDREAS PAPANDREOU:
We would not be so active, if we were not optimists. I must admit that you look 10 years younger than when we last met. You won't reveal the secret of it.

TODOR ZHIVKOV:
There is no secret to unveil, one must simply keep working. Man is the product of labor.

As for the situation in our country, great changes have been made. Although you have some information available, I would like to tell you that significant economic transformations have been taking place. We are setting up the economic system based on establishing individual firms.[5] What is the difference between a firm and any other economic agent in the capitalist countries? There is no difference, and if there is, then that means that we have not organized our system well compared to the one in the capitalist countries. The major difference comes at the top of the economic system where there is the state; 50% of the profit goes into the state budget as revenues. There is no other difference. Since the modern government is not of a capitalist type. As long ago as primitive society man began free market exchange. He exchanged products; later the market system developed into a feudal and a capitalist one. Since there are commodity-money relations, the market is a necessity. Taking into consideration the objective realities in the world and in our country we think that the modern technologies and management are the basis of economic development and growth. Nowadays the state is the economic agent standing both at the input and output of the economic system. It should not intervene in the middle. These are the imperatives of cybernetics, the ones of “the black box.” The state must not intervene in the activities of firms. Similar reforms are to be carried out in agriculture. There is a coming plenum of our party on the 4 and 5 of May dedicated to agricultural issues. Our next step would be introducing publishing houses as individual agents in the sphere of culture, etc.

We have set up several hundred firms so far; they will provide the major framework within which our economy will work. Tens of thousands of firms will be established with the respective legal structures: liabilities and responsibilities. The socialist state will stand at the input and output of the economic system. We can thus show you a wealth of companies. Over 100 firms took part in the Hanover Fair, and several hundred representatives of West Germany's firms attended our forum for businessmen.

ANDREAS PAPANDREOU:
The EEC (European Economic Community) has been dealing with the issue of firms. What you just said about the economic organization of firms is of interest to us; I would like to add something more to the topic at our meeting tomorrow; it will not be anything new actually, simply an elaboration of what you said.

I suggest that we now end our talks, since we will have the opportunity to go on tomorrow. Let's go and attend the cocktail and have an official lunch.

Footnotes

[1] Papandreou, Andreas (1919-1996), Greek academic, politician, and statesman; son of former Prime Minister Georgios Papandreou, he served in his father's personal prime ministerial office during 1964 and became Minister for Economic Coordination in 1965. Imprisoned by the Greek junta in April 1967, he managed to flee the country. Following the collapse of the junta in 1974, Papandreou returned to Greek politics and was elected Prime Minister of Greece (1981-1989, 1993-1996).

[2] Alexandroupolis – a Greek city, capital of the Evros prefecture, situated near the border with Bulgaria at the Aegean Sea coast.

[3] PASOK - Panhellenic Socialist Movement; Greek left-wing party, founded by Andreas Papandreou in 1974.

[4] Zhivkov refers to the Helsinki summit of the Conference for Security and Co-operation in Europe, concluded in Helsinki on August 1, 1975.

[5] In January 1989 the Bulgarian State Council issued the so-called “Decree #56”. The decree reflected the new policy of BCP, aimed at major reorganization of the economy, including some limited opportunities for establishing private enterprises.

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