By Clive Leviev-Sawyer of the Sofia GlobeThe Association Agreement signed between the European Union and Moldova on June 27 raises the relationships between the Moldova and the EU to a new level and creates favourable conditions for strengthening the co-operation between Bulgaria and Moldova, Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev told a joint news conference in Sofia with his Moldovan counterpart Nicolae Timofti.Timofti's official visit to Bulgaria on July 1 was the Moldovan head of state's first such visit after the Association Agreement with the EU was signed. European integration is “the engine” not only of peace, democracy and human development, but also of implementing important reforms, Plevneliev told reporters.Bulgaria is consistent in its support for Moldova’s European prospects, he said.Plevneliev underlined that reforming key sectors such as justice and public administration, creating a good investment climate and fighting corruption are a proof of the civilisation choice that Moldova had made and the country’s determination to continue following the path of EU integration.“I hope that Bulgaria will be among the first countries to ratify the Association Agreement between Moldova and the EU, we also rely on the practical support for implementing it,” Timofti said.The Association Agreement signed between Moldova and the EU creates a “broad and comprehensive free trade zone,” which should encourage investments and the country’s trade.The two presidents unanimously agreed that Bulgaria and Moldova have the potential to considerably exceed the level of bilateral trade of $125 million a year.At their meeting the two heads of state also agreed on scheduling a meeting of the Joint Commission for Trade and Scientific Cooperation as soon as possible.Bulgarian companies are interested in launching infrastructure projects in the transport and road infrastructure sectors, in the newly-created industrial parks and in the construction of railway container terminals in Moldova.Improving the business environment in Moldova creates opportunities for Bulgarian companies to make investments in projects in the agriculture, energy and tourism sectors, Timofti said.Plevneliev thanked his counterpart for the conditions created for preserving and developing the cultural and spiritual identity of the Bulgarian community in Moldova, a statement by the Bulgarian President's office said.The preservation of the Taralia region as an individual administrative unit and preserving the opportunities that Bulgarians have to study Bulgarian were among the main issues discussed by the two presidents at the meeting.“We share the interest in consolidating the policies on supporting the ethnic Bulgarians living in the Republic of Moldova and creating conditions for preserving and developing the spiritual and cultural identity of these citizens, in compliance with EU standards. I can assure you that no matter what changes are made, they will not affect the Bulgarian community’s way of life and conditions for development. The Bulgarian community will continue learning its mother tongue and history, as all people in Moldova do,” the Moldovan president said.Bulgaria and Moldova see strengthening co-operation in science, culture and education as very important, Plevneliev and Timofti told the news conference.The situation in Ukraine was also discussed at their meeting. Bulgaria and Moldova support the peace plan proposed by President Petro Poroshenko and call for overcoming the crisis in the country by using peaceful instruments and by holding a dialogue at a national and international level. Plevneliev also voiced Bulgaria’s support for Moldova’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.