Remarks With Bulgarian Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov After Their Meeting

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Sofia, Bulgaria
January 15, 2015

FOREIGN MINISTER MITOV: (Via interpreter) Dear Mr. Secretary, dear colleagues, for me it was an honor to host the official visit of the State Secretary of the United States John Kerry in Bulgaria. Today, we reaffirmed our strong strategic partnership between the two countries and we adopted the joint statement for the media, which is at your disposal already.

A few words on the achieved agreements. Strengthening our cooperation in the field of security and defense, energy security and diversification, rule of law, education, people-to-people ties, including by creating joint working groups, is a strong message for the strength and resilience of our relations. Our strategic partnership, our common democratic values, the high-level dialogue, and the excellent cooperation, Bulgaria treasures this highly.

In response to the challenges and changes in the geopolitical environment caused by the conflict in the Ukraine and the growing terrorist threat from the Middle East, we – our efforts in this area will contribute to improving the situation in the region and globally.

We also reaffirmed our efforts for expanding NATO, including the countries from the West Balkans in the NATO alliance, and Bulgaria will be the guarantor. The support of the U.S. in modernizing our military and the implementation of the NATO Readiness Action Plan will increase the security of the eastern borders of (inaudible) and the entire region.

Energy security is also of key importance. Our common goal is to attract investments to guarantee supply and distribution, as well as to build interconnectivity with neighboring countries.

Among the major areas in our collaboration is our effort to expand our trade and economic relations, including goods turnover and attracting new American investments in Bulgaria. Bulgaria’s potential in ICT, machine building, and other sectors will help her to attract more investments from the United States, especially in high-tech productions and in services with high added value. This topic is not only bilateral; it is also within the transatlantic relations. And here I ought to mention the TTIP and our support for the constructive negotiations between the EU and the United States on signing this agreement.

The connection – the ties between Bulgaria and law enforcement and security institutions and bodies are also on the rights, and then cooperation in combating human traffic, drug traffic, cyber crime, et cetera.

Bulgaria and the United States will also work on the people-to-people ties, on removing the visa regime for Bulgarian people. Mr. Secretary, I hope that your visit has shown you that Bulgaria is a good friend of – and a good ally of the United States, and we will continue our work for improving the situation in the region, in Europe, and globally.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Daniel, thank you very much. I’m appreciative to the foreign minister, to Minister Mitov, for his very warm welcome here at the foreign ministry. And I’m thankful to him for refueling me with a very good lunch.

I’m appreciative also for the good conversation that we had. I’m not going to repeat everything that I said earlier with the prime minister, and I’m not going to repeat everything that Daniel just said in an excellent summary of our discussion. So he has pretty fully described to all of you the breadth of our relationship and the importance of the United States-Bulgaria partnership and friendship. And it is a friendship, and it is a partnership.

And I want to emphasize that we had a broad discussion at the luncheon. I asked a lot of questions. I particularly was educated about the constitution, the constitutional process, the political process, and of course the judiciary, and the reform initiative, which this government is committed to, which is so important to the ability of Bulgaria to be able to attract capital investment and to be able to make the progress that everybody hopes for.

It’s obviously no secret that the transatlantic community is facing a lot of challenges at this point in time, and the job of creating a Europe that is whole and free and at peace is not a finished job at all. So we are focused on how to make the most progress as fast as possible in this important partnership in order to meet the challenges that we face head on. And it is clear that both the United States and Bulgaria are absolutely committed to investing in the sources of our strength, and that means in a strong, clean, and accountable judiciary, in democratic institutions, but also in our citizens, because in the end it’s the citizens who define a country.

We believe that, on energy security, particularly, there is a very important economic and security priority that we intend to follow up on in the serious ways that I talked about earlier. And we also are very committed to helping to protect Bulgaria’s very rich cultural heritage. The United States is already helping to restore the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Nessebar, and we’ve also increased the size of the Bulgarian Fulbright program for exchanges of students.

But one of the things that we talked about at lunch is the value of tourism and the newly created tourism bureau – or tourism ministry here in Bulgaria, which is an opportunity to really focus on an area that could provide enormous revenue increase, expand the economy, and also strengthen Bulgaria, as well as promote Bulgaria on an international basis.

So there’s a lot of homework to do. We’re particularly going to follow up on the economic front, on the energy front, and we laid out in a communique to everybody a pretty good summary of the new working groups and the new initiatives that we’re going to engage in.

So for me, this has been a very productive visit. I’m glad to have been able to come here, and I look forward to returning sometime in the future, when together we can announce specific progress on some of the plans that we laid today.

So thank you. Thank you, Mr. Foreign Minister, for your welcome. Thank you to the president and the prime minister. Thank you to the people of Bulgaria for their friendship and partnership. And thank you so much for the work that Bulgaria has done to help to deal with international crises from Afghanistan to Iraq to ISIL, and continuing to do in their own neighborhood. We appreciate it very much. It is the mark of a strong and important country when they are as engaged as Bulgaria is today.

Thank you very much.