Sofia, Bulgaria–(ENEWSPF)–February 5, 2012.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it’s an honor to be back in this beautiful country and to have a chance to demonstrate the very strong partnership and friendship between the United States and Bulgaria. I promised the people of Bulgaria that the United States will stand with you, and we have done so. And we are very impressed and proud of the extraordinary progress that has been made and the strong relationship between the Bulgarian and American people and governments.
I would like to thank the prime minister for receiving me today and for the excellent discussions that our two teams have just concluded. I also want to thank the president, whom I met earlier, and the foreign minister, with whom I work on a regular basis throughout the year.
The prime minister and I just had a very productive meeting. It underscored the depth and range of the partnership between us. As NATO allies, Bulgaria and the United States work side by side around the world to address critical issues, from ensuring a successful transition in Afghanistan to keeping the peace in Kosovo, to diversifying and securing our energy supplies, including in the nuclear sector. We are partners in helping to advance Bulgaria’s energy independence and security and in protecting the beautiful Bulgarian environment.
When we demonstrate that technologies are safe, we pursue both goals at once, and we will stand with the Bulgarian people and government as they work to be able to provide affordable energy that meets your needs. I will be sending my special envoy for Eurasian Energy, Ambassador Richard Morningstar, to Bulgaria this week to have expert conversations about how we can be more helpful in protecting your environment and advancing your energy security goals.
Our excellent cooperation has helped to deter, detect, and stop trafficking in nuclear and other radioactive materials. Our joint counter-narcotic investigations have seized over $3 million in illegal assets. Our law enforcement partnership has led to the arrest of actors conducting international fraud schemes. I want to commend the law enforcement – (inaudible) as well as the government itself – for being a very effective leader in these kinds of efforts, addressing critical problems that affects not just Bulgaria and the region but indeed the world.
Bulgaria’s experience transitioning from communism to democracy, setting up effective institutions and persevering over the last 20 years provides many useful lessons. All one has to do is look at statistics – the lowest unemployment rates, lowest taxation rates, increasing international investment, including American investment. The social and economic development of the country stands as a great model not only within Europe but increasingly abroad to countries attempting to make the transition from authoritarianism and dictatorial rule to democracy and rule by the people.
Bulgaria has taken several steps in the last few years to combat corruption, pursue judicial reform, and uphold the rule of law for all citizens. These are very important steps for any democracy, and it will help Bulgaria continue to strengthen your democratic institutions. The Sofia Platform, which will meet for the third time later this year, is an excellent vehicle for sharing the lessons that you have learned throughout Central Europe and the Middle East. And we thank Bulgaria, thank you, Prime Minister, for your leadership in this area.
Bulgaria has just recently joined the Open Government Partnership that was started by President Obama and is co-chaired with the Brazilians. We will look forward to working with Bulgaria as you implement your action plan to improve government transparency and accountability and also pursue the potential use of e-government, which we are finding around the world is a great tool for bringing government closer to the people. And I think the president told me earlier that 2.2 million Bulgarians are on Facebook, so the technology is already present and putting it to use on behalf of better governance will be one of the issues we discuss when the Open Government Partnership meets in Brasilia later this spring.
I will be also meeting with a group of young Roma leaders and activists, and I applaud the Government of Bulgaria for the important Roma integration strategy, an important step toward full integration of your Roma people.
The relationship between our two countries is broad and deep. Now, President Obama and I are committed to working with the prime minister, the president, the Government of Bulgaria, and the people in making it even stronger and deeper in the years ahead. So it’s a great pleasure to be here, to see for myself even with this short visit the extraordinary progress that you are making. We will continue to stand with you as you move on the path of democracy to consolidate the gains that brought so many benefits to Bulgaria, and we will face together the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.
Thank you, Prime Minister.
PRIME MINISTER BORISSOV: (In Bulgarian.)
QUESTION: (In Bulgarian.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first let me say how committed the United States is to Bulgaria’s security. We are NATO allies. We take very seriously our Article 5 obligation for collective defense. Bulgaria has been an important, productive partner of NATO, and I did tell the prime minister that Bulgarian troops serving in Afghanistan have a well-deserved reputation for professionalism and bravery. I want to extend condolences for the loss of life and casualties that the Bulgarian troops have suffered.
With respect to security cooperation going forward, we want to make sure that we consult closely with our Bulgarian friends about how the United States and Bulgaria bilaterally and through NATO will make sure that Europe has the best defense in terms of missile defense and other capabilities in order to protect Bulgaria and all of our European allies.
I think that there will be a number of joint military exercises between the United States and Bulgaria this year. We are looking to expand our military cooperation and to do a thorough review about where it stands today and where it needs to be going in the future. I cannot prejudge that review, but the overriding issue for us is that Bulgaria has proven to be a very capable partner for whom we have the greatest respect and to whom we owe our NATO responsibility of providing defense. And we are absolutely committed to (inaudible).
I think we’ve got an American question from Lachlan Carmichael.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) First, now that the Russians have vetoed the resolution on Syria, what’s the next step? The Syrians are calling for a coalition of support. What do you say to that? And then, of course, on Bulgaria, why is it so important that a country like Bulgaria be economically and politically independent from Russia?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, do you want me to go first, Prime Minister? Let me start with Syria. Let me begin by saying that Bulgaria, as you just heard the prime minister express, has been very supportive of the aspirations and rights of the Syrian people, and we are grateful for that.
What happened yesterday at the United Nations was a travesty. Those countries that refuse to support the Arab League plan bear full responsibly for protecting the brutal regime in Damascus. And it is tragic that after all the work that the Security Council did, they had a 13-2 vote.
The 13 of us voting in favor of the Arab League plan were primed to start a process for political engagement that will lead to a transition. We fear that the failure to do so will actually increase the chances for a brutal civil war. Many Syrians, under attack from their own government, are moving to defend themselves, which is to be expected.
So what do we do? Well, faced with a neutered Security Council, we have to redouble our efforts outside of the United Nations with those allies and partners who support the Syrian people’s right to have a better future. We have to increase diplomatic pressure on the Assad regime and work to convince those people around President Assad that he must go, and that there has to be a recognition of that and a new start to try to form a government that will represent all of the people of Syria.
We will work to seek regional and national sanctions against Syria and strengthen the ones we have. They will be implemented to the fullest to dry up the sources of funding and the arms shipments that are keeping the regime’s war machine going. We will work to expose those who are still are funding the regime and sending them weapons that are used against defenseless Syrians, including women and children. And we will work with the friends of a democratic Syria around the world to support the opposition’s peaceful political plans for change. We will work to provide what humanitarian relief we are able to do so.
And over the coming days, I will be consulting closely with our allies and partners in Europe, in the Arab League, and around the world. Because remember, in those 13 votes you had not only Europeans, but you have Arabs, Africans, Latin Americans, South Asians. This was a unified international community seeking an end to the violence. So we will consult – be consulting with the foreign minister here and others – about what we can do to rescue this deteriorating situation before it’s too late.
Do you want to say anything about Syria?
PRIME MINISTER BORISSOV: (In Bulgarian.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.