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Diplomacy in Action

Interview with Olga Dimitrova Jones of Bulgarian E-Newspaper

Philip H. Gordon
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
One-on-One at Foreign Press Center
Washington, DC
November 6, 2009


BULGARIAN E-NEWSPAPER: Dr. Gordon, we’ll celebrate 20th Anniversary of beginning of democratic government in six days, actually on 10 of November. Do you want to tell us something different about Bulgaria and the way we are dealing with changes?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Well, the 20th Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and some subsequent 20th Anniversaries that are coming up, really is a good opportunity to put in the spotlight not just what happened 20 years ago, but what countries have been doing then.

Secretary Clinton will be going to Berlin to join other European leaders in underscoring this hugely important historic event that led to the liberation of tens of millions of people and put a number of countries on the path to European Union membership and NATO membership. And Bulgaria is one of those countries that contributed to this period of revolutions in Europe and we think has enormously benefitted from that great period of change in 1989 and the years that followed.

BULGARIAN E-NEWSPAPER: Thank you. I remember her visit in 2001 in Bulgaria.

For Bulgarians, usual citizens ask me, not only politicians. It’s very sensitive issue, the problem with visas. For Bulgarians, we still need visas. I want to invite my son for Christmas and he still needs visa. Do you think there is a real short term for taking the decisions for Bulgarians?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I wouldn’t want to put a timetable on it because it’s a criteria-based system. And what should be encouraging to Bulgaria is the fact that a number of other countries that previously had to get visas before coming to the United States ended up meeting criteria, graduated, and then can now benefit from visa-free travel.

I think Bulgarians appreciate why this needs to be criteria-based, but we look forward to working with Bulgaria to help it get to the point, because we would benefit also from visa free travel, but it’s only possible when the conditions are met.

BULGARIAN E-NEWSPAPER: For us it’s also important in terms of economical issues. Do you think, is there any way to support American investment in Bulgaria?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I completely agree that visa free travel is important on a commercial basis. Business people need to be able to come and go and that’s why, again, we share the same goal as Bulgarians which is to allow eventually for visa free travel. And we also benefit, and President Obama has made this clear, from global trade and investment. And hospitable environment in Bulgaria which is to say rule of law, anti-corruption, open functioning market, will attract American money and that will create jobs from which we’ll both benefit.

BULGARIAN E-NEWSPAPER: Missile defense system. The new approach is connected to Bulgaria because Bulgaria is boundary of Europe, boundary of the European Union. We have always sensitive relationship with Russia.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: We’ve explained the basic principles of the missile defense approach that the President decided in September. Specific decisions on locating different aspects of this architecture haven’t yet been made, but we have said there will be an opportunity for NATO countries to participate in different ways. Some countries will end up hosting interceptor sites, others will be involved in other ways. Some won’t be involved at all. It’s something that we as the U.S. government are going to have to work through NATO and bilaterally to figure out just the right approach, but to the degree that Bulgaria is interested, I think there are likely to be ways that it can be involved in missile defense.



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