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 would 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, with 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 counternarcotics investigations have seized over $3 million in illegal assets. Our law enforcement partnership has led to the arrest of hackers conducting international fraud schemes. I want to commend the law enforcement arms of the government, as well as the government itself – for being a very effective leader in these kinds of efforts, addressing critical problems that affect, 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 the statistics – among 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. And 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 have 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: (Via interpreter) I would also like to thank you. Just a couple of words on the main issues discussed, our cooperation. I would build on what Mrs. Clinton said. We all are concerned with what is going on in Syria, with the developments in Syria, and we hope that this will stop immediately. We also discussed the issue of shale gas. I just want to mention this so that there are not too many questions about it. As Mrs. Clinton said, Bulgarian environment, Bulgarian nature and its protection for the next generations is a top priority, it ranks first, and the financial and economic benefits come second. This is why we agreed to bring the best specialists on these new technologies to present the benefits of the technology to the Bulgarian people. Until then, the moratorium is in place so that we can safeguard Bulgarian environment.
Deepest respects was paid to the Bulgarian soldiers, Bulgarian troops in Afghanistan. It was mentioned that our – they’re highly professional soldiers with regards to energy diversification. I presented to Mrs. Clinton the fact that the Bulgarian-Romanian gas interconnection will be launched in May. The connection with Greece will be launched in – somewhat later because of the (inaudible) position procedures and delays related to them, as well as I presented Secretary Clinton with information about the joint cabinet meetings of Bulgarian and Turkish Government, when officials will be taken for launching the interconnection.
Just one question each. If you have any questions to me, on Bulgarian side. Bulgarian National Television, Mr. (inaudible).
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Secretary Clinton, will the U.S. commitment to Bulgarian security be broadened? And would the role of our joint facilities in Bulgaria be augmented after U.S. pulls out its troops from Europe?
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 doing so.
I think we have an American question from Lachlan Carmichael.
QUESTION: Hello to both of you. 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 can 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 of 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 would lead to a transition. We feared that the failure to do so would 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 it 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: (Via interpreter) I can answer to the second question. I even said this to the – during European Council meeting. You know that we passed the declaration with regards to the violence in Syria, and my position is no internal or external political issue can be resolved by blood, by shedding people’s blood. Condolences to those who lost their lives in Egypt, and (inaudible) the football game. The loss of life is of greatest concern to all democratically thinking people, and they should all insist that this should immediately stop. This is our categorical position.
On the second question on the diversification, energy diversification of a country such as Bulgaria, to make it more independent from the energy supplies from Russia, just like in the case of shale gas, I was very clear. Our environment comes first, and until we convince – we persuade the public that the technology is safe, we cannot move forward. I would say the same, sir, with regards to nuclear. I will quote what I said to Mrs. Clinton. If I believe one hundred percent that building a nuclear power plant is a hundred percent safe and we will not have to decommision reactors in 10 years’ time, because we already have such experience in Bulgaria, I would sign the agreement today.
It is those concerns that make us be so careful, so cautious, but we’re still trying to work for diversification in any area – any electricity generation, gas, oil, and so on and so forth. We have made great progress, in Bulgarian terms, of using renewable energy sources, also using coal. Bulgaria is very active. We are planning to start construction of the Gorna Arda hydroelectric power station. So we are making great efforts in this direction. We are pragmatic with regards to every – any project; is it good for the environment, is it economically and financially beneficial, and of course, what would happen in 10 or 20 years with the project?
I think you should agree that if – for us to pay 7-10 billion and to have to decommission in 10 years, that would be stupid. You see, in communications in modern and (inaudible), what were thought as state of the art technology a year ago is obsolete now. This is why, when I am to commit to allocate taxpayers’ money for certain projects, I have to be very cautious. We already spent more than 1.4 billion leva for the (inaudible) project, and we’re still trying to find solutions, and I hope we will find them soon.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.