Mr. Prime Minister, thank you very much for your incredibly gracious hospitality. It is a great pleasure for me to be in Bulgaria. I’m very appreciative especially to be here on this day, and the hospitality of your government, yourself is greatly appreciated. I had the opportunity as well to meet with the President I look very much forward to sitting down tomorrow with the Foreign Minister. We’ve also had a very good engagement with the Defense Minister.
And on behalf of the American people, I’d like to start by offering our warmest wishes as you come together today to celebrate St. George’s Day, the Bulgarian Military Day. And again, being here on this day, I think, is symbolic as well for the United States. We join Bulgarians in commemorating the service and sacrifice of the very courageous men and women of the Bulgarian military. As NATO allies, the United States and Bulgarian troops have stood shoulder-to-shoulder from Kosovo to Afghanistan. We pay tribute to their valor and to Bulgaria’s commitment to protect all of our people, our shared values, and our Alliance.
My visit, in its own way, underscores our strong commitment to deepening and expanding our ties, and our appreciation for Bulgaria’s leadership in fostering greater freedom, prosperity, and opportunity in the region and in the world today.
Mr. Prime Minister, we welcome your efforts and your leadership to achieve this vision, especially through the extensive work that’s been done on energy, on defense, on security, and on the rule of law.
I particularly want to single out the extraordinary efforts, the successful efforts that Bulgaria has been making in the fight against corruption, particularly in the area of smuggling. This is an extraordinary achievement, and I think there are many lessons that Bulgaria has taken that would be well shared with many other countries.
Two months from now, we will gather in Warsaw for the NATO Summit to reaffirm our founding purpose, to review our progress, and to set our course forward. We had an opportunity today to talk about the work we’re doing together in NATO, as well as planning for the Summit, and Bulgaria’s own military modernization efforts, which we fully support. These modernization plans, as they’re implemented, will strengthen Bulgaria’s security and the overall Alliance. Our cooperation in this regard has never been stronger, and we’re grateful in particular for the Prime Minister’s leadership in getting us to this point.
We also discussed, as I said, the Prime Minister’s rule of law reforms and his efforts to ensure the health and vibrancy of Bulgaria’s democratic institutions. And we very much appreciate his leadership in this regard.
Mr. Prime Minister, you’re also shaping an economy that is welcoming to both domestic and foreign investors. Enabling businesses to operate with confidence is a prerequisite to increased employment and inclusive growth. We strongly support these efforts as well.
Energy security is national security, and we applaud the Prime Minister’s work to diversify Bulgaria’s energy sector, including by making important progress on the interconnector projects, like those with Greece and also Romania.
And finally, as the Prime Minister mentioned, we discussed briefly the challenge posed by the great wave of displaced peoples, the largest since World War II, that’s affected the political, the economic, and the social fabric of everyday life in Europe, and challenged to us to live up to our common humanity—to provide the same sanctuary that some of our own ancestors sought in times of trouble, even as we recognize the imperative of security, the complexity of integration, and the burden on host communities.
Ten days ago President Obama spoke to the people of Europe about the challenges that are threatening our transatlantic community, but also the future that we can and we will build together, standing by our values and each other. We’re very proud, Mr. Prime Minister, to be building that future with Bulgaria. Thank you again for receiving me.