Tuesday, July 30, 2019
Chairman Johnson, Ranking Member Shaheen, and distinguished Members of the Committee, I am honored to appear before you as the President’s nominee to serve as Ambassador to the Republic of Bulgaria. I am thankful to the President and Secretary Pompeo for the confidence they have placed in me to undertake this role. If confirmed, I pledge to work closely with the Congress to advance our nation’s interests in Bulgaria.
Family is extremely important to me and I’m blessed to have so much love and support. I am proud to be the first American of Kurdish descent to be nominated as Ambassador. In the audience is my father, an incredible man who gave so much of his life so that we could live in freedom and have access to opportunity. Also in the audience is my mother, a courageous strong woman, the bedrock of our family. My parents’ one request of me and my siblings as we grew up in Minot, North Dakota was to always do good. They taught us to set our goals high, in every aspect of life, whether career or personal, to achieve those goals, and then aim even higher. That approach and optimism are what have shaped me into the person that I am today and, if confirmed, will guide my vision for achieving success for America in Bulgaria.
My loving husband, Ravneesh Garg, is with our four-year-old daughter Ariana watching via live stream with all my in-laws in India. Also in the audience are my incredibly hard-working brother, Helo, and sister-in-law, Willow, my beautiful niece Zara, and my two-year-old daughter Ashna, she is with my mother.
I have dedicated over two decades to serving the United States in the Department of State. Much of my work has promoted rule of law, democratization, energy security, and anti-corruption efforts. Before joining the Foreign Service, I worked as an Elections Supervisor with the OSCE in Bosnia and my first Foreign Service assignment was in Greece. I have worked throughout my career with my European colleagues on issues of mutual interest, such as Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran. My last assignment was in Portugal, where I was the Deputy Chief of Mission and served as Charge d’Affaires. I am honored now to have the opportunity, if confirmed, to serve in Bulgaria, a country renowned for its hospitable people, incredibly beautiful mountains, and rich cultural heritage.
If confirmed, my top priority will be ensuring the safety and security of U.S. citizens. I will also take seriously my role as Chief of Mission to manage our most precious resource – our people at the Embassy, including our local staff who are an important part of our Mission. In addition, I will focus the work of the Embassy on the following priorities that I like to categorize as the three Cs: Connectivity, Collaboration, and Corruption.
First on Connectivity: If confirmed I will work to deepen the bonds between Bulgaria and the West, on all fronts to include economic, military, commercial, cultural, and people-to-people ties. This extends to civil society including women and youth.
Bulgaria is a strong NATO Ally. And I am pleased to share that the Government of Bulgaria today under the leadership of Prime Minister Borissov has just finalized the process to ratify a deal to procure eight F-16 fighter aircraft from the United States. This marks a significant step forward towards modernizing Bulgaria’s armed forces to NATO standards and we appreciate the pivotal role that the Congress has played in supporting this deal.
I am also committed to expanding our economic relationship. Increased transparency, predictability, and stability in the investment climate are key to increased economic ties. And if confirmed I will work to level the playing field for U.S. business in Bulgaria.
Second on Collaboration: I would like to work with all my colleagues across the region to promote regional collaboration. Bulgaria has been a positive player in the region and a leader in advancing Western Balkan integration. They have also been supportive of the recent Prespa Agreement between Greece and the Republic of North Macedonia.
Energy security is also a critical part of national security. Bulgaria imports most of its energy from Russia, including nearly all of its nuclear fuel and natural gas. If confirmed, I will work to support Bulgaria’s efforts to diversify its energy supply, to include the Greece-Bulgaria interconnector.
Third on Corruption: If confirmed, I will work with Bulgaria on fighting corruption and advancing rule of law, which is key to Bulgaria’s continued growth.
Thank you again for this opportunity. I look forward to your questions and if confirmed to working with you to build the relations between our two nations.