July 12, 2021
U.S. Congressional Delegation Visits Sofia and Varna
During their visit to Sofia and Varna on July 8-11, the U.S. Congressional delegation engaged with government, religious, and civil society representatives on a variety of issues, including regional cooperation, media freedom, religious diversity and tolerance, security, and ethnic minority issues.
The U.S. Congressional delegation consisted of Senator Roger F. Wicker, Sen. Ben Cardin, Sen. John Cornyn, Sen. Thom Tillis, Representative Joe Wilson, Rep. Lloyd Doggett, Rep. Steve Cohen Rep. Andy Harris, Rep. Richard Hudson, Rep. Marc Veasey, Rep. Trent Kelly, and Rep. Gwen Moore.
“We brought a dozen members from the U.S. Congress to Sofia this week to demonstrate support for the Three Seas Initiative and also to engage with Bulgaria’s leaders and its people about our shared values and basic human rights,” said Senator Cardin. “We met with a range of faith communities to underscore our commitment to religious tolerance, one of the cornerstones of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. We visited a Romani settlement to learn more about the difficulties this minority continues to confront in securing equal rights. In our bilateral meeting with President Radev, members raised concerns about the parlous state of press freedom in Bulgaria, and we received assurances that the government here will elevate its efforts to protect and strengthen independent, professional journalism. Protecting civil and human rights is an essential component of every democracy and we look forward to hearing more about how Bulgaria is safeguarding fundamental freedoms and the rule of law.”
While in Sofia, members of the delegation attended events at the Three Seas Summit, where they met with government representatives from Bulgaria and other European nations. During their meetings, they discussed the importance of the Three Seas Initiative for development, stability, and security in the region. The delegation also experienced Bulgaria’s rich culture in visits to Bulgarian historical sites, including Rila Monastery, Boyana Church, and Varna’s Archeological Museum.
On July 10, in Varna, U.S. Ambassador Herro Mustafa and a delegation from the United States Congress visited Bulgaria’s Naval Base in Varna. They were graciously hosted by Defense Minister Georgi Panayotov, Chief of Defense Admiral Emil Eftimov, and Commander of the Navy Rear Admiral Kiril Mihaylov. During the visit, the delegation discussed the importance of the U.S.-Bulgarian partnership in the region, and how to increase our already robust security cooperation in the Black Sea. “The Black Sea region has seen a troublesome rise in tension recently. Our visit to the area is intended to keep us abreast of the situation and to demonstrate our strong, enduring, and bipartisan support to Bulgaria and our other NATO Allies and partners in the region,” Senator Wicker said.