Bulgaria - US Relations
The year 2003 marked the 100th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the United States and Bulgaria. U.S.-Bulgarian relations were severed in 1950 but were restored a decade later. Bilateral relations between the two nations improved dramatically after the fall of communism. The United States moved quickly to encourage development of multi-party democracy and a market economy. The U.S. signed a Bilateral Investment Treaty in 1994 and gave Bulgaria most-favored-nation trade status in October 1996.
In 1989, the U.S. Congress passed the Support for East European Democracies Act (SEED), authorizing financial support to facilitate development of democratic institutions, political pluralism, and free market economies in the Balkan region. Bulgaria graduated from the SEED program in 2007 following its EU accession, having received over $600 million in SEED assistance since 1990.
The U.S.-Bulgarian Defense Cooperation Agreement gives the United States military access to and shared use of several Bulgarian military facilities. The access facilitates joint training between the U.S. military and the Bulgarian and Romanian militaries. In January 2009 a treaty on avoidance of double taxation came into effect. American citizens traveling on a U.S. passport for business or tourism purposes can enter and stay in Bulgaria for up to 90 days in a 6-month period without requiring issuance of a visa.
Bulgaria hosts the only fully American university in the region, the American University of Bulgaria in Blagoevgrad, established in 1991, drawing students from throughout southeast Europe and beyond. As of 2007, the American University of Bulgaria had over 1,000 students. In June 2007, President George W. Bush visited Sofia following the first visit of a U.S. President, Bill Clinton, in 1999.
The Bulgaria Caucus in the United States House of Representatives was formed in June 2002. Representative Joe Wilson (R-SC 2nd) is the founder and Co-Chair of the Caucus. Reciprocally, a Group for friendship with the United States was formed in the National Assembly of the Republic of Bulgaria on January 17th, 2003. On March 11th, 2003 the United States House of Representatives adopted a resolution, sponsored by Representative Joe Wilson, commemorating the 60th anniversary of the historic rescue of 50,000 Bulgarian Jews from the Holocaust and commending the Bulgarian people for preserving and continuing their tradition of ethnic and religious tolerance. On the same day, the National Assembly of the Republic of Bulgaria adopted a declaration on the same occasion.
September 19th, 2003 marked the 100th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Bulgaria and the United States of America. A number of events were held in observation of that day in both countries. The United States Senate adopted on September 17th, 2003 a resolution in commemoration of the anniversary. On October 8th, 2003 the United States House of Representatives adopted a resolution on the same occasion. Respectively, a similar declaration passed the vote in the Bulgarian National Assembly on September 19th, 2003.
The military cooperation with the United States of America is among the major priorities in the defense policy of the Republic of Bulgaria and it has been developing rapidly during recent years. An indicative example in this regard is the Defense Cooperation Agreement between the government of the Republic of Bulgaria and the government of the United States of America signed on April 28, 2006, which marks a new stage in the relations between the two countries. The leading areas in the military cooperation between Bulgaria and the USA are: Joint participation in the global war on terrorism - Bulgarian and American military are part of the NATO troops in Afghanistan – ISAF. In addition, ? Bulgarian military unit performs security tasks in Iraq as part of the US led coalition forces.
By the end of September 2008, the US had almost 1000 U.S. soldiers and 100 Bulgarians engaged in land maneuvers and 250 US airmen along with a dozen F-16s conducting air ops. Under the Defense Cooperation Agreement, the could have up to 2,500 troops in country at any given time for exercises, and allowing for a two month overlap of rotations, up to 5,000.
American defense companies participate in programs for modernization of the Bulgarian armed forces, which is of great importance for achieving operational compatibility with the armies of the other NATO countries. Furthermore, as part of this process and through the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program and the Solidarity Initiative to Support US Partners in Freedom, the US government grants significant financial aid.
On May 7, 2016, in Sofia, Bulgaria, Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken reaffirmed Bulgaria and the United States’ strong commitment to the bilateral partnership and friendship that have been key to enhancing the security, prosperity, and close ties enjoyed by the Bulgarian and American people over the past 25 years. In the face of today’s regional and global challenges, Foreign Minister Mitov and Deputy Secretary Blinken underscored our countries’ determination to pursue and realize our shared vision of a Europe, whole, free, and at peace. Foreign Minister Mitov and Deputy Secretary Blinken welcomed progress of the five high-level U.S.-Bulgaria working groups. Launched in 2015 by Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov and Secretary of State John Kerry, the working groups’ mission is to deepen and strengthen the bilateral strategic partnership in these key areas: security and defense, counterterrorism, energy security, the rule of law, and education and people-to-people ties. Foreign Minister Mitov and Deputy Secretary Blinken also charted an ambitious course for future bilateral and multilateral cooperation.
Bulgaria and the United States are members of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL. Bulgaria has contributed to the Coalition’s work, including efforts to stop the flow of foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs). U.S.-provided training for border police and fraudulent document experts has boosted Bulgaria’s capacity to screen and detect FTFs. We plan further U.S.-Bulgarian information sharing to enhance screening, detection of potential threats, and capacity of judicial authorities implementing new counter-FTF legislation.
Security cooperation has been the cornerstone of the U.S.-Bulgarian partnership, and the working group has become a key mechanism for coordinating joint activities and advancing shared goals. Through the European Reassurance Initiative and Operation Atlantic Resolve, U.S.-Bulgarian bilateral military activity over the past years has increased more than 400 percent. Our security cooperation focuses on activities and training that increase joint capacity and interoperability. These activities have included multi-country exercises on land, at sea, and in the air.
The United States has supported Bulgaria’s efforts to modernize its armed forces and reduce dependency on legacy systems. The United States has also made significant infrastructure improvements to the joint facilities where we are training together under our Defense Cooperation Agreement. These sovereign Bulgarian facilities have served as an excellent platform for joint training and exercises.
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