Appearing in front of the US senate foreign relations committee on July 18 2012, US ambassador-designate in Sofia, Marcie B Ries, has spelt out her views on Washington’s relationship with Bulgaria.
“The United States and Bulgaria share a very strong partnership and friendship, both between our governments and our peoples. If confirmed, I will work with Congress and this committee to further strengthen the relationship and to advance US interests in Bulgaria,” Ries said.
This summer marks the 109th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Bulgaria and the United States, she said.
“This is worth noting because our relationship with Bulgaria, a member of Nato and the European Union, exemplifies the sort of transatlantic co-operation that has been the cornerstone of our common security, freedom, and prosperity.”
Ries said that Bulgaria had generously contributed to Nato and EU missions, including in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia, Libya, Georgia, and off the coast of Somalia.
“If confirmed, I will apply my prior experience in Nato and EU matters, especially as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, to further enhance our co-operation with Bulgaria.”
She said that she would also encourageBulgaria’s efforts to develop a military that is modern, deployable, and fully interoperable with its European and American partners.
“Our relationship with Bulgaria is based upon much more than security co-operation.” Ries said.
“Bulgaria’s experience transitioning from authoritarian rule to democracy and persevering through many challenges is commendable and provides positive lessons for others making democratic transitions.
“Today, Bulgaria plays a constructive role in promoting stability in the Western Balkans and supporting emerging democracies in the Middle East and North Africa, including by sharing these lessons.”
Ries said that she had learned during her time as chief of mission in Pristina and as ambassador to Albania that ensuring the rule of law is both fundamental and a long-term endeavour.
“Bulgariahas made progress in rule of law, including taking important steps to pursue judicial reform, combat corruption, and fight organised crime,” she said, adding that Bulgaria’s new asset forfeiture legislation was a positive example of such progress.
“However, more needs to be done, and if confirmed I will do my best to support Bulgarian efforts to move forward via robust law enforcement co-operation, the Open Government Partnership, and engagement with the Bulgarian government and civil society.”
The Roma population in Bulgaria, as elsewhere in Europe, “has not fully benefited from Bulgaria’s progress,” Ries told the senate foreign relations committee.
She said that the Bulgarian government had launched a new integration strategy, worked with civil society to develop an action plan, and was organising a resource framework.
“If confirmed, I will work with the Bulgarian government and the Roma communities to support and encourage effective implementation.”
Ries said that Bulgaria had taken “noteworthy steps” toward diversifying and securing the country’s energy supplies while protecting the local environment.
“If confirmed, I will make working with the Bulgarian government, business and civil society toward achievement of this goal a high priority.”
She told the committee that bilateral trade with Bulgaria jumped from $429 million in 2010 to $672 million in 2011. This includes a 33 per cent increase in US exports, directly supporting American jobs.
“Though Bulgaria is a small market of 7.3 million consumers, there are considerable commercial opportunities due to an educated work force and a strong work ethic, membership in the European Union, and approximately seven billion euro in EU funds to be spent in the coming years on infrastructure development and modernising the country’s institutions.”
Ries said that “Bulgaria is a country with great potential for economic advancement, a proud history going back to ancient times, and warm feelings toward the United States.
“If I am confirmed, I will work with Congress and this Committee to expand and develop the strong partnership we have withBulgaria, building on the fine work of outgoing ambassador James Warlick and our country team at US embassy Sofia.
“As ambassador, my highest priorities will be to advanceUnited Statesinterests in Bulgaria, including working together to counter organised crime and corruption, promoting economic growth and prosperity in both our countries, and strengthening security co-operation both bilaterally and within the Nato alliance,” Ries said.