United States backing for energy diversification and for the Bulgarian government’s recently-adopted updated strategy on judicial reform were voiced by US secretary of state John Kerry during talks in Sofia with President Rossen Plevneliev, Prime Minister Boiko Borissov and Kerry’s counterpart Daniel Mitov.
Speaking on January 15 in the Bulgarian capital at a joint news conference with Borissov, Kerry said that no country should be completely dependent on another for its energy supplies.
Kerry’s remark was made against a background of Bulgaria’s complete dependence on Russia for its natural gas supplies, and an overall lack of energy supply diversity. Bulgaria also was blamed by Vladimir Putin when the Russian leader announced the shelving of the South Stream project, although Moscow’s gas pipeline plan would have done nothing for energy diversity for Bulgaria.
Kerry said that the US would send an energy expert to work with Bulgarian energy officials to help develop a plan for the country’s energy future.
Against a background of long-standing US discreet lobbying for Bulgaria to embark on shale gas exploration and use, Borissov reiterated that Bulgaria had a moratorium on the issue which would remain in place until there could be guarantees about the environmental safety of extracting shale gas
“We have said repeatedly that there is a moratorium on shale gas exploration until it is proven that it would not be at the expense of the environment and our position is clear to our partners,” Borissov said.
The Bulgarian Prime Minister also expressed confidence that US energy firm Westinghouse would be an investor in the country, and added that a gas interconnector with Greece would be built using European Union funds.
Borissov said that his talks with Kerry had focused on regional and global challenges of a political nature, co-operation in defence and security, energy security and diversification and the rule of law.
This co-operation would continue through working groups on the issues of security and defence, energy security, the rule of law, education and relations between the peoples of Bulgaria and the US, Borissov said.
Kerry said that the deepening of military co-operation within NATO and the optimisation of the Bulgarian army to Nato standards was discussed.
Article 5 of the Nato Charter was absolutely stable, Kerry said, adding that the project to build a peaceful Europe was not finished. The US was committed to securing a strong and sovereign Bulgaria, Kerry said.
He said that it was clear that there was no doubt that there are many great opportunities for investment, adding that the US is “deeply committed” to help attracting investment to the country.
Key to attracting investment was to have transparency of government, open government, the combating of corruption, and the rule of law.
Kerry emphasised that the US fully supported Bulgaria’s plans to reform the judicial system.
“I am here to tell every single Bulgarian citizen that America is fully committed to the security, prosperity, health and power of its democratic institutions,” Kerry said.
In face-to-face talks earlier at the Presidency, Plevneliev and Kerry expressed their shared view that Bulgaria and the US are strategic partners, according to a statement by the President’s office.
Plevneliev and Kerry noted that the two nations are keen to invigorate their bilateral cooperation by placing particular emphasis on economic relations, energy security, the rule of law, and security affairs, the statement said.
In the talks, Plevneliev emphasised judicial reform and was adamant that he expected 2015 to be “the year of reforms” in Bulgaria, with which institutions would move towards solving the problems of energy, pensions and health care.
Kerry confirmed the position stated by US president Barack Obama that the US stands firmly behind all Nato allies in the context of the situation in Eastern Ukraine.
The President’s office said that Kerry praised Bulgaria’s contribution in peacekeeping and humanitarian operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the construction of the defence potential of Nato in the Black Sea region.
Plevneliev emphasised that not only Bulgaria but also the region of South Eastern Europe was working for more connectivity and integration in the field of energy, thereby reducing dependence on supplies of energy resources.
“The construction of interconnectors between the gas networks of Bulgaria and its neighbours and projects of the Southern Gas Corridor are an effective means to increase both the regional stability in the energy sector and the supply of natural gas to Europe,” Plevneliev said.
Kerry and Bulgarian Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov affirmed the strong strategic partnership between their two countries, a US state department statement said.
Kerry and Mitov discussed a broad spectrum of issues, including regional and global politics, co-operation on defence and security, energy diversification, and Bulgaria’s ongoing legal reforms, the state department statement said.