The United States senate confirmed career diplomat Eric Seth Rubin as ambassador to Bulgaria after a hearing on December 2, the US embassy in Sofia said.
At his confirmation hearing, Rubin described the “heady yet difficult days” when he first visited Bulgaria in 1991 when he helped to organise the first security dialogue and military-to-military exchanges between the two countries at the end of the Cold War.
“Those were heady yet difficult days, but Bulgarians set a course for the future, toward European integration and the Atlantic Alliance. Bulgarians have achieved much in the years since – Bulgaria today is a staunch Nato ally that lies in a strategic location at the southeastern edge of the European Union.
“But there is much more that we can and should do together,” Rubin told the senate foreign relations committee.
He said that when US secretary of state John Kerry visited Bulgaria in January, he recognised the important collaboration between the countries, and announced jointly with Bulgaria the formation of bilateral working groups on national security and defence, energy security, education and people-to-people ties, and the rule of law.
Rubin said that these working groups had been so well received that a counterterrorism working group had been added and had held its first meeting in late November.
He noted that Bulgaria is among the newer Nato members and has the second-lowest GDP per capita in the alliance.
Nonetheless, it has been a stalwart ally. It sent troops to – and took casualties in – Iraq and Afghanistan. It is a tireless participant in training exercises and hosts one of the Nato Force Integration Units on NATO’s eastern flank.
Bulgaria was prudently setting aside more resources toward modernising its military and preparing for tomorrow’s missions, Rubin told the committee.
“Bulgaria takes counterterrorism seriously, and the recent attacks in Paris underscore the importance of this work. Bulgaria is a part of the Counter-ISIL Coalition and plays an important role in helping stem the flow of foreign terrorist fighters due to its location at the crossroads between the Near East and western Europe,” he said.
Rubin said that national security was not limited to defence.
Noting that Bulgaria relies almost entirely on Russia for natural gas and nuclear fuel, he said “we are supporting Bulgaria’s efforts to diversify its sources and routes of energy, in line with EU goals. Gas from the Caspian Sea could be an important part of the solution.”
He said that Bulgaria’s potential lies in its ability to overcome a past associated with corruption and crime.
“The state of rule of law affects almost every line of effort we share with Bulgaria. Though corruption is still common in Bulgaria, we are encouraged to see some positive technical and legislative steps, and, if confirmed, I commit myself to working to help Bulgarians tackle these difficult challenges.”
The US-Bulgarian trade relationship had just about doubled over the past six years, he said.
HewlettPackard, which already employs more than 6000 Bulgarians, in April opened Europe’s only HP Technology Lab, which will simulate technology and business processes and train the company’s experts in Bulgaria.
“If confirmed, I would continue the Embassy’s advocacy for our commercial interests, leading to similar success stories. Person-to-person exchanges are sometimes the most effective form of diplomacy, particularly in light of efforts by some in the region to undermine the strong US-Bulgarian relationship,” he said.
Rubin most recently served as deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, a position he held from 2011 to August 2015.
He previously was deputy chief of mission at the US embassy in Moscow, Russia from 2008 to 2011, executive assistant to the under secretary of state for political affairs from 2006 to 2008, and director of the office of policy and coordination from 2004 to 2006.
Before that, he was consul general and principal officer at the US consulate-general in Chiang Mai, Thailand from 2001 to 2004, resident associate and risk fellow at the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University from 1999 to 2000, and special assistant to the under secretary of state for political affairs from 1998 to 1999.
He also served as assistant White House press secretary for foreign affairs and National Security Council director for public affairs from 1997 to 1998, special assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs from 1996 to 1997, and deputy political counsellor at the US embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine from 1994 to 1996. Rubin has a BA from Yale University.