US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland held talks in Sofia on January 20 2016 with Prime Minister Boiko Borissov and head of state President Rossen Plevneliev, on issues ranging from judicial reform to security to energy diversification.
Bulgaria and the US set up joint working groups on key areas such as security, energy diversification, the rule of law and cultural ties after a January 2015 visit to Sofia by US secretary of state John Kerry.
According to a Bulgarian government statement after the Nuland – Borissov talks, the two discussed, in the context of global efforts to curb migration crisis and threats to security, co-operation in defence and praised the co-operation between law enforcement authorities of the two countries in combating terrorism.
Borissov told Nuland that a strong commitment in public opinion and the political will of the government were the factors that his government expected to lead to genuine reform of the judiciary.
The aim was to provide effective and fair justice, so that business and citizens felt on an equal footing with the state, the statement quoted Borissov as telling Nuland.
“We have set two goals in judicial reform: the important changes to the constitution to strengthen the role of the Inspectorate (at the Supreme Judicial Council), the report of the Prosecutor-General to the National Assembly, the division of the Supreme Judicial Council and others, as well as the tabling of five bills in Parliament on specific dates: the Judicial Power Act, the countercorruption bill, the two codes and the act on fighting terrorism,” Borissov said.
The statement said that other key highlights of the Nuland – Borissov talks were economic co-operation and energy diversification.
Borissov briefed Nuland on the launch of the Bulgaria-Greece gas interconnector project and the support that Bulgaria had to build a Balkan gas hub.
According to Borissov, these two projects, as well as the ongoing studies in the Black Sea gas production will ensure energy independence of Bulgaria and would expand opportunities for diversification of gas sources and supply routes to part of Europe.
Plevneliev said that the the strategic partnership between Bulgaria and the US is “essential not only for our country but for the region”, his press office said.
He said that the working groups set up after the Kerry visits had already led to concrete results, including the signing of the final investment decision on the construction of gas interconnection between Bulgaria and Greece and ensuring a cyclotron for the project to build a national cyclotron centre at the Bulgarian Academy of Science.
Plevneliev said that Bulgaria was fulfilling commitments at the Nato summit in Wales on increasing defence spending.
He told Nuland that at his initiative, a meeting of the Consultative Council on National Security had agreed to increase the defence budget from 1.19 percent of GDP in 2015 to 1.35 per cent in 2016 and gradually increase it to two per cent in 2024 .
He said that Bulgaria highly values the role of a US initiative to ensure the security of its allies in Europe, including through joint exercises. Bulgaria and the US also will deepen cooperation in the field of cybersecurity, it emerged at the talks, according to Plevneliev’s office.
Plevneliev and Nuland discussed co-operation between the two countries in the field of energy security.
Both sides expressed hope that the construction of the interconnector between Bulgaria and Greece would start as soon as possible and the connection would be put into operation.
Plevneliev said that Bulgaria supports the accelerated construction of the the Southern Gas Corridor and gas corridor North-South, as well as the development of a regional energy market.
Another key priority in bilateral relations was the development of trade and economic relations and in particular attracting more American investments in Bulgaria.
Plevneliev and Nuland discussed progress on reforms that are key to Bulgaria, with an emphasis on judicial reform, the President’s office said.