Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva has become the latest in a long line of holders of that office to raise with her US counterpart the question of exempting Bulgarians from visa requirements, to be told that the statutory requirements to do so have not been met.
“The US will continue to support our country in the process of reducing the number of denied US visas for Bulgarian citizens, which is one of the criteria for inclusion in the (visa exemption) programme,” Zaharieva said after talks in Washington DC with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on November 5.
“Of course, we are also making efforts, in close co-operation with the US embassy in Sofia, to inform Bulgarian citizens of the conditions they have to meet in order to get a visa,” Zaharieva said.
A statement by the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry after the talks said that Zaharieva and Pompeo “discussed the positive developments in the relations between the two countries and reaffirmed their strategic nature”.
“The meeting was an excellent opportunity to reaffirm our strategic partnership and the excellent contacts between the two countries,” Zaharieva said.
She also raised the issue of concluding a social protection treaty.
“The United States has a social treaty with a number of European countries, but not with Bulgaria,” she said. “Such a settlement will help many 400 000 Bulgarians living in the US. We are working consistently on this issue and we have eased the procedures, but we have now confirmed Bulgaria’s desire to be included in the list of countries with which to negotiate as a matter of priority the conclusion of a treaty,” Zaharieva said.
She said that Pompeo had high praise for the first Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU.
“I received thanks and congratulations for Bulgaria’s support for our neighbours and friends from the Western Balkans. I expressed our conviction that the place of those countries in the region that want it is in Nato and the EU. We have similar views with the United States on this issue,” Zaharieva said.
She and Pompeo also discussed the strategic partnership in the field of defence and the plans for the modernisation of the Bulgarian armed forces.
Among the topics were Bulgaria’s efforts to diversify sources and routes of energy supply.
“We talked about the interconnector with Greece and the Liquefied Natural Gas Terminal to Alexandroupolis as well as our efforts to build the Balkan gas hub, which will lead to competition of supply in terms of routes and sources of natural gas supply,” Zaharieva said.
They also discussed the Middle East Peace Process, the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry statement said.
We have agreed that the situation in the Middle East region is tense and a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict needs to be found, for which the US will present its plan by the end of the year, Mike Pompeo assured me,” Zaharieva said.