More EU Means More US for Bulgaria
Bulgaria became a member of the European Union on January 1, 2007. Over the last 16 years, my country has undertaken substantial political, economic and social reforms, which have produced important results. Bulgaria is recognized as a democratic country with a functioning market economy, able to cope with the competitive environment in the EU common market. Judicial reform is almost complete; the authorities have assigned priority to the fight against organized crime and corruption. While Bulgarian society has paid a high price for reform, we recognize that reform is the proper—and only—way to modernize the country. Not surprisingly, more than 80 percent of the nation is in favor of EU membership.
EU membership offers many opportunities, ranging from participation in the decision-making process of EU institutions and common polices and benefiting from the structural and other EU funds to strengthen national infrastructure and general economic structure, to becoming part of the internal market, strengthening competitiveness and raising the living standards of our citizens. Consumers will benefit from better quality products and safe food. Businesses will benefit from an improved business climate and fair competition. Citizens will benefit from improved administrative services and from free movement within the Union. Besides these elements, EU membership represents a return to a community of nations where Bulgaria belongs by virtue of geography, history, culture and values.
Bulgaria’s EU membership serves as an encouraging sign for regional neighbors, who aspire to join the Union. A European perspective for these countries is crucial not only in ensuring regional stability and security but also the long-term stability and prosperity of Europe itself.
Enlargement is one the European Union’s most successful policies, and it is in the interest of Europe. It enhances Europe’s security, increases Europe’s influence in the world and enables the Union to address more effectively new asymmetrical threats and to better manage globalization.
Bulgaria joined the European Union at the height of the intensification of her bilateral relations with the United States. In 2003, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Bulgaria and the United States of America. The natural evolution and steady growth of Bulgarian-American relations is due to the efforts of people on both sides of the Atlantic. From Bulgaria’s first encounters with American missionaries and educators in the 19th century, through periods of emigration which brought our “best and brightest” to America, American-Bulgarian ties deepened. In fact, our diplomatic ties grew as a result of the solid foundation of personal relations and networks that began as early as the 1830s.
Let me just cite one example of the important contributions that the Bulgarian-American association has brought to the world: John Atanasoff, a scientist from a small village in Bulgaria, was a pioneer in the field of digital computing. He and his American assistant built the world’s first electronic digital computer at Iowa State University in the years 1937-1942. Mr. Atanasoff also introduced innovations in computing, including the use of binary mathematics, regenerative memory, parallel processing and the separation of memory and computing functions.
In the 100 years since Bulgaria and the United States formally established diplomatic relations, our countries have often pursued different paths. And yet, despite two world wars and a long Cold War when we were—it is fair to say—less than partners, and often on opposite sides, the bond between our nations was never broken, and it survived all of the challenges presented by time and history. Today, our bilateral relationship is characterized by close friendship and strategic partnership.
I believe that the fundamental reason for this success is the enduring values that our two nations share, i.e. a commitment to freedom, democracy and the rule of law, respect for human rights and dignity, and an abiding sense of justice and tolerance.
Throughout Bulgaria’s recent history, the United States repeatedly showed its unconditional support for the Bulgarian cause. My country’s successful progress vis-à-vis democracy and a market economy, and our integration into NATO, EU and other organizations of democratic nations could not have happened without key support from the United States.
Since September 11, 2001, Bulgaria has acted firmly and consistently as a friend and ally of the United States. In its various roles, including as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council and the OSCE Chair, Bulgaria has contributed constructively to the efforts of the international community to defeat the forces threatening peace and liberty in the world. Bulgaria has stood steadfast with the United States in Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia and Kosovo.
There is a lot of optimism about the future of our bilateral relations. Our two countries are making huge efforts to further expand cooperation in the field of trade and investment. The recently signed Protocol for the enhancement of investment and the convention to eliminate double taxation strengthens our economic relationship. This treaty is the first of its kind between Bulgaria and the United States. It is designed to enhance information exchange, foster the continued growth of American business, and promote mutual investment. The unprecedented Defense Cooperation Agreement signed last April adds a special and very important dimension to our strategic partnership.
Bulgaria’s membership in the EU brings new dynamism and broadens the scope of the relationship between Europe and the United States and further strengthens Bulgaria’s own relations with the United States. Recent European history has shown that prosperity is linked to democracy and solidarity. Europe’s vocation is to be a catalyst in promoting democratic change not only in its neighborhood, but also in the world. Both sides of the Atlantic are concerned about the new threats emanating from terrorism, failed states, proliferation, organized crime, illegal immigration and trafficking. My firm conviction is that these challenges can be addressed successfully only if the two global players take joint action. I believe in the vitality and durability of transatlantic relations as inspired by our common values and shared responsibilities for a more secure and prosperous world. For Bulgaria, more Europe also means more United States.
Ambassador of the Republic of Bulgaria to the United States