July 12, 2021
US Congress delegation visits Sofia and Varna
During their visit to Sofia and Varna July 8-11, the U.S. Congress delegation spoke to government, religious, and civil society organizations on a wide variety of topics, including regional cooperation, freedom of the media, religious diversity and tolerance, security, and ethnic minority issues .
The US Congress delegation consisted of Sen. Roger F. Wicker, Sen. Ben Cardin, Sen. John Cornyn, Sen. Thom Tillis, Rep. Joe Wilson, Rep. Lloyd Doggett, Rep. Steve Cohen, Rep. Andy Harris, Rep. Richard Hudson, Rep. Marc Veasey, Rep. Trent Kelly, and Rep. Gwen Moore.
“We brought a dozen members of the US Congress to Sofia this week to demonstrate their support for the Three Seas Initiative and also to connect with Bulgarian leaders and people about our common values and basic human rights,” said Senator Cardin. “We met with a number of faith communities to underline our commitment to religious tolerance, one of the cornerstones of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. We visited a Roma settlement to learn more about the difficulties this minority continues to face in order to secure equal rights. At our bilateral meeting with President Radev, members raised concerns about the precarious state of freedom of the press in Bulgaria, and we received assurances that the government here will step up its efforts to protect and strengthen independent professional journalism. The protection of civil and human rights is an essential part of any democracy and we look forward to learning more about how Bulgaria protects fundamental freedoms and the rule of law. “
During their stay in Sofia, members of the delegation attended events at the Three Seas Summit, where they met government officials from Bulgaria and other European nations. At their meetings, they discussed the importance of the Three Seas Initiative for development, stability and security in the region. The delegation also experienced Bulgaria’s rich culture by visiting historical sites in Bulgaria, including the Rila Monastery, Boyana Church and the Varna Archaeological Museum.
On July 10, US Ambassador Herro Mustafa and a delegation from the US Congress in Varna visited the Bulgarian naval base in Varna. They were kindly received by Defense Minister Georgi Panayotov, the Chief of Defense, Admiral Emil Eftimov, and the Commander of the Navy, Rear Admiral Kiril Mihaylov. During the visit, the delegation discussed the importance of the US-Bulgarian partnership in the region and how we can strengthen our already solid security cooperation in the Black Sea. “The Black Sea region has seen a worrying rise in tension recently. Our visit to the region is intended to keep us informed of the situation and to demonstrate our strong, enduring and bipartisan support for Bulgaria and our other NATO allies and partners in the region, ”said Senator Wicker.