Bulgaria Asks Clinton to Keep Joint Military Grounds with US

Diplomacy | February 4, 2012, Saturday // 10:17|  views

Bulgarian and US soldiers conduct military drills at the Novo Selo training ground. File photo by BGNES

Bulgaria is going to appeal to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to keep the joint Bulgarian-American military training grounds.

The call will be made during Clinton's 5-hour visit to Bulgaria on Sunday, February 5, according to the Bulgarian "Standard" daily.

The training grounds are important not only for the country, but on regional level as well, and Bulgaria wants to continue using them and to receive US technology and funding for them and for the quality training of local servicemen including for foreign missions, "Standard" writes, citing own, unnamed sources.

In this context, the agenda of the upcoming talks is expected to include strategic partnership between Bulgaria and the US in the security sector, in NATO and in the NATO mission in Afghanistan, partnership on the Balkans, particularly the NATO future of Bosnia, and the situation in the Middle East and North Africa.

It was further reported that during her visit to Bulgaria, Clinton is to extend an official offer to the Bulgarian government for the acquiring from the American army of several secondhand fighter jets F-16. They will be a gift, but Bulgaria will have to find the money for repairs and for putting them into use.

Other topics of the talks will be alleviating US visa regime for Bulgarian citizens, and Bulgaria recognizing years of service for Bulgarians, who have worked in the US.

The visit to Sofia comes on the invitation of Foreign Affairs Minister, Nikolay Mladenov, back in October 2010 during his visit to the US when the Bulgarian government's anti-corruption measures were discussed.

Many in Bulgaria have voiced opinions that the visit had been prompted by the recent ban imposed on the use by the US Chevron company of hydraulic fracturing in the country. Mladenov insists the visit has been planned for a long time.

Meanwhile, Mayor of Sofia, Yordanka Fandakova, assuages fears that downtown traffic will turn into a nightmare during the visit over numerous street closures and parking restrictions, saying the City Hall has a sound plan, and residents and visitors can use the official website to find out in advance detours and other details. She also stresses on the fact that traffic is lighter during the weekend.

"I am not included in the official agenda, but I will be available to show Clinton, with great pleasure, the city's sites if she would have any time left," Fandakova says.

Downtown Sofia will be closed for all traffic after 11 am on Sunday. Parking in downtown will be banned since 7 am on the same morning.

Clinton is expected to land at Sofia airport around 12 pm and then meet with Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, and President, Rosen Plevneliev. She will have a joint press conference with the PM after the talks.

The US Secretary of State is arriving from Munich, Germany, where she will take part in a conference on security. Experts say her being there shows that Europe remains very important part of the US agenda.

Hillary Clinton has already been to Bulgaria in her capacity of First Lady, when husband Bill Clinton was US President. The visit to Sofia took place in October 1998, when she participated in the conference "Women of the 21st century."

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Tags: military training grounds, shale gas, hydraulic fracturing, security, Munich, fighter jets, American army, F-16, US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, Foreign Affairs Minister, Nikolay Mladenov, visa regime, years of service, first lady, Rosen Plevneliev, Boyko Borisov, parking, traffic, downown, sofia


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