Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
With Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova
Remarks at Joint Press Conference, Sheraton Hotel
Sofia, Bulgaria, June 22, 1999
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
FOREIGN MINISTER MIHAILOVA: (In Bulgarian; through interpreter): Let me begin by saying that we are especially pleased with Secretary Albright's visit to Bulgaria, since we believe that this visit is a significant political indication of our joint efforts during the crisis, as well as during the period of restoring peace and guaranteeing the long term stability of Southeastern Europe. In terms of Southeastern Europe's stability, the interests of the international community are permanent, unified and directed towards integrating the region into a united and prosperous Europe as well as towards ensuring a lasting peace.
Mrs. Albright and I discussed a broad range of issues linked to the Joint Guardian peacekeeping operation and in this context, I stressed that we attach significant importance to the democratization of both Serbia and Kosovo - and above all, creating a model of peaceful coexistence among ethnic communities, similar to the one that we have in Bulgaria, hence the demilitarization of the KLA and the assurance of public order. The advance of any violation during the period of peacekeeping and enforcement will be of extraordinary importance, so Bulgaria is ready to take part in it with its police forces in order to ensure public order, which will be a key component for the democratic development of the region and the forthcoming democratic elections in Kosovo.
Of course, we talked a lot about peace; we talked a lot about the Stability Pact; about how to find the best solutions for the future of the region. I pointed out that Bulgaria would like to play an important part in this process of a long-term settlement of the situation in Southeastern Europe and that for us, one of the key components of the Pact for Stability - namely, the differentiated approach towards the different countries of the region - is an important sign not only for the overall vision of the region, but also for those countries which have already made substantial progress down the path of reforms - with Bulgaria being one of those states.
I stressed the necessity of including those states in projects that will be beneficial to the whole region, such as the infrastructural projects Corridor Number 4 and Corridor Number 8. I also stressed the importance we attach to the participation of Bulgarian companies in the tenders on the reconstruction of the region, on some trade relief that can serve as compensation for the loss we sustained due to the Kosovo conflict - losses mainly in transportation and trade.
We also talked about the possibility of exchanging information and ideas on the specifics of the Stability Pact in the context of forums that will be held in the region, such as the establishment of the Agency for Reconstruction. So I'd like to emphasize once again that for us, the most important sign of this visit is that we were not only able to exchange information but also it was yet another proof of Bulgaria's role in the world community's decision-making on issues concerning Southeastern Europe.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much. I am very pleased to be here in Sofia and to have had the chance to meet with President Stoyanov and my good friend, Foreign Minister Mihailova.
I want to begin by thanking the people of Bulgaria, as I have thanked your leaders today, for your courage in standing with NATO and against ethnic cleansing in Kosovo; for your support for sanctions against the Milosevic regime; and, above all, or your determination to make Bulgaria a stable democracy and a model for the Balkans.
With Bulgaria's support, ethnic cleansing has been stopped and refugees are going home. Mr. Milosevic has been stopped from threatening the region with instability and violence, and Bulgaria has confirmed its credentials as a solid partner for NATO and the international community.
I know that the conflict in Kosovo has brought economic hardship to the Bulgarian people, and today I have assured President Stoyanov that the United States will help you cope. Our Congress has already approved $25 million in new economic support for your country, and we are looking for ways to do more.
More importantly, we will work together as partners to fully integrate Southeast Europe into the continent's democratic mainstream. For we do not want the conflict just ending in Kosovo to be the prelude for others. And we recognize that Europe cannot be stable and united until the sources of strife in its southeast corner are effectively addressed.
To this end, the international community has agreed to support a broad program of economic and political reform, improved security cooperation and support for the rule of law and human rights in the Balkans. Two days ago, President Clinton and his colleagues in the Group of Eight pledged to support this initiative. The European Union and other Western nations will help as well. But if the initiative is to succeed, nations in the region - including Bulgaria - must lead the way.
In many ways, Bulgaria is already leading. The United States strongly backs the steps Bulgaria is taking to strengthen its democracy, fight crime and corruption and reform its economy.
Bulgaria's example is one we would very much like to see Serbia emulate. We do not want to isolate Serbia or the Serb people. A democratic, law-abiding Federal Republic of Yugoslavia would have an important role in the region's development. But Serbia under Milosevic has no place in a community of free nations, and can expect no part in the assistance we will provide.
Today's meeting also shows that the bilateral relationship between the United States and Bulgaria is healthy and growing. Our nations are cooperating on matters from security and law enforcement to economic development and education. And I believe we will draw closer together as we work to build lasting peace in the Balkans.
In closing, I want to thank the Foreign Minister for Bulgaria's hospitality during what is truly an all too brief visit. And I hope very much to be able to return at a more relaxed time to see more of the country and meet more people. And I am confident that our countries will be close friends and partners in building peace for many years to come.
QUESTION: Secretary Albright, how do you envisage the details of the different stages of the Stability Pact, and is there any danger that this pact may replace the enlargement of NATO and the EU to the east?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, let me say that I think that what is very important about the Stability Pact is that it is based on a lot of ideas that have come out already from the front-line states. And in a number of meetings that I've had in which Foreign Minister Mihailova has not only participated but been a leading voice, we have looked at the pact as a framework that allows for economic development, security as well as democratization. And it is in its evolving stage. President Clinton yesterday said that there would be an initial meeting in Sarajevo some time in July. After that there will be various portions of the Stability Pact that will be developed and in which the countries of the region will very much play a part.
But I think you have to see it as a framework agreement that allows for a lot of development in all the areas that I have mentioned to take place. I do not in any way see it replacing NATO enlargement. I think that what I have seen - and I am a political scientist - is the evolution of organizations within Europe that are oriented to deal with specific functions. Those which do not work are not used and those that do work are used very actively. And clearly, NATO has played a vital part in assuring the peace in Kosovo and will continue to be a vital part of Europe. NATO enlargement is part of the proof that it is an organization that is viable to go into the 21st century.
QUESTION: President Clinton says that he expects Europe to pay the lion's share of rebuilding after the Kosovo crisis. How exactly does Washington justify that, and what is to say to critics who say that the US should prepare to pay more? And secondly, do you have any figures or time frame on the so-called Marshall Plan for the region? We've heard figures up to $50 billion; do you have any comment on that?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me take the last part first. There have been a lot of figures bandied around but I have seen no definitive figures, and obviously this is something that we all have to work out together. I think there are two reasons why President Clinton has said that Europe should pay the lion's share. One is that Europe has said that it wants to take the major role in reconstruction - after all, the Balkans are in Europe and it makes a certain amount of sense. The second is that the United States took the lead role in the bombing campaign and really did the major share of the work there, and this is a division of labor.
The United States will, in fact, contribute to the reconstruction of the Balkans because we consider it very important, but I think also all understand both in Europe and in the United States that it is very appropriate for Europe to pay the lion's share of an as yet undisclosed amount.
QUESTION: (Through interpreter.) Since the beginning of the Kosovo crisis, the opposition in Bulgaria has been claiming that it would be better if Bulgaria has a coalition cabinet. Has it sought Washington's support in this regard because there have been such allegations?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me just say that we believe that the government has played a very important role in helping to resolve the crisis in Kosovo. We support what they have been doing in terms of reform and democratization. They have been a very important partner to not just the US but to NATO, and they have played a very important role in helping to resolve this crisis; and having, I think, stood up very well to the fact that this was not easy for Bulgaria and for the Bulgarian people, as I said in my opening statement.
So we think that this government can really provide -- as I have said many times now -- an impetus in terms of doing something so important for the stability of Southeast Europe. And that is to come forward with ideas of your own to help promote the Stability Pact and do what President Clinton said yesterday was so important during the Marshall Plan, which was the countries themselves came together to really announce their common purposes. I feel that President Stoyanov and Minister Mihailova have played a very important role in putting Bulgaria in the right place.
QUESTION: (Through interpreter.) Minister Mihailova talked about some kind of a differentiated approach towards the Balkan countries. How does it refer to Bulgaria; what will be the approach toward Bulgaria, for example?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that what we have to do is to do two things that are not contradictory. One is to see the region as a whole and to try to work out some economic solutions where there is a greater sense of unity in terms of transportation, electricity, telecommunications -- a lot of functions that operate much better if they are done regionally. But at the same time we are all very aware of the differences in each country and that each country has its own approach, its national identity and its desire to be seen as a country and not just a region.
But I would also point out that where we are at the end of this century, is, if you look at Western Europe, those countries have maintained national identity while at the same time coming together increasingly by having one currency, by having opened borders, having abilities to trade, to create an economic union and so I think that is the way of the future. And I will hope very much that Southeast Europe could become a part of that. And while there would be a great sense of identity, there would not be a division -- any further divisions that would not allow for this kind of cooperation where cooperation serves everybody.
QUESTION: (Through interpreter.) Do you think that the Bulgarian Government's policy towards the Kosovo crisis moves this country closer to NATO membership?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: As I have said, I think that the behavior of the Bulgarian Government during what was clearly a difficult period was exemplary. They were very good partners even though it was a difficult time and they, I think, have exhibited signs of being part of the NATO family. What we think is very important is that now they followed through the membership action plan, which is the procedure that was established after the last NATO summit. We welcome Bulgaria's aspirations for NATO membership and we consider Bulgaria a serious candidate and we remain committed to NATO's open door. And again I just would like to repeat that the - we have a kind of an American phrase - the "stand-up" nature of Bulgaria throughout this whole period is something that is very highly regarded in the United States. We are very appreciative of President Stoyanov and the Prime Minister and of the Foreign Minister for what has been done.
QUESTION: (Through interpreter.) Having in mind the provisions in the third part of the Stability Pact, is the US ready to take some military commitments to the region?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that we are looking at how the whole pact will evolve. I think we have already made clear that, at a time of danger, the United States is there. But I think that at this stage, we are looking at how the Stability Pact will operate and it is a work in progress. But clearly, as we have just exhibited, when there's something horrendous that is happening in the region of Europe, NATO, with the US in the lead, is there.
QUESTION: (Through interpreter.) My question is connected with the rights of the Bulgarian minority in former Yugoslavia. What else can be done in this respect and what kind of support can Bulgaria receive on the part of the international community?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that one of the things that should be clear as a result of the horrible crisis that we've gone through is that it is very important for minorities to be respected and that what we need to see are multiethnic societies not just in the Balkans but everywhere. The United States is always dedicated to multiethnic societies and we believe that minority rights need to be respected. So one of the things that we will be looking at as we look towards a democratic Serbia is that it recognized the fact that there are minorities, including the Bulgarians there, whose rights are very important.
I would like to also take the opportunity of that question, though, to point something out, which is that the United States and NATO were never at war with the Serbian people. We were against the regime and its disgusting policies and the ethnic cleansing. Just as it wasn't just Hitler, it was fascism; it wasn't just Stalin, it was communism; it isn't just Milosevic, it is ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. We do not have a fight with the Serbian people, and we want very much for the Serbs that lived in Kosovo to go back. We think the Serbs ought to go back to Kraina. We think that it is important for the Serbian people themselves to enjoy democracy, and that means living fully with minorities that exist within Serbia and former Yugoslavia generally.
So I think we have the opportunity now to look for a new era in Southeast Europe and to do everything we can to build a lasting peace. This is our opportunity. NATO prevailed in a fight and now all the nations in Western Europe and this region and with the United States need to build a lasting peace; and that involves respect for all the people who live in this region.
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