Visiting Bulgaria, NATO Secretary General describes accession of new members as historic success
The NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen visited Sofia on Friday (April 11) to congratulate Bulgaria on the tenth anniversary of its accession to the Alliance. After wide-ranging talks with President Rosen Plevneliev and Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski, Mr Fogh Rasmussen said “at this time, more than ever, we realise that Bulgaria is stronger within NATO. And NATO is stronger with Bulgaria. You are making a valuable contribution to security in the vital Black Sea region, the Western Balkans, and as far as Afghanistan. And Bulgaria's membership of NATO has contributed to making our Open Door policy a success.”
The Secretary General said that since the end of the Cold War, NATO and the European Union have created the framework for a new Europe: “through the accession of new members, we have expanded freedom, prosperity, human rights and the rule of law in the Euro-Atlantic space. To the benefit of everyone in Europe, and beyond. This is a historic achievement that cannot be denied. ”
But Mr Fogh Rasmussen warned that Russia's aggression against Ukraine challenged the vision of Europe whole, free and at peace: “Russia's attempts to draw new dividing lines in Europe by force, to limit the sovereignty of Ukraine, and to recreate a new sphere of influence run contrary to international norms. I call on Russia to take concrete steps to regain the trust of the international community. Pull back its troops from Ukraine's borders, and enter a sincere dialogue respecting Ukraine's sovereignty”, he said.
The Secretary General highlighted NATO's clear interest in the security and stability of its Eastern neighbourhood and NATO's unwavering commitment to collective security. “NATO is taking legitimate steps to deal with the instability created by Russia's illegitimate actions. Including how we can cooperate more closely here in the Black Sea region. These steps are fully in line with our international commitments, and with NATO's fundamental purpose; to defend our Allies and deter against any threat”, he said.
As NATO prepares for the Wales Summit in September, the Secretary General stressed that Allies must stop the decline of defence budgets and start reversing the trend. He called on Bulgaria to continue working with Allies in the region to acquire critical modern capabilities, including aircraft.
The Secretary General stressed the importance of the region and reviewed the Wales Summit agenda with the Minister of Foreign Affairs Kristian Vigenin and the Minister of Defence Angel Naydenov. He was presented with the Stara Planina order by President Plevneliev and the Saint George order by Defence Minister Naydenov. Together with Mr Vigenin, Mr Fogh Rasmussen planted a fir-tree in the garden of the Foreign Ministry to mark the tenth anniversary of Bulgaria's membership in NATO.