by the President of Bulgaria, Rumen Radev and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at their bilateral meeting
Rumen Radev [President of Bulgaria]: Dear Secretary General, Ladies and Gentlemen, it's a pleasure to welcome you to Bulgaria. First of all I would like to thank you, dear Secretary General, for your very valuable contribution to yesterday's very constructive discussion during the dinner … [inaudible]. Your visit comes in the year we celebrate 15 years of NATO membership. However, you know, time is tough and challenging, so your visit is a good ground for continuing to working on improving our defence capabilities and further ensuring security of our nations. This high level of ambition demands efforts and commitment from each member state, to work on our unity, coherence and solidarity. And of course to develop the right set of capabilities. Bulgaria is highly committed to continue increasing its role as a pillar of security and stability on the Balkans and in the Black Sea region, by leading open, constructive and reasonable policy and by paying … [inaudible] to the efforts to develop contemporary defence capabilities, fully in line with NATO defence and deterrence posture.
You know, we have launched a physical plan to meet the Alliance pledge for 2% of GDP and we have finally launched our three main modernisation projects, about the factory aircraft, the patrol vessels, and army vehicles. However, we realised that those three main projects implementation doesn’t solve our modernisations problems, as we have just discussed this with you. Because modernisation is a very complex process of a deep transformation, requiring a comprehensive approach for developing people, organisations and assets. In this regard, we continue to take part in and to host an increasing number of combat and joint exercises, to excel our training and, very important, interoperability.
Our range of challenges is mainly focused on effective and efficient use of our limited resources, which is very important for the budget of the country. And that’s why we are focused on developing contemporary defence capabilities. We are focused to improve our readiness, responsiveness, resilience, logistics and mobility and interoperability. And we are also focused on developing our capacity for being able to operate in the NATO information and cyber domain. That’s why also we hope to continue working with the Alliance leadership for implementing the NATO political goals … [inaudible] in the best possible way, and also for being able to harmonise our national planning process with NDPP, NATO Defence Planning Process, in the best possible way. Also, in this regard, we are launching SDR and we are launching Programme 2032 for developing our armed forces. To finish my statement, we have a strong condition to integrate our defence industry and science in NATO and EU projects.
Once again, welcome to Bulgaria. I hope that, during our conversation, we'll address some of those challenges along the way.
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Thank you so much, President Radev. It's great to see you again and thank you so much for hosting me and my delegation here in Sofia. It's a pleasure to be back, not least because that gives me an opportunity to once again thank you and Bulgaria for your strong commitment to our Alliance, to NATO. This year, we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of NATO, but also the fact that it's 15 years since you joined the Alliance. And you have a strategic position and a strategic role, here in the Black Sea region. You contribute to our shared security, to our collective defence in many different ways. Of course, we strongly welcome the efforts to modernise the Bulgarian army, navy and air forces, and we also very much appreciate the contributions of Bulgaria to different NATO missions and operations.
I met Bulgarian forces in the Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan, helping us to fight international terrorism. You have played a key role for many years in Kosovo, being part of the KFOR mission, but also helping to support the political dialogue. And we also appreciate the fact that you are part of the NATO training mission in Iraq. That’s the contribution to our efforts to fight international terrorism, because we know that to train local forces is key when we speak about how to prevent that ISIS is able to come back and control territory in, for instance, Iraq.
Then, let me also praise you for the role you played in paving the way for the Prespa Agreement, the agreement between Greece and North Macedonia on the name issue. This enabled us to sign the accession protocol for North Macedonia and now Allies are in the process of ratifying that protocol. Your parliament, the parliament in Sofia has already ratified the accession protocol and we really welcome the progress we see and the fact that North Macedonia soon will become NATO's 30th member.
We live in more uncertain and unpredictable times, therefore we also see the need to invest more in our security and in defence. We welcome the fact that Bulgaria has started to increase defence spending and also your clear commitment to reach the NATO guideline of 2%.
So, once again, thank you so much for welcoming me and for taking this time to meet with me and my delegation.