Bulgaria has made significant progress in overcoming the legacy of Communist misrule. Economic reforms have made the country more attractive to foreign investors. These reforms, along with military improvements, have earned Bulgaria membership in the European Union and NATO. President George W. Bush has urged the Bulgarian government to continue on the path of reform and do more to root out corruption.
During his recent visit to Bulgaria, Mr. Bush also praised Bulgaria for its cooperation with U.S.-led coalitions in Iraq and Afghanistan. "I appreciate so very much," said Mr. Bush, "your willingness to do the hard work necessary to enable young democracies to survive, in the face of significant opposition from ideologues who use murder as a weapon to achieve their objectives." In 2006, an agreement was signed allowing U.S. troops to use Bulgarian military facilities for training purposes.
President Bush also spoke out on a case involving five Bulgarian nurses imprisoned in Libya. They were falsely convicted of infecting children at a hospital in Benghazi with the HIV/AIDS virus in 1998. President Bush called for the nurses' release:
"We strongly support the release of the Bulgarian nurses. That's the position of the United States. They should be released, and they should be allowed to be returned to their families. We will continue to make clear to Libya that the release of these nurses is a high priority for our country. Our hearts also go out to the children who have been infected by HIV/AIDS. Together with the E-U, the United States is contributing to a fund to provide assistance to the Libyan children suffering from this disease, and to their families. My hope is that this issue gets resolved quickly."
Bulgaria continues to strengthen its democratic institutions and market economy, and is a reliable NATO partner and in missions in Afghanistan and Iraq. "I thank you," said President George W. Bush, "for being an ally in helping others realize the blessings of liberty. We have accepted our responsibilities to defend freedom against terrorists and extremists."