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Commemorating The 100Th Anniversary Of Diplomatic Relations Between The United States And Bulgaria

Rep. Douglas K. Bereuter

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Madam Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and agree to the resolution (H. Res. 355) commemorating the 100th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the United States and Bulgaria.

The Clerk read as follows:

Whereas the United States established diplomatic relations with the Republic of Bulgaria on September 19, 1903; Whereas the United States acknowledges the courage of the Bulgarian people in deciding to pursue a free democratic and independent Bulgaria and their steadfast perseverance in building a society based on the rule of law, respect for human rights, and a free market economy; Whereas Bulgaria has promoted stability in the Balkans by rendering support to Operation Allied Force and Operation Joint Guardian led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and by providing peacekeeping troops to Stabilisation Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina (SFOR) in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and to Kosovo Force (KFOR) in Kosovo; Whereas Bulgaria was among the very first countries to denounce terrorism and pledge active support to the United States in the fight against terrorism following the events of September 11, 2001; Whereas Bulgaria provided overflight and basing rights at the town of Bourgas for Operation Enduring Freedom, representing the first stationing of foreign forces in Bulgaria since World War II, and Bulgaria deployed a nuclear, biological, and chemical protection detachment to Afghanistan as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF); Whereas Bulgaria has stood firmly by the United States in the cause of advancing freedom worldwide during its tenure as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council; Whereas Bulgaria agreed to each request of the United States and offered overflight and basing rights as well as transit of United States and coalition forces, and deployed a 500-man infantry battalion as part of a stabilization force in Iraq; Whereas Bulgaria was recently invited to join NATO and has shown determination in enacting the continued reforms necessary to be a productive, contributing member of the Alliance; Whereas Bulgaria strongly supports the strengthening of the trans-Atlantic link and considers it a basis for NATO unity and cooperation in countering new threats to global security; and Whereas the Senate has recently given its consent with 96 votes to 0 for the ratification of the accession protocols of Bulgaria and six other aspirant countries from Central and Eastern Europe to NATO, thereby welcoming their contribution to common Euro-Atlantic security: Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the House of Representatives-- (1) commends the Republic Of Bulgaria for developing increasingly friendly and meaningful relations with the United States over the past 100 years; (2) recognizes the continued contributions of Bulgaria toward bringing peace, stability, and prosperity to the region of South Eastern Europe, including its contributions to regional security and democratic stability; (3) salutes the willing cooperation of Bulgaria and its increasingly vital role as a valuable ally in the war against international terrorism; and (4) encourages opportunities for greater cooperation between the United States and Bulgaria in the political, military, economic, and cultural spheres.

Pursuant to the rule, the gentleman from Nebraska (Mr. Bereuter) and the gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos) each will control 20 minutes.

The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Nebraska (Mr. Bereuter).

Rep. Douglas K. Bereuter

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Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Madam Speaker, this Member rises today in strong support of H. Res. 355, a resolution commemorating the 100th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the United States and Bulgaria. This Member would like to commend the distinguished gentleman from South Carolina (Mr. Wilson) for introducing this resolution. The gentleman's efforts have been crucial in recognizing and promoting the important relationship between Bulgaria and the United States. Indeed, his involvement and knowledge about Bulgaria go back more than a decade.

The United States established diplomatic relations with Bulgaria on September 19, 1903. Two weeks ago, a celebration was held in Sofia marking this occasion. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Bulgarian people have made historic and courageous decisions and sacrifices in support of their desire to be a strong, diplomatic, and democratic member of Europe and a faithful ally and good friend of the United States.

Secretary of State Colin Powell recently stated that relations between Bulgaria and the United States are the best they have ever been in all of the past 100 years.

Indeed, Bulgaria is becoming an increasingly important strategic partner. Bulgaria has promoted stability and peace in Southeast Europe by supporting the NATO-led operations Allied Force and Joint Guardian in the Balkans. Bulgaria has also provided peacekeeping forces to SFOR in Bosnia and KFOR in Kosovo.

After the tragedy of September 11, 2001, Bulgaria was among the very first countries to denounce terrorism and pledge active support to the United States in the fight against terrorism by supporting Operation Enduring Freedom and the International Security Assistance Force, ISAF, in Afghanistan.

Bulgaria has supported Coalition operations in Iraq and is presently providing 500 infantry soldiers to the Iraq stabilization force. Furthermore, in a truly historic achievement, Bulgaria was invited to join NATO at the Prague Summit in November of last year. And Bulgaria has stood firmly with the United States in the cause of advancing freedom worldwide during its present term as a nonpermanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

President Bush recently stated, ``Americans have always considered the Bulgarian people to be our friends, and we will be proud to call you,'' meaning the Bulgarian people, ``our allies.''

Madam Speaker, this Member wholeheartedly agrees with President Bush: Bulgaria has proven to be an active and contributing partner and a de facto ally. And this resolution affirms this important relationship on occasion of the 100th anniversary of U.S.-Bulgarian diplomatic relations.

Madam Speaker, in closing, this Member urges my colleagues to support this resolution.

Madam Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

Rep. Tom Lantos

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Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Madam Speaker, I rise in strong support of this resolution. First, I would like to commend my colleagues, the gentleman from South Carolina (Mr. Wilson), the gentleman from Nebraska (Mr. Bereuter), and the gentlewoman from California (Mrs. Tauscher) for their leadership on this resolution. With this resolution we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Bulgaria and the United States of America.

Our two countries were drawn together by our common interests at the beginning of the 20th century. And now, as we begin the 21st century, our two nations are, again, drawn closer together by common goals and common values.

With strong congressional support, Madam Speaker, Bulgaria has been invited to become a member of NATO, a concept that just a few years ago would have appeared like a dream to most Bulgarians. This significant move marks a milestone in our relationship, and will undoubtedly strengthen our bilateral ties for the indefinite future.

Just this year, Madam Speaker, Bulgaria stepped forward when our government asked for Bulgaria's assistance in Iraq. That assistance came at a critical time when so many of our traditional allies abandoned us. And the American Government and the American people are grateful to Bulgaria for shouldering, along with us, responsibilities in Iraq.

The past century of U.S.-Bulgarian relations has not been without difficulties. But even in the darkest of those times, the fundamental humanity and decency of ordinary Bulgarians shone through.

During the worst days of World War II, the Bulgarian people did not yield to Nazi German pressure to enforce anti-Jewish legislation, and they resisted German orders to deport their Jewish citizens to Nazi extermination camps. Their efforts, Madam Speaker, resulted in preventing the expulsion and death of some 50,000 Bulgarian Jews in 1943. It was a tragedy that some 11,000 Jews in Trace and Macedonia, under Bulgarian Government administration, but not Bulgarian citizens, were deported to concentration camps and perished there.

When we celebrate this historic recognition of a century of Bulgarian-American relations, we must look forward to the future as well as back to the past. Over the last decade, Bulgaria has moved into the ranges of the world's democracies and it has become increasingly integrated into the global economy.

Our two governments now find that our national interests bring us to the same positions on critical international political, economic and social issues. We are completing the steps that will firmly bind our two nations as allies in NATO, committed to the defense of each other and of other democratic states in Europe and elsewhere.

We are partners in economic integration and we welcome Bulgaria's efforts to join the European Union and take the steps that will bring greater economic prosperity to the Bulgarian people.

Madam Speaker, I welcome this historic celebration of the ties between our two countries and our two peoples. And I urge all of my colleagues to support the passage of this resolution.

Madam Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

Rep. Douglas K. Bereuter

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Madam Speaker, I commend the distinguished gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos) for his excellent statement.

Madam Speaker, I yield 5 minutes to the gentleman from South Carolina (Mr. Wilson), the author of the resolution.

Rep. Joe Wilson

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Madam Speaker, it is an honor to be here today with the Congressman from Nebraska (Mr. Bereuter). I am so proud of his service as the chairman of the U.S. House delegation to NATO. And currently, of course, he is the chairman of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. He has a great vision of expanding democracy in Central and Eastern Europe.

And, of course, the ranking member of the Committee on International Relations, my next-door neighbor, the gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos), I am so proud of his association on this bill. And he, being of Hungarian heritage, has played a key role in promoting democracy again in Central and Eastern Europe. He is just a real champion. And I am honored to be with both of these gentlemen today.

My interest in the particular resolution, which is to commend 100 years of diplomatic relations between the United States and the Republic of Bulgaria, really is a culmination of a lifelong dream that I have had.

My motivation to become involved in the political process was out of concern for a strong national defense. And, particularly, I grew up in the era of the Cold War and concern about the potential for nuclear annihilation between the two superpowers at that time.

I had hoped with peace through strength, as established by President Ronald Reagan, that we could achieve a liberation of the people of formerly totalitarian Communist countries. Of course, that came to culmination on November 9, 1989, with the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Right after that, there were movements throughout Central and Eastern Europe to establish democratic governments. And I volunteered, through the Republican National Committee, to work with the International Republican Institute to be an election observer in one of the upcoming elections that was to be held.

I am very grateful that my long-time friend, Lee Atwater, the late Lee Atwater, who was chairman of the Republican National Committee, along with his executive director, Mary Matalin, placed me on the delegation to go to Bulgaria for the elections of June 10, 1990, which were the first democratic elections since the late 1930s to be existent in Bulgaria.

The moment I got there, I was so impressed by the people that I met, I felt like I was in a circumstance frozen in time, the economy that I saw, the infrastructure that I saw, was that of the 1930s. But the people had a wonderful spirit, and they were obviously very talented. I felt from the beginning that they would evolve into a strong democratic society.

I then had the opportunity, working with our local Rotary Clubs, Kiwanis, Optimist Clubs, Lions Clubs, to provide for the ability of a member of the newly elected National Assembly of Bulgaria, Stefan Stoyanov, to come and observe the elections in South Carolina in 1990. He subsequently has been named as currently the ambassador from Bulgaria to Greece.

Additionally, I worked with the Free Congress Foundation and visited Sofia with the Kreible Institute to meet with members of the National Assembly of the Democratic Union to explain to them how to work in a parliamentary system from my experience in the State Senate of South Carolina.

Then I have been working with municipal officials to come and visit the United States, and South Carolina in particular, to learn the democratic process. I have also worked with the Sister City Program. We are very proud that Columbia, the capital of South Carolina, is the sister city of Plovdiv in Bulgaria, the second largest city of Bulgaria, a very historic city.

The evolution has just been terrific for the people of Bulgaria. They have really lived up to and fulfilled my hopes and dreams for them.

I was very pleased last year, working with the gentlewoman from California (Mrs. Tauscher) to help establish the Bulgarian Caucus to promote even better relations. We have been so fortunate with the leadership of Ambassador Elena Poptodorova to be able to, indeed, establish relationships between the National Assembly of Bulgaria and the Congress of the United States.

We have had the opportunity to visit and have visiting us President Georgi Parvanov of Bulgaria; the Prime Minister, Simeon Saxe Coburg Gotha; the Foreign Minister, Solomon Passy. We have had a number of members of the National Assembly come to visit and observe Congress.

The highlight of this is coming next week. I am very pleased that next week Professor Dr. Ognyan Gerdjikov, the Speaker of the National Assembly of Bulgaria, will be visiting the United States; and for the first time in history, the Speakers of both the United States and Bulgaria will be meeting. Our Speaker, Dennis Hastert, will be meeting with the Speaker Gerdjikov. And then we will be having a reception that we will invite all Members of Congress to attend next Thursday evening here at the Capitol.

It is an honor to be here. I urge support for the resolution.

Rep. Tom Lantos

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Madam Speaker, I have no further requests for time, and I yield back the balance of my time.

Rep. Rahm Emanuel

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Madam Speaker, I rise in support of H. Res. 355 to celebrate a century of strong diplomatic relations with Bulgaria. Bulgaria has more than 1,300 years of history, culture and tradition in Western Civilization. Its ancient forefathers were the Thracians, whom Herodotus described as the second largest tribe in the Ancient world. And its unique ethnic identity, religion, and culture remain vibrant, even after five centuries under the rule of the Ottoman Empire and another two centuries under Byzantine rule.

In modern times as in ancient ones, Bulgaria has been torn by conflict. The nation gained full independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1878, and its people suffered through the first and second Balkan Wars in the early part of the 20th century. Even as the nation fell behind the Iron Curtain after World War II and gained a reputation as the Soviet Union's staunchest ally in the Warsaw Pact, our two nations still maintained diplomatic ties throughout the most difficult periods of the Cold War.

Mr. Speaker, today U.S. relations with Bulgaria have never been stronger. Since 1989, Bulgaria has transformed into a vibrant democracy and market economy. Our two nations have become steadfast partners in business and industry. Our strong ties to Bulgarian culture and education are invaluable and have proven mutually beneficial to both countries. On behalf of my constituents in Northwest Chicago, including more than 1,500 of Bulgarian descent, I applaud this centennial of diplomatic relations and look forward to continuing strengthened partnerships.

Rep. Douglas K. Bereuter

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Madam Speaker, I urge support for the resolution. I have no further requests for time, and I yield back the balance of my time.

Rep. Shelley Moore Capito

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The question is on the motion offered by the gentleman from Nebraska (Mr. Bereuter) that the House suspend the rules and agree to the resolution, H. Res. 355.

The question was taken.

In the opinion of the Chair, two-thirds of those present have voted in the affirmative.

Rep. Tom Lantos

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Madam Speaker, on that I demand the yeas and nays.

The yeas and nays were ordered.

Pursuant to clause 8 of rule XX and the Chair's prior announcement, further proceedings on this motion will be postponed.