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 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > Former Secretaries of State > Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell > Speeches and Remarks > 2004 > December

Remarks With Bulgarian President Georgi Purvanov at the Award Ceremony for the Stara Planina First Order Medal

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Presidential Palace, Coat of Arms Hall
Sofia, Bulgaria
December 7, 2004

Secretary Powell With President Georgi Parvanov of BulgariaPRESIDENT PURVANOV: (in Bulgarian) Decree Number 348, pursuant of Article 98, Item eight of the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria, I decree, hereby awarding Mr. Colin Powell, Secretary of State of the United States of America, with the Order of Stara Planina in the First Order, for his exceptional contribution to the development of Bulgarian-American relations and on the occasion of the Centennial of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Bulgaria and the United States of America, issued in Sofia on the 22nd of November, 2004; President of the Republic, Georgi Purvanov.

Esteemed President Zhelev, ladies and gentlemen, ministers, members of parliament, excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, it is an honor for me, and I feel deep satisfaction at exercising my constitutional obligations to award to Secretary of State Colin Powell the highest award of this country, for his exceptional contribution to the development of bilateral relations.

This is the highest award that is being awarded on this day by the governmental institutions of this country, which has shown a consensual agreement as to the reasons for which it is being awarded. It is awarded because of the personal merits of Secretary of State Colin Powell. It is awarded the contribution he has made over the past several years in attaining political dialogue, in being able to promote economic relations between our two countries, and also for his contribution in the area of security.

Mr. Colin Powell is an outstanding American politician, and I do hope he will agree with me when I say that he is one of the leaders of our time. Of course, this award is not only a token of the personal contribution to the development of bilateral relations, it is also an assessment of his achievements. And you probably remember that recently we celebrated the Centennial of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our two countries, which these celebrations were attended by Mr. Powell in person. And never before in these hundred years have our relations been better. These are not only relations of partnership, these are relations between allies and relations between good friends.
Of course, we are also fully aware that there is a much greater potential in these relations, especially in the economic area. That leaves much to be desired. That leaves much to be desired as regards the trade balance between our two countries, and also in relation to investment opportunities, which we of course see primarily in the direction from the United States to Bulgaria.

Bulgarian President Georgi Purvanov presented the Secretary with Bulgarias highest honor, the Stara Planina Medal, for his contribution to U.S.-Bulgarian relations. State Department Photo. Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to once again congratulate Secretary of State Colin Powell on his award with the highest state award of Bulgaria. And, once again express the hope that wherever he is, whatever position, he will continue to be one of Bulgaria’s great friends.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much, Mr. President. Mr. President, members of the cabinet, members of the parliament, ladies and gentlemen, it’s a great pleasure to be here this evening in Sofia and to receive this decoration. It means a very great deal to me.

I first visited this city 31 years ago as a young Army lieutenant colonel in the depths of the Cold War. I had come out from a trip in the Soviet Union and I came to Sofia and I saw some color and I saw some light and I saw some smiles and I saw some hope. And I knew then, even as a young lieutenant colonel, that what I was seeing in the political system of Bulgaria was not something that would stay forever, that sooner or later Bulgaria would come back to where it belonged among the freedom-loving nations of the world as a democracy. I didn’t know when it would happen but I was confident it would happen.

I’m so honored that I went through those days of the Cold War as a soldier and then was able to come back in the government as Secretary of State at a time when Bulgaria was truly was coming out from behind the iron curtain, out into democracy and out into freedom. Now I’m here not as a lieutenant colonel in the days of the Cold War, but as a Secretary of State who is here to visit for the second time in the last year and a half a NATO friend, a NATO ally. I was privileged to be here when we celebrated the 100th anniversary of diplomatic relations and I will never forget that day in the square when I was able to speak to all the wonderful people who were cheering and waving the flags of the United States and the flags of Bulgaria—so many of them. I will never forget it.

And to be the Secretary of State as you are fully inside NATO, as you are slowly gaining full acceptance within all other European institutions, and to be here as you serve as Chairman-in-Office of OSCE, an important organization—all of this demonstrates the role that Bulgaria will be playing in the trans-Atlantic community, the vitality of your political system and the visibility that you are gaining on the world stage.

We are now having the best relations that we have ever had with Bulgaria, in so many different manifestations: our political relationship, what we are trying to do with respect to helping your economy. I heard clearly what the President said about trade and trade deficits. We’ll do everything we can to increase investment in Bulgaria. We stand together in dealing with the challenges of our time: in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in the Balkans. Bulgaria has reached out to freedom-loving people and you’ve reached out not just with words but also with actions, your willingness to send your soldiers in harm’s way.

I take this opportunity to again thank the Bulgarian people and to extend my condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in the cause of freedom. Your actions have been noble. They will not be forgotten by the Iraqi people, the people of Afghanistan and certainly not by the American people. We consider Bulgaria an ally, but more than an ally, a friend. I want to assure you, Mr. President, of President Bush’s commitment to Bulgaria, his appreciation and thanks for all you have done.

I accept this high honor, this award—the Stara Planina—not only for me, but as a symbol of the friendship that exists between our two countries our two peoples. And it will always be in an honored place in my home and I look forward to returning to Bulgaria in the future. And you can be sure that you will always have a friend whenever I come back. Whatever I can do in private life to assist Bulgaria, I am at your call.

Thank you very much, Mr. President.
2004/1317

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Released on December 7, 2004

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