Bulgaria

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Overview
Once one of the Soviet Union’s most stalwart allies, Bulgaria has gradually embraced Western style democracy and free market systems. Today, the country is part of the European Union and a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The US signed a defense cooperation agreement with Bulgaria in 2005, giving American military forces access to bases and facilities in the Black Sea country. Bulgarian military personnel have participated in operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. In recent years, American high-tech companies, such as Hewlett Packard, have begun to invest in Bulgaria, along with energy companies seeking a share in the nation’s power market.
 
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Basic Information
Lay of the Land: Located in south central Europe, Bulgaria is bordered by Turkey and Greece to the south, Macedonia and Serbia to the west, Romania to the north, and the Black Sea to the east. It is about the size of Tennessee. Most of the country is made up of hills, lowlands and low mountains, Mount Musala in the west is th highest mountain in the Balknas (9,596 ft./2,925 m). The Bulgarian capital, Sofia, has a population of about 1,400,000.
 
Population: 7.3 million
 
Religions: Orthodox Christian 85%, Muslim (predominately Sunni) 13%, other 1%, non-religious 1%.
 
Ethnic Groups: Bulgarian 83.9%, Turkish 9.4%, Roma 4.7%, other (including Macedonian, Armenian, Tatar, Circassian) 2%.
 
Languages: Bulgarian (official) 85%, Turkish (official) 11.3%, Romani (Balkan, Vlax, Macedo) 2.6%, Gagauz 0.2%, Crimean Turkish 0.08%. There are 11 living languages in Bulgaria.
 
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History
As early as 3500 BC, the area of Bulgaria was part of Thrace, a collection of Indo-European tribes who occupied parts of Greece and Turkey. The Thracians fell under the control of the Roman Empire in the 1st Century, and when the Romans retrenched during their decline, the Goths, Huns, Bulgars and Avars invaded. The Bulgars, who crossed the Danube from the north in 679, took control of the region and left behind the origin for Bulgaria’s name, even though the Bulgar language and culture died out long ago. Today’s Bulgarians are descendents of Slavic people.
 
In 865 Boris I adopted Orthodox Christianity, which continues today to be the dominant religion of Bulgaria. The Bulgars were independent until they were invaded by the Ottoman Empire in1396, and they did not regain their sovereignty until 1908.
 
Bulgaria participated in the First and Second Balkan Wars (1912 and 1913) and sided with Germany and its allies during World War I and II. Bulgaria never sent troops to fight under Nazi command, and near the end of WWII, the government changed sides and fought the German army all the way to Austria. In total, Bulgaria lost 30,000 troops in the war. Although the government did not turn over Bulgarian Jews to the Nazis, it did transfer 11,000 other Jews from Bulgarian-occupied territory (Thrace and Macedonia) to Nazi concentration camps. In June 1943 the government moved 25,000 Jews from the capital, Sofia, to rural areas. Tsar Boris helped the Jewish community and its 50,000 members survive the war, and most of them eventually emigrated to Israel after the war concluded.
 
Soviet troops entered Bulgaria in September 1944 and did not leave until the country fell under the control of Bulgarian Communists in 1946. Unlike some European countries that wound up behind the “Iron Curtain,” such as Hungary and Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria never resisted Communist rule. In fact, Bulgaria had the distinction during the Cold War of being one of the Soviet Union’s most stalwart allies. Todor Zhivkov, the head of the Bulgarian Communist Party, ruled the country for much of this period. During his 27 years as leader of Bulgaria, democratic opposition was crushed; agriculture was collectivized and industry was nationalized; and the Bulgarian Orthodox Church fell under the control of the state.
 
In 1989, when the Soviet Union began to crumble, Zhivkov was removed from power and democratic change began. The first multi-party elections since World War II were held in 1990. The ruling Communist party changed its name to the Bulgarian Socialist Party and won the June 1990 elections. Following a period of social unrest and passage of a new constitution, the first fully democratic parliamentary elections were held in 1991 and the Union of Democratic Forces won. The first direct presidential elections were held the next year.
 
As Bulgaria emerged from the throes of communism, it experienced a period of social and economic turmoil that culminated in a severe economic and financial crisis in late 1996 and early 1997. With the help of the international community, former Prime Minister Ivan Kostov initiated a series of reforms in 1997 that helped stabilize the country’s economy. Elections in 2001 ushered in a new government and president. In July 2001, Bulgaria’s ex-king, Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, became the first former monarch in post-communist Eastern Europe to become prime minister. His government continued to pursue integration with Western Europe, democratic reform and development of a market economy. Bulgaria became a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on March 29, 2004, and a member of the European Union on January 1, 2007.
History of Bulgaria (by Bojdar Dimitrov [translated by Maria Kikolotva])
 

 

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Bulgaria's Newspapers
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History of U.S. Relations with Bulgaria

Diplomatic relations between the US and Bulgaria were first established in 1903. The earliest documented Bulgarians to come to the US were Protestant converts, recruited and groomed to be missionaries back in their native country. Immigration boomed from 1903 to 1910, when 50,000 Bulgarians came to America seeking economic opportunity. Early immigrants congregated in the Northeast and Midwest, with 7,000 living in Detroit by 1910, thanks to the burgeoning auto industry. The National Origins Immigration Act of 1924 severely limited further migration, until the Soviet invasion of 1944. Between 1944 and 1949, before Bulgaria’s borders were closed, thousands fled to Western Europe and America, through circuitous, arduous routes.

 
US-Bulgarian relations were severed in 1941 when Bulgaria sided with Germany and declared war on the US. Diplomatic relations were restored after the end of WWII, but were again cut off in 1950 as a result of the Cold War. Although formal relations were restored in the 1960s, the two countries didn’t begin to work together until after the fall of Communism. The United States moved quickly to encourage development of multi-party democracy and a market economy, with the US signing a Bilateral Investment Treaty in 1994 and giving Bulgaria most-favored-nation trade status in October 1996.
 
In 1989, Congress passed the Support for East European Democracies Act (SEED), authorizing financial support to facilitate development of democratic institutions, political pluralism, and free market economies in the Balkan region. From 1990 to 2007, Bulgaria received more than $600 million in SEED assistance. Bulgaria stopped receiving SEED assistance after joining the European Union in 2007.  
 
During the Kosovo crisis in 1999, the Bulgarian government sided with the US and NATO in its air war against Yugoslavia. During the aerial bombardment, four NATO missiles accidentally landed in Bulgaria.
 
As of the 2000 US Census, 55,489 people in the US identified themselves as Bulgarian. Today, the largest Bulgarian community still resides in Michigan, although significant populations also live in Indiana and Ohio. The Bulgarian communities in New York City and Los Angeles are also growing quickly.
 
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Current U.S. Relations with Bulgaria

Following the 9/11 attacks, the Bulgarian government contributed troops to the NATO contingent that supported the United States’ invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Following the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, Bulgaria deployed about 400 soldiers to the multi-national force under Polish command. The Bulgarian troops were withdrawn by the Socialist-led coalition government in December 2005, but in 2006, the Bulgarian Parliament voted to send 120 soldiers and 34 support staff to guard the Ashraf refugee camp north of Baghdad.

 
In May 2005 the US and Bulgaria signed a defense cooperation agreement that gives the US military access to and shared use of several Bulgarian military facilities. The American military intends to use this access to facilitate joint training with the Bulgarian and Romanian militaries.
 
In February 2007, Bulgaria and the United States signed a treaty on avoidance of double taxation that is expected to further promote American investment in Bulgaria. In June 2008, Bulgaria and the United States signed a weapons-of-mass-destruction agreement and a Second Line of Defense agreement, both of which facilitate greater cooperation in preventing the proliferation of weapons and trafficking of illicit material.
 
American citizens traveling with a US passport for business or tourism purposes can enter and stay in Bulgaria for up to 90 days in a six-month period without requiring issuance of a visa.
Bulgaria hosts the only fully American university in the region, the American University of Bulgaria in Blagoevgrad. It was established in 1991, and draws students from throughout southeast Europe and beyond. As of 2007, the enrollment of the American University of Bulgaria was more than 1,000.
 
In 1999, President Bill Clinton became the first US President to visit Bulgaria. President George W. Bush also visited Sofia in June 2007.
 
In 2006 69,478 Americans visited Bulgaria, while 18,123 Bulgarians traveled to the US. Tourism has grown steadily since 2002, when 39,153 Americans traveled to Bulgaria. More Bulgarians have come to America every year since 2002, when 13,858 Bulgarians journeyed to the US.
 
State of US-Bulgarian Relations (by Iliana Raicheva [translated by Radostin Zhelev], Radio Bulgaria)
Bulgaria, U.S. Bases and Black Sea Geopolitics (by W. Alejandro Sanchez, Power and Interest News Report)
 
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Where Does the Money Flow

In 2007, the United States had a trade deficit with Bulgaria of more than $100 million. The US imported $426 million worth of goods while exporting only $306 million. Metallurgical grade coal is the biggest US export to Bulgaria, selling more than $100 million worth between 2006 and 2007. Exports on the rise include industrial engines (from $778,000 in 2006 to $14.1 million in 2007) and petroleum products (from $872,000 in 2003 to $19.2 million in 2007). At the same time, the US imports even more in petroleum products from Bulgaria ($92.2 million in 2007). Those imports that have been on the decline from Bulgaria include apparel and household goods (from $108.7 million in 2003 to $22.3 million in 2007) and iron and steel mill products (from $60.1 million in 2006 to $1.7 million in 2007).

 
In recent years, American high-tech companies have begun to invest in Bulgaria. Hewlett Packard opened a customer service center that will employ 1,000 Bulgarians. Also, energy company AES has begun work on a $1.4 billion coal-fired power plant in southeast Bulgaria that represented the biggest foreign investment, as of 2006.
 
According to the State Department, the US sold $44.5 million of defense articles and services to Bulgaria in 2007, (Bulgaria: Security Assistance). The US gave $11.1 million in aid to Bulgaria in 2007, divided between Foreign Military Financing ($9.6 million) and International Military Education and Training ($1.4 million). The 2008 budget estimate reduced aid to $8.5 million, but in 2009 the budget will request $11 million in aid for Bulgaria. The 2009 budget will divide funding between Foreign Military Financing ($9 million), International Military Education and Training ($1.6 million), and Nonproliferation, Antiterrorism, Demining and Related Programs ($400,000).
 
Bulgaria Lures Yankee Dollars (by Jack Ewing, BusinessWeek)
 
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Controversies
Nuclear Power Plant Rocks Geopolitics
In 2007 Bulgaria’s nuclear power ambitions put the country at odds with the US and other countries. The new nuclear power plant would be the first to be built by Russia in the European Union and could leave Russia largely in control of Bulgaria’s energy sector.
Nuclear ambitions fan controversy in Bulgaria (by Matthew Brunwasser, International Herald Tribune)

 

 
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Human Rights

According to the State Department, Bulgaria has a reasonably good human rights record. However, there were problems in some areas: “Severe police abuses, including beatings and other mistreatment of pretrial detainees, prison inmates, and members of minorities; harsh conditions in prisons and detention facilities; arbitrary arrest and detention; and impunity. There were limitations on freedom of the press; some restrictions of freedom of religion and discrimination against religious minorities; and corruption in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. Other problems included: societal violence and discrimination against women and children; trafficking in persons; discrimination against persons with disabilities; violence and discrimination against minority groups; and child labor.”

 
In July 2008, the Bulgarian parliament approved a new law on the foreign trade in weapons. Since issuing a 1999 report on Bulgaria’s role as a key weapons supplier to governments and armed groups that abuse human rights, Human Rights Watch has called for reform to tighten arms trade controls. HRW encouraged NATO and European Union officials to use their leverage to press for needed changes in Bulgaria.
 
Amnesty International expressed concern about intimidation of lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT) in Bulgaria in the lead-up to the first Pride event held in the center of the capital, Sofia, in June 2008. Some far-right groups and others have expressed hostile points of view towards the country’s LGBT community, which forced Sofia’s Mayor Boyko Borisov to change the location of the parade in order to better meet security concerns around the safety of the marchers.
 
 
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Debate
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Past Ambassadors

Charles M. Dickinson
Appointment: Apr 24, 1901
Appointment terminated, Jun 30, 1903

John B. Jackson
Appointment: Jun 5, 1903
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 19, 1903

John B. Jackson
Appointment: Mar 8, 1905
Termination of Mission: Presented recall, Jun 4, 1907

Horace G. Knowles
Appointment: Jul 1, 1907
Presentation of Credentials: Aug 21, 1907
Termination of Mission: Left Bucharest, Feb 4, 1909

Huntington Wilson
Appointment: Dec 17, 1908
Note: Commissioned as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to
Romania and Serbia and Diplomatic Agent in Bulgaria; took oath of office, but
did not proceed to post.

Spencer F. Eddy
Appointment: Jan 11, 1909
Note: Commissioned as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Romania and Diplomatic Agent in Bulgaria; served at Bucharest, but did not present credentials in Bulgaria.

John R. Carter
Appointment: Sep 25, 1909
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Romania and Serbia and Diplomatic Agent in Bulgaria; served at Bucharest, but did not present credentials in Bulgaria. Recommissioned after confirmation on Dec 13, 1909.

John R. Carter
Appointment: Jun 24, 1910
Note: Commissioned as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Romania, Serbia, and Bulgaria; resident at Bucharest.

John B. Jackson
Appointment: Aug 12, 1911
Presentation of Credentials: Feb 1, 1912
Termination of Mission: Presented recall, Oct 18, 1913

Charles J. Vopicka
Appointment: Sep 11, 1913
Presentation of Credentials: Dec 26, 1913
Termination of Mission: Relieved of active functions pertaining to Legation Sofia, Dec 17, 1918
Note: Commissioned as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Romania, Serbia, and Bulgaria; resident at Bucharest.

Charles S. Wilson
Appointment: Oct 8, 1921
Presentation of Credentials: Dec 5, 1921
Termination of Mission: Presented recall, Oct 4, 1928

H.F. Arthur Schoenfeld
Appointment: Jul 17, 1928
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Jan 23, 1929; did not serve under either appointment.

Henry Wharton Shoemaker
Appointment: Jan 22, 1930
Presentation of Credentials: Mar 28, 1930
Termination of Mission: Left post, Aug 2, 1933

Frederick A. Sterling
Appointment: Sep 1, 1933
Presentation of Credentials: Apr 3, 1934
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jun 30, 1936

Ray Atherton
Appointment: Jul 13, 1937
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 21, 1937
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jul 5, 1939

George H. Earle III
Appointment: Feb 14, 1940
Presentation of Credentials: Apr 2, 1940
Termination of Mission: Bulgaria declared war on the U.S., Dec 13, 1941
Note: Earle left post late in Dec. 1941, arriving at Istanbul (en route to the U.S.) Dec 27, 1941. Legation Sofia was reestablished Sep 27, 1947, with John Evarts Horner as Chargé d'Affaires ad interim.

Donald R. Heath
Appointment: Sep 30, 1947
Presentation of Credentials: Nov 8, 1947
Termination of Mission: Declared persona non grata by Government of Bulgaria, Jan 19, 1950

Edward Page, Jr.
Appointment: Nov 23, 1959
Presentation of Credentials: Mar 14, 1960
Termination of Mission: Left post, May 25, 1962

Eugenie Anderson
Appointment: May 28, 1962
Presentation of Credentials: Aug 3, 1962
Termination of Mission: Left post, Dec 6, 1964

Nathaniel Davis
Appointment: May 6, 1965
Presentation of Credentials: Jun 4, 1965
Termination of Mission: Left post, May 20, 1966

John M. McSweeney
Appointment: Sep 16, 1966
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 26, 1966
Termination of Mission: Left post, May 29, 1970

Horace G. Torbert, Jr.
Appointment: Oct 6, 1970
Presentation of Credentials: Nov 4, 1970
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jan 23, 1973

Martin F. Herz
Appointment: Feb 28, 1974
Presentation of Credentials: Apr 3, 1974
Termination of Mission: Left post, Aug 6, 1977

Raymond L. Garthoff
Appointment: Jul 29, 1977
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 16, 1977
Termination of Mission: Left post, Oct 9, 1979

Jack Richard Perry
Appointment: Sep 20, 1979
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 17, 1979
Termination of Mission: Left post, Sep 27, 1981

Robert L. Barry
Appointment: Nov 25, 1981
Presentation of Credentials: Dec 8, 1981
Termination of Mission: 12 Jul 1984

Melvyn Levitsky
Appointment: Sep 21, 1984
Presentation of Credentials: Nov 13, 1984
Termination of Mission: Left post, Feb 6, 1987

Sol Polansky
Appointment: Jun 15, 1987
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 4, 1987
Termination of Mission: Left post, Aug 17, 1990

Hugh Kenneth Hill
Appointment: Aug 6, 1990
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 18, 1990
Termination of Mission: Left post, Sep 5, 1993

William Dale Montgomery
Appointment: Oct 8, 1993
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 27, 1993
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jan 17, 1996
 
Avis T. Bohlen
Appointment: Jul 2, 1996
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 5, 1996
Termination of Mission: Left post Aug 13, 1999
 
Richard Monroe Miles
Appointment: Aug 9, 1999
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 8, 1999 
Termination of Mission: Left post Feb 28, 2002
 
James W. Pardew                             
Appointment: Apr 1, 2002
Presentation of Credentials: May 13, 2002
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jul 30, 2005
 
John R. Beyrle
Appointment: Jul 9, 2005
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 8, 2005
Termination of Mission: June 2008
 
 
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Bulgaria's Ambassador to the U.S.
ambassador-image Poptodorova, Elena

Elena Borislavova Poptodorova has served Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Bulgaria to the United States since 2002. From 1965-1969, Poptodorova studied at the English Language School of Sofia. From 1969-1975, she attended the University of Sofia, Department of Humanities, English and Italian Language and Literature, where she received her bachelor’s and master’s. She completed a post-graduate two-year course in international relations and diplomacy in 1979 at the University of National and World Economy in Sofia.
 
From 1975-1990, Poptodorova served in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, rising from 3rd Secretary to Minister-Counselor. The last three years she served as the Minister-Counselor at the Bulgarian Embassy in Rome and Consul-General of Bulgaria to the Republic of San Marino.
 
From 1990-2001, she served as a member of Parliament, holding seats on the Committee of Foreign Policy and European Integration, National Security Committee, Committee on Radio and Television, Committee on Human Rights and Committee on Agriculture.
 
From 2001-2002, she served as spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, director of the Directorate of International Organizations and Human Rights and deputy chairperson of the National Commission for UNESCO of Bulgaria. 
 
Poptodorova speaks English, French, Italian and Russian.
 
 

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Bulgaria's Embassy Web Site in the U.S.
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BTA 3 years ago
Here you could find more information about Bulgarian-American community http://dirbg.us

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U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria

Ries, Marcie
ambassador-image

A senior Foreign Service officer with 31 years of experience in Europe, the Caribbean and the Middle East, Marcie Berman Ries was nominated by President Barack Obama in May 2012 to serve as ambassador to Bulgaria. Over the course of her diplomatic career, Ries has been a specialist in national security and political-military matters while dealing with issues related to NATO, strategic and theater arms control, the Balkans and Iraq.

 

Born in 1950, Ries attended Oberlin College in Ohio, receiving her Bachelor of Arts in 1972. She attended graduate school at Johns Hopkins University and earned her Master of Arts from the School of Advanced International Studies in 1974. She is also a graduate of the State Department’s Senior Seminar and attended the Department of Defense’s Pinnacle Course.

 

She joined the Foreign Service in 1978 and served as the political officer in the U.S. embassy in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

 

Returning to the U.S. in 1981, Ries served as an international relations officer in the Office of Strategic Nuclear Policy until 1983.

 

She was posted to Turkey from 1984-1986 as a political officer in the U.S. embassy in Ankara. From 1986 to 1988, Ries served in Malta and as the Vatican Desk Officer.

 

She was stationed in Washington, DC, beginning in 1988 as the deputy head of the political section in the Office of European Regional Political Military Affairs. In 1990, she was the French Desk Officer until 1991, when she was a Pearson Fellow while working as an assistant to U.S. Representative Dante Fascell (D-Florida).

 

In 1992, Ries was sent to Europe to serve as the State Department’s deputy political counselor in the U.S. Mission to the European Union (EU) for four years.

 

She transferred to London in 1996 and spent the next four years as a political counselor in the U.S. embassy.

 

From 2001 to 2003, Ries was the director of the Office of UN Political Affairs in the State Department.

 

She went back to Europe in 2003 and was chief of mission in Kosovo. She spent part of 2004 as the State Department’s senior advisor for post-conflict reconstruction and stabilization before becoming U.S. ambassador to Albania, while her husband, Charles, was ambassador to neighboring Greece.

 

Three years later, Ries and her husband moved on to Iraq, where she was minister-counselor for political-military affairs in Baghdad and he headed the embassy’s economic team. Among her other responsibilities, she led the U.S. delegation that met with the ambassador from Iran when he visited Iraq.

 

Back in Washington, Ries was principal deputy assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs. In this capacity, she was responsible for policy and management of relations with NATO, the EU and Western Europe, as well as strategic planning and personnel.

 

Prior to her appointment as ambassador to Bulgaria, Ries served in the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance as deputy assistant secretary for nuclear and strategic policy. She was responsible for the management of the offices of Multilateral and Nuclear Affairs, Strategic Affairs, and the Nuclear Risk Reduction Center. Further, she served as the deputy START negotiator for the strategic arms reduction talks with the Russian Federation.

 

After leaving the State Department after 31 years, Charles Ries joined the RAND Corporation as a senior fellow in February 2009, but took a leave of absence from July 2010 to January 2011 to serve as executive vice president of the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund. In April 2012 he was named vice president, international at the RAND. The couple has a son and a daughter. Marcie Ries’ languages include Turkish, Spanish and French.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


Marcie Ries Biography (State Department)

Marcie B. Ries (NNDB)

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Previous U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria

McEldowney, Nancy
ambassador-image

A native of Clearwater Beach, Florida, Nancy McEldowney was sworn in as the US Ambassador to Bulgaria on July 25, 2008. McEldowney completed her undergraduate studies at New College and holds graduate degrees from Columbia University and the National Defense University.
 
 A member of the Foreign Service, McEldowney has served overseas at US Embassies in Cairo, Egypt and Bonn, Germany. In addition, she was a member of the US delegation to the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks with the Soviet Union in Geneva, Switzerland.
 
Within the State Department, McEldowney has worked in the Office of Soviet Affairs, the Office of European Security Affairs, the Front Office of the European Bureau and the Office of the Deputy Secretary. She has also served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon.
 
In her most recent Washington assignment, McEldowney served at the White House as director of European Affairs on the National Security Council. She then served as deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy in Baku, Azerbaijan and as the deputy chief mission in Ankara, Turkey, from June 2005 to March 2008.
McEldowney speaks several languages, including Arabic and Azerbaijani.
 
 

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Bookmark and Share
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Overview
Once one of the Soviet Union’s most stalwart allies, Bulgaria has gradually embraced Western style democracy and free market systems. Today, the country is part of the European Union and a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The US signed a defense cooperation agreement with Bulgaria in 2005, giving American military forces access to bases and facilities in the Black Sea country. Bulgarian military personnel have participated in operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. In recent years, American high-tech companies, such as Hewlett Packard, have begun to invest in Bulgaria, along with energy companies seeking a share in the nation’s power market.
 
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Basic Information
Lay of the Land: Located in south central Europe, Bulgaria is bordered by Turkey and Greece to the south, Macedonia and Serbia to the west, Romania to the north, and the Black Sea to the east. It is about the size of Tennessee. Most of the country is made up of hills, lowlands and low mountains, Mount Musala in the west is th highest mountain in the Balknas (9,596 ft./2,925 m). The Bulgarian capital, Sofia, has a population of about 1,400,000.
 
Population: 7.3 million
 
Religions: Orthodox Christian 85%, Muslim (predominately Sunni) 13%, other 1%, non-religious 1%.
 
Ethnic Groups: Bulgarian 83.9%, Turkish 9.4%, Roma 4.7%, other (including Macedonian, Armenian, Tatar, Circassian) 2%.
 
Languages: Bulgarian (official) 85%, Turkish (official) 11.3%, Romani (Balkan, Vlax, Macedo) 2.6%, Gagauz 0.2%, Crimean Turkish 0.08%. There are 11 living languages in Bulgaria.
 
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History
As early as 3500 BC, the area of Bulgaria was part of Thrace, a collection of Indo-European tribes who occupied parts of Greece and Turkey. The Thracians fell under the control of the Roman Empire in the 1st Century, and when the Romans retrenched during their decline, the Goths, Huns, Bulgars and Avars invaded. The Bulgars, who crossed the Danube from the north in 679, took control of the region and left behind the origin for Bulgaria’s name, even though the Bulgar language and culture died out long ago. Today’s Bulgarians are descendents of Slavic people.
 
In 865 Boris I adopted Orthodox Christianity, which continues today to be the dominant religion of Bulgaria. The Bulgars were independent until they were invaded by the Ottoman Empire in1396, and they did not regain their sovereignty until 1908.
 
Bulgaria participated in the First and Second Balkan Wars (1912 and 1913) and sided with Germany and its allies during World War I and II. Bulgaria never sent troops to fight under Nazi command, and near the end of WWII, the government changed sides and fought the German army all the way to Austria. In total, Bulgaria lost 30,000 troops in the war. Although the government did not turn over Bulgarian Jews to the Nazis, it did transfer 11,000 other Jews from Bulgarian-occupied territory (Thrace and Macedonia) to Nazi concentration camps. In June 1943 the government moved 25,000 Jews from the capital, Sofia, to rural areas. Tsar Boris helped the Jewish community and its 50,000 members survive the war, and most of them eventually emigrated to Israel after the war concluded.
 
Soviet troops entered Bulgaria in September 1944 and did not leave until the country fell under the control of Bulgarian Communists in 1946. Unlike some European countries that wound up behind the “Iron Curtain,” such as Hungary and Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria never resisted Communist rule. In fact, Bulgaria had the distinction during the Cold War of being one of the Soviet Union’s most stalwart allies. Todor Zhivkov, the head of the Bulgarian Communist Party, ruled the country for much of this period. During his 27 years as leader of Bulgaria, democratic opposition was crushed; agriculture was collectivized and industry was nationalized; and the Bulgarian Orthodox Church fell under the control of the state.
 
In 1989, when the Soviet Union began to crumble, Zhivkov was removed from power and democratic change began. The first multi-party elections since World War II were held in 1990. The ruling Communist party changed its name to the Bulgarian Socialist Party and won the June 1990 elections. Following a period of social unrest and passage of a new constitution, the first fully democratic parliamentary elections were held in 1991 and the Union of Democratic Forces won. The first direct presidential elections were held the next year.
 
As Bulgaria emerged from the throes of communism, it experienced a period of social and economic turmoil that culminated in a severe economic and financial crisis in late 1996 and early 1997. With the help of the international community, former Prime Minister Ivan Kostov initiated a series of reforms in 1997 that helped stabilize the country’s economy. Elections in 2001 ushered in a new government and president. In July 2001, Bulgaria’s ex-king, Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, became the first former monarch in post-communist Eastern Europe to become prime minister. His government continued to pursue integration with Western Europe, democratic reform and development of a market economy. Bulgaria became a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on March 29, 2004, and a member of the European Union on January 1, 2007.
History of Bulgaria (by Bojdar Dimitrov [translated by Maria Kikolotva])
 

 

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Bulgaria's Newspapers
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History of U.S. Relations with Bulgaria

Diplomatic relations between the US and Bulgaria were first established in 1903. The earliest documented Bulgarians to come to the US were Protestant converts, recruited and groomed to be missionaries back in their native country. Immigration boomed from 1903 to 1910, when 50,000 Bulgarians came to America seeking economic opportunity. Early immigrants congregated in the Northeast and Midwest, with 7,000 living in Detroit by 1910, thanks to the burgeoning auto industry. The National Origins Immigration Act of 1924 severely limited further migration, until the Soviet invasion of 1944. Between 1944 and 1949, before Bulgaria’s borders were closed, thousands fled to Western Europe and America, through circuitous, arduous routes.

 
US-Bulgarian relations were severed in 1941 when Bulgaria sided with Germany and declared war on the US. Diplomatic relations were restored after the end of WWII, but were again cut off in 1950 as a result of the Cold War. Although formal relations were restored in the 1960s, the two countries didn’t begin to work together until after the fall of Communism. The United States moved quickly to encourage development of multi-party democracy and a market economy, with the US signing a Bilateral Investment Treaty in 1994 and giving Bulgaria most-favored-nation trade status in October 1996.
 
In 1989, Congress passed the Support for East European Democracies Act (SEED), authorizing financial support to facilitate development of democratic institutions, political pluralism, and free market economies in the Balkan region. From 1990 to 2007, Bulgaria received more than $600 million in SEED assistance. Bulgaria stopped receiving SEED assistance after joining the European Union in 2007.  
 
During the Kosovo crisis in 1999, the Bulgarian government sided with the US and NATO in its air war against Yugoslavia. During the aerial bombardment, four NATO missiles accidentally landed in Bulgaria.
 
As of the 2000 US Census, 55,489 people in the US identified themselves as Bulgarian. Today, the largest Bulgarian community still resides in Michigan, although significant populations also live in Indiana and Ohio. The Bulgarian communities in New York City and Los Angeles are also growing quickly.
 
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Current U.S. Relations with Bulgaria

Following the 9/11 attacks, the Bulgarian government contributed troops to the NATO contingent that supported the United States’ invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Following the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, Bulgaria deployed about 400 soldiers to the multi-national force under Polish command. The Bulgarian troops were withdrawn by the Socialist-led coalition government in December 2005, but in 2006, the Bulgarian Parliament voted to send 120 soldiers and 34 support staff to guard the Ashraf refugee camp north of Baghdad.

 
In May 2005 the US and Bulgaria signed a defense cooperation agreement that gives the US military access to and shared use of several Bulgarian military facilities. The American military intends to use this access to facilitate joint training with the Bulgarian and Romanian militaries.
 
In February 2007, Bulgaria and the United States signed a treaty on avoidance of double taxation that is expected to further promote American investment in Bulgaria. In June 2008, Bulgaria and the United States signed a weapons-of-mass-destruction agreement and a Second Line of Defense agreement, both of which facilitate greater cooperation in preventing the proliferation of weapons and trafficking of illicit material.
 
American citizens traveling with a US passport for business or tourism purposes can enter and stay in Bulgaria for up to 90 days in a six-month period without requiring issuance of a visa.
Bulgaria hosts the only fully American university in the region, the American University of Bulgaria in Blagoevgrad. It was established in 1991, and draws students from throughout southeast Europe and beyond. As of 2007, the enrollment of the American University of Bulgaria was more than 1,000.
 
In 1999, President Bill Clinton became the first US President to visit Bulgaria. President George W. Bush also visited Sofia in June 2007.
 
In 2006 69,478 Americans visited Bulgaria, while 18,123 Bulgarians traveled to the US. Tourism has grown steadily since 2002, when 39,153 Americans traveled to Bulgaria. More Bulgarians have come to America every year since 2002, when 13,858 Bulgarians journeyed to the US.
 
State of US-Bulgarian Relations (by Iliana Raicheva [translated by Radostin Zhelev], Radio Bulgaria)
Bulgaria, U.S. Bases and Black Sea Geopolitics (by W. Alejandro Sanchez, Power and Interest News Report)
 
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Where Does the Money Flow

In 2007, the United States had a trade deficit with Bulgaria of more than $100 million. The US imported $426 million worth of goods while exporting only $306 million. Metallurgical grade coal is the biggest US export to Bulgaria, selling more than $100 million worth between 2006 and 2007. Exports on the rise include industrial engines (from $778,000 in 2006 to $14.1 million in 2007) and petroleum products (from $872,000 in 2003 to $19.2 million in 2007). At the same time, the US imports even more in petroleum products from Bulgaria ($92.2 million in 2007). Those imports that have been on the decline from Bulgaria include apparel and household goods (from $108.7 million in 2003 to $22.3 million in 2007) and iron and steel mill products (from $60.1 million in 2006 to $1.7 million in 2007).

 
In recent years, American high-tech companies have begun to invest in Bulgaria. Hewlett Packard opened a customer service center that will employ 1,000 Bulgarians. Also, energy company AES has begun work on a $1.4 billion coal-fired power plant in southeast Bulgaria that represented the biggest foreign investment, as of 2006.
 
According to the State Department, the US sold $44.5 million of defense articles and services to Bulgaria in 2007, (Bulgaria: Security Assistance). The US gave $11.1 million in aid to Bulgaria in 2007, divided between Foreign Military Financing ($9.6 million) and International Military Education and Training ($1.4 million). The 2008 budget estimate reduced aid to $8.5 million, but in 2009 the budget will request $11 million in aid for Bulgaria. The 2009 budget will divide funding between Foreign Military Financing ($9 million), International Military Education and Training ($1.6 million), and Nonproliferation, Antiterrorism, Demining and Related Programs ($400,000).
 
Bulgaria Lures Yankee Dollars (by Jack Ewing, BusinessWeek)
 
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Controversies
Nuclear Power Plant Rocks Geopolitics
In 2007 Bulgaria’s nuclear power ambitions put the country at odds with the US and other countries. The new nuclear power plant would be the first to be built by Russia in the European Union and could leave Russia largely in control of Bulgaria’s energy sector.
Nuclear ambitions fan controversy in Bulgaria (by Matthew Brunwasser, International Herald Tribune)

 

 
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Human Rights

According to the State Department, Bulgaria has a reasonably good human rights record. However, there were problems in some areas: “Severe police abuses, including beatings and other mistreatment of pretrial detainees, prison inmates, and members of minorities; harsh conditions in prisons and detention facilities; arbitrary arrest and detention; and impunity. There were limitations on freedom of the press; some restrictions of freedom of religion and discrimination against religious minorities; and corruption in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. Other problems included: societal violence and discrimination against women and children; trafficking in persons; discrimination against persons with disabilities; violence and discrimination against minority groups; and child labor.”

 
In July 2008, the Bulgarian parliament approved a new law on the foreign trade in weapons. Since issuing a 1999 report on Bulgaria’s role as a key weapons supplier to governments and armed groups that abuse human rights, Human Rights Watch has called for reform to tighten arms trade controls. HRW encouraged NATO and European Union officials to use their leverage to press for needed changes in Bulgaria.
 
Amnesty International expressed concern about intimidation of lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT) in Bulgaria in the lead-up to the first Pride event held in the center of the capital, Sofia, in June 2008. Some far-right groups and others have expressed hostile points of view towards the country’s LGBT community, which forced Sofia’s Mayor Boyko Borisov to change the location of the parade in order to better meet security concerns around the safety of the marchers.
 
 
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Debate
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Past Ambassadors

Charles M. Dickinson
Appointment: Apr 24, 1901
Appointment terminated, Jun 30, 1903

John B. Jackson
Appointment: Jun 5, 1903
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 19, 1903

John B. Jackson
Appointment: Mar 8, 1905
Termination of Mission: Presented recall, Jun 4, 1907

Horace G. Knowles
Appointment: Jul 1, 1907
Presentation of Credentials: Aug 21, 1907
Termination of Mission: Left Bucharest, Feb 4, 1909

Huntington Wilson
Appointment: Dec 17, 1908
Note: Commissioned as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to
Romania and Serbia and Diplomatic Agent in Bulgaria; took oath of office, but
did not proceed to post.

Spencer F. Eddy
Appointment: Jan 11, 1909
Note: Commissioned as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Romania and Diplomatic Agent in Bulgaria; served at Bucharest, but did not present credentials in Bulgaria.

John R. Carter
Appointment: Sep 25, 1909
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Romania and Serbia and Diplomatic Agent in Bulgaria; served at Bucharest, but did not present credentials in Bulgaria. Recommissioned after confirmation on Dec 13, 1909.

John R. Carter
Appointment: Jun 24, 1910
Note: Commissioned as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Romania, Serbia, and Bulgaria; resident at Bucharest.

John B. Jackson
Appointment: Aug 12, 1911
Presentation of Credentials: Feb 1, 1912
Termination of Mission: Presented recall, Oct 18, 1913

Charles J. Vopicka
Appointment: Sep 11, 1913
Presentation of Credentials: Dec 26, 1913
Termination of Mission: Relieved of active functions pertaining to Legation Sofia, Dec 17, 1918
Note: Commissioned as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Romania, Serbia, and Bulgaria; resident at Bucharest.

Charles S. Wilson
Appointment: Oct 8, 1921
Presentation of Credentials: Dec 5, 1921
Termination of Mission: Presented recall, Oct 4, 1928

H.F. Arthur Schoenfeld
Appointment: Jul 17, 1928
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Jan 23, 1929; did not serve under either appointment.

Henry Wharton Shoemaker
Appointment: Jan 22, 1930
Presentation of Credentials: Mar 28, 1930
Termination of Mission: Left post, Aug 2, 1933

Frederick A. Sterling
Appointment: Sep 1, 1933
Presentation of Credentials: Apr 3, 1934
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jun 30, 1936

Ray Atherton
Appointment: Jul 13, 1937
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 21, 1937
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jul 5, 1939

George H. Earle III
Appointment: Feb 14, 1940
Presentation of Credentials: Apr 2, 1940
Termination of Mission: Bulgaria declared war on the U.S., Dec 13, 1941
Note: Earle left post late in Dec. 1941, arriving at Istanbul (en route to the U.S.) Dec 27, 1941. Legation Sofia was reestablished Sep 27, 1947, with John Evarts Horner as Chargé d'Affaires ad interim.

Donald R. Heath
Appointment: Sep 30, 1947
Presentation of Credentials: Nov 8, 1947
Termination of Mission: Declared persona non grata by Government of Bulgaria, Jan 19, 1950

Edward Page, Jr.
Appointment: Nov 23, 1959
Presentation of Credentials: Mar 14, 1960
Termination of Mission: Left post, May 25, 1962

Eugenie Anderson
Appointment: May 28, 1962
Presentation of Credentials: Aug 3, 1962
Termination of Mission: Left post, Dec 6, 1964

Nathaniel Davis
Appointment: May 6, 1965
Presentation of Credentials: Jun 4, 1965
Termination of Mission: Left post, May 20, 1966

John M. McSweeney
Appointment: Sep 16, 1966
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 26, 1966
Termination of Mission: Left post, May 29, 1970

Horace G. Torbert, Jr.
Appointment: Oct 6, 1970
Presentation of Credentials: Nov 4, 1970
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jan 23, 1973

Martin F. Herz
Appointment: Feb 28, 1974
Presentation of Credentials: Apr 3, 1974
Termination of Mission: Left post, Aug 6, 1977

Raymond L. Garthoff
Appointment: Jul 29, 1977
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 16, 1977
Termination of Mission: Left post, Oct 9, 1979

Jack Richard Perry
Appointment: Sep 20, 1979
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 17, 1979
Termination of Mission: Left post, Sep 27, 1981

Robert L. Barry
Appointment: Nov 25, 1981
Presentation of Credentials: Dec 8, 1981
Termination of Mission: 12 Jul 1984

Melvyn Levitsky
Appointment: Sep 21, 1984
Presentation of Credentials: Nov 13, 1984
Termination of Mission: Left post, Feb 6, 1987

Sol Polansky
Appointment: Jun 15, 1987
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 4, 1987
Termination of Mission: Left post, Aug 17, 1990

Hugh Kenneth Hill
Appointment: Aug 6, 1990
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 18, 1990
Termination of Mission: Left post, Sep 5, 1993

William Dale Montgomery
Appointment: Oct 8, 1993
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 27, 1993
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jan 17, 1996
 
Avis T. Bohlen
Appointment: Jul 2, 1996
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 5, 1996
Termination of Mission: Left post Aug 13, 1999
 
Richard Monroe Miles
Appointment: Aug 9, 1999
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 8, 1999 
Termination of Mission: Left post Feb 28, 2002
 
James W. Pardew                             
Appointment: Apr 1, 2002
Presentation of Credentials: May 13, 2002
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jul 30, 2005
 
John R. Beyrle
Appointment: Jul 9, 2005
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 8, 2005
Termination of Mission: June 2008
 
 
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Bulgaria's Ambassador to the U.S.
ambassador-image Poptodorova, Elena

Elena Borislavova Poptodorova has served Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Bulgaria to the United States since 2002. From 1965-1969, Poptodorova studied at the English Language School of Sofia. From 1969-1975, she attended the University of Sofia, Department of Humanities, English and Italian Language and Literature, where she received her bachelor’s and master’s. She completed a post-graduate two-year course in international relations and diplomacy in 1979 at the University of National and World Economy in Sofia.
 
From 1975-1990, Poptodorova served in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, rising from 3rd Secretary to Minister-Counselor. The last three years she served as the Minister-Counselor at the Bulgarian Embassy in Rome and Consul-General of Bulgaria to the Republic of San Marino.
 
From 1990-2001, she served as a member of Parliament, holding seats on the Committee of Foreign Policy and European Integration, National Security Committee, Committee on Radio and Television, Committee on Human Rights and Committee on Agriculture.
 
From 2001-2002, she served as spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, director of the Directorate of International Organizations and Human Rights and deputy chairperson of the National Commission for UNESCO of Bulgaria. 
 
Poptodorova speaks English, French, Italian and Russian.
 
 

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Bulgaria's Embassy Web Site in the U.S.
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BTA 3 years ago
Here you could find more information about Bulgarian-American community http://dirbg.us

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U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria

Ries, Marcie
ambassador-image

A senior Foreign Service officer with 31 years of experience in Europe, the Caribbean and the Middle East, Marcie Berman Ries was nominated by President Barack Obama in May 2012 to serve as ambassador to Bulgaria. Over the course of her diplomatic career, Ries has been a specialist in national security and political-military matters while dealing with issues related to NATO, strategic and theater arms control, the Balkans and Iraq.

 

Born in 1950, Ries attended Oberlin College in Ohio, receiving her Bachelor of Arts in 1972. She attended graduate school at Johns Hopkins University and earned her Master of Arts from the School of Advanced International Studies in 1974. She is also a graduate of the State Department’s Senior Seminar and attended the Department of Defense’s Pinnacle Course.

 

She joined the Foreign Service in 1978 and served as the political officer in the U.S. embassy in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

 

Returning to the U.S. in 1981, Ries served as an international relations officer in the Office of Strategic Nuclear Policy until 1983.

 

She was posted to Turkey from 1984-1986 as a political officer in the U.S. embassy in Ankara. From 1986 to 1988, Ries served in Malta and as the Vatican Desk Officer.

 

She was stationed in Washington, DC, beginning in 1988 as the deputy head of the political section in the Office of European Regional Political Military Affairs. In 1990, she was the French Desk Officer until 1991, when she was a Pearson Fellow while working as an assistant to U.S. Representative Dante Fascell (D-Florida).

 

In 1992, Ries was sent to Europe to serve as the State Department’s deputy political counselor in the U.S. Mission to the European Union (EU) for four years.

 

She transferred to London in 1996 and spent the next four years as a political counselor in the U.S. embassy.

 

From 2001 to 2003, Ries was the director of the Office of UN Political Affairs in the State Department.

 

She went back to Europe in 2003 and was chief of mission in Kosovo. She spent part of 2004 as the State Department’s senior advisor for post-conflict reconstruction and stabilization before becoming U.S. ambassador to Albania, while her husband, Charles, was ambassador to neighboring Greece.

 

Three years later, Ries and her husband moved on to Iraq, where she was minister-counselor for political-military affairs in Baghdad and he headed the embassy’s economic team. Among her other responsibilities, she led the U.S. delegation that met with the ambassador from Iran when he visited Iraq.

 

Back in Washington, Ries was principal deputy assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs. In this capacity, she was responsible for policy and management of relations with NATO, the EU and Western Europe, as well as strategic planning and personnel.

 

Prior to her appointment as ambassador to Bulgaria, Ries served in the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance as deputy assistant secretary for nuclear and strategic policy. She was responsible for the management of the offices of Multilateral and Nuclear Affairs, Strategic Affairs, and the Nuclear Risk Reduction Center. Further, she served as the deputy START negotiator for the strategic arms reduction talks with the Russian Federation.

 

After leaving the State Department after 31 years, Charles Ries joined the RAND Corporation as a senior fellow in February 2009, but took a leave of absence from July 2010 to January 2011 to serve as executive vice president of the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund. In April 2012 he was named vice president, international at the RAND. The couple has a son and a daughter. Marcie Ries’ languages include Turkish, Spanish and French.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


Marcie Ries Biography (State Department)

Marcie B. Ries (NNDB)

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Previous U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria

McEldowney, Nancy
ambassador-image

A native of Clearwater Beach, Florida, Nancy McEldowney was sworn in as the US Ambassador to Bulgaria on July 25, 2008. McEldowney completed her undergraduate studies at New College and holds graduate degrees from Columbia University and the National Defense University.
 
 A member of the Foreign Service, McEldowney has served overseas at US Embassies in Cairo, Egypt and Bonn, Germany. In addition, she was a member of the US delegation to the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks with the Soviet Union in Geneva, Switzerland.
 
Within the State Department, McEldowney has worked in the Office of Soviet Affairs, the Office of European Security Affairs, the Front Office of the European Bureau and the Office of the Deputy Secretary. She has also served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon.
 
In her most recent Washington assignment, McEldowney served at the White House as director of European Affairs on the National Security Council. She then served as deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy in Baku, Azerbaijan and as the deputy chief mission in Ankara, Turkey, from June 2005 to March 2008.
McEldowney speaks several languages, including Arabic and Azerbaijani.
 
 

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