US Secretary of State's Visit to Bulgaria Fuels Speculation in Foreign Media
"What is US Secretary of State John Kerry doing in Bulgaria?," a number of media outlets in Bulgaria, the region and the West seem to be wondering, against the backdrop of a few important diplomatic visits this month.
According to Bloomberg, which cites a State Department official not authorized to speak publicly, Kerry's main task is "to consult with officials about security and ways to wean the country from its dependence on energy from Russia."
Bloomberg reminds that the South Stream project, on which Bulgaria was pinning its hopes to boost its energy security, was abandoned in December of last year and this added to the country's problems in energy:
"The U.S. is working intensively with Bulgaria to find alternatives, including a spur from Bulgaria to a liquefied natural gas terminal in Greece, as well as nuclear energy options, the official said."
Reportedly, Kerry will offer his support to a government-business working group trying to overcome commercial, economic and regulatory obstacles related to improvements in the sector of nuclear energy.
Stemming the flow on "endemic corruption" will be another issue to discuss, with the cited official saying "official corruption doesn’t just threaten the democratic fabric of a country and the investment climate... but also provides an opening for foreign interference and the undercutting of sovereignty."
Russia's TASS news agency, citing "experts", writes that the American diplomats "will do their best to lift the moratorium on extracting shale gas through fracking and to support trans-Atlantic trade and investment partnership between the EU and the US."
RIA Novosti, on the other other hand, argues Kerry is intending "to talk Sofia into curbing its dependency on Russian energy resources."
The Associated Press points to the exploration of "ideas with Bulgarian officials for diversifying their energy supply" as the Secretary of State's main goal in Sofia.
In a text called "Western Leaders Make Beeline for Bulgaria," a BBC correspondent says "the timing [of Kerry's visit] is significant", reminding of the canceled South Stream pipeline.
He quotes Ruslan Stefanov, from the Center for the Study of Democracy in Sofia, as saying "Bulgaria is important to the US, as a frontier country... as the country that holds the key to Russia's influence on the Balkans and in Europe."
The article also touches the prospects of defense being on Kerry's agenda as "the Bulgarian army depends heavily on Russian spare parts and servicing, and on Greece to help patrol airspace."
It also points to the difficulties Bulgaria is having in controlling movement of would-be jihadists across tis own border.
"It is a major problem for our special services to control Islamist fighters traveling through Bulgaria unless we have concrete intelligence from our allies," former intelligence head Gen Kircho Kirov is quoted as saying.
Kerry will also seek an "update" on Bulgarian authorities' move to arrest Fritz-Joly Joachin, a French national caught while trying to sneak into Turkey, according to the Voice of America. Joachin is suspected of having ties to at least one of the attackers who took twelve lives at the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo's Paris office last week. A decision whether to extradite him is due sometime next week at the latest.
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