U.S. President George W. Bush Arrives in Bulgaria

U.S. President George W Bush arrived in Bulgaria for the last stop on his European tour on Sunday evening. The presidential plane, Air Force One, arrived at the Sofia International Airport at 7 p.m. local time and Bush stepped on Bulgarian ground 15 minutes later.

The US President and First Lady Laura Bush were met by Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ivailo Kalfin, US Ambassador to Sofia John Beyrle, the head of Bulgarian presidential cabinet Nikola Kolev and Bulgaria’s Ambassador to US Elena Poptodorova. Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov will officially welcome Bush to the country on Monday morning.

Bush will meet President Georgi Parvanov and Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev on Monday. A round-table discussion with students from the American University in Bulgaria has also been scheduled. The US president is expected to give reassurances on lifting visas for Bulgarians and support the efforts to free the medics sentenced to death in Libya. Other issues include future military and economic cooperation, as well as Bulgaria’s progress in the fight against corruption, with Bush set to declare his support for the establishment of a foundation that would help strengthen the rule of law in the Balkan country. The future of Kosovo is also likely to feature in talks with Parvanov, with Bush throwing his support behind the independence of the province during his seven-hour visit to Albania on Sunday.

Bulgaria is the last stop on Bush’ week-long European tour, which included the G8 summit in Germany, as well as stops in the Czech Republic, Poland, Italy and Albania. A total of 3.500 police officers will take care of the security in Sofia, focusing on two security zones in the downtown of the city and the area around the airport, Boyana, Mladost, Dragalevtsi and Studentski Grad districts. Bush is the second sitting US President to come to Bulgaria, following in the footsteps of his predecessor Bill Clinton, who visited the country in November 1999.