Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT CLINTON
AND BULGARIAN PRESIDENT PETAR STOYANOV
TO THE PEOPLE OF BULGARIA
5:30 P.M. (L)
PRESIDENT STOYANOV: Thank you all for coming to this moving occasion. I would like to thank the organizers for organizing this grand rally. I would like to thank the musicians, the performers, those who sang from this platform and those who are down around this platform. I would like to thank all those who did support us throughout those 10 years, who gave us their support and understanding. Thank you all.
Mr. President of the United States, Mr. Prime Minister, Mayor, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends. Ten years ago, the Berlin Wall fell -- this most absurd material symbol of the division of Europe. The thunder of its tumbling down echoed in the hearts of many Bulgarians, of the hearts of a whole generation of Bulgarians who, after Yalta, had lost hope that ever in their earthly life their country will be reunited with the rest of Europe and communism will have an end.
However, the freedom in this country was not free. The communist reprisals and the terror were awful. These few other Eastern European countries knew such terror -- hundreds and thousands of Bulgarian people died for it; 185,000 went to the concentration camps. This was the price paid for the imposition of communism in this country. This was what we paid and it was comparable to the riot in Hungary in '56 and the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia of '68.
Europe had known several bloody wars. It witnessed the rise and fall of two of the most obscurantist regimes in history, fascism and communism; but never before had Europe been so strictly, so severely and ruthlessly divided into two absolutely alien systems -- the democratic West and the communist East.
Luckily for Europe, the Cold War never turned into a hot war. The competition was carried on to a peaceful plane, on the plane of technology, productivity of labor, comparison between the standards of the protection of human rights and the standards of living. But this was a competition in which communism was doomed to lose.
Now, 10 years long, things look much more different than they were in '89. We all, who had lived under communism for 45 years, who spent 45 years under this humiliating system, anticipated the change so impatiently, with such hope and joy that we burdened this change with too many hopes and expectations, more than it could bear.
Today, 10 years long, we Eastern Europeans realize that the change has proved more difficult, more painful and slower than we had imagined. The unification of Europe has proved to be a colossal project which cannot be accomplished by a single generation.
But these 10 years weren't lost, because in these years of unification we realized that unification is not only political but social; that it should be unification not only among states, but also it doesn't boil down to negotiating between the European Union and the candidate countries. But it will be a unification within our state, a slow process of inner construction, of building democratic institutions, of consolidating the rule of law, of consolidating the market economy, and embedding the principles of free enterprise.
After the Cold War, we realized that peace is not just a lack of war. Peace is equivalent to economic growth, to freedom for the human individual, freedom for human growth and progress. After the war in Kosovo, we realized that the democratic future of Southeastern Europe depends on investment, joint infrastructure, joint projects. But more than anything else, the future of this region depends on the democratic homogenization of the region.
We realized that for this purpose -- in order to achieve this democratic homogenization -- we need, while speaking our various languages, to speak the same political language: the language of democracy, while professing our different religions, to share one common religion: a religion of common democratic values; and in our relationship among states, to apply the same standards, but not only that -- to apply those same democratic standards in our relations to our own citizens. (Applause.)
And one thing we realized -- regardless of the difficulties and the disillusionment, maybe, and bitterness behind us; regardless of the obstacles ahead of us and the huge challenges -- the path is clear. It's lying straight ahead of us. And we have to go it to the end.
And one more thing became clear: we must keep our courage. The people of Eastern Europe should not allow their dreams and hopes, raised by the fall of the Berlin Wall, to give way to fatigue and disillusionment. And the people of Western Europe, on the other hand, should not allow their enthusiasm, after the lifting of the Iron Curtain, to give way to indifference and egoism. (Applause.)
Ladies and gentlemen, throughout all those 45 years, there was one nation and one government who strictly adhered and defended the values of democracy. This was the country of the United States of America, and the government and the Presidents of the United States of America. (Applause.)
The present President of the United States, Mr. Bill Clinton, entered office after the cold war, after the end of the Cold War. (Applause.) Throughout all these years, President Clinton, with courage and enthusiasm, supported the countries of Eastern Europe and encouraged them to press ahead and build their democracies, their institutions, aspire after a better life and achieve their reunification of Europe. Thank you for that, Mr. President. (Applause.)
This is why I welcome most cordially the President of the United States of America, William Jefferson Clinton. Welcome to Bulgaria, Mr. President. (Applause.)
* * * * *
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Dober den. President Stoyanov, Prime Minister Kostav, Mayor Sofianski, the people of Bulgaria, I thank you for this wonderful, wonderful welcome. (Applause.) I also want to thank this young student, who must have been so nervous, Boriana Savova. If she is a representative of the young people of Bulgaria, your future is in very good hands. (Applause.)
I am honored tonight to be here with my daughter, three members of the United States Congress, and a distinguished group of Americans. We thank you for this welcome. We thank all the musicians who performed, all the people who worked so hard to put this wonderful crowd together.
And I would like to say a special word of thanks to the young woman who sang so magnificently both the national anthems of Bulgaria and the United States. (Applause.)
I am very proud to be the first American President to visit Bulgaria -- a free Bulgaria. (Applause.) I am proud to stand in this place where voices were silenced for too long. Here are these tens of thousands of people, exercising your freedom with dignity and pride. (Applause.)
We are here tonight because of what you did 10 years ago this month, when change swept through Nevski Square. Students, never before allowed to express their opinions, demanded free elections now. Writers, imprisoned just a few weeks before, led chants of "demokratsiya." Grandparents, never allowed to worship with their children, said prayers in public, in the shadow of this great cathedral. What a wonderful moment that was. What a wonderful thing it said to the rest of the world about the heart of Bulgaria. (Applause.)
Even before 1989, communist rulers tried to keep you down with violence, but you struggled peacefully. They fed you lies, yet you sought the truth. They tried to smother your spirit, yet you were able to come together here and demand to be citizens, with rights and responsibilities of your own.
When the Cold War ended, it took much longer for the ground here to thaw. You endured one false spring after another. Now, the democracy is beginning to truly take root. Some here must feel left behind, while others race ahead. I ask you to remember what you left behind -- a police state, with no room for disappointment, because there was no hope for improvement; when Nobody felt left behind because no one was allowed to get ahead; when there were no dreams and some Bulgarians were even robbed of their very identities, forced to change their names.
The struggle for your constitutional democracy was waged not for paradise, but for possibility; not for a perfect world but for the chance to build a better world.
In my own country, we have struggled now for more than 200 years to build what our founders called "a more perfect union," never completely perfect but always advancing the cause of freedom and responsibility, of individual opportunity and a stronger national community. In those 223 years, we have had to overcome slavery and civil war, depressions and world wars, discrimination against women and ethnic and religious minorities. We have overcome these things through the free choices of free people.
I came here to say to you, the people of Bulgaria, that through freedom you, too, shall overcome and you will not have to wait 200 years to do it. (Applause.)
In just the last 10 years, from Poland to Hungary to the Baltics, those who have chosen open societies and open markets started out with sacrifice but ended up with success. The only difference between them and Bulgaria is that they had a head start. Now you, too, are on your way.
Today, America and Bulgaria have reached agreements that will encourage more American companies to do business here, to create jobs for both our countries. We are taking steps to help you crack down on corruption once and for all. And let me say to people in the United States, Europe and all over the world who will see this tonight on television, this is a wonderful country. Come here and help Bulgaria help build the future. (Applause.)
And let me add this: the Cold War was fought and won by free people who did not accept that there could be two Europes in the 20th century. Now, we must not, we will not accept that there could be two Europes separate and unequal in the 21st century. If you stay the course, Bulgaria will be a place where young people can make their dreams come true; and Americans and Bulgarians, together, will help to build a Europe that is undivided, democratic and at peace for the first time in all human history. (Applause.)
When that vision of the future was threatened by President Milosevic's brutal campaign in Kosovo, you stood with NATO. I know it was very hard for you to do. But I ask you to think about what would have happened if we had not stood up. This entire region would have been overwhelmed by refugees. And a message would have been sent to the rest of the world: stay away from Southeastern Europe, for here dictators still hold power by exploiting human differences and destroying human lives. I thank you for standing your ground with us against that evil, and sending a very different message to the rest of the world. (Applause.)
And I also want to thank you for setting a very different example here in Bulgaria. You have preserved a multi-ethnic society. As President Stoyanov has said, you chose to stand with and for civilization two years ago. But you also made that choice 50 years ago, when you helped Bulgaria's Jewish community to survive World War II and the Holocaust. (Applause.) On behalf of American Jews and Jewish people everywhere, I thank you for that. (Applause.) All of you know the famous line from the Monk Paissi Hilendarski: "you, Bulgarian, do not hesitate to be proud." (Applause.)
When you saved Bulgaria's Jews, it was one of the proudest moments in your history. And tonight, as you stand for freedom, it is one of the proudest moments in your history. (Applause.)
But now we have work to do. We must help all of Southeastern Europe choose freedom and tolerance and community. We must give all the people in this region a unifying magnet that is stronger than the pull of old hatreds that has threatened to tear them apart over and over again. Your neighbor, Serbia, should be part of that bright and different future.
I am told that during the recent war you could actually hear some of the bombs falling in Serbia from this square. Tonight, I hope the people of Serbia can hear our voices when we say, if you choose as Bulgaria has chosen, you will regain the rightful place in Europe Mr. Milosevic has stolen from you, and America will support you, too. (Applause.)
Already, we are aiding the forces of democracy in Serbia. And for all the people of this region, we strongly support the Stability Pact for Southeast Europe. We encourage the expansion of the European Union to this region and we must -- and will -- keep NATO's doors open to those democratic nations here who are able to meet their obligations. (Applause.)
During the conflict in Kosovo, we learned something very important about Bulgaria and its democratic neighbors; because you know how it feels to be insecure, you know what it means to sacrifice for common security; because you know how it feels to lose your freedom, you know what it takes to defend freedom. And so, even though you paid a great price and you are not yet in the heart of Europe, you have Europe and its values in your heart. (Applause.)
Earlier today, I had the opportunity to meet some of Boriana's classmates at the American University in Bulgaria. (Applause.) They were from Bulgaria, and from other countries throughout this region. And they were profoundly impressive to me -- in their intelligence, in their compassion, in their determination to build a brighter future.
So I would like to close my remarks with a word to the young people here. (Applause.) In America, Thomas Jefferson was only 32 years old when he wrote the Declaration of Independence, and Martin Luther King was only 26 years old when he led our crusade for civil rights for African-Americans. As I look out among you, I see a generation of Bulgarians who have come of age knowing not the unchanging conformity of communism, but the constantly changing challenges of a democratic society.
I know that it may seem hard now. But some day you will look back on this time and say, when we were young, we brought Bulgaria back to freedom. We brought Bulgaria forward to prosperity, security and unity in Europe. (Applause.) And I am determined that you will also be able to say, when we marched into the new millennium, America stood with us And we changed the world.
Thank you, and God bless you. (Applause.)
END 6:14 P.M. (L)
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