Itinerary: Bulgaria


Wreath-Laying Ceremony
Nevski Square

President Clinton and President Stoyanov will participate in a brief wreath-laying ceremony at the Memorial Flame. The traditional location for formal arrival ceremonies, this site commemorates Bulgaria's Unknown Soldier from World War I. It is a simple memorial, with a plaque and an eternal flame. A military honor guard is usually present.

Photo Opportunity and Bilateral Meeting with President Petar Stoyanov of Bulgaria
The Presidency

President Clinton and President Stoyanov will be joined by Bulgaria's Ambassador to the United States, Philip Dimitrov, and Vladimir Filipov, Secretary to the President on Foreign Policy Issues.

The Presidency is located directly across the street from the Council of Ministers, and is part of the same complex of communist-era buildings that is sometimes referred to as the "Largo." It is built in the Stalinist, neo-classical style and is attached to the Sheraton Hotel. Long-time communist dictator Tudor Zhivkov had his office here. The first democratically elected president, Zhelyu Zhelev and his successors have all continued to utilize this office. President Stoyanov had the communist stars, hammers, and sickles chiseled off the facade. Ceremonial guards at the entrance wear white tunics trimmed in red in memory of the uniform worn by Bulgarian freedom fighters in the 1876-78 war of liberation from the Ottoman Empire.

Photo Opportunity and Bilateral Meeting with Prime Minister Ivan Kostov
Council of Ministers Building

The President and Prime Minister Kostov will be joined by Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Bozhkov, Minister of Finance Muravei Radev, and Minister of Trade and Tourism Valentin Vassilev.

The Council of Ministers building is part of a complex of communist-era government buildings in the center of Sofia. Constructed between 1953 and 1957, this central area of cold, Stalinist-era cement block architecture consists of the north-facing wing of the Sheraton Hotel, the Presidency, the former Communist Party headquarters, the Council of Ministers, and TsUM -- the Central Department Store which is currently under renovation. After a fire in August 1990 (sections blackened by smoke on the white stone exterior are still clearly visible), the Party abandoned the building. Its most distinctive feature, a giant red star perched on an 18-meter-high mast, was removed. For a short time, the building was used as a cultural center. The luxurious 1,250 seat-congress hall, formerly reserved for party conferences and meetings of the Central Committee, beautifully decorated with oak, was converted to a movie theater; the sumptuous lobby, with its 32 multicolored marble columns and mosaics, functioned as an impromptu bazaar. From 1996 to 1998, it was closed to the public. Recently reopened as St. Sofia Hall, it has found a new role more befitting its elegance hosting classical concerts and special events.

Roundtable Discussion with Bulgarian Youth

Meeting with Leader of Parliament Yordan Sokolov
National Assembly Building

The President will meet with Yordan Sokolov, the Chairman of the National Assembly. The National Assembly is located south of Alexander Nevski Square on National Parliament Square. The building was constructed by a Bulgarian architect in 1884, five years after Bulgaria won its independence. The slogan Obedienenieto Pravi Silata ("Unity in Strength") is written on the main facade. In 1997, angry crowds protesting the Socialist government damaged the building. In the face of these protests, the government resigned and new elections were held. The United Democratic Forces (UDF) won those elections. Since 1989, the National Assembly building has been home to the first democratically elected national legislature in Bulgaria since before WorldWarII.

The National Assembly is situated on the "yellow brick road," which stretches across the heart of Sofia. A gift from Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria in 1907 to his cousin, Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg, these pale yellow bricks make up one of Sofia's most distinctive landmarks and lend an attractive, regal quality to the city's center.

On the square just opposite Parliament is a monument to the "Tsar-Liberator," Russian Tsar Alexander II, so called because he defeated the Ottoman Turks in 1879, leading to the re-emergence of an independent Bulgarian state for the first time in 500 years. Designed by the Italian sculptor Arnoldo Zocchi and erected in 1905, the 14-meter high statue depicts the tsar riding on horseback and grasping a declaration in his right hand. Just below the statue is a sculptural group depicting the goddess of victory -- sword and shield in hand -- leading the Russian troops and Bulgarian volunteers on one side and the warm welcome of the Bulgarian people for their liberators on the other. On three sides of the pedestal base are smaller base reliefs portraying the battle of Stara Zagora, the signing of the San Stefano peace treaty, and a scene from the first National Assembly.

Speech to the People of Bulgaria
Nevski Square

The President will deliver his speech to the people of Bulgaria in the square adjacent to the Nevski Church. Completed in 1912 in honor of the Russian casualties of the 1877-78 war of liberation from Ottoman rule, the Alexander Nevski Memorial Church is one of the finest pieces of architecture in the Balkans. Craftsmen and artists from six countries worked on the five-aisle church for 30 years. They created renowned masterpieces of icons, frescos, murals, and chandeliers. The interior is adorned with Italian marble, Egyptian alabaster, Brazilian onyx, gold, and mosaics embodying the spirit of the finest Eastern Orthodox traditions.

The church was named for military commander and Russian prince, Alexander Nevski, who defeated Swedish and German expansion into Russia in 1236 and 1240, respectively. He was made a saint by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1547.

State Dinner
Kempinski Hotel

President Stoyanov will be hosting a State Dinner in President Clinton's honor at the Hotel Kempinski, a modern hotel built in the 1980's in downtown Sofia. Prime Minister Kostov, the Speaker of Parliament, government ministers, members of Parliament and prominent business people are expected to attend.


Embassy Event

The President will have an opportunity to meet Embassy staff and thank them for their support. The Embassy personnel currently consists of officers representing State, USAID, Commerce, Defense, Agriculture, and the Peace Corps.

Following the embassy event, the President will depart Sofia en route Skopje, and then on to the U.S. Sector, Kosovo.

Meeting with President of Macedonia
Skopje Airport

The present Skopje International Airport was built in the mid-1960s following the devastating earthquake of 1963. After independence was declared in 1991, implementation of policies aimed at development of amarket economy and privatization led to the establishment of twoprivate Macedonian airlines and the beginning of direct flights of private carriers among the capitals in the region. Nonetheless, the daily number of take-offs and landings from Skopje was in the low two digits.

During the NATO airstrikes against Serbia in the Kosovo crisis between March 26 and June 10, however, Skopje airport became an international hub, with several dozen flights departing and arriving daily, including 747s. At first, most flights brought in supplies for refugee relief, while other NATO aircraft brought in military equipment for later use in Kosovo when hostilities ceased. In addition, the airport became the point of departure for many of the 100,000 refugees who traveled by air to third-country destinations, including the United States.

The movement of the first of more than 40,000 KFOR troops into Kosovo began immediately after the cessation of hostilities against Serbia on June 11. On that day, more than 100 flights arrived and departed from Skopje airport, a record number that will not be matched in the foreseeable future. The airport remains busy, however, as the vast bulk of military supplies for KFOR either moves by train from Thessaloniki in Greece or arrives by air in Skopje.

Following events at the U.S. Sector and Camp Bondsteel, the President will depart for Aviano Air Force Base, and then on to Washington, D.C. He will arrive in Washington early on the morning of Wednesday, November 24.

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