June 13, 2018 — Jerusalem, Israel
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, addressing the AJC Global Forum, extolled his country’s close relations with Israel, recalled the efforts of his countrymen to save Bulgaria’s Jewish population during World War II, and expressed support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“I feel at home and in the company of dear friends,” Borissov told the AJC Global Forum last night. “I express my respect for the State of Israel and appreciate its extremely important role regarding the future of the region.”
Bulgaria-Israel relations “are based on clear principles of interaction, on mutual confidence and on shared values. This is the guarantee that our relations go beyond our personal friendship and deepen so that they have a long-term horizon,” Borissov said. “There has never been even one moment over the years when we could not count on each other.”
Borissov, whose country currently holds the EU presidency, praised Israel for assisting Europe. “Had it not been for Israel, Europe and European civilization would have been in bigger jeopardy in the face of rising radicalism and religious fundamentalism in the Middle East,” he said.
The AJC Global Forum is the signature annual event of AJC, the premier Jewish global advocacy organization. More than 2,400 participants, including hundreds of young Jews, from across the United States and 55 other countries are registered for the four-day conference.
Borissov spoke about the efforts of Bulgarian citizens, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and by eminent public figures and intellectuals to “save the entire Bulgarian Jewish community of approximately 50,000” during World War II.” This heroic feat was done despite the fact that Bulgaria was allied with Nazi Germany.
Further, the prime minister said that “newly gathered facts confirm that in the years of the Holocaust the Bulgarian consuls in Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and other European states issued some 20,000 transit Bulgarian visas to Jews from Western Europe, including children.”
Borissov thanked Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu “for his recognition of what the Bulgarians did to save Bulgarian Jewish lives” and announced that two identical monuments – in Sofia and Tel Aviv – will soon be erected “to commemorate this historic fact and express our joint gratitude.”
The prime minister, speaking as head of an EU member state and President of the EU, expressed support for efforts to achieve through negotiations a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“We are convinced that the Jewish people’s relation to Jerusalem is indisputable and are not indifferent to the wish of the Jewish population of Israel and of world Jewry and to the right of Israel, being a sovereign state, to decide which city will be its capital and to insist that it be internationally recognized,” said Borissov.
However, Bulgaria is not following the actions by the U.S., Guatemala, and Paraguay to move their embassies to Jerusalem. “The status of Jerusalem as the sacred site of the three monotheistic religions should be agreed in the course of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations that will lead to an accord on final status of the Palestinian territories,” he said.
AJC has been deeply involved with Bulgaria since the late 1980s, after the collapse of the communist regime, advocating for the U.S.-Bulgaria-Israel relationship. Shalom, the umbrella body of Jewish organizations in Bulgaria, is a longstanding AJC international partner. A delegation from Shalom, led by President Alexander Oscar, is in attendance at the AJC Global Forum. Viktor Melamed serves as the director of AJC’s recently established presence in Bulgaria, AJC’s sixth post in Europe. And AJC CEO David Harris, a frequent visitor to Sofia, has been honored by the Bulgarian government.