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NATO Summit To Include 1st U.S. Visit For New Bulgarian President

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St. Sophia Bulgarian Orthodox Church in Des Plaines might host new Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev when he is in Chicago for the NATO summit in May 2012. (Credit: CBS)

St. Sophia Bulgarian Orthodox Church in Des Plaines might host new Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev when he is in Chicago for the NATO summit in May 2012. (Credit: CBS)

Roseanne Tellez Roseanne Tellez
Roseanne Tellez is the co-anchor of CBS 2 Chicago′s midday News at...
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CHICAGO (CBS) – Much of the NATO summit attention so far has surrounded protesters, security, and controversy.

But there’s another side to it all – the excitement and pride the event will provide to the city’s various ethnic communities, especially those from smaller countries.

Bulgaria, a southeast European nation of about 7 million people is among the nations sending a delegation to Chicago.

CBS 2’s Roseanne Tellez spoke with Bulgarians living in the Chicago area.

At a Chicago Bulgarian newspaper, there’s excitement over the upcoming visit of Bulgaria’s new president, Rosen Plevneliev, to the NATO summit.

“The authority of the Bulgarian president is not the same as (President) Barack Obama’s authority,” said Svetlozar Momtchilov, president of SM Media Group, which publishes a Bulgarian newspaper and other foreign language papers in the U.S. and Canada. “But still, the president is a great symbol and he has a lot of authority, and he is a great symbol of the country.”

While in Chicago, the Plevneliev will also visit a Bulgarian school, take part in celebrations tied to a Bulgarian national holiday, and meet members of the Bulgarian community are at an event at the Chicago Botanic Garden on May 19.

“Some people will be asking questions about Bulgaria, and what’s going on in Bulgaria, and how he feels about Bulgaria’s future,” “Things they care about, because their relatives are there.”

He’s also expected to visit several Orthodox churches.

Rev. Grouu Tzonkov — known as “Father Gary” to parishioners at St. Sophia Bulgarian Orthodox Church in Des Plaines — said, “We have very strong ties to Bulgaria. … the Secret Service came here to look over the place, and I hope he’ll come.”

The Chicago area is estimated to have more than 150,000 Bulgarians, living primarily in the northwest suburbs, like Franklin Park, Schiller Park, Des Plaines, Rosemont, and Park Ridge.

They’re eager to show off what they’ve accomplished here.

“Bulgarian people here are proud of what we, all of us, achieved for, specifically, the last 10 years,” xxxx said. “There’s no doubt that this is one of the most vigorously developing communities.”

Plevneliev has never been to Chicagao. In fact, this will be his first trip to the U.S.

In a country where the prime minister holds the most power, the Bulgarian president’s role is largely symbolic. And Plevneliev is relatively new to the post, having taken office in January.

More specific details about his visit are tough to get, because NATO officials have asked all diplomats to keep their schedules private for security reasons.

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