STUTTGART, Germany — The U.S. and Bulgaria have signed agreements that spell out how the two countries would conduct military business in Bulgaria for years to come.

The 11 “implementing arrangements” address military training, construction and personnel requirements and other areas. They comprise the details of a defense cooperation agreement signed in April 2006.

The agreement, together with one finalized in July with Romania, enable the operation of Joint Task Force–East, an open-ended, long-term training relationship between the U.S., Romanian and Bulgarian militaries. The accord was signed Thursday in Sofia, Bulgaria.

The U.S. has been training in the two former Soviet bloc nations for several years on an ad hoc basis.

“(Before) we had to do separate exercise support agreements every time,” said Col. Craig A. Meredith, deputy staff judge advocate at the U.S. European Command in Stuttgart.

“This will bring regularity to the exercises every time. We won’t have to go into all the legal issues. All those types of things are resolved.”

A final subagreement with Bulgaria addressing logistical support has not yet been finalized, Meredith said.

The JTF-East plan calls for a brigade-sized unit of about 3,500 U.S. troops to deploy to Romania and Bulgaria for six months at a time. U.S. forces would use several sites in both nations to train unilaterally and with Romanian and Bulgarian forces.

The agreement could also allow troops from NATO nations and elsewhere to train there. Romania and Bulgaria joined the 26-nation NATO alliance in 2004. The two nations last year joined the European Union.

The U.S. last summer sent its first wave of troops to train in Romania for two months under JTF-East. It plans to send about 1,000 troops to Romania in June for a four-month deployment. After two months in Romania, the troops would move south across the border into Bulgaria for two more months of training.

Army planners said last month that brigade-sized deployments to JTF-East probably would not occur for two years or more due to the demand for U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The agreements signed on Thursday enable the U.S. to move forward with plans to spend $60 million in military construction in Bulgaria. Barracks are planned to be built at the Novo Selo Training Area near Sliven in east-central part of the nation.

Under the agreement, the U.S. can also use air bases in Bezmer and Stara Zagora.

A high-ranking Bulgaria-U.S. joint commission and other subcommittees in areas such as logistical support and real estate management will also be established.

“Those committees will iron out details as the relationship grows,” Meredith said. “Things will come up that we missed that we didn’t know we should have discussed or negotiated.”

Flexibility was also built into the agreements, Meredith said.

“It’s a document that reflects possibilities, not restrictions,” Meredith said.

Details of agreementsAgreements signed by the U.S. and Bulgaria for military training in Bulgaria and some of the areas they cover:

Joint Commission: High-ranking Bulgarian-U.S. body established to provide oversight and resolve disputes.

Operations: Training and activities that can take place, who is in charge, munitions allowed, advance-notice requirements, and third-nation participation.

Security: Base access, who provides security, vehicle and personnel searches, arrest authority.

Criminal jurisdiction: Spells out responsibilities of U.S. and Bulgarian authorities pertaining to criminal matters involving U.S. personnel.

Contracting: Job-bidding, labor and material procurement, and vetting of potential contractors

Real estate: Describes procedures for land use and management, including construction rules.

Claims: Outlines how claims against the U.S. or Bulgaria would be resolved, such as those arising from property damage or injuries.

Local civilian labor: Sets rules for hiring, firing and evaluating local laborers.

Environmental: Establishes environmental guidelines to be followed.

Customs: Describes how goods can and cannot be imported and exported by U.S. personnel.

Tax exemption: Lists how goods and money can be tax-exempted and how to apply for tax-relief.

SOURCE: U.S. Embassy, Sofia, Bulgaria

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