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A Journal of Foreign Policy Issues

Priorities in Bulgarian Foreign Policy

By Nadezhda Mihaylova, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bulgarian Republic

Bulgaria is preparing to meet the twenty first century with new priorities in its foreign policy. These are the result, on the one hand, of the changes in international relations and in the sector of security in Europe that took place after the Cold War ended and, on the other, of the procedures for structural transformation taking place in Bulgarian society.

Nadezhda Mihaylova To a large degree the agenda of Bulgarian foreign policy is determined by the need to find solutions to the main issues connected with the irreversible political changes that have occurred, their completion with a successful transition to a working free economy, the country's incorporation into the financial systems of Europe and the world, as well as with and with the civilised 'return' of Bulgaria to the Euro-Atlantic community of democratic countries.

The main goals of Bulgarian foreign policy are to establish the most favourable conditions for the country's economic development and the reinforcement of its national security. In the sector of foreign economic relations, the main issue that Bulgaria has to solve is to secure the international community's widest possible support to the irreversible and conscious conciliatory policy of co-operation with Europe. In the security sector of equal importance is the issue of the country's incorporation into NATO and in the other organisations for the security of the continent.

Co-operation as a priority
The opening to the East that the two main organisations of the western democracies - the E.U and NATO - have made, has rendered attainable the process of 'incorporation through co-operation'. This then, is for the fore-seeable future the political framework within which Bulgaria has to work in the field of economic relations as well as in the security sector. Co-operation with the European Union has never been in doubt, regardless of the degree of consistency or effectiveness of the actions that various governments took during the '90s in Bulgaria. However, the national priorities in the security sector remained unclear for a relatively long period. The present Bulgarian government has been unequivocally mandated by the electorate to achieve Bulgaria's membership of NATO.

Bulgarian Medievan Coins With the incorporation procedures acquiring their own dynamics in the continent, the country's main priority is accelerating the country's incorporation into the European and Euro-Atlantic establishments - EU, NATO and Western European Union (WEU). Bulgaria would thus like to see a well-defined programme with specified terms and clear criteria for the incorporation of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe into these organisations. At the same time, the Bulgarian government is clearly aware of the reciprocity embedded in the incorporation arrangements and is ready to undertake all the responsibilities stemming from these arrangements and make all the required efforts to that purpose.

Bulgaria considers the EU the main co-operation structure of the continent, and is convinced that this has to play the main role in building a united Europe on the basic principles of democracy and free economy. Bulgaria welcomes the possibility of starting, as of the beginning of 1998, negotiations for the incorporation of new members into the EU. We unreservedly support the policy of having all the interested countries starting from the same points of opening discussions with them as well as determining the directions and the width of the strategy involved in the schema of 'co-operation for incorporation'. The conditions set in Copenhagen refer specifically to the incorporation and not just to the beginning of discussions. The argument regarding the large differences in the development of each one of the former socialist countries we do not accept as valid; nor do we countenance the possibility, even temporarily, of isolating South-Eastern Europe, in practice, from the dynamics of the incorporation procedures.

Bulgaria, as an associated EU member, notes with special attention the procedure of the gradual building up of the common defence policy within the framework of the EU. The WEU stance towards the solution of various problems, as has been formulated in the Petersburg Proclamation, could play a large role in stability on the continent and the prevalence of peace in areas of possible future conflict. Co-operation between the WEU and NATO is a positive fact, especially as such co-operation is geared towards consolidating the 'European trunk' within the Transatlantic co-operation system.

In the security sector, the results of the meeting in Madrid carry a special significance for Bulgaria. The Madrid resolutions regarding the broadening of NATO change the strategic perspectives in the Continent. Bulgaria considers as very important the commitment to a gradual, open and transparent character of the procedures involved in this project. A crucial issue is not to allow the emergence of new partition lines. Our country, which has categorically declared its will for incorporation into the Union, will try to implement such a policy with the immediately subsequent broadening wave. Bulgaria is making, to this effect, the required adjustments to the incorporation demands: changes in the army, establishment and exercise of democratic control over the Armed Forces, gradual achievement of operational reciprocity with the various NATO units, and maintenance of readiness for participation in the peace- keeping missions under the auspices of the UNO and/or the Organisation for Co-operation and Security in Europe (OCSE).

The basic principle of Bulgarian foreign policy is that the security of the country should not be directed against third countries. The same applies also to the independent choice we made regarding our participation in NATO. In this line of thinking, Bulgaria welcomes the signing of the Deed of Principles between NATO and Russia, and of the Special Co-operation Charter between NATO and Ukraine. We believe that these agreements contribute significantly to the removal of reservations related to the Union's broadening, as well as to the stability of the continent.

Based on these priorities, Bulgaria will continue to participate actively in the procedures for building the new international security model. Special importance should be attached to the emphasis that has prevailed as a guideline given to the humanitarian dimension of such security and to the tactics stemming there from the field of human and minority rights. Our country is not only active within the UNO framework, but also in other Organisations with a similar object. We attach great importance to the OCSE, which holds a key place in the architecture of European Security. Bulgaria aims at being incorporated into the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and in the international control bodies, in which it does not now participate.

The basic principle of our policies for overcoming the separation between Eastern and Western Europe is that the former socialist countries should find ways to co-ordinate their efforts towards broadening their economic relations within a single, international market. This can only be achieved, of course, through a more active and expanding economy and through monetary stabilisation. Bulgaria supports all the joint efforts of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe that aim at the acceleration of this area's incorporation into the EU, NATO and other European and International Organisations. Our participation in the initiative of Central Europe and our expected incorporation in to the Union of Central European countries, upon completion of the relevant negotiations, is an example of the Bulgarian government's determination to see this principle implemented.

Regional Policy
As it happens, the changes in the former socialist countries and the regional conflicts in our area have created some difficulties with the implementation of this policy. The events in former Yugoslavia and in Albania harmed the image of South-Eastern Europe. Countries that have not only kept away from the conflicts, but have even contributed to the success of the international efforts to solve them, found themselves up to a point isolated from the on-going process of incorporation of the problem areas into the West. Their political and financial image has been tarnished because it was made dependent to a large degree on the development of the conflicts.

Regarding the south-eastern European countries, we have good reason to believe that there has been for a long time a policy vacuum. The strategy adopted by the international community was conditioned by the fact that this area was considered problematic as a whole. Normalisation strategies ignored the financial and social dimensions of the regional problems, as no provision for long-term, political and financial, investment - in the broader sense of the term - was made. The countries of the area were downgraded. They were not considered to be serious future investment allies in the effort to construct homogeneous zones of security and financial stability. Because of the dominant military-political approach, efforts to build co-operation structures in the economic and social fields were oriented mainly towards the countries of Central Europe.

After the Dayton agreement the conditions for a return to regional co-operation in South- Eastern Europe became propitious. This was ensured by the increased degree of stability, the permanent orientation of most of the countries of the area towards the free economy and pluralistic political systems, as well as the medium and long-term perspective of convergence and incorporation into the EU and NATO. The need to speed up the process of co-operation is also imposed by the existence of negative factors: any delay in this process - as is now obvious - compared to what happens with the countries of central Europe in their course towards a free economy and incorporation into EU and NATO, reinforces the bad image of the area and dampens investors' interest. At the same time, the negative effects of the regional conflicts have not yet subsided, while a new deterioration of the situation in the lands of Bosnia and Herzegovina remains highly possible. Under these circumstances, Bulgaria has adopted a realistic, well-balanced policy of equi-distance in the area, aiming to restore, at a regional level, security and co-operation.

The new possibilities emerging are based on the comparative advantages of this area of pivotal significance, which is of strategic, political and financial importance to the EU. The area completes the south leg of NATO and increases the Alliance's strategic depth, without substantial expansion of its Union's external borders. Our vision for the Balkans in the twenty first century is that they may be transformed into an area of economic development, an active intermediary between Europe and its neighbours to the east, north-east and south-east, whose financial importance will obviously be increased in the new century.

Bulgaria tries through its regional policy to promote European patterns of behaviour among the countries of the area so as to accelerate incorporation of our area into the EU and NATO. We consider incorporation in the European bodies the only way to avoid conflicts in this part of Europe and to promote the reforms and the democratic procedures in the counties in transition.

Bulgaria tries to coordinate all its activities in the area with the foreign and security policy of the EU and with the terms and positions agreed upon within the context of NATO, and accepted by the Organisation for Co-operation and Security in Europe (OCSE). The main issue for our countries is the activation of the external and domestic regional sources of finance for the large projects needed in the area, which will change the image of South-Eastern Europe and will render it attractive to international business: the completion of the trans-continental road and telecommunication networks, of the strategic oil and natural gas pipelines from Asia to Europe, of the construction of the new bridges over the Danube, of the opening of new border stations to make borders once more accessible, as they were not until recently, are all necessary. In our view, implementing the criteria for these large projects should refer to the need for the effective economic co-operation between areas and continents in the context of the trans-European networks.

Due to the conflicts in former Yugoslavia, the Balkan countries were the only area in Central and Eastern Europe which was not totally included in the new regional co-operation mechanisms. In this connection, the meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs in Sofia, Bulgaria took an initiative to promote regional stability, security and co-operation which was ratified in a second such meeting in Thessaloniki. The rationale of such an initiative is that political stability, security and good neighbourly relations in the south-eastern Europe may be more effectively established through multilateral co-operation procedures. What we think is needed is to establish or revive political, financial, social and humanitarian contracts of a better quality and to organise them into a machinery that will contribute to the consolidation of many security issues of the type of 'easy' guarantees. Such an initiative is in harmony with the Royaumont Process promoted by the EU and with the American initiative for co-operation in South-Eastern Europe, which, with some difficulties, underlines the need for regional development in the Balkans. Bulgaria estimates these three initiatives to be in harmony, complementary to one another and oriented towards the perfect incorporation of the area in Europe. The viability of these initiatives will depend on the behaviour of the subject-countries as well as on their efforts to transcend seeking solutions through conflicts. Only in this way will they be able to implement change with the assistance of the interested foreign parties, based on the principle of normalisation of the social-economic process in the area and its adjustment to the demands of co-operation with Europe. We think that the success of the regional initiatives will offer practical support to the success of the peaceful procedure that began in Dayton.

Within the context of a revived Balkan process of co-operation, a series of initiatives were taken, of which Bulgaria was the inspirer or an active member, as was the case, for instance,of the meeting of Defence Ministers in Sofia, the trilateral meeting of the Presidents of Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey in Varna, the meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Romania, Bulgaria and Greece in Bucharest and others. At this very moment a discussion is in progress regarding a regional initiative, within the context of the newly founded Euro-Atlantic Co-operation Treaty, by means of which our country, we believe, will contribute to stability in the area, a goal that is part of our strategy for a speedy incorporation into NATO.

Under the present conditions prevailing in the area, Bulgaria's government is convinced that multilateral co-operation is the most fruitful and effective way to efface the traditional partition lines in south-eastern Europe. In order to achieve this goal, we foster balanced bilateral relations with the countries of the area, so as to secure a fair deal for all concerned. We try to avoid even a hint of a return to the pattern of forming an 'axis' in the area whereby external powers can establish spheres of influence against our neighbours. This effort by Bulgaria is not a matter of simple political expediency, but the expression of a vital interest of ours, related to our belief that our regional policy should not erect obstacles to co-operation.On the contrary it must contribute to the implementation of the initiatives for incorporation.

The effect of the events occurring in nearby or distant lands, such as those of the Black Sea and Transcaucasia, as well as in the East Mediterranean and the Near East, is noticeable in our area. Bulgaria considers it necessary to ensure co-ordination of the procedure of multilateral regional co-operation with economic co- operation in the Black Sea and the Initiative of Central Europe, including the Trans-European network plans. All these factors increase significantly our economic potential and investment interest in the area.

Bilateral relations
The development of Bulgaria's bilateral relations is determined both by tradition, as it has developed, and by reason, as dictated by our new priorities. Such relations also aim at finding solutions to problems accumulated during the years of transition, and mainly the ones related to the conflict in former Yugoslavia.

Against its economic interests, Bulgaria supported and participated actively in imposing financial sanctions against the Republic of Yugoslavia. Our country was the only one that participated in practice in such sanctions by closing completely its borders in the economic field with Yugoslavia. This resulted in the practical isolation of Bulgaria politically and economically from the rapidly developing process in Central Europe. The result -as expected- was detrimental to our country's prospects for a speedy and successful transition to the new era. Political reform -always precarious in former socialist countries- became more difficult, and economic reconstruction was further delayed. The Bulgarian government, in its effort to overcome such difficulties has taken a series of domestic measures and is also pursuing the activation of bilateral relations both in the political and the economic sector. Our objective is to ensure maximum foreign support to financial reform, through trade, investments and co-operation in the building of the new structures.

Our primary goal in this context concerns the development of relations with those countries which will be Bulgaria's partners within the context of the European Union and NATO. Bulgaria hopes that they will help not only in securing the required means, but also in influencing policies within these structures towards improving the country's stance in the field of internal development. Bulgaria appreciates the support such countries are willing to offer now and in the future.

A special place is reserved for our relations with Russia. Maintaining our traditionally good relations with this country is a basic priority. We wish to develop actively our co-operation in the field of trade, in construction and in energy planning. At the same time, we believe that such co-operation should be based on fairness, equity and respect for the integrity of both countries. This approach is included in the last declaration of the People's Parliament and enjoys the support of all the political forces.

Bulgaria is located in south-eastern Europe and gives priority to the development of relations with Greece and Turkey. It is very important to us to strengthen our co-operation with Greece, a country with which we are united by traditionally good relations, with which we do not have any open issues and differences and which is the only member - state of NATO and EU in south-eastern Europe. We will also maintain our traditionally good relations with our other neighbours and we support the peace procedure within the spirit of Dayton.

The new century will see the triumph of globalism.The world information technology community is being built. Democracy is now generalised. In addition to the influence of global factors, Europe will, in the years to come, have to meet the challenge of the new co-operation wave while at the same time building its economic and monetary integration. south-eastern Europe will have to be a part of this uniform zone of European Security and Co-operation. It is our responsibility to make Bulgarian foreign policy correspond to the demands of the modern world so that it may become more peaceful, fair and better.