Academic journal article East European Quarterly

Bulgaria's Foreign Relations in the Post-Communist Era: A General Overview and Assessment

Academic journal article East European Quarterly

Bulgaria's Foreign Relations in the Post-Communist Era: A General Overview and Assessment

Article excerpt

Introduction

Bulgaria's foreign policy has been relatively consistent since 1989. Bulgaria has avoided involvement in the Yugoslav conflict and is working hard at securing bilateral relationships and its place within the Euro-Atlantic community. Critics, however, contend that its foreign policy has been marked by inconsistencies and that it has brought the country very few benefits. Other critics also argue about the lack of parliamentary input into foreign policy formulation.(1)

One trend, however, is clear: the European orientation of Bulgaria's foreign policy. As with the Visegard-four (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia), Bulgaria's elite and right-of-center forces (i.e., the Union of Democratic Forces) believe that the Balkan states belong to Europe, that Bulgarians have a "natural aspiration towards the European centers of gravity."(2) This is also true for the ex-communists (regrouped in the Bulgarian Socialist Party), but to a lesser extent. Nevertheless, in its draft policy platform Perspectives for Bulgaria, unveiled in March 1993, the Bulgarian Socialist Party assigned a clear priority to Bulgaria's integration into European structures.(3) The Bulgarian government has acted on that premise, signing treaties of friendship and cooperation with Germany,(4) Italy,(5) France,(6) Portugal, and Spain.(7) However, Bulgarian diplomats are not mistaking their wishes for the reality of the situation. They know that any payoffs resulting from Bulgaria's integration into Western Europe will not be seen for some time. Deputy Foreign Minister Valentin Dobrev illustrated this when he said:

We [Bulgarians] live in Europe and in the Balkans, which are part of Europe and have their own peculiar historical aspects. We should not mistake wishful thinking for reality. Some of our politicians did not wish us to participate in the Black Sea economic cooperation, insisting that we should rather join the Central European Initiative. The idea is not feasible for the simple reason that we do not belong to that region.(8)

The views of the current Foreign Minister, Stanislav Daskalov, who took over from Acting Foreign Minister Berov on 23 June 1993, were clearly stated at his first press conference:

I think that the purpose of foreign policy is a simple one: to protect the country's national interests acting in compliance with the internationally accepted standards. There are different means of achieving this purpose: Be it through integration with the European structures or by expanding the country's relations with its neighbours, being an European country situated in the Balkans, Bulgaria has interests in this aspect, too.(9)

In fact, the record shows exactly that Bulgaria has been gradually and consistently following both paths since 1990. The aim of this article is to present that record and offer a preliminary appraisal of Bulgaria's relations with its most important neighbours. Security institutions are not covered as we feel that they are a subject unto themselves that deserves a full article.

Balkan Policy

Bulgaria's accurate perception of the unstable situation in the Balkans - occasioned by was in the former Yugoslavia, the low level of economic development, the institutional security vacuum in the region, the reduction of military assets under the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty,(10) and so on - is the principal leitmotiv for "the formation of a new Bulgarian Balkan policy oriented towards [its] national interests and reflecting European and international political standards."(11) Concretely, Bulgaria would base such a policy on six pillars:

a. multilateralism (avoiding alliances with a regional power);

b. equidistance (no participation in specific regional conflict);

c. the de-ideologization of foreign policy (abandoning the communist understanding of the world and blind pursuit of corporatist interests);

d. …

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