Both EU member states have clearly overlapping interests in the realisation of peace and sustainable development in the region of Black Sea, believes the Bulgarian diplomat and member of the European parliament
Georgi Pirinski is born on 10 September 1948 in New York. He was the Bulgarian deputy minister of foreign trade between 1980 and 1989. He was a member of the Bulgarian parliament in the period 1990-2013. He was the foreign minister of Bulgaria (1995-1996) and president of the National Assembly (2005-2009). He became a member of the European parliament in 2014.
Mr. Pirinski, at a round table in Sofia in the beginning of April 2017 you presented the idea for the creation of a Black Sea euroregion, which could become a part of the political initiatives of the Bulgarian presidency of the EU in the first half of 2018. What is the essence of your idea? What are the results that you expect to be obtained by the Black Sea countries and by the EU following its realization?
The essence of the idea which was discussed at the conference on 3 April 2017 in Sofia was that an attempt could be made for Bulgaria and Romania as Black Sea member states of the EU to initiate the development of the so-called Macroregional strategy for the Black Sea region. In conformity with the common definition, a macroregional strategy is an integrated framework which is approved by the European Council and aims at the overcoming of challenges in a certain geographical region. These challenges affect member states and third countries which are placed in it. Together all of them collaborate stronger so that they could achieve economic, social and territorial cohesion.
As it is known, the first strategy of this kind was proposed ten years ago by the Baltic states of the EU which led to the creation of the EU macroregion for the Black Sea in 2009. Three more macroregions of this kind were created in the following years – the Danubean, the Alpean and the Adriatico-Ionian. The forces who initiated those regions were the corresponding member states of the EU, while third countries of the given region became participants.
It is believed that such an integrated framework offers two basic advantages. The first is the successful dealing with problems which the countries cannot resolve separately. The second is the outlining of a common vision for the future of the region. The idea is to achieve the best possible results by way of coordination of the policies and the resources which the EU gives to a certain region, without asking for new expenditures, institutions or norms.
What are the similarities and the differences between the idea for a Black Sea euroregion and other initiatives for regional cooperation in the regions close to Bulgaria such as the Black Sea Synergy, the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation, the Eastern Partnership and the Parliamentary Assembly of the South-East Europe?
Such a strategy for the Black Sea region would be a development of the Black Sea Synergy and of the Eastern Partnership – two EU programs which cover the countries in the region. These programs’ involvement in a common strategic framework with the participation of all the Black Sea countries without any doubt would help for the more effective use of the financial resources of these programs in the name of the goals for sustainable development of the coastal territories of the corresponding countries and the region as a whole.
The activity of the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation in the last 25 years could be used as practical experience of the regional cooperation in spheres of priority such as transport, tourism and ecology. The South-East European Cooperation Process and its Parliamentary Assembly could also bring about the realization of the Black Sea macroregional cohesion through synchronization of initiatives and programs that have common objectives and roles.
How the idea for a Black Sea euroregion fits into the debates for reform of the EU where apparently there is a tendency for regionalism – e.g. in the framework of the Mediterranean dialogue or among the countries of the Visegrad Group?
The macroregional approach is a promising form of sustainable development promotion and of security strengthening in the corresponding regions in the context of the discussion for the development of the EU and more specifically as part of the European territorial cooperation. The macroregional approach has its own place as a specific framework for the combination of programs and resources of the EU that are directed at this region and principally is different as a format from the Visegrad Group.
Since Romania and Bulgaria started following the path of European integration, they have been perceived as a group by their West-European partners. But it looks like instead of forming a duo in their bilateral communication, they have their differences. What is the potential that you see for Romanian-Bulgarian foreign policy interaction in the forthcoming years? How the successive presidencies of the EU by Bulgaria, Austria and Romania in 2018 and 2019 could influence the concept for a Black Sea euroregion?
The successive presidencies of the Council of EU by Bulgaria and Romania in the first halves of 2018 and 2019 offer a real possibility for both countries to initiate and argument for a project for a Black Sea macroregional strategy that could be discussed seriously and approved by the European Council. This possibility would be favoured by the Austrian presidency which is between the Bulgarian and the Romanian one, as Austria is a Danube country with a leading role in the Danubean European macroregion – linked directly to the processes of the Black Sea region.
As member states of the EU Bulgaria and Romania have their responsibility and role for the realization of the common goals of the Union in support of peace and sustainable development. Both countries have clearly overlapping interest in acting practically upon the realization of these goals in the region of the Black Sea. Now, Bulgaria and Romania get the chance to bring about these goals’ achievement to the benefit of all the countries in the region.
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