Bulgarian foreign policy discussions after the Borissov era

Valentin Radomirski (source: Facebook)

Two veteran analysts commented on topics on which Bulgaria has been active in international relations – the Three Seas Initiative and Bulgarian-Macedonian relations

Vladimir Mitev

After long-serving Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov fell from power, a period of assessment of his legacy is underway. One of the fields in which it is being carried out is international relations.

Bulgarian foreign policy was non-existent for 12 years. It had dissolved into the European one. The Bulgarian Foreign Minister did not go to Brussels with a position to come back with a decision. He would get a decision there and come back to Bulgaria with a position.

This is how foreign policy analyst Lyubomir Kyuchukov described Bulgarian foreign policy under Boyko Borissov during the presentation of the book “Where is Europe Heading to?” at the Kanev Center in Ruse on July 1, 2021. Together with the former ambassador to the UK, the speakers were diplomat Biserka Benisheva and international relations lecturer Nina Dyulgerova.

Kyuchukov also commented that with the summit of the Three Seas Initiative after a bit more than a week, Bulgarian foreign policy is making a first bid for revival. Kyuchukov pointed to several right moves Sofia has made in this regard – for example, the fact that it has invited Greece to join it or the evolution of the initiative in the direction of regional cooperation and infrastructure connectivity. In his opinion, there are two very interesting facts related to the Sofia summit that deserve attention.

“German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier is coming here. At the beginning Germany was very sceptical about this initiative. Now Germany has changed its approach and is also looking for more presence and participation,” Kyuchukov said. The other promising fact is that some of the biggest digital companies will be present at the business forum in Sofia. Bulgaria is otherwise too small for their scale.

In fact, a few weeks ago, veteran diplomats, including Kyuchukov, participated in another conference in Sofia dedicated to the Three Seas Initiative. It was organised by the Institute of Economics and International Relations and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation Bulgaria. Bulgarian President Rumen Radev also participated in the conference.

The general spirit of the speakers, perhaps surprisingly given some of the sentiment against the initiative in Bulgaria, was that it was meaningful and that the main focus of the initiative was regional connectivity in Central and Southeastern Europe, not the security and containment aspect of Russia. In the same vein spoke the foreign policy analyst Valentin Radomirski – a former ambassador to Romania, who presented the Romanian position on the Three Seas Initiative and Bucharest’s highlighted interest in the Black Sea region. Radomirski did not fail to point out that in his opinion Bulgaria has not developed real regional cooperation in Southeast Europe “in the last ten years”.

The blog “The Friendship Bridge” was allowed to publish online the statements of Lyubomir Kyuchukov and Valentin Radomirski on the Three Seas Initiative:

In Ruse we also heard Lyubomir Kyuchukov’s position on Bulgarian-Macedonian relations.

The blog reminds that currently, Sofia accuses Skopje of not implementing the Good Neighbourhood Agreement signed in 2017. Bulgaria is blocking the start of EU accession talks with North Macedonia. This is creating discontent in North Macedonia, which went through a complicated negotiation process with Greece and signed the Prespa agreement, hoping that the path to the EU would then be open. In turn, discontent is being created in Bulgaria not against the Macedonian state and its people, but against the ideology of Macedonism. It contests the Bulgarian identity of the historical heroes and revivalists in the region of Macedonia. The impression is given that the two sides are not ready to accept that the history of the Slavic population in Macedonia has been common for centuries, and rather the Bulgarians and Macedonians see it as exclusively their own.

“The fact that the Macedonians are wrong does not mean that we are not acting in a stupid way,” Kyuchukov believes. He pointed out that Bulgaria is currently in isolation, not North Macedonia. According to him, France, which does not want to have a new EU enlargement, is now hiding behind the Bulgarian veto, with Sofia robbing the negatives. “We are in the strong position. We have to open up. Historical issues should not be ignored. One only has to read the Macedonian media for one day to set himself extremely negative. But negativity is an emotional, not a real solution”, explains the foreign policy expert.

See his full statement here:

In the post-Borisov period, President Radev’s power in the political system has grown significantly. Veteran analysts had alternative views and often criticized Bulgarian foreign policy over the past 12 years. I wonder to what extent Radev, who has the image of a true statesman, will bring a new foreign policy more open to regional cooperation and to “providing EU added value” in the regions whereIn the post-Borisov period, President Radev’s power in the political system grew significantly. Veteran analysts had alternative views and often criticized Bulgarian foreign policy over the past 12 years. It is interesting to what extent Radev, who has the image of a true statesman, will bring a new foreign policy more open to regional cooperation and to “providing the EU with added value” in the regions where Bulgaria has competence: the Western Balkans, the Black Sea, the post-Soviet space.

It is precisely this added value that has been missing over the past 12 years, Kyuchukov is convinced.

Photo: In Kaneff Centre of the University of Rousse Lyubomir Kyuchukov, Bisserka Benisheva (left) and Nina Dyulgerova presnted the book “Where is Europe heading to?”. On behalf of the University of Rousse the organiser was Galina Antonova (standing up to the left) (source: The Bridge of Friendship)

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