28 September, 2023
Dimitar Bechev (foto: Dimitar Bechev)

The international relations expert believes the Bulgarian answer to the tendency for ”Europe of the different speeds” should be a faster adoption of the euro and integration into the Banking Union

Vladimir Mitev

Doctor Dimitar Bechev is a university lecturer in the University of North Carolina. He is also a senior researcher at the Atlantic Council, which is headquartered in Washington. His book Rival Power: Russia`s Influence in Southeast Europe is going to be published by the publishing house of the Yale University in August 2017. He is the author of many books, scientific articles, reports, media articles on the topics of the foreign policy of the EU, the Balkans, Turkey and Russia. Doctor Bechev has obtained a doctorate from the Oxford University and has specialised in Harvard and in the London School of Economics.

Mr. Bechev, after the referendum that has supported the Brexit and after the election of Trump as the American president changes, which are called with the formula ”Europe of the different speeds”, began to take place in the UE. Parallel to the pace of these changes forces outside the EU – China, Russia and Turkey exhert a rising economic influnce over the Central and Southeast Europe. What should be the Bulgarian answer to the changing international environment and to the tendency for ”Europe of the different speeds”?

“Europe of the different speeds” has been a reality for quite some time, as there were member-states which were not included in the Eurozone and Schengen. After the Brexit the gravity point is moving additionally towards the Eurozone. The Bulgarian answer should be directed at actions for a rapid adoption of the common currency. In a short-term perspective – integration to the banking union is also necessary. In my view, the relations with China, Russia and Turkey are not so directly relevant.

As we approach 2018 grow the discussions and the commentaries about the necessary political initiatives and accents that would fill with content the Bulgarian presidency of the EU. Some of the proposed ideas put an emphasis on migration, on the external borders of the EU and on education. There are also suggestions about more active European actions in the Black Sea region. What topics and ideas should form the political essence of the Bulgarian presidency of the EU?

Unfortunately, the discussion is preoccupied with mundane-logistical questions and the priorities remain behind, in case they are discussed at all. Surely, the topics put forward by the Bulgarian presidency must be vital for Bulgaria. The future relations and institutional arrangement of the connections between the countries of the common currency and those who stay away from the Eurozone could be one topic of this kind, aiming to avoid the marginalization of countries such as Bulgaria.

One of the tendencies which have been observed in the EU in the recent times is the growth of regional communication – e.g. in a Mediterranean format or in the circles of the Group of Visegrad. To what extent the Romanian-Bulgarian relations and the regional collaboration in the Black Sea region could be a viable Bulgarian answer to the tendencies of regionalism and communication “in clubs” in the EU?

I am skeptical. After all, in 2007 Bucharest and Sofia launched the so-called Black Sea Synergy – a strategy adopted then by the European Commission (The European Commission proposes to the European Parliament and to the Council of the EU the initiative “Black Sea Synergy” in April 2007. The European Parliament adopts a resolution of support for it in January 2008. Its official start is at a summit of the EU and the Black Sea Countries’ foreign ministers in Kiev in February 2008 – note of the editor). I see no real results from this strategy. The truth is that the EU has a network of bilateral relations with the countries of the Black Sea region that aim at a closer integration – e.g. Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova. The regional formats usually have a supplementary importance, but in this concrete case it is not quite clear what could be achieved.

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1 thought on “Dimitar Bechev: It is vital for Bulgaria to avoid its marginalisation in the changing EU

  1. It seems to me always a difficult balancing act – emphasize regional ties with those countries that have similar interests and priorities knowing that such ties may then marginalize you or emphasize larger European ties with those who have more resources and influence but knowing that such ties may then ignore your specific needs.

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