8 June, 2023
Countries need to create not only physical infrastructure but also political, economic and social bridges between the two nations, says foreign policy expert
There is a lack not only of physical, but also of human and social bridges between Bulgaria and Romania (source: Pixabay, CC0)

Vladimir Mitev

Vessela Tcherneva of the European Council on Foreign Relations – Sofia gave to the Bridge of Friendship a wide-ranging interview on the geopolitical context in which Bulgaria and Romania exist. Below, we publish the last part of the interview, in which she comments on the Bulgarian-Romanian relations, which she believes are not at the level of their potential.

Tcherneva sees the task of today as to create the physical and social infrastructure for relations between Bulgarians and Romanians. She expects this to happen if there are reformist governments in both countries, striving for their integration into the EU and their development “in practice, not in words”. 

To what extent can citizens be subjects of such a change in Bulgarian-Romanian relations? According to Tcherneva, such a change cannot happen without the citizens and it cannot be lasting without them, but the states have to create the channels for cooperation between the two countries to take place. For her, it is logical that Bulgaria and Romania start coordinating their policies more intensively on the war in Ukraine, refugees, energy policies. And coordination can give them the impetus to cooperate in peace as well.

The audio excerpt can be listened with subtitles in English here:

The tandem Bulgaria-Romania is an opportunity, not an inconvenience

Everything we have said so far has been aimed at outlining a context in which to place Bulgaria and Romania. I would like to conclude our conversation with the topic of relations between these two countries and in this geopolitical context. To what extent are the two countries exploiting the potential that they have in their relations? What do you think could be done more in relations between Bulgaria and Romania?

I think that the two countries have missed a valuable opportunity over the last 30 years to coordinate cooperation, including cooperation and coordination within the EU. Instead of using as an opportunity the fact that the European Commission and the institutions have packaged us together, we have continually seen it as some kind of inconvenience. When one side pulls, instead of pulling the couple, looks at how to get out of the relationship. And it’s kind of a reflex that’s seen on both sides at different stages, at different points in their development. For me, that’s a big task. Maybe the challenge of this decade is to create not only the physical bridges between the two countries, but also the political bridges, the economic bridges, and the social bridges, to make it impossible not to coordinate their policies. I believe that both countries would benefit greatly from this. Of course, it is only true if and only if both countries have reformist governments and elites that really seek to integrate the countries into the European Union and who seek to europeanise them more rapidly in practice and not just in words.

The people of Bulgaria and Romania need their states to create the necessary infrastructure of any type between them

In an environment in which each of the two countries often chooses a different positioning internationally and in relation to each other, to what extent can people, citizens and the civil sector be subjects of a change in relations between the two countries that is in the direction that you are saying?

Of course, such a change cannot happen without citizens. And, of course, for it to be lasting, it must be precisely underpinned by civic initiatives, by civic cooperation. Yet countries must put on their agenda the building of the necessary infrastructure. And here I am talking about both physical infrastructure and political infrastructure, so that there are channels through which this cooperation can go. For me, even elementary coordination actions within South-Eastern Europe in terms of the war in Ukraine, in terms of refugees, in terms of energy policy are quite logical natural things which, if they now start to happen more intensively, can continue and in peaceful conditions lead to a wider cooperation.

Photo: Vessela Tcherneva (source: European Council on Foreign Relations – Sofia)

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