5 December, 2023
Aneta Mihaylova, Ph.D., Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, and Vladimir Mitev offer valuable arguments and opinions to help understand Romania, Bulgaria and bilateral relations
The Bridge of Friendship at Ruse-Giurgiu (sursă:‌‌ Iavor Micev)

Vladimir Mitev

On November 3, 2023, the Bulgarian Diplomatic Institute (BDI) presented the results of the applied research project under the auspices of BDI on “Romania’s Foreign Policy in Geopolitical Context and Bulgaria”. The book brings together two studies on the same topic – by Dr. Aneta Mihaylova, who is a specialist on Romania at the Institute of Balkan Studies with the Center of Thracology of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, and Vladimir Mitev, editor of the Romanian section of Radio Bulgaria, correspondent of Radio Romania for Bulgaria and creator of the Bulgarian-Romanian blog “The Bridge of Friendship”.

Aneta Mihaylova’s research focuses on the strong Euro-Atlantic element in Romanian foreign policy. It examines the strategic importance of the Republic of Moldova for Romania, Romanian policy towards Ukraine and Bulgarian-Romanian relations. It also draws attention to Romania’s ambitions in the energy sphere and to the problem of blocked accession to the Schengen area. Among Aneta Mihailova’s recommendations to Bulgarian diplomacy is closer coordination of policies in South-Eastern Europe and on energy diversification.

Vladimir Mitev puts Romanian foreign policy in the context of the economic and social contradictions that affect it – the tension between foreign investment, mainly coming from Western Europe, and the security focus that has intensified since the war in Ukraine; the contradiction between sovereignists and Europhiles, and between national and international capital (corporations). In terms of the changing context, Vladimir points to several important trends in the region or sources of risk from a Romanian perspective – for example, the close rapprochement between Poland and Ukraine could lead to the formation of a strong Euro-Atlantic Slavic bloc in eastern Europe. On the other hand, the rise of China could lead to a situation in which the US leaves relations with Russia to the Europeans, while the US focuses on East Asia. And this does not seem to be desired by some of the security elites in Bucharest. As far as Romanian policy towards the Balkans is concerned, it is driven by the desire of Romanian elites to be a Euro-Atlantic pillar in the region, to develop economic relations and to support Romanian-speaking minorities.

Vladimir develops the thesis that citizens of the two countries should be encouraged, or at least not prevented, from developing relations with each other so that mutual knowledge, trust and potential in bilateral ties grow. This can be done with the help of people and organisations that act as ‘bridges of friendship’, i.e. have the trust of both sides, in a situation where it is clear that the elites of each country will ‘stay on their own shores’ and will not sacrifice their national interests to meet the demands of the other side. However, the need for bridges of friendship is pressing, because without human, organisational and media infrastructure, the synchronisation of the two countries and their peoples on the path of EU integration will be delayed.

Vladimir launched another concept that he believes can be useful for the development of relations between people from countries that are in the same integration blocs and cannot impose by force one or another action against the will of their partner – dynamic identity. Dynamic identity is a solution to the problem of static identity that arises in societies on the periphery as a result of social upheavals or under the pressure of powerful hegemonic forces parasitizing on it and leading to polarization. In the case of the Bulgarian-Romanian and regional relations in Central and South-Eastern Europe, a dynamic identity means overcoming our national-centric thinking and expanding our space by getting to know a dynamic element better and better – our neighbours – and developing in dialogue with them. Our strategic depth should be our neighbours in the region.

According to Vladimir Mitev, the possibilities for a hegemonic approach in Bulgarian-Romanian and regional relations will be increasingly limited. But this is not bad news, because it opens space for normal interpersonal communication, friendship and cooperation. Paradoxically or not, it is the people, the ordinary people, who can develop their agency and consciously or unconsciously implement their country’s foreign policy, in a situation where technocrats and sovereigntists are interested in proxies in our region in their battle with each other. But for dynamic identity and bridges of friendship to work, we need to be able to unlearn experiences that prevent us from having authentic contact and experiences of relations with peoples beyond our borders. The more we are able to forget or redefine the experiences that condemn us to a static identity, the more we will be part of the world while remaining Bulgarians – and this will increase the potential of both our society and the societies that are part of our dynamic identity.

The full study can be downloaded and read here:

Foto: The cover of the book (source:‌ bdi.bg)

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