Old New Security Challenges before EU Members Bulgaria and Romania

Posted in Europe | 03-Jan-07 | Author: Nikolai Yotov

A boy waves an EU flag in celebration of the New Year and Bulgaria's joining to the European Union, in the capital Sofia, Monday, Jan. 1, 2007.

Europe enlarged. It happened when the 1st of January stepped in through the lights and the flourishes of the celebrations across Romania and Bulgaria on the Southeast. And it continued happening as the globe was spinning and the West of the continent was hour by hour welcoming the New Year.

The two Black Sea neighbours, former USSR satellites, have finally made their way through the European Union, or “the club of the rich”, as it is occasionally called around here. Boundaries fall. Opportunities arise. Markets open wide. Movement of people and goods frees. Or so they say.

The security of the region is now officially and with the full instrumentarium of the organization in the hands of the two Border States, to deal with the challenges of the new millennium. And with the old, seemingly never ending conflicts, characterizing the area.

With 30 million new inhabitants of the EU, positioned entirely on the Balkans, the peninsula has the rare chance to make a step towards a historic consolidation. This responsibility now lies in the hands of Romania and Bulgaria, as they have to continue their role of region leaders in their new perspective of economic prosperity and state development.

Both countries have shown, despite all the gaps and backwardness in certain areas, they can eventually cope with the standards and the requirements of a modern democratic European community. It is now time to point the attention towards the two most significant hot spots on the map for the region – Kosovo and Transdnistria. As the union Serbia-Montenegro, many saw to be purely formal in its last years of existence, dismantled, we now have one more independent country to raise its own opinion on Kosovo’s future. So far Montenegro says it will never recognize the area as a sovereign state. Former Romanian foreign minister Adrian Severin told me earlier this year that in the Western Balkans people still do not understand that the mankind is in transition from the era of independence to the era of interdependence. According to him we are now building a transnational democracy, a global order and a combination of cosmopolite nation with an individual sovereignty right characterizing the post national stage of the history. Let us hope, the politician, who is now an opposition member in the Romanian parliament said, that once the dismantlement of Yugoslavia is over one would restart, based on the national ethno-religious demarcation, a post national history which will lead to a new regional integration as a prerequisite to the European integration.

I am afraid, however, that these targets are still very far. Unfortunately even the EU has not a clear mind on what it should do in order to facilitate such a process not only for the sake of the Western Balkans peoples but also for its own sake. And this is where Bulgaria’s historical background in the region, combined with the power options obtained as an EU member state comes in. The influence and the common sense along with diplomatic pressure by neighbors with shared history can be sometimes much more effective than a Brussels insist or an UN working group, imposing nothing more but the various interests of one country or another for years now. The balance between beliefs in Kosovo is of extreme importance, and most of all Bulgaria with its multiethnic model of tolerance can be an example for finding a long-lasting understanding between Albanians and Serbs. Just as Romania can influence on settlement of the Transdnistrian crisis.

According to Adrian Severin Romania does not possess a real official plan for overcoming the Transdnistrian crises. From different public statements one could guess that there exist some elements for a point of view which unfortunately lacks not only vision but also courage, imagination and realism. If the actual format of the negotiations is to be changed one must bring in at the same time not only new participants but also new ideas. As long as Romania does not produce such new ideas it is very unlikely that it would be invited to join the negotiations. The new ideas presuppose the definition and the recognition of all local, regional and global players’ competing interests, done without prejudices and historic emotions, the affirmation of the political will to find a compromise between those interests and the realistic identification of all the resources which could be mobilized for the enhancement of the solution to be agreed. The so called 3D strategy – democratization, decriminalization and demilitarization – is to be fulfilled in order to achieve a sustainable development of Transdnistria.

These are only two of the most important geostrategic stages in Europe that Bulgaria and Romania are to be more important players than ever before. And as much as they have to start implementing their plans for “spreading the word” for countries’ advantages and possibilities outside and EU’s advantages and possibilities within, they as well have to cope with their new responsibilities, which a membership in the EU is providing them with.