Bulgaria's Policy for Southeastern Europe
His Excellency Nikolai Svinarov
Minister of Defense of Bulgaria
Minister Nikolai Svinarov
"...The best option is to integrate the Balkan countries into the European and Euro-Atlantic structures...because the stability of the Southeast European countries guarantees the stability of Europe."
I would like to begin by emphasizing that Bulgarias regional policy in southeastern Europe (SEE) is based on active engagement, cooperation, confidence building, and good-neighbor relations. In its capacity as an EU negotiating member and a NATO member, my country believes that regional cooperation is an essential vehicle for facilitating the accession of every SEE country to the European and Euro-Atlantic institutions. Regional cooperation, no matter how successful, cannot and should not be regarded as a substitute for full-fledged integration. The best option is to integrate the Balkan countries into the European and Euro-Atlantic structures. This is true because the stability of the SEE countries guarantees the stability of Europe.
By extending invitations to Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovenia, NATO enlargement southward demonstrated a policy of integration rather than exclusion. Thus, our countries return to the European mainstream was institutionalized in an efficient and cost-effective manner. We are confident that Bulgarian, Romanian, and Slovenian membership in NATO is forming a stable security foundation.
From a geostrategic point of view, NATO enlargement is not only strengthening the Alliances southern flank but contributing to the organizations enhanced impact on Black Sea region processes. At the same time, the three Black Sea NATO member-countries, Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey, are increasing the capacity of the Alliance to directly influence the strengthening of security in the Black Sea area and project greater security and stability throughout neighboring regions.
Bulgaria joined NATO ready and willing to make an effective military contribution and determined to fill in rather than expand the capability gap between North America and Europe. We believe this is exactly where regional security arrangements within the SEE countries may have an immediate impact. An outstanding example of the interoperability among SEE militaries and of overcoming the Cold War legacy and stereotypes is the creation of the Multinational Peace Force South East Europe (SEEBRIG). SEEBRIG is one of the few success stories and an outstanding demonstration of multinationalism as the organizing principle for regional security in southeastern Europe. It adds a new dimension to defense diplomacy in terms of military cooperation within the framework of the South East European Defense Ministerial process.
Another success story is the Black Sea Naval Cooperation Task Group BLACKSEAFOR, a very serious step ahead in the efforts of all participating countries to create a new image for our region. The organization is important because: it marks a unique regional effort toward collective action on defense and security matters, begins an important regional initiative for generating security based on regional resources, gives the countries involved the opportunity to manifest and better protect their national interests, and outlines a change from narrow regional thinking to a much more universal approach to security and defense problems in the entire Euro-Atlantic zone.
The Black Sea Economic Cooperation, the Document on Security and Confidence Building Measures in the Naval Field in the Black Sea, and BLACKSEAFOR are very much part of the process of increasing the geostrategic importance of the Black Sea region. From their birth to the present day, these initiatives have worked to revive cooperation in the Black Sea region by further strengthening existing trade relations and promoting civil society and a market economy. Bulgaria enjoys very good bilateral, trilateral, and multilateral relations with the countries in the region. Our security policy is aimed at helping to strengthen confidence and security, continue the reform processes, and establish and build democratic institutions and promote the rule of law. My country is ready to share its experience as well as actively contribute to the further development of these processes.
In that context, the Black Sea regions great economic potential should not be regarded as possible strategic competition but definite strategic cooperation. As each state defines its strategic interest in the region it will become imperative to find balance among these interests by turning them into focal points of constructive economic and political goals.
My country firmly believes that the successful Balkan cooperation initiatives could serve as models for the Greater Black Sea region security cooperation. BLACKSEAFOR, together with the experience gained by the SEE nations from SEDM and SEEBRIG, PfP, and MAP form a solid basis for our countries to work together to achieve security, stability and prosperity for the nations in the Greater Black Sea region. This is of particular importance since looking into perspective the Greater Black Sea region is becoming more and more an important geostrategic element in the war against international terrorism and asymmetric threats as well as organized crime and illegal trafficking of people, drugs and arms.
Those of us who live in Europes southern neighborhood are drawn together by the virtue of our shared Euro-Atlantic values and interests. Thus, we are bound in a common commitment to a better future. The dual NATO/EU enlargement eastward is the key to letting freedom, opportunity, and prosperity flourish in our neighborhood. This forum is the right place to discuss and formulate new security initiatives for our region and I am hopeful that this will happen.