Home / REGULAR PUBLICATIONS / Columns / International experts on the security of Republic of Moldova. Today: Ognyan Minchev
Ognyan Minchev was appointed as a Senior Research Fellow and Head of the ECFR Sofia Office in September 2007. He is a political scientist, Chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Sofia - St. Kliment Ohridski", founder and Executive Director (1997 -“ 2007) of the independent policy Institute for Regional and International Studies (IRIS). He has lectured in many European and American universities since early 1990s. Ognyan has PhD in political sociology from the University of Sofia.Â
There is a regular question anti-NATO activists (socialists and communists) ask when they tend to undervalue Bulgarias membership in the Atlantic Alliance: - What is the benefit for Bulgarias security and Bulgarian national interest from our membership into NATO?" And they continue: - The NATO membership gave nothing to our country. Were just obliged to spend money and risk the lives of our soldiers thousands of kilometers away from Bulgarian soil in favor of US interventionist policies." Interpretations like those are popular until they meet the challenge of real argument, reflecting the truth about our countrys NATO membership.
It is worth questioning the very hard core of anti-NATO argumentation -“ the perception that national security guarantees have not changed with the membership. How could we assess those guarantees with the common sense approach? What is this particular thing that has to change in order to promote the recognition of NATO opponents that national security threshold has risen? Security does not show up in front of our eyes. Insecurity does. If Georgia had been given MAP in Bucharest earlier this year, the threshold of security of the country would have risen and Russia would think much more seriously whether to attack its small neighbor in August this year. Security means normal life, life without significant threats -“ starting from personal level and ending up with reduced threats for the entire nation. This is why NATO membership silently grants you high levels of collective protection without necessarily showing up as a major outer change of your everyday life.
But Id like to emphasize on another class of benefits, coming with the NATO membership, which are very powerful, and -“ therefore -“ visible for everyone, even for the critics of Atlantic Alliance. Those are the benefits, stemming from the NATO membership waiver of political risk, which provides the most powerful insurance package for all those economic, institutional and civil organizations and agents, which operate, or would like to operate in the country -“ new member state. There are many interesting and beautiful places in the world, where you like to make business, buy a house, or start a new life for you and your family. Yet many of those places present a real hazard of social upheavals, political instability, governmental inefficiency, etc. Rebel groups attack some of the most romantic places on the ocean beach, or local authorities cheat tourists or business people in misusing their power.
NATO membership is a certificate that most of those things do not happen in your country. Or if they do happen -“ in many places of the post-communist world in particular -“ there is a higher authority, a community of nations, which is capable to reverse unfavorable developments with efficient institutional instruments -“ the instruments of the Atlantic community. This is how trust towards a member state is being produced -“ the territory of the new member of NATO becomes part of a larger communal space of security for all -“ for citizens, for communities, for the markets.
I bought an apartment in my home town of Sofia in 2001, and the price was quite high by local standards, provided that the location was good, the apartment was in one of the nicest neighborhoods of the city. The price I paid was about $ 365 per sq. meter. In 2002 Bulgaria received the invitation to join NATO and a year later, my neighbor bought the apartment next door to mine at the price of Euro 800 per sq. meter. By 2005 residential space in our area went up to Euro 1000, and today it is about Euro 1800 -“ 2200. What could be the reason for that 8-10 times rise of one and the same property for less than 7 years? Where this market dynamics comes from?
Small properties around the sea coast and in mountain areas gained value 15-20 times, very often 50 times bigger than they had only in 2000. Many pieces of land, old houses, remote buildings have been reassessed from the perspective of having an entirely new scope of market demand. Hundreds of families from Britain came to buy houses in the country side, Swedish pensioners purchased apartments at the beach, followed by thousands of European families, interested to visit, reside, work and live in a new piece of common Euro-Atlantic space -“ Bulgaria.
Direct foreign investment grew 5-7 times within several years, without any clear sign of intense reformation and efficiency improvement of Bulgarian governmental services of market institutions. This was simply the interest towards the country, which motivated all those business communities to try their chances in Bulgaria, supported by a virtual, but powerful reality, called - NATO political risk guarantee".
The FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) flows are very indicative of the trust foreign companies and financial markets have in the stability of a country. The graph below (Bulgarian National Bank data) shows the exponential growth of FDI in Bulgaria through the years as follows in 1997, Bulgaria decided to join NATO, the FDI was 570 billion Euro. In 2002 Bulgaria received an invitation to join NATO and the FDIs were already twice the volume of 1997. In the year of joining NATO, only two years later in 2004, the FDI flow reached 2735.9 billion Euro and the following year it was 3152.1 billion Euro -“ which is about five times increase. In the year 2007, when the effects of EU membership were added to those of NATO membership, the volume of FDI was more about 11 times more than that of 1997.
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NATO has been often criticized for its expansion to the East with the argument of - stop teasing Russia". Today we have the experience of a new Russian aggression against a helpless neighbor, motivated purely by geopolitical considerations of imperial ambition. This aggression might have not happened, if the Kremlin has not been encouraged by the refusal of Germany and France to grant MAP for Georgia in Bucharest. Moscow acted in a clear design to prevent Georgias integration into the NATO, which is a proof of the membership value. Some critics of Eastern enlargement of NATO provide evidence about weakening of the Alliance efficiency with the new members. I believe the war that Russia opened to Georgia in August will promote a serious discussion at political and technological level about the efficiency of NATO functioning in a rapidly changing world.
NATO is definitely going out of area in order to meet the global challenges in our contemporary world. It makes it even more important for the Alliance to cover all countries of its neighborhood with the opportunity to join, in order to make the space close to our home secure, before we go to address military and political challenges far from home.