Membership in the European Union and NATOFollowing the beginning of Bulgaria’s democratisation in 1989, EU and NATO memberships became the state’s main priorities in foreign policy. Bulgaria's EU Association Agreement came into effect in 1994, and the country formally applied for full EU membership in December 1995. During the 1999 EU summit in Helsinki, approximately ten years after the fall of the Iron Curtain, Bulgaria was invited to start membership talks with the Union as a result of its considerable progress in meeting membership criteria.
In 2004 Bulgaria joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and thus timely fulfilled its national interests and goals. Since then, the multi-faceted contribution of Bulgaria to NATO’s activities has focused on strengthening the Alliance’s political dialogue, consultations and coordination, participating in NATO crisis-management operations and missions, and aiding the political and defence transformation of the Alliance. Bulgaria has consistently supported NATO’s open doors policy, sharing the view that the European and Euro-Atlantic perspectives provide the most stable guarantees for achieving lasting security and prosperity.Bulgaria also maintains its firm commitment to the security of Kosovo through its participation in KFOR. Its armed forces also substantially contributeto the NATO-led International SecurityAssistance Force in Afghanistan (ISAF).
On 1 January 2007 the Republic of Bulgaria was officiallyadmitted to the European Union, with all ensuing rights and responsibilities. In the context of its European and Transatlantic membership, Bulgaria promotes, according to its capabilities, the strengthening and deepening of the strategic cooperation between the EU and NATO, since speaking in a single voice on both sides of the Atlantic multiplies the effect of the allied efforts. In addition, Bulgaria advocates the ascension of all former Yugoslavian countries into the EU, since,in the words of the current Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenovat the General Debate of the 65th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Bulgaria’s role in South East Europe is “not to divide and watch from the sidelines, but to bring people together and seek solutions”.
Regional CooperationBulgaria views cooperation in South-East Europe and the Black Sea region as a priority of its foreign policy.As a member of the EU and NATO, Bulgaria strives to maintain a balanced policy vis-à-vis its immediate neighbours. It participates in a number of regional initiatives which are conducive to the strengthening of relations between individual countries and the enhancement of inter-regional cooperation with the Danube region, Central Asia and the Middle East on matters like transport, energy, environmental protection and others.
In 1996, Sofia hosted the Meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the countries of South-Eastern Europe, which laid the foundations of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP). The SEECP is a forum of diplomatic and political dialogue in the areas ofenhancing stability, security and good-neighbourhood, economic development, humanitarian, social and cultural matters, justice, and efforts against organized crime and terrorism.Bulgaria is also an active member of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organisation (BSEC), an international organisation consisting of the countries surrounding the Black Sea, and the regions of the Danube to the west and the Caspian Basin and Central Asia to the east. Moreover, Bulgaria is part of the Central European Initiative (CEI), which is the first regional forum on the political map of Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, and has the longest history and the largest territory among all regional organisations, processes and initiatives.
In view of the new political architecture of the Balkans after the 2007 ascension of Bulgaria and Romania into the EU, Bulgaria has furthermore taken on an important role as a mediator between the EU and the Western Balkans. Bulgaria supports the European and Euro-Atlantic integration of the Western Balkan countries as the main road towards establishing stability and security, economic prosperity and good relations in the region. It maintains that drawing closer to the EU and NATO requires the building of stable institutions, consolidation of the democratic processes, development of a market economy, rule of law, and respect for human rights.According to Bulgaria, the integration process of the Western Balkans to the EU should be implemented on the basis of the Thessaloniki Agenda, which recommends thatthe Western Balkan countries achieve progress in the field of education, social development and culture as a way to reaffirm tolerance and assist in the formation of modern democratic societies.