This project has received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme
(Grant Agreement n. 669194)
(Grant Agreement n. 669194)
From the 1960s onwards, purchases from the members of the European Economic Community (EEC) provided technology and synthetic inputs which were essential for the modernisation of Bulgarian industry. The party perceived this as a prerequisite for participation in the international division of labour, which would evidence the growing international prestige of socialist Bulgaria. Moreover, the party was aware that to generate demand in world markets, the Bulgarian economy was in dire need of state-of-the-art factory production, which in turn depended on imports from the EEC members. Acceptance of these basic points framed all debates on the EEC at the party level.
The EEC entered the political agenda as an explicit item for the first time in 1968 when the Politburo – the party’s top brass – endorsed a brief document entitled ‘Considerations for the directions of NRB’s foreign-economic relations with the countries in the EEC (Common Market).’ Regardless of subsequent changes in economic policy, the tenets of this document remained a stable frame of reference for the party’s approach to the EEC over the next decade and more. Although it emphasised the need to expand economic ties with the EEC members for purchases of machines, licences and raw materials, the blueprint was motivated by Bulgaria’s growing deficit with the EEC due to its current agricultural protectionism and anticipated further discrimination. In this light, the party endorsed coordinated actions with the other socialist countries within the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA), and also outside of it, together with bilateral negotiations with individual EEC members. The details of how to carry through these two approaches, however, were left entirely in the hands of the relevant branches of the state administration. The only recommendation from the party was for a “differential approach” to individual countries which built on the party dogma of the “inevitable contradictions among capitalists”, in this case capitalist countries. With its 1968 resolution, the Politburo also gave a green light to attempting technical contacts with the EEC bodies – a consent which was never withdrawn or challenged during the 1970s.
As economic expertise in the Politburo was limited, the EEC was never the subject of real debates. The only Politburo member who closely followed this issue was Tano Tsolov, who shaped the party’s position on any related matters. From the late 1960s onwards, he drew attention to the disconcerting trade deficit with the EEC states and consistently recommended improving the national export capability rather than reducing purchases. In addition, he warned that the inevitable clash of interests among capitalist countries would not impede further economic integration of the EEC in the long run, and so he argued for a realistic policy towards the EEC that would factor in future enlargement and a deepening of integration. Whereas in internal policy deliberations he was quite vocal about the national interest in stabilising relations with the EEC, within the forum of the CMEA he maintained a more restrained stance and took his cue from Soviet statements. Moreover, in this arena he put more weight on the political aspects of potential approaches to the EEC, while in debates at home he discussed the EEC mainly in its economic dimension. His dual understanding then also shaped the official Bulgarian position at the CMEA: the political aspects outweighed the economic benefits and therefore the question of official relations with the EEC should not be rushed.
In contrast, in internal policy debates the party discussions on relations with the EEC members were dominated by economic rationality. In 1969, the Politburo determined that economic relations were the fundamental task of Bulgarian diplomatic missions, especially those in the EEC countries, which were Bulgaria’s main commercial partners outside the socialist camp. Within this economic framework, the party would later debate the EEC in connection with pressing issues like reducing the alarming trade deficit, especially with the FRG, and mitigating the impact of discriminatory policies.
In 1974, party debates led to a Politburo resolution on production and technological cooperation with non-socialist countries. Manoeuvring between opening to the West and staying firmly in the Soviet orbit, it defined a presumably new form of cooperation as one in service of the principal path of Bulgaria’s foreign economic activity – that is, creating greater cohesion between the national and Soviet economies and facilitating socialist integration in general.
Once it had set this general framework for relations with the EEC members and the EEC organs, to a great extent the Politburo withdrew to a passive role in the 1970s, relegating policy initiatives to the state branches on the one hand and to the CMEA’s collective organs on the other hand.
* This text summarises some of the research findings of PanEur1970s team member Elitza Stanoeva, which are published as a chapter in PanEur1970s’ academic edited book. For a link to the e-book, please see Bulgaria’s “Overview” webpage of this map.
Report on the stance of People's Republic of Bulgaria towards the European Economic Community (Common Market)
TsDA, f. 1B, op. 35, a.e. 12 | l. 17-28
In support of the proposed resolution on "Considerations for the directions of the foreign-economic relations of PR Bulgaria with the countries in the European Economic Community (Common Market)" adopted by Politburo on 16 January 1968. - Available here
Report on the endorsement of a conception about the strategy and tactics of People's Republic of Bulgaria's foreign trade
TsDA, f. 1B, op. 35, a.e. 1202 | l. 5-22
Report regarding the approval of the proposals for the possible rules, forms and content of contacts of the CMEA with the European Economic Community
TsDA, f. 1B, op. 35, a.e. 4142 | l. 26-29
Backing a resolution under consideration at Politburo session on 15 May 1973 which eventually endorsed "Proposals for the possible rules, forms and content of contacts of the Council of Mutual Economic Assistance with the European Economic Community" drafted at CMEA and then distributed among its member states. - Available here
Report on the concrete issues that People's Republic of Bulgaria could raise on bilateral and multilateral basis with the "Common Market"
TsDA, f. 259, op. 36, a.e. 109 | l. 371-380
Arguing for the need to combine bilateral negotiations with EEC member states with multilateral negotiations with the EEC organs conducted by the CMEA. Available only in the Archive: http://www.archives.government.bg
Information on the impact of the Common Market’s expansion and EEC’s free-trade treaties with Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, Finland, Iceland and Portugal on People's Republic of Bulgaria’s economic relations with these countries
TsDA, f. 259, op. 36, a.e. 460 | l. 125-147
Arguing that enhancing political consolidation and economic coordination within the EEC is designed mainly in opposition to the socialist bloc. - Available only in the archive: http://www.archives.government.bg
Report on the state’s additional considerations regarding its position towards the EEC
TsDA, f. 259, op. 36, a.e. 88 | l. 51-72
Discussing the negative effects of the EEC's enlargement and deepening integration on the trade opportunities of socialist countries. - Available only in the archive http://www.archives.government.bg