Bulgaria on Two Front-Lines: Complex Relations with Russia and Turkey
Ambassador Elena Poptodorova, Embassy of Bulgaria


Washington, DC—On February 5, 2016, Ambassador Elena Poptodorova of Bulgaria, spoke to WFPG members and guests at an Embassy Series event on the challenges Bulgaria faces with its two powerful neighbors, Russia and Turkey. The ambassador stressed the complexities of ensuring the defense of Bulgaria’s national interests in such a powerful region of the world. In the case of Russia, she discussed energy dependency and the need for energy diversification. The conversation on Turkey was dominated by the refugee crisis. Ambassador Poptodorova discussed the practical ramifications of Bulgaria’s location in southeastern Europe, as well as Bulgaria’s status as the youngest member of the European Union. As a small country in a very powerful neighborhood, partners, allies and formats in which you can pursue your national goals are critical. According to Poptodorova, becoming a member of both the EU and NATO allowed Bulgaria to access such a format, singling a tectonic change for the country. Though Bulgaria continues to experience an on-going process of integration, she described Bulgaria’s membership to the EU as a blessing.

The conversation on Russia was largely dominated by Bulgaria’s energy dependency, which is rooted in the end of World War II and continues today. Bulgaria is 97% dependent on energy sources from Russia, including oil, gas, and nuclear energy. The ambassador spoke not of a full replacement of Russian energy, but of the need for energy diversification. The nation is looking at building interconnectors with Romania, Greece, and Turkey, which will provide alternative energy sources and give Bulgaria the status, function, and operation of a transit country, a dispatching center for other countries.

Speaking about Turkey and the refugee crisis, Ambassador Poptodorova highlighted the importance of protecting the Bulgarian people. For a small country like Bulgaria, which is also one of the weakest economies in the EU, an influx in refugees can be a catastrophe. She acknowledged the political, economic, moral, and ethical aspects that must be considered, but noted the importance of considering practical requirements such as school, housing, and jobs in order to ensure the well-being of the Bulgarian people. Moving forward, the ambassador proposed a more adequate process of identifying refugees crossing into Bulgaria, stating that the current process is insufficient and may easily allow possible terrorists to enter the country. Since in 2016, 8 to 9 million refugees are expected, Ambassador Poptodorova hopes to continue conversation and cooperation with Turkey on the issue.

alt alt alt

Ambassador Elena Poptodorova with
WFPG President Patricia Ellis


Ambassador Poptodorova addresses WFPG


alt alt alt

Board Chair Ann Stock with Patricia Ellis,
Ambassador Poptodorova and Treasurer Dawn Calabia  


Board Member Allison Ford with
Ambassador Poptodorova and Patricia Ellis


alt alt alt

Ambassador Poptodorova responds to questions


Treasurer Dawn Calabia asks a question

alt alt alt

Ambassador Poptodorova speaks with
Ann Stock and Patricia Ellis


Ismail Cobanoglu from the Embassy of Turkey
 speaks with members 

alt alt alt

Jonathan Coopersmith from Texas A&M


Patricia Ellis moderates the conversation

alt alt alt