On 14th -15th of December in Giurgiu took place an international conference for presentation of the results from research project BRAINS, implemented within BRIE by the University of Ruse “Angel Kanchev” and the Academy of Economic Studies in Bucharest, Romania.
The conference was dedicated to the results from sociologic research which covers 2 200 Romanian and 1800 Bulgarian respondents from 3 target groups – politicians and public administration, representatives of business, representatives of civil society.
Participants in the conference were over 100 representatives of public administration, business and civil society from the 9 Bulgarian districts and the 7 Romanian counties of the Bulgarian-Romanian cross-border region. The participants were welcomed by the guests at the conference – Dr. Gerhard Duda and Rudolf Smolarchic from the German rectors’ conference; Peter Langer from the Council of Danube Cities and Regions (Germany), the mayor of Giurgiu – Nikolae Barbu, the governor of Ruse district Stefko Burdjiev, the deputy mayor of Ruse on European development Strahil Karapchanski. The rectors of both universities- of theUniversityofRuse Prof. DSc Hr. Beloevand of theAcademyofEconomic Studies Prof. DSc Pavel Nastaseexpressed their satisfaction with the good cooperation on this project as they emphasized its innovative and applied value.
The first session of the conference was dedicated to the regional governance inBulgaria,Romaniaand the European Union. The reports of Prof. Narius Profiroiu from the Academy of Economic Studies (ASE) Bucharest and of Prof. Vladimir Chukov from the University of Ruse were dedicated to the necessity of reforms in Romania and Bulgaria with the aim of overcoming the deficit of power at the first subnational management level with the aim of catalyzing the regional development. In his report dedicated to the multilevel governance Dr. Kornazheva outlined the specifics of the European regionalism and the achievements in many European countries which have given freedom to their regions for initiative and various forms of cooperation, including cross-border cooperation. Prof. Constantin Mitruts from ASE Bucharest presented the methodology of the project research.
The second session was dedicated to the preliminary results from the project. Prof. Claudia Popescu revealed a picture of integrated territorial identity based on the strengths of the region as she demonstrated various maps created on the basis of topical statistical data. She outlined three cores with a potential to turn into engines for the development of the Bulgarian-Romanian cross-border region – around Constanta- Silistra, around Giurgiu-Ruse-Veliko Turnovo and around Dolj-Montana. Assoc. Prof. Alexander Petkov from theUniversityofRusereported results from a pilot research of subjective points of view for strengths of the Bulgarian part of the region. Prof. Andrei Tudorel from ASE- Bucharest and the PhD student Strahil Karapchanski reported the potential of integrated political identity of the Bulgarian-Romanian cross-border region, Dr. Claudio Herzeliu from ASE- Bucharest and PhD student Alexander Kosuliev from theUniversityofRusecommented on the potential for integrated socio-economic identity of the Bulgarian-Romanian cross-border region, Dr. Bogdan Ilianu from ASE-Bucharest and Assoc. Prof. Juliana Popova from the University of Ruse outlined the potential for development of integrated cultural identity of the the Bulgarian-Romanian cross-border region. Assoc. Prof. Rada Karshakova from theUniversityofRuseproposed a theoretic and applied framework of establishing the brand ROBULNA of the Bulgarian-Romanian cross-border region as the next step to constructing an integrated identity of the region. In conclusion there were presented best European practices of cross-border cooperation in view of integrated identity. Dr. K. Voichehovski and Dr. Janczak from theEuropeanUniversityViadrina and Dr. I. Sherm and P. Kocyba outlined achievements respectively at the German-Polish and the German-Czech border.
After the end of the conference there were awarded certificates to the 16 facilitators trained under the project.
The conference finished with a declaration for creation of an Epistemic and communication community of ROBULNA in which all the invited participants are included. They are also leaders of public opinion in their districts and counties.
Another project result is the published trilingual book “Bulgarian-Romanian Neighbourhood Areas” which is the first try for concentrated presentation of the cross-border identity of the region based on the opinion of the local citizens from all districts and regions.
Some preliminary results from the opinion of politicians and public administration
Among the majority of respondents from the Bulgarian sample of politicians and public administration there is a perception that one of the most productive forms of cross-border cooperation is the definition of common policies of the Bulgarian-Romanian cross-border region. This result positively confirms one of the hypotheses of the research that in the Bulgarian-Romanian cross-border region there is a substantial potential for the emerging of integrated political identity which expresses itself in the goodwill for discussion and consensus over a common vision of Bulgarians and Romanians on the development of the region.
At the same time more than a half of the respondents from the Bulgarian sample of politicians and public administration share the opinion that the local and regional authorities in Bulgariadon’t have enough power to implement successful regional development politics. Around 60% of the respondents address their expectations to the executive authority at central level for the implementation of such politics. This result confirms another hypothesis: the development of the Bulgarian-Romanian cross-border region is prevented by reforms for decentralization in Bulgaria which did not take place and which would legitimate powers to the subnational governing level for the implementation of regional politics.
Some preliminary conclusions for the opinion of the representatives of the business
Almost 85% of the respondents –representatives of the business in ROBULNA [1} do not have any contacts with Romanian companies, citizens or organizations. Half of them intend to change this in the future.
Around 15% make contacts with Romanian partners but the intentions of over 40% of the respondents is to develop business relations with companies and persons across theDanube.
As most attractive activities form cross-border cooperation the respondents indicate the sales to end users and the purchase of raw materials. The more complicated relations and cooperation are less preferred. An exception makes the willingness to take part in European projects.
Секторите с най-голям потенциал за трансгранично сътрудничество според респондентите са търговия, туризъм и земеделие.
The opinion of the Romanian respondents gravitates around agriculture. This coincidence in the agricultural sector reveals substantial potential for integrated socio-economic identity which is expressed in a consensus regarding the formation of cross-border clusters and specialization of the region which can provide it with competitive advantages.
The greatest impediment to the development of the cross-border business relations is not knowing the legal, political and business environment inRomania. The eventual differences in the culture and values of the population are indicated as the smallest impediment.
The respondents consider that the business relations between companies from roBULna and RObulna equally favor both parties and there is no asymmetry between them. Over 2/3 consider that they are profitable both for the Bulgarian and the Romanian side.
Pilot study for strengths of roBULna. Characteristics of the sample: Number of respondents: 300 from which: politicians and public administration – 144; representatives of the business- 26; citizens- 130. Confidence interval 5.6, level of confidence 95%.
At defining the strengths of roBULna there is impact of:
- In the first place historical meaning – over 80%;
- In the second place economic meaning – over 70%.;
- In the third place sentimental meaning – over 50%.
- According to the respondents the cultural-historical heritage is a strength of the region – 29%,
- According to the respondents another strength of the region is its natural environment – 23 %
- The third strength of the region are the human resources – 19%.
- Bulgarians and Romanians barely know each other or don’t know each other at all. Around one third of the Bulgarians in the investigated region are not very interested or do not know about the existence of common words in both languages.
- The proximity of the neighbour across the border and the opportunities for cross-border cooperation are not considered strength of the region.
The citizens of the Bulgarian districts of the region live more with the past than with the present. They are proud of their history but they are not proud with their present.
In spite of the open border with Romania in the context of the EU membership of both countries the citizens of the Bulgarian districts of the region still live only within their national state. They rather don’t know their neighbours and don’t define the potential for cooperation as strength of the region.
Therefore the efforts for the development of integrated identity have to turn into a key priority for the region. One of the most important instruments for the development of integrated identity is the achievement of consensus over a brand of the region. The brand is the self-presenting, self- portraying of a place. It stands for and disseminates its uniqueness. It encodes in itself the commonly shared view of the people living there, why is their region unique, attractive, competitive. The brand of one region expresses, it shows that the region possesses political, socio-economic and cultural identity. Branding is based on a solid and productive coalition between the political power, the business and the civil society in order to accumulate ideas from the different sectors and to direct the community of people to a relatively same direction. At the same time the process of branding acts as a motivator for uniting the community. It stimulates the union of people around core values thus supporting the social structuring of identity. In this process are expressed also the most competitive advantages of the identity.
The data from the sociologic survey shows that the idea for branding the Bulgarian-Romanian cross-border region is strongly supported by both business and political communities. The predominating answers to the questions on this topic are “Rather yes” and “Yes, definitely” – the average percent of the agreement is over 90%. What is left now is to process the data from the opinion of the citizens.
Both analyzed groups express [positive agreement that as a result of branding:
- The region will increase its attractiveness and potential for the people who live and work there;
- The potential and attractiveness of the region will be also appreciated by the people outside its territory;
- There will be created conditions for planning an appropriate strategy for its development;
- Cross-border cooperation will be stimulated;
- The region will become recognizable at European and global level.
The potential for development of a brand can be expressed by 8 key characteristics of the region which could be the basis for development of competitive identity. These are advantages on which the strategic conception for the development of the brand ROBULNA could be built.
- The geopolitical location of the Bulgarian-Romanian cross-border region as a bridge between the Black Sea and Central Europe ;
- The Danube river as a unique paneuropean transport corridor which connects all the districts of the region between each other and with 8 other countries ;
- The natural resources;
- Its cultural and historical heritage,
- The fertile land and the good traditions in agriculture;
- The innovative potential of small and middle-sized enterprises;
- Human capital;
- The tolerance between the ethnic groups in the region.
The processing of results goes on. The final results will be publishes in the Green book for cross-border identitarian politics of the Bulgarian-Romanian cross-border region .
 The Bulgarian part of ROBULNA
 The European Union regional development is based on clusters. Clusters are interconnected enterprises, research institutes and other organizations in a region. They interact with each other and with customers and suppliers. This cooperation allows them to share infrastructure, labor markets and other financial services to innovate and thus to increase their competitiveness.
 The Romanian part of ROBULNA