Bulgaria

Economic Policy Institute

Special relations with the presiding member state

Bulgarian European Community Studies Association

Carrying out a survey of Bulgaria’s expectations from the French EU-Presidency reveal two fundamental features of the EU debate in this country. On the one hand, it reveals that the country gradually found its way into EU structures, entered the policy-making mechanisms and formulated its national positions in all European matters. Many changes occurred in the perceptions of society and of politicians, and significant steps were made to mobilise public opinion and raise awareness of the rights and responsibilities of Bulgaria as a full-fledged EU member state. On the other hand, this survey makes clear that further serious efforts must be developed. There is still a lack of media analysis on these important topics. Articles published in newspapers and weekly journals are the most descriptive. Bulgarian journalists focus their attention predominantly on presenting factual information in combination with offering of different points of view, but without their own detailed analytical commentary on EU issues.
 
Bulgarian-French relations enjoy a rich history
 

Support for active EU engagement with Western Balkans

Bulgarian European Community Studies Association

Bulgaria welcomes the progress made by Western Balkans countries and shares the concerns expressed in the Strategy Document on EU enlargement published by the Commission in November 2007. Bulgaria supports the European and Euro-Atlantic integration of all Western Balkans countries.[1] It has signed bilateral agreements with all the countries of the Western Balkans for exchange of expertise and know-how in the process of European integration.[2]
 
As Slovenia assumed the Presidency of the EU on 1 January 2008, Bulgaria pledges full support for Slovenian initiatives and will back up efforts for all necessary reforms in the countries of the Western Balkans on their way to a closer European perspective.[3]
 

Bulgaria regards the Irish ‘No’ as a threat to national interests

Bulgarian European Community Studies Association

Participation in and positive contribution to the revisions of the founding EU treaties has consistently headed Bulgaria’s priorities since the country’s accession to the EU. Such revisions are expected to lead to building a more efficient and democratic European Union.
 
During the Lisbon Treaty negotiations Bulgaria was a positive partner, open for dialogue and willing to contribute towards reaching a consensus. The only instance of Bulgaria adopting a firm position and exerting pressure concerned an issue of a cultural nature, and it was quickly resolved. This issue was the right to use the denomination “Evro” (instead of “Euro”), when writing the common European currency in the Cyrillic alphabet. On virtually all other issues, Bulgarian political parties as well as national media have been openly supportive of the reforms envisaged in the treaty and, although much could be desired in terms of a more lively public debate and more detailed information for the general public, the overall attitude in Bulgaria towards the new treaty was favourable.

Ratification via parliament

* Bulgarian European Community Studies Association

The future of the EU is a topic with very limited media coverage in Bulgaria. The leading actors demonstrating a considerably high level of activity with regard to this topic are mainly Bulgarian politicians directly involved in the EU policy-making process, i.e. the Prime Minister, the Foreign Affairs Minister, the Minister of European Affairs, and the Bulgarian MEPs. For the broader public and the NGO sector the EU’s future development and perspectives are not of a high priority. In this respect, the Bulgarian Minister of European Affairs Ms. Gergana Grancharova states that: “Bulgarian citizens are not interested in the EU policy-making process. They are interested in the EU decisions themselves.”[1] According to her, the Bulgarian debate on the EU future has been “shadowed” by domestic issues.[2]
 

Hardly anyone interested in climate policy

Bulgarian European Community Studies Association

Katia Hristova
 
Bulgaria entered the Copenhagen conference negotiations with the firm position of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov that the country is not ready to back up the EU’s efforts to bring about positive results with financial allocations.[1] In a post-communist society where strong environmental concerns are still to take hold, the “deal” that Bulgaria will provide only 40 thousand Euros did not provoke intense public debate as to the lack of a pro-active state policy on the issue of climate change. Only a few independent journalists have blamed the government for this “factual denial of participation”.[2]
 
Bulgarian civil society, experts, policy and public opinion makers have failed so far to articulate any kind of ideas on the strategy the EU should follow to fight climate change. No environmental NGO has initiated any substantial discussion on the efforts EU member states should make in order to give a new impulse to the international negotiations.


[1] Available at: http://www.dnevnik.bg/evropa/novini_ot_es/2009/12/10/828979_borisov_izra... (last access: 30 July 2010).

[2] Boyadjiev, Yasen: Baj Ganyo and the climate change.

European Energy Community discussed

Bulgarian European Community Studies Association

Katia Hristova
 
The policy proposal “Towards a European Energy Community”[1] by Jacques Delors provoked an intense debate in Bulgaria, where the issue of a future EU energy policy and the role Bulgaria should play in it is a salient one. Being situated at one of the important crossroads between East and West, Bulgaria is frequently seen as a country that could help improve the EU’s overall energy security. However, the country has not yet done much to live up to this expectation. Since the beginning of the transition period, the national strategy for energy sector development has been one of the most disputed documents that never saw the light of day.
 
Jacques Delors’ policy paper idea, that the most radical, but also the most promising option, for the EU would be to create a European Energy Community with its own rules and methods specific to the energy field, triggered a lively debate. The proposal for the implementation of a differentiated approach provided arguments from the energy experts’ community criticising Bulgarian policymakers for their lack of a clear position on the issue. The prevailing opinion in this regard is that Bulgaria, being a new EU member state, will have to prove itself as a positive factor for European energy security and take part in the establishment of the European Energy Community.[2]

Weakness of the common currency is a monetary phenomenon

Bulgarian European Community Studies Association

Katia Hristova
 
Bulgarian experts and economists believe that the single currency was the victim of speculative attacks and its weakness during the first half of the year should be assessed as a momentary phenomenon. According to Lachezar Bogdanov from “Industry Watch”,[1] the instability of the Euro is a negative trend that should be tackled in time by the European Central Bank and the governments of the Eurozone. The rescue package for Greece provoked an intense debate among experts and financial observers in Bulgaria. Some independent experts have assessed the package as pouring money into a bankrupt economy that would further weaken the Euro, others stressed the fact that the plan has the potential of providing a long-term remedy in case Greece will be ready to apply the envisaged drastic financial measures.[2] For the experts of Industry Watch, the Greek crisis uncovered public finance problems in Europe and has the potential to deteriorate Bulgaria’s fiscal position rapidly.
 

Turkish membership perspective currently discussed

Bulgarian European Community Studies Association

Katia Hristova
 
Bulgaria has always declared support for the accession efforts of present day candidate countries. Although Iceland’s membership does not constitute an issue in public debate, attention is focused on the steps undertaken by Turkey and Croatia to speed up their negotiations. Croatia is expected to lead the way to the next enlargement round. Government officials have declared Bulgaria’s support for Croatia’s membership several times. Moreover, public opinion leaders share the view that Croatia’s accession will open up prospects for future concrete steps in the integration of the other Western Balkan countries.[1]
 
In parallel with this, the Foreign Ministry is starting a review of Bulgaria’s policy towards the Western Balkans, which is one of the priority areas in Bulgarian foreign policy. Bulgaria is also ambitious to take part in the debate about a new approach towards the region, as well as to help the “the internal motors” of reform start in the countries there.
 

Bulgarian European Community Studies Association

Bulgarian European Community Studies Association

Katia Hristova
 
The entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty had limited coverage in Bulgaria and provoked no major debate in Bulgarian society. This trend is inherited from the pre-accession period when an almost complete lack of public attention to the EU constitutional debate and the following ratification crisis prevailed. The few interested media publications have commented on the entry in force of the Lisbon Treaty mainly in reference to Bulgaria’s deficiencies as a new member state in fulfilling its obligations and the remedies that the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union could bring to that situation with new provisions in the areas of freedom, security and justice. Special attention is paid to the further federalisation of the Union through the reinforcement of the EU criminal justice system that will bring about a “more effective prosecution of criminals and will guarantee individuals’ rights more effectively in free movement Europe”.[1]
 
However, the changing role of the European Parliament within the EU institutional architecture was intensively discussed following the unsuccessful hearing of the then Bulgarian Minister of Foreign Affairs Rumiana Jeleva as commissioner designate.