How will Bulgaria manage the EU-Presidency?

On the first of January 2018 Bulgaria will take over the EU-Presidency for half a year. It will be the first Presidency for the South-Eastern European state since its entry into the European Union in 2007. The Presidency will take place half a year sooner than initially planned, as due to the Brexit the UK will not exercise its Presidency. The circumstances for Bulgaria’s presidency are quite difficult, as it will have to deal with highly complex topics, such as the Brexit negotiations, the EU financial framework 2020 and the European migration policy. In addition, the preparations for the Presidency did not go entirely smooth in Bulgaria, as new elections had to be held. What will be the major topics for the Bulgarian Presidency?

The slogan of the Bulgarian Presidency is “Unity makes strength”. The focus of its Presidency is based on three topics: Consensus, Competition and Cohesion. Consensus shall be achieved in the areas security and migration policy, competition shall be enforced in regard to the digital market and the cohesion within the Union shall be strengthened. In order to achieve the last point, there shall be an adjustment of the living conditions. Another very important issue for the Bulgarian Presidency is the future of the Western Balkans. Because of its geographic position the states of the Western Balkans are central for Bulgaria. Thus, Bulgaria wants to give a European perspective to the states but without having unrealistic timetables and goals. The states of the Western Balkans are situated between Bulgaria and Western Europe and are important for Bulgaria not only but also in terms of trade, traffic and security. Besides these successful preparations for its first Presidency, there is as well criticism on the work done by now. Critics say for instance that much of the prearrangements focused on the technical and logistical aspects instead of the more important content of the topics. According to critical experts, Bulgaria would seem to be behind the schedule for the preparations.

In contrary to many “old” member states, the atmosphere among the Bulgarian population is very pro-European. In addition, the economic dates of the last years developed in a very good direction. Bulgaria had a growth in its GDP by 3.5 percent and an unemployment rate of 7.1 percent, which is below the European average. However, Bulgaria would still not fulfil other European standards, for instance concerning the fight against corruption and the reform of its judicial area. The next steps for Bulgaria after its first Presidency are clear: the accession to the Schengen-area and the Euro-Zone.