What can Sofia's EU Council presidency achieve?
Bulgaria took over the rotating EU Council presidency at the start of the year. Journalists hotly discuss whether the country will be able to make its mark with the presidency and what Bulgarian citizens can expect from it.
Bulgarians leave the problem-solving to others
Just as Bulgaria's EU Council presidency gets underway various citizens' initiatives are launching protest actions, among other things against the construction of a ski lift and against poverty and corruption. Standart sees a typical trait of the Bulgarians manifested here:
“The protesters are hoping that the prime minister, in his eagerness to ensure that Bulgaria's presidency goes smoothly, will be charitable and quickly give in to their demands. So there's likely to be plenty of complaining over the next six months. ... The sad thing is that people aren't willing to tackle their problems on their own, to change things in small steps, but always wait for someone to come along and solve them for them. That's the way it used to be with our big brother from Moscow. Now we're waiting for Mother Merkel and Europe's big leaders to do the same.”
Much ado about little
Why the Bulgarian public is making such a big deal about the EU Council presidency is a mystery for News.bg columnist Dimitar Petrov:
“This rotating presidency is more or less purely symbolic. ... Do you know which country held it before us, and which one comes next? Estonia and Austria. I myself had to look it up. In the coming six months a series of political and cultural events will take place in Sofia. The big political decisions about the future of the EU, however, will continue to be made in Brussels. In political terms, therefore, Sofia will hardly be able to capitalise on the presidency. This is more an opportunity to improve Bulgaria's image in Europe and boost its culture and tourism.”
A well-meant but useless iniative
It would be naive to believe that Bulgaria can pave the way for its western neighbours to become EU members, the Bulgarian service of the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle argues:
“Yes, Bulgaria has called for a summit on the future of the western Balkans, but that doesn't mean that Montenegro, Serbia or Macedonia have any reason to hope for more concrete assurances regarding the EU accession procedure. And despite its good intentions and regional competence, Bulgaria can't serve as a good example or as a driving force for EU accession because it too is being closely scrutinised by Brussels in the context of the EU monitoring programme.”
Sofia becoming a regional mediator
The EU Council presidency is an opportunity for Bulgaria to expand its geopolitical role, 24 Chasa believes:
“We must reassert our leading position in relation to the western Balkans to avoid losing what we have already achieved: the historic breakthrough in relations with Macedonia, and our now indispensable position as mediator between the EU, the western Balkan countries and Turkey. ... Geopolitics has always played a decisive role in international relations. Even the most die-hard liberals must have realised that by now.”