Diplomatist Magazine Diplomatist April 2018 - Page 21

INSIDE EUROPE “I am glad that the people in our country strongly support the European Union and are interested in the issues that the EU is facing. This is one of the effects of the rotating presidency of the Union.” This statement of an Estonian sociologist is part of the summary after the end of the Estonian Presidency, and a survey on the attitudes towards it. In the fi rst days of the Bulgarian Presidency, we are asking ourselves that what would be the picture in the last days of June 2018. And the most important question is - will the long-awaited de-provincialisation of our European policy take place? The presidency of the Council of EU is undoubtedly a chance for Europe to learn something about Bulgaria beyond the cliché of it being the poorest and most corrupt member state. Bulgarian institutions, ruling politicians and civil servants will play a major role for the image of Bulgaria. At the same time, a study by the European Council on Foreign Relations on the ability and willingness of member states to co-operate with each other has shown that Bulgaria is the least sought-after partner, and the last as it comes to responsiveness to inquiries about common positions with other member states. The country is also next to the last of all 28 states with regard to connectivity with the others when it comes to seeking common interests. How will Bulgaria act as a rotating president - whether as a unifi er in the name of the European consent, or as a passive observer that will practically help for the deepening of the faults in the EU – the answer to this question will become clear in the future. The focus of the coming months will be on the ability of Bulgarian representatives to respond to the problems and the expectations of the citizens adequately. What will be the main issues on which Bulgaria can and will be expected to have a position, as well as aim at achieving consensus? Following are the few tasks that the country will have to work upon for an effective 6-month Presidency. of Europe is very optimistic, but dangers are far from being in the past. The populists have already won in Austria, the Czech Republic and Italy. In Germany, about a fi fth of the Bundestag consists of far-left and far-right MPs. The numerous investigations have proved that Russia is quick to take advantage of the weakness of the big traditional political parties and is trying to have a destructive infl uence on the political agenda of the various countries and the EU as a whole: from Kremlin's support for Marine Le Pen, through the media intervention in the referendum in Catalonia, to its role as catalyst for Brexit. But let us be aware that the problems and dissatisfaction of the EU, on which the populist sentiment broke out, were not the work of Russia - it simply used them. But the East-West divide seems to be running deeper than the rift caused by Eurosceptic politicians in Poland or Hungary – and more fundamental than the one instigated by Russia. The crisis over migration was the symptom of a trend that has longer history. The asymmetry in the relationship between ‘old’ and ‘new’ member states 10 years ago might have looked a logical continuation of the accession process. But today to many in the East following ‘blindly’ the rules of the liberal western textbooks is not enough. Emancipation of Central and Eastern Europe is only at its beginning. The discussion about double standards in paying workers, in food products or access to European circles of power will be driving a heated debate in the years to come. Against this background, preserving European unity at this moment is diffi cult, but is a key task for the Presidency, especially since the European Commission started the procedure under Article 7 to limit the rights of Poland. And when the German-French engine starts to work in the spring, th e smaller countries will seek balance against this powerful tandem. Bulgaria can claim neutrality, but that alone will not be enough. The numerous investigations have proved that Russia is quick to take advantage of the weakness of the big traditional political parties and is trying to have a destructive infl uence on the political agenda of the various countries and the EU as a whole. Unity in the Face of the Populist (and the Russian) Threat If 2017 was the year of hopes that a new horizon will appear before Europe, 2018 has to become the year of their fulfi lment. The continuing economic upsurge in the whole More European Security The territorial losses of Islamic State in the past year is good news, but the continuing decay of a number of countries in the Near East is a fact - and along with it, the concerns of Europeans about terrorism. In order to remain open and democratic, the European communities will have to have a Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Diplomatist • Vol 6 • Issue 4 • April 2018, Noida • 19