Bulgaria will encounter numerous challenges - some we can foresee and others will be completely unexpected
Prof. Mihail Konstantinov
1 December, 2017
Bulgaria’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union is set to start at the beginning of 2018. It will not be easy, it might even be one of the most daunting ones. It could also turn out to be our only shot at it, looking down the line, if for example the number of Member States grows considerably or the bloc radically changes, or even collapses.
The Bulgarian presidency will encounter a lot of challenges – some of them can be foreseen and others will be completely unexpected. One of the main ones will be the advanced stage of Brexit and a potential new referendum in Scotland on leaving the UK.
Another challenge is the political crisis in Spain, likely to set in after the elections scheduled for 21 December. If Catalonia does move forward with leaving Spain, another province of the kingdom, the Basque country, will quickly follow suit. The less affluent Spanish provinces are unlikely to rush to join the process but it is difficult to predict their behaviour with certainty.
If Spain does start disintegrating, it would be a “clear sign and a strong message” (in the universally tiresome, politically correct speech that George Orwell can only envy) for countries like Belgium and Italy. Add to that France, with its turbulent Corsica. It could even come down to the unthinkable – the onset of the collapse of Germany, where Bavaria, given its special status, can technically walk away from the Federal Republic in one day with a decision by its parliament. A less apocalyptic scenario would be for the political crisis in Germany to persist and lead to snap elections (for the first time in the country’s post-war history), in which case the vote will coincide with the Bulgarian presidency.
The crisis in Ukraine, which Europe cannot escape, is headed towards a quick denouement and a full-blown war may start even before we have assumed the presidency. The conflict will not start out in the Crimea and perhaps will not even affect it. After all, there are not many countries in the world that would lay a hand on a Russian territory, and Moscow treats the peninsula as such. But Donbas is another story. You could say that the war there has been raging since 2014. Ukraine and Donbas have also long been arenas of internal struggles for power and resources, the way out of which often is expansion abroad.
In the Middle East, the war with this incarnation of Islamic State looks all but won. But there is another war coming. This time, Israel, Iran and Saudi Arabia (and why not Turkey) could interfere, making a complete mess of it. Of course, what is more dangerous is the return of the surviving cut-throats to their normal habitats in the Islamic enclaves of European cities. It would not be surprising if during the Bulgarian presidency European leaders are forced to focus their entire attention on the daily terrorist attacks that could start tormenting Europe. It will soon become clear that this problem has no solution in the current environment. Generally speaking, every problem has a solution and it not always is pleasant, to put it in the mildest of terms. The western political elite’s fault for the current debacle, and its short-sightedness since the end of WWII, are massive and glaring. Adhering to the vocabulary that has become so en vogue among Bulgarian politicians of late, I would say that in many cases we are talking about outright debility in a more then mild form. We do not know the percentages of the affected individuals but that is not that important.
A key task, if there is time and effort left for it, will be to accelerate the remaining Balkan nations’ accession to the EU. The situation is especially sensitive with Serbia, whose desire is to join the EU but pass on NATO membership. For now, this looks hard to achieve, which translated from diplomatic language means “impossible”. The matter of Turkey’s integration, meanwhile, is getting closer to an utter failure. Both Europeans and the Turkish realise that the country is not entering the EU in the foreseeable future, which, again, means “never” in diplomatic speak. The question is whether that knowledge will further erode Turkey’s willingness to remain a NATO member, or at least an active one.
But Bulgaria will also have to take care of itself. Without this being a crucial factor, it would be good to complete our integration into the European structures, including entering the Eurozone and the Schengen area. The country has met all the required criteria for this purpose.
The currency board in place, which many people with selfish motives are opposing, effectively crates the same framework as being in the Eurozone. It just has to be made official. As for the Schengen area, both Bulgaria and Romania have fulfilled all requirements. The real reason why we are being made to wait is the problem with our Roma population, whom the Dutch authorities want to continue to be able to return to us every three months. They do not even bother to hide that fact, which is discriminatory and an example for double standards. We will certainly get some victory in pursuit of those two goals. We will be admitted to the ERM II, aka the “currency waiting room”, and we will have access to Schengen by water and air. It is a partial success but it is better than nothing.
Against the abovementioned dark backdrop, the opposition’s stunts, intended to win it the attention of the bosses, and eventually get it a seat on the table, seem a bit ridiculous. In democratic nations this is done through elections. As things stand, if we were to hold snap elections right now, they would, besides dealing a hard blow to the country, yield the same party composition of the parliament. And we will stay proudly silent, faced with the question “Why did we have to go through that ordeal again?”
So far, we went over the European problems that might make the Bulgarian presidency difficult. Considering how global today’s world is, however, the geographically distant problems, if they come to pass, might affect us in a negative way – like another Korean war or a conflict over the use of the water of the great rivers Indus and Ganges. The bad news is that those two wars may well be nuclear ones, as the presumed sides in them are nuclear powers.
Let us hope for success in the challenging times lying ahead of us.