Addressing Parliament on July 13, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov listed what he saw as the successes of the country’s Presidency of the Council of the EU in the first half of 2018, with the opposition socialists the sole group to direct harsh criticism of the handling of the role.
Borissov said that Bulgaria had faced a test of its European identity and proven its ability to defend the European cause with responsibility and professionalism.
One of the greatest achievements of the Bulgarian EU Presidency was its promotion of the Euro-Atlantic perspectives of the Western Balkans, Borissov said. “This topic was immediately acknowledged as a pan-European responsibility and our efforts were supported by all.”
“Concurrently, we showed both our European partners and the Western Balkans that solving the accumulated problems and contradictions can be achieved through dialogue and acceptable compromises. We gave an example with the treaty with the Republic of Macedonia, today we also have the result of the talks between Greece and Macedonia, and the official invitation by Nato to Macedonia to join the pact.”
The results of the Bulgarian EU Presidency were not merely a PR campaign but represented a reality for the countries of the region, he said.
Borissov also highlighted the meeting in Varna between the leaders of the EU and Turkey. Among other achievements, he listed the work on the posted workers directive, border security and the Dublin Agreement.
The opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party sought to portray the Bulgarian EU Presidency as a good opportunity wasted. The BSP claimed that there had been no consensus among the institutions.
According to BSP leader Kornelia Ninova, Europe was divided into different groups – eastern versus western, the Visegrad Four against the big states. The Bulgarian EU Presidency had failed to take charge and to seek unity and consensus.
Ninova also accused the government of having “isolated” the country’s Presidency, referring to head of state Roumen Radev, in office on a ticket that was backed by the BSP.
“President Radev tried to compensate for what the Bulgarian government did not do,” Ninova said.
She said that the Bulgarian EU Presidency had not mobilised the energy of the country’s people, but had been turned into a partisan event used to boost the personal approval rating of a single individual – an apparent reference to Borissov.
At the same time, Ninova said that during the EU Presidency, the Bulgarian government had been sending messages of instability within the ruling coalition while the state sent people messages of insecurity.
GERB MP Gemma Grozdanova, who heads the parliamentary committee on foreign policy, told the National Assembly: “I am convinced that the first Bulgarian presidency contributed not only to the promotion of our country as a partner between the EU countries but also as a leading country in the decision making process for the implementation of EU policies and a stability factor in the Balkans.”
Grozdanova said that the socialists had put forward criticisms while failing to offer alternatives.
The leader of the parliamentary group of government minority partner the United Patriots, Volen Siderov, said: “I thought we had come out of the marsh of Bulgarian typical masochism, but alas not. The Presidency cannot demand unrealistic things. The presidency was successful, Bulgaria did well”.
Movement for Rights and Freedoms leader Mustafa Karadayi said that the Bulgarian EU Presidency had declared at the outset that it would work for functional unity both between the member states and between the European institutions.
But in Bulgaria, the war among the state institutions was given new impulse and so were the divisions in society. “Hatred and xenophobia reached new heights,” he said.