Bulgarian European Community Studies Association

Bulgarian European Community Studies Association

Katia Hristova
 
The entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty had limited coverage in Bulgaria and provoked no major debate in Bulgarian society. This trend is inherited from the pre-accession period when an almost complete lack of public attention to the EU constitutional debate and the following ratification crisis prevailed. The few interested media publications have commented on the entry in force of the Lisbon Treaty mainly in reference to Bulgaria’s deficiencies as a new member state in fulfilling its obligations and the remedies that the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union could bring to that situation with new provisions in the areas of freedom, security and justice. Special attention is paid to the further federalisation of the Union through the reinforcement of the EU criminal justice system that will bring about a “more effective prosecution of criminals and will guarantee individuals’ rights more effectively in free movement Europe”.[1]
 
However, the changing role of the European Parliament within the EU institutional architecture was intensively discussed following the unsuccessful hearing of the then Bulgarian Minister of Foreign Affairs Rumiana Jeleva as commissioner designate.
 
The work of the new President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, is reflected in media articles mainly in relation to the settlement of the Greek economic crisis. Nonetheless, assessment of his performance so far is hard to be found either in official statements of political actors, or in public debate. Public opinion in Bulgaria is still not concerned with the work of the new High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton.
 
Bulgaria will consider getting one head of mission position from 32 announced vacancies for heads of EU diplomatic missions in third countries a success. The procedure is part of a regular rotation of diplomatic representatives, which so far headed the delegations of the European Commission. With the entering into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the missions become EU representations and are under the control of the European External Action Service (EEAS). According to the spokesperson of the Bulgarian Foreign Affairs Ministry Vessela Tcherneva, Bulgaria is hoping to get one position for an ambassador in a country from the Black Sea region or the Balkans, because it is there where “we have interests and expertise”.[2]
 
Bulgaria was part of the group of new EU member states that insisted, while the diplomatic service was being established, that the principle of geographic balance be taken into account in order to ensure that younger member states would not be less represented – first, because the representatives of old member states dominate in the current bodies of the Union (where 2/3 of the EEAS personnel would come from) and, second, because the candidates from the "old" EU nations have greater experience and longer careers in European institutions.
 
The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) is still an unfamiliar concept in Bulgaria. Although the National Assembly, following the spirit of the Lisbon Treaty, adopted a new Law on Direct Civic Participation in the State and Local Government[3] in June 2009 where the citizens’ initiative is for the first time mentioned in Bulgarian legislation, the new instrument has never attracted public attention. A modest attempt by civil society organisations to comment on the opportunities that the ECI will open for civic interests to be forwarded to the EU political process was made in the framework of a conference “Europe 2020 – The Civic Vision” held in Sofia on 29 and 30 January 2010. The overall assessment agreed by participants is that the ECI is a very positive development and expectations of it are high, perhaps too high. Therefore it will need to prove itself with the necessary precaution to focus on proper issues so that the enthusiasm is not wasted. Another key aspect will be the Commission’s response to this initiative.[4]


[1] Svetoslav Terziev: We are New Bulgarians, Are we? The Lisbon Treaty enhances the hope for Bulgaria to become a “normal” country, 2 December 2009, Sega daily, available at: http://www.segabg.com/online/new/articlenew.asp?issueid=4546&sectionId=5... (last access: 30 July 2010).

[2] Available at: http://www.euinside.eu/en/news/sofia-hopes-for-one-eu-mission-chief (last access: 30 July 2010).

[3] State Gazette 44, 12 June 2009, available at: http://dv.parliament.bg/DVWeb/index.faces (last access: 30 July 2010).

[4] Available at: http://parliament.europe.bg/en/?id=26996&category=371 (last access: 30 July 2010).

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