Support for EU and NATO enlargement, building bridges to Western Balkans top priority

Bulgaria
Bulgarian European Community Studies Association
 
The year 2008 was for Bulgaria the time when citizens were sobering out from the euphoria of the EU entry and their great expectations in relation to membership. Public attitudes to the benefits from joining the bloc affected positions on future EU enlargements. According to sociological surveys, Bulgarians associate EU membership with higher living standards, rule of law and security, free movement and a common cultural area. Their visions on the expansion of the EU should be traced along those lines. The dominant concept is based on giving prominence to the active and successful advancement of preparation for the accession of potential candidates. It is related to the experience of Bulgaria in meeting the requirements of the EU. Research polls revealed that support for the EU entry remains rather high.[1] However, citizens are more optimistic about the long-term benefits of the membership (75 percent of the respondents). By contrast, 60 percent of Bulgarians share the opinion that joining the EU had negative consequences for Bulgaria.[2]
 

Active and productive French Presidency, fear of too Euroscpetic Czech president

Bulgaria
Bulgarian European Community Studies Association
 
Assuming the EU rotation chair on 1 July 2008 in a complex situation related to the negative outcome of the Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty ratification, France held out hopes that Europe would emerge stronger at the end of the year, capable of dealing with pressing problems. Bulgaria also had high expectations for the French Ppresidency in the second half of 2008. Several publications emphasized that the two countries were united by common European interests and that the partnership between them is based on a reciprocal confidence and respect. The French Parliament was the only one to have ratified Bulgaria’s EU accession treaty unanimously. In Bulgaria, France as a whole is considered to be not just one of the founders of the European Community, but also a state with a long-term vision of the European project.
 

Strong focus on Eurozone leaves new members worried

Bulgaria
Bulgarian European Community Studies Association
 
Many experts focused their attention on the repercussions of Brussels’ decision to block EU funds allocated to Bulgaria on the country’s economy. It had lost 220 million Euros in pre-accession funds, whereas another 500 million Euros were frozen. They pointed out that, unfortunately for Bulgaria, those coincided with the unfolding global financial crisis. Thus, the cash cut-off could never be compensated, especially in the context of the crisis-ridden world economy,[1] which aggravates the impact of all of these developments. Especially in such a difficult period, when the most serious sectors in Bulgaria were affected and many people were losing their jobs. Other Bulgarians were being thrown out of companies across Europe – for example in Spain or the UK, and had to return to Bulgaria.[2] However, the possibilities to create new jobs were reduced by the firm line of Brussels.
 

Intensified cooperation for approaching common challenges

Bulgaria
Bulgarian European Community Studies Association
 
Approaches and top priorities for a re-vitalization of the transatlantic and EU-US relations seem to differ depending on whose perspective we will consider. In the US perspective, Europe is needed as a supporter for recovering global US leadership based on the power of example and inspiration for all people in the world.
 
It will be up to Europe’s maturity to acknowledge either a position of a junior partner of the US in a global alliance for global good, or try to survive on its own quite insecure domestic and international agenda, while at the same time being squeezed by an emancipated Russia and a frustrated Turkey.
 
It has to be crystal clear, that any debate about the redefinition of transatlantic relations cannot evade the uneasy questions related to Russia and Turkey. If the US and the EU continue to approach Russia separately, and if within the EU some member states still prefer dealing with Russia on a bilateral basis, then it will be irrelevant to speak about anything transatlantic. If Turkey continues to hang in the abyss with no clear geopolitical future, if the EU stays inhibited with its relatively small problems, then no future for a transatlantic unity could ever be foreseen.