How do 28 Member States make decisions and reach agreement for implementing policies in numerous economic and social spheres in the European Union? The answer is simple – through negotiations.

The decision-making process in the European Union is a complex mixture of institutional interests, governmental preferences, leadership strategies and normative procedures for reaching agreement and policy-making. Some authors even define the decision-making process in the EU as an “ongoing negotiation marathon”. The Council of the EU is the primary arena of inter-governmental negotiations, but their effective and fluid functioning depends largely on the Presidency. It is taken upon a principle of rotation for a 6-month period by each of the Member States.
Bulgaria will start its Presidency term on 1 July 2018. This task will be an important test for the national political, administrative and diplomatic capacity. The Presidency is responsible for the preparation, coordination and leadership of all meetings of the Council of the EU and its supporting bodies and structures (with the exception of the Foreign Affairs Council). The Presidency provides substantial political opportunities for the Member State who performs it as well as potential for influence over the strategic agenda-setting of the EU. This is a timeframe that goes well beyond the six-month rotating mandate. In turn, this opportunity requires intensive diplomatic contacts, active work within the national ministries and effective coordination with the national Permanent Representation in Brussels. There are about 3 years left for us to develop our institutional and organizational capacity and to develop strategies for successful leadership of the EU during the Presidency term of Bulgaria.

If carefully planned and utilized, the Presidency mandate will provide Bulgaria with the opportunity to put forward some of its strategic priorities into the center of the political agenda of the Union. This is how Sweden developed its transparency policy priority within the EU institutions, Finland enhanced the Nordic dimension and regional cooperation, while Portugal carried out the EU-Brazil summit meeting.

The Presidency of the EU provides an additional stimulus for Bulgaria to achieve better results on some benchmarks related to EU funds adoption and reforms in the area of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism, for instance.
And importantly, the rotational Presidency of Bulgaria will be an opportunity to focus the national political and civic attention on the European politics, EU’s agenda. This is of great importance for a country like Bulgaria which remains in the periphery of the European political debate.

What should Bulgaria do by 1 July 2018?

– Elaborate a strategic vision for the development of its priority sectors – sectors on whose potential Bulgaria will build its socio-economic development. These may be energy, bio-agriculture, or tourism, or even the IT sector or cultural industries.
– Develop and initiate a series of projects and initiatives which bridge these national priorities and the European agenda. These projects need to cover the entire period until 2018.
– To maintain active diplomatic relations with its European partners and to be established as a reliable participant in the European political process.
– To develop leadership capacities within the administration of all ministries with negotiation, mediation and coordination skills.
– To develop the institutional capacity of ministries for networking within European policy networks and for coordination with a broad range of partners.
– To adopt a clear and well-functioning rotation system for the civil servants from Bulgarian state institutions within the European structures in order to secure a sufficient number of civil servants with direct experience in European institutions.
– To develop a communication programme for its Presidency, including an attractive logo, motto, online vision, etc.

POLICIES FOR DEVELOPMENT works in the sphere of European policies and the preparation of Bulgaria for the rotation Presidency mandate in 2018. You can find out more about our work in the field of the preparation of Bulgaria for EU Presidency in our Projects and Blog sections.

You can download our new policy paper on the Bulgarian Presidency 2018 (in Bulgarian) from HERE.