Turkish membership perspective currently discussed

Bul­gar­ia has always declared sup­port for the acces­sion efforts of present day can­di­date coun­tries. Although Iceland’s mem­ber­ship does not con­sti­tute an issue in pub­lic debate, atten­tion is focused on the steps under­tak­en by Turkey and Croa­t­ia to speed up their nego­ti­a­tions. Croa­t­ia is expect­ed to lead the way to the next enlarge­ment round. Gov­ern­ment offi­cials have declared Bulgaria’s sup­port for Croatia’s mem­ber­ship sev­er­al times. More­over, pub­lic opin­ion lead­ers share the view that Croatia’s acces­sion will open up prospects for future con­crete steps in the inte­gra­tion of the oth­er West­ern Balkan coun­tries.11Avail­able at: http://www.expert-bdd.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=747&Itemid=38 (last access: 30 July 2010).

In par­al­lel with this, the For­eign Min­istry is start­ing a review of Bulgaria’s pol­i­cy towards the West­ern Balka­ns, which is one of the pri­or­i­ty areas in Bul­gar­i­an for­eign pol­i­cy. Bul­gar­ia is also ambi­tious to take part in the debate about a new approach towards the region, as well as to help the “the inter­nal motors” of reform start in the coun­tries there.

The ques­tion of Turkey’s mem­ber­ship in the EU is a del­i­cate and prob­lem­at­ic issue for the Bul­gar­i­an gen­er­al pub­lic because of his­tor­i­cal, geo­graph­ic, demo­graph­ic and eco­nom­ic rea­sons. One polit­i­cal par­ty – Inter­nal Mace­don­ian Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Organ­i­sa­tion (IMRO) – is lead­ing a “Stop Turkey’s Road to the EU” cam­paign. Par­ty boss­es claim they have col­lect­ed more than 320,000 sig­na­tures in sup­port of their ini­tia­tive.22Avail­able at: http://dariknews.bg/view_article.php?article_id=561040 (last access: 30 July 2010). IMRO was the first organ­i­sa­tion in Bul­gar­ia to take the oppor­tu­ni­ty envis­aged in the Law on Direct Civic Par­tic­i­pa­tion in the state and local gov­ern­ment, which empow­ers cit­i­zens to ini­ti­ate con­sul­ta­tions, and fought against Turkey’s mem­ber­ship in the EU. The par­ty failed to gath­er the 500,000 sig­na­tures bind­ing the nation­al assem­bly to call a ref­er­en­dum. Their peti­tion involved 322,526 peo­ple and, since the thresh­old of 200,000 is over­come, the par­lia­ment now has three months to decide upon the initiative.

Experts assess the IMRO ini­tia­tive as an attempt by IMRO to get out of pub­lic silence as it failed to get seats in the par­lia­ment after the last gen­er­al elec­tions held in July 2009. In such a con­text, the Min­is­ter of For­eign Affairs Niko­lay Mlade­n­ov has made a few pru­dent state­ments that Turkey’s road to join­ing the EU is “too long” and, as a new mem­ber state, Bul­gar­ia is not going to lob­by for any of the can­di­date coun­tries.33Avail­able at: http://www.dnevnik.bg/evropa/razshiriavane (last access: 30 July 2010).

The gen­er­al pub­lic in Bul­gar­ia is aware that the issue of Turkey’s acces­sion is not in the cur­rent polit­i­cal agen­da of the EU. The wide­spread view points out the fact that putting the cart before the horse and destroy­ing neigh­bour­hood rela­tions with Turkey is a short-sight­ed pol­i­cy in this situation.

The East­ern Part­ner­ship (EaP) and the Union for the Mediter­ranean are still assessed by experts as two inter­linked projects whose devel­op­ment is very much depen­dant on the sup­port big EU mem­ber states pro­vide for one at the expense of the oth­er.44Nikolov, Sime­on: One Year East­ern Part­ner­ship: A Chance or a Risk?, in: Expert elec­tron­ic jour­nal, Bul­gar­i­an Diplo­mat­ic Asso­ci­a­tion, avail­able at: http://www.expert-bdd.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=889&Itemid=38 (last access: 30 July 2010). The EaP is con­sid­ered to be a tool for sta­bil­i­sa­tion of the EU neigh­bour­hood in the East. An impor­tant defi­cien­cy of the tool is that it does not pro­vide EU mem­ber­ship per­spec­tives for the east Euro­pean part­ners. Nev­er­the­less, Bul­gar­ia should focus on the eco­nom­ic and infra­struc­ture aspects of the EaP as far as EU sup­port for the pipeline and ener­gy projects will pro­vide for the fur­ther sta­bil­i­sa­tion of the region.

The reports focus on a report­ing peri­od from Decem­ber 2009 until May 2010. This sur­vey was con­duct­ed on the basis of a ques­tion­naire that has been elab­o­rat­ed in March and April 2010. Most of the 31 reports were deliv­ered in May 2010.

The EU-27 Watch No. 9 receives sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing from the Otto Wolff-Foun­da­tion, Cologne, in the frame­work of the ‘Dia­log Europa der Otto Wolff-Stiftung’, and finan­cial sup­port from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion. The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion is not respon­si­ble for any use that may be made of the infor­ma­tion con­tained therein.