16.11.2016 On November 13th, Bulgarians elected their fifth president since the 1990. Rumen Radev, a retired Airforce general, won nearly 60% of the vote compared to 36% of his opponent of the ruling party GERB. The international press noticed the elections mostly in the context of victories of perceived pro-Russian candidates, including in nearby Moldova. But in Bulgaria, the reality is more complicated and the presidential elections were accompanied by two major other events: a referendum that may change substantially the election system as well as resignation of the government with an ensuing political crisis. A new policy brief looks at the recent political developments in Bulgaria.
“Bulgaria: Supporting further cohesion” by Marin Lessenski is an essay on Bulgaria’s membership in the EU. It is part of the "Keeping Europeans together" collection of essays from the EU 28 member states, which reflect on the diversity of European cohesion.
The publication of the European Council on Foreign Relations (www.ecfr.eu) provides the national context and personal assessments of the state of cohesion from representatives of the EU member states.
The publication "Don't Panic: Findings of the European Catch-Up Index 2015" contains the main results of the new edition of the index. The index measures and ranks the performance of 35 countries –EU member states, candidate and potential candidate countries across four categories: Economy, Quality of Life, Democracy and Governance, using 47 indicators. There are five editions of the index since 2011, which provides the opportunity to identify trends and patterns in the process of development of individual countries, groups of countries and categories of the index. The index is created and maintained by the OpenSociety Institute – Sofia (www.osi.bg) and is available at www.TheCatchUpIndex.eu - on online interactive platform, where users can operate with the data. The index was offically launched at OSI-Sofia event with the kind assistance of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (read more here)
The Open Society Institute - Sofia, with the kind assistance of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, organized a discussion on „The Catch-Up Index: Are the Countries of Central and Eastern Europe Catching-up Successfully with the Rest of the EU?” with the participation of political and social scientists, economists and diplomats, with a new edition of the index available online at www.TheCatchUpIndex.eu .
A new publication of the European Policy Center in Brussels (www.epc.eu) provides a comprehensive overview of the EU enlargement process from the perspective of its member states. "EU member states and enlargement towards the Balkans" is edited by Rosa Balfour and Corina Stratulat" (EPC Issue Paper NO. 79, July 2015). It contains 17 case studies and 2 theoretical chapters. EuPI's Marin Lessenski contributed to the publication with an outlook from Bulgaria (pp.143-154). The EPC presentation of the publication says that "The European Union’s enlargement to the Balkans seems to be running on autopilot since Croatia’s accession in 2013 and amidst the on-going crisis. While the region still has a clear European perspective, progress on the dossier has been marred not just by outstanding challenges in individual Balkan countries but often also by hurdles which develop within the Union – more specifically in the member states.
In 2015, the vast majority of Bulgarians – 64,4% - continue to assess positively the EU membership of their country. About a fifth of respondents – 21,8% - assess the experience as negative. The trends have remained unchanged over the last three years with a very slight improvement in 2015 over 2014. This are some of the findings of a new EuPI policy brief, based on a survey conducted and financed by OSI-Sofia. The survey registers the attitudes of Bulgarian citizens about EU membership itself, key aspects of the membership process and key projects for the further integration into the EU such as Schengen and the Eurozone.
“A Region Disunited? Central European Responses to the Russia-Ukraine Crisis” is a new publication of the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMFUS), edited by Joerg Forbrig, Transatlantic Fellow, Central and Eastern Europe, and Director, Fund for Belarus Democracy, Berlin. The publication features the perspectives of several CEE states, including Bulgaria in "Bulgaria: Increasingly Assertive, but not Hawkish" by EuPI's Marin Lessenski (the views of the author are his own only and do not concern EuPI, OSI-Sofia or any affiliated organization).The findings say that "Europe has struggled to come to terms with the consequences of the conflict in Ukraine, and with the underlying challenge posed by Russia. Nowhere has this struggle been more obvious than in Central Europe and among the EU’s eastern-most states, which arguably should have demonstrated similar assessments of and responses to this crisis. Yet despite a shared history as Soviet satellites, still fresh transition experience, deep understanding of Eastern Europe and Russia, and geographical proximity to the conflict, this region has been surprisingly divided."
"Aligning Bulgaria's and EU's agendas: the process of catching up" is EuPI's contribution to the publication "Visions for Europe: the Bulgarian Perspective of the European Priorities" with articles by 13 Bulgarian experts on the future of the EU. It is prepared and published by MoveBG in Bulgarian and English with the financial support of the Open Society Institute - Sofia. The aim of the publication is to present the Bulgarian perspective and reading of the priorities set out in the ambitious programme of Jean-Claude Juncker for the future of the European Union, interpreted in the context of the biggest challenges in geopolitical and socio-economic plan, with emphasis on the role of democracy and civic participation in taking important decisions and achieving sustainable results.
The terrorist attacks in Paris posed again the question of threat perceptions in Europe, the image of Islam, the migrant and the Muslim population. There is also the salient issue of the implications and the policy response, raising again the dilemma between limiting liberties for the sake of security. OSI-Sofia provides its data of recent public opinion polls shedding light on some of these issues in the brief "After Paris: Public Attitudes on Radical Islam, Threats and the Liberties versus Security Dilemma in Bulgaria". Only a small part of Bulgarian citizens – 3,5% - view Muslims as a threat, with another 2,7% seeing Turks as a threat support restrictions on democracy rights and freedoms has fallen by 7,7% between 2011 and 2014 (from 53,7% to 46%) and those who would oppose it has grown by 5% in the same period (29,9% to 35,2%).
The new OSI-Sofia report "Public Attitudes Towards Hate Speech in Bulgaria in 2014"contains data from two nationally representative public opinion surveys (conducted in 2013 and 2014), which seek to measure the proliferation of and the public attitude towards hate speech. The phenomenon is widespread in Bulgaria. Over the last year almost half of Bulgarian citizens have heard statements expressing disapproval, hatred or aggression against minorities, while every fourth citizen has heard statements, which in their opinion could result in violence against minorities.
1 million Bulgarians live in other EU countries. As European citizens, they have the right to vote and to be elected in the European Parliament elections in any other EU country.The “Vote Abroad” campaign is aimed at informing the Bulgarian citizens living abroad or in Bulgaria about the European Parliament elections (22 to 25 May 2014) on when, where and how to vote.
There is more information and updates on the interactive web-site and social media:
Is Europe becoming a less cultural continent? The findings of a new Eurobarometer survey on cultural access and participation – the first on the topic since 2007 – suggest this may be the case.Although there are marked differences between Member States, in general fewer Europeans are engaging in cultural activities, as performers or spectators. The decline in participation has affected all cultural activities except cinema.
Croatia became the 28th member of the European Union at midnight Sunday (1 July), a decade after it started the process and less than 20 years after the end of its war of independence from Yugoslavia. The expansion comes at a difficult time for both the EU and Croatia (Photo: MLKR) Thousands lined the streets of the capital Zagreb to the sound of Beethoven's Ode to Joy and fireworks as the country's leaders accompanied by EU officials celebrated the event. Read it at EUObserver
Civic protests against the appointment of a controversial tycoon as head of Bulgaria’s major security agency started on June 14, 2013. A number of NGOs, OSI-Sofia among them, requested the government to revoke its decision and abide to the lawful procedures. The protests continued in defiance to the oligarchic control in the country, despite desperate measures by the government and the parties that support it.
The Guardian published an article by Ivan Krastev on January 16, 2013 about the alleged threat of Bulgarians and Romanians. Ivan Krastev debunks the myths by using OSI-Sofia study on migration, saying "There is no data suggesting that Bulgarian benefit tourists are coming to flood Britain, nor is there an indication that the Bulgarian government or media are trying to export their social problems by encouraging the poorest groups in Bulgarian society to take the plane to London.”
An article about Bulgaria in the print edition of the Economist quoted a study by OSI-Sofia on public attitudes. The article “In a rough region” from July 7, 2012 edition, with the subtitle “Once Bulgaria hoped to be like Greece; now it just hopes to survive” covers the state of Bulgaria’s economy, politics and society in mid-2012. You can read
the article here
EuPI’s Marin Lessenski was featured in Financial Times Deutchland in an article about the effects of the Greek crisis on the Balkan countries. The article “Osteuropa zittert vor der Drachme” by Hubert Beyerle, published on 01.06.2012 is available here
As Bulgaria and Romania are looking to resolving the impasse to their Schengen membership bid in 2011, an EuPI policy brief released in June illuminates the broader context and challenges to Schengen transformation and enlargement. The brief sheds a light on the facts and common (mis)conceptions about Schengen’s accession of the two new EU members. The brief also touches upon the changes in the thinking and policy planning in the EU following the critical transformations in its southern neighborhood. You can download the policy brief here
The publication contains the findings of the new edition of the Catch-Up Index. The index measures and ranks the performance of 35 countries –EU member states, candidate and potential candidate countries across four categories: Economy, Quality of Life, Democracy and Governance, using 47 indicators. There are five editions of the index since 2011, which provides the opportunity to identify trends and patterns in the process of development of individual countries, groups of countries and categories of the index.
The index is created and maintained by the OpenSociety Institute – Sofia and is available at www.TheCatchUpIndex.eu .
The report “The Gravity Effect: Findings of the European Catch-Up Index 2014” (Index 2014), presents the findings of the fourth edition of the European Catch-Up index, which measures and ranks the performance of 35 countries –EU member states, candidate and potential candidate countries across four categories: Economy, Quality of Life, Democracy and Governance, using 47 indicators, with scores from 100-0 (highest to lowest) and rankings from 1-35 (highest to lowest).
The report “It’s a Process: Findings of the European Catch-Up Index” (Index 2013), presents the findings of the third edition of the European Catch-Up index, which measures and ranks the performance of 35 countries –EU member states, candidate and potential candidate countries across four categories: Economy, Quality of Life, Democracy and Governance, using 47 indicators, with scores from 100-0 (highest to lowest) and rankings from 1-35 (highest to lowest).
The report “Aftershocks: What Did the Crisis Do to Europe?” (Index 2012), presents the findings of the second edition of the European Catch-Up index, which measures and ranks the performance of 35 countries –EU member states, candidate and potential candidate countries across four categories: Economy, Quality of Life, Democracy and Governance, using 47 indicators, with scores from 100-0 (highest to lowest) and rankings from 1-35 (highest to lowest).
The European Catch-Up Index The new European Catch-Up Index redefines the current notions about the state of the EU, Europe and the economic crisis by analyzing the performance of 35 countries in Economy, Democracy, Governance and Quality of Life.
A series of monitoring reports on the progress of Bulgaria and Romania’s accession to join Schengen were prepared and released in October 2010 and February 2011 in cooperation with the Romanian Center for European Policies (CRPE).
“The Unfinished Business of the Fifth Enlargement Countries” analyzes the problems faced by the ten new member states after their accession to the EU in eleven policy areas including political development, the economy, the healthcare system and education.
EuPI has released a series of reports within the project "The EU New Member States as Agenda Setters in the Enlarged European Union", with the "Not Your Grandfather’s Eastern Bloc" comparative policy report.
EuPI has contributed to a major report on EU-Russia relations by ECFR's Mark Leonard and Nicu Popescu