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Research Project of the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence at European Studies Department

The EU Council’s rotating presidency is one of the main institutional instruments in the Union. It contributes to the creation of the legal framework for implementing integration policies in all spheres of public life and to the promotion of European values such as democracy and equality in the structures and functioning mechanisms in this unique alliance of sovereign states, which with each passing day plays an increasingly important role in the lives of European citizens and in the contemporary global politics. This is why the EU Council’s rotating presidency is a significant participant in the process of preparing and implementing integration policies and, therefore, it deserves the special attention of academic researchers studying the EU.
The Bulgarian Presidency was a relatively short (6 months), yet a very complex stage in the work of one of the three main institutions in the EU – the Council of the EU. Its leading role in the institutional triangle was to “move forward” the European legislation or, in other words, it did some extensive work on a huge number of legislative and non-legislative dossiers as to ensure that they reach the final stage as soon as possible – namely, the adoption and implementation of the norms. The nature of the work that the EU Council’s rotating presidency takes upon, in addition to making progress on the mandatory legislative dossiers and the mandatory non-legislative dossiers, also includes a series of diverse policy initiatives with a direct impact on European integration. A very bright example in this regard was the resurrecting of the accession of the Western Balkans countries to the EU that had been neglected for the past 15 years. The Bulgarian Presidency of the EU Council has given an extremely significant impetus to this political process, the outcome of which is expected to be the next round of EU enlargement over the medium term.
Evaluation of commitments of the EU Council’s rotating presidency by each host country is always the subject of competing and even opposing interpretations since it is extremely difficult to make a comprehensive and thorough assessment of such a compound matter. The complex nature of each rotating presidency can be explained by the three main functions it aims to carry out within the six months it has at its disposal:
– maintaining close relations (discussions, debates, co-decisions, etc.) with both the other EU institutions and the member states;
– “shifting” European legislation forward through a variety of diverse intensive and distinctive social and political discussions and rigorous work to reach a compromise on the texts between all member states;
– setting and administrating ambitious political goals and initiatives, (such as the integration of the Western Balkans during the Bulgarian presidency), and introducing them to its institutional partners, thus engraving its mark on the European integration process.
This multi-layered nature of each presidency leads to the necessity of its in-depth analysis, which aims to provide a strict expert assessment, counterbalancing to those, country of party biased – tendentiously diminishing or praising – interpretations. The evaluation should be made in relation to the priorities and objectives set out in the beginning and at a later stage – in accordance with the experience of the remaining/next rotating presidencies. To this date, there have been numerous attempts to perform such an expert assessment and although each of them claims to be comprehensive and strict in its evaluation of the presidency’s level of success, what makes these evaluations insufficiently credible is the lack of a substantively justified and methodologically sound instrument that is able to prove with empirical evidence the extent to which a presidency has been successful. The fact that some members of the Jean Monnet Center of Excellence were practically involved in the work of state institutions during our EU Council’s rotating presidency, as well as the specialized research experience accumulated in previous years, allows us to undertake the extremely responsible and so far an unprecedented task of creating a transparent and analytically validated mechanism for evaluating a rotating presidency and, on that basis, to make an objective expert assessment of the outcome of the work of the Bulgarian presidency.
In the last months, our team, after examining previous experience in the EU Council’s rotating presidency evaluations, has been mainly concerned with the elaboration of a specific concept and its corresponding operationalization toolbox. The challenge here is to develop an instrument that could easily be used for the evaluation of other EU Council’s rotating presidencies, while taking into account a sufficiently comprehensive set of indicators to enable an impartial expert appraisal based on verifiable facts. The most difficult task in this case is the creation of a mathematically valid formula to serve as an evaluation benchmark for the EU Council’s rotating presidency by integrating assessments about the degree of implementation of each of the three main strands in the work of the national presidency – on legislative and non-legislative acts and political initiatives. This way, an objective, well-justified evaluation of the presidency in its integrity will also be reached. All other aspects of the work within the national EU Council’s rotating presidency such as the work program preparation, management chain setup, staff training, logistics, work with volunteers and the media, etc., are supposed to be only ancillary to the overall outcome and are – in the best case scenario – separate influence factors determining the success rate of the EU Council’s rotating presidency, and not components of the possible outcome. Therefore, the team considers that there is no need for them to be the subject of an analysis within the framework of the task to evaluate the outcome of the Bulgarian presidency.
Subject of analysis are: 213 mandatory legislative initiatives, 118 mandatory non-legislative initiatives and 34 policy initiatives that were carried out by 36 working groups, which operated within our EU Council’s rotating presidency.
In pursuance of the research task, our team developed 4 analytical tools or matrices for quantification of each dossier that was the subject of work during the Bulgarian presidency and falling within the three main groups of initiatives. The fourth matrix, through which we gather information on the legislative dossiers, systemizes the data received through interviews with the experts in the EU Council’s working groups that operated during the Bulgarian presidency. This data serves, on one hand, as a source of maximal, more reliable and in-depth information on the work of each individual dossier and, on the other hand, allows for mutual control over the results of the team’s initial qualitative analysis of legislative acts carried out by processing information from document sources – a program and a report of the Bulgarian government on our EU Council’s rotating presidency, official documents of the European Commission, the Council and the European Parliament.
Duration: October 2018 – August 2019
Participants: prof. Ingrid Shikova, prof. Georgui Dimitrov, Mirela Veleva, Kaloyan Haralampiev, Dr. Linka Toneva, Dr. Borislav Mavrov
The interviews in Brussels are organised by Yoana Borissova.
Students support team:
1. Dimana Petkova
2. Aglaya Lenkova
3. Alesandria Angelova
4. Antonia Velikova
5. Dessislava Dinkova
6. Ralena Gerassimova
7. Sandrina Georguieva
8. Simeon Stoianov
9. Victoria Ivanova
10. Iva Yotzova
11. Denitza Tzankova



The team that participates in the Jean Monnet Center of Excellence at the Department of European Studies at Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” presented the results of the first of its kind expert assessment of the Rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU, carried out by Bulgaria in the first half of 2018. 

The results of the study were presented at a press conference at the Bulgarian News Agency in July 2019, with the participation of Prof. Ingrid Shikova, head of the research team, Prof. Georgi Dimitrov, Assoc. Prof. Mirela Veleva and D. Tsankova, student at the Dept. of European Studies.

The video from the event can be viewed here.