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THE SLOVAK PRESIDENCY OF THE COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION... The Bulgarian priorities within the framework of the Slovak Presidency In late July, 2016, the Bulgarian government adopted a report on Bulgaria’s participation in the EU decision-making process during the Dutch Council Presidency (January-June, 2016), as well as on the main priorities that are going to be in the focus of attention during the current Slovak Presidency, which began in early June, 2016, and will continue until the end of the year. This document incorporates the Six-Month Programme of the European Affairs Council (EAC) which deals with the Bulgarian priority topics and dossiers designed for the Slovak Presidency’s mandate of the Council of the European Union. This programme has been drawn up for the purpose of focusing the Bulgarian efforts upon upholding this country’s national interests and national positions on all the issues of Bulgarian interest that have been included in the Council agenda for the Slovak Council Presidency. The programme makes it clear that Bulgaria has focused its efforts on a couple of issues of key significance to this country: encouraging economic growth and employment, better management of the migration processes, establishing an energy union, a single digital market, and EU enlargement in the direction of the Western Balkans. 15 Irrespective of its full support to the priorities of the Slovak Presidency, Bulgaria still has some reservations about the messages that are being sent by the “Visegrad Four”, including by Slovakia as an important member of this group. Bulgaria is against the idea of putting up a border between the Republic of Macedonia and Greece for the purpose of stopping the refugees. The Bulgarian position is that the European Union has to act as a unified whole but it must also have a common European decision on the way in which the refugee-and-migration crisis has to be dealt with. This is a well-balanced position that has to be maintained by this country after it assumes the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Conclusion The Slovak Presidency of the Council of the EU has been assigned with the serious task to work for a pan-European consensus in a period of a serious crisis in the trust and confidence in the European Union, as well as a refugee-and-migration crisis that threatens the very integrity of the EU. The key message issued by the EU Member States was that “the European Union is not a perfect structure. It is, however, the best instrument available to us, so that we could be able to respond to the challenges that we face today (..) We are firmly convicted to make the EU-27 a success by building jointly superstructures over our common history.“ 16 It is this particular message that we have to remember and we should never let this message be moved to the background by any internal party, national or religious interests. The European Union is in a decisive period of its own development in which any testing of the “advantages” of disintegration is going to put its own future existence at stake. 15 Report of the Committee on European Affairs and Oversight of the European Funds (CEAOEF) on the Annual Working Programme of the Bulgarian National Assembly concerning the European Union issues – March 9, 2016. 16 The Bratislava Declaration – September 16, 2016. DIPLOMACY 18/2016 141

THE SLOVAK PRESIDENCY OF THE COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION... References 1. The Treaty on European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union – The Lisbon Treaty – consolidated texts and commentaries (compiled and edited by Zakharieva, Y., Semov, A., and Khristev, Kh.), European Law Papers Library, “St. Kliment Ohridsky” University Publishers. 2. The European Parliament (2016). Robert Fico’s speech during an EP plenary session – August 3, 2016, Strasbourg. 3. The European Parliament (2016). Debate with Slovak Prime Minister Fico about the Slovak Presidency of the Council of the EU – July 5, 2016. 4. The European Council (2016). President Donald Tusks’ letter prior to the Bratislava Summit – September 13, 2016. 5. The European Council (2016). The Bratislava Declaration and Road Map – September 16, 2016. 6. The European Council (2016). President Donald Tusks’ notes after the first day of the European Council’s meeting – October 20, 2016. 7. The European Council (2016). European Council conclusions – October 20-21, 2016. 8. The Bulgarian Parliament (2016). CEAOEF’s report on the Parliament’s Annual Programme concerning the EU issues – March 9, 2016.. 9. Continuing work on the strategic programme – the 18-month Council Programme (January 1, 2016 - December 30, 2017). 10. Council of the European Union (2016). Programme of the Slovak Presidency of the Council of the European Union – 1 July - 31 December 2016. Gergana Radoykova has a PhD in European studies from the “St. Kliment Ohridsky” University of Sofia and works currently as a part time lecturer at the Political Science Department of the said university. Her research interests focus on the leadership and accountability deficit on a European and a national level, on Bulgaria’s participation in making up the EU agenda, and on the varied mechanisms for citizens’ participation in the political process. 142 ДИПЛОМАЦИЯ 18/2016

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