The Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU) might be seen as a show staged in Brussels, but its main audience will be in Sofia. While the plot of the play revolves around midnight compromises on amendments to directives and heated debates on policy issues behind closed doors, the domestic audience will be fed with pictures of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov shaking hands with dignitaries, or the German Chancellor looking at him in the eyes. This is why the presidency will have a spokesperson in Sofia, but not in Brussels.
Whatever the hype in Bulgaria, the presidency of the Council in the first half of 2018 will be a sober and pragmatic event. Bulgarian diplomats will try to push forward several dozens of legislative acts, try to find suitable compromises and, from time to time, promote their own country's agenda. The expectations are not high. As a Bulgarian high-ranking diplomat put it: "We want to show we are no different".
Bulgaria will have the unique chance to preside over the Council of the EU when the European Commission proposes its first draft of the next multiannual budget. This is the big deal. Due to the UK's departure from the EU, the budget will need to go through a major overhaul. Bulgaria can steer the debate in the direction it prefers (albeit slightly) and might try to influence the thinking of the European Commission.
For sure, the Bulgarian presidency will have a huge audience in Bulgaria. It remains to be seen whether the show will be able to garner the same number of cheerleaders in Brussels.