Bulgaria will complete its six month stint at the helm of the Council of the EU defying its worst critics, as the process went without major glitches and obvious gaffes. Given the poor state of the Bulgarian public administration and the appalling quality of the Bulgarian political class, neither of which have the resources, nor the brain power and experience demonstrated by other EU member states, the presidency could be regarded as a success. It is true that the bar was set very low but Bulgaria could have stumbled even at such a low hurdle.
However, none of the loftier goals was achieved either. Sofia hoped that its presidency of the Council of the EU would help it make a breakthrough in its strained efforts to finally enter the EU's Schengen borderless area, to make a decisive step towards the euro zone and to receive a promise that the humiliating EU monitoring of its justice system will be terminated.
There are two lessons Sofia should draw from Bulgaria's presidency of the Council of the EU. First, flexing muscles for a short period of time doesn't help remove the fat accumulated over the years. The perception of Bulgaria as a corrupt and poorly managed country lacking strategic vision could be improved through hard workout only.
Second, as it was the case with Bulgaria's EU accession negotiations more than ten years ago, the presidency showed that Bulgarian authorities can manage a fairly complex task, if there is an external guiding force, be it the EU or NATO. The Bulgarian political class alone is unable to set a strategic course to be followed, it always reaches out for the low hanging fruits and explains its failures with some mythical external forces. After the presidency is over, its six-month burst of energy will be gone and Sofia will again fall in a deep sleep. Unfortunately, there is not much hope that something will change anytime soon.