The abolition of the right of veto will significantly reduce Bulgaria’s small weight in the EU
After the holidays, children are usually told at school: “Ya-ya, how much you’ve grown!” And Bulgaria, if you look at it from Brussels, you have to say to yourself: “Ya-ya, how much I’ve shrunk!”
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz couldn’t wait until the end of the holiday season approached and on August 29 he called on his colleagues to get to work. He went to Prague, which is the rotating capital of the EU Council, to set out a program for long-term reform of the Union beyond the immediate agenda, the first item of which is the search for affordable heating energy in winter. As Germany has rapidly filled its gas reserves almost to capacity, it has decided it is time to look beyond its national concerns and reclaim the leadership role in the EU, which was taken over by French President Emmanuel Macron after the departure of former Chancellor Angela Merkel.
In his speech, Scholz proposed to carry out
and the three governing institutions of the EU: the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Council (governments) of the EU. He justified his ideas not so much with Russia’s war in Ukraine, which dominates European debates, but with … the expansion of the European Union, which is currently hypothetical. So far, no country stands on the threshold of the 27-member EU, but Scholz said: “a Union with 30 or even 36 member states will look different from our current Union.” For clarity, he listed which 9 countries he means: “I am committed to the expansion of the European Union – to include the countries of the Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro – b.r.), Ukraine, Moldova , and in the future also Georgia”. It is not known why it missed Turkey, which has the status of a candidate country, has started accession negotiations, and at least by this formal indicator it is ahead of some of the listed ones. But he added: “The center of Europe is moving east – Ukraine is not Luxembourg,” which went some way to explaining his distraction. Scholz worries that the admission of new countries into the EU, which have nowhere to come but from the east, leads to a relative reduction in the weight of the Western countries that founded the Union 65 years ago on their own measures and rules.
If at first it seemed fair that all countries should be treated equally due to their similar social, economic and political basis, the EU’s engines – Germany and France – want the new entrants to show them more respect and their voice to weigh in proportion to their more modest sizes . Therefore, after the change of the treaties, not every country would issue a European Commissioner, as it is now, and the number of deputies in the European Parliament will not increase indefinitely.
More important is the reform in the EU Council,
offered by Scholz. There and now the different weights of the states are taken into account, but only on secondary issues. In the most important respects, governments are equal because they have the right of veto.
The Treaty of Lisbon, which entered into force in 2007 (just after the two-stage Fifth enlargement of the EU with 12 countries), introduced from 2014 the double majority system. This is a type of qualified majority that brings into force the decisions proposed by the European Commission, if 55% of the member states (15 countries), representing at least 65% of the EU population, have voted for them. If the proposals emanate not from the European Commission but from governments, they will need to be supported by 72% of states (19 countries), representing at least 65% of the EU’s population.
Because a union with so many and diverse countries is forced to constantly seek compromises, almost all decisions are made by consensus, and it is rare for a qualified majority to impose its will. But just in case, some areas are explicitly stated in the Lisbon Treaty as subject to consensus only. In other words, each country can veto decisions on issues such as the opening of accession negotiations with candidate countries, their admission to the EU, tax policy, harmonization in social protection, certain clauses in the sphere of justice and home affairs (the European public prosecutor, the police cooperation), common foreign policy and security policy, European citizenship, some institutional issues such as the electoral system for the European Parliament and the determination of the place where the institutions will function, the change of treaties, etc.
To remove the veto, all countries would have to agree, ie. no one to veto. At present this seems, if not impossible, at least difficult to achieve.
What would it mean for Bulgaria?
To win her over to his idea, Scholz said: “Bulgaria and Romania must be admitted to the Schengen area.” Since 2011, the European Commission has regularly confirmed that they have met the officially announced technical criteria for membership. But at least one country – the Netherlands (with others behind it) – is vetoing it on suspicion that they will become EU Trojan horses of the corruption and organized crime they stubbornly refuse to fight. If the right of veto is lost, a qualified majority will be found to accept them in the Schengen area as they are. This is the only good news (at least for the Bulgarian kleptocracy) from Scholz’s speech.
So far, Bulgaria has invoked its right of veto in the EU only twice, which was fully justified by the position of its national interests. The first time was before the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty, when the country warned us that it would not sign it if its editors continued to tell us that the Bulgarian word “euro” is spelled “euro” to resemble the Greek ΕΥΡΩ. The protection of a Bulgarian word later gave our country a reason to request the introduction of the Cyrillic alphabet in the inscriptions on the euro banknotes, which until now were printed only in Latin and Greek letters.
just a veto threat and it still worked
A real veto was applied in 2019 against the start of accession negotiations with the Republic of Macedonia. It protected Bulgaria from injecting into the EU the manipulations of Macedonianism and opened the possibility for European protection of the Bulgarian community in the Republic of Macedonia, humiliated and harassed for nearly 80 years. Due to the undivided policy of GERB and VMRO, Bulgaria had placed itself in almost complete international isolation on this issue, but the right of veto bought it time, which gave it the opportunity to draw the attention of EU countries to its arguments, the most important of which was the protection of the human rights of the Bulgarians in the Republic of Macedonia. Without the veto, a qualified majority would easily put her in a corner.
After the previous president of the Council of the EU, France understood the validity of the Bulgarian veto, she made a proposal this spring that became consensual in the EU, and mandatory for the candidate North Macedonia. Some commentators have calmed down that the right of veto will continue to operate throughout the period of negotiations with Skopje, and have calculated that Bulgaria will be able to use it 100 more times, because the opening and closing of negotiating chapters will also go through its consent. Now Scholz told us: give up! We give you 1 but take 100 from you.
After all, Germany, which was the rotating chairman of the Council of the EU before France, failed in its efforts to break the Bulgarian barrier for the Republic of Macedonia without asking Skopje to reason.