On January 1, a decade after its accession to the EU, Bulgaria will take over from Estonia the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union for the first time.
For six months Bulgaria will be the main driving force in shaping the EU’s policy agenda and has announced its key priorities for this role.
These have been outlined as the future of Europe and young people, security and stability in Europe, the Western Balkans and the digital economy.
Under the motto ‘united we stand strong’, these priorities are established around the delivery of security, stability and solidarity for the EU.
While we in the UK are navel-gazing about the Brexit negotiations, there is a mistaken belief that the rest of the EU is as obsessed, but things could hardly be further from the truth. The EU moves on, delivering on the practical solutions that will deliver a more competitive, flexible and successful EU. While the outcomes of this will clearly impact and benefit the UK, with Brexit the UK is now but a bit-player on the EU stage.
Next year will be a key year when it comes to EU enlargement. So while the UK will be exiting the largest single market in the world, two nations in the Western Balkans look set to be the top candidates for the next round of enlargement – Serbia and Montenegro.
Security and migration policies are also key matters that will be debated. The Presidency will work towards solutions in the area of asylum policy and in short and long-term measures aimed at the source of migration, not only at the consequences thereof. Greater emphasis will also be given to security, whereby there will be a focus on strengthening border controls, on the exchange of information between the various bodies, and on prevention.
There will also be a renewed focus on the delivery of the single digital market, including a focus on electronic communication and cyber-security.
There is a certain irony that as the EU enlarges and debates crucial matters which will have such a profound impact on the UK, the UK will be preparing to pick up the ball and walk off the field.
Alex Orr is a board member of the European Movement in Scotland