Bulgaria at the Bottom of the European Sovereignty Index, with Gaps in the Economy, Defense and Technology

World » EU | June 8, 2022, Wednesday // 08:46
Bulgaria: Bulgaria at the Bottom of the European Sovereignty Index, with Gaps in the Economy, Defense and Technology @Wikimedia Commons

According to the new instrument of the ECFR - the European Sovereignty Index, Bulgaria is among the weakest links in the concept of European sovereignty, with significant gaps in the economy, defense and technology.

European sovereignty is "good" in the areas of health and the economy, "satisfactory" in defense, climate and migration, and "weak" in technology. This shows the new ECFR index, which compares Member States' contributions and progress in implementing key policies.

In three areas, technology, climate and defense, the EU is much better at making promises and commitments than it is at having the capacity to deliver. This is a signal of strong political will, hampered by a lack of resources or the failure of European leaders to deliver on their messages.

Bulgaria, along with Hungary, is among the least performing countries, with an average score of 3.8 out of 10. Our country does not achieve a "good" result in any area.

The new ECFR instrument, the European Sovereignty Index, examines the extent to which each Member State is fulfilling its potential to contribute to European sovereignty in six key areas: climate, defense, economy, health, migration and technology. The analysis is based on contributions within the EU and other enhanced cooperation initiatives. The index allows the reader to be informed about the specific trends and profiles of the Member States, to trace the differences between them, as well as the main strengths and weaknesses of each country.

Concerns about Russian and Chinese economic influence

In terms of the economy, the index shows that the EU as a whole is able to pursue trade and investment policies without fear of harmful consequences from Moscow and Beijing. The average score is 6.2 out of 10. There are significant discrepancies between countries, 8 of which show poor results due to dependence or close ties with Russia and China. According to the ECFR, this could create problems, as many of the EU's economic policy decisions - such as sanctions against Russia or the common policy towards China - are adopted unanimously.

Commitments against abilities

In three areas, technology, climate and defense, the EU is much better at making promises and commitments than it is at having the capacity to deliver. This is a signal of strong political will, hampered by a lack of resources or the failure of European leaders to deliver on their messages.

In terms of "climate sovereignty", the EU's result is "satisfactory" - 5.4 out of 10, and raises concerns about the EU's ability to meet its climate goals while minimizing geopolitical risks. Countries are praised for their progress towards a green transition with a focus on energy supply and their importance for the role of European leaders in the global green transition. Overall, the ECFR found significant differences in country performance. Sweden received 7.8 points and Romania 3.5. This indicates significant divergences in Member States' attitudes towards EU climate goals. The data suggest that while European commitments to climate sovereignty, in particular by citizens, are high, countries' capabilities in this area are limited.

According to the ECFR’s European Sovereignty Index:

The EU is relatively well prepared to withstand another health crisis. The score for health sovereignty is 6.7 out of 10. However, there are significant differences in the individual results of the countries, with Central and Eastern European countries scoring much lower than the countries in the north. Germany, which marks 8.6, is becoming a leader in European health sovereignty. Denmark (7.9), Luxembourg (7.7), the Netherlands (8.1) and Sweden (7.6) also performed well, followed by France (7.2) and Belgium (7.3). The weakest results are in Romania (4.0) and Bulgaria (4.1), Poland (4.4) and Latvia (4.6). These four countries have high levels of vaccine hesitation and distrust of science.

The EU as a whole is able to pursue trade and investment policies without fear of harming other major powers, but the spectrum of influence between Beijing and Moscow remains high. With a score of 6.2, the "economy" is the second largest area of ​​European sovereignty, but the ECFR warns that Germany, the strongest economy in the EU, is not performing well. This is partly due to the German vulnerability of the Chinese and Russian lobbies. Three countries - Bulgaria, Hungary and Cyprus, have poor results in this category (less than 4 points). This reflects excessive dependence on China and Russia, a tendency to lobby abroad and a lack of safeguards (such as foreign direct investment screening and anti-corruption measures). Similarly, despite strong political and public support for European economic sovereignty, Italy and Poland are receiving satisfactory results (between 5 and 6). In contrast, the Netherlands leads thanks to The Hague's ties to international trade and investment and its support for investments that strengthen the EU's resilience, including economic sanctions against Russia.

With regard to climate sovereignty, Member States note an overall score of 5.4. This indicator raises concerns about the Union's ability to meet its commitments to the Green Deal while minimizing geopolitical risks. The three countries with the best results are Sweden, Denmark (7.5 points each) and Finland (6.6), followed by Portugal, Austria and Luxembourg. Bulgaria scores 4.0 points.

Despite a strong political will to lead in digital innovation, Europe is lagging behind in terms of technological capacity. This is the weakest area of ​​European sovereignty, with an overall score at EU level of 4.8. On average, Member States score significantly higher in terms of engagement than in terms of ability with an overall score of 6.7 compared to an overall score of only 3.0. None of the five major European countries - Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Poland - reached the third leading overall.

There is a North-South division in the digitalization category. Finland, Luxembourg and Sweden are champions in Europe with a total score of 7.4, 7.1 and 6.8 while Romania, Hungary and Slovakia are at the bottom of the rankings with scores not higher than 3.4.

Member States continue to view migration through a national lens, and no country contributes significantly to the Union's sovereignty in this area. Sweden, the country with the highest number of refugees per capita, tops the list with a score of 6.3. The total for the EU is 5.2. Germany, which took the lead in the public debate on migration in 2015, is second with a score of 6.2, next to Malta.

With the exception of Germany, the Big Five have failed to strengthen European sovereignty in the field of migration. France's ranking in 19th place reflects the dominant role of the far right in the country's national debate, while Italy, in 22nd place, faces a large number of arrivals by sea. Poland is in last place. This is not surprising given the government's actions during previous crises and skepticism about migrants outside Europe, despite Poland's efforts in the current crisis with Ukrainian refugees.

Europe has limited capabilities to respond to crises and conflicts in neighboring regions without US military assistance. The overall score for defensive sovereignty is moderate - 5.9. There is a significant division between the Member States - Ireland scores 2.1 and France scores 8.7. This is the biggest difference between the first and the last in the whole study.

There is strong public support and political will for European defense sovereignty, but weak capabilities. Member States give on average twice as high results for engagement than capabilities. Exceptions are Denmark, Sweden, Italy, Spain and Greece, which receive approximately the same number of points for both.

France's single lead (8.7) on European sovereignty in defense suggests that Macron has so far failed to convince other Europeans of his vision of "sovereignty in defense". Germany, in second place, is almost two points behind.

The ECFR's European Sovereignty Index emphasizes that in the face of major international challenges, from the war in Ukraine to climate change and US-China tensions, the EU should play a key role in the world order. The index shows that although Europeans are well aware that the best way to achieve this is by building European sovereignty, they still do not share the concept and understanding of the consequences. This is true of European defense sovereignty and could change significantly in the light of the crisis in Ukraine. In fact, several member states have already announced plans to increase national defense spending, and Sweden and Finland have announced their intention to join NATO.

According to the Index, the EU must be ready to overcome obstacles coming both from within and from its international partners. For example, Turkey's recent threat to veto Finland and Sweden's NATO membership, as well as its hostility in renegotiating the EU's refugee package in Syria in 2021, should serve as a warning signal. Belarus' decision in the winter of 2020-2021 to transport people to the Polish border. The ECFR index shows that when it comes to migration, most EU countries are to blame for the EU's overall mediocre performance in this area. There is therefore a real need for greater cooperation and collective European responses in this area.

Jana Puglierin, Head of Research and Principal Investigator at the ECFR, said:

"The events of recent years - the deterioration of China-US relations, the pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine - have made it clear that Europe must build and uphold its sovereignty. This does not mean that Europe should look only at itself or withdraw from the world stage. Rather, it is about increasing the capacity to manage complex interdependencies, such as the EU-27 relying on the United States for its security or individual member states' relations with Russia. This will enable the EU to address key global challenges and enable it to shape the emerging world order."

Pawel Zerka, a researcher at the ECFR and co-author of the report, adds:

"In the nascent global order, Europe must be able to act on its principles and values ​​without being harassed by others. This requires its own capabilities and reliable alliances; openness and resilience; some strategic defenses, but without protectionism. For the EU to succeed, all Member States must give their fair share, and the EU cannot afford weak links that others could use to break up the Union."

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