University of Sussex
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Mass-elite dimensions of support for the EU in Bulgaria (1989-2007)

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posted on 2023-06-07, 15:33 authored by Lyubka Gueorguieva Savkova
This research studies mass-elite dimensions of support for the EU in Bulgaria. The scope is to fill a missing gap in the existing literatures on public opinion and party positions on European integration providing an in-depth study on a specific case of Central and Eastern Europe before accession. In order to present the most comprehensive study, the research employs quantitative and qualitative research methodologies in the form of cross tabulations of public opinion surveys, contents and discourse analysis of election programmes, parliamentary debates and elite interviews. The main research question is what the level of support was for the EU at mass and elite levels in Bulgaria during the accession process, and what the relationship between them was. The results are likely to be valid well beyond the specific interest of the research in all current member states and candidate countries. The main conclusions drawn from this project are that in Bulgaria the utilitarian and proxy models of support explain well the high degree of public support for EU membership before accession and in that respect Bulgaria conforms to the analysis of past academic contributions on public opinion in Central and Eastern Europe. At elite level European integration was perceived positively and debated in broad terms until the Copenhagen criteria for accession were formulated. In the latter part of the transition EU membership was established as a valence issue in Bulgarian party politics but the parties differed in their visions of the EU according to ideology, their coalition potential and positions in the party system. Moreover, the level of support for the EU in Bulgaria was influenced by internal (domestic) and external (EU related) factors associated with European integration. Chapters 2 and 3 of the thesis provide a contextual framework for the empirical chapters by describing the environment in which support for the EU in Bulgaria was formed and developed. Chapters 4, 5 and 6 analyse the public and elite debates on European integration. The concluding Chapter 7 builds upon the thesis’ findings by suggesting new avenues for research.


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