Among past and future candidate countries, Bulgaria rates among the most pro-European countries. (3) Studies on the public discourse relating to Europe have been conducted for some Central European states. (4) While there are studies concerning Bulgaria's political and economic efforts in joining the EU (5), as well as general analysis of Bulgarian political discourses in post-communism (6), no study focuses specifically on the public, intellectual or political discourse about Europe. This article argues that the pro-European stance of the Bulgarian electorate, prior to EU accession, was due to a public consensus constructed around a positive discourse towards Europe. The Bulgarian public was bombarded with a glorifying message about belonging and identity guarantees rather than with specific knowledge about the EU (i.e. EU policies, EU institutions) or the impact of accession (in terms of both costs and benefits). Thus, the public was presented with a picture of the EU as a lost paradise capable to deliver Bulgaria of its current predicaments (be they economic through investments, social through jobs, political through guarantees of security or cultural by acknowledging its European identity). Such unbalanced discourse carried a promise of a better life without any contractual obligations hence the electorate sees no inconvenience in supporting it. Though securing policy continuity despite change of government, such discourse however was vulnerable precisely because of its monolithic political consensus and therefore its susceptibility to lead to a radicalization of an alternative discourse.
We focused upon two sources of public discourse, namely the Bulgarian political elite and the Bulgarian intellectuals. The construction of discourses, their impact, their single or multiple meanings are dependent upon contextual factors and influences, such as the social and political settings, historical circumstances, and the ideological environment. Avoiding exclusive focus on the "message," we also analyze the "author" (i.e. intellectuals, political elites, and media) and its imprint on the communication process. The method applied is both context- and text- sensitive, as well as reflective of the author-reader relation. The identification of the main ideas (i.e. belonging, Europe as a goal, as a policeman) present in the public discourse as well as the similarities and differences between them was followed by a linguistic analysis.
Data was archive based and draws upon magazine and newspaper articles collected from online records of Kultura magazine, from the on-line archive of internet newspaper Mediapool and archives of Trud, Dnevnik and Kapital newspapers. The selection was made on the basis of circulation and significance in terms of discursive sources. The timeframe spans from the beginning of 2002 until spring 2005, encompassing the process and conclusion of negotiations with the EU, which also coincides with the mandate of the NDSV (National Movement for Simeon II) government.
The Importance of Discourse
Politically, post-communist transition happened at both institutional and discursive level. (7) The political mythology of communism included myths such as the classless society and the new man (or what Alesandr Zinoviev called Homo Sovieticus), the fight against nature, the reinvention of history. (8) The ability of the regime to control discourse was essential for its survival. Not only had its role to be beyond question, so had to be its words. (9) The fall of communism led to a discursive vacuum and post-communism needed its own language both to replace a defunct vocabulary and to address the collective fears, passions, illusions, and disappointments the post-89 era faced. "Socialism," "classless society," "vanguard party," "plan," and "fearless leader" were replaced by concepts such as "democracy," "market," "nation," "Europe," and "civil society." (10)
While the other discourses that emerged post-1989 suffered through their own transition (i.e. social democracy to libertarianism, authoritarian to open society, civil society to a strong state, pluralism to republicanism, elitism to participation, nationalism to cosmopolitanism), (11) the European discourse built upon previously existing discursive formations developed into an articulate discourse in its own right.
Since "the return to Europe" was central to the anti-Party discourse (12), it is not surprising that it is precisely this discourse that gained predominance. The call for a "return to Europe" rallied masses while European integration became the priority of the new governments' foreign policies. As a political symbol, Europe implied both successful democratization and market economy. Built around ideas of European unity, peace, security, and prosperity, such discourse strongly resonates with the East European electorate seeking economic development and security guarantees. Moreover, "being European" is perceived as confirmation and official recognition of national identity (13), an important element, both morally and emotionally, for societies that for forty years lived under the domination of a foreign power.
Post-socialist societies have long anti-liberal and authoritarian traditions (14) and are prone to Salvationist and Messianic thinking, expecting salvation from unjustly inflicted sufferings from one source (be it a person or an idea) credited with magical powers. Some called the emerging post-1989 discursive narratives "fantasies of salvation." (15) The discourse related to Europe is built upon such logic: "Europe" is often personified and referred to as a savior. Moreover, "the return to Europe" resides upon the same dynamic the communist discourse used: the promise of a better future, the promise of a better standard of living. Scholars have warned however that investing such unsubstantiated hopes in "Europe" poses dangers to societies whose accession to the EU is not waged in terms of cultural proximity but rather in terms of economic performance. (16) Scholars have warned that if Europe will fail to deliver "peace, democracy, prosperity or any of the other utopias current in the post-communist world," it may lead to the rise of a discourse, constructed upon precisely the opposite dynamic, of "betrayal of Europe," which may damage the democratization processes. (17) The responsibility however should not be placed on 'Europe' but rather on those entrusting 'Europe' with such powers.
This article looks at public discourse as a determinant of the public's attitudes towards a certain topic (in this case, Europe) as we see discourse as capable to convince and determine behaviour among the receivers. We choose to operate with an inclusive definition of discourse. As such we combine Foucault's definition of discourse as "a group of statements" providing "a way of representing knowledge about a particular topic at a historical moment," producing and framing "knowledge through language" (18) with the definition of discourse as the "site where social forms of organization engage with systems of signs in the production of texts, thus reproducing or changing the sets of meanings and values which make up a culture." (19)
Ever since the Greek philosophers it has been considered that the rhetorical nature of discourse carries a persuasion component arising from the contest among the diverse discourses of different social groups. (20) European integration and in particular the Eastern enlargement have been explained through the mechanism of rhetorical action. As such, arguments based on collective identity, values, norms and practice of the Western community were successfully used to justify the opening of the accession negotiations, overcoming the material bargaining power of the opposing camp. (21) This article applies this theory to domestic politics, arguing that the discursive narrative of internal actors also based upon collective identity, sharing values and norms with the Western community determine support amongst the average electorate.
The possibility to use discourse in persuasive pursuits has allowed for linking discourse to ideology and ideological thinking. Language does not only reflect but, to a certain degree, also moulds reality. Therefore, ideology is often referred to as a semiotic and discursive phenomenon. While Marxists connect ideology with idea of illusion, distortion, and mystification, a more sociological approach sees ideology as concerned with the functions of ideas within social life, "self-promoting social powers conflict and colliding over questions central to the reproduction of social power as a whole." (22) Hence, ideology is either a way of relating to the world offering human beings the illusion of identity, dignity and morality, (23) or it is a way of drawing diverse maps to plot the same terrain or to identify and highlight what the terrain actually is. (24) While presenting it as a mystification or as a reflection of reality, definitions converge in considering ideology as a discursive narrative carrying an explanatory view of the world. A study of post-socialist societies should consider a conceptual link between ideology and discourse. Societies in transition are particularly vulnerable to ideological thinking able to provide a simplistic answer to the threatening surrounding chaos by calling for order, stability and predictability. (25) Combined with the propensity towards belief in Messianic …