Bulgarian business, unions unite in ultimatum to politicians to calm situation, address priorities

Bulgarian business, unions unite in ultimatum to politicians to calm situation, address priorities


By Clive Leviev-Sawyer of the Sofia GLobe

In an unprecedented joint declaration, six Bulgarian private sector and trade union organisations have called on the country’s politicians to take prompt action to calm the situation in the country and to deal with national priorities, warning that failure to do so would be met with “radical actions” before the October 5 early parliamentary elections.

Bulgaria is in a constant state of political melodrama as politicians scramble to score points, exchanging allegations of reneging on agreements, and with parliament in paralysis as the departure of a cabinet widely seen as discredited is awaited.

Bulgaria’s four national employers’ associations and the country’s two major trade union federations said in a joint statement on July 6 that politicians should stop creating tensions, and listed priorities around which politicians should unite before the National Assembly is dissolved, which it is due to do on August 6.

The private sector associations and unions called on the political parties represented in the National Assembly and the European Parliament should reach agreement before August 5 on the issue of large energy projects and on the partnership agreement with the European Union for the years up to 2020. They said they wanted to see national consensus on controversial legislation, continuity in key policies and the ensuring of financial sustainability.

The statement said that if no efforts were made by the politicians to allay the fears of Bulgarian society, the six organisations were ready for actions before the national parliamentary elections.

The statement was signed by the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), Bulgarian Industrial Association (BIA), Confederation of Employers and Industrialists in Bulgaria, the Association of Industrial Capital in Bulgaria and the Podkrepa labour federation and the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria.

The declaration called on head of state President Rossen Plevneliev to appoint a caretaker government, equidistant from the party, corporate and lobbying interests and from the presidential institution in order to ensure the preparation and fair conduct of the early elections.

The six organizations also want the caretaker cabinet to begin preparations for Budget 2015 and want the current cabinet to report on the financial position of the country at the beginning and end of its term.

The head of the Association of Industrial Capital, Vassil Vassilev, said that the joint statement was a direct message to the parties in the National Assembly – GERB, the Bulgarian Socialist Party, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms – and to those who want to be in next National Assembly – Bulgaria Without Censorship and the Reformist Bloc.

“I do not want one party-business oligarchy to replace another party-business oligarchy,” Vassilev said.

Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria head Plamen Dimitrov said that the parties in Parliament should take up the task and those who wanted to enter the next National Assembly should become part of the general consensus.

Podkrepa labour federation head Konstantin Trenchev said that partisan interests and clashes were putting the existence of the entire financial system at risk.

The unprecedented joint declaration arose after a meeting organised in response to public controversy about Bulgaria’s banking system. The placing of a major bank under central bank supervision, and an online smear campaign against another major bank, led to Bulgarian authorities issuing assurances about the stability of the banking system.

Initially, the intention had been to direct the declaration solely to President Plevneliev, but during the talks, it was agreed that the situation in Bulgaria was very serious and urgent measures were called for, which is why the statement was addressed to all major institutions.

The business and trade union organisations said that Bulgaria was in an “unprecedented” political crisis that had led to a complete collapse of confidence in the state and institutions.

BIA head Bozhidar Danev said that the least that could be expected if politicians did not comply was protests and complaints to Brussels.

Dimitrov said that the organisations had agreed that all politicians had gone beyond the pale and no one was innocent in this. Trenchev said that what had been happening in recent years was shameful and that politicians had shown that they cared for nothing but their personal interests.

Roumyana Georgieva, of the Confederation of Employers and Industrialists in Bulgaria, noted that a year ago, the confederation had called on the government to resign.

Since then, it had become clear that the confederation’s assessments and concerns were justified, she said.

Social justice and reform had not been achieved, adequate health care and education were lacking and the energy sector was collapsing. The purported millions from the budget for small and medium enterprises had not happened, Georgieva said.