Bulgarian head of state President Roumen Radev spelt out a critical view of the country at the September 4 opening of the new session of the National Assembly, and put forward proposals that he said would make Bulgaria a “normal European country”.
While the President is not a member of the executive, the head of state has the prerogative to address Parliament.
Radev, who routinely criticises Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s government, used the start of the National Assembly’s autumn session to describe a bleak view of the state of Bulgaria.
“Bulgaria continues to lose its most valuable wealth – the people. Many Bulgarian citizens are alienated from their own country. The key factors for effective governance are missing – transparency, accountability and accountability,” Radev told MPs.
“It is common knowledge that when power is gradually taken away from the people and concentrated in a narrow circle of people, they transform it into economic benefits and media comfort and invest it in even more power. Thus this narrow circle concretes its uncontrollable power and the vicious cycle closes. With such a formula there is no development, no security and prosperity. There is poverty, corruption and illiteracy,” he said.
Radev said that Parliament should have a leading role in reforms.
“There can be no effective government of the state – and hence prosperity, if there is no full parliamentary control over the executive,” Radev said.
The Bulgarian government is one of the few in the EU that does not follow a management programme that has received parliamentary approval after a public debate, Radev said, calling for the adoption of such a programme and for deviations from it to be debated in Parliament.
“Obviously, we need a provision that obliges the Prime Minister to appear at least once a month in the parliamentary chamber to answer general questions about government policy.”
Radev said that the Bulgarian Parliament should stop “the vicious practice of uncontrolled spending of artificially created surplus without justification and without the sanction the Parliament”.
This approach is contrary to good practice and generates conditions for corruption. I hope you agree with me here. Of course, every government must have the operational freedom to manage the budget, but it must be within a clearly regulated framework, and it is the Parliament that defines that framework.
“Increasingly, laws are changing dramatically with transitional and final provisions, avoiding public consultation and impact assessment. This brings unpredictability to the legislative process and eliminates civic participation. The expectations for the Bulgarian Parliament are for more transparency and predictability.”
Radev said that that the moment for greater independence, initiative and responsibility of local authorities through real financial decentralization is “long overdue”.
“A step in this direction will also increase the much needed civic activity by region. Currently, municipalities depend on the goodwill of the government, which is very often implemented by vague, and in most cases narrow party criteria, by any government.”
Radev also called for amending the law to empower direct democracy, allowing individuals to approach the Constitutional Court, the introduction of machine and electronic voting, and allowing Bulgarians with dual citizenship to be eligible to be members of Parliament or President.
“Unbridled high-level corruption and widespread crime, especially in small settlements, require the legislative and oversight functions of the National Assembly to focus on strengthening the rule of law, guaranteeing the physical security of Bulgarian citizens, inviolability of their property and what everyone expects. retribution for the transgressors of the law.”
There are also many measures that need to be taken to tackle poverty and the demographic crisis and to increase the competitiveness of the Bulgarian economy, he said.
He called for overcoming “the dramatic collapse in foreign direct investment” by creating a fair, stable and predictable regulatory environment, lightened administrative burdens, uncompromising fight against corruption and commitment of the state to the quality of education, healthcare, infrastructure and e-services.
This also requires a well-coordinated foreign policy between the institutions with specific and long-term objectives, subordinated to the national interest, he said.
“Bulgaria must become a normal European country – with the rule of law, with an active civil society, with transparent, accountable and responsible institutions that work effectively and in the interests of the citizens,” Radev said.
“Without these fundamental prerequisites, we will not have security; we will not have European revenues and the quality of infrastructure and public services. It is my personal conviction that the path to this end also goes through the proposals I have made. However, their implementation into decisions is entirely within the constitutional powers of the Bulgarian Parliament.”
The time for change was running out, and unless changes were made, apathy would continue to empty Bulgaria “or the street will sweep away the status quo,” Radev said./ibna