Bulgaria’s President Rossen Plevneliev, who as head of state is also commander-in-chief, has urged “transparency and openness” in the process of a 1.5 billion leva process to acquire new fighter jets for the Air Force.
Speaking in Plovdiv on November 1, Plevneliev said that there should be no doubt that Bulgaria had secured financing and would buy new multi-role jet fighters for the needs of the armed forces.
“Let this happen in a dignified and correct manner so that we can be proud of this future investment,” Plevneliev said.
Bulgaria, a member of Nato since 2004, has been for years in the process of acquiring military jets that would meet the standards of the alliance.
Nikolai Nenchev, the latest in a series of defence ministers through a succession of governments to talk about the matter, has said that a deal could be signed by the end of 2016.
However, there have been reports, leading to questions from opposition MPs, that the parameters for the criteria for the deal are being redrafted to favour one type of aircraft and a particular deal. GERB, the majority partner in the coalition government, has countered that the project was manipulated at the time of the 2013/14 government in which Plamen Oresharski sat in the prime minister’s chair.
At the moment, a main choice appears to be between Sweden’s Gripen, which offers new multi-role fighters with a deferred payment plan, and getting used F-16s from Portugal.
The draft Budget 2017 proposed by Bulgaria’s Cabinet on October 31 envisages 231 million leva for the acquisition of fighter jets and 171 million leva to acquire multi-functional modular patrol vessels for the Bulgarian Navy. Both projects will be paid for in installments over several years.
Plevneliev called on MPs, when debating the defence budget, to show that defence and security are strategic priorities and that the funding will be provided.
He said that the government was following through on a resolution by the Consultative Council on National Security to increase funding for the armed forces.
Funding for defence is projected to reach 1.6 per cent of GDP in 2017, which Plevneliev described as “significant and well-deserved growth”.
Months ago, Plevneliev, who is not standing for re-election in the November 2016 presidential elections, took the initiative to call together the Consultative Council to get political parties to agree to increasing Bulgaria’s defence spending to the levels specified in its commitments to Nato. This initiative was largely a success in principle, with most parties represented in Parliament agreeing to the commitment.