Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev addressed the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria on November 22, noting that his speech – which was on the theme of issues and priorities in the country’s national security – coincided with the 10th anniversary of Bulgaria being formally invited to join Nato.
The state’s duty, above all, was to encourage entrepreneurialism and investment, the President said. He wanted to see more support for IT, food production and bio technology as well as greater backing for projects to stimulate investment. He wanted to make Bulgaria ” a national hub” in the ICT sector. He cited 550 new companies and 35 000 jobs being created in Bulgaria every year, a growth rate of 16 per cent per annum.
The President also promised to prioritise energy resources, food production and energy diversification and the use of potential arable land. Bulgaria needed a clear, long-term vision, he said. If it lacked certain resources, it needed a clear plan how to get them. In his previous capacity as regional development minister, Plevneliev said, he had initiated a 35-year master plan to save every drop of water by 2020. Agriculture had to be supported and he wanted Bulgaria to be a net exporter of food. He wanted to see an “integrated, competitive, liberalised energy market”. The South Stream project was particularly important in this regard, he said, reducing Bulgaria’s (current) dependence on just one pipeline. Pending discussions in Ankara between himself and Turkish counterparts would address just this issue.
Every home and office should have energy efficiency measures in place, Plevneliev said. He said one of Bulgaria’s biggest problems was its negative demographic trend. The country needed intitiatives to increase its birthrate, improve its quality of life and upgrade healthcare and education. He also vowed to make Bulgaria more attractive to foreigners.
He said he wanted to see Bulgaria’s security services regaining society’s trust. The national security system was not working as well as it should and needed to be strengthened to combat contraband, people trafficking, terrorism and corruption, he said. Cyber security was also an issue in which he took a keen interest, he said.
In the 21st century, Plevneliev said, individuals faced dangers – from potential terrorism – that had to be countered. Law enforcement and legislative bodies would have to do their job better.
The President promised support for small and medium enterprises – noting that “only highly developed economic states can guarantee their citizens’ security” – as well as NGOs and universities. Public private partnerships (PPPs) were the key to economic success, he said, because they would lessen the burden on the state budget. Today, 90 per cent of the means of production was in private hands, he noted.
Bulgaria had made great strides in the last 23 years, Plevneliev said. He recalled former president Bill Clinton’s historic visit to Sofia in 1999. Addressing hundreds of thousands of Bulgarians, Clinton had correctly reminded them that the party that ruled them was from a police state. “Nobody felt they were lagging behind because nobody was allowed to progress,” said Plevneliev. Today, everything was different. But just as Clinton, 13 years ago, had made clear that two Europes were unacceptable, a two-tier Europe today was equally unpalatable, he said.
It was almost exactly 10 years ago to the day, Plevneliev reminded his audience, that then-Nato secretary general Lord Robertson had invited Bulgaria to join Nato along with Estonia, Latvia, Romania, Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia. Plevneliev said he was proud of Bulgaria’s membership of the EU and Nato.
The president finished by stressing that the problems facing Bulgaria – indeed all countries – were no longer ideological but ones of development and security. Maximising individual freedom was the goal of all governments, he said. The question now is not whether Bulgaria will develop but how fast it will develop, he concluded.