Bulgarian President Rossen Plevneliev delivered an address on January 21 recapping his first year in office, outlining key priorities for the presidency in the coming year.
Predictably, Plevneliev opened his prepared remarks with a comment on the attack against Movement for Rights and Freedoms leader Ahmed Dogan, which happened during a party conference on January 19.
“This is an assault not only against the political leader of a party represented in Parliament, but an attack against the democratic values and foundations of our society and state. Bulgaria’s society has always been proud of its tolerance and democratic political culture. As the head of state and the embodiment of the nation’s unity, I will follow closely reactions and developments in this case and I will do everything in m y power to prevent the propagation of hatred and increased political tension in our country and society,” Plevneliev said.
The next consultative council on national security, scheduled for February 5, will discuss the attack on Dogan, as well as the terrorist attack at Bourgas Airport in July 12, when a suicide bomber killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver, he said.
The two events marked the first year of Plevneliev’s term in office, he said, their negative impact potentially to be felt for years to come.
Concerning the consultative council on national security as an institution, Plevneliev said that the council now met in accordance with clear-cut rules, which were absent previously – all part of a wider initiative to reform intelligence services. Four draft bills that will, for the first time, regulate the activity of intelligence services have been tabled in Parliament: “We are determined to put an end to the status quo in the activity of these services, carefully maintained for 23 years – of working ‘in the dark’, without any legislative or public oversight.”
On appointments to top positions in the judiciary, Plevneliev said: “We have put in place a new approach in the appointment of Constitutional Court judges and the prosecutor-general. Until now, the choice would always come down to one candidate, put forth at the last hour. This has changed and, for the first time, the conditions were created for competition, transparency, as well as a public debate on conceptions, candidates and ideas.”
On energy efficiency, one of his priorities singled out when taking office, he said: “For the first time, innovation, energy efficiency and energy diversification have been put forth as strategic national priorities by the presidency. I am glad that in 2012 we made a breakthrough in diversifying energy routes for Bulgaria and our economy.”
Another first was the broadcasting online of all meetings of advisory councils to the presidency (the exception being those on national security).
“We said a decisive ‘no’ to the dependencies of the totalitarian regime and a categorical ‘yes’ to the voice of the civil society and young people. An example of that is the veto imposed on the Forestry Act, the appointment of many young professionals in the presidential institution and, of course, our numerous internship programmes,” Plevneliev said.
In addition to an active foreign policy inside the EU and Nato, Bulgaria made every effort to keep the Balkans on the European agenda, he said, including through meetings with many heads of state of neighbouring countries, including the Macedonian and Serbian presidents (twice each), as well as the presidents of Montenegro, Kosovo, Albania, Greece and Turkey.
“We stand firmly behind the European future of the Western Balkans, based on a pragmatic approach, good neighbourly relations, defending European values. I was being honest when in public and in front of the European commissioner for enlargement, I disagreed with the European Commission report on Macedonia concerning good neighbourly relations. I have declared that manipulation of history and politics by Skopje is dangerous because it creates a grand past instead of offering solutions for the future,” Plevneliev said.
On the election of a new Patriarch of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, he said: “As president, I will guarantee that politicians will not interfere and stay away from church matters […] We hope that the Bulgarian Orthodox Church will make its wise choice; we need a strong and united church that will work towards the spiritual development of the nation, a keeper of its morals and traditions.”
Speaking about the presidency’s priorities for the second year of his term, Plevneliev said: “I want to direct everyone’s attention so that we can find joint solutions for Bulgaria’s three biggest problems.
“The first is the deficit of justice in the society; the second is the insufficient continuity and build on existing foundations; the third is the demographic problem.
“We will organise public discussions and have a month of political consultations – together with political parties we will discuss their programmes ahead of the parliamentary elections in 2013 and what solutions they might offer for those problems.”
(President Rossen Plevneliev and Vice President Margarita Popova. Photo: president.bg)