Bulgarian President Rossen Plevneliev said on November 7 2013 that he had vetoed amendments adopted by Parliament in October to the Foreigners Act and Citizenship Act that would enable non-EU citizens to get permanent residence in Bulgaria for making a million-leva five-year investment.
The President supports all efforts by all institutions to create a favourable environment for investment in Bulgaria’s economy, which was a national priority, “but it should not be at the expense of national security,” Plevneliev’s office said.
A similar provision was in Bulgarian law before early 2013 when it was rescinded for reasons of national security after security services warned that it was being abused by being circumvented.
The amendments did not prevent the possibility of a foreigner who had got permanent residence by investing a million leva then using that amount as collateral for a loan which could in turn be used by others to get residence permits.
The money may be invested in a formal credit institution, but it achieved no real effect on the economy, the Presidency said.
“The President supports the creation of opportunities for attracting foreign investment, but provided there are legislative guarantees against circumvention,” the statement said.
The legislation as adopted did not provide a mechanism against abuse of the right of permanent residence of foreigners, and nor did it create the conditions to encourage real investment in the economy, sustainable positive growth and job creation.
Plevneliev also sent back to the 42nd National Assembly the arrangement regarding the acquisition of Bulgarian citizenship by which someone who has become a permanent resident through investment can apply a year later to become a Bulgarian citizen.
The weakness of the legislation on permanent residence was transferred to the facilitation of the acquisition of Bulgarian citizenship, the statement said.
An assessment on whether to grant citizenship could not and should not be based solely on financial reasons. It was for this reason that Plevneliev had vetoed at the end of 2012 (at the time of the previous government) Investment Promotion Act amendments, the Presidency said.
The leading consideration had to be the merit of the person to the Republic of Bulgaria and the interest that the state had in, through naturalisation, creating the legal relationship between state and citizen.
“Safeguards against abuse of law in acquiring Bulgarian citizenship are extremely important.”
Further, a foreigner who became a Bulgarian citizen also became an EU citizen, leading to the acquisition of political and economic rights and freedoms, including the right to move and reside freely in other EU member tates.
“Bulgaria as a member of the Union , which wants to become part of the Schengen area, has its duties and responsibilities, requiring the creation of effective safeguards against circumvention,” the President’s office said.
Plevneliev believed that further consideration of the law by the National Assembly would contribute to the improvement of the legal framework of the institution of permanent residence and the acquisition of citizenship by naturalisation .
Threats to national security and the ability to easily circumvent the law should be eliminated.
“New discussion will provide an opportunity for arguments to be heard for the protection of national security in accordance with the principles of openness and co-operation between government institutions,”the Presidency said.
Under Bulgaria’s constitution, the President’s veto is not absolute and may be overriden by a simple majority of the members of the National Assembly.