Bulgarian President Rossen Plevneliev said that he would not appear before a special parliamentary committee set up to investigate his meeting with a senior EVN official in Austria, saying that this was not because he had anything to hide but because he declined to legitimise an action that was unconstitutional and undemocratic.
The ad hoc committee was voted into existence in a political stunt by the Bulgarian Socialist Party, Movement for Rights and Freedoms and far-right ultra-nationalists Ataka in their continuing campaign to try to discredit Plevneliev and in a populist drive against foreign-owned energy distribution companies in Bulgaria.
Ataka proposed the formation of the committee and, in apparent collusion with the BSP and the MRF, Ataka MP Magdalena Tasheva was elected its chairperson.
Plevneliev held the meeting with a senior EVN official during an official visit to Austria. A belated addition to the programme, it was not announced in advance, prompting hysterical coverage by pro-government media and Ataka about Plevneliev’s “secret meeting” with the electricity distribution company.
Bulgaria’s government is driving a campaign against the foreign-owned electricity distribution companies, with the state regulator having initiated a procedure to rescind their licences. It was this issue that Plevneliev discussed with EVN.
After the committee was formed, with only centre-right opposition party GERB voting against it, constitutional experts said that it was constitutionally illegitimate because Parliament has oversight only over the executive branch of government, of which the head of state is not a part.
Speaking on May 11 to local television station bTV, Plevneliev said, “Do you believe that if my meeting was not with EVN, but with (Russian gas company) Gazprom, there would be a committee in the EU?”
He pointed to the double standards of wanting to take away the licences of companies alleged to be “colonisers” (Plevneliev was referring to an epithet commonly used by Ataka against the foreign-owned companies) while allowing other companies to write their own legislation. This latter reference by Plevneliev was to allegations that amendments to Bulgaria’s Energy Act affecting the South Stream transit company were written by the South Stream transit company itself.
Plevneliev described the setting up of the parliamentary ad hoc committee as a deliberate act to undermine the democratic foundations of the Bulgarian state, affecting the balance between the government and the institution of the Presidency.
He said that as President, he could not lobby, but the issue of the licence of EVN had been raised sharply by his Austrian counterpart and other senior politicians. Plevneliev said that the actions against the electricity distribution comapnies were conscious actions that would damage the investment climate in Bulgaria.
Plevneliev issued a reminder that a year ago, the caretaker government, the European Commission, the electricity distribution companies and the World Bank had raised the issue of problems in the Bulgarian energy sector.
With regard to the meeting with the head of EVN, Plevneliev said that such meetings also had been held by the prime minister and another cabinet minister.
Plevneliev said that he also had met with Bill Gates, the deputy director of Amazon, the Bosch manufacturers and other companies. He wondered if all these managers would be called before the committee headed by Tasheva.