Bulgaria’s Parliament to resume sittings after three-party agreement
Bulgaria’s troubled National Assembly, due to be dissolved on August 6 ahead of early elections, appears set to be able to resume sittings after the Bulgarian Socialist Party and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms agreed to a GERB demand put on the agenda revisions to the national Budget and that of the National Health Insurance Fund.
The agreement was reached at talks in the Parliament building on July 8, a day before a scheduled sitting of the National Assembly, which on three consecutive days at the end of last week could not hold proceedings because of a lack of a quorum.
With far-right ultra-nationalists Ataka no longer underpinning the ruling axis of the BSP and the MRF, achieving a quorum now depends on centre-right opposition GERB, Parliament’s largest party.
Some days ago, GERB said that it would attend Parliament only for the vote to accept the resignation of the cabinet.
Boiko Borissov’s party then changed this stance, saying that it would register as present for sittings if Budget and NHIF budget revisions were put on the agenda. There has been a growing chorus of voices calling for a Budget revision, with head of state President Rossen Plevneliev adding his voice on July 7. The BSP has been isolated in resisting calls for amendments to the Budget and the NHIF.
There apparently were concerns that tabling these amendments would be an admission of failure by the government.
However, figures indicate that national Budget revenue could come in close to 1.5 billion leva short of target. Going by finance ministry data, along with the close to 300 million leva needed for the NHIF, there could be a deficit of about 1.8 billion leva.
On the basis of the same data, projections by the finance ministry in 2013 of tax revenue in 2014 far exceed reality. The ministry said that it expected an increase of two billion leva, but going by the performance so far in 2014, which brought in an increase of just 246 million leva, the year could end with an increase of only 500 million leva.
At the July 8 meeting between senior representatives of the BSP, MRF and GERB, it was agreed that a further round of consultations would be held a week later, on July 15.
Bulgarian National Radio reported BSP parliamentary group head Atanas Merdzhanov as saying that if there was a proposal to update the NHIF budget, the party was ready to take part in the deliberations.
Merdzhanov said that representatives of the BSP parliamentary group and the deputy head of the parliamentary health committee would meet representatives of the NHIF later on July 8 and if an update was adopted by the cabinet on July 9, “we are ready to consider the revised budget of the NHIF”.
MRF leader Lyutvi Mestan said that his party would support a proposal to revise the NHIF budget.
(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)