Political row erupts over proposed change of Bulgarian Defence Chief

Bulgaria’s former governing party and former defence minister have expressed outrage at the caretaker Cabinet nomination of a new Defence Chief, with Boiko Borissov’s GERB party calling on President Roumen Radev not to approve what it describes as an “insane” move.

Nikolai Nenchev, former defence minister and a Reformist Bloc MP candidate in Bulgaria’s early parliamentary elections in March, said that the continuous shakeups in the defence sector were putting national security at risk.

GERB’s Valentin Radev noted that last week the chief secretary of the Interior Ministry had been fired and now another top official was being replaced. The Bulgarian Socialist Party was entering power through the back door, he said.

Valentin Radev said that he was appealing to President Radev not to sign the decree appointing the new Defence Chief, “to stop this insane move and not stress out the armed forces when it’s least needed”.

“Imagine what is happening now. People are trembling in anticipation,” Valentin Radev said, adding that changes in senior personnel at the Defence Ministry amounted to a return of people from the time of the 2013/14 “Oresharski” administration.

Caretaker Defence Minister Stefan Yanev defended the interim administration’s nomination, saying that it wanted to improve the current situation in which there was an acting Chief of Defence. The nomination had been chosen from among seven candidates, Yanev said.

Nenchev said that the caretaker Cabinet, which had the sole task of holding fair elections, was continuing a politically-motivated purge in the defence sector, and taking decisions that would have long-term negative consequences.

He said that after the December 2016 resignation of Konstantin Popov as Defence Chief, the government had proposed, and the president had appointed, Emil Evtimov to act in the post for a year.

Evtimov was an extremely prepared Bulgarian senior officer with unquestioned authority who had worked in Nato structures.

Nenchev said that it was irresponsible to change the occupant of the top military post three times in quick succession. It would be a very bad sign to Bulgaria’s partners in Nato, he said.

Referring to the Defence Ministry’s Terem armaments company, Nenchev noted that for the first time in 15 years, the company had a profit of more than four million leva and its subsidiaries of 20 million leva.

The caretaker Defence Minister had rewarded the team responsible for this achievement, including the executive director, by firing them, Nenchev said.

“Apparently the reward for good results is dismissal, or perhaps a profitable company works up the appetite of certain political forces,” he said.

Nenchev said that the management of the Supply Services company had undergone several changes in recent weeks.

He said that in 2014, the company had been mired in dire financial straits. “As a result of mismanagement, it had debts of more than three million leva was losing more than 600 000 leva. People on the street were scared about their future and had no prospects,” Nenchev said.

He said that his ministry had taken action to stabilise the company. By 2016, losses had been reduced from 600 000 to 100 000 leva, while salaries were being paid regularly and the general financial situation had improved significantly, according to Nenchev.

Nenchev alleged that the government was preparing to remove the director of the Military Medical Academy, General Nikolai Petrov, who Nenchev described as having “cleaned the Augean stables” of his predecessor.

(Archive photo of Nenchev: Defence Ministry)




The Sofia Globe staff

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