From Gripens to the skirmish of Svishtov: War of words between Bulgarian President and Borissov’s GERB goes on

Tensions between Bulgarian President Roumen Radev and Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s GERB party are continuing, following the accusation by GERB parliamentary leader Tsvetan Tsvetanov that Radev had interfered to favour Sweden’s Gripen in the jet fighter acquisition process.

Matters took a new turn on June 28 as, in Parliament, Tsvetanov protested that he and other GERB figures had not been admitted to a meeting between Radev and the mayor the town of Svishtov. Tsvetanov accused Radev of behaving unconstitutionally.

At a Sunday afternoon news conference, just two days after Borissov had told his Swedish counterpart that Bulgaria would open negotiations on the possible Gripen acquisition, Tsvetanov had held a news conference, announcing that GERB wanted a parliamentary ad hoc committee set up to investigate the arms acquisition process so far.

At that news conference, Tsvetanov levelled suspicions at Radev – who as head of state is commander-in-chief but constitutionally is not a member of the government – of intervening in the arms acquisition discussion process, at the time of the caretaker cabinet, on behalf of Gripen.

The implication that Radev would be investigated raised eyebrows among anyone familiar with the Bulgarian constitution, the National Assembly has no power to summon the President to a committee hearing – as Radev himself later pointed out.

Responding on June 27 to Tsvetanov’s statements, Radev said that he hoped that Borissov would make clear whether or not he supported what had been said by Tsvetanov, who is one of GERB’s deputy leaders.

Radev said that the political scene was no place for “good cop/bad cop” scenarios.

“We have lived to see Tsvetanov accusing the state of Sweden (officially, Sweden’s a kingdom) of corruption, because you know that two sides are necessary for corruption to take place, but lets leave this European joke aside,” Radev said.

He said that there was no way for the President to be summoned by Parliament, but added that a committee could examine the records of Borissov’s second government regarding the military modernisation process, and the roadmap that government had proposed, which had been approved by the previous National Assembly.

Radev said that he was awaiting from the government a report on the proposals for the military modernisation process, including its funding. He noted that at the May 30 meeting of the Consultative Council on National Security, it had been agreed that this report would be ready by June 20.

The opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party, on June 27, also sought some political capital from the missed deadline, saying that it had sent a formal letter to Radev – whom it backed in the 2016 presidential elections – asking if the report had been received.

Then came Svishtov, the northern Bulgarian town which Radev visited for celebrations of its 140th anniversary of liberation from Ottoman rule.

Tsvetanov, MPs and local officials who are members of GERB were not admitted to Radev’s meeting with the mayor.

Tsvetanov lashed out at Radev over this, implying that Radev had failed in his constitutional duty to embody the unity of the nation.

The President’s administration responded, telling the media that the talks had not been a formal occasion but a pre-planned “working conversation” to which Tsvetanov and the others had never been invited.




Clive Leviev-Sawyer

Clive Leviev-Sawyer is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of The Sofia Globe. He is the author of the book Bulgaria: Politics and Protests in the 21st Century (Riva Publishers, 2015), and co-author of the book Bulgarian Jews: Living History (The Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria 'Shalom', 2018). He is also the author of Power: A Political Novel, available via, and, on the lighter side, Whiskers And Other Short Tales of Cats (2021), also available via Amazon. He has translated books and numerous texts from Bulgarian into English.