Bulgarian President Roumen Radev said on December 15 that he was referring two provisions of the 2019 Budget Act, both related to the country’s pension system, to the country’s Constitutional Court.
Radev said that he had chosen to promulgate the Budget, “despite disagreements with some of the provisions in it” in order to avoid delaying it from going into effect on time.
This year alone, he has used his veto seven times and was overturned by Parliament all but once, when the government coalition withdrew its proposal. Should the President have chosen to use his veto again, its fate would have likely been the same and would not have caused a significant delay, with the National Assembly still sitting next week ahead of its holiday recess.
The two provisions targeted by Radev breached “the principles of the social state and rule of law” and would lead to “unconstitutional consequences”, the presidency said in a statement.
The first provision that Radev objected to was the one that would prevent any revenue generated by the Sofia Airport concession from going to the so-called “silver fund”, set up in 2006 as a reserve for the country’s pension system, to be used at a future date to cover any shortfalls in the pension system.
Under amendments passed in 2008, it is due to receive all concession revenue, but the 2019 Budget Act specifically excluded the up-front concession fee for Sofia Airport from being transferred to the “silver fund”. The government’s intention is to use the large up-front fee, expected to be in excess of 500 million leva, to modernise the rolling stock and pay off outstanding debts of state railways BDZ.
“Limiting the Fund’s sources of revenue puts in doubt the long-term execution of its purpose, namely to guarantee the stability of the pension system. This way, lawmakers are unacceptably departing from the principle of the social state and endanger the exercise of a constitutionally-guaranteed right,” Radev said.
The other provision that Radev asked the court to rule on refers to amendments to the Civil Service Act, included in the transitional and final provisions of the Budget, that would prevent civil servants that have exercised their right to draw a state pension from continuing to hold positions in the state administration.
Exercising their constitutional right to receive the pension did not impact the quality of work of such civil servants and did not make them unsuitable to continue holding a position in the state administration, Radev argued.
The provision would lead to unequal treatment and would infringe on rights accrued, which breached the principles of rule of law and equality in the eyes of the law, the presidency said.
The Constitutional Court will now have to decide whether Radev’s challenge is admissible and, if so, appoint a rapporteur judge for the case. Given the usual length of Constitutional Court cases, a final ruling would be expected in the second half of next year.