The April 8 meeting of the Consultative Council on National Security called by Bulgarian President Roumen Radev to discuss measures against high-level corruption ended after three and a half hours with no joint statement and little more than a few political sideswipes.
Radev, a regular critic of the government, called the meeting against the background of a continuing controversy involving senior figures linked to the ruling majority who are now under investigation for allegedly getting expensive apartments at cut price.
The Consultative Council on National Security, by law convened by the head of state, brings together the Prime Minister, key Cabinet ministers, leaders of parliamentary groups, security and intelligence chiefs.
Ahead of the meeting, Radev made it clear that he did not want the head of Bulgaria’s anti-corruption commission, who is among those under investigation in connection with property declarations, present at the gathering. No one from the commission attended the meeting.
Radev said that he had not intended to convene a consultative council meeting on the topic, but had done so because “the institutions continued to neglect the problem of corruption” and in response to the apartments controversy.
The politicians named in the controversy all deny wrongdoing. Tsvetan Tsvetanov, the first to be named and who has resigned as an MP and thus as parliamentary leader of Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s GERB party, has insisted that the controversy is a tactic to damage the party ahead of Bulgaria’s May 2019 European Parliament elections.
Radev said of the meeting that there were diffences in assessments of the effectiveness of the anti-corruption commission, of how the National Assembly exercises control, of the effectiveness of the laws. He also criticised what he called the “passive methods” of combating corruption, which he said focused mainly on checking assets declarations required by law, and awaiting complaints.
He had wanted the National Assembly to consider and adopt a new law against corruption “which takes into account the established shortcomings of the present one”.
Radev had vetoed the ruling majority’s bill on the anti-corruption commission. The ruling majority overturned his veto. The opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party, which backed Radev in the 2016 presidential election, unsuccessfully nominated a candidate to head the commission other than the nominee of the ruling majority.
The only participant in the consultative council meeting to support Radev’s call for a new law was the BSP.