Bulgarian President Roumen Radev said on July 23 that he had vetoed the National Assembly’s ratification of four contracts enabling the country’s acquisition of US-made F-16 fighter jets to go ahead.
The ratification was approved by the National Assembly on July 19 at both readings, at a sitting that also saw parliamentary approval for the Budget Act revision linked to the deal, and of a contract between Bulgaria’s Economy Ministry and F-16 manufacturer Lockheed Martin on industrial co-operation.
In his motivation for the veto, Radev said as head of state and commander-in-chief of Bulgaria’s armed forces, he could not remain indifferent to the process of modernisation of the country’s armed forces.
When taking decisions on Bulgaria’s defence and national security, it was necessary not only to provide financial parameters that were sustainable for the state, but also to have broad consensus and support, Radev said.
He said that the sharp disputes in the National Assembly during debate on the ratification of the contracts – “unusual for this type of law” – showed that public consensus on the contracts had been neither sought nor achieved.
“The commitment of the Republic of Bulgaria to obligations, at that for years to come, without national consent and conviction about the mutually-agreed terms of the contract, is extremely worrying,” Radev said.
He said that the two stages of parliamentary approval of the contracts had failed to meet the constitutional requirement that such ratifications take place at separate sittings of the National Assembly.
“Instead, the law ratifying such a particularly important contract was adopted on the ‘fast track’,” Radev said.
The special significance for the state, the enormous financial resources involved and the sharp increase in the Budget deficit meant that the legislature should not depart from the general rule of debating and voting at two separate sittings, he said.
“Because of the shortened legislative procedure, a number of important issues such as prices, warranties, delivery times, penalties, indemnities, and so on, have remained unclear.”
Radev said that it was not permissible to use the exceptional procedure in resolving an issue so strategic for Bulgaria as guaranteeing national security.
“Bulgaria needs a multifunctional aircraft, which is achieved not only by its qualities, but also by a full package of equipment, accompanying equipment and personnel training. Society was owed a clear answer whether this was actually achieved by the contracts, he said.
“During the debate and voting in the plenary hall of the National Assembly, objections and suggestions were put forward which could not be developed and discussed due to the abridged legislative procedure.”
This is the 18th time that Radev exercised his veto power since taking office in January 2017, with Parliament overturning the veto in all but one case, when the provision in question was withdrawn.
On several occasions, Radev has followed through with a Constitutional Court challenge, where he has been more successful in blocking legislation, such as in April, when the court ruled to overturn a provision from Corporate Tax Act amendments approved in 2018 that introduced a higher tax rate on properties in resort areas.
Bulgaria’s constitution grants the head of state a limited power of veto, through enabling the President to return legislation to the National Assembly for further discussion. The National Assembly may overturn the President’s veto through a simple majority vote.