Bulgarian President Roumen Radev said on August 5 that he has vetoed the amendments to the Military Intelligence Act, which would allow civilians to be appointed as head of the service.
Radev said that he disagreed with the bill: “This does not correspond to the place that the military intelligence service holds as an inseparable part of the Bulgarian armed forces.”
“The head of the service should have the necessary expertise, namely specific knowledge and professional experience, in order to carry out its main goals, which is not just securing intelligence, but intelligence that is necessary for the defence of the country and national security from foreign attacks, risks and threats,” he said in his veto motives.
The amendments “create the risk of breaching the principles of centralised management and control of intelligence activity and political neutrality,” Radev said.
Radev recalled that Bulgaria had previously allowed civilians to head Military Intelligence, but changed the law in 2015 to require that the post should be held by an officer of senior rank whose commission is active. A veto imposed by then-President Rossen Plevneliev was overturned by MPs.
“The National Assembly decisively backed, at that time, the requirement that the head of Military Intelligence should be part of the active military. That rule is in line with the place and importance that the service has for the Bulgarian armed forces, which is why I cannot agree to the retreat carried out by the bill,” he said.
This is the 19th 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office in January 2017, with Parliament overturning the veto in all but one case, when the provision in question was withdrawn.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.
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.