Bulgaria’s new government withdraws previous administration’s obstacles to arms for Ukraine

The Cabinet has withdrawn a proposal to Parliament tabled by the now-departed caretaker government that further supplying by Bulgaria of arms to Ukraine should require a parliamentary vote.

At the same Cabinet meeting on June 21, it was decided that Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov, and not President Roumen Radev, will head the official Bulgarian delegation to the Nato summit in Vilnius on July 11 and 12.

The Cabinet that was elected by Parliament on June 6 is backed by Parliament’s two largest coalitions, GERB-UDF and We Continue the Change-Democratic Bulgaria, which favour Bulgaria supplying arms to Ukraine, in contrast to the opposition by the administrations that were appointed by Radev.

Earlier this week, Radev reiterated his view that Bulgaria supplying arms to Ukraine would be a “mistake”. Radev says that he favours “peace”. In a signal of his antipathy towards Bulgaria’s new government, he prematurely left the parliamentary sitting at which it was elected, skipping the swearing-in and the playing of the Bulgarian and EU anthems.

The earlier move by the caretaker government to propose requiring new parliamentary approval for arms for Ukraine came after it claimed that it had fulfilled the mandate given to it by the previous Parliament on arms for Ukraine.

Its claim that it had done so was disputed, with critics saying that it was failing to comply with a parliamentary decision as required, and the proposal to require parliamentary approval was seen as trying to hinder the further supplying of military assistance to Ukraine.

Motivating its decision to withdraw the proposal, as well as the Defence Investment Programme to 2032, the government said that by the time it had been elected, the decisions on these matters by the caretaker government had not been considered by the National Assembly.

“Given the election of a regular government on June 6 this year, some time is needed for the new political leadership in the Ministry of Defence to get thoroughly acquainted with the content of the proposed decisions, about which it can conduct an analysis and possibly make changes to the already developed documents,” the government said.

The decision that Denkov and not Radev will head the Bulgarian delegation to the Nato summit runs counter to the practice of more than a decade that the Bulgarian head of state attends such summits. As president, Radev has attended such summits in Wales, Madrid and Brussels.

Speaking on the eve of the June 21 Cabinet meeting, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Maria Gabriel said: “I think it should be taken into account that in this situation, when for the first time in two years, after five elections, we have a regular government that declares itself to be Euro-Atlantic, it is right to give this government an opportunity in the forums of such a large format to state that and to take the lead”.

At the summit in Vilnius, Bulgaria is expected to sign the EU’s memorandum on the general procurement and supply of ammunition to Ukraine – a move that had been opposed by Radev.

Gabriel said: “I respect the presidential institution. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. But Bulgaria now has a government that states its position very clearly”.

“The summit will take place against the background of the radically changed strategic security environment brought about by Russia’s unprovoked and unjust war against Ukraine, which is a gross violation of the established international legal order and a blow to the existing security architecture,” the government said in its reasons for the decision for Denkov to head the delegation, which will include Minister of Defence, Todor Tagarev, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tihomir Stoychev, and Defence Chief Admiral Emil Eftimov.

“The main outcomes of the Vilnius summit, related to the continuation of the Alliance’s political and practical support for Ukraine, the building of decisions to strengthen the Alliance’s deterrence and defence potential, and the adoption of a new defence investment commitment, are a priority of the executive branch and are within the competences of the line ministers,” it said.

“The commitments directly affect the management and implementation of state policy in the field of foreign policy and international relations, as well as in the field of defence and the general leadership of the Armed Forces,” the statement said.

In another decision on June 21, the Cabinet approved Bulgaria’s participation in the Council of Europe’s Register of Damage Caused by the Aggression of the Russian Federation Against Ukraine through an Enlarged Partial Agreement.

Forty-four countries and the European Union joined or indicated their intention to join the Register, set up by the participants to the Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe held in Reykjavik on May 16 and 17 2023. At the time, Bulgaria was on the list of countries that had stated their intention to join.

(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)

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