Bulgaria’s informal ruling coalition slams Radev’s veto of APCs for Ukraine

The three parliamentary groups in Bulgaria’s informal ruling coalition have slammed President Roumen Radev’s veto of an agreement between Bulgaria’s Interior Ministry and Ukraine’s Defence Ministry on Bulgaria supplying old armoured personnel carriers (APCs) to Ukraine, ratified by the National Assembly last month.

Bulgaria’s Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and the Speaker of the National Assembly all have predicted that Parliament will overturn the veto.

Radev claimed that MPs were not sufficiently familiar with the specific parameters of the donation, and that the needs of the Interior Ministry, Border Police and firefighting and civil defence directorate had not been taken into account.

Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov said, succinctly: “This veto will be overcome, so I don’t see anything to comment on”.

Deputy PM Maria Gabriel said that Radev’s decision was a matter of regret.

Gabriel said that as far as she knew, the vehicles had been decommissioned while caretaker governments – appointed by Radev – were in office, and had never been used in situations Radev cited in his motives, such as border patrols and civil defence emergency assistance.

“The decision was agreed with the Ministry of the Interior, with the necessary structures, so that Bulgaria’s position is very clear,” she said.

Asked if she expected the veto to be rejected, Gabriel said: “Against the background of the debates that happened before, I do not expect a change in the position of the National Assembly.”

The Speaker of the National Assembly, Rosen Zhelyazkov, said that Radev’s veto was not a surprise, and would be overcome in Parliament.

“A return for a new examination of the law was expected, in this sense the president is consistent. According to the constitution, one of the goals of foreign policy is a just international order,” Zhelyazkov said.

Zhelyazkov emphasised that “Bulgaria’s position is consistent and the majority in the National Assembly will overcome the veto”.

Regarding Radev’s claim are not familiar with the issue, Zhelyazkov said: “The MPs are familiar with this topic and will make an informed decision.”

Boiko Borissov’s GERB said: “Democracy and freedom cannot be defended and protected with political hypocrisy and with different positions for external and internal use,” a reference to differing statements made by Radev for domestic and foreign consumption.

“As a member of Nato and the EU, Bulgaria follows the position of the democratic world. And the majority in Parliament has a clear and consistent European Nato policy in support of Ukraine’s right to defend its citizens and territories,” GERB said.

“It is obvious that once again President Roumen Radev has demonstrated an inadequate position for the head of state of an EU and Nato country. Sovereignty and stability are not achieved with divided institutions and different positions on geostrategic topics,” the party said.

We Continue the Change-Democratic Bulgaria MP Ivailo Mirchev described Radev’s veto as “absolutely untenable” and said that none of the reasons offered by Radev were relevant.

It was not true that MPs were not informed, given that there was a report on the matter in the office of the National Assembly in which secret documents are kept, Mirchev said.

Radev’s proposal that the vehicles be used to guard the border was an insult to Bulgarian border guards because the vehicles could not be used there, and nor were they there during the Cold War, he said.

Regarding the idea of giving them to the civil defence directorate, Mirchev said that before the decision was made, he had asked the institution in question if they needed this equipment and the answer was that they had enough equipment and these vehicles absolutely did not work for them.

Mirchev said that Radev had ruled for almost two years via his caretaker governments, and if he wanted the APCs to go to civil defence, he could have done so.

The WCC-DB MP said this was political hypocrisy on the part of Radev, who wanted to show loyalty to Russian ambassador Eleonora Mitrofanova and to generate energy for his own political project.

Mirchev pointed out that the APCs were old, and had been acquired at the time of the Bulgarian communist regime’s “Revival Process” – which involved gross human rights abuses in the forced renaming of members of Bulgaria’s ethnic Turkish minority.

“I very much hope that the president does not want to return to those times when APCs were used against Bulgarian citizens, against protesting Bulgarian citizens,” Mirchev said.

Movement for Rights and Freedoms parliamentary leader Delyan Peevski said that Radev’s veto could be described in just one word – “shame”.

“After this decision, it is even more categorically clear how important it is for Bulgaria to have a Euro-Atlantic parliamentary majority and a Euro-Atlantic government supported by it. Because anything else risks our country being taken down another, non-European and dangerous path – towards Moscow, towards Putin , where pro-Russian politicians want to divert it,” Peevski said, calling for Parliament to overthrow the veto at its sitting this week.

Support for Radev’s veto came from Kornelia Ninova, leader of Parliament’s second-smallest group, the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP).

Ninova said that there was “no evidence” that the vehicles were obsolete and said that the donation was detrimental to national security.

In the initial vote in Parliament, while GERB-UDF, WCC-DB and the MRF voted in favour of the donation, producing a large majority in favour, pro-Russian party Vuzrazhdane and the BSP voted against.

(Archive photo, from September 2020: parliament.bg)

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