Bulgarian government’s DIY performance appraisal

Two days after the National Assembly voted unanimously to approve its resignation, Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov’s government held a briefing to list its actions in the nine months since it took office.

The March 8 event opened with statements by Denkov and Deputy PM Maria Gabriel, the showing of a video with highlights of members of the government’s activities since June 2023, and individual statements by members of the Cabinet, a process that took about 90 minutes.

The video, set to music, emphasised achievements such as Bulgaria’s partial accession to the Schengen zone as of March 31 this year, reform legislation approved in Parliament, and in-person contacts with numerous foreign leaders, including Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskky, as well as participation in key forums, such as Denkov’s address to the European Parliament.

At the briefing, there was a notably cordial tone between Denkov and Gabriel, in contrast to the public tensions between their respective coalitions, We Continue the Change-Democratic Bulgaria and GERB-UDF, which are set on March 9 to open negotiations on a government to be headed by Gabriel.

It was equably notable that comments by Denkov and several Cabinet ministers signalled optimism that there would be a Gabriel government, rather than early parliamentary elections.

Denkov said in his opening remarks that the negotiations on the continuation of joint governance should be conducted with clear priorities and a desire to reach an agreement.

“The governance programme continues for the next nine months. We are in the middle of implementing it. Maria Gabriel and I will do everything possible to make a smooth transition, with minimal upheavals, so that we can continue to work together,” he said.

The Cabinet had approved 600 decisions, Denkov said.

“Inflation is at its lowest level in the past two years and continues to slow. We have the second highest wage growth in the EU, but much of the results have been lost in the media, drowned out by other events of much less importance.

“We have green light for the Struma motorway, we have 30km of highway roads built, in the next nine months we expect up to 90km more to be launched. That is, in 18 months of effort we expect to have about 100km of highway roads put into operation,” Denkov said.

“Regardless of the surprises we encountered and often deliberate sabotages, at the moment about 56 per cent of the measures under the governance programme have been implemented, but there are also tasks on which there is a delay,” he said.

He said that the second payment under the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Plan was still awaited.

“There is also a delay in the National Children’s Hospital project,” he said.

Other items emphasised by Denkov included the government’s moves to combat disinformation.

Gabriel said: “Nine months ago, we made a difficult but extremely important choice. The political parties supporting the government managed to soften the disputes and open distrust among themselves.

“They supported a Cabinet that seemed impossible in the eyes of many, for the sake of one thing – the stability of the country,” Gabriel said.

She said that joint efforts produce more sustainable results, and open dialogue is the best way to overcome differences.
Gabriel said that as Deputy PM, she coordinates the activities of four agencies and nine councils.

“Progress in the fight against human trafficking and the prevention of domestic violence are the two topics on which we work very diligently,” he said.

She pointed to the government’s clear and predictable support for Ukraine, naming it as one of the top priorities.

“Schengen is an important step forward. Bulgaria has become a predictable partner within the EU and Nato. For us, the strategic importance of the Black Sea and the Western Balkans is invariably present in every format we are in,” she said. Bulgaria was a factor for stability in South Eastern Europe, Gabriel said.

Gabriel, who also holds the post of Foreign Minister, said that the ministry had 89 measures in the programme, of which 61 had been implemented and the implementation of the remainder had begun.

With Denkov having asked ministers to keep their statements as brief as possible, Finance Minister Assen Vassilev highlighted the priority of Bulgaria joining the euro zone in January 2025, Defence Minister Todor Tagarev said that Bulgaria had provided Ukraine with more than 7000 tons of materiel, including millions of ammunition of different types and calibres, as well as more than 140 vehicles that are on their way to Ukraine.

The individual ministers’ comments were a mixture of pointing to matters that had been achieved, such as Bulgaria’s partial entry to the Schengen zone, though others focused more on priorities and legislation that should be adopted in the future.

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