Bulgaria's EU, NATO Choice Should Not Be Questioned - President-Elect
Bulgaria has the potential for a more enhanced political presence in Southeast Europe, Bulgaria's President-elect Rumen Radev has said.
In a highly critical speech after his swearing-in ceremony in the Parliament, Radev has vowed to be “the President of all Bulgarians, regardless of their party affiliation, religion and ethnicity” and to oppose “attempts at polarizing our society.”
But he has also drawn fire among some lawmakers and political analysts who notice the lack of clear priorities and steps Radev is willing to take during his term of office.
He has made it clear Bulgaria's EU and NATO membership is a “strategic choice that should not be called into question,” amid speculation his support for lifting EU sanctions on Russia may suggest Bulgaria is making a geopolitical shift.
However, the national interest has to be “constantly defended”,
he has argued, reiterating Bulgaria's foreign policy should be formulated in Bulgaria and defended abroad and not vice versa. On Russia and tensions between Moscow and the West, Radev has noted: “I believe the role of the head of state is not to multiply concerns and point to an enemy, but to use the instruments of unions to solve crises.”
After expressing his gratitude to voters, he has spoken critically of Bulgaria's recurring problems.
"Thank you for the trust [of voters enabling] me to be the President of a state with a history of 13 centuries, of a diverse people in which ethnicities and religions have co-existed for centuries and have refused to accept political passions.”
“Only on the pages of history does life look neat and tidy. Politics is told in the present anxious tense,” Radev has said.
Thanking his predecessors for their work, Radev
has raised concerns over the unfinished tasks
of the post-communist transition that began in the 1990s. “We got used to voting, but many do not see any point in doing so. We have a multi-party system, but there are more parties than ideas about Bulgaria. The [political] cuisine of the beginning of the transition was more authentic than today's political GMO cuisine. The erosion of Bulgaria's democracy is an escalating problem.”
He has called for a reform of the Electoral Code that will “give citizens an opportunity to elect personalities without curbing political representation,” in a reference to a referendum in which Bulgarians voted overwhelmingly to switch to a majority election system.
Other pressing issues include improvement of border security, a push to have the Dublin II Regulation reviewed as it “turns peripheral states into buffer zones”, effort to address poverty and economic disparities, to overhaul the education and healthcare systems and to finalize the judicial reform.
Structural reforms will not solve the issues in courts and prosecution alone,
with “tough anti-corruption measures” and “work among institutions” also needed, according to Radev, who has been calling for a Romanian-style agency at the prosecuting authority that will crack down on corruption.
He has also spoken against a solely market-oriented approach to science and to a view on socially vulnerable people as a burden on the economy.
Highlighting some of the economic progress and stability, he has also pointed to low wages, rampant corruption that discourages investors, administrative burden but also lack of proper regulation on businesses and mass emigration of Bulgarians who seek work abroad as pressing issues.
Welcoming the investment projects to modernize part of the Bulgarian Armed Forces – adopted under the outgoing government – he has warned the overhaul has to go hand in hand with transfer of know-how and opening new jobs and has vowed to oversee the process with caution.
Parliament will not be immediately dissolved after he takes over the President's office, he has suggested.
Radev will become President on January 22. Despite having mostly ceremonial functions on paper, a head of state has substantial levers under Bulgarian legislation that may be used to affect politics.
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