European Parliament Elections on May 25 - Bulgaria's President
Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev has announced that the European Parliament elections will be held on May 25.
Speaking Friday in Parliament, Plevneliev presented a summary of the results of a month of talks with the four political parties represented in Parliament.
Plevneliev, as cited by the BGNES news agency, suggested that the EP elections provided an opportunity for debate on EU topics.
He called on members of Bulgarian political parties to engage in an EU-level election campaign and not resort to partisan bickering.
Bulgaria's head of state described the EU as a unique project, a workshop for ideas and a platform for development, stressing that everybody mattered in the bloc, regardless of how big they were.
He said that there were signs that the election campaign for the EP elections in May would proceed amid heated confrontations and smear campaigns, adding that this was bound to put off voters.
"I would not like to believe that this is the aim of the current political elite," Plevneliev commented, adding that this mode of thinking and of holding elections was detrimental to Bulgaria.
He suggested that scandals involving wiretapping and special surveillance equipment ahd to be replaced by political debate.
"We are yet again in a pre-election situation and there will be a lot of promising. Let us only promise that what we can fulfill. Let oppositional culture remain in 2013," Plevneliev said.
Bulgaria's President explained that the talks with the leaders of the four parties represented in Parliament had included 9 major topics, including incomes, employment, economic growth, etc.
"For a sixth year in a row, Bulgarian economy has been stuck in a rut and cannot achieve growth, households and small and medium-sized enterprises being hardest hit. Unemployment and the lack of prospects are among the most serious problems. These sensitive issues for the people tempt parties into offering populist topics," he declared.
"We united around the idea that preserving the currency board until Bulgaria's accession to the eurozone was mandatory and that the revenue administration had to be adequate and efficient," Plevneliev stated, adding that the party leaders had also reached agreement on the need for educational reform, on the fact that that increasing incomes had to match possibilities and that the establishment of a National Innovations Board was a priority task.
"The adoption of the dual education system is a good solution. This will help create a close connection between school and the labor market. Youth unemployment leads to instability in society" he added.
"There is agreement on the priority sectors in the national economy – tourism, agriculture, the extractive industry, etc. It is not the state but the business sector which creates jobs. Investors need predictability and security. They need to know that the regulatory bodies work independently. We all agree that small and medium-sized enterprises and exports, which are the only engine of growth, have to be supported. We have to reaffirm Bulgaria's image as a modern country," Plevneliev noted.
He went on to say that administrative reform and the introduction of electronic services had been defined as a major priority for years.
"It is important to implement electronic government so that Bulgarians believe that the state works in their interest," he added.
"The situation in Ukraine shows how important integration is to Europe. Bulgaria has to make its contribution to the development of the Union and to peace. Bulgaria is an important factor in the region" Plevneliev emphasized.
"The Ukrainian people has the right to decide their future by holding fair elections. The EU and the US rely on diplomacy, Russia has already occupied the Crimea and it is possible that it moves to annex it on the basis of an illegal local referendum. The conflict in Ukraine is very dangerous and has lasting consequences. If tensions escalate, I shall call a meeting of the Consultative Council on National Security" Plevneliev vowed.
Bulgaria's head of state pointed out that energy dependence was one of the most serious threats to energy security.
He insisted that Bulgaria's State Commission for Energy and Water Regulation (DKEVR) had to become an independent watchdog through changes to the Energy Act .
"Bulgaria is a European champion in wasting energy," Plevneliev stated, adding that the solution was to take steps to achieve maximum energy efficiency.
"I am grateful that three consecutive governments have made efforts to achieve energy diversification. Urgent steps are needed to build the gas grid interconnections with Greece, Serbia and Turkey" he added.
Bulgaria's President said that there was political consensus among the parties on the importance of building basic infrastructure as fast as possible.
Plevneliev said that the Struma highway, the Hemus highway, and the tunnel under the Shipka peak were priority projects.
Stressing that the poorest Bulgarian regions were the ones most isolated, he pointed out that southern Bulgaria boasted higher employment, higher numbers of tourists and higher revenues.
Plevneliev also claimed that the seven highway projects in Bulgaria could be completed by 2020.
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