President Rumen Radev’s Address to the 43rd National Assembly after Taking the Oath of Office
Esteemed Mr. President,
Esteemed Mrs. Vice-president,
Esteemed Mrs. Speaker of the National Assembly,
Esteemed Mr. Outgoing Prime Minister,
Esteemed Ladies and Gentlemen Members of the Constitutional Court,
Esteemed Outgoing Members of the Council of Ministers,
Esteemed Assembly Deputies,
Esteemed Generals and Admirals,
I would first of all like to thank you for the trust placed in me to be President of a state with a history spanning 13 centuries. I am grateful for being Head of State of a multifaceted people, in which ethnic groups and religions have been living together for centuries, yet the political passions refuse to calm down. Today a lot of people say that we are living in difficult times and life seems ordered only in the frozen pages of history which has been retold in the past simple tense. Politics always happens in the present time of uneasiness. It depends on the abilities of millions of citizens to realize their common interests, on the politicians’ loyalty to their people, on their morality to overcome their self-interest and their ego for the sake of public interest, on their will to defend even irreconcilable positions for the sake of Bulgaria’s wellbeing. This is the logic democracy follows. Statehood is built every day. Therefore I would like to voice my gratitude to what my predecessors have achieved – Zhelyo Zhelev, Petar Stoyanov, Georgi Purvanov and Rosen Plevneliev.
Each generation experiences hardships. The transition period proved to be our lot. It brought about major social changes – a new Constitution was adopted. It established the democratic principles, pluralism and the separation of powers. The economic reforms, although painful, have led to transforming the centrally planned economy into a market economy. Bulgaria achieved important strategic goals – EU and NATO membership. From a panoramic viewpoint, the country has implemented the program of the historical transition period. However, the panoramic viewpoint is a privilege of the politicians and an instrument of the analysts. The eyes of the ordinary citizen see something different. Although we got used to voting, many people today see no point in doing so. We have put up with the electoral misuses, we have a multi-party system, yet the parties are more in number than the ideas in Bulgaria are. Business parties, laboratory political projects, xenomaniac formations appeared on the political scene. The political genetics in the dawn of the transition period seemed more authentic than the current political GMO kitchen. And the alienation of the people from the political class is a fruitful soil for populism. The erosion of Bulgarian democracy is an escalating problem.
Even though the referendum conducted in November 2016 did not exceed the legal threshold of validity, it showed that the Bulgarians want personalities in parliament and they want the party subsidies to be reduced. It is the Assembly Deputies’ responsibility to meet the people’s expectations. The reform of the electoral code should be conducted in a way that would not create more problems than it tries to solve and increase the accountability of the members of Parliament before voters, should offer the citizens a choice among personalities, and not leave hundreds of thousands of Bulgarians without political representation. The money for the parties should be considerably cut. However, we should be clearly aware that when the parties lack reasonable funding, they will be more dependent on lobbyists and external factors. The lack of justice is another structural problem for the Bulgarian public. It is present in the dramatic gap between the rich and the poor, in the contrast between the capital city and the villages, in the deplorable state of the northwest region of Bulgaria, in the feeling of social deadlock, in corruption and abuse of power which go unpunished. Injustice is among the basic motives for immigration. The public expectations are focused on the judiciary, which is called upon to be the pillar of justice. Here the European partners and the Bulgarian citizens see one and the same thing. Justice is slow, the public trust in the judiciary is low, there is a widespread feeling of impunity. I think the judicial reform should be a priority for the next National Assembly and should achieve clear goals. There should be a prompt, fair and independent judiciary. However, only the change in the structure of the judiciary does not solve the problems of law administration. A complex approach should be adopted, procedural laws should be improved, ensuring the necessary minimum of magistrates, a stronger feeling of responsibility in the system, decisive anti-corruption measures should be taken. At the same time the judicial reform should not be considered a cure-all for coping with the defects of our society. Without pooling the efforts of the institutions, parties and the civilian structures and without the public irreconcilability we cannot fight corruption and crime. Injustice has cast its shadow on the two most important social systems – those of healthcare and education. The reforms conducted failed to ensure functioning mechanisms. The chances a child living in the big city has cannot possibly compare to those of a child living in a village without a school and even without a doctor. Even though ever growing funds have been reportedly allocated to healthcare, the average patient is increasingly faced with the shortage of public funds, having to wait a lot and being offered low-quality healthcare services. The Bulgarian medical doctors emigrate in hordes. The system needs strict control, less bureaucracy, professional morality, which will restore the trust of the patients and will generate motivation which will open up prospects for the doctors and nurses here in Bulgaria. Education should facilitate the Bulgarian children’s equal start, irrespective of the material status of the families. Alas, here the ordinary Bulgarian also confronts a formal education process and having to pay more. The results are leaving school at an early age and functional illiteracy. The teacher’s low social status is an essential part of the problems in the system. Optimization of the large number of higher schools of education is apparently needed in higher education. The places for students are more than the candidates are. On the labor market the undeserved diplomas and academic ranks have a detrimental effect comparable to the fake money in economy. The state, the academic community and the business should pool efforts to face the challenges the future offers not only in terms of providing knowledge to be learnt by heart but by facilitating the acquisition of skills for independent creative thinking and adaption. Bulgarian science is among the not much loved children of the transition period. The idea that only the market should determine its financing is a result of ignorance. Having an own scientific expertise is an element of national sovereignty, without which we place the country into a state of dependence. Although a lot of scientific activities have no repercussion on the market, they are vital for the public. We must preserve and develop Bulgaria’s scientific potential by stimulating the work relations between students and scholars and ensure an adequate funding of scientific programs. Culture, together with education, is the other pillar of national identity. The state must support our culture in order for the latter to survive and develop in the era of globalization.
The Bulgarian transition period coincided with the triumph of market economy in the whole world. However, does Bulgaria currently have a market economy? The mechanisms for protection of fair competition apparently function badly, cartels are formed in many spheres. Consumer protection is not sufficiently legally protected. The administrative burdens hinder the business. Bulgarian economy seems sustainable. Taxes are low, economic growth is fact, though it is far from the necessary rate that would ensure that Bulgaria catch up after its overall lagging behind. Here also the eyes of the ordinary Bulgarian see something different. Tens of thousands of Bulgarians go abroad to make a living, to provide for their families. The lack of a functioning regional policy leads to an economic and social narcosis of large regions. Villagers make their purchases on credit and foreign investors are deterred by corruption. The poverty of thousands of Bulgarians is a reproach to all of us, because it breeds crime. What business needs is real competition and an effective regulatory framework and the Bulgarians deserve a worthy payment. Running into debts and the poverty of the households erode the medium-term prospects of the public. The transition period is a test for Bulgarians, but we should not abandon the weak and the poor. Among them are the disabled people and the pensioners. The economic logic, according to which the weak are a burden to society should give way to the idea that namely the weak keep our humanity awake. A society which ignores solidarity is destined for spiritual collapse. The unresolved problems of this period have turned into a devastating demographic crisis. It can be overcome only by taking complex measures in the spheres of economy, education, healthcare, mass sport, culture, the harmonious development of the regions and municipalities and by pursuing social policies that reduce poverty and social exclusion. The measures for reducing the death rate and increasing the birth rate cannot resolve the problem on their own. It is important to create conditions so that young people stay in Bulgaria and give birth to their children and bring up their families here. We should create conditions which will make the Bulgarians living abroad preserve their spiritual ties with their home country. I will do my best to ensure that our compatriots abroad feel Bulgaria’s support and care, no matter which part of the world they are in.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As president I don't plan on exceeding my constitutional powers, but I won't accept to have them trimmed and practically weakened. I am well aware that the Head of State is practically deprived of legislative and executive powers. However, not a single institution alone is able to achieve big national goals. The Presidential Institution performs a large group of functions and has powers related to the three branches of power. I will take advantage of all opportunities to encourage the dialogue and interaction among the institutions, between the political and public forces because it is not the party monopoly on the institutions, but the balance and cooperation between the branches of power and the dialogue with the civil society that guarantee the democratic development and prosperity of our country. I will stimulate holding public debates on important topics and will seek a broad consensus in the decision-making process. I will monitor that the institutions function so as to protect the country's long-term interests, and do not change the nation’s priorities for the sake of achieving short-term goals. I will be the President of all Bulgarians irrespective of their party affiliations, religion and the ethnic group they belong to. I will defend the institution’s non-affiliation to political parties and will decisively counteract the attempts to divide and polarize our society. Under the Bulgarian constitution, the President has important prerogatives in the sphere of foreign policy and security. National security is an all-embracing system. It starts from foreign policy, continues with the security of the national borders and ends up with ensuring order in the country and guaranteeing the peace, freedom and dignity of the individual citizen. Today Bulgaria is an EU and NATO member-state. The membership in the two unions is a strategic choice, which should not be questioned. It rests on shared values and responsibilities with the other partners. However, the efficient membership presupposes a clear awareness and consistent protection of the national interests within the two families, with an active participation in the decision-making process. Bulgaria's foreign policy should be formulated inside the country and defended abroad, not vice versa. It should be open to the world and win friends and partners, not enemies. Bulgaria has a potential to strengthen its active role in Southeast Europe by launching initiatives and taking actions to boost security, cooperation and the economic development of the region. The past year was marked by Brexit and the migration crisis. The two events put the EU to the test, the anti-European attitudes are becoming stronger. We got used to considering every harsh criticism towards the European institutions and policies as populism. However this led to the increase in the number of disillusioned people. I am sure that united Europe should be preserved by all means. The opposite would mean an unforgivable waste of historical time. The response to every crisis lies in pooling efforts to overcome them.
The upcoming presidency of the Council of the EU is not only a challenge, but also an opportunity for Bulgaria, which requires responsibility and joint efforts at all levels. The migration crisis also requires a decisive European policy. Although individual actions have been taken so far, we have not adopted a comprehensive policy. Given this fact, I think decisive measures should be taken to strengthen the border, to put an end to the illegal trafficking of people and curb the number of illegal immigrants on our territory. Bulgaria should insist that a revision of the Dublin Treaty be made, which allocates the place of a buffer zone to the EU periphery countries. There is obviously a crisis between the EU and NATO on the one hand and Russia on the other, but an escalation of confrontation is not a solution. The cold war period is a bad experience from the past. In this context, I think that the role of the Head of State is not to fuel anxieties and pinpoint the enemy, but to provide assistance in solving the crisis using the mechanisms of the two unions we are members of. I believe that the results from the presidential elections in the US and the new political situation in the world give hope for resuming the dialogue soon. The past year was marked by a bloody war in Syria which increased military confrontation to a historical maximum after the Cold War period. The conflict in Southeast Ukraine is smouldering. A coup d’etat attempt was jeopardized in neighboring Turkey. The terror acts became part of the sad chronicles in Europe and the Middle East. Guaranteeing Bulgaria‘s and the Bulgarians’ security is becoming top priority. The adopted legal framework that provides for the establishment of a uniform national security system comprises an important step ahead. However, the issues related to the tasks, structure, functional ties, management and interaction among the different bodies and structures involved in defense and public order still remain unsolved. This leads to problems pertaining to control and coordination, low efficiency and excess consumption of resources. Efforts should be made to guarantee the professional training and motivation of the Interior Ministry officials and the security services so that they could work efficiently to safeguard the national interests and to fight crime and corruption. Moving up the career ladder should be made on the basis of sufficient experience and proved professionalism, not on the basis of political loyalty. As Supreme Commander-in-Chief, I will work towards building Armed Forces capable not only of worthy participation in NATO's collective defence, but of safeguarding Bulgaria's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. After a long period of procrastination, we can finally boast having adopted investment projects and allocated funds for the rearmament of part of the Bulgarian army. I will closely monitor the actions of the responsible institutions because our defense capabilities for decades ahead will depend on this complicated process and the selection of the new armament. The implementation of the projects should be beneficial not only for defense, but also for the public as a whole and should be necessarily accompanied by a contribution to the economic development of the country by developing programs for industrial cooperation, implementing high technologies, creating jobs and stimulating the Bulgarian defense industry. Providing financial means for rearmament should not by all means divert the attention from the problems defense is facing. The acquisition of state-of-the-art armament is a necessary, but not a sufficient condition for modernizing the army. The solution of the problems that have been accumulating for decades requires applying a systematic and comprehensive approach. The regulatory framework pertaining to the organizational structure of the armed forces should be improved, and also the system of military education and training. It should be clear that civil control does not mean civil management. Military expertise should have a suitable place in the process of planning and development of defense. I will work so as to ensure improvement of the servicemen’s social status and end the drain away from the military profession which has taken on dangerous proportions. I will insist on conducting real military training as the most important element of the contemporary defense capabilities.
Esteemed Mrs. Speaker of the National Assembly,
Ladies and Gentlemen
Words lose their value if overused. My credo is fewer words, yet more actions that produce results. You have one more week. I am sure we will not be able to solve the problems by making cheerful declarations, but by making precise diagnoses and taking concrete measures. There are still politicians in Bulgaria who have fights with the past – the recent and distant past. These fights give birth to fake heroes. The business with the past is part of the deadlock. Fatalism is another weakness of ours. However, we should not forget that Bulgaria has survived for 13 centuries at a historical and geographical crossroads. This is the most convincing evidence that apathy is not our innate defect. It is a weakness which we will cope with.
You entrusted me with the most responsible mission. I believe that to be a Bulgarian is not a fate, it is an honor. Together with Vice-president Mrs. Iotova we will pool efforts to repay your trust. I am sure that with the help of the nation’s talent, with a clear vision, sensible reforms and common efforts we will build a more just society and will make Bulgaria a modern, dynamic, prospering country in which free and dynamic citizens will make their dreams come true.