SPEECHES AND STATEMENTS
Statements Made by President Rosen Plevneliev and Vice-president Margarita Popova at a Press Conference Held on the Occasion of the End of the Second Year since they Took Office - Part II2014-01-20 17:45:00
Vice-president Margarita Popova:
I would like to welcome all journalists and all guests that have come to hear our report on the two-year period since we took office. Happy New Year to whomever we have not heard or seen so far. According to our tradition, until the end of January we may wish each other all the best, more peace of mind and more common sense.
Dear colleagues and friends, I will be very brief, since Mr. President said at the beginning of his statement, and this is what we agreed on, that we will preserve the format of the report of last year. I will say only a couple of words because the Constitution has granted me the commitment to assist the President in his activities and to fulfill the tasks within my competence and functions related to the leadership of the commissions on refugees, citizenship and clemency. I will hold individual briefings with you so that we can clarify in detail what we did in 2013, whether new trends are emerging, how the colleagues who work in these three commissions view 2014. Many things can be said on these issues, comparisons can be made, so that the adopted approach to devote time to this activity in a couple of days or a week seems appropriate to me.
What would I briefly like to say about my activity as Vice-president in 2013? For me the year passed under the motto of exercising power by knowing and serving the law, for the sake of the Bulgarians’ peace of mind. This is extremely important for me because it highlights the very essence of the Presidential institution, which fortunately is legally stipulated in the Constitution – to ensure the unity of the nation. There is no reason to waste energy pursuing other policies in other spheres which are clearly stipulated in the Constitution and which the executive branch of power, the legislative branch and the judicial branch are in charge of. Therefore our work and efforts are devoted to achieving unity of the nation by knowing and serving the law.
In 2013 there were a lot of occasions when we were able show how we could achieve this goal. I focused my efforts on two directions. The first one, of course, has to do with what I promised way back during our election campaign – to hold direct meetings and talks with the Bulgarians, to look them straight in the eyes, to talk about the problems, about where we are, where we are heading toward, what people need, how they consider the opportunity to find the better path and how they imagine life which they could govern more satisfactorily. I visited more than 20 towns, the smaller towns in Bulgaria, I had direct contacts with the people, I gained experience, a lot of insights and I can say that 2013 gave me a lot as a politician and I tried to impart it to the institution in order to boost its prestige and increase the transparency in the public and political shpere.
The next direction that I consider worth highlighting in my activity is the work I did on the “National Security” topic. Why I am saying this? Because there were a lot of specific occasions in 2013 related to this topic and, of course, because my work is directly related to this topic through the commission on granting asylums and citizenship. You know that the topic Syria, the war there, the processes in Northern Africa provided us the opportunity to show what the presidential institution should be, depending on how it is structured under the Constitution. Way back at the beginning of the year I voiced my concern that we will have to deal with this topic, we will have a lot of problems and these problems will be the basis of social policy, healthcare, education, national security, which are related to the Bulgarian people’s peace of mind. The topic involves the crime rate and the opportunities the national security services and the executive branch of power have, through the Interior Ministry, to curb the situation so as to ensure the Bulgarians’ peace of mind. I think that in this respect the presidential institution can report a good positive activity precisely in the direction of serving the Bulgarian people and making a conscious attempt to impart tranquility, wisdom and common sense. This is what the Bulgarian people expect us to do in 2014 as well.
And since I mentioned 2014, to make my statement briefer, I would like to say a couple of things. 2013 ended on 31 December at a specific hour and the very next minute it was 2014 – and I would like to ask where are we now, what is happening. Almost a month has passed since the beginning of 2014 and we have to say clearly and in simple words, having both feet on the ground, what is in store for us this year. Elections are to be held at which all that will happen is what normally happens ahead of all elections. Therefore we should cherish no illusions that by the middle of the calendar year we will be able to ensure more tranquility. I expect that the politicians will show common sense and display their capabilities and avoid provoking stress and anxiety in the Bulgarian people and I would very much like this to happen.
I think we will face the same problems regarding national security as we did in 2013 and the problems are coming from the same direction. The situation in Syria and Northern Africa has not improved – we will have the same problems and therefore we should pool efforts to solve them. It is true that a Consultative Council for National Security was held here. However, this is an enormous topic and no matter whether the meeting will continue 5, 6 or 16 hours, it will not be able to solve all problems. The Consultative Council is a meeting of political forces in the Presidential institution at which all these questions can be raised. They are extremely important for Bulgaria because of its geo-strategic position and because of the tasks it has to solve related to the national security topic.
There are a lot of problems that the executive branch of power will have to solve and on which it should continue working hard and in a united manner, as when it did by drawing up a plan in the late autumn of 2012. However, we should be ready to react if the situation changes in terms of tactics and strategy, not the way we reacted in 2013.
There is one more issue related to the national security topic which we will have to seriously deal with in 2014. This is the citizenship topic. You know that a mere week ago the “European citizenship” topic was discussed on a European level. This is a topic I have been speaking about since 2011, particularly during our election campaign and I would like to reiterate what I said in 2011. The time has come when Bulgaria needs a new conception for Bulgarian citizenship. I know it is a difficult and responsible issue. We cannot go on making sporadic and incidental amendments in the Law on Bulgarian Citizenship. We should work together, of course, this is above all a task the Justice Ministry is entrusted with, as part of the executive branch of power. However, as far as the Presidential institution is concerned with this issue, we will actively participate in decision-making. I have already held two talks with the Justice Minister and we share the opinion that in 2014 we will have to start working on a very difficult political and social issue – an issue concerning national security and which was debated on the European level: what European citizenship practically is and what our attitude to it should be. Moreover, our country is an external EU border and our wish to become members of the Schengen zone is due to be met. I think this issue is extremely important.
This third question that I am interested in and which is related to the national security topic, is a question that usually arises in the public space ahead of elections, though not only then. It is a question that does not boil down to talking and providing excuses, which can be determined as a fashion, this is the question about the special surveillance means, more particularly the question about using these special surveillance means and the concern they cause not only in the political class and individual political figures, but also in the Bulgarian people as a whole. Because the illegal usage of special surveillance means erodes the legal order, it not only argues with, but practically kills the rule of law as a basic principle of the law-governed state. For me as a former magistrate and Justice Minister this is an extremely important topic. We should not accept as normal the scandals surrounding the illegal use of special surveillance means that break from time to time in Bulgaria. The consequences are dire. They not only erode the legal order, they undermine the trust between the institutions and the trust between individual figures. If there is no trust and the legal order has been eroded, we cannot speak of ensuring unity.
Therefore I think that the Presidential institution should pay special attention to the special surveillance means topic. Moreover, structural changes were made in 2013. At least one meeting of the Consultative Council for National Security should be devoted to this topic. It will not be unnecessary, the political leaders should come here and talk on the special surveillance means topic. We can speak a lot, we can speak about the need to make legislative amendments. However, before talking about legislative amendments, we should openly speak about other things – about how long and why, what are we aiming at – what do we achieve, who benefits from that. In any case the Bulgarian people does not benefit from that. Neither do I.
In 2012 a working group in the Justice Ministry worked out a very good bill for making amendments in the Special Surveillance Means Law. Moreover, the national security topic and the usage of special surveillance means is not developed at all in the law that is in force. I do not know where this bill was put – maybe in somebody’s drawer or somewhere in the Council of Ministers. It is a pity that it was not implemented. There are a lot of things which concern human rights and guarantees for their protection. It is high time that we started talking about human rights in the second decade of the 21st century, not only by reading them as a catalogue in the International Bill of Human Rights or in the Constitution, but by speaking about how we can protect them. Because this is a matter of mentality, which is built years on end; this is a matter of legal and everyday culture. It is high time we focused on these issues because otherwise no one will come and invest in Bulgaria since they know what they will encounter, because of a bad mentality, because of bad inter-institutional interaction and because of disregard for the rule of law, because there is no law-governed state.
I am speaking with conviction about these issues because I know them well and because I know what the consequences of all this may be, coupled with the national security topic which is introduced from outside to Bulgaria as an EU border. Things are extremely serious for 2014 and the elections will make them even more serious. This is the truth and looking into the distant future will not be very useful. We should focus on these issues in 2014.
The motto I have chosen is to work in 2014 by pooling efforts and focusing on actions and conduct which can be expressed by a single word and this is the word insight. I like this word very much, it has a rich lexical and emotional meaning. In the interpretative dictionaries and the dictionaries of synonyms it is explained very well. And in a very beautiful and convincing way it can combine everything that happened in 2013 and everything that is expected to happen in 2014. Things are closely related. The concrete initiatives I will launch: to continue working with my colleagues from the executive branch of power on updating the Strategy on the Bulgarian communities abroad. It will be a positive development if we manage to pool efforts together with the executive branch of power by autumn and start work on a strategy on Bulgarian citizenship. These are two difficult things and they will be considered long-term activities. The second initiative is related to the Bulgarian language lecture courses, the Bulgarian language and teaching Bulgarian abroad – I have launched this initiative together with the Education Minister, activities are under way, we will meet in two weeks so that we can see what we have achieved and how to continue working. These are things which suit the Presidential institution very much as a unifier, as an institution that can guarantee tranquility, that can guarantee unity, that can inspire common sense because this is what it is called upon to do.
Most probably on the eve of elections, both the current ones and the next ones in 2015, we will go on talking about a restart of the system, something which Mr. President mentioned in his statement. A lot will probably be said about amendments in the Constitution and about preparing a completely new constitution. I am very careful in these talks because part of them are fashionable and part of them is political talk, typical of the period ahead of elections. As a lawyer I want to know why, what precisely is spoken and what we aim at. The Constitution is the state’s basic law and no modern society allows itself, in times of crises, to fashionably speak about restarting the system, completely destroying the basis or starting all over again. It is a very responsible endeavor and therefore we must be careful to find a balance between fashion and common sense.