(DF) Consultative Council on National Security Fails to Agree on Budget Revision ahead of Looming New COVID Wave and Migrant Crisis

August 16 (BTA) – The Consultative Council on National Security (CCNS), convened by President Rumen Radev here on Monday, discussed financial measures for overcoming a potential health, social and economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and ways to handle a growing migrant pressure on Bulgaria through its border with Turkey. The participants, however, failed to reach a consensus about the measures and more specifically about revising the budget to allow the government to make higher-than-planned expenditures. The budgetary revisions appear to have dominated the talks. The meeting involved National Assembly Chair Iva Miteva, caretaker Prime Minister Stefan Yanev and Ministers Boiko Rashkov of Interior, Svetlan Stoev of Foreign Affairs, Galab Donev of Labour and Social Policy, Kiril Petkov of Economy, Asen Vassilev of Finance, Stoicho Katsarov of Health and Georgi Panayotov of Defence. The parliamentary groups were represented by their floor leaders: Toshko Yordanov of There Is Such a People, Desislava Atanasova of GERB-UDF, Kornelia Ninova of BSP for Bulgaria, Mustafa Karadayi of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), Hristo Ivanov of Democratic Bulgaria, and Maya Manolova of Rise Up BG! Here We Come! Bulgarian Socialist Party leader Kornelia Ninova described the meeting as not easy. “A difficult council, different opinions,” she said. MRF leader Mustafa Karadayi left the council early. Speaking to journalists, he accused the caretaker Cabinet of wanting a lot of money to spend as they deem fit and once again personally attacked Capital’s publisher Ivo Prokopiev, whom he accused of “pulling the government’s strings right now”. GERB Floor Leader Desislava Atanasova said that all participants from the different parliamentary groups believe that the budget update must be discussed in Parliament and not during the CCNS. Revisions of the national budget and the budgets of the public social insurance and the National Health Insurance Fund have been prepared by the caretaker government and approved by the trade unions and the employer organizations. Now they also need the approval of the legislature to go through. Last week, the President implied that he would wait for Parliament to pass the budget revisions and then go ahead with offering a second mandate for the formation of a government – to GERB, which is the second largest group in Parliament. Following is a take away from participants’ comments for the press after the meeting: GERB Floor Leader Desislava Atanasova “We insist that the budget debates be held in Parliament and this should not be tied in any way to the other constitutional procedures, and by that I mean the handing of the next exploratory government-forming mandates. The constitutional procedure for handing the mandates must start moving fast. Bulgaria urgently needs a government and three parties have already stated their readiness to propose a cabinet. The handing of the mandate [by the President] to the second and the third political force must not be delayed. We did not manage to find out from the President when the second mandate will be handed”. BSP for Bulgaria Floor Leader Kornelia NInova “We failed to reach a joint conclusion that the budget revision is necessary. BSP will support the budget update on first reading in Parliament, but will table revisions between first and second readings. We received sufficient information about the increased migrant pressure, which I cannot discuss, as it is classified. The situation is a cause of concern”. Rise Up BG! Floor Leader Maya Manolova “I am concerned about the lack of even minimal consensus between the parliamentary parties regarding the risks Bulgaria faces and the possible future crises – the migrant, health and social crisis, stemming from the increasing prices. The parties are already in campaigning mode and only care about their own party interests,” she said. According to Manolova, it is a shame to have close to two billion additional leva collected in budget revenues and for it to be impossible to support people because politicians are failing to reach an understanding. Democratic Bulgaria Leader Hristo Ivanov “We discussed the whole system of crises, which Bulgaria is facing. The final decision about the necessary budget update will be made in Parliament. Democratic Bulgaria’s MPs will decide tomorrow [Tuesday] whether we will support the budget revisions”. MRF Leader Mustafa Karadayi The draft budget revisions have 1.2 billion leva set aside for emergency expenditures, i.e. a blank check based on GERB’s [governance] model. The question is, if until now Boyko [Borissov] was in the SUV [which he used to drive around the country and promise financial fixes where problems existed], who is driving the new SUV. We suppose that this is the long arm of an organized oligarchic-media-NGO group, headed by Ivo Prokopiev,” he said. LN/MY