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Coalition Partners, Independents Approve Six-Month Governance, Lawmaking Programmes

Continue the Change, BSP for Bulgaria, Democratic Bulgaria and independent MPs on Wednesday evening adopted a Governance Programme of the Bulgarian Government for the July 2022 – December 2022 period and a Lawmaking Programme for the same period. The programmes are to be implemented by a cabinet that Continue the Change prime minister designate Assen Vassilev was mandated to form on July 1, Continue the Change said in a press release.
Vassilev has until July 8 to fulfil the mandate.
The programmes were finally discussed by Continue the Change co-leaders Kiril Petkov and Assen Vassilev, BSP for Bulgaria leader Korneliya Ninova, Democratic Bulgaria leader Hristo Ivanov, government ministers and lawmakers.
The coalition partners described the Governance Programme as “ambitious, realistic, and envisaging support for business and people in the autumn and winter.” “We have not yet discussed a lineup or a structure of the government,” Vassilev said. Replying to a question, he specified that this matter will be addressed when a majority for this programme is secured.
Petkov commended all coalition partners for placing Bulgaria above everything else and acting responsibly, focusing on Bulgaria as their guiding cause, considering how much the country would lose without a government in the coming months. “Our coalition partners cut across the spectrum, but there are so many billions to be injected in the Bulgarian economy over the next six months, and over 40 important laws have to be adopted, so the only thing that matters is Bulgaria’s advancement,” the outgoing prime minister said.
For her part, Ninova said that her party is satisfied with the final version of the programme because it contains a substantial package addressing the party’s priorities: inflation, poverty, income, and inequalities. Support for business will continue with the present measures until the end of the year, and there will be extra measures like halving the lending interest for small and medium-sized enterprises, BGN 100,000 threshold for VAT registration, and ambitious actions to promote the use of Bulgarian products and support the Bulgarian economy.
Democratic Bulgaria Co-chair Atanas Atanassov said the programme was ambitious but realistic and lives up to Bulgarian citizens’ expectations.
Work on the drafts continued into the small hours of Wednesday, taking into account the priorities set forth by Continue the Change’s partners at consultations on July 2, said Gurov.
Continue the Change Floor Leader Andrey Gurov said earlier in the day that MPs of There Is Such a People (TISP) had indicated in the last few hours that they were seeking contact with Continue the Change. Talks on securing a majority of 121 MPs in the 240-seat legislature are under way, and Continue the Change are ready to meet with them, though not with the TISP leaders. “The invitation applies to the MPs capable of independent decision making,” Gurov said.
For his part, TISP Floor Leader Toshko Yordanov confirmed that his parliamentary group had not been invited to talks. “They have been phoning our MPs most arrogantly, trying to lure them through relatives and [Facebook] posts,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Bulgarian Socialist Party said its National Council would meet on Thursday afternoon to discuss information on the consultation with Continue the Change as well as the party’s political position and further steps.
Here Is what the Governance Programme Envisages:
Finance and economy: Independent and competent members of the leading regulators and institutions (Commission for Consumer Protection, Bulgarian National Bank, Financial Supervision Commission and Bulgarian National Audit Office) will be elected to eliminate fuel and commodity pricing abuse. The VAT registration threshold will be raised from BGN 50,000 now to BGN 100,000 from January 2023 and to BGN 166,000 from January 2024. Technical work will continue on preparing the euro changeover on January 1, 2024. The impact of the adoption of the euro will be assessed to provide a basis for a large-scale awareness campaign. The capacity of the financial intelligence service to combat money laundering will be strengthened. EU funding will be used to lend to small and mid-sized businesses at half-interest. The new EU-backed programmes are planned so that 50% of the funding be invested in Northern Bulgaria. Business will continue to be compensated for any electricity price above BGN 250/MWh.
Energy sector: Tiered pricing will be introduced for electricity and heating to make sure a basic quantity is guaranteed for all at affordable prices, while bigger consumers are charged more. The construction of new nuclear power facilities will be stepped up after an environmental impact assessment and if financial resources are available. The Kozloduy N-plant will switch to alternative (non-Russian) nuclear fuel. The security of gas supplies will be guaranteed through negotiations with all possible supplies and signing long-term supply deals in keeping with the EU policy. Finalization and approval of the just transition plans for Stara Zagora, Kyustendil and Pernik [which are centres of big coal industry].
Justice: Strengthening control by the Justice Ministry on private enforcement agents. A standard state exam will be introduced for law students. Mandatory e-delivery will be introduced.
Social sector and education: Survivor benefits and the benefits for retired teachers will be increased. A formula will be introduced for automatic calculation of the minimum wage and the maximum contributory income. Free text books will be provided for 1st to 12th graders. The grants for low-income pupils and students and for high-achievers will be increased. The school curricula will be revised. An educational cloud for education will offer resources for schoolchildren, teachers and parents. A national system for early childhood development screening will be introduced and the principles of inclusive education updated.
Healthcare: The first of six air ambulances will become operational before the end of 2022. A plan will be finally approved for building a national children’s hospital. The software for electronic prescriptions will be changed to allow replacement of brand-name medicines with generics. An integrated system will be built and funding provided for post-graduate specialization of young medical professionals.
Regional development: The best option will be identified for completing the construction of the Struma Motorway without losing any EU funding. An agreement will be signed with Romania on the design and construction of five bridges over the Danube and on improving Danube shipping. Contracts will be awarded for the design of tunnels at the Petrohan and Hainboaz Passes in the Balkan Range, as well as contracts for the completion of Hemus Motorway and the extension of the Cherno More Motorway so that it links the border with Romania to the border with Turkey. Continuing the construction of Evropa Motorway and the Vidin-Botevgrad express road. The government will introduce the German standards for road construction. The National Construction Supervision Directorate will be removed from the jurisdiction of the Regional Development Ministry and transformed into a stand-alone agency under the Council of Ministry.
Foreign policy: An online consular department will be created to provide online services for all Bulgarians abroad. Passports will be valid for ten years (up from five now). Joining the Schengen area will be prioritized. The 2023 national budget will provide for defence spending equal to at least 2% of GDP. Making diplomatic efforts to normalize dialogue with the Russian Federation in accordance with the Bulgarian national interest and within the framework of the common European policy. The country will work on the implementation of the OECD accession roadmap.
Culture policy: The Radio and Television Act will be revised to include in its scope online media and social networks, and introduce personal liability for content authors and media organization owners. It will become possible to suspend online media if the public register of media organizations does not contain valid data on them.
Agriculture and environment: The capacity of phyto-sanitary control laboratories will be increased. The fines for polluters and for the authorities in charge of illegal waste dumps will be doubled. Coastal dunes and beaches will be mapped and added to the cadastre by October 31. The strategic plan for rural development will be finalized. A national campaign will be launched for encouraging the consumption of local fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy and other foods.
The rules of organization of government ministries will be revised, and their personnel will be cut back by 5% or more.
Highlights of the Lawmaking Programme
The lawmaking programme for the July 2022 – January 2023 period encompasses legislation to be drafted and moved by the National Assembly (with Nikola Minchev nominated as chair) and the Council of Ministers in the areas of the judicial and anti-corruption reform, the justice system, the economy, legislative revisions provided for in the Recovery and Resilience Plan, e-Government, culture, healthcare, labour and social policy, environment and transport.
Judicial and anti-corruption reform: Election of Boyko Rashkov as chair of the Commission for Anti-Corruption and Illegal Assets Forfeiture Commission (CACIAFC) by end of July 2022. Comprehensive reform of the CACIAFC by September 2022. Establishment of a separate administrative structure of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office. Changes in the pre-trial proceedings to improve their efficiency. Establishment of an effective mechanism for investigating the prosecutor general and holding the prosecutor general accountable for criminal offices, as required by judgments against Bulgaria, etc.
Justice system: Long-awaited amendments to the Protection against Domestic Violence Act ensuring prompt, effective and adequate protection and support of domestic violence victims or persons at risk and taking preventive and deterrent action against the offender. Drafting a law on the promotion of volunteering.
Economy: Creating the conditions for effective and efficient implementation of the activities of the state gambling regulator. Updating and refining the provisions on the issuance of start-up visas. Optimizing the process of issuing Blue Cards to third-country citizens for the purpose of highly qualified employment. Overhauling the outdated regulations and aligning them with current incentive needs.
National Recovery and Resilience Plan: The 21 legislative amendments set out in the plan will enable Bulgaria to start absorbing the second tranche of BGN 13 billion in EU grants, to have medical helicopters, state-of-the-art classrooms, energy efficient households, etc. Development of geothermal energy as a renewable energy source, liberalization of the wholesale electricity market, approval by the National Assembly of a climate neutrality roadmap, and an anti-corruption bill.
E-government: Providing security, protection, convenience, speed and efficiency for citizens and administration. Transparency, traceability and control, better governance, optimization of processes and optimization and digitization of processes, secure and convenient electronic identity as a basis for e-government.
Healthcare: Digitization of all healthcare system policies, improving the processes for the provision of technical aids and medical devices to people with disabilities, refining the regulation and accessibility of transplant programmes in Bulgaria.