NOBODY BENEFITS FROM CHANGES IN THE GOVERNMENT
Mr. Panayotov, will there be changes in the Cabinet? Last week mass media began talking about castlings in May. Do you think that is real?
- What Bulgaria needs at present is stability, not replacements in Government. We lack calmness and confidence that we may successfully proceed with the activities and measures, undertaken as a commitment to the European Union (EU). But I am convinced that almost 260 days before the date January 1, 2007 we can clearly realize Bulgaria's responsibility at this stage and manage to go on.
We are talking just a day after the rightist parties in Bulgaria's Parliament filed a non-confidence vote against the ruling Cabinet. Do you believe that vote will have any consequences?
- Of course, it's the right of the opposition to place important problems to the attention of society at any moment. And the problem regarding the State's reaction in cases of natural disasters is principally important. But what impresses me now is that instead of being an occasion for unification of the nation and all domestic institutions, it is an occasion for disunion. Unlike other countries where there are natural calamities now, e. g. Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic and Hungary. Again, solidarity is not the main virtue we want to demonstrate. I would also like to emphasize something else. If the opposition has, as it claims, concrete data about corruption and misuse of funds that were granted to the municipalities for overcoming the consequences of damages, let them be presented to the Bulgarian public and the authorized bodies, respectively. And I can assure you that at a political level the NMSII will be among the first who will insist on immediately considering those signals and punish severely and in conformity with the law any guilty officials if there are such.
Is there a chance that the data reverses the vote if they are so concrete?
- I don't believe that Bulgaria's interest which is presently definite, could be doubted if someone has not done his job. We must clearly say that in a lawful country the responsibility for unlawful behaviour should be individualized and not present it as a thesis that all are scoundrels and nobody deserves any progress in that sense.
I'll go back to my first question. From the very beginning when the Cabinet was formed there have been talks about political bargaining, or call it forms of agreement. And they are happening in front of the public eyes... And the option that the partners agree on personal changes in sectors where we have not made a progress according to the European Commission (EC) does not lack logic either.
- No such conversations have been held in the ruling coalition because the main thing we are occupied with at present is everyday work which is not always interesting to the mass media. But we are doing our homework every day in compliance with the undertaken commitments with the sole purpose of becoming full-fledged EU members as of January 1, 2007. We, the NMSII are in that coalition in order to guarantee that priority on one side, but also to guarantee the Bulgarian society's progress on the other hand. And that is done by guaranteeing certain economic parameters. We are glad that NMSII's belief prevailed in the ruling coalition, i. e. to guarantee clearly and explicitly economic and financial stability, making possible the growth of investments in the country in 2006 and 2007. Let me remind you that Bulgaria was marking some 4.5-5.5% economic growth over the last four years. Of course, it is through that economic growth and through guaranteeing the financial stability to make very important things happen in the sphere of social policy and healthcare.
This is the Government's big problem. Some of your partners promised a certain growth of incomes which will be hardly reached. Social research shows that the Cabinet is accruing negatives. What is done in such a case?
- Negatives are always accumulated when unrealistic promises are made. That is why the NMSII has never bound itself with populist promises that cannot bring about a real improvement of Bulgarian citizens' lives. But let me repeat that we are convinced a series of successful measures could be effected in the two above-mentioned spheres - healthcare and social policy. We invited Healthcare Minister, Prof. Radoslav Gaidarsky to a meeting of the parliamentary group. The meeting was very useful. He accepted a lot of our proposals and we expect them to be included in the strategy that is being prepared by the Healthcare Ministry. The strategy will be ready these days. And as a political force we'll have an occasion to see if our proposals have been included in it. If that is the case, we'll proceed with their realization. If that is not the case, I assure you that the NMSII will insist for making these things happen because we'll otherwise put to question the citizens' constitutional right of getting healthcare services.
Let's talk about justice, which is another problematic sphere. The EU did not approve of what had been done till now. Talks began about demanding the resignation of the Justice Minister Georgi Petkanov who is from NMSII's quota. Are there grounds for that?
- As you can see, every day there is talk about resignations in various sectors. I would not say we should presently focus on one resignation or another, because there are no grounds.
But according to the opposition, Mr. Petkanov's resignation is in a set together with that of Interior Minister Roumen Petkov. Back a month ago MPs from the NMSII said they could demand the Interior Minister's resignation. Is that topical now?
- I don't believe such resignations at present would help for solving the problems, which are not little. And they are not connected with what is presently undertaken as a legislative reform now, including a constitutional one as well. The latest amendments to the Constitution and the new law on internal affairs are entirely in conformity with European standards. They provide us with the legal basis for a more efficient and good-quality jurisdiction. What is wrong here in Bulgaria is the application of these legislative measures. There are not sufficient cases when criminal legislation has been applied with the utmost stringency and respective representatives are punished, especially such of the organized crime towards which the society is very sensible with good reasons. If we look at the picture of criminality in Bulgaria in general and compare it with that in the EU, I can assure you as a specialist in that sphere that I follow very carefully indicators, including the growth of heavy criminality, both here and there. It turns out that the crimes per 1,000 persons in the developed EU countries are more than in Bulgaria. What borders us is the lack of sufficient efficiency in the cases of heavy organized crimes. I think we are creating new mechanisms there in order to feel a stronger efficiency.
Is there an organized campaign against politicians from the NMSII? Your parliamentary group complained of such a campaign regarding the inspections against the MP Jordan Kostadinov.
- This is a case we'll continue to follow extremely carefully as there are claims about data for committed crimes. For us it is very important to show first of all that we are not opening a political umbrella in order to hamper investigation. Mr. Kostadinov's behaviour is worthy itself. Right away he made a declaration that he was giving up his immunity. It is important to get to the truth, but we oppose the use of whatever possibilities in order to slander a MP.
The 8-5-3 formula is about to create tension within the coalition. For half a year there are talks about a purge of NMSII representatives, or a red broom as they call it. Data about such sacks of you members round the country had to be received by the NMSII Chief Secretary. It is not a secret that BSP's functionaries are targeting at powerful positions.
- First of all I would like to underline that at the level of a coalition meeting we have clearly and categorically agreed that the 8-5-3 formula concerns only the Government and the bodies of central power. It cannot concern any divisions of the local bodies of power because state officials are employed there. During its previous mandate the NMSII showed that the State's administration should not be affected by the change of political power. We have a principle understanding and it has been accepted at a high political level by our coalition partners.
Is what is happening with UDF's members happening with NMSII's members as well? Are they joining Sofia Mayor Boyko Borissov's newly minted association, called Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (abbreviated GERB in Bulgaria, meaning coats of arms)? Do you have any such information?
- No, I don't have such information. I should underline this is just a non-profit association at present. And we do not regard it as a political competitor as it's not a party yet. Considering GERB's declared purpose - Bulgaria's timely EU membership - it is just normal for us to be in good relations with that NGO. We are in excellent relations with other NGOs, too. Our MPs even head these organisations for Bulgaria. If GERB becomes a political party as some of its representatives say, then it will be our competitor of course, but also a subject with which we could have strategic cooperation.