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Address by the President-Elect of the Republic of Bulgaria Rosen Plevneliev after taking oath of office at the National Assembly
Address by the President-Elect of the Republic of Bulgaria
Rosen Plevneliev after taking oath of office at the National Assembly

January 19, 2012

Esteemed Mr. President,
Esteemed Mrs. Speaker of the National Assembly,
Esteemed Mr. Prime Minister,
Your Holiness,
Mr. President of the Constitutional Court,
Deputy Prime-Ministers, Ministers,
Members of Parliament,
Dear Compatriots!

In my name and in the name of Vice-President Margarita Popova I would like to thank you all for the confidence! I am well aware of the enormous personal responsibility I assume as well as the responsibility of the presidential institution. I will be the President of all Bulgarian citizens regardless of their religious, ethnic and political affiliation. I will uphold the supra-partisan nature of the institution.

I will not forget the commitments I have already taken, nor am I afraid of pledging new ones. The promises I have made during the election campaign will be publicly announced on the website of the President’s Office. Furthermore, I will ensure lasting transparency and accountability of my activities as I stand firmly for civic control on politicians and active civil society in Bulgaria. I will do my best to open up the institution to the people as I believe that all issues of importance for Bulgaria should be addressed by the Parliament, the Government and the President, however with the active involvement of the people and in front of the people.

Today’s ceremony, which certainly is in the spirit of the Bulgarian political tradition, conveys continuity. Therefore, I take the liberty of addressing all democratically elected Presidents of the Republic of Bulgaria:

Esteemed Presidents Zhelev, Stoyanov, Parvanov, you have worked for the successful transition of Bulgaria to modern democracy. You have strived for affirming the image and reputation of the presidential institution in the country and throughout the world and I thank you for that. Furthermore, I am confident that you will continue working with us all for a better Bulgaria. Because being the President of the Republic of Bulgaria is not simply a matter of assuming an office; it is above all a cause.

I have won people’s confidence pledging to be the pragmatic president of modern Bulgaria. I know I will be judged by my deeds rather than by my words. And I don’t expect from everyone to love me or like me. What is truly important for me is to be competent and do my job well. I will work for the national interest and the well-being of every Bulgarian.

In assuming the office of President I do not intend to pursue power as an end in itself, but to work for finding solutions to issues of importance for the country. I vow to be a different politician and leader. I will not involve in political intrigues and will not stand on the way. I will be a political arbiter, partial only to national interests and priorities.

I realize I am taking the office in difficult times when the state and the Bulgarian people are faced with challenges caused by a deep global economic crunch – a combination of economic, financial and debt crisis, which is by far the severest one since the Second World War. The survival not only of national economies, but also of united Europe is put on trial. This isn’t just another cyclic economic crisis. The entire world order is changing in these turbulent times. New global and regional players are coming to the fore. Dramatic changes are taking place in the way we work, travel, communicate and live. The crisis is not only a threat, it is also an opportunity. And it is our present day actions to define our country in ten years from now.

We have to make difficult as well as responsible decisions. We have to clearly understand that the future of the Bulgarian people rests with the ability of everyone involved in the government of the country to fully mobilize the national potential and channel it in the right direction.

Despite the macroeconomic successes Bulgaria remains the poorest country in the European Union. Salaries are low, many Bulgarians, especially among the retired and people in the rural areas of the country, live in poverty. The three most backward regions of Bulgaria are the most backward regions in Europe. In a nutshell, Bulgaria does not even rank in the middle; it stands at the lower end of the European ratings. This must change!

We need the energy and vigor of each and every one of you. It should not be wasted on senseless political confrontations. To me building a strong, prosperous and successful Bulgaria is not just an objective. It is a cause. A cause, binding us to work to the best of our abilities, to give up our personal interests and forget our politically prejudiced perceptions. Because we are strong only when we are united. Until now it has been mostly crises to bring us together. It is high time we got united around a national cause.

What Bulgaria needs most today is not simply a dream but an agenda embraced by the public at large and across the entire political spectrum. The worst deficiency that a nation could suffer is the deficiency of prospects for the future. We cannot afford that. Governments change every four years. Bulgaria, however, cannot start from a scratch every time. The pursuit of unity is a constitutional priority of the President. What ‘Bulgaria 2020’ offers, however, is not simply consensus, but a general agreement on a long-term agenda for economic growth and development of the nation.

I have a cause: Bulgaria to become a medium-rich European country with developed regions and competitive economy, a country where people live in dignity and whose young do not leave for lack of development prospects. This should be the strategic goal of the nation by 2020. In spite of all predicaments we need to focus our thoughts and words on growth, not on survival. Let us be clear: success is important. But the success of a nation, its prosperity, well-being and security, can be only achieved through sizable and sustainable economic growth. Without economic growth the country will be faced with lack of adequate resources for successful implementation of its strategies, be it in healthcare, retirement, education, defense or security. Here is how I see Bulgaria in 2020:

Now the average Bulgarian citizen’s income is only 43 percent of the median for the Europe Union. In 2020 I see it no less than 60 percent.

Now we rank 74th in the world in terms of competitiveness. In 2020 I see Bulgaria among the top 50.

Now the energy-intensity of Bulgarian economy is five times higher as compared to the EU average. In 2020 I see this difference melted down by two fold.

Now the Bulgarian workers’ productivity amounts to only 42 percent of the EU average. In 2020 I see labor productivity raised to 60 percent.

Now Bulgaria exports grain. In 2020 I see Bulgaria exporting predominantly food products.

Now the Bulgarian railways are in insolvency. In 2020 I see high-speed trains carrying people and goods with 200 km/h from Asia via Bulgaria to Europe.

Now the academic and scientific communities could hardly cover their expenses with young scholars leaving the country. In 2020 I see highly motivated scientists working shoulder to shoulder with the business on innovation projects.

Now the Madara Horseman rock relief is surrounded by rusty scaffolding jutted out since 1993. In 2020 I see Bulgaria introducing its opulent culture and historic heritage to the world. I see the country as a symbol of quality tourism yielding billions of return.

Now there is hardly a single Bulgarian happy with the healthcare system in place. In 2020 I see emergency aid ambulances reaching in no time the remotest corners of the country. I see physicians taking quick and adequate decisions thanks to the introduction of electronic health card. I see corruption and siphoning of the health insurance fund reduced to none.

Now 2.7 million Bulgarian citizens reside in energy inefficient blocks of flats. In 2020 I see at least half of them living in renewed neighborhoods, with utility bills cut down by half and sales price of their estates doubled.

I realize these objectives are high, but to turn this imaginary Bulgaria into a reality we need to believe we can. We need to have a long-term plan that would allow us fully mobilize the intellectual and physical potential of the nation. Therefore, I will turn the President’s office into a venue of public debate on topics of importance for every Bulgarian. I will ceaselessly seek balance and consent among the institutions and citizens in addressing key public issues.

A president is judged not merely by the level of his popularity, but by the results achieved in society within his term of office. Of course the president may yield to the temptation to display critical attitudes hoping to see his public approval rating on the rise. My strategy, however, is different. The President’s office shall strictly monitor the institutions not allowing them substitute national priorities for short-term goals. The Public Councils to the President will by no way function as a shadow cabinet. They will be a forum of discussion, a hub for debating the priorities and policies for sustainable national development. Active and transparent dialogue and solution-generation – this will be the rational of the Councils which will be constituted with the President’s office. As members of the Councils we shall invite representatives of various political parties, M.P.s, ministers, experts, representatives of the regions, employers organizations, trade unions, business and non-governmental organizations, and by all means citizens. The focus of our attention will be on civil society. I will work for the development of effective mechanisms for using civic initiatives and energy to the best advantage. In order to ensure maximum transparency and get closer to the people, the sittings of the Councils to the President, except for the national security-related, will be broadcast live on the Internet.

Some of the priorities that will focus my efforts as President will be as follows:

  • Justice for the citizens and effective judiciary;
  • Cultural and intellectual growth of the nation;
  • Working institutions;
  • Best business environment in South-East Europe;
  • Infrastructure at European level;
  • New approach to energy – energy efficiency, energy independence, energy liberalization;
  • Bulgaria of the regions;
  • Education, science, innovations;
  • Drivers of economic growth;
  • Good reputation of Bulgaria in Europe and in the world.

On these and many other priorities I will seek national dialogue, consensus and delivery of results.

There is no ‘shortcut to wealth’. Wealth is a product of hard work. So are the pensions and incomes. Politicians do not generate money, economy does. To support the economy we have to set up prerequisites for employment and quality investment attraction, for doing away with excessive administrative burdens on business and building well functioning institutions.

Indeed, we have a low sovereign debt, but this does not mean we enjoy a strong economy. We have low tax rates, but this does not mean we are attractive to investors. We are stable in times of crisis, but this does not make us richer. Introducing strict fiscal discipline is not an easy task and I appreciate the responsible attitude of the Government in this regard. Thanks to the consistent austerity policies pursued over the past three years the budget deficit remained low and the inflation rate was kept below the EU average. Owing to the efforts of several successive governments, Bulgaria has become a symbol of fiscal discipline and order. Furthermore, Bulgaria is the only EU member-state whose credit rating was upgraded during the crisis. This is seen as a result of the consistent efforts of several consecutive cabinets.

We have stability now and what we need next is to focus on growth and employment. Investments, exports and consumption are key in this regard. We have to fight for every Lev of investments. We have to seek and ensure consumption based on earnings, not on social benefits or subsidies. Small and medium-sized enterprises generate two thirds of jobs in Bulgaria. Therefore, we have to secure their access to funding, EU funds on competitiveness and qualified labor force trained at national and regional level, and to combat grey economy.

Innovations and education are a driver of growth and a generator of well-paid jobs. We have achieved a great deal in the field of science and innovations. Now is the time to start yielding benefits. In this regard it is crucial to see businesses, academia and the state joining forces for the implementation of a well targeted program for innovations in priority sectors of economy.

We need to foster reforms in the Bulgarian education system. Education is a bridge to the future. The course is set towards tailored training of specialists adequate to the needs of Bulgarian economy, who would help the country meet the challenges of the future. People are who add value to economy and society – they attract investments and create innovations. They are the greatest capital.

In order to develop the economy sustainably we need to focus our efforts on high value-added sectors, drawing on the existing potential and experiences piled. It is important to achieve an optimal mix of traditional industries, high value-added sectors and industries of the future. In the framework of a wide public debate at the President’s Office we shall seek and shape a vision on how Bulgaria could build up competitive advantages and become a leader in industries of the future. These could be related to human health, green technologies, ICT, food production, new materials, new sources of energy, electric mobility, smart energy networks etc. Developing competitive advantages is key to becoming a leader in some of the industries of the future.

What we need in the Bulgarian energy policy is a pragmatic approach based on energy efficiency, energy independence and energy liberalization. These priorities and not the specific projects should be the guiding principles in the decision-making. My objective is to see an energy efficient and green Bulgaria. Bulgaria, independent of the providers’ will. Independence, however, could only ensue from competitiveness and availability of choice.

Apart from wasting energy, we are also wasting our water resources. Water is the oil of the future. We have to complete the reform in the water sector in order to ensure quality of services and adequate protection of one of the country’s most important strategic resources.

Let’s be clear: no state could become wealthy and no economy could prosper without well functioning institutions in place. The issue of administrative reform and e-government is already on the agenda and needs to be successfully advanced. E-government does not simply imply connecting the entire administration in a single network. E-government means quality services for citizens and companies delivered electronically by the state. Four and a half million Bulgarians are active users of Internet. They deserve that!

Are we aware well enough of the conditions for doing business in Bulgaria? Desks and counters, clumsy procedures, subjectivity. This is the reality and it is a huge burden for local entrepreneurs and foreign investors alike. What is the solution? Working administration and e-government. I am confident we shall have them in place!

Well balanced regional development, breeding economic prospects and new quality of life in the regions, development of specific regional drivers of competitiveness – these will be, inter alia, my leading priorities.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
The prosperity and well-being of the Bulgarian people lie in our hands. They are our responsibility. Responsibility for the future of our children. No external factor could release us from this obligation, nor is someone from outside going to do our job for us. We have to forge the future ourselves. Developed are societies with citizens who have trust for each other and know how to join efforts. Wealthy are the states with institutions that guarantee a level playing field and respect for the rules. Successful are the nations with a cause and a long-term vision. The lack of strategic reasoning and planning could only result in fragmented work, low efficiency, scarce results and poor competitiveness of economy. Before long, we find ourselves entangled in empty talking, political brokerage, organizational chaos and complex administrative procedures thus remaining inefficient, hence poor! If you see sense in these findings, I invite you to join efforts for the implementation of the National Program for Development ‘Bulgaria 2020’, to unite around national priorities, policies and projects and consistently pursue them regardless of who is in office.

The reputation of Bulgaria is of critical importance. It represents a premise for national self-confidence and international credibility. The good name, however, be it of a country, party or economy, is not an asset that can be acquired in a buy-out deal. It could be only a result of the consistent efforts by a number of successive generations and leaders.

Bulgaria needs to upgrade its success and reveal its abilities to the world. In my capacity as President I will work for the promotion of Bulgaria’s accomplishments. I take pride in the fact that Bulgaria is the only EU member-state which has reduced its sovereign debt over the past ten years from 100 down to 16 percent of its GDP. We had to suffer numerous hardships and it is still far from easy, but this is the only national policy responsible to the future generations. I extend my gratitude to all parties, governments and leaders in the past 10 years who have contributed to this success. Indeed, we need more good reasons for national pride and self-confidence.

The foreign policy of Bulgaria could have no other objectives but national prosperity and success. This means that our diplomacy has to defend the Bulgarian interests globally as well as regionally.

As President I categorically vow to work for the European development of Bulgaria and to set a course towards a more effective and accelerated integration of the country in the European Union. More Europe means stronger and richer Bulgaria. Bulgaria could succeed only if the European Union is strong and united. Therefore, we shall work for the success of democratic and free Europe as a place where rules are honored, where no big or small nations exist, where solidarity is not only a stated principle but a daily practice.

Bulgaria has the responsibility to contribute to democracy, stability, peace and prosperity in our region and in the world. We have had the historic chance to see the Balkans dramatically change over the past two decades. Today our neighbors have their European perspective. We stretch out a hand to everyone willing to share our common European home. A home where borders unite. A home for all sharing the European values and standards, working for regional cooperation and genuine neighborhood relations. Together with our EU partners we shall stand up against anyone seeking division among people, trying to re-write the past or breed confrontation.

In the past year, regions traditionally associated with the Bulgarian interests such as the Middle East and North Africa saw historic events of magnitude similar to the collapse of communist regimes in Eastern Europe. We support their aspirations for democracy, dignity and better living. Apart from sharing our experience in the transition from totalitarianism to democracy, we aim at creating prerequisites and conditions for return of Bulgarian business to these markets and regions that are so important to us. Providing better opportunities for the Bulgarian business abroad means more jobs at home, more investments attracted and more resources allocated on social programs.

We are witness of dynamic processes changing radically the world we live in. This requires precision of assessment. And, of course, rapid adjustment of our foreign policy. We have to channel our efforts towards regions with fast economic growth and expanding markets. With the support of our diplomacy we shall place the brand ‘Made in Bulgaria’ on the international stage.

To attain its foreign policy objectives, Bulgaria needs to be represented by genuine professionals, worthy Bulgarians who are well motivated and highly qualified.

Bulgaria’s foreign policy is called to provide guarantees for the country’s security. The full-fledged participation in NATO has been and will remain a key factor in this regard. The security of every Bulgarian depends on our active endeavor to build up, in solidarity with our allies, the defense capabilities of the Pact. We need to demonstrate strong political will in the implementation of our allied commitments.

At the same time, the Bulgarian institutions have to make a substantial effort for building up and strengthening our own national defense and security capabilities. What we need to that end is a comprehensive, integrated and systematic approach. This implies coordinated management and effective interaction in the field of security as well as precise definition of functions and duties of the individual institutions. Clear principles, rules and procedures have to be introduced:

  • in defining institutions’ priorities and tasks;
  • in recruitment policies;
  • in allocating budgets for their operations;
  • in reporting results.

Bulgarian defense and security agencies per-se do not attend to political parties or figures. They serve exclusively and only the Bulgarian citizens and the national interests. Further streamlining is needed vis-a-vis institutional oversight mechanisms, while agencies’ operations should be made fully consistent with the principle that the citizens’ rights and freedoms are a supreme value in every democratic society. Bulgarian citizens have to know not only what they get in return for every Lev spent on security, but also what deficiencies they will suffer with every Lev saved from the security agencies budget.

The need for reforms in the ‘Security’ sector is evident, as is evident the need for a new legislative framework regulating the relations in this particular field. Let me make a very clear point, that the need of reforming the security sector cannot be an end in itself. All changes should be aimed at enhancing the agencies’ interoperability. Besides, it is certain that problems in the sector shall not be tackled ad hoc. For this I extend my appreciation in advance, as I am certain that in 2012 we shall sit down together to hammer out the new statutes of the security agencies.

In respect of the national security system management we need to find and maintain an inter-institutional balance based on shared responsibilities. Pursuant to the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria, it is the President who is vested with a leading role in maintaining this balance.

The Consultative Committee on National Security with the President needs to grow into a working forum seeking effective, consensus-based solutions on important national security issues and, when necessary, into a platform for consultations on legislative changes.

In assessing my responsibility as a supreme commander, I would like to give special prominence to the country’s defense. Bulgaria has to build up its armed forces in compliance with the smart defense concept, which implies higher flexibility and enhanced interoperability in the framework of NATO as well as with the armed forces of each individual ally. This also implies redirecting investments to high-tech solutions and building modern and mobile armed forces tailored for meeting the contemporary challenges to the country’s security.

We cannot regard our security aside from the joint efforts of NATO and EU member-states. But we need to clearly understand that collective security means active share of every ally in building the common defense capabilities.

In spite of the economic difficulties we have to continue our investments in defense and security. All decisions in this respect have to be made only with a clear vision and in line with the strategy for development of our defense and security system, the armed forces in particular. The decisions need to be consistent with the mid- and long-term economic capacity of the country so that they could result in a fast, tangible and measurable effect on the security of the Republic of Bulgaria.

Dear compatriots,
I certainly do not want to see the Bulgarian people and state associated with corruption and organized crime. It is utterly inadmissible for the people of Botev and Levski to exemplify corruption in Europe. I categorically refuse to put up with this fact and will do my best to mobilize all public resources in addressing this issue. The road we have to follow is clear enough:

  • Zero public tolerance to corruption through strengthening civil society;
  • Rule of law;
  • Transparency and clear-cut mechanisms for public oversight;
  • Effective interaction among institutions;
  • Professionalism and ethics in the civil service.

It would be delusive to believe this is a problem easy to tackle. But there is no other way of dealing with this issue and we have to walk the road to the end. There is no price we can’t pay for the sake of democracy.

The rule of law is a value that underpins the very foundations of democracy as well as our success in every field of public life. The European development of Bulgaria requires us to place the reforms in the area of ‘Justice’ and ‘Internal order’ high on the national priority agenda. The reforms in the Judiciary should be carried out in strict compliance with the Strategy for continuing the judicial reform adopted by the Government in May 2010, a document that provides for continuity, consistency and comprehensive perspective in the common area of freedom, security and justice. It is time to end up addressing the problems only by legislative and structural changes. We owe the Bulgarian citizens a predictable and fair Judiciary. Stability in the judicial system is a guarantee for stability of government. Therefore the Executive and the supreme bodies of the Judiciary are equally responsible for the state of affairs in the field of human resources, professional skills and career development of Bulgarian magistrates.

Now is the time to elaborate and put into practice relevant procedures that would rule out the possibility of unprincipled appointments in the Judiciary, of giving rise to dependencies and breeding deficit of professional or personal ethics. Bulgarian citizens are absolutely right when they want to see highly motivated and responsible magistrates of impeccable reputation.

I will fully utilize the public pressure mechanism of the presidential institution with the aim to introduce a new style of work in the Judiciary and law enforcement bodies, to improve the legal culture of Bulgarian citizens and achieve zero tolerance to corruption and infringements of the law.

Ladies and Gentlemen Members of Parliament,

There are many lines of divide in Bulgarian politics. They are distinct here, in Parliament, and are certainly best seen by the citizens of Bulgaria. Political antagonisms are a driving force of democracy. They provide our fellow-Bulgarians with the opportunity to make a choice and stand up for it.

I hereby appeal to all politicians: Keep being critical to the mistakes of others as well as to your own mistakes; seek for alternatives; be yourselves in politics, but mind that the triumph over your political opponents should not supersede the national interests and priorities. That there could be a dispute over the path, but hardly on the direction – the direction is set firmly towards building a better future for our children.

Looking back I could clearly see how much has Bulgaria changed over the past 20 years. A change for the better. We have started from the total collapse and economic failure of the totalitarian regime. With great deal of patience and perseverance, with mistakes but also with hard work we have achieved quite a lot. Now we need to upgrade. To build up modern Bulgaria, a country of prestige, dignity and national self-confidence. Bulgaria as a regional power and respected partner. Bulgaria, enjoying a reputation of quality producer, nice place for living, good neighbor and reliable counterpart. Bulgaria, subscribed for success in the 21st century.

Dear compatriots, jointly we can constructively build, if only we want!
Let’s do it together!
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