February 4, 2020 / 2:30 PM / 21 days ago

Bulgarian president raps government over graft, says it endangers nation

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria’s president accused the center-right government on Tuesday of endangering the survival of the state through its failure to tackle endemic corruption.

FILE PHOTO: Bulgaria's President Rumen Radev addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 26, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo

In a strongly worded televised address to the nation, President Rumen Radev said he was “withdrawing my confidence” in the government, a symbolic act to demonstrate his dissatisfaction with Prime Minister Boyko Borissov’s management.

The president in Bulgaria has a largely ceremonial role. He can veto legislation but parliament can override the veto on a second attempt. However he can try to shape public opinion and appoints some key officials.

“This government and administration are leading to the collapse of the state and depriving us of our future as a nation,” Radev, a former air force commander, said in his live televised address.

“Today we are witnessing an acute crisis in governance at all levels, a lack of will to reform and fight corruption.”

Borissov returned to power in 2017 for his third term since 2009, promising that his coalition government would spur economic growth and increase incomes in the European Union’s poorest member state.

Borissov dismissed Radev’s criticism as “direct interference into the independence of the authorities”.

Bulgaria has seen steady economic growth on his watch and some improvements in infrastructure, mostly funded by the EU, but has made scant progress towards stamping out graft, jailing corrupt officials and businessmen and overhauling an inefficient, creaking judiciary.

The European Commission has repeatedly taken Bulgaria to task over its record in the areas of rule of law and white-collar crime.

Last month Borissov’s government survived a fourth parliamentary vote of no-confidence filed by the opposition Socialists over water shortages affecting thousands of people in a region of western Bulgaria.

Last week the head of the state Gambling Commission resigned after being detained in connection with an investigation into gambling tycoon Vasil Bozhkov over allegations of serious financial violations in the gambling industry.

The U.S. ambassador to Bulgaria, Herro Mustafa, said on Tuesday Washington would soon announce the name of the first Bulgarian citizen to be barred from entering the United States because of corruption.

Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; Editing by Gareth Jones

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