Bulgarian president vetoes amendments to privatization law

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria’s president on Tuesday vetoed controversial amendments to a privatization law that critics say could cost the country lost revenues.

FILE PHOTO: Bulgaria's President Rumen Radev arrives for the second day of a NATO summit in Brussels, Belgium, July 12, 2018. Tatyana Zenkovich/Pool via REUTERS

The changes - approved by parliament, dominated by center-right GERB party, last Wednesday - would cut in half, to five years, the time that buyers would have to fulfill specific obligations under a privatization contract.

But former air force commander Rumen Radev, who won the presidency in November 2016 as an independent, said the proposed changes “do not serve interests of the state and Bulgarian citizens.”

Radev said the time to meet obligations should be determined by the type of business being privatized, rather than through legal provisions that create an advantage for the buyer at the expense of the public interest.

“The law will entail a review of privatization contracts that is detrimental to the state and society,” he said.

Radev’s move followed an announcement by disgruntled citizens that a three-day protest against the new changes would be staged in capital Sofia. Parliament may easily overrule Radev’s veto by at least 121 votes in the 240-seat assembly.

However, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, eager to mute public discontent in one of the European Union’s poorest countries, reacted quickly and ordered his ruling GERB party to draw up and submit a new amendment to the law that would eliminate any suspicions of lobbying.

Analysts and politicians, including Deputy Prime Minister Valeri Simeonov strongly criticized the “lobbyist” revisions, saying they would allow ship building and repair company Navibulgar to avoid paying 58 million levs ($34.71 million) in penalties for undelivered commitments.

In 2008, KG Maritime Shipping, a subsidiary of the brothers Kiril and Georgi Domuschiev’s company, acquired a 70 percent stake in Navibulgar.

Earlier this month, the Arbitration Court of the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry ruled that the Domuschiev brothers, owners of the soccer club Ludogorets, must pay the penalty for not fulfilling a requirement to maintain a certain tonnage of the ships.

Reporting by Angel Krasimirov, editing by Larry King