Bulgaria President Rosen Plevneliev: To unite the nation means to not allow atrocities by closing your eyes to them12 January 2017 | 15:59 | Nova TV
Host: “Hello, Bulgaria” is at the Presidency. We are in the Presidency’s library, next to the actual desk, the work place of the very first democratically elected president – Dr Zhelyu Zhelev. Our host, of course, is the currently running President Rosen Plevneliev. In just a few days, the guard changes and you hand the baton to the next one. Good morning.
Rosen Plevneliev: Good morning.
Host: I thank you that you are facing the questions of the viewers of “Hello, Bulgaria” and Nova TV.
Rosen Plevneliev: I also thank you, this is the first interview we are holding here at the Presidency library. I am proud of being the president who created the Council of Presidents and the Presidency library here in Bulgaria. The library has a deep meaning. It is modest, but will gather the full information on the presidential institution – the gifts, awards, medals, messages, interviews, speeches of the heads of state, in a dignified way for tourists, university students, for the young and the old.
Host: Many questions, Mr President.
Rosen Plevneliev: I am prepared.
Host: This was a very dramatic, difficult, and probably heavy mandate for you personally. Let us start with a current topic. It somewhat marks one of the lines of confrontation that we witnessed. Let us start with a letter in which you take part, as well as 17 European leaders, politicians; some of which – former ones. You, however, are a running, current president. You wrote to Donald Trump, the newly elected, with advice to not keep good relations with Russia and Putin. “A predator to the end, a hawk to the very end,” is the exact quote I am observing in response to this letter, as disapproval of this reaction. Explain why this letter was necessary, and do you really not want for Russia and the US to be in good relations, and if so – why?
Rosen Plevneliev: Not a hawk, but a politician and citizen with his own position. And my position is very clear. I do not want Bulgaria to be brought back to the times of the Congress of Berlin. The thing that damaged us seriously, an event which undermined the confidence of Bulgarians for generations to come, divided the nation and the people. But what happened on the Congress of Berlin? On the Congress of Berlin, great powers gathered and made agreements for the periphery, for fields of influence. And let us never forget that before this shameful act of world politics, in regards to Bulgaria, back then Russia and Austria-Hungary agreed to divide their fields of influence on the Balkans. I do not want this to happen again. Bulgaria will suffer tremendously from this, and that is why I stand by this. And this letter I wrote, along with my colleagues whom I have worked with – Estonian President Toomas, the president of Romania, and many others – is very clearly defined in that direction. We welcome the election of Trump, and we signalled that if he heads towards a separate deal with Russia for dividing fields of influence – and we know very well what the Russian president’s ambitions are in regards to his fields of influence – this would be disastrous to Bulgaria.
Host: In other words, you do not expect Russia and US to make amends. I say this in layman’s terms, because we were witnesses to the unprecedented tension, unseen since the days of the cold war, between Obama and Putin. You do not expect for relations to warm up for their own sake, you expect that this would lead directly towards a deal and distribution of fields of influence. Bulgaria, the Baltics are for you, Mr Putin, in the name of our good intentions. You expect something like this from Trump, you suspect him of doing this?
Rosen Plevneliev: I am not against warming up of relations, on the contrary, I would be glad to see constructive and principled relations between Russia and US, but ones based on principles that we want to see in the 21st century. In the 21st century, we want to see the rule of law prevail, and not power and personal interest. Speaking of principles, we should realise that today the clash in Europe is one of principles, and is very heavy. It is between some countries, which believe in the rule of law - the EU countries, including Bulgaria – and some other countries which believe in the rule of power, the rule of interests and geopolitics. Russia is in that group. And this clash is fact. I stand on the side of principles, and the rule of law. We want to see dialogue, friendship with Russia, we work towards this, I love Russia. But I do not respect and do not agree with the Russian president’s policy, which brings us back to the 19th century and to distribution of fields of influence.
Host: The question is that you suspect the US to be ready for such a thing, to leave their partner?
Rosen Plevneliev: I am worried of them deciding to head in that direction, that is why I voice my opinion. I ask you, not like that, leave this policy in the 19th century.
Host: “For a suburb of St Petersburg - referring to Estonia - I would not risk a nuclear war,” said an advisor, or more likely a republican actually, after a question to Trump on whether the US would interfere if Russia declared territorial claims on Estonia.
Rosen Plevneliev: This is just one of the evidences, but I can say something else as well. We saw what is happening in Ukraine. In Ukraine, some green men appeared, a referendum was organised at the gunpoint of their Kalashnikov rifles, and after that parts of Ukraine were separated, illegally annexed, occupied. We should realise that this could happen to other countries as well, and that is why our voice is important, the position of everyone is important. There is no room to lie low.
Host: I saw a survey, according to which a huge part of Bulgarians are pro-Russian, there were even claims of 80-82%. Does this not mean that you are going against the wishes of a large part of Bulgarians with this action and this letter? They have such sympathy for both Putin and Russia, and do not separate Russia from Putin’s policy, as you say you do.
Rosen Plevneliev: It must be done. I also love Russia, I read books, I read Dostoevsky, I read Tolstoy, I listen to Tchaikovsky, I admire their genius. But I really do not approve the policy of the Russian president, and I am proud of being the Bulgarian, the first Bulgarian president to systematically, principally, and categorically oppose the policy led by the Russian president. Simply because this policy is violating international law and has heavy consequences for everyone in Europe, including Bulgaria.
Host: About Rumen Radev – do you expect your successor to change this line?
Rosen Plevneliev: Of course, I cannot speak on his behalf. But he will be facing a very serious challenge from his very first days.
Rosen Plevneliev: The European Court in Hague very clearly noted that there is an act of armed aggression and illegal occupation in Ukraine by Russia. And the new Bulgarian president will have to come out and say whether he agrees with the decision of a court of European and international significance. The General Secretary of NATO very often says that he is for there to be dialogue with Russia. Yes, I am also for dialogue with Russia. But there is also a second part of that sentence, because I hear that president Radev also says he supports dialogue with Russia. Excellent, but, comma, we are all for dialogue with Russia, comma, not end of sentence, but we condemn the illegal occupation of Crimea and we support the sanctions until Russia starts negotiating again and with that to support the rule of law, and not power, in Europe.
Host: A little more on this topic. There were statements - or maybe it was some intrigue aiming to discredit Rumen Radev himself and Kornelia Ninova – but there were statements about how probing was done, and Crimea was notified in advance, and his nomination was coordinated, the nomination of the next newly elected Bulgarian president. You receive such reports, does such information from our services really exist, or that was indeed a way to position him – like how you are positioned as the hawk in a negative context – for him to be positioned in a similarly negative context as an agent of Crimea?
Rosen Plevneliev: I have not received such information. Of course, this ambiguity of the explanations of the Russian general, who has direct relations to many of the events occurring in Bulgaria throughout the years, and Ms Ninova, should be cleared up. But everything depends on the actions of the newly elected president Radev. I sincerely wish him luck, but he will have to clear up these suspicions. If he is sure of his pro-NATO attitude, in his desire for Bulgaria to be a worthy member of the EU, his actions will show very soon whether that is as such.
Host: You expect for it to be hard for him.
Rosen Plevneliev: Of course, it will be hard for him, it was hard for me too. I wish him luck, but in order for it to be easy in hard times, one must have a position, one must have values, and stand firmly beside them.
Host: You made an offer to him, for him to propose a composition of caretaker government, and you to sign for these names. There were criticisms that this would violate the Constitution, and that everybody bears responsibility from the moment in which they officially assume office, which has not yet been done. So, it did not get to that option. But we will obviously have a caretaker government, and there are even names talked about, such as Professor Ognyan Gerdzhikov, who is a known politician and former chair of the National Assembly. Do you think he is suitable?
Rosen Plevneliev: I will respond. You asked three questions there, I will respond very quickly to each one. Firstly, in regards to Professor Gerdzhikov. I cannot say a single bad word about that man. I have not worked with him, but I know him, I have read his book, I have seen how he acts, he is a worthy chair of the National Assembly, a knowledgeable politician, a successful Bulgarian. I do not know whether he is the candidate for Prime Minister, but I can say only good things about this Bulgarian politician, citizen, person who undoubtedly leaves his mark on Bulgaria.
Host: Academician Stefan Vodenicharov…
Rosen Plevneliev: However, in regards to the question you raised about the caretaker government, let us clear that up and for it to be known. The Bulgarian head of state has not violated the Constitution in any way. The Constitution does not provide a deadline in which the head of state must assign a caretaker government, after the constitutional procedure is completed and the third mandate is returned. This is another smart and very wise decision on the part of the creators of the Bulgarian constitution. We fell in precisely this situation. I say that categorically. It was not good for Bulgaria for me to assign a caretaker government. I could have, but did not want to, because it would not have been good for Bulgaria. In the Constitution, and in the spirit of the Constitution, there is a principle of acceptance of the power. A government continues until another comes, and passes it down. Imagine that we now have a situation, and it is good for Bulgaria, in which a government that has ruled for two years will hand a caretaker government, which would then pass it to the next regular one. This is normal. However, imagine two caretaker governments, one of which has governed for 20 work days. They have not received certificates for the signatures, they have not learned where they are and why all of this is needed, they would not make choices because they cannot, and at the same time hand it to another caretaker government. There would have been a magnificent rupture of the institutional thread in the state. I am not a person who would cause that, as a person who believes in the institutions. But yes, the most correct decision would have been to form a caretaker government together with president Radev. I believe that, sooner or later, one way or another, he will face the situation of having to think more seriously. This would have been the best course of action for Bulgaria.
Host: If he proposed to you, for example, Margarita Popova as deputy PM and minister of justice, would you have signed for it? I saw one such version in one of the newspapers, that there were talks with your deputy president to be deputy PM in the next government. I believe the one in question was the caretaker one.
Rosen Plevneliev: Good question. And, of course, I must be as honest with you as much as possible. It would have been very hard for me to do this. Of course, I would speak with Radev seriously on the topic, something more, would…
Host: What, not to do it?
Rosen Plevneliev: I say that it would have been very hard for me and I would have presented all arguments…
Rosen Plevneliev: At the very least because, you see, the good thing about democracy is that all of us have their mandate, and within this mandate they must give everything they can. But within the mandate, it also becomes evident who is who, who made what for the judicial system, who made what for the development of Bulgarian regions, for the modernisation, for the fight against corruption. It is good to give a chance to these people. I sincerely believe that, with how quickly the world has started acting, it is good for the Bulgarian politics to also see new, brave people, who are not part of the status quo, who look forwards and seek the big change. The Bulgarian nation sent their signal loud and clear on the last presidential elections. That in this country, if there is anything which does not work well, is the topic of justice.
Host: We will comment.
Rosen Plevneliev: And exactly because of this, because Margarita Popova has already been there, just as I have already been minister, president, it is good for new people to come, for them to be more ambitious, but also for them to build upon what was achieved, and not go back.
Host: I want us to comment more openly on the relations with Margarita Popova, as from 2013, when the protests began, you dropped support of Oresharski’s government because of Peevski being assigned chairman of the State Agency for National Security. From then on, your relations were exacerbated a lot over time, it seems to me. At one point, she said that, in this institution, one cannot be a president for only part of society, there are other protesters. Yes, we witnessed protests and counter-protests. At which point did you realised that you were actually not one team? However much you try to present it in the name of the institution. At which point on did you realise that you were not in the same team and are looking in different directions?
Rosen Plevneliev: There are problems, that is more than evident. We saw how, through the years, dialogue between us was hard, in the last year we have practically not seen each other. But you noticed something…
Host: You have not seen each other, despite working in this building.
Rosen Plevneliev: Look, she has her own obligations, I have mine, we are different and that is plainly clear. But you said something very important. In no way have we let the presidential institution be damaged. Because me and her both, as different as we might be, think and act institutionally. And this is democratic. But I will say something else that is very important…
Host: But the Presidency is not a party headquarters. Which was a criticism towards you.
Rosen Plevneliev: There is no way of there being such a criticism, as I am the only head of state who has assigned completely independent people in the presidential institution. I am proud of that. Here has not been a single scandal, young, independent people achieved so much for Bulgaria. There is, however, something else. See, in the Constitution itself, and in everything we debated here today with you, it is clear that the relation between the president and the vice president is one thing, and the presidential institution as such is something completely different. I and Margarita Popova, despite all of our differences, did not allow it, and until the end we will be an institution of president and vice president who serve their nation. Yes, we are different.
Host: Is this talk of institution not just a cover for half-statements, allegedly in good manners, while not saying the truth, either holding it back or sweeping it?
Rosen Plevneliev: I am ready to respond to each specific question and say my opinion on each position. If you ask me when our relations began to spoil, yes, of course there were protests started against me, in which about 100 people with party-coloured persons, including Biser “Petnoto,” including Barekov - who by the way came to apologise to me two years later, he asked for forgiveness - they stood in front of the presidential institution and protested. These people, which wanted my resignation and stood outside day after day during the protest, demanding my resignation, were welcomed by Margarita Popova in their cabinet, and she received flowers from them. This is fact. Ms Tasheva was chairperson of Ataka, chair of the commission, which organised precisely in the 42th National Assembly with the aim to punish me for, more or less, impeachment. But Ms Popova held many joint events with Ms Tasheva. There is no way that this has not raised many questions for me. And there is no way for it not to lead to problems, but I say again – I always concede when it is about the Bulgarian country, when it is about the institutions.
Host: Did you speak about these things, these examples you just gave?
Rosen Plevneliev: They are evident, the whole nation knows about them. But there is something else very important I want to say, because you quoted Ms Popova earlier. See, to unite the nation does not mean being liked by everyone. To unite the nation does not mean to keep quiet when atrocities are carried out in the country. For example, one appointment, which exploded among the people as a symbol of underhandedness, in which I was the only politician who came out and answered the question of “Who?” within precisely one hour. I am also the first Bulgarian president who not only criticises a government, which was the case with the Boyana meadows of president Zhelev. I not simply criticised, I am the first one who completely withdrew my trust. And yes – I gained many enemies this way, but I do not regret it. Because, yes – this is to unite a nation, to not let atrocities happen and to not close your eyes to them. Another case – Ms Markovska, there was a case in which a judge with a certainly very controversial reputation and bad integrity had to enter the Constitutional Council. I was the last one who had to make a statement. In order to unify the nation, it does not mean to keep quiet when a judge with controversial reputation is headed towards the highest institution in the country. I acted. I needed to many times, I was alone, but I acted. I believe that, in this way, I unified the nation, I did not divide it, despite gaining enemies and not being liked by all. This is the spirit of the Constitution.
Host: You had some intentions for the judicial system, for a judicial reform. Even the deputy PM and minister of justice in one of your caretaker governments was Hristo Ivanov. Currently, he is forming a party and one of the main topics there is corruption and prosecution. Did you fail in regards to your desire to have a different kind of prosecution, or the contrary – it reformed to a degree that we witness more and more ministers, including former colleagues of yours from Borisov’s first government, having charges raised against them? We will comment on them – Traycho Traykov, Simeon Dyankov, Delyan Dobrev. There are many, not just Rumen Ovcharov and Petar Dimitrov. There is activation by the prosecution. Is this the rule of law?
Rosen Plevneliev: I gave way with the second caretaker government, in which I elected one eminent constitutionalist – Professor Bliznashki as prime minister, and a brave, young Bulgarian, who had a great desire to really make a radical reform in the judicial system as minister and deputy PM, minister of justice and deputy PM. Let us not forget that Hristo Ivanov was also deputy PM in the second caretaker government. My idea as head of state was to give way to change, which is so much desired by the Bulgarian nation, because the Bulgarian nation is not happy and does not approve of the actions as a whole, and the results achieved by the Bulgarian judicial system. A step forward was made. A serious contribution towards that also had Ms Ekaterina Zaharieva, who in a very pragmatic, honest, and trustworthy way moved things forwards. I wanted, and have always wanted for reforms to be deeper, the steps forwards to be bigger, to move more bravely in the right direction.
Host: The charges of the prosecution towards ministers by the current date, do they sit well with you?
Rosen Plevneliev: I cannot comment on the actions of the prosecution, it is also not expected by a head of state when it is regarding charges currently underway. But see, the Bulgarian prosecution was ready to act for a long time. But this is not enough. Results. And these results must be sustainable, and this is the big difference between Bulgarian and Romanian prosecution. One of the main reasons for there to be a lot more factories in Romania, for there to be much more investments, for the fact that Romania was a lot poorer than Bulgaria 5 years ago, much more lagging behind Bulgaria, was that they made a brave judicial reform.
Host: Here, you should exchange thoughts with outgoing PM Boyko Borisov, because he does not agree with this evaluation you give Romania. He says it is misused, that it is not like this, that nobody dares give a single signature, that there is dictatorship of the prosecution, and it is not a bright example which leads to a better living standard?
Rosen Plevneliev: It is a fact that the Romanians managed and did it, and achieved much more than us. But it is also fact that there are also problems there. These problems are visible. I myself do not agree with some of the actions of the Romanian prosecution, because there are very strong signals for politicisation. I also do not agree with some of the foundations of their reform. But despite that, there are results there. I want to see results in Bulgaria as well. There are sustainable results there, and they do not compare them simply with the fact that over 1,000 politicians had charges raised against them, but with the fact that, on the basis of what their prosecution did, there are de facto just sentences, and billions of “grey” and stolen money were collected. I want to see the same with the Corporate Commercial Bank case, I want to see the same with Belene, I want to see the same with the big atrocities in Bulgaria.
Host: You were frank, or more so than expected – I do not know whether fully, in regards to Margarita Popova. To what degree can you comment the distancing, which we on the sides witness, between you and the party which raised you for this position – president, I mean the relations with Boyko Borisov? In regards to justice, maybe you went different ways, I do not know at what moment and on which stage, because CEDB did not want to or could not, I am not sure which is more correct? What do you think?
Rosen Plevneliev: There is no such thing, because at the very least, when the head of my cabinet Ekaterina Zaharieva was chosen by PM Boyko Borisov for minister of justice, she did a lot of work. I am proud of her work, and she was supported by him. There is no difference in opinion.
Host: On the contrary, we see it Mr Plevneliev?
Rosen Plevneliev: See, more likely, yes – once again I should clear that up.
Host: Were there any contradictions?
Rosen Plevneliev: No, it is simply in the desire on one side, my desire to maybe, how could I say this, maybe I was a bit more extreme, you see the relations with Russia, but I want more ambitious, bigger steps forward. The PM is pragmatic. He sees what is possible and what is impossible.
Host: Do you admit that of him?
Rosen Plevneliev: What?
Host: That you are more extreme, and he is more pragmatic.
Rosen Plevneliev: Yes, I admit that. But there is something else very important – I really am proud of my good relations with PM Boyko Borisov, proven in time, which went through the trials of more than one crisis. And I am happy that I leave as the first head of state who is leaving in good relations with many friends in the party that nominated him, and with the MP and leader of this party. We had our differences, we have our differences. I shared some of them often. But this only enriches us. This is democracy. In democracy, everyone must be able to hear the other, and the differences make us stronger. The political opposition, however, makes us weak. You did not see political opposition, or separation between me and the PM, despite having different positions.
Host: Was it a mistake to nominate parliament chairperson Tsetska Tsacheva for president candidate of the Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (CEDB)? The party that nominated you and won the previous presidential elections now lost them. General Rumen Radev is the choice of the Bulgarians, while the “mother of the nation” is not. Did the party make a mistake with Tsetska Tsacheva – yes or no?
Rosen Plevneliev: I may say the following. In the first place, General Radev had a convincing victory. This is a very strong start for him and I most sincerely wish him luck. Of course, a president should be very careful and avoid strategic mistakes. I am happy that I did not make any. I wish him he does not make either.
Let us go back to the question – when there is a situation in which the Head of State – Rosen Plevneliev, explicitly declares before the nation, six months before the presidential elections, that he would not run for a second mandate, Prime Minister Boyko Borisov did not have any other option. He knew that I was not and could not be the candidate. He made his decision together with the political leadership of the Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (CEDB) party. I can say only one thing – whether Tsetska Tsacheva was an electable candidate and had her chances is a matter of CEDB’s judgement.
However, I would like to stress on something very important – Tsetska Tsacheva is a convinced democrat, a wonderful person, a high-class humanist, a great chairperson of the National Assembly. She did miracles with the two hardest National Assemblies in the history of Bulgaria, amidst severe political opposition. She would have been a great president. As far as whether she was electable, I cannot tell.
Host: Can you tell us whether your decision not to run for a second mandate was inspired by the lack of invitation to do so on behalf of the CEDB? In addition, your name was mentioned as a possible nomination of the Reformist Bloc.
Rosen Plevneliev: Of course. Somehow this only speeded up my decision and announcing it six months before the elections, i.e. what Radan Kanev - not the entire Reformist Bloc, did, and namely trying to raise my candidacy as nomination of the rightist powers in Bulgaria twice within one week back in May 2016.
Host: Was it because they like you or was it because they did not want this to happen? Have you found the answer?
Rosen Plevneliev: To me, it was more than clear – raising my candidacy without holding talks with me first is something I cannot agree with. This is a scenario I have never participated in and I will never will.
Host: It sounds strange. The Reformist Bloc, which you used to be stitched to the whole time, and which you were often accused of sympathising with, tried to sacrifice you in some intrigue that turned you into a target and stopped your way towards a second mandate?
Rosen Plevneliev: I did not say this.
Host: But this is how it looks like?
Rosen Plevneliev: Of course, let us clear this out. I say that I was surprised by this nomination. However, this nomination could have been simply a result of their wish and what they wanted, because they have felt it. I had conversations with Mr Kunev, as well as with PM Borisov. I did not rush to announce my decision not to run in the elections immediately on May 20.
Host: So, there could have been certain scenario but you cannot be sure? A scenario for your early “elimination”.
Rosen Plevneliev: I will make it clear again – I held talks with them. It might be something else. It is possible that Mr Kanev was so much concerned that I am considering the option of not running that he decided to play va banque. And I did not say the entire Reformist Bloc, I pointed at Mr Kanev because he was the one to initiate the whole thing. Anyway. It did not help, it did not change my decision.
Let me be absolutely honest and clear – my decision was categorical. I have been considering it for months. I met with U.S. President Barack Obama 30 times during this mandate and we are close friends. Symbolically, we are leaving together. He will leave on January 20, while I will retire from the post on January 22.
Host: This is what you are going to be criticised for, for the letter to U.S. president-elect Donald Trump .
Rosen Plevneliev: That is why I spoke to President Obama after the death of my child back then. I also spoke to Ms Merkel, Mr Borisov, Mr Jean-Claude Juncker, Donald Tusk. I was a person, who clearly pointed out that there was a problem. Yes, you count on me. And yes – you know that I am a convinced European ready to go to the barricade. By the way, it is not certain whether one day we won’t have to go to the barricades to protect the European and democratic development of Bulgaria and I will be ready to do it. However, I was into a process during which I spoke to both the international and Bulgarian political leaders for months, in the most honest way, so there is no point in looking for some intrigues.
Host: So you say that you expect barricades.
Rosen Plevneliev: I hope it will not happen.
Host: What do you expect on the short-run? All sociologists point at parity between the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and the Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (CEDB). There is a new wave of commentaries that there is a need of certain mixture, of a coalition, which both parties will deny until the last moment. Do you find it frightening that the BSP could be the one to establish a government and that the leader of the party – Korneliya Ninova, will have to be given the mandate?
Rosen Plevneliev: It is not frightening, of course. The Bulgarian nation will point at the person, who should receive the mandate, and the first political power in the next parliamentary elections that will have the chance to show their skills in establishing a government and pushing the country forwards. I cannot debate on any possible formats.
What is more, I am the Bulgarian Head of State, the first one, who refused to work out coalitional formulas. I went out and promised the Bulgarian nation before the elections that there would be no coalitions at the President’s Office while I am the President. I kept my promise. From now on what it is important for me are the principles and not the coalitional formulas and whether it will be leftist, rightist, or centrist. And I hope that we will not have to go to the barricades for these principles. The principles of a merited and deserving place for Bulgaria in the EU, instead of hemming and hawing in the corner and positioning ourselves as a periphery. The principles of the democratic development of Bulgaria. I actively supported the civil society and I will continue doing so. I supported Bulgaria’s European development and I will continue doing it in the future.
Host: I sit here thinking… You just mentioned your son in an interview for the first time. This is an issue that every normal person would rather avoid asking about as it is something very personal, the biggest loss a person could be faced with. How did you go through this difficult period?
Rosen Plevneliev: Months before my child died in a tragic and dramatic way I visited the same hospital, the very same hall where I saw my son dead, to present and inaugurate new equipment provided thanks to the Bulgarian Christmas charity initiative for children with heart diseases. Back then, a child, who had gone through tens of heart surgeries, gave me a metal heart made of wire. Beneath the heart there was an inscription saying: “Only those who have suffered real pain learn how to live”. It helped me a lot. I saw real pain. And I think that this really taught me how to live. I am open to life, I look forward. Despite the entire emotion and the drama I went through I continue to feel, I have an angel, a guardian angel in some way. Indeed, the real pain opened my eyes for many things. And that is why you see that I am a Head of State, who refuses the power. I refused to set up a third interim government. I refused to run for a second term in office right after the first one. I guess it is worth thinking about the real meaning of things.
I cannot understand so many politicians, who cannot come down off the throne, clenching into the position of being an interim prime minister at any price. I cannot understand how come there are so many people, who find it hard to realise it, for instance, this is some huge mistake on behalf of former president Georgi Parvanov, I am very different from this person and I am proud of it. It is not right to leave the president’s institution and start initiating a political party so as to take over another party. Somehow this is not right for any president.
Host: What would you say?
Rosen Plevneliev: I will say – we are heading at this direction.
Host: Well, now I read the news saying that the current president will be given an office, what are you going to do, what kind of activities are you going to occupy yourself with?
Rosen Plevneliev: I guess the location of the office speaks much about it. My office will be at Sofia Tech Park. Sofia Tech Park is an environment which was a symbol of Bulgaria’s future for me. So, I would like to clearly declare it as a president – I will not look to the past, to the political parties and the parliament. I will not look backwards.
Host: You will not take direct part in any political activity?
Rosen Plevneliev: I will not join any political party. I will not establish a new one. I will not go back to any political party. I will not return to the parliament, where I have never been.
Host: There were certain expectations that you will be assigned an international post, there were different rumours, to start with the post of a European Commissioner and end up with the post of an ambassador.
Rosen Plevneliev: I am looking to the future. Ahead and upwards. To me, being a President of Bulgaria is a cause. Being a President of Bulgaria is not the only way one can be useful to the nation. There are many reasonable ways to serve the nation. The post of the president is just one of them. What am I going to be? I will be a mentor, I will be a lecturer, I will be writer, I will be an active citizen, following the European and democratic development of Bulgaria. If there is any problem, I will act, I will defend it. I will be active both as a citizen and as a politician. I will express my stand on the issues. I will be active on international level. I will probably establish a foundation, just like many other presidents, so as to support initiatives in Bulgaria and the region. I have many ideas in my head.
Host: Now we are going to continue with questions from our viewers. Ani?
Host2: I should note that we have received many questions on our page since last night. There are many fans and supporters of Russian President Vladimir Putin here and questions connected with criticism against President Plevneliev over his approach on Mr Putin and Russia are dominating in number. I will try to summarise them with one post from Veselin Todorov, who writes, as follows: “Is it moral for a person, who has taken advantage from party benefits to criticise communism and Russia? How can we call such a person?” This is the question of our viewer.
Rosen Plevneliev: Of course, not only that it is moral but it is also a nationally responsible approach for a Head of State to have a position when there is redistribution of fields of influences and when the fate of Europe, as well as of Bulgaria, is decided. If we do not express a position, we will be left into the corner, we will be left poor and dependent.
Host: There was also some criticism about “taking advantage of party benefits”?
Rosen Plevneliev: Let me clear out this issue. During my whole life I have achieved everything on my own, always. I started from scratch. I pay my taxes. By the way, we should clear this out, too because there were 17-month tax inspections, which covered absolutely everything. Every single penny, every single bank account, every single revenue [I have have been checked] – and they found nothing. I have never discussed this over the years on purpose, although I was a subject of the severest tax inspections.
Host: There was a claim that you have “exported a bag full of money for a house in Greece”.
Rosen Plevneliev: Offshore companies, offshore deals, bags… But there is nothing like that. I am proud because I have started from scratch, and I have achieved much. I planted thousands of trees, I built 5 houses, tens of office buildings, I opened tens of thousands of new jobs. I built motorways, I was a minister, I was an entrepreneur, now I am a President. I will continue serving Bulgaria this way.
Host2: Last question from the studio. A personal question from Vili Baleva: “Under the protocol, the first lady should accompany the President everywhere. This is done by royals, princesses, duchess. How come he failed in convincing his wife to accompany him at a single event?”
Rosen Plevneliev: I can categorically assure the Bulgarian nation that this is not a problem. I may say that 80% of the heads of state I have worked with have not integrated the first ladies into their political or public activities. There are many such cases, I am not an exception.
Host: In the end, what do you want to see next to your name when you open the history books in 20 or 30 years? “Rosen Plevneliev, the president, who…”?
Rosen Plevneliev: The president, who firmly kept the direction towards democratic and European development of the country and defended it categorically despite the extraordinary instability and record-high number of crisis in the country and the world.
Host: Thank you, Mr President.
Rosen Plevneliev: Thank you, too.
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