Thursday, May 19, 2016 - 10:33
Anton Hekimyan (AH): Our program This Morning goes on. I’m here with Ognyan Donev - Chairman of the KRIB, Confederation of Employers and Industrialists in Bulgaria. Good morning, Mr. Donev.
Ognyan Donev (OD): Good morning.
AH: You’ve met the GERB (Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria) and Boyko Borissov. They’ve invited you at their central office. Why?
OD: That’s right … even on two different occasions - firstly just before the elections and secondly after them. AH: What made the difference before and after the elections?
OD: Before the elections the discussions were held in a smaller format. Generally speaking we concluded that we did not have any specific topic to discuss prior to knowing the political configuration. Furthermore, KRIB had decided not to have discussions with political parties because we already knew that before the elections all parties were promising us everything we wanted to hear. So, we received promises … But the things that matter come after the elections … when we can see the configuration of the new Parliament as well as the guidelines for making a Government. You see, although we have a winner at these elections, he is unable to make a Government on his own.
AH: Mr. Donev, did you have conversations or arrangements? I’m asking because, regardless whether before or after any elections, when people hear conversations they think inevitably of arrangements.
OD: Absolutely! We agreed on one thing … the national interest! Some issues must be addressed … and I think we all agree on them, regardless who is going to rule the country.
AH: Did you request something from them or did they request something from you?
OD: Well ... I think three things became clear and we can agree on them yet now before having a Government. I’m confident that the new Government and any party, which decides to support GERB that won the elections … they’ll first have to address the financial stability - starting immediately the work on drafting country’s 2015 budget, unblocking quickly the EC funded programs … i.e. everything related to finances, these are the most important issues to be addressed. In Bulgaria I don’t see anybody who is friendly and concerned with the national interest and disagreeing with this idea. AH: You, as a businessman, have you ever helped any political party by giving it money before any elections?
OD: Never! I’ve said it many times - never … since I believe that if a person has political partialities, these should be personal. I’m running a public company having more than 4.000 shareholders. So, first I’ve to ask them to vote in order to see which party they would support. It’s quite obvious that these 4.000 shareholders, the greatest part of them being foreigners, wouldn’t support any political party. On the other hand, if I have personal predispositions, I mean as a physical person, I’m free to support any cause, but certainly not a political party …
AH: And what about GERB? You don’t support GERB financially, do you?
OD: No, I don’t. They didn’t request any support from me and I didn’t insist on supporting them.
AH: Now I’m going to ask you to turn back and have a look at the National Assembly building. This is a live camera showing the National Assembly building wrapped in a fog. This picture resembles also the actual situation. Who’s going to rule the country?
OD: Well … the nature and the citizens are sharing the same mood now.
AH: Good. In what opinion who’s going to be the new Prime Minister and which parties are going to form the next coalition, Mr. Donev?
OD: This isn’t our business to evaluate the chances or to make declarations … But I think it’s logical that the leader of the biggest party assumes the responsibility to become Prime Minister of Bulgaria, in this specific case this is Boyko Borissov.
AH: OK, but which is the party or which is the coalition that’s going to guarantee the stable governance? OD: Oh, no. I’m not going to play a fortune teller ... AH: I’m asking you as a man who is able to analyze and to say which would be the most stable governance.
OD: Having in mind the election results, we may say it’s clear there will be no large coalition. The issue was largely discussed, but now we know such coalition is impossible since it would include the two parties that were sharing the power until recently. This is unlikely to happen. On the other hand, I’m optimist and I’m glad that a person like Tsetska Tsacheva is going to lead the team to start negotiating with other political parties next Monday.
AH: Does it mean that …
OD: This is a matter of policy. This is their business, not ours. AH: And what about your business … and your personal opinion? Do you support Boyko Borissov as Prime Minister?
OD: I think that the Bulgarian people supported him through its vote.
AH: Something you’ve discussed at this meeting … I mean the issue with the construction business … As employers you’re awaiting payments to be done at the rate of 1 billion BGN. Was the issue with the construction business said to be very serious?
OD: Well … I’m going to tell something for those who don’t have enough information. The Deputy Chairman of the KIRB is the Chairman of the Chamber of Construction. The Chamber used to have 4.000 member-companies, now their number might be smaller due to the crisis, but the Chamber represents the construction companies’ interests.
AH: I’m asking this question for cause. Yesterday Radan Kanev said for our program that the large construction companies won orders unfairly as well as that the large construction companies were in close relations with GERB and MRF (Movement for Rights and Freedoms).
OD: You see … now I’m speaking about the Chamber of Commerce. It represents all construction companies. Of course, we’ve noticed, particularly over the past year … some companies were largely tolerated. Let me say it this way …
AH: Well … Who are the owners of these companies? Which are these companies? Who tolerated them? OD: You’d better ask these questions to the colleagues from the Chamber of Commerce. They are more competent …
AH: But, you have common … You can’t not know the answers …
OD: We can guess, of course. We believe that like it used to be 3 or 4 years ago, the number of companies participating in public order procurement bids or the companies that would start fulfilling large infrastructure projects would be larger and they would be more popular in Bulgaria.
AH: Finally, are you afraid to tell the names of the companies that used to be tolerated? I’m insisting on the question because this is about money coming out from the state budget. This is not about …
OD: No, I’m certainly not in the position to tell some news to your spectators and to you since my information coincides more or less with the one we’ve read in the newspapers. You know there were some issues related to the South Stream project … it was said that the manner the portions were allocated was not the one foreseen by the law.
AH: “Portion allocation” is definitely a term associated with MRF terminology. Are these companies closely related with the MRF?
OD: You’ve said this!
AH: I’m asking since ...
OD: In my opinion it is not correct to constantly pretend that the MRF is guilty for this and that. Frankly speaking, since I’m … I hope I’m an open minded person and I think that in the future the MRF could not only prove itself at elections, but I believe it can take the responsibility to participate in country’s governance. You see, now the MRF feels quite comfortably on the backstage. I guess they’re going to play the same role under the next Government. But I think, it would be good for the Bulgarian democracy to see this political force assuming responsibility and, having in consideration the number of their voters, proving it as working for the national interests.
AH: Wait for a while. I can’t understand. You’ve wanted the resignation of the former Government, whom the MRF was considerable part of, and now you’re saying that they may be part of a next Government.
OD: Well … We haven’t wanted the resignation of the former Government because of the participation of the MRF. Otherwise, we should have wanted it on the day the Government was announced. If you remember well, then we wanted the resignation of the Government, as we’d want from any future Government, because of damaging the national interests and taking actions that do not enjoy public’s support.
AH: Yes, at that time the issue was personalized by Delyan Peevski. Well, in the former Government Delyan Peevski’s nomination was supported by the MRF and BSP (Bulgarian Socialist Party) … So, we’re speaking about one and the same thing, eventually …
OD: I’m not sure whether the MRF would support Delyan Peevski’s participation in a Government.
AH: So, it was the BSP?
OD: Well … in case they want to play this role in Bulgaria’s social life, let them declare it publicly and nominate the respective person, a MRF activist, for the respective position. It’s quite comfortable to have only benefits from being part of the Government without taking any responsibilities. I believe this will be a major issue to be addressed over the negotiating process between the GERB and other political forces.
AH: That’s why I was asking about the future coalition. So, you see … you’ve said you didn’t see a large coalition, but you see however the MRF in the future Government. Either for the purpose of stabilization …
OD: As far as I’m informed, nobody wants coalition with the MRF. If so, this will reserve a special role for the MRF in our country’s political life.
AH: Yes, a very quiet role … Why the MRF and BSP did not take the responsibility to address the CTB (Corporative Trade Bank) issue while they still had a Government, Mr. Donev?
OD: You’d better ask them. AH: What do you think about? How will the issue develop?
OD: Both politicians’ and regulator’s behavior seemed to us quite irresponsible. Therefore, we got together … I mean representatives of the two trade unions and four employers’ organizations - these are the nationally recognized organizations of the labor and capital in Bulgaria - and we created an unprecedented united platform and expressed our position … Our position is very clear - we’ll neither dive nor save anyone. We want Bulgarian laws to be respected … I mean the laws that protect to some extent bank depositors’ interests.
AH: Who did not respect the laws? What is the reason for this situation?
OD: Well … I think there have been accumulated issues over the years alongside with a collective responsibility. These can explain politicians’ positions and reactions, which … AH: Collective irresponsibility! Again we’re coming across to it … This is not about responsibility, but about collective irresponsibility.
OD: Seeing it collectively, this is one and the same. AH: But every collective is led by someone. You see … you’re the leader of the KRIB, you’re also the leader of a large company. We’re always speaking about a collective. But every collective has its leader …
OD: Yes, right …
AH: Who’s the leader that ...
OD: Two years ago when, if you remember, there were some reproaches toward my company … I was before the microphones and answered every single question about my company … since the responsibility is rather part of managers’ duties than of employees’ ones.
AH: Was there any pressure on you?
OD: Therefore, I am very sorry that CTB employees were shown in such insulting way to Bulgarian public. Believe me, the chance is under 1 % for these employees to have committed the offenses they were charged with … and they were shown in such an affronting way, discrediting the human dignity … with handcuffs, like murders appearing in the Court room.
AH: Undeniable fact! But was there any pressure exercised on you by Tsvetan Vassilev over the last years?
OD: Mr. Vassilev and I … I wouldn’t call it pressure, but we are having a sort of discussion and completely different approaches to the things. I may say this is a kind of a joke … he was the most fervent representative of the New Keynesian economics, as he used to word it … so, I had to define myself as a follower of the Neoliberalism. This was rather an intellectual game than …
AH: That’s a different point and I presume the spectators would have some difficulties to understand it. Let’s come back to the issue. Was there any pressure exercised on you? Were there some Indian clubs used against you, I mean media Indian clubs, on behalf of Mr. Vassilev or other people - regardless under GERB Government or Oresharski Government?
OD: No, no … the media Indian club was more or less used by a former colleague of yours, who recently converted himself into politician. I wish him success in creating a couple of jobs associated with production rather than trying to destroy existing jobs.
AH: Well … once we’re speaking of Nikolay Barekov … he promised to open 8 million jobs for 8 years.
OD: Yes, for that purpose Bulgaria will have to import some 600.000 - 700.000 of foreigners to take the jobs opened by him. But, if we speak seriously … you certainly remember that the former Government promised also to create 250.000 jobs. But this didn’t happen since the politicians are unable to create jobs different from party mediators or election supervisors. Politicians are unable to create industries, they are unable to create sustainable livelihood. They must create favorable environment for employers to create jobs.
AH: Well … some quick questions and answers. How would you comment Tsvetan Vassilev and the fact that he’s surrendered to Serbian, not to Bulgarian authorities?
OD: I find it hard to understand that puzzle and particularly why he’s chosen Serbia. I’m expecting …
AH: You find it hard to understand! If you find it hard to understand, how could we understand it, Mr. Donev?
OD: Eventually, everybody is going to understand everything, but by that time … AH: Eventually? When do you think is eventually?
OD: Well … eventually is when all these things … when the audit is over, when we can see clearly what the bank status is … since now we’re hearing voices - some of them want to close the bank, others want to save it. Actually, all of them are speaking without having enough information.
AH: You’ve said that all of them are speaking … Delyan Peevski is almost no longer spoken about. Why?
OD: I don’t have any idea. I’ve never met this man; I’ve never been introduced to him. He seemed having brought on himself, deserved or not, all negatives of the previous Government.
AH: Will the GERB share the governance with the MRF unwillingly?
OD: I’d say that anyone who rules Bulgaria should comply with political forces having significant influence amongst Bulgarian electorate. If so, the MRF covers this requirement. Now whether they’ll share the power secretly, or not …
AH: Will they share the power secretly?
OD: Well ... that’s how the things work in Bulgaria nowadays … Nobody dares to say they’ve met the MRF, except for mentioning that two cups of coffee were taken in Kardzhali.
AH: Last question. Why nobody wants to speak about the political backstage? Lately, it seems like it doesn’t exist anymore. Everybody was speaking about the political backstage and it seems that a resignation made it disappear. You know very well it’s impossible …
OD: Oh, no … AH: In which direction is the political backstage working nowadays? Speaking of the political backstage we always say ‘it’ because we don’t know the details …
OD: I don’t think it’s working now since we’re having a Caretaker Government. For the political backstage it isn’t worth communicating with the actual Government because of the short-term perspective. Any moment now we’re expecting the new Government and the backstage issue will be the big challenge before the new Government. If the new Government starts as Oresharski Government did, its life span will be less than 2 years.
AH: Did the GERB exercise pressure on the business over their former governance?
OD: We had some signals in this respect and I believe their country-located people must have made respective conclusions. For the large companies I can’t say …
AH: And from now on will there be any pressure on the business?
OD: We’ve had such signals from small country-located companies. Now I hope sincerely and I felt glad when I’ve seen the GERB people that came at this meeting - this was a mini Council of Ministers. These people … they became ministers due to the natural selection over the last years of GERB governance. All of them … I know personally most of them and I’m confident they’re very good specialists. Furthermore, I think GERB should also be seen in process of development. By replacing less appropriate specialists they managed to build an expert team, which is in the position to …. However, I’m unable to forecast whether they will have the will to rule properly the country.
AH: Well … whether there will be pressure on the business, whether there will be people speculating on this topic … we’ll see under the forthcoming GERB governance … eventual governance …
OD: You know, both the citizens and businessmen we’re optimistic and hope for the best, and then we meet whatever comes.
AH: That’s right … Mr. Ognyan Donev gave for us one of his last interviews as Chairman of the KRIB since his term of office is going to expire soon. The National Assembly building is still wrapped in the fog. Thank you, Mr. Donev. I’m going to change abruptly the topic. bTV Media Group