Thursday, May 19, 2016 - 10:18
Iliana Benovska: You're listening to On the Sixth Day - theweekly overview program of Radio K2, today - Saturday, October 11, 2014, I'm Iliana Benovska. The great topic we’re discussing today with all interlocutors on Radio K2 is “Who and on what basis wants and can rule Bulgaria?” This is the issue we’ll discuss with our next guest - this is Mr. Ognyan Donev, Chairman of the KRIB (Confederation of Employers and Industrialists in Bulgaria). Good afternoon, Mr. Donev!
Ognyan Donev: Good afternoon, Mrs. Benovska!
Iliana Benovska: Mr. Donev, your dream has come true! Ognyan Donev: My dream? Iliana Benovska: Yes, on June 19, 2013, after Delyan Peevski was elected Chairman of DANS (State Agency of National Security), five days after that, you requested the resignation of Oresharski Government and prompt early parliamentary elections. Well, a year and five months later this happened … and it seems that GERB (Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria) is going to dominate the policy of Bulgaria, depending on what Government it’ll compile.
Ognyan Donev: Well … I wouldn’t call it a dream, of course. It was just our position and over the time it proved to be confirmed by the practice. If the things had happened faster, it would’ve been better for Bulgaria. Unfortunately, I can’t say that a dream has come true, since now there is no analysis of what happened over the last year and what the mistakes were like … I’ve heard lots of people speaking, some of them are my friends from the BSP (Bulgarian Socialist Party), and guess … they don’t want to understand what the reason of this collapse was.
Iliana Benovska: I’m going to suggest something else. During the 22 debates we had here at Radio K2 studio before the elections, the BSP representatives claimed that they would continue pursuing a policy of implementing Oresharski Government priorities. Don’t you find any paradox in such statement?
Ognyan Donev: It's not my business to give advice to political parties, but they should make their own conclusions based on the ratings the electorate gives them at the elections. If they fail to do so, they opt for the wrong direction and at the next elections they’re going to have even lower results. Saying that one or another group, gravitating around the BSP, has stolen votes from the BSP is a quite simple explanation.
Iliana Benovska: I’m going to ask you a direct question. Does KRIB sympathize with Boyko Borissov? If yes, there is no problem …
Ognyan Donev: Now, all people, who supported Oresharski Government, are going to say that we’re Boykovists. It’s normal. Iliana Benovska: Are you Boykovists? Ognyan Donev: I think there’s no reason for us to be accused of partiality toward anyone in the Bulgarian political sector.
Iliana Benovska: Wait for a while! Don’t bypass my question, Mr. Donev. Are you Boykovists?
Ognyan Donev: I wouldn’t say we are Boykovists .
Iliana Benovska: Since you’re not Boykovists … Are you Stanishevists? Are you Mishovists?
Ognyan Donev: We’re none of these. We’ve normal relations both Mr. Misho Mikov and Mr. Boyko Borissov. Iliana Benovska: Sorry to have put the question this way! Are you Mikovists? Ognyan Donev: We don’t have any relations with political creatures like the colleague that has just spoken and who by yesterday eagerly wanted and made everything possible to impeach the presidential institution, but he’s just said he supported the President as unifier.
Iliana Benovska: Thiswas more a personal contribution of Barekov, the leader of BWC (Bulgaria without Censorship), who went to the European Parliament.
Ognyan Donev: Bulgarian voters, and in general Bulgarians, we’ve to understand how the things work … I mean, it’s unreasonable to discuss the election results and possible coalitions as if the life on the Earth has been restarts. Of course, the politicians are going to compile a Government and that’s normal … they can’t give up the power.
Iliana Benovska: Are you sure?
Ognyan Donev: Of course, I am!
Iliana Benovska: Are you sure that GERB is able to make a Government?
Ognyan Donev: As far as I’m informed, almost all political parties have already forgotten their contradictions and are ready to make any compromises.
Iliana Benovska: That’s right. I was surprised to hear that the Reformist Block wouldn’t discuss Borissov’s right to be Prime Minister. Ognyan Donev: Well … the composition of the Reformist Block is so diverse that they are able to make all kind of messages. We’ve seen a wide range of … for the purpose of a better participation in Bulgarian political life they would show discipline … they would discuss and they would decide that such confusing messages are not good for them …. they would make efforts to express a common opinion … but the next day they would disagree on their yesterday’s opinion … and so on, and so on … At the same time, we must say that the Reformist Block is needed as an authentic representative of the right wing in Bulgaria. I’m unable to forecast how the Reformist Block would develop from now on. But I’m sure Bulgaria needs such right wing as it needs the left wing as long as the latter stands for and protects the values featuring the Left in Europe.
Iliana Benovska: You had an event on October 7 - just two days separated you from the elections on October 5 - KRIB had a meeting with the party leadership and Boyko Borissov, the Chairman of Political Party GERB. For KRIB this is a traditional meeting. You’ve always been looking for meetings with governing parties or parties, which …
Ognyan Donev: No, this is just the opposite. By now we’ve always have enough forces to meet political parties before the elections. This time the things happened a little bit differently.
Iliana Benovska: You’ve met them also before the elections.
Ognyan Donev: We realized that the politicians want to meet us before the elections in order to find a community or eventually to promise us something that sounds well and to use it for the purpose of improving their election result. On the other hand, we see that once the elections are over and there is a Government, the politicians forget most of their promises and do just the opposite of what they promised before the elections. From this perspective, we decided that it would be more practical and useful … We had agreed with GERB, provided they are the first political force, to make the considered meeting on October 7. I’m glad that they didn’t forget about this agreement, we made this meeting and we managed … you know people are always thinking of some conspiracy or something of the kind … so, we managed to have the entire KRIB presidential board to participate at the meeting. GERB participated with even more people at the meeting. Iliana Benovska: Just one question. You personally … during your term of office … you’ve always make necessary arrangements for the media to broadcast these meetings, when you made them before the elections. Ognyan Donev: Whenever it depends on us, we invite all interested persons to cover the meetings just because of this suspicion for secret arrangements. This is not our style and, therefore, we don’t need to meet secretly. Usually, at such meetings the two parties reach some consensus.
Iliana Benovska: What consensus was reached between GERB and KRIB?
Ognyan Donev: Look, before you start addressing issues … Every branch has its issues … I mean there are so many issues to discuss and we can’t expect a political party to undertake specific obligations in a given industry branch prior to have discussed and reached agreements with the other political parties for compiling the Government.
Iliana Benovska: But didn’t you go to the meeting to request the payment of almost 1 billion BGN due to the construction branch by the former Government, since many of your member-companies are seriously concerned by this issue?
Ognyan Donev: No, this was just one of the issues the colleagues from the Chamber of Construction brought at the meeting. The meeting was not focused around this issue. Now we have to clarify to what extent we understand the nature of such meetings. Of course, we could also have brought the issues of the debts in the public healthcare system as well as many other issues. But the purpose of such meetings is to specify the most important issue and in this case the most important issue is that there is no time to waste. The institutions must start working in order to present country’s 2015 draft budget to the National Assembly. At the same time, you know there was a discussion about updating country’s 2014 budget. Having in mind that the previous Government had planned some incomes that haven’t been received, there are some problems with finalizing country’s 2014 budget. There is no political party that doesn’t agree with these priorities. Therefore, I consider it was time to discuss the issues, to learn the position of GERB and to receive the assurance that immediately after the Government is compiled, best efforts will be made to unblock the EU-funded programs.
Iliana Benovska: Just by the way, Mr. Donev … your meeting with GERB and Boyko Borissov didn’t produce any news. Even Mr. Borissov is not so talkative lately …
Ognyan Donev: There is no news under the form of a sensation.
Iliana Benovska: Well, I’d like to ask you specifically about this request for updating country’s 2014 budget. Mr. Borissov brought the issue prior to winding up the 42nd National Assembly, then you mentioned the issue at the meeting … Now, we’re already in October. Isn’t it too late for that? Ognyan Donev: No, it isn’t.There are many sectors of the economy that will be unable to finalize the year within this budget.
Iliana Benovska: So, did you comment on updating country’s 2014 budget?
Ognyan Donev: We’ve expressed our position when Government Bliznashki proposed the updating. When the Trilateral Committee resumed its work, Mr. Bliznashki mentioned that such updating was necessary, but he emphasized that the increase would be within the frames of the 3 % budget deficit. Then the things changed. No information was given to the society. The colleagues from the trade unions insisted on Government’s report to see the reason of the created situation. Then somebody mentioned somehow an enormous sum, which would’ve brought the deficit to 4,5 %. We, I mean the employers, are reasonable people and we may get convinced to accept one or another necessity, but nobody made the effort to do so. The request for budget updating as it was made is neither timely, nor urgent, as far as the Caretaker Government can’t do anything about. The issue is going to be resolved by the next Parliament.
Iliana Benovska: Eventually, will the next Parliament and next Government update country’s 2014 budget? Ognyan Donev: I’m sure they will. Furthermore, I hope the next Parliament will discuss the issue professionally and make clear difference between “wish” and “must”. Otherwise, the deficit may go as far as 6 %, or 7 % or 8 %. Iliana Benovska: Is KRIB going to propose a specific frame for budget updating with the details you’ve mentioned?
Ognyan Donev: Well … personally speaking as PhD in Economics, I don’t have enough information to make a justified decision. Iliana Benovska: Practically, will the decision makers take in consideration businessmen’ opinion on the budget updating, at least as a piece of advice? Ognyan Donev: In case a stable Government is compiled, some people call it “Government of National Salvation”, I would say it would be a little far-fetched. Iliana Benovska: Yesterday Borissov called it“Government of Shared Responsibility”.
Ognyan Donev: This is something else; it is rather a reference to the behavior of other parties who will eventually support this Government. But if the new Bulgarian Government wants to rule by protecting national interests and developing country’s economy, it must inevitably consult those who create jobs. Well … here I made a joke with all politicians who create jobs … it is difficult to rule a country where 5 % of the population believes that it is normal to pay lower prices for electricity, to expel all foreigners from Bulgaria and to build a genuine Bulgarian paradise.
Iliana Benovska: Must the electricity power price be increased?
Ognyan Donev: Let me finish. 6 % of the Bulgarian population believes that someone, who has created in their life nothing different that losses … furthermore, those people can’t understand that a good businessman can’t cause 130 million losses justified by documents … and then we ask where bank depositors’ money’s gone … How to run such a country? You see 10 % or 15 % of the population believes in chimeras?
Iliana Benovska: Can you, please, say it is a simpler way, since I didn’t understand you!
Ognyan Donev: Well … obviously Mr. Barekov, who says he is a good manager ... and, of course, he made a good choice, he opted for going to Brussels for a higher remuneration … But this is the role of the journalists - you should investigate whether he’s able to use 80 % of his salary to open 10 well-paid jobs in Bulgaria. I mean, different jobs … not for people, who serve him or who buy immovable properties for him … So far, using such aggressive rhetoric he’s only destroyed in Bulgaria.
Iliana Benovska: Well … let’s comment briefly on the electricity. In your opinion, you’re a PhD in Economics, should the prices be increased?
Ognyan Donev: You see, the accumulation of this deficit is significant. The question is what kind of package … the price is just one of the options to overcome the issue of the NEC (National Electricity Company) … the other option is to continue accumulating losses.
Iliana Benovska: What will happen with the CCB (Corporate Commercial Bank)? You’ve approached this painful issue. The committee you’ve created with employers and trade unionists … it seems that you’ve not found institutional recognition as your intention was to use participants’ expertize and scientific potential for lawful consultancy and not for backstage plays …
Ognyan Donev: On the one hand, we’re not directly interested in the issue; but on the other hand, we’re concerned with the issue as far as thousands of citizens have deposits in the bank and they’re either members of our trade union partners or are working for companies that are members of our employers' unions. Our intention was to create a platform aimed only at observing the law and protecting depositors’ rights that are also guaranteed by the existing legislation.
Iliana Benovska: You know that the European Commission called on three different occasions for applying not only the Bulgarian legislation, but also the European one.
Ognyan Donev: That’s right, but you know also that we’re treated as a lobby group for pressure.
Iliana Benovska: Okay … but you know, there’re suspicions that you want to acquire … not you personally, but KRIB members, the so called rich oligarchs … they are said to wish to buy for nothing some pretty shiny CCB assets, which in one form or another are under the patrimony of Tsvetan Vassilev.
Ognyan Donev: I do not recognize any KRIB member to have been involved in this model of state property management or to have any appetite to acquire some assets. I believe it is a closed circle of companies and people, who are fighting with each other, but I do not see why anyone could attribute to any KRIB member interests in this area. Simply said, KRIB is something different and that’s why I agreed, together with Mr. Donchev, to participate in this committee precisely as Chairmen of two major employers' organizations.
Iliana Benovska: You’re speaking of Sasho Donchev from the BIA (Bulgarian Industrial Association).
Ognyan Donev: Together with the colleagues from the two major trade unions in Bulgaria ... We couldn’t make the things in a more representative manner. These organizations represent the entire active population of Bulgaria.
Iliana Benovska: But still, if it comes … which is in line with the normal procedure for solving the CCB issue … well, if it comes to selling the assets, this will be an auction ...
Ognyan Donev: It depends on the model … OK, that’s a joke … from Mr. Harsev’s menu, he’s a colleague of mine … he repeatedly came out in the press … when you’ve a very broad menu, it depends on what you choose from. Okay, what we’re against is to replace the existing legislation and to create a new artificial one thus creating new rules of the game.
Iliana Benovska: But I didn’t finish my question. Let’s suppose, this is normal commercial practice… If any KRIB member acquired some assets, people would immediately say: they established this committee just to grab Bulgartabac, BTC (Bulgaria Telecommunications Company) or NURTS (provider of radio and TV broadcasting and signal transmission), not to mention many other assets.
Ognyan Donev: With one exception, everything else brings losses. So, I do not see what the benefit of these assets is. The company, which is public and so far well positioned in Bulgaria, this is Bulgartabac. Therefore, I assume that the major disputes between and amongst shareholders, associates and partners was just a quarrel about Bulgartabac asset allocation. But this is an assumption. Mrs. Benovska, so far the public doesn’t have enough information to express an opinion, so I am very cautious. Some colleagues are rushing to make suggestions that are more appropriate to be given by committees of depositors or other units, who’re directly affected by the situation in this bank. We want two things: (i) observing the existing law; and (ii) preventing the things, you’ve mentioned as possible to happen, to happen.
Iliana Benovska: Boyko Borissov, the future Prime Minister, entitled his message after the meeting with KRIB as follows "We must seek common appropriate decisions for the country". Does it mean that there is a hidden or obvious invitation … there is nothing wrong, I’m emphasizing again … Is it a suggestion toward the business outside the TPCNC (Tree-Party Cooperation National Council) to create some organ, an advisory body or something else to help the Government?
Ognyan Donev: We have never turn down … always, at all meetings we’ve had in different branches or ministries … It’s obvious: in Bulgaria the best professionals are working for the private sector, simply because the remunerations in the private sectors are higher than those in the state-owned sector. When we’re facing such an issue, it is quite normal to offer our services; but we’re doing it not on behalf of a single company, but on behalf of large business organization, representing competing among themselves businesses. When some direct competitors offer their professionals to help the Government with resolving some issue, this is right and this is useful for the country. And it is wrong when a sector, or a branch, or some company is looking for some arrangements under the table. I think that over the last four years you’ll not find a single man to reproach me that I’ve had a meeting with Government representatives, where I’ve raised any issue or something else related to the operation of my sector. Therefore, on November 27, when my term of office is going to expire, I’ll feel relieved and released from this responsibility toward the colleagues … then I’ll be able to deal rather with things I’m concerned with than with what we call ‘’committee’s affairs’’ [here this is an ironic expression that may be interpreted differently: e.g. “undertake unpleasant but useful actions”, “dealing with life-threatening and undercover affairs”- translator’s note ].
Iliana Benovska: I intended to keep this for the final. I wanted to first ask you another question, but since you raised it as an issue, let's comment on it. On November 27, after two terms of office as Chairman of KRIB, you’re going to leave this position.
Ognyan Donev: That’s the maximum allowed by the Articles. I’m confident that we’ll keep to the existing regulations.
Iliana Benovska: Will you remain a KRIB member or will you take any position in the management?
Ognyan Donev: No, I’m not allowed to take any managing position.