Bulgaria’s President Radev vetoes deal to buy F-16s

By bne IntelliNews July 23, 2019

Bulgaria’s President Rumen Radev on July 23 imposed his veto on the deal to buy F-16 fighter jets from the US, saying the decision was taken too fast and without gaining broad consensus and support.

The parliament ratified the deal on its first and second reading on July 19, shortly after the government approved it despite objections from the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party, which said that the price was too high.

The veto will most likely be overthrown by parliament, allowing the deal to go ahead. 

According to Radev, the deal lacks national consensus, which he said is "extremely disturbing". He pointed out that the fierce disputes in parliament have proven that.

He has also noted that the urgent adoption of the ratification left important questions such as the price, guarantees and terms of deliveries unanswered. Radev is a former commander of Bulgaria’s air force.

The deal concerns the purchase of eight F-16s for $1.256bn, or around BGN2.188bn. However, the actual price will be somewhat lower as the US Congress will provide state aid of $60mn, which will decrease the price to $1.2bn. The eight fighter jets should be delivered by 2023.

Radev has said the price suggests that the government will acquire jets with very limited functionalities. The defence ministry has already indicated that in the future the government will need to spend more money on the jets.

On June 19, the finance ministry raised BGN300mn from the sale of 10.6- and 20-year T-bonds. According to Deputy Finance Minister Rositsa Velkova, quoted by Dnevnik, the goal of the treasury bonds sale was to secure funds to buy the jets.

Sofia is modernising its army, having approved a BGN3.26bn plan for army modernisation, which included BGN1.8bn to buy fighter jets, in June 2018. The following month a tender for fighter jets was called, with seven countries invited to place offers.

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