Bulgaria’s president has vetoed the country’s planned $1.26 billion acquisition of eight Lockheed Martin F-16V fighters, citing a lack of agreement and clarity over the deal.
Issuing the veto on 23 July, President Rumen Radev said that for a purchase of this size it was necessary not only for it to be affordable, but also “to have a broad consensus and support”.
He says the “sharp controversies” that were evident during the parliamentary approval process last week showed that “no public consensus was sought or reached”.
“The commitment of Bulgaria to obligations for years to come, without national consensus and conviction in the mutually acceptable conditions of the treaty, is extremely worrying.”
Ratification of the acquisition should have been subject to two parliamentary votes but was instead done via a “fast-track” process, he says.
That “shortened legislative procedure” means that several issues such as “prices, warranties, delivery times and penalties” were not clear.
“It is not permissible to use the ‘exceptional’ procedure in resolving such a strategic issue for Bulgaria as guaranteeing national security.
“Bulgaria needs a multirole aircraft, which is achieved not only by its qualities, but also by a full package of equipment, support and personnel training. A clear answer to the public is required as to whether this is actually achieved by the contracts,” says Radev.
He has resubmitted the procurement law for another parliamentary discussion on 26 July, where the veto could be overruled with a vote of at least 121 members of the 240-seat assembly.
The acquisition, Sofia’s largest public procurement since the fall of communism, is intended to replace the air force’s fleet of RAC MiG-29s by 2023.