The US has welcomed a decision by the Bulgarian government to override a presidential veto and ratify a contract for a $1.26 billion deal to purchase eight new F-16s and supporting equipment that came into effect on Tuesday. The contrasting opinions in the country's highest political echelons, however, remain intact.
A new Member of the European Parliament from the Bulgarian Socialist Party, Ivo Hristov, commenting on the US congratulations regarding the aircraft purchase by Bulgaria, has said that Washington's reaction reminded him of the behaviour of a vegetable merchant, who [praised a buyer who paid] too much for the desired item.
"Imagine that you buy a kilo of tomatoes for 20 levs (10 euros), and the merchant, who has never seen such a miracle, praises you for the 'wonderful choice'. Would you be proudly telling your friends about it? Because this is exactly what [Prime Minister Boyko] Borissov is doing, talking about the Americans' appreciation of the F-16 deal", the MEP wrote on Facebook.
The State Department had earlier sent congratulations to the Bulgarian government for purchasing the F-16s. Today, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov expressed gratitude to his colleagues for the fact that the deal took place despite "various nonsense and attempts by opponents to prevent the purchase".
According to Borissov, the State Department's statement makes it clear that neither the Bulgarian nor the American government was "subject to lobbying and did not take any corrupt actions".
Last week the National Assembly of Bulgaria (Parliament) overrode a veto imposed by President Rumen Radev. According to the head of state, the parliamentarians had voted to ratify the deal too hastily.
The price for eight F-16s is about $1.26 billion. Six of them are set to be delivered in 2023, and two more in the first three months of 2024. Bulgaria will have to pay the full amount by 5 September. It should be noted that the government is borrowing a portion of the money (about $400 million) from the country.
Bulgaria's decision to purchase American fighter jets jet has repeatedly met with criticism from President Rumen Radev and the opposition. In December 2018, the president called the procedure for choosing a new fighter a "game of democracy" and "triumph of lobbying."
Radev, during the process of signing the contracts in June and July, also repeatedly drew attention to the armaments for the F-16, which Bulgaria is buying, not allowing the aircraft to operate at its full potential.
The purchase, furthermore, does not include the reconstruction of a base where the fighters will be housed, thereby forcing Bulgaria to incur enormous expenses. The president's opinion is also shared by the President's Chief Secretary Dimitar Stoyanov. According to him, Bulgaria will have to buy additional weapons, so the price will end up being higher.
It should be noted that initially, the Bulgarian Parliament said the 1.8-billion (slightly over a billion dollars) lev price tag was the maximum affordable cost for the F-16s and hoped to pay in instalments rather than in one lump sum so as not to jeopardise the implementation of other projects to modernise the army.