Deputies override veto

SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria’s Parliament yesterday overruled a presidential veto on amendments to the privatization law that aimed to prevent the courts from blocking 15 strategic sales, a key part of the government’s reform drive. The Balkan state’s government, which initiated the changes, has said the amendments would stop legal hurdles from getting in the way of landmark sales, as they did last year in the cases of state tobacco monopoly Bulgartabak and telecoms operator BTC. Under the amendments, the Privatization Agency and the government will handle the sale of the 15 companies, allowing no room for appeals or protests in the Supreme Court. Last week President Georgi Parvanov sent the changes back to Parliament for further consideration, saying they would curb investors’ rights and create opportunities for corruption. Under Bulgarian legislation, the president can veto legislation once, and the veto can be overruled by a simple majority vote in Parliament. The sell-off law veto was overruled with the votes of the ruling National Movement for Simeon II and its coalition partner, the ethnic Turks’ MRF party. Parvanov’s office as well as the opposition center-right UDF party and the Socialist Party, which declined to take part in yesterday’s voting, said they would appeal the amendments in the Constitutional Court. The government drafted the changes after court battles dealt a major setback to its efforts to press ahead with long-delayed structural reforms in the European Union aspirant. The list of the strategic companies that the government plans to privatize by year-end includes BTC, Bulgartabak, seven electricity distribution companies, the Vazov group of arms plants, new flag carrier Balkan Air Tour, the state maritime fleet and the state river fleet.