President Roumen Radev will veto part of the emergency measures passed by Parliament on Friday

President Roumen Radev (archive photo)

President Roumen Radev announced on Sunday that he will veto part of the measures, which Parliament passed on Friday under the state of emergency due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Radev said some of the legislation "attacks the last bits of freedom of speech left in the country". Radev is referring to penalties for spreading false information regarding the COVID-19, which is punishable by up to three years in prison and a 1000-10’000-leva fine. The law leaves much space for interpretation as to what constitutes false information under the act, as it fails to define it at all. This will surely lead to heavy auto-censorship actions. Moreover, the President noted, as currently written, this rule will remain in force after the state of emergency ends.

The President spoke about the two aspects of the current crisis: health on one hand, and economic and social, on the other. The economic and social dimensions, which are a result of the measures to contain the spread of the virus, do not receive much attention, he said. He noted all countries are adopting measures to support the economy and the socially vulnerable and suggested Bulgaria should do the same.

Another measure he criticized was the anti-speculation legislation, which ultimately mandates freezing of prices of all goods and services for the duration of the state of emergency. While price speculation with sanitizers and protective gear should be countered in most definite terms, the President said, such limits should not be imposed on other goods and services. Also, these rules do not address the problem of wholesale prices going up, as they only apply for retail. Under this legislation, a good may easily become more expensive in wholesale than in retail.

Radev went on to point out that while the military should help in difficult times like these, granting them police powers is a very delicate and critical step, which should not be taken without all powers of the state agreeing on it. Such a decision, he also stressed, should not be made without the support of the commander in chief (i.e. him).

He summarized his reasoning for vetoing the legislation saying that "this law is overgrown with measures, which have nothing to do with fighting the coronavirus."

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