Maxim Behar is in the show "Cross point" season 2 on Nova TV speaking to the host Mikhail Dyuzev on the topic, "The communications expert's point of view"

Maxim Behar and the host of "Cross point" discuss parliamentary approval, our military support for Ukraine and the 3% deficit budget presented by Minister of Finance Assen Vassilev

Host: Hello Bulgaria, wherever you’re watching "Cross point" from. As always we’ll be the first to comment on the recent topics. The two nominees for Bulgarian Euro Commissioner are clear - Iliyana Ivanova from “GERB” and Daniel Lorer from “We Continue The Change”. We will comment on the current political events  in a moment.  Our guests are in the studio - lawyer and writer Alexander Shpatov, communications expert Maxim Behar and economist and journalist Mikhail Krastev.

Our first topic for today is Trend's polling data after the establishment of a regular government. Denkov's cabinet starts with 32% approval, while 43% out of 100 disapprove. Very low approval of the parliament 11% out of 100 and support for President Radev drops by 7%. Let's see how the political dynamics since the elections have affected the electoral picture in the country, according to the Trend poll. Commissioned by “24 Hours” and carried out between 10-16 June this year, through a direct semi-standardized face-to-face tablet interview of 1,008 adults.

Reporter: If anyone was expecting an electoral revolution, they are likely to be disappointed by the data. Yes, of course, the dynamic in the last two months since the election cannot be expected to change that quickly. There has been an erosion in the support of the second political force “We Continue the Change” – “Democratic Bulgaria”, compared to the elections they had just over 24%. We are talking about a 5% drop. In “GERB” there is also a decline, but much smaller within 1.5-2%. Overall, the picture looks quite like what we saw on 2 April, with perhaps a slight increase for “Revival” within a point and a half.

Host: What political picture does it paint and where is the place for comment? First on the topic Maxim Behar.

Maxim: I am one of the people who for years have distrusted polling agencies, with the greatest respect for my colleagues and many of my sociologist friends. What I see now doesn't surprise me much, because if one person promises you something and then promises you something again and doesn't deliver, the third time again. The fourth time you won't believe him. That's what's going on with “We Continue the Change” and the people around it because they were frantically explaining how they're not going to go into coalition with anybody and at one point it's the other way around. And of course, a lot of their voters, supporters, fans, friends may have said, "Wait a minute, there's something going on here". “GERB” has no problem staying with the same % of voters, maybe even increasing it, because “GERB” has strong structures in the countryside and in the localities. “GERB” are the ones who so far have managed to appoint almost all municipal and state officials. This is a huge mass of between 400 000-500 000 people, it is normal to support those who have appointed them. I'm surprised that  “BSP - Bulgarian Socialist Party” is still holding above 4%, but you never know, because now the elections will come, not the municipal ones, but the next ones will make their presence felt and if they get in, they should be in for a treat. It is normal that the cabinet does not have support because in fact it has not shown its face yet, it is not clear what will happen, it is not clear what decisions will be taken. So far there's nothing visible from their side and you know, in terms of both the cabinet and “We Continue the Change”, I'm going to go back to my Public Relations business. “We Continue the Change” have decided to go into coalition with “GERB-SDS” and do this extraordinary loophole that has never been done before in Bulgarian politics. Nobody explained why, with arguments. Here and there you could hear, "But this is the best. But now there will be elections and maybe the results will be the same". It seems to me that specifically “We Continue the Change” from their public communications are huge debtors to their constituents and hopefully they learn a lesson and correct themselves.

Host:  We’ll continue with our second topic, which is  the country's divided opinion  on military aid to Ukraine after the ads. You're watching and listening to "Cross point".  Our second topic of discussion for today is -  the controversy between President Radev and the Minister of Defence Tagarev over aid to Ukraine. Yesterday Rumen Radev again opposed Bulgaria's participation in the European Union's initiative to send 1,000,000 projectiles to Ukraine. Here are his arguments.

Rumen Radev: I have argued both in Bulgaria and in Brussels that Bulgaria should not interfere by providing weapons in this conflict. This is not the way to end this conflict. You see that it is escalating, it carries huge risks, it is draining our economy and social system. And while representing Bulgaria in the Council of the European Union I have managed this situation. It has become clear that Bulgaria is not part of the 1 000 000 projectiles initiative. If the government makes this decision, I think it will be a mistake.

Host: Bulgaria is preparing a new package of military aid for Ukraine; it becomes clear from an interview of the Minister of Defence Todor Tagarev to "Free Europe". The aid will include ammunition, which will have to be processed in a few days anyway. What can we expect in terms of a more active policy of the new government in support of Ukraine and the position of the President?

Maxim: There is a formal side and besides the President's powers are not to run the government operationally and say what to do. On May 4, 2022, the 200-member Bulgarian parliament voted on a proposal by “We Continue the Change” to provide military technical assistance to Ukraine. That's 200 Members of the National Assembly of which 22 votes are from the “BSP” and in this case minister Tagarev is implementing this decision. The moral point of view is a little sadder - there is a war, Russia is the aggressor against Ukraine, which is an independent state and suffers from this war. And I believe that Bulgaria should not hesitate for a second to help it in any way. Whether it be economic, sheltering refugees, training them professionally. We cannot help Ukraine, which is a victim in this situation. There is a third formal country, Bulgaria, a member of NATO and the European Union. 25 countries of the European Union are coming together and deciding to help Ukraine with this program, and suddenly Bulgaria, one of the newest members of the European Union, says, 'We will not help.' It is a disgrace and a disrespect to the government that it has somehow managed to wash the eyes of many people in Bulgaria who think this way. By the way, and like many people in Russia, I have said it on other occasions, I have many friends in Russia with great respect for them, I keep in touch with them, and they are suffering just as much as the people in Ukraine from all this madness that is going on now. There is a certain logic to what the President is saying, because this is how he wants to preserve national interests and stand in the middle. Since World War II, our generation cannot remember a war like this on our border and we do not know how to react. But we cannot fully be members of NATO and the European Union and do anything other than that. The President must do it in a way to protect Bulgaria as much as possible, of course. But at the same time to state a position such as modern European countries have.

Host: Let's pause this topic for a moment and see if there's any argument in the studio about the budget and all our money, but that's after the commercials. Our third topic in "Intersection point" Minister of Finance Assen Vassilev presented a budget with a 3% deficit. It includes an increase in teachers' salaries, medical staff, and salaries in budget departments, which did not receive an increase last year. Let us see more.

Assen Vassilev: Pension costs, salary costs have not been touched. The 10% increase in salaries for the administrations that did not receive an increase last year is also included in the budget so that in all hospitals the salaries can reach 1500 BGN for a nurse and 2000 BGN for a doctor

Maxim:  It is very good not to touch taxes, bit in order to have expenses however we must have revenues. Revenue can only come from investment, industry, and new startups. This thing is not in the budget. Investments are the most important.. We have a huge list of all sorts of foreign companies that would like to invest in Bulgaria and if we don't act on it  now,  in six months or a year they will go to Romania, Serbia, or other countries. Regarding the Start up projects, I am a great supporter of an idea of mine, which is that we should give some loans of EUR 50 000 or EUR 100 000 to startups without interest. Half of them will not pay it back, they will go bankrupt or spend it. The other half will survive, they will make production, they will bring in money not only as taxes, but they will make an industry out of this thing, there will be exports. And again, if they do a program like this now, but not in six months or two years, not as a promise, maybe the revenue side of the budget will be replenished.

Host: Yes, but all of this requires a strategy, and we are talking about a very short horizon, at least until the end of this year.

Maxim: Yes, but this is not a short horizon of action. There's a bunch of things that can be done by the end of the year and every day is precious right now. If they put them on the table and present them to foreign investors, if there are "route choice" trips to present Bulgaria as a good investment destination. Remember Bulgaria has the lowest taxes in Europe 10% corporate tax, 5% dividend tax, there is no country like it. Nobody knows it, everybody knows that Bulgaria has beaches, mountains, how you can come on holiday, that we have cheap resorts. And our tax policy which we must present has to start now.

 Host: Thank you. Watch us tomorrow as well.

You can watch the whole interview here.

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