Q: Mr. Batkov, was 2016, a good year for Bulgaria?
A: From a financial perspective, it was – the government has reported economic growth, but from a demographic perspective it wasn't so good – only sixty thousand babies have been born in 2016. Whenever I get on a plane, I see two-thirds of the passengers are young Bulgarians seeking a better future abroad. This makes me very sad. I was in Madrid not long ago and I met five Bulgarians in less than twenty-four hours.
Finally, most of the wealth is in the hands of a handful of very rich Bulgarians, while the rest are struggling to make ends meet.
Q: What are the year's most significant political events, do you think?
A: The Presidential vote and the referendums certainly made the headlines. The political elite received a heavy slap across the face from the Bulgarian people. I think the situation at the oncoming general elections will be the same, unless the parties nominate fresh and energetic candidates. The Bulgarians want to see new faces on the political stage, I think.
The referendum was a clear expression of direct democracy and the people's will must be vested in a legal frame as soon as possible.
Q: What do you expect of 2017 in economic terms?
A: The investment climate should improve and bureaucracy should be lightened up. I am trying to implement two big investment projects, I am telling you that I have been struggling through a lot of red tape.
The state should start working hard to encourage the business, especially in the regions of the Rhodopes, Sakar and the Northwest.
Q: You are one of the authors of the latest Bulgarian Constitution, set up after the democratic changes of 1989. What do you think of the calls for amendments and the convention of a Grand National Assembly?
A: On the whole, the Bulgarian Constitution is a viable one. I think that amendments to the Constitution by a grand National Assembly are necessary in so far as they should provide for the direct election of local judges and police chiefs, because this was the people's will at the referendum.
Q: What do you expect of the incoming President, Rumen Radev?
A: He received the support of Bulgarian people of different political affiliations, social status and ethnicity. He should now try to single out the national priorities and unite the nation around them.
Q: How are the latest social and political trends influencing the media market in Bulgaria?
A: The printed press has been losing ground to the online media. Few businesses are still willing to advertise in newspapers, as they are becoming less popular in the age of Internet and e-media.
Which is even worse, the competition between the few printed media left on the Bulgarian market is unfair. There have been rumors, for instance, that The Standart will turn from daily into weekly. I'd like to emphasize that there isn't even a grain of truth in these insinuations.
The Standart is an Independent newspaper and I will continue to work for its development as such in the future. It is true that the newspaper is currently coping with financial difficulties, but this is because of our business model, which is one of sustainable development. The newspaper is self-sustainable and does not rely on external sponsorship, like the majority of the newspapers in Bulgaria.
Q: The Standrart daily will turn 25 next year. What are the things that make you proud with it?
A: The Standart is one of the leading newspapers in Bulgaria in terms of circulation of copies, readership, topics covered and style of writing.
The Standart's campaign The Wonders of Bulgaria has had a wide social impact – we reached out to the small towns and villages and put them on the map of Bulgaria's cultural and historical landmarks. The campaign has also shown the Bulgarian politicians that they should work hand-in-hand with the local governors and invest more state money in the sector of tourism.
The Standart's other campaign, YES! To the Bulgarian Economy, is promoting the partnership between the executive power and the regional business. On the whole, the campaign's goal is to improve the business climate across the country and create more opportunities for the local businesses.