French-built Gowind corvettes were front-page news in the Bulgarian daily Dnevnik on Friday June 27. The paper reported that political and diplomatic efforts may have revived a shelved agreement signed by the Bulgarian defense ministry with French military shipyard DCNS for four of the corvettes.
The contract was frozen last year because the final results of the tender had not been officially established. But the daily reports that politicians from the coalition government said the government, and Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev in particular, were probably going to approve the final results and agree to signing the contract with DCNS.
The announcement has been timed to coincide with a visit to France by Stanishev. France is taking over the six-month revolving presidency of the European Union today (on July 1), days before the EU is scheduled to publish a provisional report on Bulgaria's candidacy to join the 27-nation bloc. Coincidence?
When French President Nicolas Sarkozy went to visit Bulgaria last October, the issue over the Gowind corvettes was high on his list of priorities.
But he was told at the time that the purchase of these ships was not “realistic” given Bulgaria's budget which could only support buying second-hand Belgian frigates for now, with no funding being available for a major procurement such as Gowind until at least 2015.