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• (NW) June Industrial Production Index Up 5.8 Per Cent M/M, Down 7.7 Per Cent Y/Y
August 10 (BTA) - Compared to May 2020, the June Industrial Production Index, seasonally adjusted, increased by 5.8 per cent, according to preliminary data of the National Statistical Institute released on Monday. In June 2020 the working day adjusted Industrial Production Index dropped by 7.7 per cent compared to a year earlier. Compared to May 2020, the seasonally adjusted Industrial Production Index in June rose in the mining and quarrying industry by 9.1 per cent, in manufacturing by 6.0 per cent, and in electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply by 5.2 per cent. The most significant production increases in manufacturing were registered in the manufacture of motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers (by 73.2 per cent), furniture (by 24.0 per cent), tobacco products (by 15.9 per cent), and wood and products of wood and cork, except furniture; articles of straw and plaiting materials (by 14.8 per cent). Important decreases were seen in the manufacture of apparel (by 19.5 per cent) and of fabricated metal products, except machinery and equipment (by 5.0 per cent). Year-on-year, in June 2020 the Industrial Production Index calculated from working day adjusted data went down in manufacturing by 9.7 per cent and in electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply by 8.5 per cent, while production rose in the mining and quarrying industry by 14.9 per cent. In manufacturing, more considerable decreases compared to June 2019 were registered in other manufacturing (by 43.5 per cent), in the manufacture of machinery and equipment n.e.c. by 29.9 per cent, in the repair and installation of machinery and equipment by 25.9 per cent, and the manufacture of motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers by 25.1 per cent. Major increases were seen in the manufacture of basic metals by 31.1per cent, the manufacture of other transport equipment by 18.8 per cent, and the manufacture of basic pharmaceutical products and pharmaceutical preparations by 6.0 per cent./RI/BR //
• (NW) Accessible Environment for Disabled People Remains Big Problem, Informal Organization Warns
Sofia, August 10 (BTA) - Accessible environment for people with disabilities remains a big problem, Ivan Yanev of an informal organization called Alliance Accessibility told a BTA-hosted news conference on Monday. Yanev said that a new ordinance in support of disabled people...
• (PE) Press - Review
Sofia, August 10 (BTA)
• (DF) Protesters Relocate Tent Camp, Free Up One of Three Blocked Junctions in Sofia
August 10 (BTA) - Parents of disabled children from the System Kills Us initiative who had set up a tent camp blocking a key junction in Sofia, plan to move the camp to a location in front of the building of the Council of Ministers, they told the Bulgarian National Television on Monday morning. The protesters are freeing up one of the three blocked junctions by ongoing anti-government rallies which entered their 33rd day on Monday. RI/ZH //
• (DF) 1,275 PCR Tests Confirm 53 New COVID-19 Cases, Bringing Bulgaria's Total to 13,396
August 10 (BTA) - The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Bulgaria reached 13,396 on Monday after 53 new infections were confirmed over the last 24 hours, out of 1,275 PCR tests, according to data posted on www.coronavirus.bg. The active cases are 5,177. The hospitalized patients number 849, including 54 in intensive care. Fifty-four COVID-19 patients have recovered over the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 7,772. Two new fatalities were reported, bringing the total death toll to 447. RI/ZH//
• (DF) 3,612 PCR Tests Confirm 134 New COVID-19 Cases, Bringing Bulgaria's Total to 13,343
August 9 (BTA) - The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Bulgaria reached 13,343 on Sunday after 134 new infections were confirmed over the last 24 hours out of 3,612 PCR tests, according to data posted on www.coronavirus.bg. Dobrich tops the list of new cases with 32 patients, followed by Plovdiv with 21 and Sofia with 17. A total of 303,536 PCR tests have been performed since the first cases were diagnosed on March 8. The active cases are 5,180. The newly infected persons include 4 medical staff (3 nurses and 1 orderly), and this category now totals 749. The hospitalized patients number 848, including 55 in intensive care. Another 96 COVID-19 patients have recovered over the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 7,718. Three more fatalities were reported, bringing the total death toll to 445. RY/LG //
• (PE) Press - Review
Sofia, August 9 (BTA)
• (DF) Defence Chief Admiral Emil Eftimov Meets with US Land Forces Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville
August 8 (BTA) - Bulgaria's Chief of Defence Admiral Emil Eftimov met with US Land Forces Chief of Staff General James McConville at the Novo Selo Training Area on Saturday, the Defence Ministry said. The two discussed aspects of the training of Bulgarian and American service persons and the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on its intensity. The use, future development and modernization of joint training facilities and the prospects of cooperation between the two countries' land forces were high on the agenda of the meeting. Adm. Eftimov and Gen. McConville praised what has been achieved so far and the good communication during joint activities. Also participating in the meeting were US Ambassador Herro Mustafa, the US Army Europe Commanding General, Lt. Gen. Christopher Cavoli, the 21st Theater Sustainment Commanding General, Maj. Gen. Christopher O. Mohan, and Bulgaria's Land Forces Commander Maj. Gen. Mihail Popov. RY/DD //
• (DF) Key Traffic Junctions in Sofia Blocked Again by Protesters
August 8 (BTA) - After police removed tents from key junctions in Sofia early on Friday, a group of protesters again blocked them to traffic late in the evening. This time the police did not remove the tents. President Rumen Radev commented in a Facebook post on Friday evening that the government got the police involved in a conflict with the thousands of protesters. "The readiness to sacrifice civic peace in the name of political survival is an act of political escalation without a precedent during Bulgaria's transition. (...) The crisis of Bulgarian democracy cannot be resolved through repressive and police measures, they can only deepen it," said Radev. He stated that the resignations of the cabinet and the Prosecutor General would be the first steps towards Bulgaria's return to the rule of law and democratic procedures. Chief Inspector Krassimira Stoyadinova from the Metropolitan Directorate of the Interior said on Saturday morning the police would keep trying to talk the protesters into removing the blockades. No one was arrested on the night to Saturday. Stoyadinova said protesters at the Eagles' Bridge had started "building a barricade of refuse containers, street planters and benches from the nearby park". The resulting solid barricades stopped all traffic, including ambulances, fire engines and other emergency vehicles. Protesters at the bridge were adamant that they would not talk with the police and would not budge, she said. The large number of women at the barricade stopped the police from using physical force. Public transport in the capital has been rerouted once again. On Saturday, Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandakova pleaded with the organizers and the protesters to remove the barricades: "The calls for a rule of law which are central to the protest mean nothing if they do not apply to those voicing them. (...) My 'old-fashioned' call is for obeying the law. Otherwise every fighter for justice risks turning into what they claim to be fighting against," the Mayor said. Later in the day, Sofia Police Chief Georgi Hadjiev told the media that the Metropolitan Directorate of the Interior would bring life in the capital back to normal. The barricades will be removed, said Hadjiev. "Obviously there is no way that key junctions can remain closed, hampering the free movement of all other people," he said, adding that from now on the persons who violate the law will be held accountable for everything. Hadjiev said the Sofia police reported flagrant acts of hooliganism and vandalism committed by the unlawful protesters, which culminated in the Eagles' Bridge area. They ripped off benches and other equipment and built barricades, the police chief said. The informal leaders at the barricades told women and girls where to stand so as to form a human shield against the police. Hadjiev said: "Unlike all those persons, we do not view this as a war, and the health of Sofia residents, including those who are demonstrating, though unlawfully and flagrantly, is of exceptional importance to us." Given the increased risk of people being injured, the leaders of the Metropolitan Directorate decided to reduce the number of police officers. It was also decided that when the time and circumstances are right, they will take the necessary steps to restore the constitutional order in the capital as they did on the morning of August 7. RY/DD //
• (DF) 5,837 PCR Tests Confirm 195 COVID-19 Cases, Bringing Bulgaria's Total to 13,209
August 8 (BTA) - The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Bulgaria reached 13,209 after 195 infections were confirmed in the 24 hours until Friday midnight through 5,837 PCR tests, according to data posted on www.coronavirus.bg. The active cases are 5,145. The hospitalized patients number 857, including 55 in intensive care. Recoveries in the last 24 hours number 248, bringing the total to 7,622. Seven more fatalities were reported, bringing the total death toll to 442. Sofia City tops the list with 53 newly confirmed cases, followed by Varna with 27 and Blagoevgrad with 23. The newly confirmed cases include 16 medical staff (6 doctors, 7 nurses and 3 orderlies), and this category now totals 745. A total of 299,924 PCR tests have been performed since the first cases were diagnosed on March 8. RY/DD //
• (PE) Press - Review
Sofia, August 8 (BTA)
• (NW) By End-June, Households Kept Lv 57.2 Bln on Bank Deposits
Sofia, August 7 (BTA) - The deposits of the Non-financial corporations sector and the Households and Non-profit institutions, serving households (NPISHs) sector numbered 9,905,000 at the end of June 2020, declining by 2.8 per cent, year on year, the Bulgarian National Bank rep...
• (NW) By End-June, Households Kept Lv 57.2 Bln on Bank Deposits
August 7 (BTA) - The deposits of the Non-financial corporations sector and the Households and Non-profit institutions, serving households (NPISHs) sector numbered 9,905,000 at the end of June 2020, declining by 2.8 per cent, year on year, the Bulgarian National Bank reported on Friday. The total amount of financial assets kept on these deposits was 83.178 billion leva, increasing by 9.0 per cent. The deposits of the Non-financial corporations sector numbered 582,000 at the end of June 2020, decreasing by 3.0 per cent, year on year. These deposits amounted to 26.007 billion leva at the end of the second quarter of 2020, rising by 11.9 per cent, year on year. At the end of the second quarter of 2020, the number of deposits of the Households and NPISHs sector decreased by 2.8 per cent, year on year, reaching 9,323,000. These deposits amounted to 57.171 billion leva, increasing by 7.8 per cent, year on year. The loans extended to the Non-financial corporations sector and the Households and NPISHs sector at the end of the second quarter of 2020 numbered 2,976,000, decreasing by 4.0 per cent, year on year. The total amount of these loans was 59.369 billion leva, increasing by 4.9 per cent, year on year. The loans extended to the Non-financial corporations sector at the end of the second quarter of 2020 numbered 148,000, decreasing by 2.1 per cent, year on year. The amount of these loans was 34.810 billion leva, increasing by 2.9 per cent, year on year. At the end of June 2020, the number of loans extended to the Households and NPISHs sector decreased by 4.1 per cent, year on year, reaching 2,828,000. The amount of these loans rose by 8.0 per cent, year on year, reaching 24.559 billion leva. RI/LG //
• (PE) Press - Review
Sofia, August 7 (BTA)
• (DF) Environment Minister Denies Reports that Radioactive Waste Is Incinerated in Bulgaria
August 7 (BTA) - "Radioactive waste is not incinerated in Bulgaria. Don't trust lies, hazardous waste is not incinerated here," Bulgarian Environment and Water Minister Emil Dimitrov told a news conference here on Thursday evening. He thus denied a social media post earlier in the day by former ombudsman Maya Manolova, according to which Varna was on the brink of an ecological disaster because over 5,500 tonnes of hazardous waste had been imported from Britain. "This is the fifth successive shipload arriving here," Dimitrov said, specifying that the waste in Varna is common modified fuels. "The UK is entitled to export waste until the end of this year, and Bulgaria, as a EU Member State, cannot prevent any of the rest of the Member States from importing, just as they cannot prevent us from exporting," the Environment Minister explained. "We are monitoring all ships and cargoes," he added. Asked for comment on pollution of beaches along the southern Bulgarian Black Sea coast by palm-oil pellets, Dimitrov said that samples from the slicks in the seawater have been taken for an analysis so as to determine whether they present a human health hazard. "I don't think anybody did it on purpose," he pointed out. RI/LG//
• (DF) 6,433 PCR Tests Confirm 297 New COVID-19 Cases, Bringing Bulgaria's Total to 13,014
August 7 (BTA) - The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Bulgaria reached 13,014 on Friday after 297 new infections were confirmed over the last 24 hours out of 6,433 PCR tests, according to data posted on www.coronavirus.bg. Sofia City tops the list of new cases with 80 patients, followed by Plovdiv with 35 and Dobrich with 28. A total of 294,087 PCR tests have been performed since the first cases were diagnosed on March 8. The active cases are 5,205. The newly infected persons include 12 medical staff (3 doctors, 4 nurses, 2 orderlies, 1 feldsher and 2 other), and this category now totals 729 (255 doctors and 244 nurses). The hospitalized patients number 874, including 47 in intensive care. Another 220 COVID-19 patients have recovered over the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 7,374. Eleven more fatalities were reported, bringing the total death toll to 435. RI/LG //
• (DF) Police Remove Tent Camps Blocking Traffic at Busy Junctions in Sofia, 12 Persons Detained
August 7 (BTA) - At 4:30 a.m. on Friday, police removed the tent camps blocking vehicular traffic at three busy junctions in Sofia. The law enforcers used loudspeakers to order the protestors to leave the carriageway, Commissioner Toni Todorov, Deputy Chief of Security Police at the Metropolitan Directorate of the Interior, told an extraordinary news briefing on Friday morning. The camps are part of countrywide protests that have been staged for a month now, demanding the resignation of the Boyko Borissov Cabinet and Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev. Only one person refused categorically to comply and was coercively removed from the carriageway at Eagles Bridge without handcuffs. Twelve persons, including protest organizer Arman Babikyan and activist Manol Glishev, were detained during the police operation. Eight of them refused to obey police orders and are being issued with written statements, and three were apprehended because they did not carry identity cards. All detainees have been released from custody. Todorov said that the decision to remove the tents was taken because the discontent with the traffic obstruction could be vent against both law enforcers and protestors and could lead to an escalation of tensions. Over the last week, the Sofia Police has received hundreds of complaints about the three blockades, including one signed by 420 people. The complainants argued that the protest violated their right to freedom of movement. The Commissioner said that the Interior Ministry respects and guarantees citizens' constitutional right to protest peacefully in defence of their rights, but this cannot be done at the cost of a gross violation of the rights of the rest of the people. "We have ensured the right to free movement of all citizens who dissent with the protestors," Todorov said. He specified that police will no longer tolerate the blocking of vehicular traffic by protestors at key road junctions. Earlier in the day, protest organizer Nikolay Hadjigenov told bTV that the road blockades will be back at even more locations, across the country. "We expect people to become furious at long last. On the 30th day of the protest, corruption decided to take things into its own hands because, obviously, we so much stand in its way," he commented. RI/LG //
• (DF) Bulgarian Socialist Party to Submit Request for Extraordinary Sitting of Parliament on August 10
August 6 (BTA) - The BSP for Bulgaria parliamentary group is submitting a petition for an extraordinary sitting of the National Assembly on Monday, August 10, at 1 pm, Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) leader Kornelia Ninova said at a press conference on Thursday. At the sitting, MPs are to discuss a decision of the National Assembly which obliges the Council of Ministers to submit a budget update within seven days in connection with the socio-economic measures related to the COVID-19 crisis, as well as a hearing of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and the Interior Minister regarding violence exhibited against journalists and protestors during GERB's National Conference on Wednesday. Ninova explained that in the presence of the necessary number of signatures, which the BSP already has, the National Assembly Chair should convene an extraordinary sitting, but that the MPs can decide whether to adopt the proposed agenda or not. Ninova said that, depending on the budget update the government submits, the BSP will decide whether to support it or not, but that the final decision should be made in the National Assembly by changing the budget, her political reasoning being that for years one person has single-handedly decided how to spend government money, usually, in her words, for party, personal or election purposes. By submitting a proposal for a budget update in the National Assembly, other political parties will be given the opportunity to make proposals as well. BSP MP Rumen Gechev argued that the Council of Ministers' initiative to increase up to 30 per cent of salaries in the state administration in 28 institutions and agencies is a panic pre-election measure. He noted that there are too many unknowns in this endeavour such as how many people this concerns, by how much will their salaries be raised by, by what criteria. Gechev believes that it is not clear what will happen to salaries in other areas, and that the starting salaries of young researchers should also be increased. Gechev was adamant that no one has the right to take money from those provided for investments in the ministries and move them to the salary fund without a sanction from the National Assembly. The BSP is questioning whether the state will take out a new loan or the funds will come from the fiscal reserve. They also want to know what happened to the first stage of four billion leva, announced by the government after the outbreak of the pandemic. Of these, less than four percent have been absorbed, where is the rest of the money, Gechev asked. RI/DT /DT/
• (DF) NFSB Leader: Boyko Borissov Remains Prime Minister
August 6 (BTA) - Emerging from the session of the coalition council on Thursday morning, NFSB leader Valeri Simeonov told the media that Boyko Borissov will remain Prime Minister of Bulgaria. On Wednesday Borissov said he would discuss with GERB's coalition partners the possible courses to follow, not barring the option to vacate the position. Asked if a government without Borissov is a possibility, Simeonov said that anything is possible, but Borissov stays for now. RY/MT /??/
• (DF) President Radev: "Bulgarians Are Entitled to Know the Real Situation of Their Country"
August 6 (BTA) - "Bulgarians massively reject propaganda and are entitled to know the real situation of the country and to seek an alternative to the present-day quandary," Bulgarian President Rumen Radev said on Wednesday. "The Prime Minister never ventured out of his self-created world of illusions," the President noted. He commented that the "legacy of the crashed autocracy" is extremely dire and "we can only overcome it with common will and an active civic stance." The head of State said that "at this historic moment, Bulgarians have emerged from the apathy and the hypnosis of propaganda and fearlessly spell out the truth about the captive state, about the lies, arrogance and plunder of the incumbents. [. . .] The calls for resignation and fair elections with machine and remote voting that reverberate both at home and abroad are a fact." National Strategic Document Radev spoke at the Boyana Residence during a presentation of a draft National Strategic Document elaborated by the Strategic Council with the President. He explained that the National Strategic Document will be presented at three stages: analysing the situation of the country, identifying the reasons for this situation, and formulating strategic proposals and conditions for their implementation. The first part of the draft concludes that by 2020 Bulgarian society is characterized by exceedingly alarming persistent trends: high death rate, bad health status, low birth rate, migration of working-age population, worsening deficiencies in the quality of education and professional competencies, spirituality and upbringing, drastic and growing social inequalities, poverty and exclusion, Strategic Council Chair Alexander Marinov said at the presentation of the document. He added that, according to the National Strategic Document, the Bulgaria 2020 National Development Programme has failed to achieve its objectives and priorities as a key strategic document because of the manner in which the national strategy was drawn up and implemented in the context of profound systemic deficiencies in the model of state governance and in the relations between the State and citizens. Marinov noted that public consensus on the requisite changes requires agreement regarding the diagnosis. Hence, the Strategic Council with the President is asking the public whether they believe that Bulgaria now is a competitive economy creating conditions for full-fledged social, creative and professional self-fulfilment of people, as Bulgaria 2020 states, and is it feasible that in 2030 Bulgaria will be a country of high living standards and competitive low-carbon economy, a highly educated and healthy society, an attraction for investments and human resources. After the main points of the diagnosis are discussed and identified, the vision, objectives, priorities and start of overcoming the crisis will be formulated, Marinov said. RY/LG //
• (NW) Regulator Concerned about Assaults on Journalists
August 6 (BTA) - The Council for Electronic Media (CEM) is seriously concerned about what it sees as increasingly frequent assaults on journalists. "Any assault on a journalist and anything that is done to keep a journalist from doing their job is a direct encroachment on the freedom of speech and the achievements of democracy," the CEM said in a position statement. The statement comes a day after masked men assaulted Svobodna Evropa (Free Europe) journalist Paulina Paounova during a conference of the ruling GERB party in Sofia, and a GERB enthusiast called her "scum." The CEM called on the general public to respect the professional rights of journalists, their freedom and dignity. "We believe that the competent authorities will do their job promptly and professionally and will identify the perpetrators." The CEM urged politicians and public figures to show responsibility in their public statements and actions vis-?-vis journalists and the media. RY/VE //
• (PE) Press - Review
Sofia, August 6 (BTA)
• (DF) 303 New Cases of COVID-19 Confirmed in Bulgaria
August 6 (BTA) - The Bulgarian healthcare authorities confirmed 303 new cases of COVID-19 in the country over the last 24 hours, based on 5,701 PCR tests, according to data posted on the national web portal for coronavirus information on Thursday morning. This brought the total number of COVID-19 cases in Bulgaria to 12,717, including 5,139 active ones. The largest number of new cases were registered in the region of Blagoevgrad (97), followed by Varna (54), Plovdiv (45) and Sofia (28). A hundred and ninety COVID-19 patients recovered from the disease over the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of recoveries to 7,154. A total of 872 patients are in hospital, 44 of them in intensive care wards. Nine patients died over the last 24 hours. A total of 252 physicians, 240 nurses, 114 orderlies, 12 paramedics and 99 other medical staff in Bulgaria have been infected with the disease so far. RY/VE //
• (DF) GERB National Conference Starts under Tight Security, PM Borissov Ready to Leave at Any Point
August 5 (BTA) - The open-air National Conference of the ruling GERB party was launched here on Wednesday under heightened security measures and social tension in Sofia Tech Park. The event was attended by party members from across Bulgaria, including MPs, ministers, municipal councillors, regional governors and mayors. Anti-government protesters had blocked a nearby crosswalk. There were clashes. Prime Minister and GERB leader Boyko Borissov told the participants in the conference that he is ready to vacate his position at any moment. He said he would discuss with GERB's ruling coalition partners, the United Patriots, the possible next steps for the government, and declared that GERB is not afraid of a caretaker government, adding however, that they do not trust President Rumen Radev and do not believe the elections will be fair. Borissov explained that it is also possible for him to leave, and let someone else serve until the end of Cabinet's term, adding that his future work will be focused on collaboration with GERB's local chapters. The Prime Minister said that he could announce the date of his resignation right away, but he intends to have talks with GERB's coalition partners to ensure the stability of this country in the face of the difficult months that lie ahead. Borissov went on to say that he does not want to be the divider of the nation, adding that his party has signed a coalition agreement to for Cabinet to serve out its term. He shared his conviction that through its work, the ruling coalition has foiled the schemes of numerous smugglers and oligarchs. GERB's leader said that his party has never formed a coalition with the Movement for Rights and Freedoms or with the Socialists, nor will it ever do so, explaining that GERB's only acceptable partners are the current ones: the United Patriots and the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF). In his speech, Borissov addressed once again the corruption of which the protesters are accusing the incumbents, citing figures according to which contraband rates in Bulgaria are currently under 3 per cent. The Prime Minister said that nothing is better than a democracy where people are free to express their will, but he also called on his audience to avoid provocations. Shouts to resign and booing could be heard during his speech. Borissov pointed out the motorways constructed by the incumbents, and remarked that had they not come into power, the protesters would not have had motorways to block or a metro to tinker with. He added that part of the third line of Sofia's metro will be ready within days. Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the IMRO party, which is part of the United Patriots, Krassimir Karakachanov, said that the priorities are clear: the date of the elections is set by the Constitution; until then, there is work to do. He said that some of the people who want to govern Bulgaria again, have for over 20 years sacrificed the state for the sake of their own interests, and today they are ready to plunge this country back into chaos just to be in power. MEP Andrey Novakov, member of GERB, said that "it is time we raised our heads, not our fists" and added that Bulgaria is a Garden of Eden that needs a lot of work. Razgrad Regional Governor Gyunai Hyusmen stated that Bulgaria has a legitimately elected Prime Minister, his name is Boyko Borissov, and he has been "doing all the donkey work" for 20 years. Yuxel Ahmed, Mayor of the northeastern town of Dulovo for a third consecutive term, refuted the allegations that he has behind-the-scenes agreements with the MRF, pointing out that the elections in Dulovo prove that. UDF Chair Rumen Hristov said that the upcoming elections must be won by the Right-wing. Kalin Kamenov, Mayor of the northwestern city of Vratsa and moderator of the event, called on GERB members and supporters to be brave, responsible and united. Meanwhile, there were clashes between protesters and GERB supporters, and videos were published showing a journalist of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty being assaulted. In an official statement to the media, GERB condemned the actions of the group of provocateurs that caused tensions to rise. According to the police, there were about 50 protesters around the conference venue. After the event, party representatives declared in a statement that GERB members and supporters demonstrated their peaceful intentions during the entire conference, and did not provoke any aggression. Unfortunately, there were paid provocateurs who breached the forum security to harass GERB members, protesters and journalists alike, the statement said. The party insists that the investigating bodies establish all facts and circumstances surrounding these incidents, and that the perpetrators be brought to justice. RY/MT /??/
• (DF) GERB National Conference Starts Under High Security Measures
August 5 (BTA) - The open-air National Conference of the ruling party GERB was launched on Wednesday under heightened security measures in Sofia Tech Park. The event is attended by party members from across Bulgaria, including MPs, ministers, municipal councillors, district governors and mayors. The protestors have blocked the crosswalk at the 4th Kilometer roundabout. RI/MT /??/
• (PE) Press - Review
Sofia, August 5 (BTA)
• (DF) 255 New COVID-19 Cases Confirmed in Bulgaria since Yesterday
August 5 (BTA) - Two hundred and fifty-five new cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed in Bulgaria, out of 5,325 PCR tests performed in the past 24 hours. The total number of confirmed cases in the country has reached 12,414, according to the latest information published on the national coronavirus information platform on Wednesday morning. In the past 24 hours, 280 people have recovered from the virus and 11 people have died. There are a total of 847 hospitalized coronavirus patients, 41 of which are in intensive care units. Confirmed cases among medical staff have reached 711. Most new cases were reported in Blagoevgrad (43), followed by Sofia (34), Plovdiv (32) and Varna (31). RI/DT /DT/
• (NW) Over 60% of Bulgarians Support Protests - Alpha Research Poll
August 4 (BTA) - A little over 60 per cent of Bulgarians support the protests from recent weeks, shows a nationally representative survey commissioned by the Dnevnik e-zine and conducted by Alpha Research among 1,017 respondents in person between July 23 and July 30, 2020. The protesters' demands for the resignations of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev are approved by 45 per cent and 43 per cent of respondents, respectively. In view of the prosecuting magistracy's raid in the President's building, which sparked a conflict between President Rumen Radev and the Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev, the former enjoys the categorical support of 45 per cent of respondents, compared to 11 per cent for Geshev. Thirty-seven per cent of responsents do not support either one. In view of the conflict between the President and Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, Radev gets 44 per cent support compared to 23 per cent for Borissov. Twenty-nine per cent do not take either's side. Sixty-one per cent of Bulgarians believe that the Movement for Rights and Freedoms' (MRF) founder and Honorary Chairman, Ahmed Dogan, plays a role in all important public spheres (responsents have provided more than one answer). A total of 38.4 per cent believe he plays a role in politics, 31.4 per cent believe he plays a role in the energy sector and 30 per cent in the economy. According to 17.8 per cent of Bulgarians, Dogan has influence in the justice system, while 19.6 per cent believe he has influence in the media. According to 42 per cent of respondents, Dogan plays a key role in his party. The protests are fully supported by 41.8 per cent of Bulgarians, while 20.7 say they "rather support them". A total of 18.9 per cent say they do not support the protests at all, while 18.6 per cent say they "rather do not support them". Over 66 per cent of respondents have indicated they support "citizens who come out to protests spontaneously", while 22.9 per cent support "President Radev, who backed the protests". Businessman Vassil Bojkov, who is currently in Dubai and wanted on a number of charges, and who declared his support for the protests on social media, gets support by around 3 per cent of respondents. A total of 46.8 per cent of respondents support the protesters' demands to bring down the mafia and mobsters from power. A total of 37 per cent of respondents who support the protests also favour early parliamentary elections. Asked which political parties they associate with the mafia and mobsters, 47 per cent said "all", followed by the MRF, GERB and the Bulgarian Socialist Party. The least associated with the mafia are Democratic Bulgaria and showman Slavi Trifonov's "There is Such a People" party. A total of 49.8 per cent of respondents express support for Democratic Bulgaria leader Hristo Ivanov's protest in front of Dogan's summer residence in Rossenets Park (on the Black Sea), compared to 21.3 per cent who do not support, with the rest being undecided. RI/MY. /??/
• (DF) Bourgas Authorities Order Removal of Fence in Rossenets Park
August 4 (BTA) - The municipal government of Bourgas ordered the removal of a construction site fence in the seaside Rossenets Park, which blocked access to a municipal road leading up to a beach, City Hall said on Tuesday. The news was reported after photos circulated via social media showed a fence in front of a property in the park associated with the founder and honorary chairman of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) party, Ahmed Dogan. In April 2020, the road to the beach was assigned to a private company which owns a palatial building in Rossenets Park, which is used as Dogan's summer residence. The decision practically cut off access to the nearby beach and it could be used exclusively by the inhabitants of the Rossenets residence, which contravened the law whereby all beaches are public state property and should be freely accessible. A campaign against this situation was organized in July by Hristo Ivanov, the co-leader of the opposition Democratic Bulgaria. He first tried to reach the beach by boat but was pushed back by Dogan's bodyguards, and then inspired what was called "mass beach-going" at Rossenets where the participants clashed with police trying to stop them in order to prevent conflicts with MRF supporters, who had come to defend the residence of their party's founder. All this added fuel to the fire which caused the ongoing protests against corruption in Bulgaria, against the government and the Prosecutor General. On July 28 the road to the notorious Rossenets beach became public property again after the Bourgas Municipal Council retracted a decision whereby the public road had become private property. This past Monday, SvobodnaEvropa.bg said that the road to the beach was blocked again. On Tuesday, Hristo Ivanov went to the spot to see for himself. The Democratic Bulgaria co-leader found that the fence was partially removed, apparently because of the presence of journalists. Later, the municipal government of Bourgas ordered that the municipal road be made freely accessible to the public. The order was addressed to the owner of the property. The owner, the construction supervision authority and the construction company were asked to provide, within seven days, the written statements and protocols issued during construction at the site. These documents will show whether the buildings in the property are occupied legally. The municipal government has never received any application to register the newly constructed buildings and to certify their coming into use. The owner was warned that in case of failure to provide the required documents on time, the municipal government will take steps to ban the use of the buildings. RI/VE //
• (DF) No New Measures Will Be Imposed, Says Health Minister after 204 New COVID-19 Cases and 16 Deaths Reported
August 4 (BTA) - There were 204 new confirmed COVID-19 cases out of 4,137 tests and 16 deaths in one day, according to data published on the national coronavirus information portal on Tuesday morning. The death toll in Bulgaria since the beginning of the pandemic has reached 404. Later in the day, after a meeting with representatives of the expert councils on epidemiology, microbiology, infectious diseases and virology, Health Minister Kostadin Angelov said that at the moment there is no need to introduce additional restrictive measures in Bulgaria. There is currently no significant pressure on the hospital system and there is a clear plan what to do if pressure increases. Angelov added that the number of new cases is declining, although there is an increase in the share of patients in the 15-29 age group. At the moment in Bulgaria there are 712 medics infected with coronavirus, which is 5.85 per cent of all registered infections. There are a total of 5,071 active cases, 43 of which are in intensive care, while 264 patients have recovered. The most new cases were reported in Sofia (51) and in the coastal city of Varna (42). Ten new cases of infected medical staff were reported between Monday and Tuesday. If there are more than 350 newly infected per day, there is a readiness to open more than 8,000 beds for treatment, of which 1,108 for respiratory resuscitation, and the rest - for conservative treatment. Currently the national warehouse has a three-month supply of surgical masks, a seven-month supply of specialized masks, a three-month supply of disposable overalls, a month-and-a-half supply of gloves, a six-month supply of protective helmets, a four-month supply of alcohol and a three-month supply of disinfectants. The surgical overshoes and gloves supply is lowest, but the Ministry of Health is making efforts to procure them. There are also not enough anesthesiologists and resuscitators in Bulgaria. Minister Angelov said that an analysis is being carried out by district in order to identify needs. At the end of the year, a map of the needs of doctors and healthcare professionals will be presented in order to assess where to direct the funds under European programmes.RY,RI/MT,DT /??/
• (DF) Agriculture Minister: Farmers to Receive 49 Mln Levaunder De Minimis Aid Programme
August 4 (BTA) - Minister of Agriculture, Food and Forestry Desislava Taneva announced at a briefing here on Tuesday that Bulgarian farmers will receive a total of 49 million leva in financial assistance under a de minimis aid programme. The stock breeding sector will receive over 25 million leva, over 6,000 beekeepers will receive almost 5 million leva, and growers of fruits and vegetables - almost 19 million leva. Taneva pointed out that Bulgaria has made the most of all the opportunities provided by the European Commission, and that this country's initiative to find additional funding to counter the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has ensured a total budget of over 106 million leva for Bulgarian producers and processors. Speaking earlier on Tuesday during a meeting with represenatives of branch organizations in the fruit and vegetable sector, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said that the government will set aside about 19 million leva to assist growers of fruits, vegetables and vines, as well as rose oil producers, the government press service reported. The meeting was also attended by Agriculture Minister Taneva. The subsidy from Cabinet is granted as a de minimis measure to cover losses caused by drought and additional expenses related to the COVID- pandemic. The aid will reach up to 25,000 beneficiaries. Borissov stressed the importance to immediately assist those sectors that are facing bankruptcy. He also said that additional options will be sought to subsidize farmers affected by the pandemic through the Bulgarian Development Bank. Taneva informed Borissov and the branch representatives that applications for the COVID-19 emergency measure under the Rural Development Programme will start in mid-August, and all farmers will be able to apply. The subsidy will amount to 106 million leva, according to the government press service. RY/MT /??/
• (PE) Press - Review
Sofia, August 4 (BTA)
• (DF) 204 New Cases Since Yesterday, 16 Deaths
August 4 (BTA) - Over the past 24 hours, there were 204 new confirmed COVID-19 cases out of 4,137 tests in Bulgaria, and 16 deaths, according to data published on the national coronavirus information portal on Tuesday morning. The death toll since the beginning of the pandemic reached 404. There are a total of 5,071 active cases, 43 of them are in intensive care, and 264 patients have recovered. The most new cases were reported in Sofia - 51 and Varna on the Black Sea - 42. Ten new cases of infected medical staff were reported since yesterday. RY/MT /??/
• (PE) Press - Review
Sofia, August 3 (BTA)
• (DF) Three Tent Camps Block Traffic in Downtown Sofia on 26th Day of Anti-government Protests
August 3 (BTA) - Three busy junctions in downtown Sofia remain blocked by tent camps on Monday, which is the 26th day of the anti-government protests. Dozens of people spent the night in the three tent camps. The protests continue in a calm atmosphere, with no tension between police and protestors. An access road to the Trakiua motorway at the exit from Stara Zagora, Southern Bulgaria, continues to be blocked as well, where a tent camp has been put up. The police repeats its call on the participants in the protest rallies to keep the public order and not yield to provocations. RI/ZH//
• (DF) Belgium Introduces Compulsory Quarantine for Arrivals from Two Bulgarian Regions
August 3 (BTA) - The Belgian Foreign Ministry has updated the regulations concerning international arrivals. The new rules introduce a compulsory 14-day quarantine for arrivals from two regions in Bulgaria, the Northeastern and the Southwestern. Arrivals from these two areas are also subject to compulsory COVID-19 testing. Testing and quarantine are recommended for arrivals in Belgium from the other regions of Bulgaria. Travelling to Bulgaria's Northeastern and Southwestern regions is banned, while a special advisory is issued for trips to the other regions. As of the start of the month, all persons travelling to Belgium are required to fill in an electronic form 48 hours before arrival. RI/ZH//
• (DF) 1,491 PCR Tests Confirm 119 New COVID-19 Cases, Bringing Bulgaria's Total to 11,955
August 3 (BTA) - The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Bulgaria reached 11,955 on Monday after 119 new infections were confirmed over the last 24 hours, out of 1,491 PCR tests, according to data posted on www.coronavirus.bg. The active cases are 5,147. The hospitalized patients number 814, including 46 in intensive care. Twenty-four COVID-19 patients have recovered over the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 6,420. Three new fatalities were reported, bringing the total death toll to 388. RI/ZH//
• (DF) 146 New COVID-19 Cases Confirmed In 24 Hours
August 2 (BTA) - There were 146 new COVID-19 cases out of 3,955 tests done in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 11,836, according to data on the national coronavirus website on Sunday morning.
• (DF) Anti-government Protest Rally Continues to Block Key Junction in Capital As Police Reduces Number of Officers Guarding Protests Due to Rising Coronavirus Cases among Staff
August 1 (BTA) - The anti-government protests entered their 24th day on Saturday. The two key demands of the protesters are resignation of the Boyko Borissov government and of Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev. The protesters continue to block a key junction in downtown Sofia, the Eagles Bridge, where a tent camp was put up four days ago.
• (DF) Specialized Criminal Court Finds Guilty Former Economy and Energy Ministry on Charges Related to Operation of Coal Mine
August 1 (BTA) - The Specialized Criminal Court rendered a guilty verdict to former economy and energy minister Roumen Ovcharov who served in the Sergei Stanishev government in 2005-2007, the Specialized Appellate Prosecuting Magistracy said. Ovcharov was given a suspended sentence of two years in prison and three years of probation period.
• (DF) 5,582 PCR Tests Confirm 270 New COVID-19 Cases, Bringing Bulgaria's Total to 11,690
August 1 (BTA) - The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Bulgaria reached 11,690 on Saturday after 270 new infections were confirmed over the last 24 hours, out of 5,582 PCR tests, according to data posted on www.coronavirus.bg.
• (DF) Economy Ministry Opens Hotline in Response to Reported Bribery
July 31 (BTA) - The Economy Ministry is opening a hotline where corruption can be reported, said here in Parliament on Friday Economy Minister Lachezar Borisov.
• (DF) Major Intersections in Sofia Remain Blocked by Protestors on 23rd Day of Protest against Corruption and Government
July 31 (BTA) - Traffic in Sofia remains disturbed by anti-government protestors Friday as their protest goes into its 23rd day. For a third day, a tent camp stands at Eagles' Bridge on one of Sofia's major thoroughfare, which has become something of a symbol of anti-government discontent over the years, and the protestors would not budge when local government representatives tried to talk them into clearing the way for public transport. The protests have been mostly praceful except for occasional clashes between police and what looked like provocateurs on some days. In a Friday morning incident which got much media coverage, a protestor poured water on a woman who was angry about the inconviniences the protest was causing, and she hit him with a walking stick. Both were taken to the police precinct. Police said they have a pile of complaints by people, including disabled people, about the traffic disturbances. The protestors are adamant that they will remain in place until the government and prosecutor generel resign. The protests erupted on July 9, bringing to the street people of various political affiliations or none at all. They vent their resentment against corruption, against a prosecution service which, they say, selectively targets suspected offenders and ignores others, and against a government which has tolerated the setting up of a deep state. Spearheading the drive, President Rumen Radev called for "kicking the mafia out of the prosecution service". RI/LN///
• (DF) 265 New Covid-19 Cases in Bulgaria Friday
July 31 (BTA) - There are 265 new Covid-19 cases in Bulgaria on Friday after 6,639 PCR tests, according to the national coronavirus information platform. The new infections add up to a total of 11,420 since the start of the pandemic. The Friday figures also show six deaths and 202 recoveries. A total of 751 patients are in hospital, including 34 in intensive care. The number of new infections is largest in Sofia (51), Dobrich (48) and Varna (46). The infections among medical workers total 673. RI/LN/ //
• (DF) Anti-Government Protests Block Two Sofia IntersectionsThursday Morning
July 30 (BTA) - Two major intersections in downtown Sofia were blocked by protestors on Thursday morning as anti-government demonstrations went into a 22nd day, the Interior Ministry reported. Police patrols were diverting vehicular traffic at the two spots: Eagles Bridge and the intersection of Tsar Osvoboditel Blvd at the corner of the President's Administration. Georgi Hadzhiev, Director of the Sofia Directorate of Interior, told journalists that serious traffic disruptions are expected in the city during the day. Protestors put up 10 tents at Eagles Bridge. Another eight tents and about a dozen protestors could be seen near the President's Administration. "Talks with protectors have been unproductive," Hadzhiev complained. On Wednesday night, four or five intersections in Sofia blocked by protestors were cleared only after lengthy talks with police. No arrests were made, Hadzhiev said. He added: "Some protestors try to impose rules and to tell police officers what to do. We are very patient, but still, there are limits. We have been subjected to extreme stress and provocations. Some protectors insult the police." The blockades on Thursday morning caused changes to nine bus routes and four trolleybus routes in Sofia's public transport system, City Hall reported. Politicians issued messages of dialogue and called on the protestors to observe the law and not to block roads. These included Prime Minister Boyko Borissov (on Wednesday) and Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Krassimir Karakachanov (on Thursday). Nikolai Hadzhigenov, a lawyer who is one of the organizers of the protests, told Bulgarian National Radio: "We will keep up the blockades. [...] Our actions will escalate, we will do something new, something extra every day until we break their [the government's] hands." RY/VE //
• (NW) AmCham Bulgaria: Rule of Law Essential for Attracting Foreign Investment
July 30 (BTA) - To become a preferred nearshoring destination, Bulgaria needs to embrace the rule of law and fight corruption, the President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Bulgaria (AmCham Bulgaria), Olivier Marquette, said on Thursday during an online conference on "Bulgaria as the Newest Top Nearshoring Destination." Marquette noted that this country could be criticized for its rule-of-law performance, which is a top priority for AmCham Bulgaria. Another condition for attracting foreign investment is to facilitate doing business and develop electronic government, he said. He believes that Bulgaria has many intelligent, talented and skillful people and should show leadership in promoting electronic government. Deputy Economy Minister Stamen Yanev admitted that many things remain to be done as regards the rule of law. He encouraged foreign investors to turn to the InvestBulgaria Agency and the Economy Ministry if they come across an unregulated practice. This will help them cope and save them trouble, Yanev said. The conference was organized by the InvestBulgaria Agency in association with the Bilateral Trade and Industrial Chambers. RY/VE //
• (DF) 284 New Cases of COVID-19 Confirmed in Bulgaria
July 30 (BTA) - The healthcare authorities confirmed 284 new cases of COVID-19 in Bulgaria in the last 24 hours after 6,395 PCR tests, according to data published on the national coronavirus web portal on Thursday morning. The largest number of new cases were diagnosed in the region of Sofia (73), followed by Blagoevgrad (38) and Rousse (33). The total number of COVID-19 cases in Bulgaria since the start of the pandemic is 11,155. There are 4,816 active cases. A total of 5,971 people have recovered from the disease so far, including 205 over the last 24 hours. Seven hundred and twenty-two patients are in hospital, 37 of them in intensive care wards. Bulgaria has lost 368 human lives to the infection so far, including 13 lives over the last 24 hours. Two hundred and thirty physicians, 234 nurses, 106 orderlies, 10 paramedics and 84 other medical staff have been infected with the disease in the country since it broke out. RY/VE //
• (DF) Protesters Block Key Intersections in Sofia
July 29 (BTA) - On the 21st day of the protests against the Government and the Prosecutor General, at noon protesters started blocking in succession key intersections in the capital. Two busy traffic points were first blocked in the city's centre and in the Mladost residential district. Eagles Bridge and the nearby intersection in front of Sofia University's main building were later blocked in the early afternoon. RI/MY //
• (DF) Bulgarian Freelance Artists Receive Financial Support from State
July 29 (BTA) - A total of 15 million leva will be set aside to support Bulgaria's freelance artists, Minister of Culture Boil Banov announced at a news briefing on Wednesday. He described the measure as unprecedented support for Bulgarian culture. Twelve out of the fifteen million will be directed to individual projects by creators in all forms of art. The plan is to grant 4,000 leva per project to 3,000 artists. According to Banov, apart from expressing their creator's freedom of thought and flight of imagination, the projects must meet two major requirements. First, they must be related to Bulgarian literature, drama, poetry or applied arts. Second, the projects must be presented as online content, so that they are uploadable to the YouTube channel of the Culture Ministry and accessible to everyone. In addition, 3 million leva are committed to private culture organizations. Half of these funds will support organizations which do not have their own stages, and the other half will go to the ones that do. The measure applies to independent theaters, cinemas and galleries that perform various long-term activities on a monthly basis, Banov explained. He added that "Socially Engaged Arts", a new programme on an initial budget of 250,000 leva, is now receiving another 500,000 for a total of 750,000 leva. The programme for attracting more audiences was allotted 500,000 leva initially, and is expecting another 500,000. The funding of programme "Creative Europe" also increased by 300,000 leva, Banov said. Through the National Culture Fund (NCF), 700,000 leva will be allotted to circus and variety arts. The administrative capacity of the NCF will be increased by up to 150,000 leva, from 75,000 leva currently. In view of the numerous pending project applications, additional experts will be hired to evaluate them. In addition to the 15 million, the Ministry of Culture will grant 300,000 leva to the National Museum of Literature to support Bulgarian writers, poets and playwrights. According to Banov, this will happen on a yearly basis. The Minister of Culture promised to help all Bulgarian creators survive these trying times through lasting solutions. He assured that the State is continuing to finance its culture institutes and community libraries despite their zero activity at the moment. RI/MT /??/
• (DF) Water Pollution in Maritsa Tributary 360 Times Over Allowable Levels
July 29, (BTA) - The samples taken from the canal flowing into the Maritsa River on Tuesday were found to contain large quantities of nitrates, nitrites and ammonium nitrogen, announced Health Minister Kostadin Angelov at a briefing in Haskovo on Wednesday morning. Minister of Environment and Water Emil Dimitrov added that the pollutant concentration in the waste collector of the local chemical plant exceeds the allowable levels 350 to 360 times.
• (DF) 250 New Cases of COVID-19 Over Past 24 Hours
July 29 (BTA) - The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Bulgaria rose by 250 since yesterday, out of 5,330 PCR tests, according to data published on the national coronavirus information portal. The most new cases were confirmed in Sofia - 55, Plovdiv - 24, and Blagoevgrad - 22.
• (NW) Economy Ministry to Implement Measures in Support of Business Worth Lv 1.8 Bln
Sofia, July 28 (BTA) - Meeting with employers here on Tuesday, Economy Minister Lachezar Borisov presented the Government's new socio-economic measures against the consequences of COVID-19. He explained that these measures are divided into two groups: the first will be...
• (DF) Economy Ministry to Implement Measures in Support of Business Worth Lv 1.8 Bln
July 28 (BTA) - Meeting with employers here on Tuesday, Economy Minister Lachezar Borisov presented the Government's new socio-economic measures against the consequences of COVID-19. He explained that these measures are divided into two groups: the first will be financed entirely by the budget with 1.163 billion leva and the second will be implemented by the Economy Ministry with 1.8 billion leva. The measures could soon be broadened on 400 million leva from the REACT-EU programme, Borisov added. He specified that out of the 1.8 billion leva, only 18.5 million leva will come from the budget, specifically for measures under the Investment Promotion Act, while the rest will come from the EU funds that are being redirected. Special attention will be paid to investments, Borisov went on to say. One of the measures is related to the promotion of existing investments, namely 56 projects worth 700 million leva and providing over 8,000 jobs. In his words, new investments worth over 1 billion leva are expected, and that is the ambition and goal of the Economy Ministry's team. Borisov said he has proposed that representatives of employers become part of a body that will supervise the distribution of EU resources at the Economy Ministry. Bulgarian Industrial Capital Association head Vassil Velev said that out of the 1.8 billion leva for the second group of socio-economic measures, 750 million leva are grants, while the rest are loans and loan guarantees through the Bulgarian Development Bank and the Fund of Funds. The main figure there is 500 million leva, which will activate a resource of 2 billion leva, he added. Within the 750 million leva of grants, 68 million leva will go towards the scheme for increasing the capacity of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). 9 million leva will go towards a voucher scheme for digitization at SMEs, but the business proposed that the sum be doubled. A total of 5.5 million leva will be allocated for a competition session of the National Innovation Fund. A call for proposals from medium-sized enterprises is under way under a scheme of Operational Programme (OP) Competitiveness worth 200 million leva, Velev said, adding that the competent authorities have been asked to speed up the projects' assessment. A new scheme worth 200 million leva for investment support for micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises remains to be finalized, he added. The Economy Minister said that this OP's managing authority is facing such a stress test for the first time: there are 27,000 applications to assess, Borisov said. He expects this work to be finished within slightly over a month. According to Borisov, the Bulgarian Development Bank is transparent, and it has the highest liquidity and capital adequacy after the recent stress tests. Now that he is Economy Minister, Borisov proposes that his previous position as head of the Bank be taken by Deputy Economy Minister Stamen Yanev. Valeri Simeonov, Deputy Parliament Chairman and leader of the NFSB party within the power-sharing United Patriots coalition, also attended the meeting with employers. He expressed support for the Economy Minister's way of work. He said it is up to the prosecution service to prove or dismiss the information that there are brokers at the Economy Ministry without whom it is impossible to obtain a grant. RI/DS //
• (NW) Household of Four Needs Lv 2,504 a Month - Trade Union
July 28 (BTA) - A four-member household (two adults and two children) needs 2,504 leva a month for a normal life, according to a June study conducted by the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB), whose results were presented here on Tuesday by CITUB President Plamen Dimitrov, expert Violeta Ivanova and Lyuben Tomev, who heads CITUB's social and trade union research institute, which conducted the study.
• (DF) Pollution Cuts Water Supply to 51 Settlements in Haskovo Region, Nearby Chemical Plant Suspected
July 28 (BTA) - The water supply to 51 settlements in the southeastern region of Haskovo has been stopped after a canal of the Maritsa River was found to be polluted with a toxic substance, said here Fire Safety and Civil Protection chief Nikolai Nikolov. Twenty-eight cows died on Monday minutes after drinking water from a canal of the Maritsa River near Dimitrovgrad. The early warning system was activated and samples were taken from various points along the river in the municipalities of Dimitrovgrad, Simeonovgrad, Harmalni, Lyubimets and Svilengrad. The Haskovo Regional Food Safety Directorate sent pathologists and veterinarians to examine the dead animals and take samples. All mayors of settlements along the river have been informed about the incident and pre-trial proceedings have been initiated. The initial tests conducted by the Haskovo Regional Environment and Water Inspectorate show that the Maritsa's pollution was likely caused by the release of organic chemical compounds from the Neochim plant in Dimitrovgrad as a result of human error. One of the possible causes being investigated is pollution with organophosphorus compounds. Nikolov is quoted as telling Bulgaria National Radio on Tuesday that samples have been taken from the river, including from potable water wells. An analysis will be conducted to establish what caused the animals' death and whether there is a risk for the drinking water supply and life in the Maritsa in general. Nikolov said that according to the available information, the quantity of released toxic substances is not enough to pollute the whole river. It is limited to the canal, according to the data so far, he explained. Later on Tuesday, Environment and Water Minister Emil Dimitrov said during an inspection of the polluted canal near Dimitrovgrad that the component responsible for the 28 cows' death was found in the canal's collector, but the direct polluter is still unknown. He did not name the substance so as not to obstruct the investigation and to prevent "the issue of verdicts before we have acquainted ourselves with everything". There has been no misuse of pesticides, he said. Dimitrov expressed satisfaction with the results from the samples taken from the Maritsa River thus far, which are within the norm and show the river is clean and without dead fish. He also said the priority now is to continue taking samples and to make efforts to restore the water supply to the affected settlements in the region, including the municipal centres of Simeonovgrad and Svilengrad. To this end, teams and labs in neighbouring regions will be engaged, the Environment Minister added. RY/DS /??/
• (DF) 3,832 PCR Tests Confirm 194 New COVID-19 Cases in 24 Hours
July 28 (BTA) - A total of 194 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Bulgaria with 3,832 PCR tests in 24 hours, according to data published on the national coronavirus information portal Tuesday morning.
• (DF) Gas Main to Greece: Accident near Kulata Border Checkpoint
July 27 (BTA) - An accident involving the gas main to Greece has occurred at 07:56 this morning, gas operator Bulgartransgaz informed on Monday. The accident has caused structural damage to the pipeline 200 meters away from the stopcock near Kulata border checkpoint. The accident caused no casualties or gas leakage, the Regional Directorate of the Interior in Blagoevgrad (in the south) told BTA. The damaged section of the gas main has been isolated and the necessary steps are being taken to repair the pipe and resume the transmission of gas to Greece, Bulgartransgaz pointed out. During a briefing at the Council of Ministers, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said that the State Agency for National Security is looking into two possible causes for the accident, but his personal opinion was that the pipes were just too old. He assured that the reparation works are in progress, and gas transmission to Greece will resume by the end of the day. Borissov also said that the construction of Balkan Stream and the Greece-Bulgaria gas interconnector is in full swing. RI/MT /??/
• (DF) Epidemic Emergency to Be Extended until August 31
July 27 (BTA) - Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said at a news conference on Monday that the state of epidemic emergency in Bulgaria, prompted by the spread of COVID-19, will be extended by a month until August 31 by order of Health Minister Kostadin Angelov. "We will extend the state of emergency due to the pandemic by one more month to make the measures work," Borissov said. The government unveiled a new 2 billion leva package of socio-economic measures to overcome the coronavirus crisis. MORE TO COME / RI/VE //
• (NW) EU-Wide Study Finds High Risks for Media Pluralism and Freedom in Bulgaria
July 27 (BTA) - A study by the European Commission (EC) among all EU member states, Albania, Great Britain and Turkey, show a general stagnation or deterioration of media pluralism and media freedom. The Media Pluralism Monitor (MPM 2020) was conducted by the Centre for Media Pluralism and Freedom (CMPF) with the European University in Florence, and was financed by the EC. The assessed risk scores for various indicators and sub-indicators are grouped as Low (0-33%), Medium (34-66%) and High (67-100%). The data was gathered through questionnaires, devised by national teams of experts in media pluralism and freedom. The findings show a general stagnation or deterioration of media pluralism and media freedom in the four major areas encompassed by the MPM: Basic protection, Market plurality, Political independence and Social inclusiveness. In Bulgaria the CMPF partnered with Orlin Spassov (Foundation Media Democracy/Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski), Nelly Ognyanova (Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski) and Nikoleta Daskalova (Foundation Media Democracy), who conducted the data collection, scored and commented the variables in the questionnaire and interviewed relevant experts. The report was reviewed by CMPF staff. Moreover, to ensure accurate and reliable findings, a group of national experts in each country reviewed the answers to particularly evaluative questions. In Bulgaria, especially high risks for media pluralism were detected primarily in the areas of Market Plurality (78%) and Social Inclusiveness (74%). Three of the Market Plurality indicators point toward a particularly high risk: Online platforms concentration and competition enforcement (97%), Commercial and owner influence over editorial content (90%) and News media concentration (90%). Three indicators in the Social Inclusiveness domain point to high risk: Access to media for local/regional communities and for community media (88%), Access to media for women (79%) and Access to media for minorities (75%). There are also significant risks to media pluralism in Bulgaria identified within the Political Independence area (average risk 67%). Two indicators within this domain face a particularly high risk: Independence of PSM governance and funding (97%) and Editorial autonomy (79%). The area of Basic Protection scores low to medium risk (average risk 45%). The main problems here are identified within the indicators Universal reach of traditional media and access to the Internet (58%) and Journalistic profession, standards and protection (55%). The four observed indicators with the highest individual risk are: independence of PSM governance and funding; online platforms concentration and competition enforcement; commercial and owners' influence over editorial content; and news media concentration. It is obvious that the problems do not cover only one or two spheres but are much more diverse and deep. They affect both traditional news companies and online platforms as well as both public and private sector media. The high risk in the field of social inclusiveness deserves special attention. Local and regional media face serious problems in terms of independence and sustainability and at the same time the state does not support them through subsidies or other policy measures. In parallel, access to media for minorities and people with disabilities remains problematic. There is only one indicator scoring low risk: Independence and effectiveness of the media authority (27%). Positive results here are mostly due to available legal provisions. As a whole, as in previous years, the mixed performance of Bulgaria mainly refers to the fact that while in most cases the legal framework introduces necessary standards, they are frequently not effectively implemented in practice. Even within indicators with lower risk there are often discrepancies between legal provisions and implementation (for example regarding the media authorities, transparency of media ownership and protection of freedom of expression). RI/MT /??/
• (DF) 115 New COVID-19 Cases in Bulgaria Since Yesterday
July 27 (BTA) - There are 115 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases in Bulgaria over the past 24 hours, out of 3,502 samples tested, according to data published on the national coronavirus information portal. The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases reached 10,427, and 4,732 of them are active. Over the past 24, hours the most COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Sofia District and Plovdiv - 23 cases each, Blagoevgrad with 20 and Varna with 13. The death toll reached 340, with two new deaths since yesterday. A total of 607 medical staff have tested positive. Out of 682 patients in hospital, 34 are in intensive care. There have been 49 new recoveries since yesterday. RI/MT /??/
• (NW) Tourist Accommodation Packages and One-Night Charges Continue to Depreciate
July 26 (BTA) - Some 55.9 per cent of managers of tourist accommodation establishments polled by the National Statistical Institute in June 2020 remained inclined to propose to their clients alternative periods for bookings they have made. For yet another month, most managers intended to cut the prices of their accommodation packages (by an average of 70.8 per cent) and the charge for a night's accommodation (53.1 per cent). June 2020 also saw a decline in the number of managers of tourist accommodation establishments who had taken the main measures vis-?-vis their staff: unpaid leave, firing/laying off, 60/40 job retention scheme, and paid leave. Some 67.2 per cent of respondents planned to keep their staff in the next month, and 23.0 per cent even planned to increase it. Some 28.8 per cent of tourist accommodation establishments reported growing revenues in June 2020 compared with May 2020, and another 36.4 per cent said their revenues remained unchanged. In June 2020, the managers of 50.5 per cent of accommodation establishment expected that the next month they would be able to service up to 50 per cent of their expenses using own capital, 28.3 per cent would not cope on their own, and 20.7 per cent said they would be able to service up to 100 per cent of their expenses. The share of tourist accommodation establishments whose managers expected to stay in business over the short term, albeit with a reduced capacity, increased to 64.4 per cent in June 2020, and those who expected to go on as before the state of emergency were 17.3 per cent. Another 12.9 per cent planned to suspend operation temporarily, and 3.8 per cent feared they would go out of business altogether. RI/VE //
• (DF) Travellers from Bulgaria Face New Restrictions in Italy, Greece and Austria
July 26 (BTA) - Austria, Italy and Greece are introducing new anti-pandemic measures regarding arrivals from Bulgaria. The Italian Embassy has notified the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry that Italy is introducing a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all passengers arriving from Bulgaria and Romania, as well as for those staying or transiting through the two countries 14 days before their arrival. The measure enters into force at midnight on July 25, 2020. According to the Bulgarian Embassy in Athens, from July 28 travelers to Greece with flights from Bulgaria and Romania will have to submit to the Greek border authorities a negative result from a PCR coronavirus test performed up to 72 hours before entering the country. The Foreign Ministry stressed that only passengers who have a certificate for a negative PCR test will be admitted to Greece. The Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted that on Tuesday and Wednesday passengers who did not have time to be tested before their trip will be tested by the competent Greek authorities upon arrival. Austria has also introduced new requirements for those arriving from Bulgaria. According to the Bulgarian Embassy in Vienna, as of Monday, July 27, all Bulgarian citizens traveling from Bulgaria to Austria, as well as European Union citizens arriving from Bulgaria, must submit a certificate for a negative PCR coronavirus test performed no longer than three days before their arrival in the country, as well as a medical certificate in German or English. If the travelers have not been able to take a test in Bulgaria, within 48 hours of their entry into Austrian territory they are obliged to take a test in Austria at their own expense. Until submitting a negative test result, travelers are obliged to stay under home quarantine or quarantine in a suitable location. Unimpeded transit through Austria remains in force, provided that there is no stopover and that the departure from the country is guaranteed. RI/DT /DT/
• (DF) 189 New Cases of COVID-19 Confirmed in a Day
July 26 (BTA) - Bulgaria has 189 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in 24 hours until 00.00 hrs on Sunday, according to data published on the national coronavirus information portal. They were diagnosed after 2,161 tests. There are 4,668 active cases, with 33 patients receiving intensive care. Fifty-four people recovered from the disease in 24 hours. One patient died. The largest numbers of new cases were registered in the regions of Sofia (92), Varna (16) and Blagoevgrad (15). No new cases were diagnosed in eight of Bulgaria's 28 regions. RI/VE //
• (DF) Bulgarian Socialist Party Members and Supporters Demand Government Resignation in Annual Rally
July 25 (BTA) - The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) organized its annual national rally on Saturday, which traditionally takes place at the Hadzhi Dimitar Peak in the Balkan Mountains at the largest ideological monument of the communist regime in Bulgaria, Buzludzha (also known as the House-Monument of the Bulgarian Communist Party). This year, the Buzludzha 2020 rally was held in the centre of the capital, under the slogan "Against Corruption and Robbery. Together for Bulgaria". The organizers said that over 10,000 BSP members and supporters, who came by bus from all over the country, gathered at Alexander Nevsky Square on Saturday. The crowd marched along Sofia centre to the Council of Ministers building, where a protest-rally took place. There, BSP leader Kornelia Ninova said: ''Here we are, different in age and occupation, but our love for Bulgaria brought us together, and we are here together to save Bulgaria from the mafia''. ''Mr. Borissov, you will go down in political history represented by the image of a drawer full of money and a gun next to your head to keep them safe,'' Ninova told the Prime Minister, referencing a recent such leaked photo of him that caused much controversy. ''The Bulgarian Socialists are united and we are here to tell you: "Resignation!",'' she continued. ''The people on the streets are fighting for morality, but also for bread, for jobs, for education for every child, for access to health care, fair income, decent pensions, for clean nature and protection to our fertile land. This is our oath to Bulgaria, this is our commitment to our compatriots, this is our plan to restore the country and build it up again from scratch,'' Ninova said. BSP for Bulgaria MP Rumen Gechev recalled that the BSP has been on the political scene for 129 years, and that the ruling party has neither a short-term nor a medium-term development programme. ''They are only interested in the money in their pockets and in their drawers, at our expense,'' he said. Left-wing MEP Tsvetelina Penkova said that ''Buzludzha has arrived in Sofia'' to confirm its place alongside the people fighting against corruption and the mafia. ''The whole country wants a [government] resignation, we want a resignation as well,'' said Emil Georgiev, Chairman of Ecoglasnost, part of the BSP for Bulgaria coalition. Socialists and supporters chanted "Mobsters, Out!" and "Resignation!". During the rally, its organizers called on those present to observe the anti-epidemic measures and to stay at a distance. RI/DT /DT/
• (DF) Confirmed COVID-19 Cases in Bulgaria Reach 10,000
July 25 (BTA) - The number of people infected with COVID-19 in Bulgaria is already over 10,000, and the confirmed new cases for the last 24 hours are 270, out of 6,000 administered tests, national coronavirus taskforce data showed on Saturday. In the past 24 hours, 221 people have recovered from the infection and eight people died. The total number of hospitalized coronavirus patients in Bulgaria reached 660, with 28 people accommodated in intensive care units. Most new cases are in Sofia (55), followed by Plovdiv (39) and Blagoevgrad (26). Among medical staff, 212 doctors, 212 nurses and 97 orderlies have been infected. RI/DT /DT/
• (DF) Parliament Supports Government Changes
July 24 (BTA) - The Bulgarian Parliament Friday voted to support changes in the government of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov. The changes include replacement of four ministers - of the Interior, of Economy, of Tourism and of Finance, and a change of portfolio for the Minister of Health, who becomes Finance Minister. The government shakeup was prompted by large-scale protests against corruption, the government and the country's chief prosecutor held in Sofia and other cities for two weeks now. It was announced by the ruling coalition of GERB and the nationalist United Patriots on Thursday but did not stop the protests and people pressed on with their demand that the entire government needs to come down. MORE
• (DF) 269 New Covid Cases in Bulgaria after 5,913 Tests
July 24 (BTA) - There were 269 new Covid-19 cases in Bulgaria on Friday morning after 5,913 tests, according to the national coronavirus portal. The daily update also shows that eight patients died and 388 recovered.
• (NW) European Commission Presents EU Media Situation Report Including Data about Bulgaria
July 23 (BTA corr. Nikolay Zhelyazkov) - The European Commission presented on Thursday several reports by independent academics on the condition of media in the EU and its future member states. The documents also cover the mass media situation in Bulgaria in 2018-2019. The reports point out that Bulgaria is one of several EU members (together with Croatia, Cyprus, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Spain and Albania) where the freedom of expression and the right to search, acquire and transmit information are under moderate risk. Regarding the protection of journalists, the results are similar. The reports insist that the murder of journalist Viktoria Marinova in 2018 was related to her work investigating misappropriation of EU funds. The heinous crime was committed on October 6, 2018 in a particularly painful manner to the victim and with particular cruelty. Four days later, suspect Severin Krassimirov, 21, was arrested in Germany. He confessed to all facts and circumstances in the indictment. In April of 2019 the Rousse District Court sentenced Severin Krassimirov to 30 years' imprisonment for raping, sexually assaulting and murdering TVN TV Administrative Director, journalist and current affairs programme host Viktoria Marinova, aged 30. Bulgaria is one of 13 countries where media diversity is under a considerable threat, and one of the 14 where editorial freedom is seriously threatened by the influence of the business and media owners. According to the reports, the political independence of Bulgarian media is also at risk. In addition, minorities in Bulgaria have limited access to the media. Bulgaria is among the 18 states where the right to information is under a moderate threat. The documents point out that there is legislation protecting the freedom of expression, but it is not being enforced at a satisfactory level. In Bulgaria, whistle-blowers and journalists are also under high physical threat. According to the reports, Bulgaria is among the countries with the highest risks involved in the allotment of state funding for advertisement. Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey are the only three countries covered by the reports where the independence of state media directors is the most uncertain. RY/MT /??/
• (DF) Four Ministers Go in Government Shakeup
July 23 (BTA) - Four ministers are losing their jobs in a government shakeup announced by Bulgaria's government coalition council on Thursday. The Minister of Finance Vladislav Goranov, of the Economy Emil Karanikolov, of the Interior Mladen Marinov and of Tourism Nikolina Angelkova have been replaced. Announcing the decision, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said that Health Minister Kiril Ananiev will replace Goranov as Finance Minister and the vacated ministerial office in the Health Ministry will be filled by the director of Sofia's Alexandrovska Hospital, Prof. Kostadin Angelov. The present National Police Director, Hristo Terziiski, will be offered to replace the outgoing Interior Minister and Karanikolov will be succeeded as Economy Minister by his deputy minister Luchezar Bisserov. The Tourism Ministry goes to Deputy Prime Minister Mariana Nikolova. The government shakeup has been anticipated since last week when Prime Minister Boyko Borissov announced, amid large-scale protests against corruption and against the government, that there would be a thorough government overhaul. He said that the Ministers of Finance, of the Interior and of the Economy would be asked to stepped down for perceived close links with the opposition Movement for Rights and Freedoms, which is widely seen as a strong power broker under any government. The name of the Tourism Minister was freshly added Thursday. Prime Minister Borissov and the co-leaders of the power-sharing United Patriots, Valeri Simeonov and Krassimir Karakachanov, met on Wednesday to discuss possible ministerial replacements. A press release by the government press office said that each would discuss the matter with their group in Parliament and would meet again Thursday to make a decision. The proposed reshuffle will be submitted to Parliament later on Thursday. It also transpired from the Prime Minister's remarks that some deputy ministers will be changed as well. What government plans to do in coming days On Monday, the government will present financial and socio-economic measures called for by the pandemic, said Borissov. He added that some of these measures will require prompt legislative revisions. After the financial and economic measures, which the government sees as a matter of top priority, it will continue with its other priorities, including some for which the United Patriots have been trying to push through for a while, said Karakachanov, the Defence Minister and leader of the power-sharing VMRO party. He specified that those had to do with demographics, older people and Bulgarians abroad, among other issues. PM: Anybody has the right to protest Asked to comment the ongoing protests, the Prime Minister said that anybody is free to protest as this is part of democracy. As for whether the Prosecutor General should come down, he said that while he is against any kind of show operations by the authorities - for which the Prosecutor General is being blamed - the Prosecutor General was elected in a democratic procedure finalized with a presidential decree. Borissov also made a comment about Hristo Ivanov, the leader of the opposition Democratic Bulgaria and one of the outstanding figures in the protests, who urged Borissov Wednesday to take action leading to the replacement of Ivan Geshev as Prosecutor General. "I know Hristo Ivanov has long dreamt of becoming Prosecutor General and having everybody under his control," said Borissov. He added that his government and himself have never had control over everybody and mentioned as an example how he heard about the arrest of his former Environment Minister, Neno Dimov, from the news media. There was an immediate reaction from Hristo Ivanov who wrote on Facebook that Borissov's remark was a proof of his "total inadequacy". "In a normal democracy, politicians like me don't become Prosecutor General. Even Borissov knows this and this talking point of his gives away his huge hear that there may be a truly independent prosecutor general who obeys only law and democratic accountability," he said. What the political forces said of the changes in the government Hristo Ivanov called the government shakeup "reshuffling the chairs on Titanic's deck" and said its only value is in being an admission of the government's dependence on MRF deputy - and business owner - Delyan Peevski and MRF founder and honorary chairman Ahmed Dogan. Comments also came from Socialist leader Kornelia Ninova who said that Borissov wasmerely trying to save himself. "Ministers change but the mafia-style government model remains. They have changed ministers 12 times in this government and things are always done the same way," she said. She pointed out that there were no motives announced for the replacement of the Tourism Minister. "Obviously it was a deal with Valeri Simeonov and his National Front for Salvation of Bulgaria to keep them in the government coalition," she said referring to the long-standing rift between Angelkova and Simeonov over issues in the tourism sector in Bulgaria. Ninova said that her party's position remains unchanged: they want the resignation of the entire government. Volya deputy floor leader Krustina Taskova expressed surprise over the government shakeup. She recalled the Prime Minister saying weeks ago that no party or coalition can manage on its own in the present circumstances and commented that the government reshuffle "obviously shows that they believe themselves to be self-sufficient now and in no need of additional political or public support". RI/LN // //
• (DF) Parliament Decides to Ask Prosecutor General to Report Its Work for January-August
July 23 (BTA) - Parliament Thursday decided to demand of the Prosecutor General to prepare and submit to the legislature a report on the work of the prosecution service in January-August 2020. The decision was proposed by the opposition Socialist party and it went through on 179-1 votes with no abstentions. The decision for the report comes after 14 days of large-scale protests in Sofia and other cities in Bulgaria against corruption. The protestors have been persistently demanding the resignation of the Prime Minister, the entire government and Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev. They say that Geshev has overstepped his powers and adopted a pick-and-choose approach in which some suspected offences are loudly prosecuted while alerts of flagrant violations are disregarded. The Socialists have backed the calls for Geshev's resignation. MP Kroum Zarkov (Socialist) said in the plenary chamber on Thursday that multiple actions by the prosecution service in the recent months have caused an outcry. "We have seen things that are without precedent, [investigative] information being made public, demonstration arrests and statements which violate the Code of Criminal Procedure." He argued that these have caused tensions in society to soar and were among the things that triggered the ongoing mass protests for democracy. "People have the sense that the actions of the prosecution service go beyond the rules of procedure and Parliament cannot turn a blind eye," he said. MP Krassimir Tsipov (the ruling GERB party) said that his group will support the motion and finds that it is important to see this report. LN/RI //
• (DF) 330 New Covid Cases in Bulgaria after 6,183 Tests
July 23 (BTA) - There were 330 new Covid-19 cases in Bulgaria on Thursday morning after 6,183 tests, according to the national coronavirus portal. Seven patients died and 122 recovered. The new infections add up to a total of 9,584 since the start of the pandemic. There are 4,620 active cases. There are 24 patients in intensive care and a total of 642 in hospital. The majority of new cases are reported in Sofia, 75, followed by Varna with 59 and Blagoevgrad with 35. Among the medical personnel, 202 doctors, 208 nurses, 8 paramedics and 95 hospital orderlies. RI/LN/ //
• (DF) Ruling Coalition Discusses Cadre Changes in Government
July 22 (BTA) - Prime Minister and GERB leader Boyko Borissov Wednesday discussed the matter of cadre changes in the Government during a meeting of the Coalition Council with the participation of VMRO leader Krassimir Karakachanov and NFSB head Valeri Simeonov, the Government Information Service said. Also discussed were economic and social measures for overcoming the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Borissov, Karakachanov and Simeonov agreed to discuss with their parliamentary groups and party leadership the proposed cadre changes in the Government. The Coalition Council will meet again on Thursday to review the results of these discussions, the Government Information Service reported. The press release gives no further details about a possible government shakeup but earlier in the week, amid large-scale anti-corruption protests calling for the resignation of the Prime Minister and the Government, Prime Minister Borissov said that he wanted to part with three of his ministers - of Finance, of the Interior and of Economy, over suspicions that they were linked to the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, an opposition party which is largely believed to have turned into an indispensable power broker under any government. The three ministers said immediately they were ready to resign, but no actual resignations followed. RY/DS, LN /??/
• (DF) Government Signs Concession Agreement for Sofia Airport with International Consortium
July 22 (BTA) - The Bulgarian government signed Wednesday a concession contract for Sofia Airport with the international consortium SOF Connect including Munich Airport and companies from France, Germany and Austria. The ceremony was attended by Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and he said there that the contract "proves that European partners are welcome here" and also that he is convinced "Bulgaria will be moving forward with such European partners". He expressed hope that the concession will make Sofia Airport one of the best in the region. On July 17, 2019, the Ministry of Transport, Information Technology and Communications selected SOF Connect (including France's Meridiam Eastern Europe Investments SAS and Germany's Strabag, with Munich Airport as airport operator) to operate Sofia Airport in the next 35 years. Four bidders were rejected: a consortium between Airports de Paris and Turkey's TAV Havalimanlari Holding; Fraport Bulgaria; the Vitosha Consortium (UK's Manchester Airport Group and China BCEGI Construction); and SSB Sofia Airport JV with operator Copenhagen Airport. In November 2019, the decision was upheld by the Commission for the Protection of Competition but three of the rejected bidders challenged the concession award procedure. In June 2020, the selection of SOF Connect was conclusively upheld by the Supreme Administrative Court. The concessionnaire is due to invest no less than 608 million euro over the 35 years of the concession. They will have to go for improving the level of service at the airport and the reliability, accessibility, security and safety, and environment. Bulgarian Transport Minister Rosen Zhelyazkov said, as quoted by his Ministry, that the signing of the concession agreement proves that Bulgaria is capable of attracting prime investors. He said it is important for the government to have Sofia Airport as more than an asset to keep: it want it as Bulgaria's door to the world. Within the 10th year of the 35-year concession, SOF Connect will have to build a new terminal at the airport, as well as a new cargo terminal. NV/LN/ //
• (NW) Regulator Discusses Bulgargaz's Natural Gas Price Increase Proposal
July 22 (BTA) - The Energy and Water Regulatory Commission (EWRC) discussed here on Wednesday during an open online session Bulgargaz's proposed natural gas price increase by 2.20 per cent for August. Bulgargaz EAD has proposed in a report, submitted to EWRC, that the natural gas price for next month be set at 19.52 lv/MWh (exclusive of access and transmission fees, excise and VAT tax). This is the price at which Bulgargaz would sell natural gas to end suppliers and persons who have been issued licensure for the production and transmission of heat energy. The proposed price increase is 0.42 lv/MWh, or 2.20 per cent. Bulgargaz's chief Nikolay Pavlov said during the meeting that the public supplier has no objections concerning the report drafted by EWRC's working group. The final decision about the August natural gas price will be made by the regulator during a meeting on August 1, which will be held behind closed doors, EWRC's head Ivan Ivanov said. RY/MY /??/
• (DF) 325 New COVID-19 Cases Registered in Bulgaria
July 22 (BTA) - A total of 325 new coronavirus cases were diagnosed across this country out of 5,365 tests done in 24 hours, shows data posted on the national information system Wednesday morning. A total of 31 patients are in ICU out of 622 in hospital. The most new cases were diagnosed in the regions of Sofia (99), followed by Plovdiv (50) and Varna (48). A total of 200 physicians, 202 nurses and 93 nursing assistants have been diagnosed with the disease so far. RY/MY. /??/
• (DF) Prosecution Opens Power Plant Probe after Opposition Leader Exposes Spinning Reserve "Theft"
July 21 (BTA) - The Supreme Cassation Prosecution Office announced Tuesday that it is opening a probe into the award of a contract for power supply security to Varna Thermo-electric Power Plant (TPP). The announcement came several hours after the co-leader of the opposition Democratic Bulgaria, Hristo Ivanov, published a video of himself near the TPP, in which he exposes its suspicious acquisition by Ahmed Dogan, the founder of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), and the subsequent award of a lucrative million-leva contract in which this power plant is paid to be on standby. The Supreme Cassation Prosecution Office will check whether any previous probes have been opened into the allegations in Ivanov's video. In his video, Ivanov called Varna TPP "the big theft for which all us pay through our electricity bills" and accused the power-holders of complicity. The notorious power plant was owned by Czech energy group CEZ following a 206 million euro deal but they were forced to sell it in 2018, for 50 million leva, to a small company, owned by the children of Danail Papazov, the transport minister in Plamen Oresharski's government (2013-2014). Later the same year, Dogan acquired a 70 per cent interest in the non-operational plant for 3,600 leva. Ever since then, it has been getting the lion's share of the spinning reserve: over 26 million leva a year, without having to do anything most of the time. In 2019, the investigative website Bivol quoted CEZ Board member Tomas Pleskac as saying that Varna TPP is not designed for the spinning reserve. The sale of Varna TPP by CEZ is being probed in the Czech Republic for economic offences and possible tax evasion. In early 2020, the specialized prosecution office in Sofia announced that it is opening a probe as well. Ivanov said in his video that what licences and permits CEZ had been denied for years, the new owner obtained in ten days. "There was no explanation about the origin of Dogan's money [for the Varna TPP deal]. There was no explanation for the price at which he acquired his share. The Anti-Corruption Fund alerted the National Revenue Agency about this and a probe followed, but, of course, nothing wrong was found," he argued. Making a reference to Dogan's degree in philosophy,Ivanov called the power plant "Dogan's philosopher's stone". "It is something that enables you to make gold out of a pile of metal. Dr Dogan achieved that, with our money, of course," he said adding that it was largely possible because all competent institutions are turning a blind eye. Referring to the government's declared plan to downsize the spinning reserve, Ivanov said that "the government has decided that it has to cover up this scam". Ivanov said that his video on Varna TPP is a sequel to the episode on Rossenets, a small public beach adjacent to a palatial property used by Ahmed Dogan as his summer residence, which Ivanov and two fellow party members tried to reach by boat earlier in July but were pushed back by national security service bodyguards. Ivanov published a video of his clash with the bodyguards and it went viral, turning into one of the events that prompted the ongoing protests in Sofia and other parts of the country against corruption, the government and the Prosecutor General. "At Rossenets, we shed light on the dirty secret of Bulgarian politics: that Bulgaria is run by an undeclared coalition of GERB, MRF and the [United] Patriots, that Bulgaria and all its institutions, finances and energy are put in deep corruption dependence on Dogan and his apprentice [MP-turn-businessman Delyan] Peevski," Ivanov said. In a separate development, the head of the energy regulator, Ivan Ivanov, told reporters that if the spinning reserve is really downsized, the network taxes and end price of electricity will have to be revised. The cost for the spinning reserve is included in users' electricity bills. Ivanov expressed support for the idea of reducing the spinning reserve. LN/ /??/
• (NW) Prosecution Opens Power Plant Probe after Opposition Leader Exposes Spinning Reserve "Theft"
Sofia, July 21 (BTA) - The Supreme Cassation Prosecution Office announced Tuesday that it is opening a probe into the award of a contract for power supply security to Varna Thermo-electric Power Plant (TPP). The announcement came several hours after the co-leader of the o...
• (DF) Bulgarian Defence Minister: Five More Tanks to Be Repaired at TEREM
July 21 (BTA) - Five more tanks will be sent for repairs to the TEREM - HAN KRUM plant near Turgovishte in the next month or two, Defence Minister Krassimir Karakachanov said during his visit to the plant's testing ground here on Tuesday. He attended the testing of the last two out of thirteen T- tanks repaired at the plant. These tanks, together with 60 tank rangefinders for the Land Forces were overhauled between January 2019 and July 2020. Karakachanov said that for ten years, not a single tanks of the Bulgarian Armed Forces has been overhauled at TEREM. The next step after the repairs is the modernization of the tanks, he added. He recalled that contracts have been sighed for the purchase of new fighter jets, the contracts for new patrol ships for the Navy are underway, and the procedure for repair and modernization of the existing military equipment is underway. Karakachanov said it is his ambition to do more by the end of his tenure than what has been done in the last 30 years. RI/DS //
• (DF) Parliament Rejects Vote of No Confidence in 3rd Borissov Cabinet
July 21 (BTA) -The National Assembly rejected here on Tuesday the fifth motion for a vote of no-confidence in Prime Minister Boyko Borissov's third Cabinet. The motion was rejected by 124 votes with 102 voting in favour and eleven abstaining. The no-confidence vote was tabled last week by the Socialists over corruption. The debates were held on Monday. The votes in support of the Government came from GERB - 94, the United Patriots - 21, Volya - one, and eight independent MPs. The vote of no confidence was supported by the Bulgarian Socialist Party - 77, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms - 24, and one independent MP. Eleven Volya MPs abstained. Protesters had once again gathered around Parliament to demand Cabinet's resignation and that of Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev. The rejected no confidence vote was followed by comments and statements by the ruling GERB party, Volya and the opposition BSP for Bulgaria. Incumbents Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Donchev said nothing warrants early elections but t there will be changes. He argued that the no-confidence motion was rejected due to political logic - not thanks to parliamentary arithmetic. "There are no reasons or logic to hold early general elections a couple of months before they are due, in the midst of winter," he said. The Deputy PM said the main reason for Cabinet to stay is that it has a lot of work to do. He went on to list the most pressing tasks ahead, starting with addressing the health, social and economic consequences of the pandemic. This will be the main focus of the Government's work in the next six months or so. The second task is to prepare all documents that would ensure access for Bulgaria to the EU financial package. Completing the energy projects will also be among the Government's priorities. Another huge task is to create the organization for machine voting, he said, noting that this will require amendments to the Election Code. Environment Minister Emil Dimitrov told journalists after the Government survived the no-confidence motion: "Everything should stay as it is which does not mean that what people say should be ignored." He also said that it is up to the Prime Minister to decide whether he would continue to be a minister. "I would like to help him where he deems fit. If he decides that it would be better for me to help in Parliament, I'll be in Parliament. If he decides, I could help him where I am currently or in a different place. I am on his team," Dimitrov said. He would not say who should propose structural and personnel changes in the Government. GERB MP Manuil Manev said that the no-confidence motion was based on "lies, nonsense and hate". He accused the Socialists of lying to the young people protesting in the streets that the no-confidence motion was for them. "That is falsehood. You are doing it because of your unfulfilled leader," he said, referring to BSP leader Kornelia Ninova. Manev criticized the Socialists for wanting to destroy a state with all its institutions. GERB MP Spas Gurnevski said that an attempted coup in Bulgaria was prevented. According to Labour and Social Policy Minister Denitsa Sacheva, the Government must not resign. She also said: "The Cabinet must remain and complete its term in its current composition, and we should prepare for regular general elections." She said there is no obstacle to having dialogue with those protesters who have specific demands and ideas about the future. "However, I don't see what we could discuss with those who merely want resignations or a coup and riots," she said. Volya Volya leader Vesselin Mareshki commented that if the Socialists really wanted to find out who is the opposition and who is not, they should have moved for a vote of confidence instead of no-confidence. In that case, the Government would have had to get 121 votes, but today's vote made it obvious that Cabinet has its majority, he said, wishing them success. Socialists Socialist MP Valeri Jablianov said that things seem to be headed towards early elections. He urged the incumbents to do a serious political and social analysis if they want to understand the motives for the no-confidence motion and a large part of the protesters, "because in a few months' time you'll find yourselves on the eve of elections". MORE/ NV/MY
• (NW) Nine Banks Apply to Provide Anti-crisis Loans, Guaranteed by Fund of Funds
July 21 (BTA) - Nine banks have expressed willingness to provide anti-crisis loans to small and medium-sized enterprises, guaranteed by the Fund of Funds (FOF), in response to the economic crisis related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the FOF said. By the deadline of July 17, 2020, applications were submitted by the Bulgarian-American Credit Bank, United Bulgarian Bank, Eurobank Bulgaria, UniCredit Bulbank, First Investment Bank, Tokuda Bank, DSK Bank, D Commerce Bank and Raiffeisenbank. All financial institutions with a valid banking license and permission to provide loans had the right to apply for partnership, the FOF recalled. The total financial resource for guarantees requested by the candidate banks exceeds the budget of nearly 158 million leva, determined by the FOF for this financial instrument. By the end of this month, a list of potential partner banks that are eligible to sign a guarantee agreement will be finalized. The goal is for the new "Portfolio guarantee with a loss ceiling for overcoming the consequences of COVID-19" to be available to final recipients by September 2020. Through its new guarantee product, the FOF will assume part of the credit risk of financial institutions when granting new loans to small and medium enterprises without sufficient collateral, meeting the need for support in the current difficult situation, the FOF said. This will facilitate businesses' access to loans so that they are able to continue operations, including meeting liquidity needs and/or overcoming financial difficulties due to or aggravated by the pandemic. The FOF offers a guarantee of up to 80 per cent of the amount of each loan, against which the respective bank will have to offer financing at preferential interest rates and reduced collateral requirements, the press release recalled. The structure of the product provides for a combination of a guarantee instrument and an interest rate subsidy for companies that are experiencing liquidity difficulties but are nevertheless willing to retain their staff. The instrument "Portfolio guarantee with a loss ceiling for overcoming the consequences of COVID-19" is funded by the Operational Programme "Innovation and competitiveness" 2014-2020. NV/DT /DT/
• (DF) Bulgaria to Receive Nearly Eur 29 Bln from Next EU Budget, Says Prime Minister Borissov
21 July (BTA) - After the first in-person EU Council meeting in Brussels since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic agreed on a Covid recovery package and the EU budget for the next seven years, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said that Bulgaria can expect from those about 29 billion euro. He was speaking in a video posted on his Facebook page after the five-day European Council. Borissov said that Bulgaria is one of only few countries that will receive nearly 1 billion euro more than the current European budget even though the new budget is 62 billion euro smaller than the current one. ''That is why I deserve to hear people demanding my resignation'', he commented sarcastically, referring to the ongoing protests calling for the resignation of his government. He said that the funds available for agricultural and cohesion policy were not cut back, adding that it was Bulgaria's "red line". 9 billion euro are set aside for cohesion policy which is 800 million euro more than the current budget. "This is important for achieving our main goals: competitiveness, economic growth, employment,'' said the Prime Minister. He noted that Bulgaria won a hard fought battle as for the first time additional target funds, in the amount of 200 million euro, are provided for underdeveloped regions like Bulgaria's North and Northwest. He also said that 500 million euro will be available for Bulgaria's environmental protection and clean economy, and 200 million euro are intended for migration and security. Bulgaria will have access to 7.7 billion euro in economic recovery grants. ''As for the people who want my resignation, I leave for them 29 billion euro for the coming years. This is nearly 60 billion leva, as much as the current decline in the GDP and more than everything Bulgaria earned under socialist governments,'' said Borissov. '' He also said that during the EU Council everyone thanked him for his help and that European Council President Charles Michel called him to express gratitude for his support in the negotiations. The Prime Minister stressed that Charles Michel has proven to be an exceptional friend to Bulgaria. He also noted Chancellor Angela Merkel support with providing an additional 200 million euro, as well as the support from the Chancellor of Austria, Sebastian Kurz, ''who addressed the European Council, as if he were the Prime Minister of Bulgaria''. Borissov also expressed gratitude to the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and French President Emmanuel Macron. Borissov explained that the tying of EU funding with the rule of law is envisaged to be a transparent process, respecting the principles of objectivity, non-discrimination and equal treatment of all parties through an evidence-based approach. Details about the distribution of funding that will be available to Bulgaria, were made public at a news briefing later on Tuesday by Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Donchev. Following is the breakdown he provided: 28.934 billion euro - total financing; 9 billion euro - Cohesion Policy; 5 billion euro - direct payments to farmers; 1.178 billion euro - Just Transition Fund (aimed to help regions transition to a low-carbon economy); 658 million euro - React-EU (the Covid response facility, to be accessible this year); just over 2 billion euro - Rural Development Programme; 239 million euro - migration and security; 56 million euro - operations and projects related to the decommissioning of Kozloduy N-plant units; 200 million euro - additional package for underdeveloped regions. Of the available funding, 24,385 million euro will be grants and 4,549 million euro loans, said Donchev. He said that Bulgaria should not allow the funding under the new instrument Next Generation EU "to vanish like water in the sand and the money should go where they will produce the biggest gains". He believes that this money should be used to strengthen the health system and the social care system, and support businesses through schemes accessible for the vast majority of them or "practically all that qualify". Donchev also said that energy efficiency is "inevitably in the focus" of the EU policy. He believes that in the coming years Bulgaria should retrofit all public buildings and reopen the programme for energy efficiency of condominiums without asking owners to pay out of their pockets. NV/LN/DT //
• (DF) 196 Newly Confirmed COVID-19 Cases In Bulgaria
July 21 (BTA) - Over the past 24 hours, 3,698 tests have confirmed 196 new COVID-19 cases, according to the national coronavirus information portal.
• (NW) Beer Sales in Restaurants and Bars Plummet by 60% in First Half of 2020
Sofia, July 20 (BTA) - The pandemic year 2020 has posed a number of challenges to businesses and individuals, and it is no surprise that beer sales in Bulgaria's restaurants, bars and discos declined by 60 per cent in the first half of the year compared with the first half...
• (DF) Protests During Fifth No-confidence Vote against Borissov Government, Voting Scheduled for Tuesday
July 20 (BTA) - Parliament held an extraordinary meeting on Monday to debate the fifth no-confidence vote against the third government of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, tabled by the socialist BSP for Bulgaria over its failure to counter corruption. Protesters gathered outside the building of Parliament next to the Monument to the Tsar Liberator with demands for the resignation of the cabinet and of Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev. Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Donchev and cabinet ministers were present during the debate, together with outgoing ministers Vladislav Goranov, Mladen Marinov and Emil Karanikolov. Prime Minister Boyko Borissov is in Brussels, where he is attending a Special European Council meeting. National Assembly Chair Tsveta Karayancheva said that under the Constitution and the parliamentary rules of organization he has no obligation to be present at the debate. Addressing the chamber, BSP for Bulgaria leader Kornelia Ninova called for the cabinet's resignation, accountability, justice and 'a pure and sacred republic'. She said that in three years since the first vote of no-confidence against the third Borissov government, the corruption scandals have increased to more than 25. According to Ninova, the parallel state has six legs among which are corruption, lobbyist legislation, impunity, showy operations of the prosecution service and propaganda and fear. She said that 12 ministers and seven deputy ministers have been dismissed over corruption scandals during the government's tenure. During the debate Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Donchev said that the Bulgarian government will remain in office until the connection with the citizens break. Donchev said that corruption is a chronic problem of the Bulgarian society and state. "Should the Bulgarian government step down and for how long will it remain in power? For as long as there is point, for as long as it can do something useful and until the connection with the citizens break. Believe me, when this connection breaks, there is no need to ask for my resignation," said Donchev. Both the ruling coalition and the opposition cited examples of corruption. MP Boris Yahcev from United Patriots said the vote is preoccupied with political theses and many of the examples are manipulated. GERB floor leader Daniela Daritkova said that in case of a caretaker government the interests of the socialists will be very hard to reconcile with those of the 'Toxic Trio': Maya Manolova, Slavi Trifonov and Yes, Bulgaria. Daritkova added that as the largest parliamentary group GERB has responsibility before one million voters and this is very important in the conditions of a medical and economic crisis. According to her, there is shared responsibility for this government to serve out its term assisted by the legislative branch of power in tackling the economic and medical crisis and in the preparations of the general elections scheduled for 2021. GERB MP Toma Bikov advised the socialists to do their job within their party first. Volya leader and Deputy Parliament Speaker Vesselin Mareshki said: "Volya is the only party against which no one is protesting and we are the only party ready to heed to the Bulgarian people." Mareshki said that vote of no-confidence will not go through and the Bulgarian Socialist Party will lose the next elections because they are incapable of governging Bulgaria. Mareshki also said that in the European Parliament the socialists are against the European People's Party, but in Bulgaria they are allies of the Pseudo Right. The debate went on for two hours and MP scheduled the vote of no-confidence for 11.30 am on Tuesday. * * * Speaking outside Parliament Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov said that there are instances when he has sought support from all parliamentary groups as in the case with the latest revisions to the Bulgarian National Bank Act which were the last obstacle to Bulgaria's entry into ERM II. He also said that he has sought support from the parliamentary group of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms and it has helped keep th? current model of taxation in place several times. RI/PP //
• (NW) EU Council Approves Recommendations for Bulgarian Economy
20 July (BTA Corr. Nikolay Jeliazkov) - The EU Council said on Monday that it has approved its recommendations for EU countries in the field of economy for this and next year. Four recommendations were addressed to Bulgaria. The first is to take all necessary measures, subject to temporary exceptions to state aid rules, to overcome the effects of COVID-19 and to support economic recovery. Where economic conditions allow, Bulgaria should pursue fiscal policies aimed at achieving "prudent" medium-term fiscal positions and ensuring debt sustainability, while increasing investment. Bulgaria needs to attract sufficient financial resources to strengthen the sustainability, accessibility and capabilities of its healthcare system, as well as to ensure a proportionate regional distribution of healthcare workers. The second recommendation is for Bulgaria to provide adequate social protection and basic services to all and to improve labor market policies. Access to remote working should be improved and digital skills and equal access to education should be promoted. Bulgaria needs to address the shortcomings of its minimum income scheme. The third recommendation is for Bulgaria to simplify and speed up procedures for providing effective support to smaller companies and the self-employed so that they have continuous access to finance and flexible debt repayment conditions. Priority should be given to ready-to-implement public investment projects and private investment should be encouraged in order to accelerate economic recovery. Bulgaria is expected to direct investments in the field of environmentally friendly and digital transition, especially in clean and efficient production and use of energy, clean transport, contributing to the gradual elimination of fossil fuels in the economy, including in the coal regions. The fourth recommendation is for Bulgaria to reduce as much as possible the administrative burden for companies by improving the efficiency of public administration and improving e-government. Bulgaria needs to improve insolvency legislation, step up its efforts to ensure adequate risk assessment and mitigation, and better monitor the implementation of anti-money laundering legislation. RI/DT /DT/
• (DF) 95 New COVID-19 Cases in 24 Hours
July 20 (BTA) - There have been 95 new COVID-19 cases out of a total of 3,155 tests in the past 24 hours, according to the coronavirus.bg The active cases are 4,327 out of a total of 8,733. At 39, Sofia City recorded the the largest number of infections, followed by Plovdiv, 23 and Blagoevgrad 9. In the past 24 hours, one patient died, bringing the death toll to 300. Some 567 medical staff have been infected. Six hundred and ten patients have been hospitalized, with 34 of them in intensive care units. There were 25 recoveries in the past 24 hours RI/PP .. //
• (DF) New 196 COVID-19 Cases Confirmed in Last 24 Hours
July 19 (BTA) - New 196 COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Bulgaria in the past 24 hours out of 2,003 PCR tests, according to data posted on www.coronavirus.bg on Sunday morning. The highest number of new cases were registered in Sofia (55), followed by Blagoevgrad (28) and Bourgas (19). The total of COVID-19 cases is now 8,638, of which 4,258 are active. The number of recoveries rose to 4,081, with 48 new recoveries in the last 24 hours. The death toll reached 299, with 2 new deaths in the past 24 hours. A total of 605 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized, and 34 of them are in intensive care. The number of infected medical staff is 567. RY/DS
• (DF) PM Borissov Urges EU Leaders for Maximum Support in Medical Dimension of Pandemic
July 18 (BTA corr. Nikolay Jeliazkov) - Maximum support in the medical aspect of the pandemic and a focus on social assistance for vulnerable groups and job retention: these are Prime Minister Boyko Borissov's main points during the Special European Council meeting in Brussels, the government press centre informed on Saturday. Before the start of the discussions, Borissov pointed out that it would be a mistake to think the pandemic is over, as neither a vaccine, nor a cure have been developed yet. According to him, it is very important to support medical workers and institutions - the medical side of the pandemic as a whole - and to establish uniform medical protocols for all European countries regarding face masks, social distancing, schools, restaurants, etc. Another major point of interest, according to Borissov, is European solidarity. He said it is important to provide aid and grants for vulnerable groups and people who have lost their jobs to the pandemic, and to pay special attention to employment retention schemes. The Bulgarian Prime Minister believes that the EU should focus on the following 6 to 12 months when the socioeconomic crisis is expected to be at its worst. He added that long-term crisis recovery solutions will have to be discussed in the meantime. PM Borissov underscored that the states providing the most financial resources have the right to strive for greatest control over the absorption of these funds, which is only natural. He expressed support for the so-called "thrifty four" (Austria, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands), adding that within the structure of the EU, the body that exercises control is the European Commission. Borissov also praised his Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte regarding the instrument allowing every state to table questions it deems important for discussion by the ministers of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN). According to Borissov, it is a good compromise. Borissov was disappointed that despite the general consensus to refrain from comments before a final decision is reached, some of his colleagues have leaked statements made by others. The story was covered by the Financial Times. According to it, a heated exchange took place over dinner on Friday, when Borissov accused his Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte of wanting to be "the police of Europe" by handing himself the right to decide if countries' national reform plans were ambitious enough to justify EU financial support. RY/MT /??/
• (DF) 298 Newly Confirmed COVID-19 Cases Over Past 24 Hours
July 18 (BTA) - Over the past 24 hours in Bulgaria 298 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed out of 4,884 PCR tests, according to data posted on www.coronavirus.bg. So far, 201,363 tests have confirmed a total of 8,442 cases of the novel coronavirus, of which 3,924 are active. The number of recoveries rose to 4,033, with 106 new recoveries since yesterday. The death toll reached 297, with 4 new deaths in the past 24 hours. A total of 606 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized, and 33 of them are in intensive care. The number of infected medical staff is 560. RY/MT /??/
• (DF) Prime Minister Borissov Attends Special European Council in Brussels
July 17 (BTA Correspondent Nikolay Jeliazkov) - Prime Minister Boyko Borissov is taking part in the Special European Council meeting on July 17 and 18 in Brussels. This is the first time that EU leaders meet in person since the COVID-19 outbreak in Europe. EU leaders are meeting to discuss the recovery plan to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, a new long-term EU budget and a proposed recovery instrument called Next Generation EU. For Bulgaria the priority areas are the EU cohesion policy and the Common Agricultural Policy. Regarding the Green Deal and the Just Transition Fund, Bulgaria holds that resources should be provided by the Fund for promotion and development of green energy facilities in regions which so far have not had energy facilities. Borissov is hopeful that the EU will reach an agreement on the future EU budget as early as Friday. He made a brief statement on arrival and spoke with Greek counterpart Kyriakos Mitsotakis before the meeting. Both Prime Ministers expressed confidence that European leaders would reach an agreement. "The European Union needs unity now more than ever. I am sure we will find a reasonable compromise," Prime Minister Borissov was quoted as saying by the government's press service. RI/ ZH,DT /??/
• (DF) 6,526 PCR Tests Confirm 267 New COVID-19 Cases, Bringing Bulgaria's Total to 8,144
July 17 (BTA) - The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Bulgaria reached 8,144 on Friday after 267 new infections were confirmed over the last 24 hours, out of 6,526 PCR tests, according to data posted on www.coronavirus.bg. The active cases are 3,924. The hospitalized patients number 582, including 28 in intensive care. A total of 86 COVID-19 patients have recovered over the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 3,927. Four more fatalities were reported, bringing the total death toll to 293. RI/ZH /??/
• (NW) NSI: In 2019 Trials for 30,276 Crimes Concluded 10,577 Effective Sentences
July 16 (BTA) - According to a publication by the National Statistical Institute (NSI) on Thursday, in 2019 the trials of 30,276 committed crimes were concluded. Proceedings of 10,577 crimes were ended with effective sentences, of 14,385 crimes - with conditional sentences, of 669 crimes - with acquittal sentences, of 270 crimes - with suspension and of 4,375 crimes - with release of penalty.
• (DF) Prosecutor General Geshev Will Not Resign
July 16 (BTA) - "I won't resign from my post because I'm doing my job," said Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev on Thursday. He was approached to comment on calls by President Rumen Radev and protesters about his resignation. Geshev was visiting Shivachevo in connection with a specialized operation against conventional crime. "If everybody likes me, it means that I'm not doing my job," said Geshev. He said that a year ago no one could imagine that people such as Vassil Bojkov, Vetko and Marinela Arabadzhiev, Evelina and Nikolai Banev, ministers, councillors, agency chiefs will be investigated. "I support the just anger and demands of the Bulgarian citizens," said the Prosecutor General, adding that some of the protesters are paid and organized by oligarchs with millions, who defend the political status quo. He voiced concern that innocent people may get harmed during clashes at the protests. Geshev said that the conventional crime rate has dropped by 20 per cent and the prosecution service wants to reduce it further. As an example of the good cooperation between the prosecution service and the police the Prosecutor General cited the 40 per cent drop in phone scams. RY/PP /??/
• (DF) Government Won't Resign, Cabinet Will Be Reshuffled after No-confidence Vote
July 16 (BTA) - The ruling coalition will serve out its term and general elections will take place in the spring of 2021, NFSB leader and Deputy Parliament Speaker Valeri Simeonov told a news briefing Thursday at the Council of Ministers. He was speaking after a council of the ruling coalition between GERB and the United Patriots. The ruling coalition will concentrate on defeating the vote of no-confidence tabled by the socialist opposition and the cabinet will be reshuffled afterwards, it emerged from his statement. The no-confidence vote will be defeated and there will be changes in the cabinet, said Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Krassimir Karakachanov. "Bulgaria is a rule of law state and we observe the rules. I have the resignations of three ministers. They have huge support and each one has done a lot for the country," said Prime Minister and GERB leader Boyko Borissov. On Wednesday evening, Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov, Interior Minister Mladen Marinov and Economy Minister Emil Karanikolov tendered their resignations because of their alleged association with the Movement for Rights and Freedoms and its deputy Delyan Peevski. Borissov went on the say that the Bulgarian Socialist Party is scraping the barrel with the motives for the no-confidence vote and it is grotesque that it may seek a no-confidence vote. The Prime Minister warned that very difficult months lie ahead and that no single party or coalition can take the country through 'this stormy sea'. Borissov said that the nation should be consolidated. Borissov also dismissed the idea about a caretaker government as the president has someone else naming the ministers. "We have the support of all big EU states and of the US as only days ago they voted for Bulgaria to join the euro waiting room and the EU banking union," he said. "If they care about the state, the opposition parties should say how to go through the looming economic and health crisis," said Borissov. RY/PP /??/
• (DF) 232 COVID-19 Cases Confirmed in Past 24 Hours
July 16 (BTA) - Another 232 COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the past 24 hours out of 5,393 tests done, according to data on coronavirus.bg. This brings the total coronavirus cases to 7,877, of which 3,747 are active. There are 3,841 recoveries and 178 were in the past 24 hours. Five hundred and seventy-five patients are hospitalized and 28 are in intensive care units. Five hundred and forty two medical staff have been infected with COVID-19. Fatalities total 289 and six patients died in the past 24 hours. RY/PP
• (DF) Government Won't Resign, Cabinet Will Be Reshuffled after No-confidence Vote
July 16 (BTA) - The ruling coalition will serve out its term and general elections will take place in the spring of 2021, NFSB leader and Deputy Parliament Speaker Valeri Simeonov told a news briefing at the Council of Ministers. He was speaking after a council of the ruling coalition between GERB and the United Patriots. The ruling coalition will concentrate on defeating the vote of no-confidence tabled by the socialist opposition and the cabinet will be reshuffled afterwards, it emerged from his statement. /MORE
• (DF) PM Borissov Demands Resignations of Finance, Economy, Interior Ministers
July 15 (BTA) - GERB leader and Prime Minister Boyko Borissov demanded the resignations of Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov, of Interior Minister Mladen Marinov and of Economy Minister Emil Karanikolov, GERB's press centre reported here late on Wednesday. The decision was made after Borissov's meeting with his party's regional coordinators, who asked of him to dismiss the three ministers in order refute the insinuations that GERB and the three ministers are directly dependent on the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) and MP Delyan Peevski. According to the regional coordinators, GERB is undeservedly suffering because of the speculations about its ties with the MRF. Later in the day, Cabinet's press centre reported that the three ministers have declared to Borissov their readiness to tender their resignations immediately and will submit the relevant documents on Thursday. GERB said in its press release that the party highly values Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov's contribution to Bulgaria's acceptance in the eurozone waiting room and the policy of financial stability that he carried out. Interior Minister Mladen Marinov is also praised for his Ministry's achievements in the fight against contraband, petty crime and drug trafficking. Economy Minister Karanikolov's contribution to the increased foreign investments in Bulgaria is also noted. RY/MY
• (DF) PM Borissov Demands Resignations of Finance, Economy, Interior Ministers
July 15 (BTA) - GERB leader and Prime Minister Boyko Borissov demanded the resignations of Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov, of Interior Minister Mladen Marinov and of Economy Minister Emil Karanikolov, GERB's press centre reported here late on Wednesday. The decision was made after Borissov's meeting with his party's regional coordinators, who asked of him to dismiss the three ministers in order refute the insinuations that GERB and the three ministers are directly dependent on the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) and MP Delyan Peevski. According to the regional coordinators, GERB is undeservedly suffering because of the speculations about its ties with the MRF. Later in the day, Cabinet's press centre reported that the three ministers have declared to Borissov their readiness to tender their resignations immediately and will submit the relevant documents on Thursday. GERB said in its press release that the party highly values Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov's contribution to Bulgaria's acceptance in the eurozone waiting room and the policy of financial stability that he carried out. Interior Minister Mladen Marinov is also praised for his Ministry's achievements in the fight against contraband, petty crime and drug trafficking. Economy Minister Karanikolov's contribution to the increased foreign investments in Bulgaria is also noted. RY/MY
• (NW) Bulgarian National Bank Approves Term Extension in Moratorium on Loan Payments Due to COVID-19 Pandemic
Sofia, July 15 (BTA) - The Bulgarian National Bank (BNB) announced on Wednesday that it has approved the extension of terms in the moratorium on payments. The revisions are related to extending the deadlines for bank clients to apply for postponement of payments and their app...
• (DF) Boyko Borissov Calls for Safety of Policemen, Protestors
July 15 (BTA) - Last Friday, when Bulgaria entered the ERM II, there was no counter-protest in front of the Council of Ministers, but rather a gathering of people who wanted to greet the government on the ERM II entry, said Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, opening Cabinet's sitting on Wednesday. He added that the government has always taken the side of the protestors, and he is very concerned by the deep rift within the nation that cannot be overcome in the foreseeable future. Borissov went on to say that Bulgaria is the only country to believe that the coronavirus pandemic is over, while at the same time other countries are reintroducing restrictive measures. He expressed concern that come autumn, this may do Bulgaria a bad turn. The economic crisis is looming over Bulgaria. We have not started taking loans yet, Borissov said. The state needs to be mobilized. According to him, Bulgaria is the top beneficiary of EU funds, and he is ready to present options for their absorption after the sitting of the EU Council. If Bulgaria manages to contain its finances in this way, its economy will be back to the levels of late 2018 - early 2019. For now, the focus should fall on the fair demands of the protestors, Borissov said. He expressed his sympathy with the assaulted police officers and the beaten-up innocent protestors, and pointed out that the main goal of the provocations was to put a blood stain on the protests and force Borissov into resignation. He also said that it is the people who decide who and how should govern the country, and that there are procedures to follow when ousting a government and scheduling preliminary elections. Borissov also reminded that GERB has a long record of election victories. In conclusion, the Prime Minister addressed the President and the opposition, warning that difficult times are in store for Bulgaria when unity and agreement will be the most valuable assets. NV/MT /??/



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