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• (DF) Judicial Council Ends Debate on Judges Association's Demand to Dismiss Prosecitor General
October 22 (BTA) - After almost 4 hours of discussions, the plenum of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) terminated without result the debate on the demand of the Bulgarian Judges Association (BJA) to initiate a dismissal procedure against Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev. The debate was sparked by the BJA's request that Geshev be evaluated individually by all members of the SJC. The request was accompanied by a letter, listing in detail "publicly known" facts about Geshev, and concluding that the procedure of his dismissal from the position must be initiated. While the SJC plenum was taking place, a group of Yes, Bulgaria activists and citizens were rallying for Geshev's resignation in front of the building. At the start of the meeting, Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev declared that it was not clear on what grounds the plenum is considering a declaration by a professional organization. He said that he has already answered all the questions asked by the BJA for the European Parliament's LIBE committee, and will not answer them again for the SJC. Geshev said that he will not discuss the topic, nor participate in a confrontation between judges and prosecutors, and left the plenum. Some of the critique of the BJA's demand was that their letter contains suggestions, lacks concrete information about the Prosecutor General's violations, and falsely ascribes an interview quote to him. After 3 hours of debates on the topic, the SJC defended Geshev, 19 to 3, and adopted the BJA's demand for reference only. NV/MT
• (DF) BSP and Independant MPs Call for Culture Minister's Resignation, Following BNR Director General Resignation
October 22 (BTA) - Bulgarian Socialist Party and independant MPs have called for the resignation of Culture Minister Boil Banov, after the Director General of the Bulgarian National Radio (BNR), Andon Baltakov, requested Wednesday that the Council for Electronic Media (CEM) terminate the contract with which he took over BNR management, as of November 1. Baltakov's resignation was announced by the BNR on its Horizont radio programme.
• (PE) Press - Review
Sofia, October 22 (BTA)
• (NW) The debt of Bulgaria for 2019 is 20.2 percent of GDP
?ctober 22 (BTA) - Bulgaria's debt for 2019 amounted to 24,212 million leva, or 20.2 per cent of GDP, according to final data from the National Statistical Institute on Thursday. In 2019, the General Government institutional sector reported a budget surplus of 2,304 million leva, or 1.9 per cent of GDP. The surplus in the Central Government subsector amounted to 2,185 million leva, or 1.8 per cent of GDP. The Local Government subsector reported a deficit of 151 million leva, and the Social Security Funds subsector reported a surplus of 269 million leva. RI/DT /DT/
• (DF) 8,738 PCR Tests Confirm 1,472 New COVID-19 Cases, Bringing Bulgaria's Total to 33,335
October 22 (BTA) - A total of 1,472 COVID-19 infections were confirmed in past 24 hours through 8,738 PCR tests, according to data posted on www.coronavirus.bg on Thursday. This puts the share of positive test results at 16.8 per cent. Out of a total of 33,335 confirmed cases of coronavirus, 14,689 are active. In the past 24 hours, 29 people have died, bringing the total number of fatalities to 1,048. The highest number of infections are in Sofia-city (483) and in Plovdiv (147). There are 1,727 total COVID-19 cases among medical staff. A total of 1,732 patients are hospitalized, 107 of which are in intensive care units. Recoveries in the last 24 hours number 184, bringing the total to 17,598. A new order from the Health Minister that requires people to wear masks in outdoor public places came into force on Thursday. The measure will be active until November 30, 2020, the press centre of the Health Ministry said. The anti-epidemic measure requires wearing a mask or other means covering the nose and mouth in open public places in case of crowding and impossibility to observe a physical distance of 1.5 m. Masks are not mandatory for by customers in restaurants and drinking establishments, as well as outdoor and indoor athletes. The order does not apply to participants in congresses and conference events during their speeches, as well as to the hosts and guests in TV shows. Children up to the age of 6 may also not wear a PPE. Later on Thursday, during the regular weekly briefing, Minister of Health Kostadin Angelov said that Bulgaria is entering a very serious phase of the epidemic. The biggest problem is related to the medics on the first line, they are tired, infected, under quarantine, some are in intensive care, the Minister said. The healthcare system will seek support from general practitioners and medical students. Chief State Health Inspector Angel Kunchev said that the growth curve is very sharp, and that the goal is to try to contain morbidity in the next few weeks, but noted that both Bulgaria and Europe are far from reaching this goal. Prof. Todor Kantardzhiev, Director of the National Centre for Infectious and Parasitic Diseases, suggested that in addition to other standard anti-epidemic measures (distance, disinfection and discipline), people should add a regular vitamin D intake due to lack of sunshine. RI/DT /DT/
• (DF) Defence Cooperation between Bulgaria, US Discussed during Meeting at Graf Ignatievo Air Base
October 21 (BTA) - US Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs R. Clarke Cooper Wednesday visited the Graf Ignatievo Air Base as part of a VIP Guest Day held there, the Bulgarian Defence Ministry said in a press release. The US official is quoted as saying that Bulgaria and the United States are building very strong bilateral relations, in the interest of the entire NATO. Cooper is also quoted as saying that there are strategic investments going beyond the short-term projects. The guest observed the joint air policing mission operating out of Graf Ignatievo Air Base. Other guests at the base were US Ambassador in Bulgaria Herro Mustafa, Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian, Commander of the U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Bulgarian Deputy Defence Minister Atanas Zapryanov, and Deputy Chief of Defence Lt. Gen. Tsanko Stoikov. Cooper is also quoted as saying that his meetings with US and Bulgarian officials discuss important future projects for Bulgaria and the United States, building additional capabilities, expanding the defence cooperation and strengthening interoperability, not just between Bulgaria and the United States as partners, but among all NATO members. He said that the ten-year road map in defence cooperation signed at the start of the month between Bulgaria and the United States is just the beginning of a broader and deeper strategic partnership. The guest said everyone is looking forward to a deeper partnership programme for Bulgaria, for the United States and for all countries in the region, in which Bulgaria plays a role in strengthening stability. He said that the practical implementation of this is the building of the infrastructure and the future plans for F-16 jet fighters. Zapryanov said that the current visit of the US official is about the modernization of the Bulgarian Air Force and the discussion for the purchase of eight more jet fighters, which is to be decided in the future. The Bulgarian government will invest 300 million leva in modernization of the air base, he said, noting that the money is more than the necessary outlays for the purchase and operation of the F-16s. "We want to have a modern air base, on a par as those of the NATO member states," he said. The current joint Bulgarian-US air policing mission of this country's air space continues until October 30 and involves seven F-16 jet fighters, up to 140 US servicepersons, MiG-29 jet fighters of the Bulgarian Air Force and flying and engineering staff of the Graf Ignatievo Air Base. RI/ZH /??/
• (DF) President Radev Tests Negative for COVID-19 upon Return from Estonia
October 21 (BTA) - President Rumen Radev has tested negative for COVID-19, his press secretariat said Wednesday. He was tested Tuesday upon returning from Estonia, where he led a Bulgarian delegation to a virtual summit of the Three Seas Initiative, hosted by the Estonian President. The President's press secretariat specified that this is Radev's second negative test result for coronavirus on two consecutive days (he was tested at the start of his official visit to Estonia on Monday) and his third since October 13, the day before his visit to Greece. On Tuesday, the President's press secretariat reported that Radev cut short his visit to Estonia due to "the complicated coronavirus situation" and "the impossibility to carry out all the elements planned for the visit's agenda". Later in the day, Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaidat wrote in a Facebook post that the bilateral part of Radev's visit had to be called off as the Bulgarian head of State had been in contact with a person who later tested positive for coronavirus. Also on Tuesday, Health Minister Kostadin Angelov told reporters that the Air Force chief, Major Gen. Dimiter Petrov, had tested positive for coronavirus on October 18, two days after he and President Radev were in contact. The head of State was informed of Gen. Petrov's test result on Sunday, Angelov said. In a second press release on Tuesday, Radev's press secretariat said the head of State had not been in contact with a person who at the time in question (October 16) had tested positive for coronavirus. Approached for comment upon his return from Estonia on Tuesday, Radev said: "I want to thank my well-wishers in Bulgaria who, deeply concerned about my and my counterparts' health and about my international appearances, were too eager to share behind my back their version about contact with COVID-19. I consider this an example of an active measure [an act of the special services, intelligence and counter-intelligence aimed at achieving certain objectives]." Reacting to Radev's statement, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov Wednesday said that the Government has done everything necessary in support of the Three Seas Initiative. "I have tasked the State Agency for National Security and the State Intelligence Agency with checking who are these 'well-wishers', who want to counter the actions of the Government and the President and to hinder something so important for Bulgaria," Borissov said. "If someone has underestimated the importance of quarantine, that is not our problem," he added, and expressed hope that there will be no more speculations on the matter. NV, RY/DS /??/
• (PE) Press - Review
Sofia, October 21 (BTA)
• (DF) New COVID-19 Cases Number 1,336, Positivity Rate at 11.61%
October 21 (BTA) - Bulgaria's healthcare authorities confirmed 1,336 new cases of COVID-19 in the country in the 24 hours until Tuesday midnight after conducting the record-high 11,505 PCR tests, according to data published on the national coronavirus web portal https://coronavirus.bg. This puts the share of positive test results at 11.61 per cent.
• (DF) Foreign Minister Zaharieva, US Assistant Secretary of State Cooper Discuss Advancement of Bilateral Cooperation
October 20 (BTA) - The strategic partnership between Bulgaria and the US and the advancement of cooperation in areas of mutual interest topped the agenda of talks between Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva and visiting US Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs R. Clarke Cooper, the Foreign Ministry said here on Tuesday.
• (DF) Education Minister: No Full Closure of Schools Envisaged, Only Single Classes Will Be Quarantined
October 20 (BTA) - Education Minister Krassimir Valchev on Tuesday said that no full closure of schools is envisaged and only single classes will be quarantined. He was approached by journalists about measures to be taken in response to the growing number of COVID-19 infections in the country. When threshold values are reached in red-coded areas measures will be enforced locally. This may mean a quarantine for several classes or a whole school. The Education Ministry is monitoring the situation across the country, said Valchev. Several regions are on the verge of turing red, but more restrictive measures won't be enforced and the existing ones are in place. Since the start of the school year, 289 teachers and 286 pupils at schools and kindergartens have been infected with coronavirus. This means that the proportion is ten times higher among teachers compared with pupils, said Valchev. Pupils and kindergarten children number 900,000 and teachers - 90,000, which supports data that children are less susceptible to the coronavirus. Currently 8 per 1,000 students and teachers are under quarantine and 99.2 per cent of students have in-person classes. Valchev said that for now no schools in Sofia will be closed but this may change. In red-coded zones, parent conferences and the sessions of the public councils with schools will be held via video conference. Elsewhere the measure will be optional. Long trips in red-coded areas will be banned but daily visits to cultural and tourist landmarks will be allowed, said the Education Minister. RI/PP /??/
• (NW) Bulgarian Industry's Plans for Investment in Automation Adversely Affected by Pandemic, Study Shows
October 20 (BTA) - Half of the Bulgarian industrial companies that participated in a study by the Professional Association of Robotics and Automation (PARA) said that the pandemic has negatively affected their plans for investment in automation. About 41 per cent answered that they will delay such endeavours, and 9 per cent will postpone them. Half of the car companies fall under these figures, according to the authors of the study. For 38 per cent of companies the pandemic has not had a negative impact, on the contrary - 19 per cent of them say that it has accelerated automation processes. These include representatives of the chemical industry, smart home sensors, manufacturers of microelectronics. The data are from a PARA study of the automation sector in the Bulgarian industry in times of a pandemic, the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce said on Tuesday. The survey is not representative, it covers 32 companies, producers of automotive components, furniture, electronics, mechanical engineering, etc., which employ just under 15 thousand employees. Some 44 per cent of respondents said they are considering implementing software and discrete automation. These include the industries related to the production of automotive components, cosmetics, household appliances, mechanical engineering, automation and energy efficiency. A total of 22 per cent said that they would implement mainly discrete automation, including companies that produce furniture, those from the food industry and the manufacturing of gaming and casino equipment. One third of companies considering the implementation of software automation are in the furniture industry, the dairy industry and aluminum extrusion. The main motives for companies' investments in robotic systems are quality, cost optimization and shortage of manpower. The number of companies that chose labour shortage as the main motive for automation is increasing compared to those who responded last year (six companies in 2019, compared to 14 in 2020). Nearly 44 per cent of the companies in the survey are experiencing a shortage of labour. Some 75 per cent or 24 companies want to automate selected processes in the next three years, while last year that number was 7 companies or 13.5 per cent. Companies that would invest up to 100,000 leva in automation are up by 5.5 per cent. The percentages remain relatively close to the previous survey, in which 17.3 per cent had set aside between 100,000 and 300,000 leva for automation. This year, 15.6 per cent have planned the same budget for the next three years. Companies that have automation budgets below 500,000 leva were 44.3 per cent in 2019, compared to 50 per cent in 2020. Companies with budgets over 500,000 leva were 40.4 per cent in 2019 and 34 per cent in 2020. The companies that do not have a set budget for automation increased by 3 per cent. RI/DT /??/
• (DF) European Commission Reiterates Concerns over Bulgaria's "Golden Passports" Scheme
October 20 (BTA) - The European Commission said Tuesday it has written again to Bulgaria to highlight its concerns regarding its investor citizenship scheme and requesting further details. The Bulgarian Government has one month to reply to the letter requesting further information, following which the Commission will decide on the next steps. The Commission said it is launching infringement procedures against Cyprus and Malta for "selling" EU citizenship via the so called "golden passport" schemes. The Commission considers that the granting by these Member States of their nationality - and thereby EU citizenship - in exchange for a pre-determined payment or investment and without a genuine link with the Member States concerned, is incompatible with the principle of sincere cooperation enshrined in the Treaty on European Union. Due to the nature of EU citizenship, such schemes have implications for the Union as a whole. When a Member State awards nationality, the person concerned automatically becomes an EU citizen and enjoys all rights linked to this status, such as the right to move, reside and work freely within the EU, or the right to vote in municipal elections as well as elections to the European Parliament. As a consequence, the effects of investor citizenship schemes are neither limited to the Member States operating them, nor are they neutral with regard to other Member States and the EU as a whole, the Commission argued. It recalled that in a resolution adopted on July 10, 2020, the European Parliament reiterated its earlier calls on Member States to phase out all existing citizenship by investment or residency by investment schemes as soon as possible. Back in January 2019, the Commission presented a comprehensive report on investor citizenship and residence schemes operated by a number of EU Member States. It said that three Member States: Bulgaria, Cyprus and Malta, operate schemes that grant investors the nationality of these countries under conditions which are less strict than ordinary naturalisation regimes. In these three Member States, there is no obligation of physical residence for the individual, nor a requirement of other genuine connections with the country before obtaining citizenship. In practice, these schemes are often advertised as a means of acquiring Union citizenship, together with all the rights and privileges associated with it. On January 22, 2019, a day before the Commission released its report, Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva said that the Justice Ministry had tabled revisions to the Bulgarian Citizenship Act to end the award of Bulgarian citizenship to large investors. In the latest development on the matter, on October 2, 2019, the Government approved a bill amending the Bulgarian Citizenship Act eliminating the possibility for permanent resident foreigners in Bulgaria to acquire Bulgarian citizenship through a simplified procedure after they have made short-term investments in this country. Judging from the National Assembly website, such a bill has not yet reached the legislature. An October 2018 report of Transparency International said that Bulgaria makes 25 million euro annually from selling citizenship in return for investment. The income from selling residence in exchange for investment is unknown. According to the same report, between 2012 and October 2017, Bulgaria granted citizenship- and residence-by-investment permits to 75 applicants from Russia, 39 from China, 33 from Pakistan, 28 from Egypt and 25 from Lebanon. BTA Brussels correspondent Nikolay Jeliazkov contributed to this story. LN//
• (DF) President Radev Cuts Short Visit to Estonia Due to Worsening Coronavirus Situation
October 20 - President Rumen Radev cut short a visit to Estonia on Tuesday due to the worsening of the coronavirus situation, Radev's press secretariat said. Radev and his Estonian counterpart Kersti Kaljulaidat spoke over the phone on Tuesday and decided to postpone the visit on account of the impossibility to carry out all elements planned in the programme of the visit. Radev arrived on an official visit to Estonia Monday for participation in a virtual summit of the Three Seas Initiative, hosted by the Estonian President. At the start of the event, the Bulgarian President took over from Estonia as the hosting leader of the Three Seas Initiative. Radev and Kaljulaidat met within the summit and discussed tropics on the agenda of the bilateral relations and the Three Seas Initiative. The official bilateral programme of the visit was due on October 20 and 21, with an official welcome and a one-to-one session between the two Presidents, followed by plenary talks between their delegations. Meetings were also scheduled with Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas and with Estonian Parliament President Henn Polluaas. LN/ZH//
• (PE) Press - Review
Sofia, October 20 (BTA)
• (DF) Bulgaria's New COVID-19 Cases Number 1,024, Positivity Rate at 23.2%
October 20 (BTA) - Bulgaria's healthcare authorities confirmed 1,024 new cases of COVID-19 in the country in the 24 hours until Monday midnight after conducting 4,406 PCR tests, according to data published on the national coronavirus web portal https://coronavirus.bg. This puts the share of positive test results at 23.2 per cent. The highest number of new cases were registered in Sofia (292), Plovdiv (109), and Bourgas (63). There are 12,366 active cases. A total of 1,562 are hospitalized, 88 of them in intensive care units. Twenty-two people died of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 1,008. Meanwhile, 210 patients recovered from the disease, bringing the total number of recoveries to 17,153. Since the start of the pandemic, 1,622 medical professionals have contracted COVID-19. LN/DS
• (DF) Bulgarian Foreign Minister Zaharieva Confers with Hungarian Counterpart Szijjarto, They Mark Bulgarian-Hungarian Friendship Day
Budapest, October 19 (BTA) - During an official visit to Budapest - her first bilateral visit to that country, Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva on Monday discussed with her Hungarian counterpart Peter Szijjarto a wide range of issues on the bilateral and European agenda, including energy, migration, and the European integration of the Western Balkans, Zaharieva's Ministry said in a press release. The visit is tied in with marking the centenary of bilateral diplomatic relations.
• (DF) Prime Minister Borissov Holds Video Conference with Leaders of American Jewish Organizations
October 19 (BTA) - Prime Minister Boyko Borissov on Monday held a video conference with the leaders of the major Jewish organizations in the US within the framework of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly, the government information service said.
• (NW) Poll: Summer Tourist Season Assessed in Rather Positive Terms Despite Higher Expectations
Sofia, October 19 (BTA) - The outgoing summer season is assessed in rather positive terms despite the higher expectations, and competition abroad has made Bulgarian tourists more fastidious, Gallup International found in a poll taken jointly with the National Board of Tourism ...
• (DF) President Radev to Propose New Priorities for Three Seas Initiative
October 19 (BTA Special Correspondent Asen Boyadjiev) - Bulgarian President Rumen Radev Monday arrived on an official visit to Estonia for participation in the Three Seas Initiative Virtual Summit, hosted by President Kersti Kaljulaidat. Approached by journalists, the Bulgarian head of State said he plans to propose new priorities for the Initiative which would benefit from the inclusion of educational and scientific connectivity as a priority. During the forum, Radev will take over from Estonia as the hosting leader of the Initiative. In his words, the Three Seas Initiative involves countries with similar historical heritage and with similar problems to be faced in the future, and it is only normal and logical to invest together in this future. "The main purpose of the Initiative is to develop energy, transport, and digital connectivity, but I don't think that our ambitions should be limited to that. Therefore, when I take over as the hosting leader of the Initiative for 2021r, I intend to propose new priorities," the President told the media. "You can't be preoccupied with laying pipes and asphalt because there is more to the future than that. Infrastructure is important, but the economy of the future requires investing in science and education connectivity, capacity building, connecting young researcher teams, organizations, and universities. Infrastructure connectivity is not an end in itself, it is rather a means to the major end: high, sustainable economic growth and living standards approximating that of industrialized European countries, based on an accelerated transition to a green and digital economy. This cannot be achieved by asphalt and pipes alone," Radev pointed out. He will be in Estonia until October 21. MORE RI/DS //
• (DF) Major Party in Ruling Coalition, Main Opposition Force Remain Tied-in in Political Attitudes Poll
October 19 (BTA) - After two consecutive months of falling public support in the main ruling party GERB and increase in the approval of the extra-parliamentary opposition, October saw stabilization of the levels from September, while GERB and the main opposition party in Parliament, the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) remain tied-in, according to a Trend poll. The poll was commissioned by the 24 Chassa newspaper and was conducted between October 3 and 10 in face-to-face interviews among 1,008 adult Bulgarians. The results show that five parties would surely make it to Parliament if elections were held now - GERB (24.1 per cent), BSP (23.6 per cent), TV talk show anchor Slavi Trifonov's party (15.9 per cent), the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (10.2 per cent) and Democratic Bulgaria (8.8 per cent). Maya Manolova's civic formation and the United Patriots coalition (the minor partner in the ruling coalition) have a chance of entering the next National Assembly with 3.9 per cent and 3.8 per cent, respectively. The survey did not establish any major fluctuations in the assessment of the work of the National Assembly, the government and the President. Parliament continues to be the lowest assessed institution, with three thirds of the respondents assessing it negatively, and 14 per cent, positively. A little over one fifth of the respondents in the poll assessed the work of the government in positive terms. The President is approved of by 48 per cent of the participants in the survey and disapproved by 39 per cent. Since the start more than three months ago of the protest rallies which still continue, the people's assessment of the work of the court and the prosecuting magistracy has been falling steadily. Although the protests are against the government and the prosecuting magistracy, the assessment of the court suffers as well, as the court system is perceived as coupled with the prosecution office. Both institutions are assessed positively by a little over a fifth of the respondents and negatively, by more than 60 per cent. The police had positive/negative assessments of 48 per cent and 38 per cent, respectively, before the start of the protests while in October the respective figures are 43 per cent and 45 per cent. No change is reported in the assessments of the Armed Forces. The polling agency has been studying people's attitudes to the Covid-19 situation every month since the outbreak of the epidemic in March. The latest poll shows that after an initial calm following the easing of the early measures, people's fears are growing. In October more than two thirds of the Bulgarians think that the epidemic will continue to grow while no more than 15 per cent think it is subsiding. More people think that some of the initial measures need to be reinstated, but still half of the respondents in the poll are against such reinstatement. RI/ZH//
• (PE) Press - Review
Sofia, October 19 (BTA)
• (DF) Positive PCR Test Results for COVID-19 at 25% on Sunday
October 19 (BTA) - Bulgaria's healthcare authorities confirmed 395 new cases of COVID-19 in the country in the 24 hours until Sunday midnight after conducting 1,581 PCR tests, putting the share of positive test results at 24.98 per cent, according to data published on the national coronavirus web portal https://coronavirus.bg. The previous day, the share of positive test results was 13.1 per cent. The total number of COVID-19 cases confirmed in Bulgaria since the start of the pandemic reached 29,503. There are 11,574 active cases. Eighteen people died of COVID-19 on Sunday, bringing the death toll to 986. Meanwhile, 31 patients recovered from the disease, bringing the total number of recoveries to 16,943. One thousand and five hundred patients are hospitalized, 74 of them in intensive care units. RI/VE //
• (DF) Georgi Svilenski Elected Head of BSP Election HQ
October 18 (BTA) - At the plenum of the National Council of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) today, Georgi Svilenski was elected head of the BSP election headquarters, and Vyara Emilova, Atanas Zafirov and Stoyan Mirchev will be his deputies. The party's pre-election campaign begins next week.
• (DF) 4,602 PCR Tests Confirm 603 COVID-19 Cases, Bringing Bulgaria's Total to 29,108
October 18 (BTA) - According to the national coronavirus information portal on Sunday, 4,602 PCR tests confirmed 603 new COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, bringing Bulgaria's total to 29,108 cases, of which 11,228 are active. The test positivity rate now stands at 13.1 per cent, down from 13.88 on Saturday.
• (PE) Press - Review
Sofia, October 18 (BTA)
• (DF) 600,000 Most Deprived Bulgarians to Benefit from Aid Worth Lv 504 Mln over 7 Years - Prime Minister
October 17 (BTA) - Between 2021 and 2027, 600,000 Bulgarians will benefit from aid worth 504 million leva under Operational Programme for Food and Material Assistance, thanks to the efforts of the team of Labour and Social Policy Minister Denitsa Sacheva, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov wrote in a Facebook post.
• (DF) 7,442 PCR Tests Confirm New Daily Record of 998 COVID-19 Cases, Bringing Bulgaria's Total to 28,505
October 17 (BTA) - The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Bulgaria reached 28,505 after 7,442 PCR tests identified 998 new infections in the 24 hours until Friday midnight, according to data posted on www.coronavirus.bg. The test positivity rate now stands at 13.4 per cent.
• (PE) Press - Review
Sofia, October 17 (BTA)
• (DF) PM Borissov Attends European Council, Comments Covid, Green Deal, Regional Issues
June 11 (BTA Correspondent Nikolay Jeliazkov) - Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said here Friday that the mandatory COVID-related quarantine period in Bulgaria will be reduced to 10 days from the present 14 days. ''I have given instructions that children must go to school,'' he also said. In wide-ranging remarks for the press on arrival for the second day of a European Council in Brussels, he spoke about the coronavirus measures, the Green Deal discussions and regional issues. ''We finally have a unified action plan from the European Commission, this time they have worked hard on it,'' Borissov said commenting the pan-European measures against the COVID-19 pandemic which are being discussed. ''I think we are late, we should have done it in July. Many EU countries are taking measures that cause panic in other countries and create discord,'' Borissov said. He summed up statements from his counterparts that wearing masks prevents the spread of the infection but not fully. ''In Bulgaria, we must comply with the requirements set by the Ministry of Health,'' said Borissov. He hailed the swiftness of action by the European Commission with regard to a coronavirus vaccine and said that it is important to have a transparent process of production and procurement, and affordable prices. "We have to trust the professors fully and not experiment much on health issues," he commented. He added that Bulgaria spends more than 120,000 leva a day on tests. The EU funding for dealing with the economic aftermath of the pandemic, which is expected to come in the next EU budget, is not yet available, Borissov said. He said that it will be a major accomplishment if the budget talks end in January - February. Green Deal discussions left for December Regarding the negotiations on the so-called Green Deal, which sets out measures towards a cleaner economy and reduction of damage to nature, the Prime Minister said he had presented Bulgaria's problems, along with those of other countries that use coal for energy production. The issue will be discussed again by the European Council in December. Borissov expects that the EU could agree to lower the pollution reduction target to 55 per cent by 2030 from the 1990 levels. ''We must prepare very quickly with alternatives for after 2030, it will be very difficult for countries such as Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Poland, to cope,'' said Borissov. He noted that some EU countries are not happy with having the money for a clean-up of the economy go for nuclear energy projects. Bulgaria should carefully and promptly think of things other than new power generating facilities, he said adding that Bulgaria has network losses of close to 1,000 MW - from buildings and inefficient productions, and can do much to lower these losses by retrofitting buildings and replacing the lighting. The Prime Minister said that Bulgaria has a lot of work to do. ''This is an EU decision and they will be very strict about it'', he added. Borissov thankful to President Radev The Prime Minister expressed gratitude to the President Rumen Radev for saying during a visit to Athens earlier in October that Bulgaria and Greece are "a bridge of stability". "My colleague Kiriakos Mitsotakis told me that he [President Radev] had lots of good words about Bulgaria. We have done so many things with the Greek: interconnectors, investments, joint productions. We continue to support them for as much dialogue with Turkey and Cyprus as possible, for resolving the problem in the Mediterranean," Borissov added. His remark apparently meant to highlight a change he saw in the President's traditionally strong criticism for the Boyko Borissov government, especially in recent months. Borissov added that he is in favour of immediate dialogue among Athens, Nicosia and Ankara, and withdrawal of the Turkish vessels. "Any assistance and help they have asked of us, we have provided," said the Prime Minister. He added that he is going to have a meeting with President Macron on regional issues, including the EU accession of North Macedonia and Albania. RY,RI/DT,LN /DT/
• (DF) Deputy PM Karakachanov Urges Skopje Politicians Not to Rely on External Pressure on Bulgaria in Resolving Controversies
October 16 (BTA) - Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the nationalist VMRO party, Krassimir Karakachanov, said here Friday that politicians in Skopje should not rely on external pressure on Bulgaria for resolving the controverial issues in bilateral relations. "Observe the [Good Neighbourliness] Treaty, be honest and act with integrity is the way to go for them - or else I don't see what good they can expect from Bulgaria," Karakachanov told reporters. He was commenting the work of a joint multidisciplinary commission which is meeting October 15 and 16 in Skopje after a break of several months and which is expected to resolve differences which the two countries have on matters of history. These differences have soured relations between the two nations of late as North Macedonia hopes to see a major step being made in its EU aspirations and Bulgaria has warned that these aspirations might suffer as a result of the lack of progress in addressing the issues. While the Bulgarian Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister have taken a softer line in dealing with North Macedonia, Karakachanov has made a number of strongly worded statements and he recently threatened that Bulgaria would block North Macedonia's first intergovernmental conference with the EU. He pointed out on Friday that the Macedonian side of the joint commission has replaced one of its members and "and if you read what he wrote in the North Macedonian news media until several days ago, you will be terrified". He called it "a bad sign", "showing that they do not intend to engage in open dialogue and continuing to rely that somebody, Germany, the US, the administration in Brussels, somebody else, will pressure Bulgaria into bowing down". "These are the messages I see. I hope I am proven wrong. Let us see how the joint commission end their work today," the Deputy Prime Minister said adding that he "does not expect miracles from Skopje". He said that a proof of his fears is reports he has been getting that a monument in North Macedonia to Colonel Boris Sarafov, a Bulgarian officer who organized the Ilinden Uprising in Macedonia, has been dismantled and taken to be cut and scrapped. President Rumen Radev was also asked by the press what message he has for the joint commission. He said that the Bulgarian members of the commission are professionals in their field and dedicated to Bulgaria, and will continue to stand up for the historical truth and the Bulgarian national interests, and that his message is to the politicians who make the decisions. He added that the responsibility rests most of all with the country which seeks EU membership. Radev also said that there is always room for compromise "but there can be no compromise with history, identity, language and national minority claims because it will have lasting consequences for the EU where we want to see solidarity, cohesion and unity". LN/RY //
• (PE) Press - Review
Sofia, October 16 (BTA)
• (DF) New Record-high Daily Tally of 914 COVID-19 Cases Brings Bulgaria's Total to 27,507
October 16 (BTA) - A total of 914 infections were confirmed in the 24 hours until Thursday midnight through 6,324 PCR tests, bringing Bulgaria's total to 27,507 cases, out of 595,365 PCR tests performed since the start of the epidemic, according to data posted on www.coronavirus.bg on Friday. The test positivity rate now stands at 14.45 per cent. The active cases are 9,885. Currently, the hospitalized patients number 1,426, including 74 in intensive care. Recoveries in the last 24 hours number 189, bringing the total to 16,678. Fifteen more fatalities were reported, bringing the total death toll to 944. RY/ZH //
• (DF) September Unemployment at 7.2%
October 15 (BTA) - At the end of September, the registered unemployed persons in labour offices were 236,058, accounting for an unemployment rate of 7.2 per cent, shows data released by the Employment Agency here on Thursday. Compared to August, the number of unemployed have decreased by 9,716 people, but have increased by 63,277 people compared to September of 2019, the Agency explained. The Employment Agency reported an unemployment decrease of 0.3 percentage points compared to the previous month of August and an increase of 1.9 percentage points compared to a year earlier. During September, 28,832 newly unemployed people registered to use the mediation and services of labour offices. Apart from them, another 1,049 people from the groups of students, pensioners and employed persons have also registered with the Employment Agency. In September 2020, the number of unemployed persons who started work reached 24,112, and compared to the same month in the previous year there was a significant increase - by 62.3 per cent. Throughout the month of September, 889 people from the group of students, pensioners and employed persons have also found their new jobs through employment offices. During the month, 3,310 unemployed people from at-risk groups started working subsidized jobs - 1,008 under employment programmes and measures and 2,302 - under schemes of the Human Resources Development Operational Programme. The Employment for You scheme (under the Human Resources Development OP), which started in July as an anti-crisis measure, has provided employment to 1,736 people, and in September employment contracts were concluded with 662 unemployed people. The declared vacancies on the primary labour market in September were 21,086, which is 17.9 per cent more than those in September 2019. The largest share of vacancies was declared in the manufacturing industry (28.2 per cent), followed by education (16.3 per cent), general government (10.1 per cent), administrative and support service activities (9.4 per cent), trade, repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles (9.1 per cent) and hotels and restaurants (7.8 per cent). NV/DT
• (DF) Tsveta Karayancheva Remains National Assembly Chair
October 15 (BTA) - Tsveta Karayancheva will continue to hold the position of Chair of the 44th National Assembly, after MPs rejected a draft decision demanding her early dismissal on Thursday. More than three hours of heated debates on the matter ended with 126 votes against and 97 votes in favour of sacking Karayancheva. The draft decision was submitted to Parliament with the signatures of 96 MPs from BSP for Bulgaria and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF).
• (DF) Foreign Minister Zaharieva: Bulgaria Among Ardent Supporters of Albania's EU Perspective
October 15 (BTA) - Following a one-to-one meeting here on Thursday with Albania's Acting Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Gent Cakaj, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva told a joint news conference that Bulgaria and Albania are allies in NATO, and that Bulgaria is among the strongest and most consistent supporters of Albania's European perspective.
• (PE) Press - Review
Sofia, October 15 (BTA)
• (NW) Bulgaria's Old-Growth Forests Win Citizens' Award at Natura 2000 Awards
October 15 (BTA) - Bulgaria's old-growth forests won the European Citizens' Award, which is one of the six Natura 2000 Awards for 2020, said the Executive Forest Agency (EFA). This country's old growth forests were noted for the remarkable achievement in management and conservation under Natura 2000, the EU-wide network of protected sites. The winners were announced in an online Award Ceremony in Brussels on Wednesday. Bulgaria was among the 27 finalists out of 79 entrants from the EU and the UK. EFA Deputy Executive Director Tsenko Tsenov said the award is a recognition of the foresters' efforts over many years and of the partnership between the Agency and environmental organizations. The statutory protection of old-growth forests dates from 2016 when 110,000 hectares of state-owned forests in Bulgaria were designated for protection and excluded from harvesting, which practically doubled the existing reserves. EFA experts and representatives of WWF Bulgaria, the Association of Parks in Bulgaria and the Balkani Wildlife Society participated in the award ceremony. RI/DD //
• (DF) Prime Minister Borissov to Participate in Oct. 15-16 European Council
October 15 (BTA) - Prime Minister Boyko Borissov will participate in the regular European Council meeting on Thursday and Friday, the government information service said. The EU leaders will meet in Brussels to take stock of the implementation of the withdrawal agreement and review the state of the negotiations on the future EU-UK partnership. The participants will look at the progress made towards delivering the EU's objective of climate neutrality by 2050. The 2030 Climate Target Plan adopted by the European Commission envisages a cut in greenhouse gas emissions of 55 per cent for 2030 from 1990 levels, rather than 40 per cent. The European Council will also look at the current epidemiological situation. Leaders will discuss overall coordination and the work on the development and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine at the EU level. The European Council will also discuss EU-Africa relations and may address other foreign policy issues, depending on developments. RI/DD //
• (DF) 5,898 PCR Tests Confirm New Daily Record of 819 COVID-19 Cases, Bringing Bulgaria's Total to 26,593
October 15 (BTA) - A total of 819 infections were confirmed in the 24 hours until Wednesday midnight through 5,898 PCR tests, bringing Bulgaria's total to 26,593 cases, according to data posted on www.coronavirus.bg on Thursday. The active cases are 9,175. For the first time, the newly confirmed daily cases have reached and exceeded 800. The test positivity rate now stands at 13.88 per cent. Currently, the hospitalized patients number 1,380, including 67 in intensive care. The infected medical staff total 1,440. Recoveries in the last 24 hours number 350, bringing the total to 16,489. Six more fatalities were reported, bringing the total death toll to 929. The capital Sofia tops the list with 265 newly confirmed cases, followed by Plovdiv with 95 cases, Blagoevgrad with 53 and Turgovishte 43. Health Minister Kostadin Angelov told the regular weekly briefing that travel to Blagoevgrad and Turgovishte should be avoided. There are enough beds designated for COVID-19 patients at national level but some regions are starting to be overwhelmed. To date, there are 7,307 beds available for milder cases and 1,108 beds for ICU patients. The bed occupancy rate for patients who do not require ventilation is 19 per cent. Six per cent of ICU beds are being used. Flouting of COVID-19 rules calls for tighter control by the regional health inspectorates and the police, as well as by all institutions which can exercise control, said Angelov. This will also be done in the nighttime in pubs, restaurants, shopping malls and shops. RI/DD //
• (DF) Legal Affairs Committee Adopts Prosecutor General's Activity Report for January-August 2020
October 14 (BTA) - Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee adopted here on Wednesday a report presented by Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev about his institution's work in the first eight months of this year. The report was approved with 14 votes in favour and seven against. The Socialists said they will explain why they voted against in the plenary. Geshev personally presented the report during a sitting that lasted three hours and included questions by MPs. The Prosecutor General listed traffic accidents as a problem, adding that many of them are caused by drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs. He also presented statistical data, according to which telephone fraud has decreased by 90 per cent compared to last year, theft and robberies have gone down by 22 and 19 per cent, respectively. Asked by MPs about specific cases and investigations of high public interest, such as the leaked scandalous photographs and audio recordings involving Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, Barcelonagate, and EU funds embezzlement, among others, Geshev said he cannot provide details as he has not been authorized to do so by the supervising prosecutor. Commenting on the probes linked to the Prime Minister, the Prosecutor General said that Borissov has already been questioned three times, and asked why nobody is inquiring why the investigation into the "house in Barcelona" in Spain is continuing for so long. The Prosecutor General described as propaganda the criticism against the prosecuting magistracy about the insufficient fight against corruption and organized crime, asking at what point in time there have been more investigations along those lines throughout the years. Meanwhile, Geshev agreed with the European Commission's position that more efforts are needed in that regard. Commenting on the Prosecutor General's accountability, Geshev said he is not worried about any form of control. According to him, the true problems in the Judiciary stem from "the Penal Code from the time of comrade Todor Zhivkov" (apparently referring to Bulgaria's longtime communist-era leader), and the Code of Criminal Procedure, which has very high standards that prevent attaining the results the public expects. Geshev also said that politicians have already embarked on their election campaign, adding that he and the prosecuting magistracy will take no part in it. RI/DS /??/
• (DF) President Radev: Bulgaria and Greece Are Example that Balkans Can Have Peace, Goodneighbourliness, Fruitful Cooperation
October 14 (BTA Special Correspondent Lora Metanova) - Meeting with Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou here on Wednesday, Bulgarian head of State Rumen Radev said that their two countries are not only an axis of stability, but also an example and source of hope that the Balkans can have peace, goodneighbourliness and fruitful cooperation. Radev arrived on a visit to Greece on Wednesday. He also said that Bulgaria and Greece have proven that two countries and two peoples can not only successfully overcome the legacy of the past, but also develop a strategic partnership based on shared common European values. Today's challenges to both Greece and Bulgaria should be seen as challenges to the whole EU, he noted, adding that solidarity is the European Union's essence. Radev acquainted his Greek counterpart with the development of the Three Seas Initiative, which is aimed at improving the transport, energy and digital connectivity between the countries in Eastern Europe. Sakellaropoulou said that the long-standing relations between Greece and Bulgaria are based on the two countries' common vision for stability and peace in the region. In her words, in the last months the two peoples had to overcome the insecurity created by the COVID-19 pandemic. "The pandemic is not the only challenge we have to overcome," she added. Commenting on the tension between Athens and Ankara in the Eastern Mediterranean, Sakellaropoulou said that the only path for Turkey is that of international law and observing it. The EU should achieve that not only so as to defend the sovereign rights of the Member States, but also to ensure the region's security and stability, she said. During his visit to Athens, President Radev also met with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. During their tete-a-tete talks that lasted nearly one hour, they discussed the prospects for developing the bilateral strategic partnership and promoting mutual investments and cooperation in security. Radev and Mitsotakis shared the position that the fight against illegal migration, counter-terrorism and overcoming the challenges to security in the region require a common European approach based on solidarity and shared values. They underscored that the energy, transport and digital connectivity in Southeast Europe is important not only for the region but also for the entire EU. They discussed the necessary conditions and reforms for modernisation and attraction of strategic investors. Radev and Mitsotakis also discussed the EU enlargement process and the Western Balkans' European perspective. RY/DS /??/
• (NW) EC Assesses Bulgaria's Ten-Year Energy and Climate Plan, Makes Recommendations
October 14 (BTA Correspondent Nikolay Jeliazkov) - The European Commission (EC) presented here on Wednesday its 2020 report on the state of the Energy Union that features assessments of the Member States' energy and climate plans (NECPs) for achieving the EU's climate and energy targets for 2030. According to the assessment of Bulgaria NECP, the country is among the Member States that to this year are on track to their renewable energy targets. According to the EC report, Bulgaria has the cheapest electricity in the EU (98 euro/MWh) and the lowest network charges (25 euro/MWh). Based on Bulgaria's final NECP, and on the investment and reform priorities identified for Bulgaria in the European Semester, the European Commission services invite Bulgaria to consider the following climate and energy-related investment and reform measures: measures supporting a coal phase-out strategy with a clear timeframe commitment and ensuring a just transition of coal and lignite-reliant areas, accompanied by a clear strategy for promoting renewable energy; measures to reform the energy market; measures promoting investments in buildings renovation, focusing as a matter of priority on worst-performing residential buildings; and measures improving sustainable transport infrastructure and boosting sustainable mobility. RY/DS /??/
• (DF) Government Greenlights Talks with US Companies about New Nuclear Facility on Kozloduy N-Plant's Site 2
October 14 (BTA) - The government has allowed the Bulgarian Energy Holding to hold talks with US nuclear energy companies, including those offering Small Modular Reactors, with a view to exploring options to build a new nuclear facility on the approved Site 2 of the Kozloduy nuclear power plant, Energy Minister Temenouzhka Petkova said on Wednesday.
• (NW) Consumer Prices Deflate by 0.6 Per Cent in September, Month on Month - Official Statistics
October 14 (BTA) - Measured by the consumer price index (CPI), Bulgaria's monthly inflation in September 2020 was minus 0.6 per cent compared to August 2020, the National Statistical Institute reported on Tuesday. The inflation rate since the beginning of the year (September 2020 compared to December 2019) was minus 1.1 per cent, and the annual inflation in September 2020 compared to September 2019 was 0.9 per cent.
• (DF) 5,819 PCR Tests Confirm New Daily Record of 785 COVID-19 Cases, Bringing Bulgaria's Total to 25,774
October 14 (BTA) - The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Bulgaria reached 25,774 after 5,819 PCR tests identified 785 new infections in the 24 hours until Thursday midnight, according to data posted on www.coronavirus.bg. For the first time, the newly confirmed daily cases exceed 700. The test positivity rate now stands at 13.49 per cent.
• (DF) President Radev Challenges Setting Up of Ad Hoc Committee to Review Draft Constitution
October 13 (BTA) - President Rumen Radev has referred to the Constitutional Court an October 2 resolution of Parliament to set up an ad hoc committee to review the draft of a new constitution of Bulgaria, Radev's press secretariat said on Tuesday.
• (DF) Minimum Pension Expected to Increase by 50 Leva to 300 Leva As of 2021 - Finance Minister
October 13 (BTA) - The minimum pension is expected to increase by 50 leva to 300 leva as of next year, Finance Minister Kiril Ananiev said on Tuesday The expected increase means that people who draw pensions between 300 leva and 369 leva, which is the poverty line, will see a ten per cent increase of their pensions, while the pensions above 369 leva will go up by five per cent. The Finance Minister said that no increase is planned of the minimum contributory income. Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said that during the tenures of each of the cabinets headed by him over the past eleven years, this country kept a budget surplus. This has enabled the incumbents to aid businesses and people now to cope with the downturn caused by Covid-19. On Tuesday Borissov and Ananiev visited the location of a future power unit seven planned to be built at the Kozloduy nuclear power plant. RY/ZH //
• (DF) 587 New Cases on Tuesday out of 4,320 Tests
October 13 (BTA) - Over the past 24 hours, another 587 COVID-19 cases were confirmed out of 4,320 tests in Bulgaria, according to the information site coronavirus.bg. The share of positive cases is 13.59 per cent. With 23 new fatalities since yesterday, the death toll reached 915. Out of 24,889 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Bulgaria so far 8,099 remain active. A total of 1,221 patients are hospitalized, and 65 of them are in intensive care units. The number of infected medical staff reached 1,384. With 128 new recoveries since yesterday, their total number reached 15,975. RY/MT /??/
• (DF) Supreme Court Rejects State's Claims to Royal Residence
October 12 (BTA) - The Supreme Court of Cassation Monday quashed a judgment of the Sofia Appellate Court which recognized the State as the owner of the Tsarska Bistritsa residence. The judgment is unappealable. The Supreme Court ruled against the State in its long-standing dispute with the former king and prime minister of Bulgaria between 2001 and 2005, Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, and his sister Maria-Luisa Chrobok, stating that the residence was paid for by their grandfather, King Ferdinand I, with his own money. The Regional Development Ministry as a representative of the State cited three grounds for its claim. First, it claimed that the State owns the forests under the Forestry Act of 1897. However, the court stressed that this and later acts of Parliament differentiated between state-owned, municipal and private woodland. There are documents proving that Ferdinand I started buying land in the area in 1901 and it was referred to as "the King's private forest". Second, it claimed that the Intendancy of the King's Civil List acquired the residence by prescription after possessing it for 30 years, therefore the estate should go to the State after the Intendancy was abolished. The court argued that the Intendancy was authorized to look after Ferdinand's property after his abdication in 1918 and it could not have acquired the residence. Third, the State claimed ownership on the grounds that the estates of King Ferdinand I and King Boris III were confiscated by law in 1947. However, in 1998 the Constitutional Court said that law was voided by the adoption of the new Constitution in 1991. The State must pay Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha 18,897.5 leva and Maria-Luisa Chrobok 62,354.74 leva in legal costs. This is the first property case in which the court has ruled in favour of the heirs to the royal family. The State has won three property cases. Two more disputes - for the Vrana palace and for forestland in Mount Rila - are still pending. RI/DD /??/
• (NW) Bulgaria Posts Lv 54.4. Mln Surplus in Trade with EU for January - July 2020
Sofia, October 12 (BTA) - Bulgaria posted a 54.4 million leva surplus in its trade with the rest of the EU in January - July 2020, according to estimates released by the National Statistical Institute on Monday. Bulgarian exports to the EU in the seven-month period contracte...
• (NW) Bulgaria Posts Lv 54.4. Mln Surplus in Trade with EU for January - July 2020
October 12 (BTA) - Bulgaria posted a 54.4 million leva surplus in its trade with the rest of the EU in January - July 2020, according to estimates released by the National Statistical Institute on Monday. Bulgarian exports to the EU in the seven-month period contracted by 6.5 per cent, year on year, and totalled 20,448.4 million leva. In July alone, exports declined 6.4 per cent from that month of 2019, amounting to 3,277.8 million leva. Imports of goods from the EU to Bulgaria in January - July 2020 shrank by 12.5 per cent from the comparable period a year ago, reaching 20,394 million leva at CIF prices. In July alone, imports of goods from EU Member States to Bulgaria plunged 15.1 per cent from a year earlier and totalled 3,120.8 million leva. Bulgarian Exports to Third Countries Shrink by 11.5%, Imports by 12.8% In January - August 2020, Bulgarian exports to third countries contracted by 11.5 per cent from the like period of 2019, reaching 11,990.3 million leva. Imports from third countries dropped by 12.8 per cent to a total of 14,593.4 million leva. Bulgaria's main trading partners in this group of countries were Turkey, China, the UK, the US, Serbia, Russia and North Macedonia, which accounted for 54.1 per cent of Bulgarian export to these markets. In August alone, Bulgarian exports to third countries plummeted by 25.8 per cent from August 2019 to reach 1,323.8 million leva. August imports from third countries contracted by 9.6 per cent, year on year, to a total of 1,737.4 million leva. Total Trade in Deficit Bulgaria's total foreign trade was in a deficit of 2,565.5 million leva January - August 2020 and in a deficit of 430.4 million leva for August 2020. Bulgarian export to the EU and third countries combined shrank by 8.4 per cent from the eight-month period of 2019 to reach a total of 35,230.5 million leva. During the same period, Bulgaria imported from the rest of the world goods worth 37,796 million leva (at CIF prices), which was 12.6 per cent less than in January-August 2019. In August alone, exports from all markets stood at 4,115.6 million leva, down by 15.1 per cent from this time last year, and imports contracted by 10.5 per cent from August 2019, to reach 4,546 million leva. NV/LN //
• (DF) Bulgaria Has Made Progress in Protecting Minorities, Council of Europe Finds
October 12 (BTA correspondent Nikolay Jeliazkov) - Bulgaria has made progress in the implementation of the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities through advancing non-discrimination legislation, promoting education for Roma children and supporting religious rights, the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention said in a new opinion published on Monday.
• (DF) 83 New Coronavirus Cases in Bulgaria on Monday out of 1,191 PCR Tests
October 12 (BTA) - There are 83 new coronavirus cases in Bulgaria out of 1,191 PCR tests in the 24 hours until Sunday midnight, according to the national coronavirus platform. The positivity rate is down to 6.97 per cent from 11.81 per cent the day before.
• (DF) 448 New COVID-19 Cases Reported Sunday out of 3,795 PCR Tests
October 11 (BTA) - A total of 448 new COVID-19 cases were registered on Sunday morning based on 3,795 PCR tests done in the previous 24 hours, show data posted on the national portal coronavirus.bg. The total number of registered COVID-19 cases so far has reached 24,319, of which 7,610 are active. People who have recovered from the disease number 15,818, with 105 new recoveries reported in the 24 hours preceding Sunday morning.
• (DF) Moody's Raises Bulgaria's Credit Rating to Baa1, Outlook Stable; PM Borissov Sees It as International Recognition of Government's Fiscal Policy
October 10 (BTA) - Commenting Moody's decision to raise Bulgaria's credit rating to BAA1 with a stable outlook, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov commented on Facebook Saturday that in the past two months this is the second international agency of high repute that gives a positive assessment to this country "and at a time when the economies of all countries across the world are suffering from to the coronavirus pandemic". The Prime Minister also said this is yet another international recognition of the government's fiscal policy "and an obligation to finish our work and keep the same course". On October 9 Moody's Investors Service upgraded the Government of Bulgaria's senior unsecured and long-term issuer ratings in foreign and local currency to Baa1 from Baa2 and changed the outlook to stable from positive, the Bulgarian Finance Ministry said.
• (DF) Bulgaria Prioritizes Quick Start of European Public Prosecutor's Office - Justice Minister
October 9 (BTA) - "Bulgaria prioritizes a quick start of the work of the European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO)," Bulgarian Justice Minister Dessislava Ahladova said on Friday, addressing an informal meeting of the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council held by video conference.
• (NW) Industrial Production Declines 5.7% in August Y/Y
Sofia, October 9 (BTA) - Industrial production in Bulgaria in August declined 5.7 per cent from this time last year, the National Statistical Institute said. It showed an increase of 0.7 per cent from July 2020. The seasonally adjusted Industrial Production Index in August 2...
• (DF) North Macedonia's Top Diplomat Discusses His Country's EU Integration with Bulgarian PM, Foreign Minister
October 9 (BTA) - Visiting Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani of North Macedonia discussed his country's EU integration with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and with Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva here on Friday.
• (DF) Alexander Andreev Elected Chair of Central Election Commission
October 9 (BTA) - Bulgaria's National Assembly Friday voted, 119-54, to elect Alexander Andreev chairperson of the Central Election Commission (CEC). Andreev was the only candidate for the office and was nominated by the ruling GERB Party. The MPs of GERB, the United Patriots (the junior partner in the ruling coalition), Volya and four independent MPs voted in favour of Andreev election, while the MPs of the opposition BSP for Bulgaria and six independents voted against. The Movement for Rights and Freedoms stood out of the vote. Andreev succeeds Stefka Stoeva, who resigned in September after she objected to a proposed amendments to the Election Code intended to make the CEC solely responsible for the acquisition of voting machines for political elections. Andreev has been a CEC member since 2007. In a previous term in office, he was been nominated to the Commission by the BSP. RI/ZH //
• (DF) 516 New COVID-19 Cases Confirmed in 24 Hours
October 9 (BTA) - A record-high 516 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the 24 hours until Friday night based on 5,209 PCR tests, according to data posted on the national portal coronavirus.bg. Positive tests accounted for 9,90 per cent of the total, up from 9.62 per cent on Thursday. Active cases number 6,816. Of these 1,063 people have been hospitalized with 56 in intensive care. Seven people died during the past 24 hours. Some 115 recoveries were recorded in the past 24 hours, bringing the total of 15,563. Sofia (138), Plovdiv (51) and Blagoevgrad (49) recorded the largest number of new infections. So far 1,292 members of medical staff have been infected with coronavirus. RI/PP //
• (DF) European Parliament Adopts Resolution on Rule of Law in Bulgaria
October 8 (BTA Correspondent Nikolay Jeliazkov) - A total of 691 members of the European Parliament (EP) on Thursday voted, 358-277 with 56 abstentions, to adopt a resolution on the rule of law and fundamental rights in Bulgaria drafted by Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Chair Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar (Spain, Party of European Socialists). The resolution is not legally binding. The document, apparently prompted by over three months of widespread daily protests over a series of scandals implicating Bulgaria's political elite in corruption and demanding the resignation of the Boyko Borissov Government and Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev, voices concern over the "significant deterioration of respect for the principles of rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights, including the independence of the judiciary, separation of powers, the fight against corruption and freedom of the media". It focuses also on persisting systemic issues in the judiciary, especially the lack of a framework to hold the Supreme Judicial Council and the Prosecutor General accountable. The text further highlights the need for the Bulgarian Government to ensure tighter control of the way EU money is spent and to address concerns that EU money is used to enrich people close to GERB, the ruling European People's Party (EPP) member party. In the resolution, MEPs expressed their "unequivocal support for the people of Bulgaria in their legitimate demands and aspirations for justice, transparency, accountability and democracy". They condemned police violence and "disproportionate intervention", in particular any use of force against women and children and journalists, as well as the "unlawful and excessive audits" into private businesses that support the protests. MEPs condemned smear campaigns and violence against journalists. They are deeply concerned by the deterioration in media freedom, transparency and the lack of diversity in media ownership, and worried that EU funds are allegedly more likely to be given to government-friendly outlets. They highlighted the need for stricter controls on EU spending and want concerns over taxpayers' money being used to enrich those close to the ruling party to be addressed immediately. The EP is expected to circulate the final text of the resolution by Friday at the latest, following a review of the vote on the proposed amendments to the initial version. Prior to the vote, the political groups of the Socialists and the Greens expressed support for the resolution, while the EPP opposed it. RI/DS //
• (DF) Bulgaria Recalls Its Ambassador to Belarus for Consultations
October 8 (BTA) - Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva tweeted on Thursday that Bulgaria is recalling its Ambassador to Belarus for consultations. "With this decision we are expressing our solidarity and support to our EU partners," Zaharieva wrote from Bratislava, where she is attending the annual GLOBSEC Forum on Security, European Affairs, Energy, Economy, and Strategic Communications. Two days ago, Poland and Lithuania said they were recalling their ambassadors from Minsk for consultations followed last week's announcement by Belarus that it was recalling its ambassadors from the two countries and urging them to do the same. Belarus also demanded that Poland and Lithuania scale down their diplomatic missions in the country because of their "destructive activity", the Associated Press reported. On Wednesday, Estonia announced that it was recalling its Ambassador from Minsk. The chief Bulgarian diplomat also tweeted that she had met with one of Belarus' opposition leaders, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, during GLOBSEC. "I have expressed my support for the Belarusian people in their fight for democracy, justice and freedom. People have the right to decide their own future!," Zaharieva specified. In a press release about the meeting with Tikhanovskaya and the decision to recall the Bulgarian Ambassador, the Foreign Ministry in Sofia said that on October 8 Ambassador Georgi Vassilev presented a note on his departure to the Foreign Ministry in Minsk on October 8. RI/LN //
• (NW) Share of Cyber Fraud in Bulgaria Up Two-fold in 2020
October 8 (BTA) - According to data of the National Centre for Incident Response in Information Security with the State eGovernment Agency, in 2020 the share of cyber fraud in Bulgaria was 48 per cent, while back in 2016 it stood at 24 per cent of all cyber incidents in this country. The share of malicious code remained high during the period in question, reaching 35 per cent in 2020 compared to 30 per cent in 2016, said State eGovernment Agency Deputy Chairman Krassimir Simonski at Thursday's opening of the InfoSec SEE 2020 international cyber security conference. He also said, as quoted by the State eGovernment Agency's press centre, that to counteract more effectively the ever more aggressive cyber attacks, united efforts are needed not only at the national but also at the international level. Simonski noted that in the 2021-2027 programming period, the State eGovernment Agency will update the Cyber Security Strategy and the road map with it. Under the EU's Recovery and Resilience Mechanism, Bulgaria should receive 6.2 billion euro of which at least 20 per cent are for projects in the area of digital transition: building of high-tech networks, digitalization of the public administration, provision of Gigabit connectivity for centres of social life (e.g. hospitals, train and bus stations, schools), and digitalization of key sectors such as health care, transport, and education. The State will elaborate such projects in partnership with businesses, and the IT sector is expected to take an active part with ideas and project proposals, Simonski said. Bulgaria's digital sector should also receive 260 million euro under the new Operational Programme Innovations and Digital Transformation, Simonski added. RY/DS /DT/
• (DF) Parliament Rejects President's Veto on Election Code Amendments
October 8 (BTA) - The National Assembly rejected, on 124-89 votes, President Rumen Radev's veto on some of the proposed amendments to the Election Code. The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) and six independent MPs supported the veto. The ruling GERB, United Patriots, Volya and one independent MP voted for the readoption of the amendments, i.e. against the veto. President Rumen Radev criticized the proposals related to paper and machine voting in parallel, pointing out that this would only render machine voting pointless and the voting process itself more difficult. The Head of State also has objections against tasking the Central Election Commission with the procurement of the voting machines, and against the cancellation of the ban on conducting national referendums to resolve issues within the competence of a Grand National Assembly. Krum Zarkov MP of BSP said that Bulgaria's election legislation over the past three years resembles a soap opera: a recurring storyline, unending heartbreak and an expected end. In his opinion, the majority is trying to sabotage and render pointless machine voting, and that would not reduce the large number of invalid ballots. BSP leader Kornelia Ninova called for unity to avoid election manipulation, adding that high election turnout will be key. Aleksandar Ivanov MP of GERB responded by saying that no country in the world uses machine voting, and reminded that Ninova and Radev were also elected through paper voting. Yordan Tsonev MP of MRF said that his parliamentary group will support the veto and vote against the proposed amendments. In his opinion, there are so many invalid ballots because of the preferences. He explained that invalid ballots are not the result of machine voting, but of the suddenly embraced idea that preferences on the ballots are good. According to him, only machine voting can guarantee a flawless election process. The ruling GERB were firm in their position that the option to vote either by machine or paper is requested by the electorate, regardless of affiliation. NV/MT //
• (DF) Number of New Cases in Bulgaria Remains High: 437 in 24 Hours
October 8 (BTA) - Over the past 24 hours, a total of 437 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed out of 4,541 PCR tests, bringing the share of positive tests to 9.62 per cent (from 8.02 per cent on Wednesday), according to the information portal coronavirus.bg.
• (NW) Clinical Pathways Provided in 2019 Increase by 2.2%
October 7 BTA) - The number of clinical pathways provided in Bulgaria in 2019 increased by 2.2 per cent compared with 2018, reaching 2,141,300, according to data from the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF). On Wednesday, Parliament adopted the annual reports of the NHIF for 2018 and 2019. The BSP for Bulgaria parliamentary group said they will not back the reports. The MRF insisted that the implementation of the NHIF budgets should also be considered. The reports say that in 2019 patients were highly satisfied with the availability of cutting-edge therapy for chronic diseases. Medication expenditures were increasing steadily due to expanding access to innovative medication therapies by including new international unpatented items on the list of medicinal products for the treatment of diseases covered by health insurance. The availability of general practitioners in Bulgaria in 2018 was 1 GP for every 1,690 health-insured persons, the NHIF reported. As at December 31, 2018 there were 368 in-patient treatment providers with contracts with the NHIF. These included 316 establishments for in-patient medical treatment, 39 establishments for specialized out-patient medical treatment and 13 dialysis centres. The largest number of clinical pathways in 2018 were agreed with the health insurance funds in Sofia and Plovdiv region. A total of 13,246 contracts for out-patient medical and dental care were concluded in 2018, compared with 13,210 in 2017. NV/VE //
• (DF) Bulgaria, United States Sign Road Map for Military Cooperation
October 7 (BTA) - Bulgarian Minister of Defence Krassimir Karakachanov and US Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper signed a 10-year road map on military cooperation, the Bulgarian Defence Ministry said in a press release. Karakachanov is paying a working visit to the US, which started on October 5. The road map says that the US Department of Defense and the Bulgarian Defence Ministry have a shared gaol to develop military capabilities. Based on the Agreement on Defence Cooperation between the US Administration and the Bulgarian government signed in Sofia in April 2006, the US Department of Defense and the Bulgarian Defence Ministry reconfirm their strategic partnership under the current road map. The road map outlines the following objectives and priorities in the cooperation until the end of 2030: - Rendering the cooperation with the United States in the area of security in line with the capabilities goals of NATO and the national priorities, with a stress on modernization, readiness and mobility, in line with NATO agreements; - Aiding the defence institutions for their more tangible and more transparent work which will contribute for a more effective utilization of next-generation military capabilities; - Expanding the cooperation in the Black Sea region for deterring and counteracting external threats in the maritime and air space; - Expanding the cooperation in the Black Sea region for deterring and counteracting external threats and challenges in the navy and air defence; - Cooperation in the area of cyber-security to improve the defence measures to prevent malware cyber security breakthroughs in the defence systems, detection and neutralization of such actions and attacks, and effective counteractions against adversaries; - Aiding Bulgaria in respect of commitments Under Article 3 of the North Atlantic Treaty to building national resilience, which is the combination of civil preparedness and military capacity. In respect of these priorities, the United States and Bulgaria plan to implement activities in the military cooperation defined in the joint lines of effort (LOEs) of defence cooperation. NV/ZH //
• (DF) 5,431 PCR Tests Confirm Record-high Daily Tally of 436 COVID-19 Cases, Bringing Bulgaria's Total to 22,306
October 7 (BTA) - A total of 436 infections were confirmed in the 24 hours until Tuesday midnight through 5,431 PCR tests, bringing Bulgaria's total to 22,306 cases, according to data posted on www.coronavirus.bg on Wednesday. The percentage of positive cases increases to 8.02 per cent on Wednesday, from 7.62 per cent on Tuesday.
• (DF) Prosecutors Hint of Possible Nationalization of Antiques Collection of Fugitive Gambling Mogul Bojkov
October 6 (BTA) - The prosecution service hinted Tuesday of possible nationalization of the antiques collection of fugitive gambling mogul Vassil Bojkov. This transpired from a statement of the Prosecutor General's Spokesperson, Siyka Mileva, at a news conference where she announced the end of a search at Bojkov's private antique museum and the cataloguing of his collection. The investigators began their work in the museum in late January as part of a case against an organized crime group believed to have been led by Bojkov. Each artefact has been photographed in the presence of representatives of the Culture Ministry, the National Art Gallery and the foundation in charge of Bojkov's collection. Out of over 6,778 items found by investigators, only 212 were previously registered. The prosecuting magistracy considers the unregistered items illegally acquired. The prosecutors believe that the 212 registered collection items had been intentionally undervalued to make it possible to register them as not being national heritage. Mileva said the prosecution service will seek advice from international experts about the collection and if there is enough evidence of illegal acquisition and undervaluing, "measures will be taken to declare the Bojkov collection public state property". Mileva also said that while in Bojkov's possession, artefacts were being stored contrary to all international standards: in boxes and bags. Notes indicating various locations across Bulgaria have led the prosecutors to the conclusion that the corresponding artefacts were acquired illegally from treasure hunters, Mileva said. In a Facebook post following the news briefing of the prosecution service, Bojkov likened the prosecution service to the Taliban in their treatment of artefacts and said they were acting on orders from businessman/politician Delyan Peevski. "Today, in yet another violation of Bulgarian and international law, they said they are going to nalizationalize the collection. If we assume that Peevski and [prosecutor general Ivan] Geshev are the State, it means that the State wants to deprive Bulgarian people of the collection for their personal benefit." Bojkov also said that many of the items in his collection have been damaged during the search and cataloguing and others have been offered for sale on the international markets. Bojkov was once considered to be the wealthiest Bulgarian with assets estimated between 1.5 and 3 billion leva. In early 2020, he was charged with evasion of more than 700 million leva in gambling licensing fees, money laundering, extortion, bribery, murder, rape, leading an organized crime group since 2014, trading in influence, and unlawful possession of cultural assets. In July, he was also charged with crimes against the Republic. Bojkov left the country before the full-scale crackdown against him and is now in the United Arab Emirates, from where Bulgaria is seeking his extradition. In a Bulgarian National Television interview in February 2020, history Professor Ivan Marazov who is a member of Bojkov's Thrace Foundation, said Bojkov owns the world's best collection of antique toreutics. "It includes numerous rhytons, many more than in all museums worldwide. It also features numerous kylixes and phiales. The collection gives an idea of the development of that art not just in ancient Thrace but across the ancient world. That is why I believe that its study and its place in academia is of exceptional significance." RY/DS
• (DF) European Parliament Debates Rule of Law in Bulgaria
October 6 (BTA correspondent Nikolay Jeliazkov) - The European Parliament held a debate on "The Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights in Bulgaria" on Monday evening. European People's Party (EPP) Group leader Manfred Weber noted that Bulgaria is undergoing a transition and not everything is perfect. He said it was a good thing young people took to the streets to express their views as they want to see a rapid progress. The European Commission's recent report on the rule of law situation is fair and evidence-based, he said. The Bulgarians are faced with things to do but they should be proud of their achievements. The country has a government led by the EPP-affiliated GERB party and a Socialist President, so there is a balance of forces, according to Weber. Weber also said there were demonstrations in Bulgaria, young people were expressing their opinion, and it could not be said that there is no media freedom. Prime Minister Boyko Borissov spoke up for the young people, he said. The election results should be respected and since Borissov was elected by the citizens, there is no reason for him to resign. Borissov leads a pro-EU government, he is in favour of his country's adoption of the euro and supports the rule of law mechanism. The government has more work to do but the country is on the right track. Protesters are respected but early elections are not needed as citizens will have their say in regular March elections, said Weber. MEP Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar (Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats): There are flaws in Bulgaria, which is constantly criticized for corruption in the judiciary and persecution of political opponents. The situation is similar in other EU Member States, such as Hungary and Poland. MEP Ramona Strugariu (Renew Europe): The Bulgarians need the EU's support. Some of the influential figures in the European Parliament support Borissov. People faced with serious allegations are being supported. MEP Daniel Freund (Greens): Having participated in the protests in Sofia, the MEP said people there were fed up with corruption and a captive judiciary. EU funds are being stolen all the time. The Bulgarians do not see resolute action from the EU. The people he talked with urged that EU funding should stop so that the oligarchs cannot benefit from it. The EU should support the people who fight corruption in Bulgaria. MEP Angel Dzhambazki (European Conservatives and Reformists/VMRO): The EP's draft resolution on Bulgaria is extreme leftist, both politically and ideologically. People in Bulgaria are demonstrating, the government respects their right to peaceful protest. Politicians should refrain from commenting on the judiciary. When corruption is discussed, people in Bulgaria always think of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), which is linked to the biggest corruption scandals. The resolution under discussion talks about same-sex marriage and the Istanbul Convention. The protests are not about the Istanbul Convention, what is the point of raising the issue of same-sex marriages? Bulgaria is a single nation-state with a single language, which cannot be changed. MEP Claire Daly (European United Left - Nordic Green Left): The government believes the European Commission's report noted progress. The authorities tell the Commission what it wants to hear, and then they do what they want and laugh. The Bulgarians are on their knees, they have been on the streets for three months now, suffering police violence. The Bulgarians will do away with their government, but they expect the EU to stop the country's access to EU funds. MEP Andrey Kovatchev (EPP/GERB): The EP should not be used for any party's political propaganda. Everyone who wants to see change in Bulgaria should prepare for democratic elections. Bulgaria will follow all recommendations, they are in the interest of the Bulgarian citizens' desire for more justice. The resolution is the political offspring of the left side of the EP and is based on assumptions, rumours and unproved suspicions. Democracy always triumphs. MEP Ilhan Kyuchyuk (Renew Europe/MRF): One of the chronic problems of Bulgarian democracy in the last 30 years is that campaigning can be done only in Bulgarian. He criticized Dzhambazki for not talking about VMRO's funding through "golden passports" - a scheme for granting Bulgarian citizenship and thus visa-free travel across the EU in return for investments. Dzhambazki called this statement a downright unacceptable lie and asked that Kyuchyuk be reprimanded for a personal attack. MEP Elena Yoncheva (Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats/BSP): The Bulgarian citizens' voice is already being heard clearly across Europe. Prime Minister Borissov's government has allowed certain individuals and circles to benefit from Bulgaria's EU membership at the expense of the people. His governance is increasingly leading to abuse of power, poverty and a collapse of media freedom. MEP Andrey Novakov (EPP/GERB): Bulgaria will be denigrated by this debate. No one says that the government is flawless and that it has solved all the problems of transition. An independent judiciary is the result of a concerted effort, which will not happen by replacing one government with another. We will sort things out when we stop taking our problems abroad and start solving them ourselves. European Commission Vice-President for Values and Transparency Vera Jourova: The Commission fully supports the right to peaceful protests. Developments in Bulgaria show that good governance and an independent judiciary are important to the citizens. The Commission will press ahead in monitoring Bulgaria through the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism because there is unfinished business. It is important not to backtrack on achievements. Bulgaria needs to make an effort, not because Brussels wants it but because the Bulgarians deserve it. Jourova and European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders urged Bulgaria to follow the Venice Commission's recommendations concerning constitutional revisions and the accountability of the prosecutor general. Reynders added that a series of final judgments for high-level corruption are yet to be passed. Bulgaria does have anti-corruption institutions and legislation, but they should be put to use. On behalf of the German Presidency of the EU Council, Michael Roth said the rule of law is a basic principle which applies to all Member States without exception. Peaceful protesters are worthy of respect. A debate like this one can be painful but it is useful, said Roth. NV/DD //
• (DF) Defence Minister Karakachanov Starts US Visit
October 6 (BTA) - The progress in Bulgaria-US security and defence cooperation received high marks at a meeting between Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Krassimir Karakachanov and Markus Thomi, Director for NATO and European Affairs at the National Security Council, The White House.
• (DF) 3,713 PCR Tests Confirm 283 COVID-19 Cases, Bringing Bulgaria's Total to 21,870
October 6 (BTA) - A total of 283 infections were confirmed in the 24 hours until Monday midnight through 3,713 PCR tests, bringing Bulgaria total to 21,870 cases, according to data posted on www.coronavirus.bg on Monday. The active cases are 5,837.
• (DF) Unions and Employers Unanimously Approve Government-Proposed Extension to 60/40 Job Retention Scheme
October 5 (BTA) - The National Council for Tripartite Cooperation held an extraordinary online meeting on Monday, convened by Deputy Prime Minister and Tourism Minister Mariyana Nikolova, the government press service reported.
• (DF) Defence Ministry Faces Difficult Decision about New Armoured Vehicles Project for Land Forces - Parliamentary Defence Committee Chair
October 5 (BTA) - "The Ministry of Defence has to weigh very correctly, accurately and clearly the risks of the need to suspend, postpone or approach Parliament to revise the projected spending for the project for purchase of new armoured vehicles for the Land Forces," National Assembly Defence Committee Chairman Konstantin Popov told journalists here on Monday.
• (DF) Money Expected to be Increased for Emergency Rooms, Psychiatric, Lung Wards, Municipal Hospitals - Minister
Sofia, October 5 (BTA) - Additional money will be provided next year to emergency rooms, psychiatric wards, wards for specific and non-specific lung disorders, and coronavirus wards, Healthcare Minister Kostadin Angelov told reporters on Monday. Also, additional dedicated funding will be provided to municipal hospitals, Angelov said. On Sunday, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said that next year's state budget will include by 460 million leva more for healthcare. The Healthcare Minister said that talks continue with the Finance Minister "in search of sustainability of all increases to coronavirus front-line workers and such will be ensured". In Angelov's words, front-line workers will receive pay bonuses for the duration of the state of epidemic emergency. Angelov said that the coronavirus figures are monitored daily and that for the time being no change is necessary of the counter-epidemic measures in effect in Bulgaria. The healthcare system has enough beds and staff, Angelov said, adding that the recent increase in the number of hospital beds occupied by Covid-19 patients is one per cent, from 10 to 11 per cent, and 0.8 per cent in intensive care units, from 4 to 4.8 per cent. On Monday Angelov attended the opening of the academic year in the Medical University in Sofia. LN/ZH//
• (DF) 69 New Coronavirus Cases in Bulgaria out of 1,278 PCR Tests on Monday
October 5 (BTA) - There were a total of 69 new coronavirus cases in Bulgaria based on 1,278 PCR tests performed in the 24 hours until midnight on Sunday, according to the national coronavirus portal. The positivity rate is 5.3 per cent. The new cases add up to a total of 21,587 since the start of the pandemic, of which 5,729 are active cases. The largest number of new cases are reported for Sofia (24) and Montana (12). Three patients died in the period under review, adding up to a total of 844 fatalities. Thirty new recoveries are reported. A total of 917 patients are in hospital, including 56 in intensive care. The infections among medical personnel total 1,188 since the start of the pandemic. LN/
• (DF) PM Borissov: 2021 Budget to Give by Lv 460 Mln More for Healthcare
October 4 (BTA) - Visiting the north-central town of Gabrovo on Sunday, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said that next year's state budget will include by 460 million leva more for healthcare. He recalled that social workers, who now have more tasks due to the pandemic, have gotten a 30 per cent pay raise, and teachers' salaries will also be increased. "We are not placing anything under lockdown, we are putting the medical system under pressure to the maximum, therefore next year's budget envisages more resources for healthcare," Borissov explained. According to him, it is important to preserve people's mental health, because the coronavirus will not disappear soon. In his words, there always are discontent people, and the fact that they can express their discontent means there is democracy. He jested that after he watched the presidential debate in the US and heard the candidates' political speeches and the epithets they threw at each other, he relaxed with the knowledge that exchanging such insults is normal in Bulgaria, too. While in Gabrovo, Borissov visited a newly built church and the dam supplying the town and the region. RI/DS /??/
• (DF) 2,843 PCR Tests Confirm 182 COVID-19 Cases, Bringing Bulgaria's Total to 21,518
October 4 (BTA) - The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Bulgaria reached 21,518 after 2,843 PCR tests identified 182 new infections in the 24 hours until Saturday midnight, according to data posted on www.coronavirus.bg. The highest number of new cases were registered in the regions of Sofia-City (59), Plovdiv (20), and Turgovishte (15). The active cases are 5,693. Currently, the hospitalized patients number 912, including 54 in intensive care. Another 45 COVID-19 patients have recovered over the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 14,984. Three more fatalities were reported, and the death toll now totals 841. RI/DS /??/
• (DF) 4,820 PCR Tests Confirm 240 COVID-19 Cases, Bringing Bulgaria's Total to 21,336
October 3 (BTA) - The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Bulgaria reached 21,336 after 4,820 PCR tests identified 240 new infections in the 24 hours until Friday midnight, according to data posted on www.coronavirus.bg. A total of 538,955 PCR tests have been performed since the first cases were diagnosed on March 8. The active cases are 5,559. Currently, the hospitalized patients number 887, including 50 in intensive care. Another 152 COVID-19 patients have recovered over the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 14,939. Six more fatalities were reported, and the death toll now totals 838. RI/VE //
• (NW) EIF, UBB and European Commission Extend Cooperation to Support MSMEs
Sofia, October 2 (BTA) - The European Investment Fund (EIF), United Bulgarian Bank (UBB) and the European Commission are extending cooperation to unlock a total of 768 million euro for Bulgarian micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), UBB said. This amount includes...
• (NW) Bulgaria's Electricity Production Down 8.12 Per Cent in January-September 2020, Year on Year
Sofia, October 2 (BTA) - Between January 1 and September 27, 2020, Bulgaria produced 29,940,363 MWh of electricity, down by 8.12 per cent from the 32,585,162 MWh generated in the like period of 2019, the Electricity System Operator (ESO) reported on its website. Year on year,...
• (NW) Bulgaria's Electricity Production Down 8.12 Per Cent in January-September 2020, Year on Year
October 2 (BTA) - Between January 1 and September 27, 2020, Bulgaria produced 29,940,363 MWh of electricity, down by 8.12 per cent from the 32,585,162 MWh generated in the like period of 2019, the Electricity System Operator (ESO) reported on its website. Year on year, domestic electricity consumption decreased by 3.95 per cent in the January 1 - September 27 period, from 28,118,863 MWh in the nine months of 2019 to 27,009,242 MWh in 2020. The share of renewable energy sources grew by 12.51 per cent in the transmission network and by 7.39 per cent in the distribution network. Wind power plants contributed most to this increase. The share of hydroelectricity declined by 2.18 per cent between January-September 2019 and 2020, the ESO statistics show. NV/LG //
• (DF) Bulgaria Ready to Join EU Efforts to Achieve Independence in Health Equipment Supplies
October 2 (BTA correspondent Nikolay Jeliazkov) - Bulgaria is ready to manufacture on its own protective clothing, face masks, face shields and ventilators as a contribution to the EU's efforts to achieve independence in health equipment supplies amidst the COVID-19 crisis, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said on his way into the Special European Council meeting here on Friday. Ensuring independent health supplies for the EU is on the agenda of the EU summit. "I remain of the opinion that the EU must be completely independent of third countries for the import of all medical equipment, vaccines and medicines, all the more so considering our difficult political relations with them," Borissov said. He said that on Thursday evening his counterparts and he discussed issues that have been familiar for decades. "I think we managed to find a relatively good balance between protecting Greece and Cyprus and, at the same time, giving Turkey an opportunity until December to take steps so that we can deepen our cooperation rather than impose sanctions," the Prime Minister said, referring to the decisions on the Turkish actions in the Eastern Mediterranean. "We all categorically urge for the start of a dialogue and cessation of hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh," Borissov. "We are adamant that the European Commission, too, should prepare a comprehensive plan of economic support for democratic Belarus.. We support the democratic forces there. We categorically condemn Alexey Navalny's poisoning and insist that those responsible should be brought to justice," the Bulgarian head of government added. RI/LG //
• (DF) 4,843 PCR Tests Confirm 263 New COVID-19 Cases, Bringing Bulgaria's Total to 21,096
October 2 (BTA) - The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Bulgaria reached 21,096 after 4,843 PCR tests identified 263 new infections in the 24 hours until Thursday midnight, according to data posted on www.coronavirus.bg. Sofia City Region tops the list of new cases with 54 positive tests, followed by Varna Region with 32, Blagoevgrad Region with 24, and Plovdiv Region with 22. A total of 534,135 PCR tests have been performed since the first cases were diagnosed on March 8. The active cases are 5,477. The newly infected persons include 13 medical staff (5 doctors, 2 nurses, 3 orderlies, 1 feldsher and 2 other), and this category now totals 1,165. Currently, the hospitalized patients number 857, including 47 in intensive care. Another 153 COVID-19 patients have recovered over the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 14,787. Seven more fatalities were reported, and the death toll now totals 832. RI/LG //
• (DF) PM Borissov: Bulgaria Will Follow Venice Commission's Recommendations
October 1 (BTA correspondent Nikolay Jeliazkov) - Arriving in Brussels for the October 1-2 Special European Council, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov commented on the European Commission's report on the rule of law situation in the EU: "I would like to thank the Commission for its extremely objective report, which reflects Bulgaria progress and spells out what else we should do to excel in this area." He said: "We will follow firmly the recommendations of the Venice Commission to deliver on all commitments as part of the monitoring of Bulgaria." Referring to the Special European Council's agenda, which includes discussion of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean, Borissov said that due to its geostrategic location, Bulgaria is strongly affected by the conflicts going on around it. "Azerbaijan-Armenia relations are very important to the region and we call for an immediate ceasefire. We maintain exceptionally friendly relations with both countries, which are very important trading partners to us. Hopefully, a negotiated settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh issue will be achieved. We are firmly against third-party involvement in the conflict," said Borissov. Regarding the conflict in the Eastern Mediterranean between Turkey, on the one hand, and Greece and Cyprus, on the other, the Prime Minister said it is of exceptional importance to the EU and Bulgaria and decisions based on dialogue are needed. Political decisions should be made immediately about Crimea, Ukraine and Belarus. As to Belarus, the situation can be resolved by new elections. Borissov said Bulgaria is surrounded by conflicts on all sides: Kosovo and Serbia to the West, Cyprus, Greece and Turkey to the South, there is also Armenia and Azerbaijan, and Belarus, Crimea to the North. He stated: "I believe the EU is perfectly right to be making efforts to pacify our region." RI/DD /??/
• (DF) Minister Petkova: Strategic Partnership with US Key for Region's Energy Diversification
October 1 (BTA) - Energy Minister Temenouzhka Petkova Thursday said that Bulgaria and the US are strategic partners in the field of energy and that is a key factor for the diversification of energy suppliers not only in Bulgaria but also in the entire region. She was speaking at a meeting with US Department of State's Bureau of Energy Resources Assistant Secretary Francis R. Fannon, who is paying a visit to Bulgaria, the Energy Ministry reported. The meeting was also attended by US Ambassador to Bulgaria Herro Mustafa. Bulgaria is actively working on guaranteeing energy security and values highly the United States' support for the implementation of the priority infrastructure projects in this field: the Gas Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria (IGB) and the liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal near Alexandroupoli, the Energy Ministry said. In Petkova's words, the IGB project is a key priority of the Government in the energy sector. She acquainted her guest with the progress in the project's implementation. The Energy Minister confirmed the Government's strong commitment to the successful construction of the interconnector as infrastructure of strategic importance to the security of gas supplies in Southeast Europe. Fannon praised Bulgaria's progress in the implementation of its priorities for energy diversification, and confirmed his country's support for these efforts, the Energy Ministry reported. He said the US praises Bulgaria's participation in the Alexandroupoli LNG terminal. Prior to his visit to Bulgaria, he and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Greece, where a significant part of the talks focused on energy diversification and energy security in the region. Petkova stressed that Bulgaria views the construction of the IGB in synergy with the participation in the Alexandroupoli LNG terminal project. By participating in these projects, Bulgaria is achieving actual diversification of the gas sources and supply routes, and is becoming a key factor in this process in the region, she noted. Petkova praised the US' support for Bulgaria becoming a regional energy hub. Minister Petkova and Fannon also discussed the progress achieved in the project for diversifying the fresh nuclear fuel for the Kozloduy power plant, the Energy Ministry said. According to an online article of the 24 Chassa daily, Fannon told journalists after his meeting with Petkova that the US considers the Belene nuclear plant project bad from a commercial and technical point of view, and incapable of ensuring Bulgaria's energy security. According to him, the Russian equipment for Belene is technologically outdated and Russia refuses to use it on its own territory. Taking a question by 24 Chassa on whether the US sanctions against the TurkStream gas pipeline project would also apply to the Balkan Stream project (the Bulgarian branch of TurkStream), Fannon said that regardless of the difference in the names of the projects, the US views Balkan Stream and TurkStream as one and the same pipeline. He specified, as quoted by the daily, that the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act directed against TurkStream does not oblige the US to impose sanctions but to use various means to ensure the Act's implementation. "Our goal is not to impose sanctions but to change a given behaviour. Therefore, we are in the process of holding talks, and we will continue to do so," he said. RY/DS /??/
• (DF) 4,943 PCR Tests Confirm 286 COVID-19 Cases, Bringing Bulgaria's Total to 20,833
October 1 (BTA) - A total of 286 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the 24 hours until Wednesday midnight through 4,943 PCR tests, bringing Bulgaria's total to 20,833 cases, according to data posted on www.coronavirus.bg on Thursday. The active cases are 5,374.
• (DF) European Commission Outlines Rule of Law Challenges in Bulgaria
September 30 (BTA correspondent Nikolay Jeliazkov) - In its first report on the rule of law situation in the EU, published here on Wednesday, the European Commission says that Bulgaria's judicial system and media face a number of challenges. One example cited in the general report is the lack of transparency of media ownership in Bulgaria, which is described as a source of concern.
• (NW) Government Approves Report on Implementation of 2019 State Budget
September 30 (BTA) - The government approved here on Wednesday the annual report on the implementation of the state budget in 2019, the government's information service said. According to the report, the end-of-year deficit of the Consolidated Fiscal Programme (CFP) on a cash basis totalled 1,152.4 million leva, or one per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The projected deficit had been set at 2,432.6 million leva, meaning that the budget balance improved nominally by 1,280.2 million leva. The reported deficit resulted from one-off expenditure related to an investment project for new fighter jets for the Bulgarian Air Force. The government deficit/surplus and debt in the State Government sector in 2019 reported in compliance with ESA 2010 and according to the April notification tables was positive, amounting to 2.1 of the GDP. CFP expenditure, including Bulgaria's contribution in the budget of the EU, stood at 45,201.0 million leva, or 97.6 ot cent of the target, adding up to 38.1 per cent of the GDP, up from 36 per cent in 2018. Interest payments stood at 648.8 million leva, or 96.9 per cent of the target. Current non-interest expenditure totalled 35,753.9 million leva, or 99.7 per cent of the target. Capital expenditure, including the net growth of the state reserve, stood at 7,561.5 million leva, or 89.4 per cent of the target. Bulgaria's contribution in the budget of the EU in 2019 totalled 1,193.1 million leva, or one per cent of the GDP. The State Fund for Guaranteeing the Stability of the State Pension System (the so-called Silver Fund) totalled 3,104.1 million leva as at the end of the year. The government debt totalled 22,023.0 million leva. RI/ZH /??/
• (DF) Parliament Overturns Presidential Veto on Judicial System Act Provision
September 30 (BTA) - Parliament on Wednesday overturned 149-66 a presidential veto on a provision in the Judicial System Act. MPs from GERB, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, Volya, United Patriots and two independent MPs voted in favour, and MPs from BSP for Bulgaria and seven independent MPs voted against. The provision concerned makes it possible for a member of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), once his or her term in office has expired, to be appointed to a higher position in the judicial system than the one occupied before his or her election to the Council, subject to certain eligibility conditions. MP Kroum Zarkov of BSP for Bulgaria, who was the only one to take the floor during the debate, said that th? provision violates the principle of separation of powers,is voted under a procedure which does not comply with the rules of organization of the National Assembly and is unconstitutional. //
• (DF) 276 New COVID-9 Cases Confirmed in 24 Hours
September 30 (BTA) - A total of 276 COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the 24 hours until Wednesday through 4,736 PCR tests, bringing Bulgaria's total to 20,547 cases, according to data posted on www.coronavirus.bg on Wednesday. The active cases are 5,245. Some 814 patients have been hospitalized with 44 in intensive care. Sofia recorded the majority of new infections (52), followed by Blagoevgrad region (49) and Plovdiv region (29). Coronavirus infections among medical staff have reached 1,143. In the past 24 hours there were 150 recoveries, with six fatalities. RY/PP //
• (DF) PM Borissov: Acquisition of New Fighters Demonstrates Will to Modernize Irreversibly Bulgaria's Armed Forces
September 29 (BTA) - "The acquisition of the F-16 Block 70 jet fighters is not only a purchase, but a demonstration of Bulgaria's will to modernize irreversibly its armed forces in order to achieve operational compatibility with the rest of NATO member states," said Prime Minister Boyko Borissov on Tuesday during a meeting with representatives of the American Lockheed Martin Corporation from which the Bulgarian government is purchasing F-16 fighters for the needs of this country's defence, the Cabinet press center informed. The meeting was also attended by US Ambassador to Bulgaria Herro Mustafa. The contracts to buy eight newly built F-16 Block 70 jet fighters and necessary ammunition from the US for the Bulgarian Air Force were ratified by the Bulgarian National Assembly on first and second reading on July 19, 2019 and were gazetted at the end of July 2019. Bulgaria agreed to pay 1.2 billion dollars for the acquisition, and the US Congress authorized the appropriation of 56 million dollars in Foreign Military Financing assistance to Bulgaria. As a result of the purchase, this country overshot its 2 per cent target of defence spending as a percentage of GDP. The contracts expire in January 2027. The first two jets are to be delivered in the middle of 2023, and the last two in the first quarter of 2024. The meeting between Borissov and Lockheed Martin focused on the long-term cooperation achieved under the industrial partnership program between Bulgaria and the USA. In addition to the military aspects of the agreements signed, the partnership program also covers the creation of industrial capacity for the maintenance and development of the acquired capabilities in the future. According to the Prime Minister, the framework agreement with Lockheed Martin will boost Bulgaria's long-term economic development and competitiveness in this field. Borissov also pointed out that the Bulgarian government has committed 300 million leva to the preparation of air bases to house and maintain the new F-16 Block 70 fighters. The first 100 million were transferred from the Defence Ministry budget in August of 2020, and the future infrastructure will also be used by the current aircraft of the Bulgarian Air Force. The Prime Minister also said during the meeting that the government is planning the development of a long-term strategic partnership with Lockheed Martin. To this end, the Ministry of Defence has been looking into possibilities to purchase another eight F-16 Block 70 fighters, new radars, maintenance services and other high-tech equipment related to the modernization of the Bulgarian Armed Forces, according to the press release. NV/MT /??/
• (DF) 216 New COVID-19 Cases Confirmed In 24 Hours
September 29 (BTA) - A total of 216 people have been diagnosed with coronavirus in Bulgaria over the past 24 hours, out of 3,302 PCR tests performed, according to data on the national coronavirus portal on Tuesday morning. Eleven people have died from the infection in the past day, bringing the total death toll to 807. A total of 20,271 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Bulgaria since the beginning of the pandemic, of which 5,125 are active. Out of these, 780 people are hospitalized and 42 have been admitted to intensive care units. In the past 24 hours, 64 new cases were registered in Bourgas, 30 in Sofia, 22 in Plovdiv and 15 in Stara Zagora. A total of 163 patients recovered from the infection in the past day, making the total number of recoverees 14,339. RI/DT /DT/
• (DF) President Vetoes Election Code Amendments, Says They Aim to Secure Default Victory for Power-holders in Upcoming Elections
September 28 (BTA) - Announcing that he has vetoed revisions to the Election Code adopted earlier in September by the power-holders, President Rumen Radev said in an address to the nation here on Monday that they have the clear aim of securing a victory "by default" in the next parliamentary elections for the power-holders. He said that would "deal yet another blow on the legal groundwork of the State, step back from clear legal rules and make people doubt the fairness of elections". The veto applies to parts of the revisions only, concerning machine voting and the scope of questions that can be decided in referendums. The President stressed that changing such important rules only months ahead of elections, without a debate or an impact assessment, is an example of the government's s unpredictability and drives people away from the ballot boxes. The President argues that the revised Election Code allows both voting by ballots and on voting machines, combined with manual vote counting, which renders machine voting meaningless. "These decisions can hardly be justified with anything other than to create opportunities for chaos and manipulations to the benefit of the power-holders," he said. The Legislature deprives the Central Election Commission of the opportunity to decide who should process the votes and entrusts this to Information Services AD, ignoring a number of rules for competitive award of contracts and preventing unfair competition and abuse of monopolist positions, Radev also said. Also, he argued that scrapping a ban on holding referendums on questions which are within the competence of a Grand National Assembly unjustifiably mixes up two constitutional forms of citizens' participation in government. "It is a palliative expansion of direct democracy which does not give people more opportunities to make decisions on important issues," said Radev. It was widely commented after this revision went through, that now a referendum can even ask about changing the parliamentary republic in Bulgaria with a presidential republic. "The three months of national protests where thousands of people have been demanding the resignation of the government and the prosecutor general bear evidence of a deep crisis in democracy. The power-holders' refusal to heed the voice of the people prolongs the agony. In these circumstances, the Cabinet does not govern but merely seeks to avoid political and legal responsibility for the myriad scandals of the past years. The revisions in the Election Code pursue the same goal," Radev said. LN/RI/MT /??/
• (DF) Defence Minister Determined to See Three Armed Forces Projects Completed Before His Term's End
September 28 (BTA) - Defence Minister Krassimir Karakachanov is determined to do three things by the end of his term in office: secure in the 2021 defence budget a 10 per cent increase of service persons' pay and see through two Armed Forces modernization projects. The Minister was speaking to BTA on the sidelines of an oath ceremony of the new class of the Air Force School in the northern town of Dolna Mitropolia, where he was a key-note speaker. He said one modernization project is for the purchase of two multi-role patrol ships for the Navy, where a contract is about to be signed and the project completed by March 2021, and the other is for the acquisition of armoured vehicles for the Land Forces, which "is somewhat lagging behind the Navy project", to use the Minister's words. Bulgaria is prepared to spend close to 984 million leva after VAT on the patrol ships and 1,464 million leva on the armoured vehicles. In late February, the government decided to mandate the Defence Minister to prepare a contract for the purchase of patrol ships with Fr. Lurssen Werft GmbH & Co.KG (Germany) which had won a competition for the contract. The procedure has reached the stage of preparation of a report by the Defence Minister which is to be submitted to the Council of Ministers. The armoured vehicles project has come to the stage of opening the price offers of the two selected bidders, Patria (Finland), and General Dynamics Land System - MOWAG (Switzerland). Deputy Defence Minister Anatolii Velichkov said earlier in September that the project is unlikely to be finalized during the term of the incumbent cabinet which ends next spring, but an agreement will likely be signed in the spring of 2021. The reopened Air Force School During the oath ceremony at the Air Force School, the Defence Minister said it has been the first oath-taking there in 20 years. Opened in 1948, the Air Force School in Dolna Mitropolia existed until 2002 when it was transformed into a faculty of the Defence Academy. Two years prior to the transformation, it stopped admitting students. The school reopened by a decision of Parliament in 2019. "It feels good to see something which had a glorious past, being brought back to life. I hope the school leadership will bring it back to the heights where the school was before it closed down," said the Minister. He expects that the officers who will be trained at Dolna Mitropolia will be among the future leaders of the Armed Forces and the Bulgarian society. The Air Force School has 41 cadets, including six women. They will be taught in seven Bachelor's and Master's programmes for military and civilian aircraft personnel. Karakachanov has not given up on the idea of conscripted military service The Defence Minister also made it clear in his remarks on the sidelines of the oath ceremony that he has not given up the idea of conscripted military service. It was on the platform of his VMRO party and they argue that conscripted service will boost the morale and solve the problem of understaffing in the professional army. The idea, however, is not supported by the big partner in the government coalition, GERB. On September 24, Parliament passed on first reading amendments to the Armed Forces Reserve Act, making it possible for Bulgarian citizens aged under 40 to serve in the voluntary reserve for up to six months, provided they meet the requirements of the law. Karakachanov commented Monday: "Restoring the voluntary service was the first step but I continue to believe that we can solve the problems in defence only when we reinstate military conscription like it is in many other European countries." Asked to comment on the military conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, Karakachanov said Bulgarians should be worried because "this is very close to home". LN/ //
• (NW) Artists with Disabilities Defy Conventional Ideas of Photography
September 28 (Rositsa Ilieva of BTA) - The debut project of the Association of Artists with Disabilities in Bulgaria (AADB) will defy conventional ideas of photography. The one-year project is called "Fiesta of Darkness and Light" and will start on October 1. It will consist in making a series of videos which highlight sensory photography as an art practiced by visually impaired people. Sensory photography not only redefines the meaning of "seeing" but also expands our understanding of a photographer's worldview. The AADB was set up in 2017 with the ambition to bring together people with all kinds of disabilities who practice various arts. Its Founding President is Nikolai Primov, who has been recognized by the media as the only half-blind stained-glass artist in Bulgaria. He and Dessislava Karaivanova, deputy leader of the initiative, say that their mission is to assist artists with disabilities, popularize their works, help them realize their potential, boost their confidence and show zero tolerance towards all forms of discrimination against persons with disabilities. One of the association's main goals is not just to talk about such artists but also to encourage the general public, collectors and connoisseurs to appreciate their talent. With this in mind, a five-member crew has started making the above-mentioned series of short videos showing visually impaired people doing photography. Sensory photography has become popular over the last 10 years. It came to Bulgaria from Mexico. What sets it apart from other genres is that the visually impaired photographer uses senses other than vision to determine the direction of light (for example, by feeling the warmth of light on their skin), which helps them understand what exactly they need to do in order to shoot a specific photo. Also, the model can use their voice to orient the photographer as to their position and distance. The future videos will show various photo shooting techniques, including light painting. In one episode, Primov will demonstrate how he "sees" the world around him while working in the park and will showcase various glass staining methods. The videos can be used as a tutorial to encourage visually impaired people to do art with the awareness that there are no barriers to artistic expression. The AADB also wants to demonstrate the skills of artists with disabilities to people without disabilities. The project has a Facebook page: www.facebook.com/Feeriaotmrakisvetlina. It is being implemented with the assistance of the National Culture Fund, the Publiki Programme, the Module for Artistic Intervention in a Digital and Public Environment under the Ministry of Culture. RI/VE //
• (NW) General Government Gross External Debt at EUR 34 Bln 5681.2 million (10% of GDP) in End-July, 4.6% Increase Y/Y
September 28 (BTA) - Bulgaria's gross external debt at the end of July 2020 was 35,611.5 million euro (62.7 per cent of GDP), the Bulgarian National Bank said. The debt increased by 581.4 million euro (1.7 per cent) compared to July 2019.
• (DF) Education Minister Vulchev Vows to End Time of Low Requirements in University Teaching
September 28 (BTA) - Education and Science Minister Krassimir Vulchev told reporters here on Monday that the time ended of lower requirements in universities and the key factor in them will be quality of education, instead of high number of enrolments. The Minister said that establishments of higher education should make their bachelor's programmes multidisciplinary because the occupations of the future will demand a broader set of skills. Vulchev said that professors should make students study all year round, instead of just during the exam session or from one exam to the next. Also, supervision is to be performed all year round and students should be assigned projects every week. The Minister said that the amendments to the Higher Education Act are a fact, and each university has strategic goals and tasks on whose implementation the remuneration to rectors will depend, "instead of based on the rectors' assessment of a fair pay". It is the responsibility of rectors what and how is being taught, the cooperation with other universities, what investments are made in young teachers, and what research is carried out. He urged for attracting more young university professors. In Vulchev's words, many of the universities keep loss-making bachelors' programmes, or such with subjects that are an end in themselves, and low teaching loads, which he said must change. Turning to the system of secondary education, Vulchev spoke about the problem of school drop-outs. He also dwelled on the coronavirus situation in schools, saying that a total shift to on-line schooling is not expected. At the moment, four, out of 1,000 classes, carry out on-line schooling. The Minister once again stressed that when seasonal flu arrives in the winter, the usual no-school flu days will be replaced by on-line schooling. Vulchev said that at the moment, no increase is observed in coronavirus incidence that can be attributed to the opening of schools. In Varna Vulchev opened the renovated building of the Commerce School. The project for the renovation started in 2019 and cost nearly 1.2 million leva. NV/ZH //
• (DF) 1,103 PCR Tests Confirm 58 COVID-19 Cases, Bringing Bulgaria's Total to 20,055
September 28 (BTA) - A total of 58 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the 24 hours until Sunday midnight through 1,103 PCR tests, bringing Bulgaria's total to 20,055 cases, according to data posted on www.coronavirus.bg on Monday morning. The active cases are 5,083.



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