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(PE) Press - Review
Sofia, December 16 (BTA)
(DF) Nurses Stage Indefinite Protest in Front of Council of Ministers
December 15 (BTA) - During a national protest in front of the Council of Ministers on Sunday, Bulgarian healthcare professionals in nursing said they will stay there "until something new is born" to solve the problems in healthcare. They insist on seeing Prime Minister Boyko Borissov so that he could hear their grievances first hand. The healthcare system is severely understaffed by nurses and other professionals as a result of a mass exodus to the industrialized economies in old Europe. The few that remain are overworked and underpaid. "We are not leaving," said nurse Maya Ilieva. "We are here because our demands have been ignored for ten months now. We went round all institutions, commissions, ministries, parliamentary groups, everybody say they strongly empathize with us and fully understand us, but then nothing changes, and we are left to our own devices." She recalled that in the course of three months nurses had camped out in a tent in front of the Health Ministry to explain to members of the citizens why the system which is supposed to protect heath actually endangers it. "This is the case because there are over 30,000 vacancies for healthcare professionals in nursing, because we have to work two or three jobs, doing 24 or even 36-hour shifts without rest, we log a lot of overtime, and the over 1,000-lev [monthly] wages that they dangle before us from the Ministry imply a large amount of overtime," Ilieva said. In her words, the overtime at hospitals is out of control, nobody knows how many healthcare professionals are needed, there are no standards, and their work is not costed. The protestors put up a tent in front of the Council of Ministers and pinned sheets stating their grievances on it. At the protest, the healthcare professionals carried placards reading "Back Us Today - Otherwise Nobody Will Be Left to Take Care of You Tomorrow" and "Don't Force Us to Emigrate - If We All Leave, Healthcare Will Die." LN/LG
(PE) Press - Review
Sofia, December 15 (BTA)
(DF) PM Borissov: "I Hope North Macedonia Will Show Different Development after It Joins NATO"
December 14 (BTA) - Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov hopes that North Macedonia will show a different way of development when it joins NATO. "I hope that North Macedonia, once it becomes the 30th NATO member and joins this [North-Atlantic] family, will soon show a difference in development, and at the same time I expect the other countries which want to join the EU or NATO, to show more wisdom and carefully consider their actions," Borissov said as he addressed the second annual Western Balkans Resilience Forum of the International Republican Institute of the US, taking place in Sofia December 12-14. He said that "a straddling position is not good for anybody: you are either in NATO or you are not, you are either in the European family or you are not". "No matter how much we want, it is hard to have a country in the Balkans with the role that Austria or Switzerland play. Everybody wants military neutrality and, if possible, a fat bank account but it is not up to us to have these," said also the Bulgarian government leader. He said that over 10-15 years ago, nobody wanted to hear about the Balkans "because we deserved that: wars, mass annihilation, countries coming apart and the entire region turning into a powder keg which did not deserve any attention". "But the Bulgarian Presidency of the EU put relations in the region on the agenda and multiple processes that followed after that brought the region back in the focus of attention of the European and US leaders." He said that Bulgaria will put the Western Balkans on the agenda two more times in the coming year: as it co-hosts the Berlin process together with North Macedonia, and then on May 27-28 when Sofia is due to host an Aqaba Process forum. Borissov said that cooperation is very important for the Balkans and singled out several aspects of cooperation that he believes needs to be prioritized: ensuring fast information exchange among the special services and the Interior Ministries of the Western Balkans and signing the interagency documents that will make that possible. In conclusion, he said that "when there is security in the Balkans, more investments come, the gross domestic product increases, people's incomes grow and it is easier to work". LN/
(DF) PM Borissov: "I Hope North Macedonia Will Soon Show Different Development Now that It Is NATO Member"
December 14 (BTA) - Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov hopes that North Macedonia will show a different way of development when it joins NATO. "I hope that North Macedonia, once it becomes the 30th NATO member and joins this [North-Atlantic] family, will soon show a difference in development, and at the same time I expect the other countries which want to join the EU or NATO, to show more wisdom and carefully consider their actions," Borissov said as he addressed the second annual Western Balkans Resilience Forum of the International Republican Institute of the US, taking place in Sofia December 12-14. He said that "a straddling position is not good for anybody: you are either in NATO or you are not, you are either in the European family or you are not". "No matter how much we want, it is hard to have a country in the Balkans with the role that Austria or Switzerland play. Everybody wants military neutrality and, if possible, a fat bank account but it is not up to us to have these," said also the Bulgarian government leader. He said that over 10-15 years ago, nobody wanted to hear about the Balkans "because we deserved that: wars, mass annihilation, countries coming apart and the entire region turning into a powder keg which did not deserve any attention". "But the Bulgarian Presidency of the EU put relations in the region on the agenda and multiple processes that followed after that brought the region back in the focus of attention of the European and US leaders." He said that Bulgaria will put the Western Balkans on the agenda two more times in the coming year: as it co-hosts the Berlin process together with North Macedonia, and then on May 27-28 when Sofia is due to host an Aqaba Process forum. Borissov said that cooperation is very important for the Balkans and singled out several aspects of cooperation that he believes needs to be prioritized: ensuring fast information exchange among the special services and the Interior Ministries of the Western Balkans and signing the interagency documents that will make that possible. In conclusion, he said that "when there is security in the Balkans, more investments come, the gross domestic product increases, people's incomes grow and it is easier to work". LN/
(DF) Socialist Party to Elect Leader in Direct Vote, Approves Election Rules
December 14 (BTA) - The leadership of the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) Saturday approved rules for direct election of a party leader on April 26, 2020, said the BSP press office. For the first time the socialist leader will be elected in a direct vote by all party members, or some 100,000 people. The winner in the elections will have to garner 50 per cent plus one of the votes. If nobody gets as many votes, a second round of voting will be held on May 3, 2020. The party leadership also approved the composition of a party election commission. It will be chaired by Emil Voynov, who is a member of the Central Election Commission. The Movement for Rights and Freedoms, which is the third biggest party in Parliament, will elect its leader the same day. LN/
(PE) Press - Review
Sofia, December 14 (BTA)
(NW) Sofia Hosts Balkan Security Forum
Sofia, December 13 (BTA) - Sofia hosted an international security forum on Friday. It was unveiled by US Ambassador Herro Mustafa and was attended by Department of State Assistant Secretary Denise Natali, who leads the American delegation. Ambassador Mustafa said that withou...
(DF) Two Ministers Are Among Officials Responsible for Water Supply Crisis in Pernik - Prosecutor
December 13 (BTA) - According to the Pernik, Western Bulgaria, District Prosecution Office, the ministers of regional development, and of environment and water are among the officials who are responsible for the water supply crisis in the town, Nova TV said on Friday. It is argued that by their failure to act, the ministers did not take due care for management of the respective property. Pernik and nearby villages were put on water rationing in mid-November and have drinking water for only six hours between 4 pm and 10 pm. On December 10 the Pernik District Prosecution Office said that they conducted a check into the causes of the water shortage and who is responsible for it. Without providing details, they said that the findings of the check were sent to the specialized prosecuting magistracy. The Pernik District Prosecution Office holds that as a result of the inaction of the ministers, human health was harmed, as well as that material damage was inflicted. Regional Development and Public Works Minister Petya Avramova told reporters on Friday that if there was an error in the management of the process by the Pernik water supply and sewerage utility, whose principal is her Ministry, respectively, the Minister, the error is in delaying the introduction of the water rationing and of stopping the water supply to industrial consumers in a bid to preserve the drinking water reserves over a longer period. Avramova said she had not seen the document with the findings of the check of the Pernik Prosecution Office. Newly elected Pernik Mayor Stanislav Vladimirov (of the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party) accused the Regional Development Ministry with inaction regarding the water supply crisis in the town. In a TV appearance earlier in the week Vladimiror said that the Ministry neither comes up with ideas to solve the problem, nor it is doing anything. LN/ZH//
(DF) Sofia Hosts Balkan Security Forum
December 13 (BTA) - Sofia hosted an international security forum on Friday. It was unveiled by the Ambassador of the United States to Bulgaria, Herro Mustafa and attended by Department of State Assistant Secretary Denise Natali who leads the American delegation. Mustafa said that without integration of all countries in the region Europe would be weaker. No country is isolated from extremism and radicalization, the problems spread across borders because of the mobility of people, the Ambassador said, and congratulated Bulgaria on following the priorities of European agenda and on what it has achieved during the European Council Presidency. According to Mustafa, corruption is one of the region's problems and hinders economic growth, allows radicalization and extremism, which requires new methods for countering them. Interior Minister Mladen Marinov said that the exchange of information is very intensive and in real time. A multidisciplinary approach is required, as well as high level international effort. Bulgarian law enforcers are watching the transborder international crime networks, money transfers, internet propaganda, he explained. Marinov declared himself for the development of an early warning system, even at the level of hate speech. According to Marinov, Bulgaria is a country at risk, there are no identified Bulgarians included in organisations to participate in military conflicts or prepare such acts. His peer from North Macedonia, Oliver Spasovski, said all countries clash with dangerous forms across the world. Albanian Deputy Interior Minister Romina Kuko recalled that the problems and threats before all countries are common, which is why countries that are not in the EU should accede the union in order to work even more easily to counter such threats. Kosovo Interior Minister Ekrem Mustafa said that ways to fight extremism remain the main challenge for the Western Balkans./NV/BR
(DF) Sofia Hosts Balkan Security Forum
December 13 (BTA) Sofia hosted an international security forum on Friday. It was unveiled by the Ambassador of the United States to Bulgaria, Hero Mustafa and attended by Department of State Assistant Secretary Denise Natali who lead America's delegation.
(DF) Prime Minister Comments on Issues Figuring on EU Agenda
December 13 (BTA correspondent Nikolay Jeliazkov) - Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, who is in Brussels for a European Council meeting on December 12 and 13, commented on a wide range of issues on the EU agenda during a news briefing in the Belgian capital Friday. Discussing the new extension of the sanctions against Russia, approved on Thursday, Borissov said: "Quite good things were said about Russia yesterday, unlike before. Several steps are being made in the right direction. I have never heard such optimistic things before. But nothing is finished yet, so the sanctions remain." He quoted politicians as saying that the United States has invested 35 billion dollars in the Russian economy over the period of the sanctions. "Whether it is true or not, I don't know. I am just saying what other colleagues have reported," Borissov said. The results of the early general elections in the UK are good news, according to him. The outcome of the ballot means that the UK Parliament will be unable to continue to block the Brexit agreement, Borissov commented. He noted that Bulgaria will not lose any money as the UK stops contributing to the EU budget. The new EU rules for international road transport can be challenged jointly by multiple claimants at the Court of Justice of the European Union, the Bulgarian Prime Minister went on to say. He added that several member states have supported Bulgaria in resisting the adopted changes. He argued: "On the one hand, the EU is trying to reduce environmental pollution, but on the other hand, it is adopting rules which will entail an increase in harmful emissions, because international haulage trucks will have to return often to the country of registration. The discussion on the topic has not ended and we cannot allow it to end this way. We will file a lawsuit." Borissov noted that West European countries, which are particularly enthusiastic about the new rules, have relocated their polluting businesses to Asia. Concerning the European Commission's strategic vision for achieving a climate-neutral economy by 2050, Borissov said the intention will be carried out, because the EU is very determined. "We need to think about the future of coal," he noted. "We have 30 years to go, and we have to say what will happen after that." According to Borissov, everyone in the EU believes that the migration agreement with Turkey should be continued and no one is talking about an embargo on arms sales to Ankara. "I told my colleagues in Greece and Cyprus that they should find instruments to sort things out by themselves, because, although we support them in every way, Turkey is playing a crucial role in the region right now," he said. RY/VE
(PE) Press - Review
Sofia, December 13 (BTA)
(NW) Beekepers Appeal for Urgent Adoption of State Regulation of Direct Subsidies
December 12 (BTA) Low buy-out prices, problems with the health of bee colonies because of the lack of adequate control and prophylactic checks on the part of the Bulgarian Food Safety Agency, as well as poisoning of the bees with pesticides are the greatest challenges faced by the branch, the Chairman of Sofia's Beekeper Union chapter, Mihail Mihailov, told a BTA-hosted news conference on Thursday.
(DF) President Radev: "We Value Highly the Order's Presence in Bulgaria"
December 12 (BTA) - "We value highly the presence of the Sovereign Order of Malta in Bulgaria and its humanitarian work in supporting those in need," said President Rumen Radev on Thursday. This was part of his welcoming address to Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta, Fra' Giacomo dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto, who is on a two-day official visit in Bulgaria on President Radev's invitation. The President and the Grand Master had a tete-a-tete meeting at the Presidency, followed by plenary talks of the official delegations. President Radev said it was an honour to receive the Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta - one of the oldest Christian orders, established in one of the oldest Christian states. President Radev evaluated the visit as a stepping stone in the development of the bilateral relations and said that he and the Grand Master have discussed a range of topics of mutual interest. This is the second official visit of a Grand Master of the Order to Bulgaria. Fra' Giacomo dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto said that he and President Radev have talked about the situation in the region and Bulgaria's role in preserving stability and peace. They have also discussed the Order's active work, through its embassy in Bulgaria, for 25 years running, supporting the most underprivileged brackets of Bulgarian population. As a token of commitment, the Grand Master pointed to the donations that will be unveiled tomorrow in his presence: an ambulance, an echograph and a neurosensory stimulator "Nirvana" for the St. Sofia cerebral palsy rehabilitation clinic in the capital. The two top officials have also talked about migration: a very important topic, given Bulgaria's location as one of the gateways to Europe. The Sovereign Order of Malta is strongly committed to helping countries struggling with migration-related challenges. The Grand Master pointed out that the Order is working with the migrants' countries of origin, with the ones they pass through, and is helping the migrants' integration at their destinations. He added that there are multiple areas where bilateral cooperation with Bulgaria can be developed further. Before the official addresses, in the presence of President Radev and Grand Master di Sanguinetto, a commemorative post stamp was validated, marking the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Bulgaria and the Sovereign Order of Malta. Meeting with National Assembly Chair Tsveta Karayancheva later on Thursday, Grand Master di Sanguinetto confirmed the Order's willingness to continue working in support of the Bulgarian people, especially the people in need. He and his team were impressed with Bulgaria's openness to resolving all social issues. In his words, in Bulgaria there is a balance in the relations between different religions, which is a prerequisite for lasting peace in the world. RI/MT
(DF) Prime Minister Borissov Confers with NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg in Brussels
December 12 (BTA correspondent Nikolay Jeliazkov) - Emerging from a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels on Thursday, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said that NATO is the only guarantor of security in the Balkan region. "We are arming ourselves in order to be strong and deter any plans against our territory and our alliance," said Borissov. He added that work is underway on the Belene N-plant and the Balkan Stream pipeline in order to keep dialogue with Russia open and maintain balance which allows Bulgaria to play a key role in the region and the Black Sea. "We are not doing anything covert. The agreement signed for the NATO coordination centre in Varna is enjoying huge support across the alliance," said Borissov. He went on to say that Bulgaria has not pressed for a coordination centre, arguing that the country has coordination functions now with five naval exercises in the Black Sea in 2019. Borissov reiterated his position against a NATO naval group in the Black Sea. The Bulgarian Prime Minister said that his meeting with Stoltenberg discussed Bulgaria's contribution to North Macedonia's entry to NATO with the signing of the friendship treaty. The PM recalled that in addition to new fighter jets, Bulgaria will purchase two minehunters from the Netherlands and may negotiate with Norway the purchase of a decommissioned submarine if the price is right and if the economy remains stable. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that in 2019 Bulgaria celebrates its 15th anniversary of joining NATO. Bulgaria is contributing to NATO and to the shared security in many different ways and to Black Sea security. The security environment in the Black Sea region has changed and NATO will strengthen its presence in response, said Stoltenberg. The NATO Secretary General welcomed the increase of Bulgarian defence spending to 3.25 per cent of GDP in 2019 which puts Bulgaria among the nine NATO countries which meet their target expenditures of more than 2 per cent of GDP. These efforts make NATO stronger and Bulgaria safer, said Stoltenberg. ZH/PP
(DF) Social Partners Discuss Minimum Wage in 2020, All Employer Organizations Except One Boycott Meeting
Sofia, December 12 (BTA) - The National Council for Tripartite Cooperation (NCTC), made up by the government, employers and trade unions, discussed the minimum wage in 2020 on Thursday. Only one employer organization, the Union for Private Economic Enterprise (UPEE), participated after the Association of the Organizations of Bulgarian Employers said that employers will boycott NCTC's meetings until the adoption of what they say are adequate proposals to curb sick leave abuse. Deputy Prime Minister Mariyana Nikolova, who chairs the Council, said that she had sent a letter to the Labour Minister in connection with the demands for the Council to consider ways for paying sick leave compensation and curbing abuse. Labour and Social Policy Minister Denitsa Sacheva said that within a month of the gazetting of the Social Public Insurance Budget Bill proposals will be drawn up by the relevant institutions. A detailed review is underway and the package of measures will be tabled to the NCTC. Assya Goneva of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB) asked that representatives of the social partners are included in the working group. On the agenda of the NCTC meeting was a draft Council of Ministers decree which sets the minimum wage at 610 leva from January 2020, up by 8.9 per cent from the current 560 leva. The hourly rate will be set at 3.66 leva. Labour Minister Denitsa Sacheva presented the proposal and said that talks on drawing up a mechanism for increasing the minimum wage continue. Currently the minimum wage equals 44.8 per cent of the country's average wage. Sacheva also said that economic growth in the first half of 2019 was driven by a 3.9 per cent increase of labour productivity. According to National Statistical Institute data, in the third quarter of 2019 the average wage grew by 11.8 per cent year-on-year to 1,249 leva. The Union for Private Economic Enterprise opposed the increase of the minimum wage. UPEE's Lyubomir Stefanov said that Union did not back the increase as it doesn't approve of the way the minimum wage is set. Speaking after the meeting Deputy Prime Minister Nikolova said that this is a principled position of the employer organizations who are against an administrative increase of the minimum wage. CITUB and the Podkrepa Labour Confederation backed the increase of the minimum wage. CITUB said that the increase will have a positive effect on employment, the labour market, closing the pay gap and more revenues from taxes and social security contributions. CITUB expects an accelerated growth of the minimum wage by 12-15 per cent, said Lyuben Tomev. Also, the trade union expects a better ratio between the minimum and the average wage to nearly 50 per cent. Vanya Grigorova of Podkrepa said that both CITUB and Podkrepa think that the increase of the minimum wage is not enough and that additional steps should be taken for the association of workers so that they have a chance to agree better wages. ZH/PP /??/
(PE) Press - Review
Sofia, December 12 (BTA)
(DF) Bulgaria, Croatia to Cooperatein Enhancing Airforce Capacity
December 11 (BTA) - Defence Minister Krassimir Karakachanov participated Wednesday in the official opening of the Multinational Special Aviation Programme training centre at Zemunik Air Base in Zadar, Croatia. Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary and Slovenia are among the founder countries of the initiative, the Ministry of Defence said. "This joint initiative will ease our joint efforts in the field of interoperability, standardization and efficiency in support of the development of Special Operation Forces. This programme will allow their use in times of peace in close to reality conditions," Karakachanov said. He underscored that the participation of representatives of Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary and Slovenia is yet another expression of the political will of these countries to promote the defensive potential of the Alliance and national defence capacity. Earlier in the day, there was a trilateral meeting between the defence ministers of Bulgaria, Croatia and Hungary. Karakachanov and his Croatian counterpart, Damir Krsticevic, discussed the cooperation between the air forces of the two countries. Krsticevic congratulated Karakachanov on the acquisition of the new F-16 fighters and expressed interest in the Bulgarian experience in the implementation of modernization projects./RY/BR //
(DF) Bulgargaz Proposes 1.94 Per Cent Natural Gas Price Reduction for First Quarter of 2020
December 11 (BTA) - Bulgargaz EAD has proposed to the Energy and Water Regulatory Commission to approve a price of natural gas for the first quarter of 2020 amounting to 43.98 leva/MWh (excluding the prices of access and transmission, excise duty and value added tax), the sole public supplier said in a press release on Tuesday. This price applies to end providers of natural gas and to persons licensed for heat production and transmission. Compared to the price approved for the fourth quarter of 2019 (excluding access, transmission, excise duty and VAT), the price proposed for the first quarter of 2020 is 0.87 leva/MWh or 1.94 per cent lower. The price decrease is due to the expected lower delivery charges as a result of a change of the delivery destination to Strandja/Malkoclar at Bulgaria's border with Turkey, effective January 1, 2020. "Bulgargaz EAD is holding negotiations with Gazprom Export on a reduction of the natural gas supply cost for Bulgaria. Even though the deadline for reaching agreement expired on December 3, 2019, the two parties continue the negotiations, with the Bulgarian company insisting that the supply cost for Bulgarian customers should reflect the price fluctuations at the liquid continental gas hubs and the effective prices at the borders between Germany, France and Italy," the press release says. "The interest of both parties presupposes that the negotiations are finalized in the shortest possible time," Bulgargaz adds. DT/LG /??/
(NW) Bulgargaz Proposes 1.94 Per CentNatural Gas Price Reductionfor First Quarter of 2020
December 11 (BTA) - Bulgargaz EAD has proposed to the Energy and Water Regulatory Commission to approve a price of natural gas for the first quarter of 2020 amounting to 43.98 leva/MWh (excluding the prices of access and transmission, excise duty and value added tax), the sole public supplier said in a press release on Tuesday. This price applies to end providers of natural gas and to persons licensed for heat production and transmission. Compared to the price approved for the fourth quarter of 2019 (excluding access, transmission, excise duty and VAT), the price proposed for the first quarter of 2020 is 0.87 leva/MWh or 1.94 per cent lower. The price decrease is due to the expected lower delivery charges as a result of a change of the delivery destination to Strandja/Malkoclar at Bulgaria's border with Turkey, effective January 1, 2020. "Bulgargaz EAD is holding negotiations with Gazprom Export on a reduction of the natural gas supply cost for Bulgaria. Even though the deadline for reaching agreement expired on December 3, 2019, the two parties continue the negotiations, with the Bulgarian company insisting that the supply cost for Bulgarian customers should reflect the price fluctuations at the liquid continental gas hubs and the effective prices at the borders between Germany, France and Italy," the press release says. "The interest of both parties presupposes that the negotiations are finalized in the shortest possible time," Bulgargaz adds. DT/LG /??/
(DF) Outgoing Prosecutor General Tsatsarov Elected to HeadCounter-Corruption Commission
Emil Dimitrov MP of United Patriots: Previous experience, achievements in his capacity as prosecutor general and fine interaction between the prosecution service and the Counter-Corruption Commission are among Tsatsarov's assets. Kroum Zarkov MP of BSP for Bulgaria: The ...
(PE) Press - Review
Sofia, December 11 (BTA)
(DF) Prime Minister Talks with Experts from US Department of State and Department of Energy
December 10 (BTA) Prime Minister Boyko Borissov met with experts from the US Department of State and Department of Energy in Sofia on Tuesday, the Bulgarian government information service said. The US delegation's visit comes in implementation of agreements reached during Borissov's meeting with President Donald Trump in the White House on November 25.
(NW) October Average Contributory Income at Lv 1,002.75
December 10 (BTA) - Bulgaria's average contributory income in October stood at 1,002.75 leva, said the National Social Security Institute. The average monthly contributory income for the period between November 1, 2018 and October 31, 2019 was 969.47 leva. Under the Social Insurance Code, the average monthly contributory income is used in calculating the new pensions awarded in November 2019. RI/DD
(DF) Education Minister Slams Universities for Failing in Teacher Training
December 10 (BTA) - Speaking at a conference on the prospects and challenges before teacher training in Bulgaria on Tuesday, Education and Science Minister Krasimir Vulchev slammed universities for failing in this department and said they are inadequate and cater to the status quo instead of advancing development. He said the university curricula only "aim to make sure there are enough classes for each faculty professor until retirement". Vulchev also blamed the universities for maintaining losing programmes only to keep professors busy. He noted that education programmes in Bulgaria are not regulated and added that they should be a shared responsibility of the State and universities. "No tool to that end currently exists, but next year a national programme will be proposed and it will support financially universities if they make certain changes," Vulchev said. The next strategy for higher education will probably offer the establishment of networks and shared resources, the aim being to attract more young teachers in both schools and universities, he added. Over the coming decades the entire system will work with less students, including the education faculties, and therefore it will be necessary to have a network of shared resources and professors. "A time may come of joint diplomas, but now is the time to formulate proposals for the change of university curricula in the next years," Vulchev said. He called on universities to assist the effective introduction of a competency-based approach in schools and the implementation of inclusive education. The Chair of the parliamentary education committee, Milena Damyanova, said that the faculties of education only teach inclusive education and competence-based education as electives. The leader of the teachers' chapter with the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria, Yanka Takeva, said that Bulgarian teachers are perfectly trained. She agreed, though, that university curricula should be changed as they have not been touched since 1957. Takeva called for "a complete restart of higher education, particularly as regards teacher training". DS/BR
(DF) October Average Contributory Income at Lv 1,002.75
December 10 (BTA) - Bulgaria's average contributory income in October stood at 1,002.75 leva, said the National Social Security Institute. The average monthly contributory income for the period between November 1, 2018 and October 31, 2019 was 969.47 leva. Under the Social Insurance Code, the average monthly contributory income is used in calculating the new pensions awarded in November 2019. RI/DD
(NW) GERB Wins Capital, Loses at Least Three Regional Cities in Second Round of Local Elections, Show Early Results
Sofia, November 3 (BTA) - GERB's candidate for Sofia mayor, Yordanka Fandakova, was re-elected to the post for a fourth term, show early results of the second round of local elections held across Bulgaria on Sunday. The incumbents won the second and third biggest cities of...
(NW) October 27, 2019 Local Elections: Facts and Figures
Sofia, October 27 (BTA) - Bulgarians are going to the polls on Sunday to elect their local government. The polls opened at 7:00 a.m. and will close at 8:00 p.m. By exception, if voters are still waiting outside the polling site at 8:00 p.m., voting may continue until 9:00 p.m....
(NW) Energy Minister: Coal-powered TPPs Vital for Bulgaria's Electricity System
Plovdiv, Southern Bulgaria, October 20 (BTA) - Commenting on recent tensions over the coal-powered Maritsa East thermal power plants, Energy Minister Temenouzhka Petkova told journalists on Sunday that these plants meet 46 per cent of electricity demand in Bulgaria, and even 6...
(NW) Bulgaria, Jordan Want to Deepen Economic Ties
Amman, October 13 (BTA special correspondent Antoan Nikolov) - After meeting with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov here on Sunday, Jordan's Prime Minister Omar Razzaz said his country wants to deepen its economic ties and relations with Bulgaria. Razzaz said Bulgar...
(NW) Japanese Noh Theatre Masks and Ikebana Works to Go on Display in Sofia
Sofia, September 8 (BTA) - Masks from the Yamamoto Noh Theatre in Osaka, Japan and ikebana works from the Kagetsu School will be on public display at Sofia Hall of the Sofia City Library between September 11 and 17, the hosts said. The event is part of the 30th Days of Japanes...
(NW) President Radev Confers with German Counterpart, Belgian Prime Minister
Warsaw/Sofia, September 1 (BTA) - Bulgarian President Rumen Radev Sunday conferred with his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier and with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, Radev's press secretariat said. Radev and Michel discussed topics from the EU agenda, in...
(PE) Press - Review
Sofia, December 10 (BTA)
(DF) President Favours Machine Voting, Wants More Severe Punishments for Vote Buying
December 9 (BTA) - President Rumen Radev on Monday urged the adoption of machine voting in Bulgarian political elections and called for more severe punishments for the buying of votes. Radev hosted a meeting with officials from the Central Election Commission (CEC) and other institutions which were involved in the organization and conduct of the October 27 local elections, as well as election analysts. The meeting was aimed to identify problems in the election system and to propose solutions. The President cited data from the State Agency for National Security, the Interior Ministry and the prosecution service showing that there were no major differences between the local elections in 2019 and 2015. "The people have the feeling that this is an industry worth tens of millions," he said. He described vote buying and employers' pressure on workers to vote a certain way as shameful, and recommended increased administrative and criminal-law punishments. "We need to think about whether we should change the proportion, how we categorize them, what offences are administrative and what offences are criminal, because this is a crime against democracy," he pointed out. CEC Chair Stefka Stoeva said at the meeting that the latest local elections were calm and well-organized. "We find the results to be legitimate," Stoeva said, noting that complaints decreased drastically. For example, administrative courts received half the number of complaints and claims than in 2015. Among the main problems, she singled out the high percentage of invalid votes and the complexity of working with tally sheets. She recalled that after the first round of voting in the latest local elections, the share of invalid votes was estimated at 15.9 per cent, which is the highest level of the last 10 years, but the estimate applied only to the votes for municipal councillors, not counting those for mayors. As for the mayoral race, the situation got better. In the second round of voting for mayors of municipalities, the share of invalid votes was only 1.72 per cent, and for mayors of mayoralties it was 2.21 per cent. So the problem with invalid votes concerns mainly the voting for municipal councillors, Stoeva concluded. She recalled that in 2011, when voters did not mark their preferences for particular individuals on the ballot sheets, the percentage of invalid votes was 6.18 per cent. "This makes us think that the large number of invalid votes this year is due to the option to mark one's preferences," Stoeva said. According to President Radev, the high share of invalid votes for municipal councillors is absolutely unacceptable in a normal European country. Discussing a common error which consists in marking a preference for an individual on the ballot sheet without marking a political party, Radev argued that machine voting will solve the problem. He drew a comparison with an automated teller machine, which will not allow a cash withdrawal unless the client goes through the whole procedure programmed into the machine. Similarly, a voting machine has a protective mechanism which will not accept a preference mark unless the other required space is checked. "Yes, it costs money, but we should have machine voting, at least to solve the invalid votes problem - and also the problem with vote counting, the collation of the results, the long waiting time that has to be endured by district election commission members, and the carrying over of tally sheets," the President said. Noting that the 2020 State Budget Act does not have an express provision for launching a voting machine supply procedure, Radev wondered where the money for the machines can come from and when the procedure can start. "For once, we should make sure that everything is in place six months before the next elections," he said. He also called for prompt steps to introduce remote electronic voting. CEC Secretary Sevinch Solakova commented that local elections remain a huge challenge. They are not only the most difficult type of elections to accomplish, but also the most expensive type, because they involve multiple ballot paper designs. "We need a concerted effort to improve the overall legal culture of the people and constantly raise public awareness of everyone's rights and obligations," she said. Political scientist Stoicho Stoichev said that controlled voting actually happens before voting day and works through a voter's relationship with their employer, mayor etc. Stoichev said: "It is a clientelistic relationship: someone looks after you, and you demonstrate your support." The practice affects not only ethnic minorities but also a large portion of the ethnic Bulgarian majority, particularly in small settlements, he said. He noted that it is necessary to overcome social and economic dependencies and improve people's lives. RI/VE
(NW) Majority of Bulgarians Think Corruption Is Widespread, Unpunished - Survey
Brussels, December 9 (BTA correspondent Nikolay Jeliazkov) - Eighty-five per cent of Bulgarians think there is widespread corruption in their country and 68 per cent find it unlikely that those engaging in corrupt practices will be caught by or reported to the police or prosec...
(NW) Majority of Bulgarians Think Corruption Is Widespread, Unpunished - Survey
December 9 (BTA) - Eighty-five per cent of Bulgarians think there is widespread corruption in their country and 68 per cent find it unlikely that those engaging in corrupt practices will be caught by or reported to the police or prosecutors, show data of a flash Eurobarometer survey on businesses and corruption presented by the European Commission on Monday. The survey was conducted through telephone interviews among 300 Bulgarians between September 30 and October 8. In comparison, 63 per cent of all EU citizens believe there is widespread corruption in their country and 44 per cent find it unlikely that corrupt people or businesses will be caught by or reported to the police or prosecutors. Seventy per cent of Bulgarians, compared to 48 per cent of EU citizens, said it is unlikely that those engaging in corrupt practices would face charges and go to court. Seventy-seven per cent of Bulgarians, compared to 55 per cent of EU citizens, said it is unlikely that corrupt people or businesses would be heavily fined or imprisoned by a court. Seventy-five per cent of Bulgarians and 56 per cent of EU citizens disagreed with the statement that people and businesses caught for bribing a senior official are appropriately punished in their country. Bulgarians see as the most widespread corrupt practices the funding of political parties in exchange for public contracts or influence over policy making (46 per cent), kickbacks (39 per cent), bribes (27 per cent), and favouring friends and/or family members in business (27 per cent). Asked if in the last three years corruption has prevented them or their company from winning a public tender or a public procurement contract, 49 per cent of Bulgarians gave an affirmative answer and 46 per cent, a negative answer. In the EU28 these percentages stand at 30 per cent and 63 per cent, respectively. Twelve per cent of respondents in Bulgaria, compared to 5 per cent in the EU28, said they have been asked or expected to give a gift, favour or extra money for at least one of the following permits or services: building permits, business permits, change of land use, environmental permits including waste and water treatment, licence plates or permits related to vehicles, state aid and social funds. Bulgarians see as the biggest problems when doing business in their country the complexity of administrative procedures (64 per cent), fast-changing legislation and policies (61 per cent), patronage and nepotism (57 per cent), inadequate infrastructure 54 per cent), and corruption (51 per cent).
(DF) Ministers, Unionists Discuss Ways to Curb Undeclared Work
December 9 (BTA) - Bulgarian Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov, Labour and Social Policy Minister Denitsa Sacheva and Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB) President Plamen Dimitrov discussed ways to curb undeclared work at a forum here on Monday. Addressing the event, Goranov said that in the summer of 2018 the Government launched a debate on a complete coverage of turnovers in all economic spheres by the revenue administrations. The idea is to prevent the possibility of generating grey turnovers, the Finance Minister specified. Sacheva said that at 15.9 per cent, the share of persons doing undeclared work in Bulgaria is less than the EU average of 16.3 per cent. She argued that efforts to contain the grey economy should focus on identifying the real causes, one of which is "tax immorality". The Labour Minister admitted that in some situations undeclared work is a rational choice. She pointed to the need to address the issue by legislative revisions. Dimitrov noted that, judging from the Business to the Rules Composite Index, the share of the grey economy in Bulgaria has been decreasing over the last ten years but still exceeds 20 per cent. This means that more than 25 billion leva evade taxation, which distorts economic, social and political life. CITUB proposes amendments to the Labour Code, the Public Procurement Act and other statutory instruments. Monday's event wrapped up a two-year project entitled "Active civil participation for prevention and restriction of the undeclared employment in Bulgaria", which was implemented by the CITUB on financing provided under Operational Programme Good Governance. RY/LG
(PE) Press - Review
Sofia, December 9 (BTA)
(DF) International Conference Discusses European Integration of Western Balkans
December 8 (BTA) - A New Direction Western Balkans Summit was held in Sofia on December 6-8, organized by the New Direction Foundation for European Reform and The International Republican Institute. The start of EU accession negotiations with the Republic of North Macedonia and Albania should not be postponed because of the French proposal for a new methodology for accession talks and these processes should go hand in hand, said Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva at the conference, quoted by her ministry. "Some of the reforms, proposed by France, are acceptable for Bulgaria, but that doesn't mean that greenlighting the start of negotiations with Macedonia and Albania should be postponed until the adoption of the new methodology. The two process should go hand in hand," said Zaharieva, expressing a hope that North Macedonia and Albania will be given the green light to begin negotiations with the EU in the next six months.
(PE) Press - Review
Sofia, December 8 (BTA)
(DF) Sofia Apostolic Exarchate Promoted to Eparchy Rank by Vatican
Sofia, December 7 (BTA) - Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, Saturday officiated at a service to raise the canonic rank of Sofia's Apostolic Exarchate to an Eparchy. The mass at the Dormition of the Virgin Catholic Cathedral of Sofia was attended by National Assembly Chair Tsveta Karayancheva and President Rumen Radev.
(DF) Government Creates New Prosecution Office to Investigate a Chief Prosecutor
December 7 (BTA) – At an extraordinary meeting on Saturday morning, the government adopted changes in two laws to create a new prosecutorial office which will have powers to conduct independent investigation of Bulgaria’s chief prosecutor. The new legislation is adopted less than a day after the Council of Europe Venice Commission said that legislation previously proposed by the Bulgarian government was unsatisfactory and a different approach was needed to set in place a mechanism for independent and effective investigation of the Prosecutor General. The new prosecutor will head the Inspectorate of the Supreme Cassation Prosecution Office and that will be enacted by revisions to the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Judicial System Act, which have yet to be approved by Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee and voted by the entire legislature. This “absolutely independent” prosecutor, to use the Prime Minister’s words, will be elected by the prosecutors’ college of the Supreme Judicial Council by a majority of two-thirds for a term of seven years. He or she will not report to the Prosecutor General, explained Justice Minister Danail Kirilov. He will also have powers to investigate the Prosecutor General’s deputies. The bill that Bulgaria proposes follows a European Court of Human Rights decision which established, in the Kolevs vs. Bulgaria case of 2010, that there are no effective mechanisms in Bulgaria to investigate the top prosecutor even when he is suspected of a serious offence. The initial government proposal was submitted in June 2019 but the Venice Commission said Friday that it “not only fails to resolve the current shortcomings relating to the independence and effectiveness of investigation concerning a Chief Prosecutor, but could make such an investigation more difficult to initiate.” It also criticized a proposal to put the Prosecutor General in the same package with the Presidents of the Supreme Court of Cassation and the Supreme Administrative Court and pointed out that the Kolevs judgment did not require changes of the rules on investigation concerning the two top judges. What is more, the draft bill of June 2019 contains provisions for the automatic suspension of these two most senior judges “which could threaten their independence”. Therefore it urged the Bulgarian authorities to reconsider that proposal. Indeed, the changes adopted on Saturday drop the initial proposal by the Justice Minister for removal of the Presidents of the Supreme Court of Cassation and the Supreme Administrative Court, by a majority of two-thirds of the Supreme Judicial Council, if they are suspected of a crime. Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said during his government’s meeting that the decision will be sent to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and that it “closes the circle of commitments Bulgaria has made to the EC President”. LN/
(DF) Venice Commission Urges Bulgaria to Come up with New Proposal for Guaranteeing Independent Investigation of Chief Prosecutor
December 6 (BTA) - The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission has found that a legislative proposal by the Bulgarian government, which is expected to remedy the lack of mechanisms for independent and effective investigation of the chief prosecutor, actually makes things worse. An interim decision by the Committee of Ministers made December 5, was published on Friday. The bill that Bulgaria proposed follows up on a European Court of Human Rights decision which established, in the Kolevs vs. Bulgaria case of 2010, that there are no effective mechanisms in Bulgaria to investigate the top prosecutor even when he is suspected of a serious offence. The government proposal was submitted in June 2019 and the proposed mechanism for investigation of the Prosecutor General puts in the same package the Presidents of the Supreme Court of Cassation and the Supreme Administrative Court. The Venice Commission now says that the bill “not only fails to resolve the current shortcomings relating to the independence and effectiveness of investigation concerning a Chief Prosecutor, but could make such an investigation more difficult to initiate.” Also, it says that the execution of the Kolevs judgment does not require changes of the rules on investigation concerning the Presidents of the Supreme Court of Cassation and the Supreme Administrative Court, and notes “with concern that the draft bill of 14 June 2019 contains provisions for the automatic suspension of these two most senior judges which could threaten their independence”. Therefore it urges the Bulgarian authorities to reconsider the proposal concerning the suspension of the two top judges. The Venice Commission decision “notes with interest that Parliament adopted at first reading amendments which seem to introduce adequate safeguards for the suspension of judges in general”. The Committee of Ministers urges the authorities to introduce judicial review of prosecutorial refusals to open investigations. Also, it urges the authorities to introduce solid guarantees for institutional, hierarchical and practical independence of all the bodies supervising or conducting an investigation concerning Prosecutor General. The Bulgarian government is now expected to draw up without delay new legislative proposals guaranteeing the independence and effectiveness of an investigation concerning the Prosecutor General or to propose constitutional amendments if there are constitutional obstacles to doing so. The Committee of Ministers will revisit the case at its June 2020 meeting. LN
(NW) 60,390 Apply to Switch Pension Fund in July-September
Sofia, December 6 (BTA) - In the third quarter of 2019, a total of 60,390 applications were filed to switch between second pillar pension funds, said the Financial Supervision Commission on Friday. Having a pension insurance with a private pension fund - in addition to the ma...
(NW) Interior Ministry Found 61 Money Mules and 39 Illegal Transactions Amounting to 1,032,238 Euro and 326,023 USD
December 6 (BTA) - The Bulgarian law enforcement authorities have identified 61 "money mules", 44 victims of illegal activity and found a total of 39 fraudulent financial transactions amounting to 1,032,238 Euro and 326,023 USD, the Ministry said on Friday. The operation in Bulgaria was part of the Fifth European Money Mule Action (EMMA 5), carried out in November. "Money mules" are people who take part - often unknowingly - in money laundering activities by receiving and transferring illegally obtained money between bank accounts and/or countries. The Action was organized by the European Cybercrime Centre and the European Union's Judicial Cooperation Unit (Eurojust), with the partnership of the European Banking Federation (EBF), and carried out in 31 countries in Europe and in the USA. Some 3,833 money mules were identified, along with 386 recruiters, and 228 people were arrested. At least 4,700 victims have been identified as well. The authorities have opened 1,025 investigations, many of which are still ongoing. Over 650 banks, 17 bank associations and other financial institutions helped report 7,250 fraudulent transactions through money mules, preventing a total loss of 12.9 million euro. RI/MT /??/
(DF) PM Borissov Confers with Russian Ambassador Makarov
December 6 (BTA) - Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov Friday conferred with Russian Ambassador in Sofia Anatoly Makarov, the Government Information Service reported. They discussed bilateral relations and agreed that there are no prerequisites impeding their further advancement in a pragmatic and well-intentioned spirit. Borissov stressed Bulgaria's interest in pursuing a mutually advantageous political dialogue on an equal footing with Russia, in which this country is guided by its national interests and adheres to the common European and Euro-Atlantic policies, the press release said. According to the Prime Minister, both Bulgaria and Russia stand to gain from cooperating in a number of areas such as the economy, energy, tourism, transport, education, science and culture, and social policy, the Government Information Service said. The Borissov-Makarov meeting comes a day after the Russian Foreign Ministry served a note on the Bulgarian Ambassador in Moscow Atanas Krastin, declaring a diplomat at the Bulgarian Embassy a persona non grata. The move reciprocated for the late October expulsion of a Russian diplomat posted in Sofia who was implicated in spying. On Friday, Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Krassimir Karakachanov said that the Bulgarian diplomat had left the territory of Russia on Thursday night. ZH/LG /??/
(NW) German Company to Open IT Hub in Sofia
Sofia, December 6 (BTA) - Minister of Economy Emil Karanikolov and Carsten Bittner, board member of Group Technology Foundations Commerzbank AG, discussed the bank's intention to open an IT hub in Sofia, the Economy Ministry said. During the meeting, Bittner presented the ...
(DF) President Radev Hosts Meeting of Bulgarian and German Business Representatives
December 6 (BTA) - Support for business startups encourages many young people to seek a career in Bulgaria, said President Rumen Radev in an address Friday at a meeting of representatives of Bulgarian startups and German businesses operating in Bulgaria. The meeting takes place at the President's Initiative in partnership with the German-Bulgarian Chamber of Industry and Commerce (AHK Bulgarien). In the past five years over 2,000 startups have been launched in Bulgaria, with 15,000 new jobs. The capital Sofia is among the top ten destinations for startups, said Radev. He added that Bulgaria has all the necessary components for business startups: knowledge, people, ambition and bold business ideas. What can be done according to him is to facilitate better connections between these components and between the Bulgarian startup ecosystem and other large systems. The head of State also noted that Germany is Bulgaria's biggest foreign trade partner and strategic investor. Not only does the German business provide the know-how technology, but it also introduces good business practices which improve the economic environment and business culture in Bulgaria, said Radev. AHK President Tim Kurth noted the importance of startups and innovations, adding that they build a bridge between the present and the future. He said that such meetings and initiatives help Bulgarian startups to step on the global stage. Bulgarian startups presented their activities and business ideas and outlined their expectations about the country's startup ecosystem. PP /??/
(DF) MPs Continue Adopting 2020 State Budget Act, Surprise Turn over Party Subsidy
December 5 (BTA) - The National Assembly continued adopting the 2020 State Budget Act conclusively on Thursday. It passed the budget of the Education and Agriculture Ministry, the budgets of municipalities, the public media and for social payments. There was a surprise turn over the party subsidies. Education The MPs allocated 4,800 million leva for education in 2020. Education and Science Minister Krassimir Valchev said the real increase from 2019 was 600 million leva (apart from the increase in EU funding), adding that this would be the largest education budget so far. In addition, 70 million leva have been allocated for kindergarten construction and the completion of school buildings. Commenting on the allocation of 360 million leva for an increase in teachers' salaries, he said it is not enough but is much needed if the results are to improve. The transfers to the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAS) and the state higher schools are projected at 604,822,900 leva, including 105,611,000 leva to BAS, 73,565,500 leva to the St Kliment Ohridski University of Sofia, 54,552,200 leva to the Technical University of Sofia, 39,055,700 leva to the Medical University of Sofia, 23,962,500 leva to the University of National and World Economy, 13,369,000 leva to Veliko Turnovo University, 26,393,500 leva to Plovdiv University and 4,319,100 leva to the Academy of Economics of Svishtov. Agriculture, Food and Forestry Ministry Next year's budget of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry will have 128 million leva for personnel, or by 10 million leva more than in 2019 to ensure a pay raise in the sector. The Socialists and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) stressed that the Bulgarian Food Safety Agency, the Hail Suppression Agency, the Agricultural Academy, and Irrigation Systems are chronically underfunded, which poses a risk. Public Media Next year, the Bulgarian News Agency will receive 5,811,400 leva, the Bulgarian National Television 70,907,100 leva, and the Bulgarian National Radio 47,044,900 leva. Municipalities Next year's total subsidy for activities the State has delegated to municipalities is 3,653,185,200 leva, the transfers for local activities are 307,022,000 leva, and the transfer for maintenance of municipal roads in winter is 43,228,100 leva. The targeted subsidy for capital expenditures is 199,110,200 leva. The majority voted down a motion by the Socialists for one-fifth of the income tax and one-tenth of the VAT to remain in municipalities. Social Payments The minimum basic salary at the lowest position available to a public official is increased to 610 leva as of January 1 from the current 560 leva. The income-based criterion for child benefits is raised by 10 leva. The full amount of child benefits will be obtained if in 2019 a family member's average monthly income was lower or equal to 410 leva, and 80 per cent of the child benefits will be paid if that income was between 410 and 510 leva. Child benefits remain 40 leva a month for a single child. The total annual quota for providing food vouchers under the Corporate Income Taxation Act is set at 350 million leva. It was increased by 30 million leva on a motion by GERB. Party subsidy Following a surprise turn which prompted a pause for consultations, the ruling GERB and the United Patriots decided to back a socialist proposal for party subsidies of 8 leva per valid vote from the latest general elections. Before that, the legislature rejected both the proposal of the power-holders for a party subsidy of 1 lev and that of the opposition Socialists for 8 leva. The result was that the Budget Act did not provide for any subsidy for the political parties, Movement for Rights and Freedoms leader Mustafa Karadaya told reporters. MRF were happy with the way things turned out as they argue that parties represented in Parliament should be financed entirely through donations. Earlier in the day Karadaya told reporters that GERB and the Socialist party (BSP) had conspired to adopt in Parliament the Socialists' proposal for a party subsidy of 8 leva. Socialist leader Kornelia Ninova said MRF's allegations were a lie. Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov told journalists that GERB's position in favour of a party subsidy of 1 lev per valid vote remained unchanged and said he was not aware of an agreement between GERB and the BSP. After what turned out to be a gaffe with the zero subsidy, MRF's Yordan Tsonev commented that it could be undone only after the budget law is gazetted. Finance Minister Goranov returned to Parliament and the legislature took a break - and it produced a vote in favour of subsidies of 8 leva per valid vote. At 20:00 hrs, there was more in the 2020 State Budget Act that remained to be put to the vote.
(DF) Parliament Passes More of 2020 State Budget, Provides for Zero Party Subsidy
December 5 (BTA) - The National Assembly continued adopting the 2020 State Budget Act conclusively on Thursday. It passed the budget of the Education and Agriculture Ministry, the budgets of municipalities, the public media and for social payments. No party subsidy was provided for. Education The MPs allocated 4,800 million leva for education in 2020. Education and Science Minister Krassimir Valchev said the real increase from 2019 was 600 million leva (apart from the increase in EU funding), adding that this would be the largest education budget so far. In addition, 70 million leva have been allocated for kindergarten construction and the completion of school buildings. Commenting on the allocation of 360 million leva for an increase in teachers' salaries, he said it is not enough but is much needed if the results are to improve. The transfers to the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAS) and the state higher schools are projected at 604,822,900 leva, including 105,611,000 leva to BAS, 73,565,500 leva to the St Kliment Ohridski University of Sofia, 54,552,200 leva to the Technical University of Sofia, 39,055,700 leva to the Medical University of Sofia, 23,962,500 leva to the University of National and World Economy, 13,369,000 leva to Veliko Turnovo University, 26,393,500 leva to Plovdiv University and 4,319,100 leva to the Academy of Economics of Svishtov. Agriculture, Food and Forestry Ministry Next year's budget of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry will have 128 million leva for personnel, or by 10 million leva more than in 2019 to ensure a pay raise in the sector. The Socialists and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) stressed that the Bulgarian Food Safety Agency, the Hail Suppression Agency, the Agricultural Academy, and Irrigation Systems are chronically underfunded, which poses a risk. Public Media Next year, the Bulgarian News Agency will receive 5,811,400 leva, the Bulgarian National Television 70,907,100 leva, and the Bulgarian National Radio 47,044,900 leva. Municipalities Next year's total subsidy for activities the State has delegated to municipalities is 3,653,185,200 leva, the transfers for local activities are 307,022,000 leva, and the transfer for maintenance of municipal roads in winter is 43,228,100 leva. The targeted subsidy for capital expenditures is 199,110,200 leva. The majority voted down a motion by the Socialists for one-fifth of the income tax and one-tenth of the VAT to remain in municipalities. Social Payments The minimum basic salary at the lowest position available to a public official is increased to 610 leva as of January 1 from the current 560 leva. The income-based criterion for child benefits is raised by 10 leva. The full amount of child benefits will be obtained if in 2019 a family member's average monthly income was lower or equal to 410 leva, and 80 per cent of the child benefits will be paid if that income was between 410 and 510 leva. Child benefits remain 40 leva a month for a single child. The total annual quota for providing food vouchers under the Corporate Income Taxation Act is set at 350 million leva. It was increased by 30 million leva on a motion by GERB. Zero party subsidy The legislature rejected both the proposal of the power-holders for a party subsidy of 1 lev per valid vote and that of the opposition Socialist party for an incease to 8 leva. The result is that the Budget Act does not provide for any subsidy for the political parties, Movement for Rights and Freedoms leader Mustafa Karadaya told reporters. He said that was the most fair for all because in this way financing is the same for all parties. Earlier in the day Karadaya told reporters that GERB and the Socialist party (BSP) had conspired to adopt in Parliament the Socialists' proposal for a party subsidy of 8 leva. MRF argues that parties represented in Parliament should be financed entirely through donations. Socialist leader Kornelia Ninova said MRF's allegations were a lie. Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov told journalists that GERB's position in favour of a party subsidy of 1 lev per valid vote remained unchanged and said he was not aware of an agreement between GERB and the BSP. MRF's Yordan Tsonev commented that the zero subsidy can now be undone only after the budget act is gazetted. After the surprise turn with the party subsidies, Finance Minister Goranov returned to Parliament and the legislature took a break.
(DF) Minister Sacheva Backs Postponement of Social Services Act
December 5 (BTA) - In a Facebook post, Minister of Labour and Social Policy Denitsa Sacheva said that social policy ought to bring people together, not drive them apart which is why she is supportive of a postponement of the entry into force of a controversial Social Services Act. She argues that a postponement would allow state institutions the time to discuss the essence of the Act with its opponents. Yesterday, the United Patriots submitted a motion to the National Assembly to postpone the entry of the Social Services Act into force by six months, pointing to growing differences of opinion in society and a need to particularize provisions in the Act. The Social Services Act has recently came in the focus of a bitter controversy with some circles, including religious organizations and the Bulgarian Orthodix Church (BOC), saying that it gives exessive powers to social workers, interfers in the life of the family, takes away prental rights and facilitates the removal of children from their parents. A couple of days ago BOC called for postponing the entry into force of the law. Sacheva said that she is starting a series of talks next week with the parties in Parliament and representatives of the citizens' organizations involved. The Ministry will be looking closely at the objections of the people who are protesting out of fear for their children, analyzing them and remaining open to reasonable suggestions. However, there will be no room for anti-European propaganda and instilling division through fear, hatred and manipulation, Minister Sacheva said. She added that even with the postponement, everything achieved by the representatives of disabled people and their relatives will be preserved and developed further. The achievements of municipalities and citizens' organizations over the last twenty years in support of Bulgarian families and children must be clearly demonstrated to the public, and endorsed by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy. She pointed out that the social system for protection, financial support and services is beneficial to the public. The Ministry will spare no effort in communicating with the people, considering their suggestions and easing their access to relevant information. Minister Sacheva called for an end of the personal attacks against social workers and organizations, and for constructive discussions on particular policies. The aim of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy is to take the conversation beyond Sofia and across the entire country, Sacheva said. RI/MT
(DF) Russia Declares Bulgarian Diplomat Persona Non Grata
December 5 (BTA) - The Russian Foreign Ministry Thursday served a note to Bulgarian Ambassador in Moscow Atanas Krastin, which declared a diplomat at the Bulgarian Embassy persona non grata quoting the reciprocity principle. The Bulgarian diplomat's rank is equivalent to that of the Russian diplomat who was declared non grata by Sofia in late October.
(DF) President Radev Does Not Imagine NATO as Alliance of Manufacturers and Clients
December 4 (BTA special correspondent Asen Boyadjiev) - Bulgarian President Rumen Radev told leaders of NATO countries on Wednesday that he does not see the bloc's future as an alliance of manufacturers and clients. "Rather, it should be an alliance of partners working together to enhance their security, develop high technologies and produce military equipment," Radev said, speaking at his final briefing in London after the NATO Leaders Meeting. He said: "I prompted a debate on another dividing line which has not been discussed at all. The countries [of NATO] are divided into manufacturers and clients, or buyers. If your country is a strong high-tech economy making military equipment to meet its own needs and to export abroad, when you invest in modernization, all the money flows into your own economy, goes to your people, and your welfare system is free of pressure. But if your country is a weaker economy and you do not make such weapons, 100 per cent of your modernization expenses flow into the rich countries. This is really a burden to us now, because it burdens our welfare systems." Radev added that this has widened the technological and economic gap between the NATO countries in some respects. The President said he has proposed to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to organize discussions which can identify ways for much stronger industrial cooperation and technology transfer to the "buying countries," such as Bulgaria. "That was also my proposal to President Trump," Radev said. Earlier in the day, he joined a working lunch hosted by the US President for those NATO heads of state whose countries spend more than 2 per cent of their GDP on defence. "My proposal was that the US could provide incentives and much greater support for the countries which spend more than 2 per cent of GDP on defence - by means of industrial cooperation and technology transfer," the Bulgarian leader said. He sees a number of outstanding issues. According to him, Secretary General Stoltenberg "has pledged to seek ways to continue the strategic discussion and make sure that the decisions at the highest political level are made on time in order to prevent possible crises among the Allies." Bulgarian Defence Minister Krassimir Karakachanov, who was on Radev's delegation, told journalists in London that Bulgaria and Greece will try to provide air policing for North Macedonia after necessary arrangements. Noting that this is a Bulgarian idea, Karakachanov said that he discussed it with his Greek counterpart. "It was important to hear the Greek opinion on the matter, and it was positive," he said. Asked whether Bulgaria shares in NATO's Readiness Initiative (aka the 4x30 Initiative), Chief of Defence Gen. Andrey Botsev said the country is committing a mechanized infantry battalion of the Ground Forces, a military police unit, medical crews, a minehunter in the Mediterranean Sea and two helicopters for medical evacuation. The Readiness Initiative was agreed in June 2018. The allies have committed to having 30 battalions, 30 air squadrons and 30 naval combat vessels ready to use within 30 days. The initiative aims to enhance the readiness of existing national forces, and their ability to move within Europe and across the Atlantic ? in response to a more unpredictable security environment. RY/VE //
(NW) High Heels Business Network Launches Business for Clean Air in Sofia Campaign
December 4 (BTA) - The High Heels Business Network is launching a campaign for cleaner air in Sofia, the organizers said. Afforestation is one of the measures that help reduce the effect of harmful emissions. The first initiative is related to the Christmas holidays and the initiative's attempt to save at least 100 Christmas trees from ending in the trash. The initiative entitled "Christmas Trees for Cleaner Air" is part of the cause of the Business for Cleaner Bulgaria network. Besides having businesses, the participants are also parents and it is important to introduce children to the idea of environmental protection. By including their children in the initiative, they believe they will share the good example with their friends. DT//MY/BR
(DF) S&P Global Ratings Upgrades Sofia's Long-Term Credit Rating
December 4 (BTA) The Standard & Poor's Global Ratings agency has increased from 'BBB-' to 'BBB+' its long-term credit rating on the city of Sofia with a positive outlook, Sofia Municipality said Wednesday.
(DF) President Radev Attends NATO LeadersMeeting
London, December 4 (BTA Special Correspondent Asen Boyadjiev) - Arriving for the North Atlantic Council working session at Watford near London, Bulgarian President Rumen Radev said that in 2014 the NATO Member States committed to increase their defence spending, which should ...
(NW) Lack of Skilled Labour Is Worst Obstacle to Doing Business - Survey
December 3 (BTA) - Lack of skilled labour (71 per cent), corruption (61 per cent), poor education quality (47 per cent), mistrust of and negative attitudes towards the business (17 per cent), poor infrastructure (12 per cent), and civil pressure on investment projects (5 per cent) are among the main obstacle to doing business in Bulgaria. These findings of a survey conducted by the Bulgarian Industrial Association (BIA) were presented by BIA Chairman Radosvet Radev at the 23rd Bulgaria Economic Forum 2019 in Sofia on Tuesday. The Forum is mottoed "The Bulgarian Economy at the End of 2019. Perspectives for the SMEs in 2020".
(DF) Parliament Passes Conclusively 2020 National Health Insurance Fund Budget Act
December 3 (BTA) - At an extraordinary plenary sitting on Tuesday, Bulgaria's Parliament passed conclusively the 2020 National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) Act. GERB and the United Patriots voted in favour, and BSP for Bulgaria and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) voted against. At 4,640,733,700 leva, the health insurance revenues are nearly 400 million leva more than in 2019.
(DF) PM Borissov, Cristophe Deloire Discuss Ways to Boost Media Freedom in Bulgaria
December 3 (BTA) - Prime Minister Boyko Borissov had a meeting with Christophe Deloire, Director General of Reporters Without Borders, at the Council of Ministers on Tuesday. During the talk, Borissov said that he values highly the dialogue with the NGO sector on a topic that is vital to any democratic society -- the freedom of speech, Cabinet press office said in a release. Borissov and Deloire discussed the possibilities for Bulgaria to improve its ranking according to the World Press Freedom Index, compiled by Reporter Without Borders every year, the release says. Borissov presented the measures recently adopted by the government, guaranteeing timely and unhindered access to information in printed editions. This will be possible through the Bulgarian postal service "Bulgarian Posts" which will be doing the distribution and sales of printed editions across Bulgaria. This cabinet decision will improve the current market competition, and publishers of printed editions will be reaching the end consumers within clearly predefined parameters, the release says. Borissov pointed out that thanks to the work of Bulgaria's EU Commissioner Mariya Gabriel, this country has been actively participating in the development of various measures against disinformation and fake news which he characterized as a real threat, concluding that fake news and disinformation are undermining the foundations of trust among people and in the institutions. The Prime Minister invited the representatives of Reporters Without Borders to contribute to the decision making with suggestions for legislative amendments to guarantee independence for the media and accurate, unbiased information for the public. NV/MT /ÑÍ/
(DF) Parliamentary Committee Hears Out Nominees for Counter-corruption Commission Chairperson
December 3 (BTA) The Anti-corruption Committee in the National Assembly on Tuesday gave a hearing to the candidates for chairperson of the Counter-corruption and Unlawfully Acquired Assets Forfeiture Commission (CUAAFC). The MPs are to compile a report which will be presented in the debating chamber of the National Assembly.
(DF) President Radev Heads Bulgarian Delegation to NATO Leaders Meeting
December 3 (BTA) - President Rumen Radev heads the Bulgarian delegation to the NATO Leaders Meeting in London on December 3 and 4, the President's Press Secretariat reported. The delegation also comprises Defence Minister Krassimir Karakachanov and Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva. The meeting marks the 70th anniversary of NATO's establishment and is dedicated to Transatlantic solidarity. The participants are discussing the considerable progress made over the last few years in the fair distribution of burdens, NATO's deterrence and defence potential, the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq, relations with Russia, arms control and the role of China. During their visit to the UK capital, President Radev and his wife Dessislava Radeva will attend a reception for the NATO leaders and their spouses to be hosted by Queen Elizabeth II. Radev will talk with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and US President Donald Trump within multilateral formats. He will hold separate meetings with other officials. Zaharieva will join a dinner of NATO foreign ministers, organized by UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. RY/VE
(NW) Five NGOs Refuse to Participate in Procedure for Selecting New Counter-corruption Commission Head
Sofia, December 2 (BTA) - Five influential nongovernmental organizations refuse to participate in the selection procedure for a a new head of the Counter-corruption and Unlawfully Acquired Assets Forfeiture Commission (CUAAFC) and claim the choice is predetermined. "This boyc...
(DF) PM Borissov Speaks at Climate Conference in Madrid
Madrid, December 2 (BTA) - Prime Minister Boyko Borissov attended the 25th Climate Change Conference in Madrid where he stated that countries like Bulgaria, Poland and others that rely more heavily on coal in their energy production, will require higher levels of investment and active social measures, the Government Information Service reported on Monday. Borissov informed the leaders attending the international forum that 46 per cent of the electricity in Bulgaria is produced from coal, reaching over 60 per cent in the winter. He added that at the same time, according to Eurostat, Bulgaria ranks second in the EU in decreasing its carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels, with a drop of 8.1 per cent from last year, following only Portugal with 9 per cent. The Prime Minister stressed that in Bulgaria nuclear energy plays a vital role in guaranteeing the national, regional and European energy security while at the same time it comes at affordable prices and is a key factor in Bulgaria's transition to a low-carbon economy. According to Borissov, nuclear energy is a main pillar of European energy production, as proven by the 2018 EU long term plan for cutting down greenhouse emissions by 2050. Borissov expressed his certainty that Bulgaria will continue to rely on nuclear energy over the years to come. Borissov also pointed out that the EU is merely responsible for 9 per cent of global emissions, while the biggest polluters - China and the USA - are not present at the conference. He said that the EU is indeed cutting down its emissions, and that the health and quality of life of all people should always come first. The Bulgarian PM said that it doesn't matter if chimneys are smoking in the US, China or Vietnam, as we all share the same atmosphere. He appealed for uniting efforts to convince those economically powerful states to take into consideration the serious threat that climate change represents. RI/MT
(DF) Electricity Traders Voice Concern Over Increased Frequency of Failures at Kozloduy NPP
December 2 (BTA) - The Association of Traders in Electricity in Bulgaria (ATEB) Monday voiced concern over the increased frequency of failures of equipment at the Kozloduy nuclear power plant in the second half of 2019. In a letter to Nuclear Regulatory Commission head Luchezar Kostov, the ATEB recalls four cases of unplanned switching off of equipment during the period in question, namely that of Unit 6 on July 3, two circulation pumps on August 1, Unit 5 on November 16, and the generator of Unit 6 last week. According to the ATEB, it is not normal to have such frequent failures of the NPP's equipment, particularly since these have the biggest generation capacity in the national electricity system that provide the main part of the base load and influence the system's security. The ATEB demands information about the reasons for the unplanned switching off of equipment, as well as an analysis of the reports on the four cases and the NPP's planned repair programme already implemented. LN/DS
(DF) National Programme for Training Teachers for Bulgarian Schools Abroad to Be Launched Next Year
December 2 (BTA) A national programme will be launched next year to train teachers for Bulgarian schools abroad, exchange educational innovations and organize forums to share successful practices in working with bilingual children, Deputy Education and Science Minister Denitsa Sacheva said. She was speaking at a Balkan forum in Istanbul, entitled "Strategies for Bulgarian Language Learning in a Foreign Language Environment," her ministry reported on Monday.
(DF) Prime Minister to Propose Denitsa Sacheva for Labour Minister
December 1 (BTA) - Prime Minister Boyko Borissov told journalists on Sunday that on Tuesday he will propose Deputy Education and Science Minister Denitsa Sacheva to become minister of labour and social policy. The news comes two days after Borissov asked for and accepted the resignation of Bisser Petkov as Minister of Labour and Social Policy.
(DF) Standard & Poor's Upgrades Its Credit Rating for Bulgaria to 'BBB' with Positive Outlook
November 30 (BTA) - The international rating agency Standard & Poor (S&P) Global Ratings upgraded Bulgaria's long-term and short-term foreign and local credit ratings to 'BBB / A-2' from 'BBB- / A-3'. The outlook for the rating is positive, the Bulgarian Finance Ministry said late Friday. The rating increase is a result of the sustainable development of the Bulgarian economy without accumulation of macroeconomic imbalances. The country's fiscal and external balances are strong, and progress on accession to the Exchange Rate Mechanism II (ERM II) is steady. The positive outlook for the rating reflects the expectations of S&P Global Ratings analysts that Bulgaria's progressively strengthening fiscal and external position will continue, with the country developing steadily in a weaker external economic environment.
(DF) PM Borissov Asks, Accepts Resignation of Labour and Social Policy Minister
November 29 (BTA) - Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov has asked and accepted the resignation of Bisser Petkov as Minister of Labour and Social Policy, the Government Information Service said on Friday. The Prime Minister's personnel decision is based on a build-up of reasons. In Borissov's opinion, "the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy does not operate at a pace living up to socio-political expectations", the press release says. NV/LG
(DF) US Ambassador Mustafa: Bulgaria-US Relations Have Reached New Level of Growth
November 29 (BTA) - Relations between Bulgaria and the US are at a new level of growth and engagement, starting with the historic meeting between President Trump and Prime Minister Borissov, said US Ambassador Herro Mustafa on Friday. She delivered a lecture on "US-Bulgarian Relations: The Next 30 Years" before members of the Atlantic Club. The Ambassador noted as another important outcome the establishment of a Strategic Partnership Framework in three main areas of mutual interest: security and defense cooperation; economic, trade, and energy cooperation, and strengthening democracy and the rule of law. Since joining NATO in 2004, Bulgaria has demonstrated its commitment to a strong and free Europe and has been a reliable ally in the Balkans. Bulgarian soldiers have fought alongside US troops in operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan and have participated in coalition operations in Libya, Kosovo, and Bosnia, noted Mustafa. The United States will also continue to support Bulgaria's modernization efforts through the provision of security assistance and facilitating access to advanced US defense technology. "I am proud of our strong economic relationship and how far we have come," said the Ambassador, adding that the United States is among the top six investors in the country. In the coming months Bulgarian companies will be paired with American companies at several trade shows, focusing on security, health, and information technology. The Ambassador declared support for Bulgaria's efforts to diversify its energy supply. Mustafa further said that her embassy will work with their Bulgarian partners to strengthen Bulgaria's democracy and improve opportunities in Bulgaria's free market. Aided by a new resident legal advisor who arrives she plans to work with both government and civil society to strengthen the primacy of the law, foster judicial independence, and tackle corruption. In addition to promoting transparency, a strong democracy must also doggedly defend media freedom and respect minority voices. The US is also ready to lend support on combating cybercrime and securing Bulgaria's wireless communications networks in order to strengthen Bulgaria's defenses in the field of technology and innovation and to ensure that Bulgaria's 5G networks are built with the proper security controls. Taking a question by AmCham Executive Director Petar Ivanov, Mustafa said that the meeting between Borissov and Trump lasted longer because of the important topics that were on the agenda. Mustafa also said that various companies have expressed interest in investing in Bulgaria. RY/PP
(NW) November Business Climate Up 1.2 Percentage Points M/M
November 29 (BTA) - The total business climate indicator in November has risen by 1.2 percentage points month-on-month, the National Statistical Institute said on Friday. The composite indicator 'business climate in industry' approximately retains its previous month level. The statistical survey reveals some optimism in enterprise managers for the next six months, combined with favourable expectations about their operation in the next quarter. The indicator 'business climate in construction' rose by 2.3 percentage points, due to the favourable assessment and expectations of construction entrepreneurs. In their opinion, production orders increased, but their forecasts for the next three months are slightly lower. 'Business climate in retail trade' rose by 2.7 percentage points as a result of improved retailer assessment and expectations about the condition of enterprises. The forecasts for the volume of sales in the next quarter are also favourable. The service sector retained its October level. Managers are optimistic about the development of business in the sector over the next six months, as well as about an improving demand for services over the next quarter./RY/BR /??/
(DF) Bulgarian, German Top Diplomats Mark 140th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations
November 29 (BTA) - The foreign ministers of Bulgaria and Germany, Ekaterina Zaharieva and Heiko Maas, Thursday met in Berlin and then marked the 140th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between their countries by opening a concert, the Foreign Ministry said. The Chamber Orchestra of the Sofia Philharmonic performed in the French Cathedral in Gendarmenmarkt Square under the baton of Nayden Todorov. Zaharieva, who is also a Deputy Prime Minister, said the ties between the two countries, which are some of the oldest in Europe, date back to the year 843 when the First Bulgarian Kingdom and the German Kingdom signed a treaty. "The important thing is that we are partners, allies and close friends now. German investments in Bulgaria total 3 billion euro and one million German tourists visit Bulgaria every year," she said. Maas concurred with his Bulgarian counterpart, saying that 140 years is a child's birthday when viewed in the context of centuries of shared history. The two countries have always been linked, especially through culture, regardless of the political systems. There are also the 350,000 Bulgarians resident in Germany, and the shared yearning for a united Europe, which will not divide into East and West, North and South. Zaharieva thanked Germany for its leadership role in the process of European integration of the Western Balkans and for its support for the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. For his part, Maas stressed that Bulgaria's foreign policy is worthy of respect both for its efforts towards the European integration of the Western Balkans and for the Treaty of Friendship, Goodneighbourliness and Cooperation with North Macedonia, which sets an example to the entire region. He said he wished the other countries were as brave as Bulgaria. The event was attended by Vezhdi Rashidov, Chairman of Bulgaria's parliamentary Culture and Media Committee, representatives of the diplomatic corps in Berlin, Bulgaria's honorary consuls in Germany, Germans doing business in Bulgaria and Bulgarians who live in Berlin. RY/DD /??/
(DF) Parliament Chair Karayancheva Confers with Romania, Turkey Delegations
November 28 (BTA) - National Assembly Chair Tsveta Karayancheva Thursday met with delegations of the Romanian Senate and Chamber of Deputy foreign policy committees, as well as the one of the Turkish Grand National Assembly, Parliament said. Karayancheva noted that the National Assembly is hosting the first ever plenary trilateral meeting of the foreign policy committees and said she hoped this initiative will lay the foundations for more meetings of this kind to discuss important matters of mutual interest.
(NW) Associations Protest Against New Bonus-Malus System
Sofia, November 28 (BTA) - The newly-proposed bonus-malus system in motor third party liablity insurance encourages parasitic profit and corruption. The Bulgarian Association of Motorists, the Confederation of Bus Carriers and the Union of Driving Instructors rallied around th...
(DF) Technical Surveillance Agency Monitors Closely Reservoirs as Precipitation Increases
November 28 (BTA) - The State Agency for Metrological and Technical Surveillance said Thursday it is monitoring closely water reservoirs as the precipitation increases. The Agency has under its watch 6,844 reservoirs, Agency deputy director Kiril Voynov told reporters. A total of 858 reservoirs need repairs and for 414 of them they are a matter of emergency. The government has provided funding for 182 and repair work is due to start, asid Voynov. Earlier this week Agency director Peter Gornovski instructed regional governors to take measures with a view of the complex weather conditions. Among the problems in the management of reservoirs are undertstaffing, the poor condition of dams and dam facilities and poor coordination among regional authorities, said the Agency director. These are on the agenda of a round table on management and safe operation of reservoirs which is being held in Sofia's University of Architecture, Construction and Geodesy. RY/LN/ /??/
(NW) Government Abandons Idea for Rating of Short-term Rental Properties, Sticks with Registration
Sofia, November 27 (BTA) - The government is giving up the idea of introducing mandatory rating of properties offered for short-term rental on on-line platforms such as Airbnb, Booking, Homeaway, etc., but is sticking with the plan of demanding their registration with the Tour...
(DF) President Radev Confers with EU Ambassadors to Bulgaria
November 27 (BTA) - President Rumen Radev conferred here at his office on Wednesday with the ambassadors of the EU Member States, Switzerland and Norway to Bulgaria, Radev's Press Secretariat reported. The ambassadors asked questions about the rule of law in Bulgaria, the effect of the European Commission's Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) on the Bulgarian justice system, the reasons for the demographic crisis in Bulgaria, the country's participation in the debate on Europe's future, the increased migration pressure at the EU's external borders, and European and regional security.
(NW) Sofia Hosts 7th Edition of Rakia and Spirits Fest
November 26 (BTA) - The seventh edition of Rakia and Spirits Fest will host over 300 types of rakia and other alcoholic beverages from the Balkans. The venue is the National Palace of Culture, on November 29 and 30, the organisers said. Visitors will be able to taste a range of mature rakia from more than 30 distilleries from Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Turkey, China, Brazil and elsewhere. Exotic drinks include ones made from melon, pumpkin and dates. Those who do not want to taste neat rakia can sample cocktails made right in front of them. The fest is attracting an increasing number of visitors with each year, the organizers from Expo Team said. Cornflower rakia with a price tag of 350 leva a bottle will be featured this year. Expo Team's Ivailo Zheglov said there are no accurate data on rakia production in Bulgaria but it is definitely on the increase. "I am quite certain that Bulgarian grape rakia is unrivalled not just in the Balkans but worldwide," he said. LN/BR //
(DF) Bulgaria Offers Help to Albania in Rescue Efforts after Major Quake
November 26 (BTA) - Bulgaria has offered to help Albania in its rescue efforts after a major earthquake that hit the country on November 25. Interior Minister Mladen Marinov Tuesday told journalists that Bulgaria is ready to send search and rescue teams, dogs, equipment and medical teams, should Albania need it. Marinov said he had talked with his Albanian counterpart about that. Marinov also said that at present there is no information about Bulgarians hurt in the earthquake. Bulgaria's Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, Parliament Chair Tsveta Karayancheva and Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva Tuesday cabled condolences to their Albanian counterparts over the earthquake in the country. In his cable, as quoted by the Government Information Service, Borissov expresses condolences and sympathy for the relatives and friends of the victims. "We share the pain of the Albanian people, we hope for the quick recovery of the affected and quick repairs of the serious material damage. In this difficult moment, we are ready to once again provide the necessary support to friendly Albania," Borissov says. In her cable to Albanian Parliament Speaker Gramoz Ruci, National Assembly Chair Karayancheva says, as quoted by Parliament's press service: " I learned with deep concern the news of the injured Albanian citizens and the destruction caused by the earthquake." She expresses sincere friendly and humane sympathy for the Albanian people in this difficult moment. She also expresses the hope that the timely and professional actions of the rescue teams and medical services will help rescue people from damaged buildings, and wishes quick recovery to the injured. "I learned with great sorrow the tragic news of the earthquake that hit your country and caused a tragic loss of human lives, injuries and destruction," Zaharieva says in her cable to Albanian Foreign Minister Gent Cakaj, as quoted by her Ministry. She expresses sympathy for the families and friends of the victims, and wishes the injured a quick recovery. "Bulgaria remains ready to support and assist friendly Albania in any possible way," the cable reads. LN/DS /??/
(NW) IT Startups Can Join Machine Learning Competition
Sofia, November 26 (BTA) - The Ministry of Transport, Information Technology and Communications (MTITC) is a strategic partner of an initiative for providing technological and financial support to startup companies that develop machine learning-based applications, said here Tu...
(DF) President Decrees Appointment of New Prosecutor General
President Rumen Radev has decreed the appointment of the new Prosecutor General, Ivan Geshev. This transpired from a televized address that Radev made right after the newscast at noon. Geshev was elected by an overwhelming majority in the Supreme Judicial Council to become this country's top prosecutor but the procedure for his election triggered persistent street protests and the President once declined to issue a decree for his appointment, sending the procedure back to the SJC. In the televized address Radev catalogued high-profile scandals where corruption is suspected and which the new Prosecutor General is expected to address.
(DF) Bulgarian PM Borissov, US President Trump Confer at White House
Washington D.C. - During his official visit to the US, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov conferred with US President Donald J. Trump at the Oval Office on Monday. The Chief Executive welcomed the Bulgarian head of government at the White House entrance. Contrary to plans, Trump invited the media before the start of the one-to-one meeting at the Oval Office. The President told reporters that a waiver of US visas for Bulgarians may be considered, the matter will definitely be discussed. The host added that the US has a fantastic friendship with Bulgaria and the numerous Bulgarian Americans are wonderful people. Trump said it is quite probable that he will visit Bulgaria, as long as Borissov invites him. He told his guest that Bulgaria sets an example for Germany and should tell the Germans that Bulgarian defence spending tops 3 per cent of GDP. Trump's remarks were prompted by the fact that Bulgaria's defence budget reached 3.1 per cent of GDP thanks to the purchase of eight US-made F-16 jet fighters. "Bulgaria is buying terrific American weapons, the best in the world," the US President pointed out. "The strategic partnership between Bulgaria and the US has never been deeper. "Bulgaria highly appreciates its strategic partnership with the US," Borissov told Trump at the beginning of their meeting. The guest is satisfied with the steady political dialogue at all levels and is convinced that both countries will benefit from its further invigoration. The PM stressed the excellent bilateral partnership in a number of areas. He noted the constructive interaction in the preparation and conclusion of the contract for the acquisition of F-16 Block 70 combat aircraft and specifically emphasized the industrial cooperation accompanying the modernization of the Bulgarian Armed Forces. The guest also noted Bulgarian-US energy cooperation within the context of national security, emphasizing the projects on which Bulgaria is working hard and which will contribute to a diversification of energy sources and routes. Stressing the importance of trade and economic relations, Borissov said that American investors are welcome to Bulgaria and that his country promotes high-tech production.
(NW) Business in Bansko Expects Successful Winter Season
November 25 (BTA) - There are all conditions for a good and successful season, Malin Bistrin, chair of the Union of the Tourist Industry in Bansko, told BTA. He said that the resort offers a variety of packages which will cater to the tastes of all tourists. Bistrin said that this year around 60 per cent of tourists in Bansko will be foreigners which means that Bansko is popular on foreign markets. However, the local business is working to attract more Bulgarian tourists, he added. Bistrin said that the summer season at the resort was successful with a 17 per cent increase in the number of tourists. "We held various events which encouraged tourists to say longer than a weekend," he said. Bistrin said that the packages on offer showcase not only Bansko but the region. "People can go horse riding, hike in the mountains, visit wineries and monasteries. The practice of different kinds of tourism is already felt and is bearing results," he said. The winter season is expected to open in early December. In the following months Bansko will attract visitors not only for the holidays but for sports and trips. A lot of visitors are expected during he Alpine World Cup for women. RY/PP /??/
(DF) 7,000 Emergency Medical Workers Start Five-Day Training Courses
November 25 (BTA) - Seven thousand people working with emergency medical services and hospital emergency wards are starting five-day training courses. This transpired during Health Minister Kiril Ananiev's visit to the National Centre for Emergency Medical Training on Monday. Cutting-edge equipment and mannequins will be used in the process, said Prof. Nikolai Gabrovski, who heads the Neurosurgery Clinic at Sofia Pirogov Emergency Hospital. The teaching staff is from the Pirogov Hospital. The courses are being provided under a project called Practical Introduction to the Treatment of Emergency Conditions (also known by the acronym PULSS), financed with 7 million leva in EU funding. A hundred and twenty new ambulances have been provided under a Project to Upgrade the Emergency Medical Care System, and another 280 ambulances are expected by 2021, Ananiev said. RY/VE
(DF) Bulgarian PM Borissov Arrives on Official Visit to US
November 24 (BTA special correspondent Hristo Vodenov) - Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov arrived Sunday on an official visit to the US, during which he will confer with US President Donald J. Trump. The press office of the Bulgarian government said that the meeting on November 25 is a key step in enhancing the strategic partnership between the two countries. The two leaders will discuss ways to further develop bilateral cooperation, noting the strong and enduring relationship that exists between Bulgaria and the US. An emphasis will be laid on the ways to strengthen the two nations' common security interests in the context of Euro-Atlantic partnership, on energy diversification and other current topics. Borissov's official delegation includes Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Donchev, Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Krasimir Karakachanov, Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov, and Economy Minister Emil Karanikolov.
(NW) Bansko Named Bulgaria's Best Ski Resort in 2019 World Ski Awards
Kitzbuhel, Austria, November 24 (BTA) - The Bulgarian ski resort of Bansko was named Bulgaria's Best Ski Resort for a seventh year in a row in a 16-week online competition organized by the World Ski Awards Academy. The small Bulgarian mountainous town and ski resort is r...
(DF) Podkrepa Confederation to Stage National Protest on November 27 over Sick Leave Pay, Independent Trade Unions Confederation on Strike Alert
November 23 (BTA) - On November 27, the Podkrepa Confederation of Labour will stage a national protest rally and procession mottoed "Sick Workers Are No Criminals," it transpired from a Podkrepa Facebook post on Saturday. The Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB) will not protest on the date but remains on a strike alert.
(DF) 15th World Meeting of Bulgarian Media Held in Tirana
The 15th World Meeting of Bulgarian Media was held in Tirana on Saturday and Sunday. The topic of this year's meeting, organized by BTA and the Association of Bulgarian Media Worldwide, was "Media and National Priorities". The proceedings were divided into six panels: "What Happened between the 14th and the 15th World Meetings?", "Bulgaria's National Priorities and the Way they Have Been Changing over the Three Decades of the Transition?", "Media and Politics: Media Influence on Political Choices", "Tourism and Infrastructure: Attraction Strategies", "Transformation of the Media Business Model after the Boom of Free Content", and "Media and Culture: Are Cultural Formats Dying?"
(NW) Fund Manager Begins Market Consultations for Loans Targeted at SMEs
Sofia, November 22 (BTA) - The Fund Manager of Financial Instruments in Bulgaria (Fund of Funds) said on Friday that it has begun preparations for the launch of a new product for funding of small businesses. The first stage involves market consultations which aim to streamlin...
(NW) Sofia Conference Takes Stock of Wine Making Sector
Sofia, November 22 (BTA) - Preliminary data show that 126,820,000 kg of grapes have been processed this year and approximately 90,820,000 l of wine have been produced, Deputy Agriculture, Food and Forestry Minister Lozana Vasileva said. She was speaking at Friday's nationa...
(DF) Deputy PMs Dismiss Serbian MP's Allegations about Bulgarian Involvement in Spy Scandal in Serbia
November 22 (BTA) - Bulgarian Deputy Prime Ministers Ekaterina Zaharieva (who is also Minister of Foreign Affairs) and Krassimir Karakachanov (who is also Minister of Defence) Friday dismissed allegations by a Serbian member of parliament which implicated Bulgaria in a current spy scandal in Serbia. Serbian National Assembly Committee on Kosovo-Metohija Chairperson Milovan Drecun alleged on Thursday that a "Bulgarian investigative reporter" and the Bulgarian State had a hand in a video leaked to the local media, showing a former Russian deputy defence attache in Belgrade, identified as Lieutenant Colonel Georgy Kleban, giving cash to a Serbian retired lieutenant colonel. Drecun, who is believed to be close to Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, said that Bulgaria has an exceedingly powerful intelligence presence in Serbia and that spies from Bulgaria, Croatia and North Macedonia operate from a clandestine intelligence centre in Skopje. Interviewed on Nova TV, Zaharieva described this as "the latest in a series of ridiculous and false accusations by that MP against Bulgaria." "What I see in this video is an intelligence officer not of Bulgaria but of another country recruiting high-ranking Serbian military." "We are perplexed by these allegations and deny them categorically," the Foreign Minister said. "I strongly hope that this is a personal opinion of that particular MP and not an opinion of the top leadership and President Vucic. I hope this is not an official Serbian position," she pointed out. She had contacted the Bulgarian Ambassador in Belgrade, and the Serbian Ambassador in Sofia will most probably be summoned to her Ministry and told that his country should refrain from such statements. Zaharieva advised Serbia to focus on its internal problem rather than "try to seek justifications in its neighbours". She recalled that Bulgaria has always backed Serbia's European integration, but such statements do not foster the good bilateral relationship and are by no means consistent with the spirit of goodwill existing between the two countries. For his part, Karakachanov said in Parliament's lobby that Drecun's accusations do not correspond to the truth. "The fact that Serbia is having problems does not mean that Bulgaria should be a scapegoat, serving to deflect attention from its internal problems," the Deputy PM pointed out. LG //
(DF) 15 Nabbed, Charged in Crackdown on Drug Dealing Ring in Sofia
November 22 (BTA) - Fifteen persons were detained in Sofia on November 18 in an operation against drug distribution, mounted by law enforcers of the General Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and the Sofia Directorate of the Interior Ministry under the supervision of the Specialized Prosecution Office, the Bulgarian Interior Ministry said in a press release on Friday. A total of 10.5 kg of marijuana and amphetamines, 240,000 leva, electronic scales, marijuana cutting machines and a number of other items of incriminating evidence were seized during searches of the detainees. The Specialized Criminal Court ordered eight persons to be held in custody on charges of participating in an organized crime group for drug distribution. The other seven were released on 5,000 leva bail because they were young (born between 1991 and 1999) and participated in the criminal group to a lesser extent. A sixteenth participant in the group has been charged in his absence and has been put on an international wanted list. RY/LG //
(NW) President Radev Meets with CERN Director General Gianotti
November 21 (BTA) - Meeting with CERN Director General Fabiola Gianotti here on Thursday, President Rumen Radev urged Bulgaria and countries in the region to pool their efforts and speed up the building of the South East European International Institute for Sustainable Technologies (SEEIIST). Prof. Gianotti is visiting Bulgaria to attend the observances of the 20th anniversary of Bulgaria' full CERN membership. President Radev outlined the importance of building modern research facilities in Southeastern Europe in order to create career prospects for the young people in their native countries. Radev once again underscored that without an even distribution of research and education infrastructure between Eastern and Western Europe it is impossible to achieve real social and economic convergence in the EU. "We are grateful for CERN's support and the expressed willingness for the provision of the most modern technologies," said the Bulgarian head of State and called on CERN to share its expertise with regard to models for financing of such projects and for legal assistance. Prof. Gianotti confirmed CERN's readiness to assist with the building of the institute, technological exchange and advancing scientific cooperation with Bulgaria. She assessed highly the work of Bulgarian researchers and Bulgaria's consistent support for CERN and outlined the contribution of young Bulgarian researchers in CERN projects. Participating in the meeting was Prof. Leander Lilov, head of the Bulgarian team in CERN and Sofia University lecturer. CERN, or the European Organization for Nuclear Research, was established in 1954. It operates the largest particle physics laboratory in the world. RI/PP
(NW) CERN Chief Lauds Bulgarian Scientists' Contribution to Nuclear Research
Sofia, November 21 (BTA) - About 100 remarkable Bulgarian scientists contribute to the experiments at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the youngest of them being 27 years old and half of them being under 40, CERN Director-General Fabiola Gianotti said in ...
(DF) President Radev Meets with CERN Director General Gianotti
November 21 (BTA) - Meeting with CERN Director General Fabiola Gianotti here on Thursday, President Rumen Radev urged Bulgaria and countries in the region to pool their efforts and speed up the building of the South East European International Institute for Sustainable Technologies (SEEIIST). Prof. Gianotti is visiting Bulgaria to attend the observances of the 20th anniversary of Bulgaria' full CERN membership.
(DF) Health Minister Ananiev Confers with Chairman of Health Committee in German Bundestag Rueddel
Health Minister Kiril Ananiev conferred with the Chairman of the Health Committee in the German Bundestag, Erwin Rueddel. The two officials concurred that Bulgaria and Germany are faced with common challenges and problems in the area of providing fast and adequate medical aid to small and remote areas, in respect of which urgent measures need to be undertaken.
(DF) Prime Ministers of Bulgaria, Croatia Meet
November 21 (BTA) - Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov conferred with his Croatian counterpart Andrej Plenkovic. Borissov heads a delegation of his GERB Party to the European People Party (EPP) Congress in Zagreb on November 20 and 21.
(NW) Bulgarian Electricity Trading Market Joins Single European Intraday Market
November 20 (BTA) - The Bulgarian electricity trading market has joined the Single European Intraday Market, the Electricity System Operator (ESO) said in a press release on Wednesday. ESO Executive Director Angelin Tsachev and Independent Bulgarian Energy Exchange (IBEX) Executive Director Konstantin Konstantinov signed an agreement regulating the two companies' commitments arising from the accession of the Bulgarian electricity market to the Single European Intraday Market Coupling. Energy and Water Regulatory Commission Chair Ivan Ivanov attended the signing ceremony. The IBEX-operated intraday electricity trading market is joining the European market coupling across the Bulgarian-Romanian border. By the agreement, ESO and IBEX agree to cooperate in conducting implicit auctions for cross-border allocation of capacity and energy. ESO undertakes to coordinate interconnection exchanges for each delivery period with neighbouring transmission system operators. November 20, 2019 is the day of the first electricity supply within the market integration. Interconnection capacity is also available, allowing trade with all other market areas that are part of the Single European Intraday Market. The accession of a second wave of seven countries (Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovenia) to the Single Intraday Coupling, by launching two local implementation projects (LIP 15 and LIP 16), extends the scope of uninterrupted electricity trade with the market zones of the countries involved. They join the 14 countries that acceded to the Single Intraday Coupling (SIDC) (formerly known as XBID) as the first wave: Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Finland, France, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Sweden and Spain. A third wave of intraday market coupling is expected by the end of 2020. Bulgaria is to accede to the Single European Day-Ahead Electricity Market in the second half of 2020. RI/LG //
(DF) US State Department Highly Appreciates Bulgaria's Efforts for Eastern European Security
November 20 (BTA) - The official US State Department blog, DipNote, praises Bulgaria as "an ally America can count on," according to a press release from the US Embassy in Sofia. The announcement pointed out that Bulgaria's efforts to modernize its army, as well as its projected increase in defense spending to 2 per cent of GDP by 2024, testify to Bulgaria's willingness to work in partnership with the US to improve security in Eastern Europe. The embassy also notes that over the past 25 years, the United States has provided more than 340 million dollars in security. NV/DT /??/
(DF) One Partner in Power-Sharing Nationalist Coalition Undecided about Counter-Corruption Commission Chief Nomination
November 20 (BTA) - The National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria (NFSB, one of two partners in the power-sharing nationalist coalition United Patriots), has not yet made a decision whether to support or not the nomination of outgoing Prosecutor General Sotir Tsatsarov to head the Counter-corruption and Unlawfully Acquired Assets Forfeiture Commission. "There is not a joint decision of the parliamentary group of the United Patriots in respect of Mr Tsatsarov's nomination to head the Counter-corruption Commission," NFSB leader Valeri Simeonov said. Tsatsarov's nomination was announced on Tuesday at a briefing of GERB, representatives of the United Patriots, and Ataka. Simeonov said that the question of Tsatsarov's nomination had not been discussed in the group and no joint decision had been made. In his words, a mandatory decision means a decision made by two thirds of the parliamentary group. On Thursday Tsatsarov is invited to a meeting with the NFSB MPs. The office of the chairman of the Counter-corruption Commission has been vacant since July 2019 when a property scandal forced the then chair, Plamen Georgiev, to resign. After he left the Commission, he became a rank-and-file prosecutor but shortly after that the government appointed him Bulgarian Consul in Valencia and he left for Spain. It has also transpired that the MPs of Volya have nominated fellow MP Simeon Naydenov for the Counter-corruption Commission chairmanship. "An Asset for Any Country" Hamid Hamid MP of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) said that his parliamentary group has not discussed the two nominations for Counter-corruption Commission chair. "After they submit their concepts, we will meet to analyze them in great depth," Hamid said. He left no secret about how his party views Tsatsarov's nomination. "I must say that, in the opinion of my colleagues and myself, there is no doubt about the Prosecutor General's worth as a person, his professionalism and the qualities which he possesses. I believe it would be an asset for any country to use such potential." According to Hamid, the Counter-corruption Commission is the right place for this potential to develop. LN/ZH/VE /??/



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