BULGARIA RUNS HUGE RISK OF LOSING EU FUNDS - DEPUTY PM
Bulgaria could register fresh losses of EU funding, the Deputy PM for Absorption of EU Funds and Economic Policy has said.
LOT 2 OF BULGARIA’S STRUMA MOTORWAY TO BE READY BY END-OCTOBER 2015
"If in the previous years the battle was to avid losing [EU] funds, now it is to make the loss as small as possible," Tomislav Donchev told Darik Radio on Saturday.
He added "a certain part" of the BGN 400 m to be allocated this year would be lost.
Donchev stopped short of disclosing a sum, but said it was "horrifying... if we comment on operational programs and the Rural Development Program."
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov announced on Friday he would visit Brussels next week to hold talks over millions worth in frozen EU funding at the European Commission. read more
The deadline for the completion of construction works at Lot 2 of the Struma motorway is October 2015, according to Bulgarian Regional Development Minister Lilyana Pavlova.
57% OF BULGARIAN COMPANIES TO PAY CHRISTMAS BONUSES
On Sunday, Pavlova conducted a sudden inspection of the progress of the 38km motorway section connecting Dupnitsa and Blagoevgrad. read more
The majority of companies in the industry sector will give their employees Christmas bonus payments, according to a survey of the Bulgarian Industrial Capital Association (BICA).
BULGARIA’S BANK OF THE YEAR ASSOCIATION ORGANIZES CONFERENCE ON BANKING STABILITY
According to the survey, ordered by private TV station bTV, 57% of companies in Bulgaria will pay employees a Christmas bonus, while 15% cannot afford the measure, and 28% of the managers have not decided yet. read more
An international conference titled “Banking stability” organized by the Bank of the Year Association will take place on December 3 at the National Archaeological Museum in Sofia.
BULGARIA SHOULD BE YEAR-ROUND TOURIST DESTINATION – MINISTER
The issue of banking stability is particularly topical in Bulgaria today but it is also important for the other EU Member States, according to the organizers of the event. read more
Bulgaria should become a year-round tourist destination, according to Tourism Minister Nikolina Angelkova.
BANSKO DECLARED BULGARIA’S BEST WINTER RESORT IN 2014 WORLD SKI AWARDS
In a Sunday interview for bTV, she made clear that the situation in the sector was not good, adding that the Tourism Ministry was revising all projects in which it was a participant, most notably EU operational programs. read more
Bansko has been declared Bulgaria’s best winter resort for a second year in a row in an online vote for the 2014 World Ski Awards.
JOE BIDEN TO TRY TALKING TURKEY'S ERDOGAN INTO FIGHTING IS
Bansko’s award was announced by Ivan Obreykov, Marketing Manager of Ski Center Bansko. read more
US Vice-President Joe Biden is set to meet Turkish Head of State Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the second day of his three-day visit to the country.
Washington is now intending to ask Ankara to increase its involvement in the fight against the Sunni militant group called Islamic State (IS).
Biden already met Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Friday, with the two officials confirming the long-lasting, "deep-rooted" friendship of their countries and their alliance within NATO.
Their talks also resulted in a White House statement reading that the US and Turkey would continue to support the moderate opposition in Syria and the Iraqi forces in their push to drive off IS.
BULGARIA IS STARTING TO EMERGE FROM 2-YEAR POLITICAL CHAOS – RIGHT-WING LEADER
Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu at the same time spoke of rapprochement between the two countries in terms of their position on the developments in Iraq and Syria.
The meeting with Erdogan will have Turkey's role in the fight against IS as a key issue on the agenda.
The position of Turkey as a transit hub for foreign jihadis which enter into the ranks of IS using the country's territory is also an issue of concern.
Turkey is demanding that the US-led coalition against the extremists stage an operation to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad as a prerequisite to join efforts on the ground.
Ankara also says a no-fly zone should be imposed over Syria.
The country is struggling to deal with the aftermath of a thousands-strong refugee flow from neighboring Syria and Iraq which started during Syria's civil war and mounted with the IS offensive in the two countries.
It is estimated that about 1.6 million refugees are currently based in Turkey. read more
Bulgaria is beginning to emerge from a 2-year political chaos, according to Radan Kanev, Chair of the right-wing Democrats for Strong Bulgaria (DSB) party and Co-Chair of the Reformist Bloc.
In a Sunday interview for the Bulgarian National Television, he commented that the positive impact of the formation of the new government was beginning to be felt 2 weeks its establishment. read more
BULGARIA GOV'T SEEKS TO REINSTATE RUMEN POROZHANOV AS AGRICULTURE FUND HEAD
The candidacy of former interim Finance Minister Rumen Porozhanov to take over the State Agriculture Fund (SFA), Agriculture Minister Desislava Taneva has said.
Alongside having headed the Finance Ministry intil early in November, when the new government was sworn in, Porozhanov was CEO of the SFA between 2011-2013, when he resigned allegedly under pressure from the then-ruling socialist-liberal government.
Porozhanov was appointed by conservative GERB's previous government in 2011.
Taneva's announcement comes against the backdrop of a ruling by the Sofia Regional Court that the former CEO at the fund, Miroslav Nikolov, who was replaced earlier this year by the socialist-led cabinet (the same under which Porozhanov had stepped down), was to head the SFA again.
COURT RE-APPOINTS EX-HEAD OF BULGARIA'S AGRICULTURE FUND
On Saturday Taneva aslo told reporters a number of reforms were to be carried out to prevent illegal logging across the country by creating 137 "mobile groups" across the country. In Taneva's words, some 1-2 million cubic meters of wood had been illegally cut down out of the total eight million, the volume of wood material annually logged in Bulgaria.
Sofia Regional Court has ruled that Miroslav Nikolov, the former head of State Fund Agriculture (SFA), should once again take over the post from which he was dismissed.
BULGARIAN POLITICIANS RENEW DISPUTE OVER TURKISH-LANGUAGE NEWS
Dimitar Grekov, Agriculture Minister in the previous elected government, dismissed Nikolov on July 10 over alleged violations of funding procedures, with some of them related to the EU's Operational Program Rural Development.
Nikolov is now to be paid monthly salaries for the entire period in which he was not in office, the Bulgarian daily Trud reports.
The court believes Nikolov was dismissed by an illegitimate management board, since just a day before July 10 Grekov had officially announced the entire management had submitted resignations.
The SFA is the government agency in charge of providing financial support from EU funds to Bulgaria’s agriculture sector using four instruments – direct payments with additional national payments, agricultural market mechanisms support, the Rural Development Program and the Fisheries Program.
The nationalist coalition called Patriotic Front (PF) will give the ruling axis 100 days to have Turkish- language news off the air.
For weeks the PF has been insisting the broadcasts, which have been aired for about fifteen years on the public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television's BNT1 channel, should be rescheduled.
"Three and a half months - [this is] enough time for such a petty issue to be tackled," Krasimir Karakachanov, leader of one of PF's main parties VMRO, told Darik Radio.
In Karakachanov's words the news bulletin could be redirected to the regional programs (aired on BNT2, a channel established a few years ago) where a Turkish-speaking population can be found.
Korman Ismailov, from the junior coalition partner Reformist Bloc (RB), later retorted that there was "no serious reason and ground" to remove Turkish-language news.
However, he believes they can be transmitted by the BNT2 and "cultural programs" could be included to meet more adequately the needs of the Turkish-speaking minority.
Ismailov heads the Freedom and Dignity People's Party (NPSD), much criticized by the PF despite its support for the government. read more
BULGARIAN POLICE CARS TO BE EQUIPPED WITH GPS BY END-2014 - INTMIN
Patrol cars of police officers are to have GPS devices installed by the end of 2014, Interior Minister Veselin Vuchkov has said.
ABV 'PROVIDES FOR STABILITY' OF BULGARIA'S GOVT - LEADER
Vuchkov has also admitted the previous GERB government (2009-2013) had indulged in creating "media fuss" out of police operations, a move that "was counter-productive" in his words.
In an interview with private TV station NOVA he asserted that from now on the Interior Ministry would work closely only with the Prosecutor's Office, avoiding any steps to turn police activities into a media campaign.
The current Interior Minister accused his GERB predecessor Tsvetan Tsvetanov of having had "a very strong presence" at the ministry, but denied to comment on allegations Tsvetanov, who is facing trials on various charges, was involved in eavesdropping.
Commenting on the recent scandal involving a police officer filmed while taking a bribe from a driver, Vuchkov made clear his institution had already approved tough measures, equipping police vehicles with GPS devices as a first step to increase control on officers.
He vowed a total of 20 cars will have GPS systems by the end of 2014, but added at least two hundred cars would be deployed across the country in the near future.
The move will allow for tracking cars of Automotive Transport Control (KAT) and knowing their exact location at any given time.
KAT is the Interior Ministry agency in charge of monitoring road traffic, vehicles and drivers and overseeing the observance of the Traffic Law.
Left-wing ABV is ensuring the stability of Bulgaria's new government, its leader, President (2002-2012) Georgi Parvanov has said.
In a Saturday interview for private national channel bTV Parvanov explained the "Djankov" model, a notion of governing under permanent austerity programs, would be abandoned in Prime Minister Boyko Borisov's new cabinet, particularly due to the efforts of one of his deputies, Ivaylo Kalfin.
Kalfin, Deputy PM in charge of demographic and social policy, took up office after Parvanov and Borisov struck a deal under which Alternative for Bulgarian Revival (ABV) sent a minister to the cabinet of conservative GERB and right-wing Reformist Bloc (RB) and thus secured stronger parliamentary majority for the new ruling axis.
Parvanov added he was able to find "a difference" in the behavior of Borisov's second government compared to the previous one (2009-2013).
"I hope with the declarations he is now making in terms of dialogue, interaction, coalition culture [and] decision-making he will justify our confidence," ABV's leader stressed.
The party's Chairman also outlined the reasons that brought ABV into the government.
WOMAN FINDS LIVE WORMS IN COOKIE PACKAGE
"Firstly, Bulgaria needs a government, and not new elections, since that would be catastrophic - I hope no-one contests this. Bulgaria needs good and stable governance. With this regard we are close to GERB's idea of stable governance."
As for the third reason, he cited ABV's expected role of "a social corrective" of the right-leaning government.
Parvanov reminded most of his party's proposals placed during the government consultations in October and early in November had been accepted by GERB. read more
A Bulgarian woman who bought two packages of cookies for her baby found worms inside, a Bulgarian TV station reports.
SERBIAN BASKETBALL FAN STABBED TO DEATH IN ISTANBUL
Veneta Todorova from the city of Plovdiv opened one of the packages to have them for breakfast together with her family.
To her shock, the dessert produced in Poland and moths ahead of expiration date contained cobwebs and "some kind of worms that were alive," Todorova told NOVA TV.
Authorities have launched an inspection into the retail chain which sold the cookies, and the chain's manager has asserted the whole batch will be pulled out if a single other incident is registered. read more
A 25-year-old fan of the Serbian basketball club Crvena Zvezda (Red Star) died on Friday evening in Istanbul near the playground of a Turkish Airlines Euroleague game with Turkey's Galatasaray.
Tensions between supporters sparked unrest as about 400 Serbian fans had arrived at the venue but were not admitted inside.
Clashes started between the two groups of fans who had not had tickets to watch the game, with rival teams' fans pelting each other with rocks and bottles and police trying to stand in between.
Crvena Zvezda then issued a statement saying "it was understood that one supporter was stabbed and killed while the Red Star fans were being escorted away from the venue."
The incident took place before the match had begun. read more
HIGH TIME FOR CONFESSIONS
Steve lies dying, as Jack, his law partner of 40 years, sits at his bedside. "Jack, I've got to confess -- I've been sleeping with your wife for 30 years, I'm the father of your daughter, and I've been stealing from the firm for a decade." "Relax," says Jack, "and don't think another thing about it. I'm the one who put arsenic in your martini." read more
TUNISIA VOTES IN FIRST PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION SINCE ARAB SPRING
Tunisians are voting Sunday in their first presidential election since the 2011 revolution that sparked the "Arab Spring."
5.4-MAGNITUDE EARTHQUAKE STRIKES ROMANIA’S VRANCEA
More than 5.2 million eligible voters may cast ballots at some 4500 polling stations which will be open from 8 am to 6 pm local time, according to reports of Al Jazeera. read more
An earthquake measuring 5.4 on the Richter scale was registered at 9.15 pm on Saturday in Romania’s eastern county of Vrancea.
SERGEY LAVROV: WESTERN SANCTIONS AIMED AT TOPPLING RUSSIAN REGIME
The epicenter was located around 400km northeast of Bulgaria’s Sofia and around 180km away from the Bulgaria-Romania border, according to the National Institute of Geophysics, Geodesy and Geography of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAS). read more
The West does not even conceal its "anti-Russian" sanctions are aimed at toppling down the ones in power, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned Saturday.
Lavrov explicitly said Russia was "not going to shoot itself in the leg" by renouncing cooperation with Europe, "but everybody understands that "business as usual" [the latter phrase said in English] is already impossible."
As a session of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy kicked off, Lavrov said that previously measures imposed on other countries such as Iran or North Korea had been adopted in a way not harming that much the social and economic sphere and affecting only the countries' elite.
Lavrov alleged that the West deemed "necessary" to place sanctions on Russia so that they "destroy the economy and cause protests," ITAR-TASS quoted him as saying.
At the same tile Russia's top diplomat said sanctions were not only affecting Russia, but also the countries that brought them forward.
"Alas, our partners, willfully or not, chose the second path" of action against Russia, while the first could have brought Russia and the West closer together, ITAR-TASS quoted Lavrov as saying.
Russia's Foreign Minister however ended on a higher not voicing his belief that the current period could be overcome and the lessons from it would be learned with the two countries able to seek a "new basis" for their relationship.
He even pointed out that the idea of a EU-Customs Union free trade area earlier put forward by President Vladimir Putin was no longer perceived as an "exotic" one.
In Lavrov's view, a single economic and humanitarian space should be created between the EU and the Eurasian Economic Community (also known as the Eurasian Union) as well.
Russia is currently subject to sanctions imposed over the situation in Ukraine, the breakaway of Crimea and Moscow's alleged involvement in the developments across the country's Donbass region, where pro-Russian activists have seized control of some areas. read more
KIEV ACCUSES MOSCOW OF HAVING 7500 TROOPS DEPLOYED IN UKRAINE
Ukrainian Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak has claimed 7500 members of the Russian armed forces are present in his country, "preventing" Kiev from stabilizing the situation in the Donbass.
SHOULD BULGARIA BE AFRAID OF PATRIOTIC FRONT'S 'ETHNIC TUNE'?
On Saturday Poltorak issued a statement reading that "unfortunately the stabilization of the situation in the east of Ukraine does not depend only on us."
The crisis-torn country is to boost its military's capabilities with "arms and equipment", UNIAN news agency quoted Poltorak as saying.
Kiev security forces earlier reported that unrest in Ukraine had claimed more lives, with four soldier killed and ten wounded during clashes with pro-Russian rebels.
Ukraine signed a ceasefire with self-proclaimed authorities at the Donetsk and Luhansk "People's Republics" in September, but the United Nations has repeatedly warned ever since that violence continues and nearly 1000 have lost their lives since the truce officially began.
The new coalition formed on Friday in Ukraine, with Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk remaning in office, declared it would set joining NATO as one of its priorities.
Russia is however determined not to allow Kiev's accession into the alliance.
Saturday's developments come as the US announced it had delivered three lightweight, counter-mortar radar systems to the Ukrainian armed forces.
The US State Department said it was planning to ship a total of 20 counter-mortar systems over the next several weeks. read more
From the first days of the recent Bulgarian government the nationalist coalition called Patriotic Front has made numerous attempts at crossing the line of ethnic and religious tolerance.
In a matter of just a few weeks the PF brought a new lease of life to a debate which might be somehow unintelligible in Europe: first of all, should Turkish-language news be aired by the national channel of public broadcaster BNT after this has been done for fifteen years? And, secondly, should an ethnic Turk, named Orhan Ismailov, become Deputy Defense Minister?
Both co-leaders of the PF, Valeri Simeonov and Krasimir Karakachanov, had even initially resisted an invitation by center-right GERB to support the cabinet (back in October, during the consultations), again for "ethnic" reasons. They had declared that an "ethnic party" like the Freedom and Dignity People's Party, an entity within the junior coalition partner Reformist Bloc (RB), could not be part of the government if the PF were to support it.
Then obviously both the mandate-bearer GERB and the nationalists made concessions and as tensions were subsiding, the fact that Korman Ismailov's NPSD had been left without any official posts in the government (even though all bigger RB entities had been granted positions in the executive) passed somehow unnoticed. Patriots seemed to have turned a blind eye on Ismailov's presence in a party that is in power... until a member of the same party, with the same family, was proposed as a deputy to Nikolay Nenchev.
This week saw a culmination of the PF's ability to mix up the issues, with an ultimatum posed to the government over its intention to appoint Orhan Ismailov and a second, less noisy but explicit ultimatum to reschedule the Turkish-language news "in 100 days". Some Turkish media outlets reported of the events, with a picture of "violating minority rights" undoubtedly conveyed by any piece of information failing to provide more information on the context.
"To us, only the Bulgarian language can be broadcast on television as the country's constitution defines it as the official language," Simeonov told Anadolu Agency. Turkey's official press agency continued its report with the stances of other key officials clearly protesting at such demands "to the extreme".
Orhan Ismailov's appointment, on the other hand, triggered quite an artificial debate on whether someone should be denied an official post only for having "an ethnic name". It was artificial, because it was long ago that Bulgaria's political culture integrated "ethnic" representatives, especially Turks - admittedly, thanks to the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), regardless of the controversy it might sometimes stir up. GERB for its part said it was ready to consider the proposal on the news bulletin and also that it would decide on Ismailov's position within a week.
Whatever it may eventually announce, the most important for the Patriotic Front is that it comes out as a winner.
The PF is undoubtedly the government's kingmaker; if it does fulfill its threats to withdraw support from Boyko Borisov's cabinet, the government might easily collapse, since it would fall short of a majority in Parliament, with the number of MPs that back it sinking from 137 to 118, out of 240 lawmakers.
Valeri Simeonov, more often behaving as the PF's driving force than Karakachanov, is not just a politician; he is also a businessman. Being the owner of a TV channel called SKAT, he built his campaign and managed to rise to popularity using his media coverage. He managed to keep PF's "double" profile of both being related to the government (securing stability of the cabinet) and not in the government (staying out of it) while not losing the Patriots' bargaining power.
Whatever the outcome of this bargaining is in the case of Ismailov and the Turkish-language news, it is better to pose "conditions" now to fend off any voter doubts that the PF is loyal to its own program. There is no need to withdraw support for the cabinet if you can later explain to voters that you are in this legislature and close to this executive to fight for your priorities but have been denied the right to fulfill them and that you are still committed to exert pressure on the government but need more time to talk them into accepting your ideas. Such a stand could then justify a pledge to continue supporting the government in a situation when nobody wants fresh early elections.
The "ethnic tune" is a matter of showmanship for the Patriotic Front, which has a strong urge both to cling to power and to keep its electorate; especially having learned a lesson from the mistakes of Ataka party, formerly known as the leading nationalist forms but unable to make more than a thin crowd gather after its fourteen-month stay in the previous, and fragile, Parliament became a classical case in point of a populist party losing both ideology and momentum after entering into the legislature. read more