Press Review

Sofia, November 6 (BTA)

HIGHLIGHTS

"Sega" leads with a warning by the Association of Bulgarian Insurers that the annual premium for motor third party liability insurance may soar to 1,000 leva from about 330 leva now if the Insurance Code is amended as was proposed by the Budget Committee chairperson between first and second reading. The GERB Party leader, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, has instructed GERB MPs not to pass the amendment without a public debate. The proposed amendment limits the compensation payable for the road death of a family member to much lower levels than the earlier ones, and expands the circle of claimants to people who had an emotional bond with the victim. As a result, the Road Safety Institute and the association of victims of road accidents said the amendment was lobbyist and benefited insurance companies whose profits declined in recent years. At the same time, insurers complained that claims for compensation from siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles for accidents of the last five years had snowballed since the June ruling of the Supreme Court of Cassation which expanded the circle of claimants.

In "24 Chassa" Albena Boteva, Vice President of the Sofia City Court, explains that the right to compensation is not absolute. It must be established on a case-by-case basis as the ruling opens an option, by exception, to pay compensation to "any person who had formed a lasting, deep emotional bond with the deceased". The example she cites is a victim who lived in the same household with a sibling and had no other family. Another judge said the ruling makes it possible for people who are not the victims' relatives but were closest to them to claim compensation.

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"Standart News" (online) has interviewed Ivan Neykov, Director of the Balkan Institute for Labour and Social Policy and former social policy minister, who calls the 2019 State Budget Bill "a budget of overexpectations". Asked to comment on the key projections for 3.7 per cent economic growth, 3 per cent average annual inflation, 4.8 per cent unemployment and a revenue increase of over 5,000 million leva, Neykov praises the professionalism that went into the explanatory section of the budget bill, but expresses doubts that it is backed by new policies. One of the arguments for growth is that pensioners will get an adjustment of  nearly 6 per cent as of July 1. However, with average annual inflation at 3 per cent, the increase in the second half of the year must be revised down to 3 per cent, meaning that from the pensioners' viewpoint, the best thing about the 2019 budget is that it is not worse than the current one.

"Douma" leads with the alternative budget proposed by the Bulgarian Socialist Party,  which says working parents should be paid 6,400 leva in one-off allowances at the birth of their second and third child.

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"24 Chassa" says the State Agency for National Security is investigating a fraud scheme involving 42 residents of the southern town of Nedelino, who got 240,000 leva in unemployment benefits under dubious employment contracts. They worked for a few days at a time for a Bulgarian living in Spain who then fired them. On their return to Bulgaria the "unemployed" claimants were paid 60 per cent of their Spanish wages - 74 leva a day - as required by an EU regulation. However, some of them never left Bulgaria, while others were abroad for just three to 10 days. Another investigation is looking into a possible length-of-service scam through which seven residents of Nedelino drew over 10,000 leva each in pensions. 

"Capital" (online) reports that although the Commission for the Protection of Competition refused to clear the sale of the Bulgarian assets of Czech energy group CEZ to Inercom Bulgaria, the two sides seem to be acting as agreed in a preliminary contract signed in February. CEZ Electro Bulgaria and CEZ Distribution Bulgaria will hold a general meeting of shareholders on November 27 at which the members of their Supervisory Boards will be replaced by Inercom owner Ginka Vurbakova and people close to her. However, this is conditional on the anti-trust commission's approval of the deal and the payment of about 320 million euro by Inercom, neither of which will materialize by then. The daily assumes that CEZ will be acting on a commitment included in the preliminary contract.

"Troud" leads with a story about the press launch of the biography of Bulgaria's former star striker Hristo Stoichkov. The daily says the event brought together people from arch-rivals CSKA and Levski, Olympic Committee President Stefka Kostadinova, Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandakova and ex-Presidents Peter Stoyanov, Georgi Purvanov and Rosen Plevneliev. The event is covered extensively on two inside pages. "Sega" has a picture in which Stoichkov poses with the three ex-Presidents holding the book.

Quoting the National Revenue Agency (NRA), "Telegraf" says bars and restaurants hide their turnover on servers in Indonesia and Hong Kong. Restaurants, mostly in the resorts, use sales management software which hides every second, third or fifth receipt. The tax authorities cannot detect this fraud because turnover data are stored on cloud servers outside the EU. When checked, the owners say they cannot access the data. For instance, a beach bar declared just 8 per cent of its turnover to the NRA, while an excise duty warehouse evaded tax on a turnover of 12 million leva and declared just 2 million leva in two years.

ECONOMY

"Sega" has an analysis of petrol prices in Bulgaria, which, according to European Commission data, are the sixth highest in the EU, although wages and the taxes levied on the producer prices are among the EU's lowest. As to the price of diesel, Bulgaria ranks 19th in the EU. Notably, the time lag between a drop in crude oil prices and petrol prices is seven weeks in the EU and eight weeks in Bulgaria. However, the time lag between an increase in oil prices and petrol prices is two weeks in most EU Member States and one week in Bulgaria.

"Monitor" reports that nearly one million domestic fowls were culled in ten months to curb the spread of bird flu in Bulgaria. At present there are 22 outbreaks in this country. Food Safety Agency Director Damyan Iliev said the measures taken against the infection were ineffective and that keeping birds and animals in unregistered facilities should be criminalized. Reacting to farmers' protests, Iliev also said there were small backyard farms which posed a risk to an entire region.  

"Capital" and "24 Chassa" list the ten banks identified as systemically important institutions by the Bulgarian National Bank Governing Council. They will most likely be under ECB supervision, while the BNB will concentrate on the smaller banks. The ten banks are: UniCredit Bulbank, United Bulgarian Bank, First Investment Bank, DSK Bank, Societe Generale Expressbank, Raiffeisenbank (Bulgaria), Eurobank Bulgaria, Central Cooperative Bank, Bulgarian Development Bank, and Piraeus Bank Bulgaria.

POLITICS

"Troud" reports that GERB expects its MPs to refrain from trips and sick leave to secure a quorum for the debate of the 2019 State Budget Bill. The Socialist Party is adamant it will not register for the plenary, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms says the power holders ought to guarantee the requisite presence, and Volya Party leader Vesselin Mareshki also says his MPs may stop attending the sittings.

"24 Chassa" quotes Eva Maydell MEP (European People's Party/GERB) as saying that "every Bulgarian who transfers money from or to another EU member State will save at least 30 leva per transaction". Banks in Bulgaria levy some of the highest charges in the EU - between 30 and 50 leva for a 10-euro transfer. Now the charges will fall to 2 or 3 leva. Maydell is the rapporteur on the Cross-border Payments Regulation, which seeks to save up to 4,000 million leva a year to individuals and businesses outside the euro zone. The Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee voted on Monday to put an end to the existence of two categories of payment service users in the EU: those who benefit from the single euro payments area and the users paying high costs for their cross-border payments in euro. Maydell tweeted: "The European Parliament and the EU Council will now work together to ensure that EU citizens can enjoy much cheaper cross-border payments and more transparent currency conversion charges."
 
In a "Troud" interview anti-terrorism expert Hristo Smolenov analyses disinformation about domestic and global developments. One of the examples is what he views as a smear campaign trying to link VMRO leader Krassimir Karakachanov, who is Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister, to the corruption scandal at the State Agency for Bulgarians Abroad. Smolenov claims that VMRO with its "steady nationalist conservative traditions" and its leader were targeted because they were the first to criticize the manipulative use of the Istanbul Convention and stood up for the Bulgarian family values in raising children.

SOCIETY

"Telegraf" gives details of Enrique Iglesias's All the Hits Live show in Sofia in Sofia on Tuesday. He is coming with seven truck-loads of equipment.

"Troud" reports that 96-year-old actress Stoyanka Moutafova will not be acting for a few months on doctor's orders following an unspecified incident.

BTA