Press Review

Sofia, November 9 (BTA)


"Douma": A year before the end of his tenure and following orders from the power-holders, Prosecutor General Sotir Tsatsarov went for a head-on collision with the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) by asking Parliament to strip of immunity MPs Elena Yoncheva and Georgi Mihaylov (BSP) [among a total of six MPs]. The paper says that prosecutors are pressing money laundering charges against Yoncheva on an alert by MP Delyan Dobrev (GERB) and recalls that Yoncheva exposed a nepotistic scheme he ran in the southern town of Haskovo.

"Douma" also has a page-long interview with Yoncheva where she dismisses the probe against her as "a classic GERB scheme for political repressions". She says that the charges against her are a side show aimed to distract attention from the raising of taxes and the ongoing protests. 

All Friday papers have the story and in most the focus is on the money laundering probe against Yoncheva.

"Sega": The Registry Agency has paid out hefty bonuses to its staff for the exact same period when the Commercial Register crashed and stayed inoperable for 18 days causing serious damage to businesses. According to unnamed sources, a total of 700,000 leva were distributed in bonuses "for achieved results" for the period of July, August and September. The press office of the Registry Agency confirmed the payment of bonuses to staff members but declined to disclose any figures. Some 600 people are employed by the Agency. 

"24 Chassa" leads with a story about hefty compensations awarded by the court to relatives of people killed in traffic accidents. "Seventeen cousins of a Gypsy man who died in a road accident, were awarded by a court 50,000 leva each. 720 cases with similar claims are pending in the Sofia City Court alone and in one out of five of these cases the claimants are cousins of the victim," the story says in its opening paragraph. It explains that all this is a result from an interpretative decision by the Supreme Court of Cassation which broadened the scope of people eligible to claim compensations for death caused in traffic accidents.

The front-page headline in "Monitor" says that one in five Bulgarians has been in hospital at least once a year. A total of 20,091 people without medical insurance received medical treatment in the past couple of years. The National Health Insurance Fund paid 1,786 million leva for hospitalizations in nine months, the story says.

"Telegraf" leads with a story saying that thieves watch their victims for a half-month before robbing them. It also says that 10 robbery gangs are operational in Sofia and that licensed locksmiths work with them for a cut of the loot.

"Troud" has a front-page story about a novel labeling system using the traffic-lights colours as an indication if foods are good or bad for your health based on their content of fats, salt and sugar. The story says, however, that cheese will have a red label because of the fat in it while sugar-free sodas will be labelled green. The Health Ministry has confirmed that the proposal is being considered.

"Standard News Weekly" leads with a story about what it calls "the cost of the transition" from command economy to free market economy in Bulgaria. This cost is estimated at 186 billion US dollars and includes all privatizations, restitutions, concessions, plundered or left-to-decay assets between 1993 and 2004, to use the paper's words.

The next four pages in this weekly about the US midterms. 

The cover story in "Capital Weekly" is about what it calls "the end of the cheap third-party motor insurance". The paper says that the most common motor insurance will become more expensive as a result of a court decision and this is probably just the beginning. Insurers asked for a cap on compensations but the power-holders are undecided whether or not to grant that. Increasing the premiums for third-party motor insurance is the only way to raise the millions of leva needed to pay for old claims, the paper says. In another story on the matter ("Insurance Calculus") "Capital" explains why the third-party motor insurance is sure to get more expensive.    


"24 Chassa" has a full page of stories about the Helsinki congress of the European People's Party (EPP) with the participation of Bulgaria's GERB party and Prime Minister Boyko Borissov. One story says in the headline that Borissov criticized the EPP over Macedonia and its double standards. The paper also carries an exclusive interview with Manfred Weber who emerged as the favourite to head the next European Commission. He says (in the headline) that he continues his battle to see Bulgaria join the Schengen agreement. 

In "Monitor", Borissov is quoted as saying during a visit to Helsinki that Bulgaria and Finland are a model of how the EU border should be protected. He also reportedly said that it is not migrants but two-speed Europe and Brexit that threaten united Europe. 


In a "Sega" interview, social science and marketing professor Zhivko Georgiev says that it is becoming less and less likely for the government to serve out its full term. Georgiev takes questions about the ambitions of the opposition Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF); the likelihood for a MRF-supported minority government of GERB; the firm refusal of Deputy Prime Minister Valeri Simeonov to step down despite the overwhelming support (according to opinion polls) for the calls for his resignation. He says that the power-holders "are aware that their presence in the government is a resource which is available for use in the upcoming elections". "It is good to be on power when European elections are coming up and you are the one administering the process. It is even better if local elections are due soon. Nobody is ready to relinquish this resource." 


In a "Standard News" interview, Volya leader Vesselin Mareshki says that his party is part of the European wave for change. He slams the Establishment in the past 29 years for stealing from Bulgarian people and blasts the European leaders for opening the door wide to migrants. He says that he has invited Marine le Pen to visit Sofia and she is coming a week from now.


"Capital Weekly" has an editorial about the appointment of Ilko Zhelyazkov (whom it calls "a lieutenant" of controversial businessman/MP Delyan Peevski) as deputy head of the bureau for controlling surveillance. The commentary says that "step by step, the MRF deputy gained control over the prosecution service, the judicial system, the Interior Ministry and the special services". "In the past five years, the leaders changed at the State Agency for National Security, the intelligence, the National Bodyguard Service and the Interior Ministry and his puppets appeared there," the paper says. In addition to the editorial comment, the paper has a two-page story entitled "Why Would Peevski Want to Control Wiretapping". 


"Sega" writes about a recent report by the Institute of Market Economics which has figured out, based on the draft 2019 budget bill, that the government will have to collect from each and every Bulgarian an average of 6,306 leva in taxes, social and health insurance and then spent it for wages to civil servants, pensions, farming subsidies, highways and water infrastructure, child benefits, new jets for the Air Force, the police, Armed Forces, schools and hospitals. 


"24 Chassa", among other papers, reports the resignation of the entire management of the Bulgarian State Railways (BDZ) on the request of Transport Minister Rossen Zhelyazkov. The story says that the resignations were prompted by "a mysterious report" about irregularities at BDZ, which has been leaked to the news media, and poor communication.


In a "24 Chassa" interview. Kiril Boshov of the managing Board of the Association of Bulgarian Insurers argues in favour of plans to introduce a bonus-malus system in motor insurance.


A story entitled "A Billion and One Surplus Wishes" in "Capital Weekly" says that for a third year now the budget is running a huge surplus: 2.86 billion leva as of October. Some of it could go to build an extension on Hemus Motorway. There, however, has been no  debate about how the extra money can be managed in a meaningful way, the paper says.


Another story in this paper ("The New Bulgarian Map") says that the Regional Development Ministry has proposed a new division of the country into regions for the purpose of EU statistics. The changes, however, will alter the distribution of EU funding and the effect may be more far-reaching. The comparison with Sofia remains the key challenge for the other cities, the story says.


"Sega" reports that wages in health care will increase by 15-20 per cent from next year according to a new collective agreement signed Thursday in the sector. The increase will be by 200 leva and the wage of a nurse in the ambulance centres, psychiatric hospitals and the centres for transfusion hematology will be upped to 900 leva from 700 leva. Nurses in the specialized hospitals for rehabilitation, the mental health centres and municipal clinics will be increased t0 920 leva and to those in university hospitals to 950 leva.

Hospitals across Bulgaria are experiencing a severe understaffing with nurses amid an exodus to EU countries with better-paid nursing jobs.


Most newspapers have stories about the EPP Congress in Helsinki.

The Friday press also reports the replacement of US Attorney General Jeff Sessions by President Donald Trump in the wake of the midterm elections.

Another US story covered by the papers in Bulgaria is a deadly shooting in a bar in southern California which killed 12 people.