Press Review

Sofia, December 5 (BTA)

The Wednesday papers cover the outcome of Monday's Transport Council of the EU which adopted a general approach to key reforms in the transport sector. The changes are seen as protectionist by a number of Central and East European countries including Bulgaria. They require drivers to return to their home countries every four weeks and ban them from having their rest period in truck cabs. If the changes are voted through by the European Parliament, they will take effect from July 2020. Bulgarian road haulage operators say that they will be forced to employ three drivers per truck.


"Douma": The Supreme Administrative Court has ruled that a refusal by the Commission for Protection of Competition to reconsider a deal between Inercom and CEZ is illegal. The court pronounced on November 21 and the casefile was returned on November 21. The Commission had seven days to comply with the court's ruling and launch concentration proceedings into the deal about the sale of CEZ's Bulgarian assets. The deadline expired on November 28 but still there is no announcement by the Commission that it has launched proceedings. On October 18 the Commission refused to reconsider the deal for the acquisition of CEZ's Bulgarian assets arguing that its decision on July 18 to block the acquisition is pending appeal. The anti-trust regulator halted the deal because buyer Inercom operated solar parks which it  subsequently transferred. Meanwhile CEZ told that despite the missed deadline for payment by Inercom the acquisition agreement remains valid and there is still a chance that Inercom may acquire CEZ's assets. Earlier, CEZ said they have restarted talks with India Power about the sale of its Bulgarian assets.

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"Sega": Banks' profits continue to rise by double-digit rates every month and have reached the record high levels before the 2008 crisis. At the end of October banks reported a net profit of 1.379 billion leva, according to central bank data. Everything so far indicates that 2018 will break the record of 2008 when the banking sector reported a net profit of 1.387 billion leva. Compared with a year earlier, this is an increase of 38 per cent. Around 60 per cent of the profit was generated by the larger banks such as UniCredit Bulbank, DSK Bank, United Bulgarian Bank and Post Bank, while smaller banks reported a loss.

At the end of October, the interest rate on mortgage loans decreased to an average 3.26 per cent, while the interest rate on consumer loans was 8.6 per cent.  At the end of October, revenues from bank fees totalled 881 million leva, up by 55 million leva from the like period of 2017.

Interest income in the first ten months of the year totalled 2.275 billion leva compared with 2.235 billion in 2017.

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"Sega", "24 Chassa": According to Eurostat data on household expenditure in 2017, Bulgarian households on average spent 19.7 per cent on utility bills and housing compared with 24.2 per cent in the EU. However, Bulgarian households spent 19.2 per cent of their total consumption expenditure on food and non-alcoholic beverages compared with an average 12.2 per cent in the EU.

Households in Finland (28.8 per cent), the Netherlands (28.7 per cent) and France (26.2 per cent) had the largest utilities and housing expenses.
Of their total household expenditure Bulgarians spent 13.9 per cent on transport, 6.2 per cent on healthcare and 5.2 per cent on alcohol. The smallest expenditures were for footwear and clothing at 3.2 per cent, wand for recreation and culture at 7.9 per cent. Romanians had the largest consumption expenditure on food (27.8 per cent), followed by Lithuania (21.6 per cent) and Estonia (20.3 per cent). In relation to incomes, food and non-alcoholic beverages were cheapest in the UK (8.2 per cent), and Luxembourg (8.9 per cent)


"Douma" (online): In a letter to socialist MPs, the Road Infrastructure Agency has agreed to an independent expert review into the quality of road construction in Bulgaria. The Bulgarian Socialist Party submitted a petition to the Agency for an independent review and socialist MP  Elena Yoncheva petitioned European institutions following a deadly bus accident which was allegedly caused by the poor quality of the road pavement. The Agency suggests that the socialist party name the experts who will assess the quality of road construction. The Agency says that after analyzing the current legislation, an expert assessment can be done only of the road construction phase. There is no procedure under which already completed roads can be assessed. In view of the intense public scrutiny and the politicization of the issue the Agency suggests that BSP for Bulgaria nominates a working group of experts with which Agency officials should agree on the expert and technological solutions in line with the existing legislation, the signed grant contracts and international expertise. Previously, the Bulgarian Construction Chamber reacted strongly to the socialists' request, calling it an attempt to discredit the industry and serve political interests.

"24 Chassa" carried an interview with former Simeon Saxe-Coburg Gotha, former Bulgarian king and Prime Minister (2001-2005) under the headline 'Tourism May Become National Cause'. Commenting on the conflict between the government and the President, Saxe Coburg Gotha says that people respect the institutions and that the individuals are there for a limited amount of time and that it is not always a good thing to have the last word. The former king says that from 2019 he plans to cut back on his work commitments and spend more time with his grand children.

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A check by "Troud" has shown that hundreds of protesters who blocked roads are being issued with statements of violations and fines. Police in Plovdiv issued over 50 statements of violation after a procession of 50 cars failed to stop at a stop sign between Karlovo and Sopot on November 20. Twenty-six protesters in the region of Sliven were issued with fines for blocking a road near the village of Kroushare and another ten protesters were fined by 50 leva for blocking Hemus motorway in Northern Bulgaria. Vesselin Georgiev, head of the traffic police in Shoumen, said that the police are reviewing the cars which took part in the road blockades and may impose  more fines.

"Troud" carries a report analyzing whether Bulgaria will be faced with electricity shortages without its coal-fired plants.  According to the latest Winter Outlook report by ENTSO-E, the European Network of Transmission System Operators, Bulgaria is facing with electricity supplies shortages along with Cyprus, Malta, Corsica and Crete by 2020. The same findings are reflected in a report by the national Electricity System Operator which says that the current reserve capacities won't be able to meet demands and exports if there is excessive consumption combined a breakdown of generating facilities. The two US-owned thermal power plants and the state-owned Maritza East 2 are expected to receive derogation from tighter EU requirements for carbon emissions and to continue to operate after 2021. BTA