Press Review

Sofia, December 6 (BTA)

HIGHLIGHTS

"24 Chassa": Fugitive banker Tsvetan Vassilev was ordered by a court to pay back to the bankrupt Corpbank (where he was the majority holder) 125 million euro. This transpired from a December 3 decision of Sofia City Court on a case launched after a petition by the Corpbank trustees in bankruptcy. Vassilev used the money from the bank (in the form of loans to several companies that were linked to him) to acquire BTC telecom operator.

"Sega": The housing arrangements of former Regional Development Minister and present Deputy Minister Nikolai Nankov turned out quite intricate and with solid business undertones. After a careful look at the property declarations of the power-holders, this paper found that Nankov, just like Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov, lives in somebody else's house without paying a rent. Asked by this paper to explain that, the deputy minister said that since 2011 he has been living in one-third ofa Sofia apartment owned by a close friend of his and in exchange for that she uses a house Nankov owns in the resort town of Apriltsi. There are, however, serious business dependencies lurking behind the innocent explanation for the house barter, the story says. It says in short that a company connected to the owner of Nankov's present home and for which Nankov used to work before going into politics, has won EU funding for 14 projects and has been contractor or consultant to contractors in many public procurements.

"Troud" leads with the seizing of a huge arsenal including automatic weapons and ammunition during police raids in Sofia and in a village near the south-central town of Kazanluk. Seven persons have been detained. One of them is believed to have had links with a second group of five people in the business of making false passports and visas. It did not become clear in which countries the weapons and ammunition were sold. The story also says that the crime group sneaked custom-made silencers out of the Arsenal ordnance factory.

"Douma": A segment of the fence along the Bulgarian border with Turkey has come down. Photos of the fallen fence dated December 4 were made public by Socialist MP Nikolai Tsonkov. The Socialist party has repeatedly said that the border fence was poorly built and overpriced.

POLITICS

"Sega"  writes that the opportunity for voting electronically inBulgarian elections, provided for by the Election Code, "was done with by GERB, the United Patriots, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms and Volya thanks to their joint efforts and lots ofdemagoguery". Revising the law, the four political forces decided in the parliamentary legislation committee to scrap a provision which required of the competent authorities to ensure an option for e-voting in 2019. A new deadline was not set which means that there isn't going to be e-voting. The opportunities for machine voting, which should have already been introduced in all voting stations, were strongly reduced. Machine voting will be available in 1,000 sections (out of a total of 12,000)  picked by the Central Election Commission.

***

A commentary in this paper says that "doubtlessly, Bulgaria is a prosecutors' state" (in the headline). The comment is prompted by an ongoing clash between the Supreme Cassation Court (and more specifically its President, Lozan Panov) and the appellate specialized court after Lozanov ordered a check at the specialized court on how it is handling the prolonged detention of a former Sofia borough mayor, and then the majority of specialized court judges sought protection against Panov from the Supreme Judicial Council and the prosecution office sided with them. The author argues that the Supreme Cassation Court President had every right to order the controversial check as the law does not specify that only completed cases should be  checked.

Lozan Panov is also in the focus of a page-long analysis (unsigned) in "Troud" which is formally prompted by a letter Panov's wife wrote after he was attacked by judges in the Supreme Judicial Council for speaking of lack of independence in the judiciary. The author of the analysis calls for Panov's recall "or else those who fail to do that risk to become later his victims or the victims of his militant supporters who have made the judicial system toxic".  

ECONOMY

"24 Chassa" among other papers reports that the head of the Financial Supervision Commission, Karina Karaivanova, will replace Kalin Mitrev in the Board of Directors of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Karaivanova's deputy Boyko Atanassov is seen as her most likely replacement.  "Sega" says that the government's decision to send Karaivanova to represent the country in the EBRD was "a surprise move". 

***

A commentary in "24 Chassa" argues in favour of higher taxes for older and more polluting cars.

***

"Sega" quotes Nikolai Rashkov of the Union of International Carriers as saying that the controversial provisions of the Mobility Package are unclear and detrimental to the interests of Bulgarian carriers. This sector employs 120,000 people and they will suffer, he said.

***

"Capital Daily" reports that after years of no change, the day pass in most of the large skiing resorts in Bulgaria will be more expensive this season. It remains unchanged for Mt. Vitosha near Sofia. In Bansko, Borovets and Pamporovo the skiing season is due to open officially in the next two weekends. The Tourism Ministry expects a 5% increase of tourists.

***

"Capital" writes that the participants in a discussion on the competitiveness and investment climate in Bulgaria organized by the German-Bulgarian Chamber and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, agreed that corruption in all its forms is the key obstacle to developing competitiveness in Bulgaria as it affects all key spheres on which the success of a business depends. The focus of the discussion was on three chronic failures of the environment in Bulgaria: judiciary, infrastructure and education, as well as a new hurdle to investment: opposing projects without reasonable arguments and the lack of trust in businesses and government, the paper says. 

SOCIETY

"Troud" reports that Pope Francis is coming on a visit to Bulgaria in May 2019. The visit is largely due to the persistent invitation by Prime Minister Boyko Borissov when he met with the Pope, the story says.

***

"24 Chassa" has a two-page set of stories on who are the persons behind several websites for fake news, including informiran.net and jacknewsbg (which says on its home page that it reports fake news) which were behind a scandal last week over the housing arrangements of several MPs of the ruling GERB party.

***

"Sega" reports that four men who blew up a cash machine in Sapareva Banya, some 45 km south of Sofia, were sentenced to only six months in prison. "The Interior Ministry chased the men with all its power and then the prosecutors made a deal with them and they got only six months," the paper says.

***

"Troud" among other papers reports that a five-judge panel of the Supreme Administrative Court reversed a decision by a three-judge panel of the same court that the new management plan for the Pirin National Park needs to go through an environment impact assessment. The case is thus sent back for consideration by a different three-judge panel. The paper comments that the motives of the first three-judge panel were "apparently political".

***

"Douma" has a report from a public discussion on the future of what used to be Sofia's central thermal bath. The people who came to participate in the discussion Wednesday far outnumbered the participants that the Municipal Council had expected. The local government plans to make the building a museum with spaces for concerts and other events. Those present strongly disagreed and insisted that the building should be restored to continue to exist as a thermal bath. 

***

"Douma" reports that Bulgarian tennis star Grigor Dimitrov is boycotting Sofia Open (February 2-11). He came up with an odd excuse: he said in a bTV interview that he is not participating because it is a private tournament, the paper writes. "He most certainly should be aware that all ATP tournaments are private with the exception of the four Grand Slam tournaments which are organized by the national federation in the respective country," the paper says.

***

"Standard News" writes that Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Donchev is considering restricting the rights of people without primary education. At present Bulgarians are required to go to school until they turn 16 and can leave school after that regardless of what grade they are. Donchev's argument is that education is free in Bulgaria.

 

BTA