Press Review

Sofia, December 7 (BTA) 


"Sega": The Counter-corruption and Unlawfully Acquired Assets Forfeiture Commission has launched a probe into Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov for conflict of interest. The Commission's head, Plamen Georgiev, told the daily that the check was prompted by media publications saying that Goranov resides free of charge in a luxurious flat of his godfather, Ivan Sariev. This is the second probe in the Finance Minister, the previous one being for malfeasance in office and influence peddling.

"24 Chassa": Everything will appreciate in 2019 due to the higher price of electricity for the industry on the free market. Retailers have already been warned that the goods they are buying will appreciate by 25 per cent as of next year. The last days have seen sharp increases, with one record-high of 350 per cent, at the energy exchange. Household users will not feel the increase in their electricity bills, but the whole business community has been shaken because everyone buys electricity on the exchange. The electricity price increase might also lead to a rise in the unemployment rate, because the industry will be forced to close down productions. Other possible consequences include a drop in economic growth and exports, and bankruptcy of electricity producers.

"Douma": The interest rates on loans will increase. The end of low interest rates is coming everywhere, not just in Bulgaria, said Association of Banks in Bulgaria head Peter Andronov on Thursday. He warned that the rise might be insignificant but all should take it into view because of it being an additional expense. Banker Levon Hampartzoumian said that  there will  hardly be a dramatic increase in interest rates on loans in 2019. He advised people not to take loans bordering on the limit of their means. Overdue loans in the country amount to 8 to 9 per cent, the daily recalls.

"Standard News": The former South Stream gas pipeline project has showered with gold the owners of 12,000 properties in Northern Bulgaria. Almost all land properties along the 474 km route of the pipeline from Provadia to the border with Serbia opposite Zajecar have been expropriated, and their owners were paid at market prices. It is precisely the end of the expropriation procedures, the issued construction permits and environmental impact assessments that are Bulgaria's huge advantage over Greece for the attraction of the second pipeline of the Turk Stream project. This pipeline will pass along the now freed route of South Stream, the most direct and cheapest route of Russian gas to Serbia, Hungary, Austria, and the Slovak Republic.

"Capital Weekly": "TV Shield for the Powerholders". A new authoritarianism is rearing its head in the Eastern Bloc, even in countries which today are full members of the EU, and in all cases the goal is full control of the State by the powerholders. Nowadays, this can only be achieved through full control over the fourth power: the media.  If you remove from the media the well-grounded criticism of the powerholders' decisions or the investigations into their malfeasances, you can change the reality for a lot of people. Bulgaria is part of this process, which strives to destroy strong, independent media, by drawing on the experience of Hungary as the process' flagman. In 2017, Bulgaria had the worst indices in the EU for State interference in the media sector. A draft bill sponsored by MPs of the ruling coalition relocates funding from cable TV operators to TV channels determined by the State. If it gets adopted, this could be yet another step towards putting the media under the powerholders' control.

"Troud": Maria Baneva, the 78-year-old mother of Nikolai Banev, has been charged with participation in an organized crime group together with her daughter-in-law Evgenia Baneva. Businessman Nikolai Banev and his wife, who were detained in Nice, France, on October 21, were sent back to Bulgaria on Thursday to stand trial for gross embezzlement, tax evasion and money laundering, Deputy Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev said after their arrival in the country.


An article in "Sega" presents data from the latest report of the Initiative Against Illegal Trade, in which several big tobacco companies participate and within which research is conducted on the size of the black market in Bulgaria. According to the report, contraband in cigarettes grew by 0.6 per cent in the third quarter of 2018 compared to the second quarter, and its share in consumption reached 5.3 per cent. The daily recalls how in late September Prime Minister Boyko Borissov boasted that the illegal trade in cigarettes in Bulgaria had dropped to 4.7 per cent.

In a two-page article on the same report, "24 Chassa" writes that Capital has replaced Compliment as the cigarette brand with the biggest share on the illegal cigarettes market, over 10 per cent, despite the fact that in the second quarter of 2018 Capital was not even in the top 15. The share of Compliment dropped from over 17 per cent in the second quarter to 5.5 per cent in the third quarter of 2018. This significant change is due to the busting of five illegal cigarette factories in Bulgaria in the summer.


An article in "Capital Weekly" reads that the Bulgarian prosecuting magistracy is ruled through large-scale and unscrupulous posting of magistrates. Such posting makes a magistrate dependent on his/her boss, who can at any time order his/her return, and is used as a mechanism for getting candidates from courts of lower instance into courts of higher instance, as well as for transferring candidates from smaller settlements to Sofia. According to the article, magistrates whose career is thus in the hands of Prosecutor General Sotir Tsatsarov, are tasked with key investigations.


"24 Chassa" writes that US intelligence officer Malcolm Wrightson Nance says in his book "The Plot to Destroy Democracy" that Bulgarian President Rumen Radev is part of Russian President Vladimir Putin's plan for domination in Europe. The book lists Radev among pro-Russian leaders of East European countries from the former Warsaw Pact.


A story in "Capital Weekly" goes that the three current members of the National Bureau for Control over Special Surveillance Means (SSMs), Iliya Ganev, Ognyan Atanassov and Ognyan Stoichkov, who are candidates for a new five-year term in office and will most probably get it, had voted in favour of sending a citizen a fake notification informing him that he had not been placed under surveillance illegally. The notification was sent in spring but became public knowledge only after the Haskovo District Court firmly rejected evidence in a drug trafficking case on the grounds that it had been collected through unauthorized use of SSMs. This story comes into the light right before the candidates for members of the National Bureau for SSMs are to attend a hearing for a new term in office. This shows that the forthcoming collapse of the Bureau is currently being set up. 


"24 Chassa" has an interview with Bulgarian MEP Andrey Novakov (GERB/EPP), who is part of the negotiation team for the 2019 EU budget. He says that next year Bulgaria will get by 230 million leva more under the EU's budget compared to 2018, but it can receive even more under programmes outside of the budget's framework.  The increase is notable in several areas, such as infrastructure, farming, education, and rural development, he tells the daily. Novakov also provides inside details on the negotiation process.

"Standard News" too has an interview with Novakov. The Bulgarian MEP comments on Monday's agreement of the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council of the EU on its general approach to a key reform of the road transport sector, which Bulgaria does not support. He also talks about the A.L.E.C.O. programme, which was launched at his initiative to provide funding for traineeships of young EU entrepreneurs at foreign companies, and the Selovoditel online platform, again initiated by him as a means to fight against the depopulation of Bulgarian villages.