Press Review

Sofia, January 14 (BTA)

PLOVDIV - EUROPEAN CAPITAL OF CULTURE

The status of Bulgaria's second-largest city, Plovdiv, as a European Capital of Culture in 2019 is a leading topic in the Monday press following the inauguration ceremony on Saturday.

Troud says that the huge, dazzling stage on which the opening show played out survived for just a day. It began to be dismantled in order to reopen a central thoroughfare and thus alleviate the city's traffic problems. Among the opening events, the daily highlights a tobacco exhibition which is part of a project to present Plovdiv as Tobacco City.

According to 24 Chassa, people were divided in their opinions about the opening show. Comments ranged from "Superb!" to "Total failure!"

Sega runs a report headlined "European Capital of Shame." It quotes Plovdivians as wondering how they can blindfold foreigners to spare them the sight of broken tiles in the city's central square.

MILITARY

GERB Floor Leader Tsvetan Tsvetanov predicted that the proposal to start negotiations with the United States for the purchase of eight F-16 fighter jets will be supported by the National Assembly, MediaPool.bg says. "What was proposed by the working group and adopted by the Council of Ministers is the best option, I think, and it is also something that our country can be proud of for decades to come. It is an investment in security," Tsvetanov told Bulgarian National Radio on Sunday. He dismissed accusations of a non-transparent procedure.

Earlier in the week the Council of Ministers did not surprise anyone when it asked the National Assembly to give the green light for negotiations with the US for the purchase of F-16 Block 70 fighter aircraft and to allow for the future contract to "deviate" from Bulgaria's requirements. The cabinet has received assurances from the White House that the price of the fighters will be reduced in the course of the negotiations, MediaPool.bg recalls.

Douma quotes the President's Chief Secretary, Col. Dimiter Stoyanov, as estimating in a Facebook post that Bulgaria will pay 2.3 billion leva for the purchase of eight F-16 fighter jets, including armament, or more than 287 million leva for each jet. Stoyanov thus refuted a statement by Gen. Konstantin Popov (Ret.), MP of GERB, who said the jets will cost 2 billion leva in total.

According to Stoyanov, National Assembly Deputy Chair Emil Hristov (GERB) lied when he said that, back at the time that President Rumen Radev was Commander of the Air Force, an offer was made to supply new F-16s but Radev rejected it. The offer was actually rejected long after Radev became President, Stoyanov said.

A month ago it transpired that Bahrain was buying sixteen F-16 fighters for 1.12 billion US dollars; for eight of the same, Bulgaria will pay double, Douma claims.

"Why Does No One Dare to Tell the Truth about the US Fighters?" caps a comment in 24 Chassa by the paper's Editor-in-Chief Borislav Zyumbyulev. He argues that the debate about what fighter aircraft should Bulgaria buy is bogus:

"I say the debate is bogus because, regardless of who is in power, Bulgaria cannot turn the US down since these planes are, essentially, a gift from Washington. Thanks to the US government, Bulgaria has earned 1.5 billion [leva?] in revenues from arms exports. The annual revenues are 100 million more than even in the most lucrative days of the Cold War, when we were delivering to despotic regimes in Asia and Africa.

"This is not a bribe in the ordinary sense of the word, like someone getting paid to act or not to act in a certain way. Rather, it is 'an offer [we] can't refuse' [written in English]. A favour was done, and Bulgaria is expected not to be ungrateful. I don't think we can afford to be ungrateful."

In conclusion, Zyumbyulev says that to choose other aircraft over F-16 would be tantamount to declaring war on the United States. "We shouldn't do it, or else we will regret it bitterly."

ECONOMY

A price hike for many medicines on the Bulgarian market is one of the worst things that the country may face if the British Parliament rejects the Brexit deal on Tuesday and Britain leaves the EU on March 30 without a deal, 24 Chassa predicts in its main story. The daily refers to possible Brexit scenarios drawn up by the Bulgarian government.

Economically and trade-wise, Brexit should not affect Bulgaria as strongly as countries like France and the Netherlands, the Bulgarian government believes. The scenarios were constructed after the European Commission warned the member states that they need to be prepared for the worst Brexit outcome. In that case, the prices of British-made cars sold in Bulgaria will rise by at least 10 per cent too, the paper says.

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A mega-scandal over the halt of a 141 million euro investment project is looming in Plovdiv, 24 Chassa reports, quoting municipal councillors. The construction of what will be the city's largest retail-and-office building has been delayed by half a year due to a technical procedure involving coordination of the detailed site development plan with the local authorities.

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The problems confronting investors in Bulgaria are not diminishing, with corruption, crime and judicial system flaws remaining the principal setbacks, shows a poll among 100 Austrian companies conducted by Advantage Austria Sofia (the Austrian chamber of commerce in Bulgaria), Sega reports.

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The Energy Ministry and the Energy and Water Regulatory Commission (EWRC) will take urgent measures to stabilize the price of electricity sold to industrial users via the Independent Bulgarian Energy Exchange (IBEX), StandartNews.com says. On Monday EWRC Chair Ivan Ivanov is expected to meet with the leaders of the three electricity distribution companies in Bulgaria and the chiefs of the National Electricity Company, the Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant, the Maritza East 2 Thermal Power Plant and IBEX. The meeting will also be attended by Energy Minister Temenouzhka Petkova, but the actual buyers of electricity will not be represented at the discussion, Standart says, quoting Epicenter.bg.

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The National Revenue Agency (NRA) is starting probes at companies trading in cryptocurrency, StandartNews.com says. The aim is to see whether the companies comply with tax and social security laws. The NRA will also check the operating principles of cryptocurrency trading platforms. Since virtual-currency transactions are anonymous, there is a risk of income concealment and tax evasion, the NRA reasoned.

LAW AND ORDER

The Specialized Criminal Court ordered indefinite custody for five people charged with laundering 2.5 million leva in assets misappropriated from the now-bankrupt Corporate Commercial Bank (Corpbank), Capital.bg reports. The group were arrested by police on Thursday. They include Nikola Kirov and Ivan Stoikov, chief executives of the companies Dunarit and Fina-S, respectively, as well as Vassil Shoumanov, Ventsislav Todorov and Krassimir Zarev, who are close to Corpbank's majority owner Tsvetan Vassilev. According to the prosecution, they received the above-mentioned amount of 2.5 million leva in paper envelopes in late 2013.

The news about the arrests was reported by Tsvetan Vassilev's lawyer Konstantin Simeonov on Friday. In a letter to the media, the lawyer described the arrests as an attempt to pressure witnesses in the main case against the majority owner, in which he is accused of draining the bank, Capital.bg says.

Bisser Lazov, the one-time informal financial director under Tsvetan Vassilev, has provided the main evidence against the five arrested suspects. According to Lazov, money from the bank was given to politicians, athletes, journalists and artists. He claims that the entire election campaign of journalist-turned-politician Nikolai Barekov for the European Parliament elections in 2014 was financed with Corpbank money. The Barekov case has been investigated but the outcome of the investigation is unknown, the website notes.

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The police in the seaside town of Sozopol launched a probe into the ploughing of sand dunes at the Smokinya Camping Site after environmental inspectors confirmed that the dunes had been destroyed with heavy machinery, MediaPool.bg says in its top story. The Tourism Ministry will also conduct a check in the protected area, but no one has named any suspect yet, the website notes.

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Germany has become a haven for Bulgarian fugitives from justice, according to data from the Chief Directorate for Security at the Bulgarian Justice Ministry, cited in the leading story of Monitor. The data show that 85 per cent of all people extradited to Bulgaria in 2018 were extradited from Germany.

EDUCATION

Many prestigious high schools in Sofia, where competition for admission is particularly strong, have accepted students above the official limit for the current school year, Sega reports in its main story. Second English Language School has admitted the largest number of extra students: 24. They could make up a whole class. The data was provided by the Education and Science Ministry on a request by Sega in connection with the Ministry's stated intention to propose new legislation to ensure that the enrollment of extra students is done according to the students' scores, not at the discretion of regional education department chiefs or the Minister.

 

 

 

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