Press Review

Sofia, February 12 (BTA) 


Both "Sega" and "Telegraph" have a front-page story about Monday's emergency meeting at the Council of Ministers convened by Prime Minister Boyko Borissov in relation to an investigation into the 2015 poisoning of businessman Emilian Gebrev. The other dailies cover the story in detail, too, but on inside pages.

"Sega": After nearly 4 years of silence about the poisoning of Dunarit ordnance company owner Emilian Gebrev in April 2015, the Bulgarian authorities unexpectedly came out of hiding, convened an emergency meeting in the Prime Minister's office with the participation of Prosecutor General Sotir Tsatsarov, Interior Minister Mladen Marinov, and State Agency for National Security head Dimiter Georgiev, and went into a regime of explanations. Tsatsarov firmly refuted the claims that the investigation had been forgotten and that the poison used was from the Novichok family, but his detailed explanations to the media left many questions unanswered. The reason for this unexpected activization is an investigation of the British website Bellingcat and its Russian partner The Insider that links the poisoning of former Russian agent Skripal and his daughter in the UK in the spring of 2018 and the incident with Gebrev in Bulgaria in 2015. CNN, "The Times", "The Telegraph", and "Newsweek" covered the investigation, and this forced the Bulgarian authorities to activate a crisis PR.

"Telegraph": After the emergency meeting at the Council of Ministers, Prosecutor General Tsatsarov said that there is no data of Gebrev having being poisoned like Skripal. "We had a very fruitful meeting and discussed information about a possible intervention and potential poisoning of Mr Emilian Gebrev. We have been working with the Bulgarian authorities and British services for several months," said British Ambassador to Bulgaria Emma Hopkins, who also attended the meeting. She said that no details about the investigation can be made public.

"24 Chassa" recalls that it found a possible Russian link in the attack against Gebrev as early as in June 2015. Back then the daily wrote that Gebrev might have been poisoned because he had affected Russian interests on the arms market.

"Standard News" writes that GERB Deputy Chair Tsvetan Tsvetanov Monday undertook a new attack against Russia. He interpreted as an interference of Russia the three visits to Bulgaria of Sergei Fedotov, one of the three Russian intelligence officers involved in Skripal's poisoning last year. It was Prosecutor General Tsatsarov who said earlier on Monday that Fedotov has been in Bulgaria.

"Troud": Deputy PM Tomislav Donchev Monday told the daily that it is normal not just to expect  but also to be ready for all types of attempts at interference in the elections. He recalled that there have been hacker attacks during elections before, for example the DdoS attack  against the websites of the Central Election Commission and the Foreign Ministry back in 2015. Asked by "Troud" whether intergovernmental talks have already been held at the level of expert groups about the security of the forthcoming European Parliament elections, Donchev said that  many actions have been taken to ensure security on the election day but a large part of these are classified information. Experts from the security services Monday said that security measures have been taken both as a whole and for each individual institution, therefore we should feel safe.

"Douma": The entry into force as of April 1 of the new rules for cash registers has driven the business insane. Many restaurants, gas stations, software companies and tour operators might stop working because of these requirements, it transpired at a discussion organized by the Bulgarian Industrial Association.  Ninety-five per cent of companies are not ready yet with the software change. Programmers are having trouble developing the necessary code for the cash registers in the short timeframe. According to the business, the ideas set in the new decrees are good but their implementation is "barbaric, incompetent and, in some places, bordering on purposeful ill-nature". Under the threat of protests, Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov said that he is willing to postpone the deadline for the new rules introduction.

"24 Chassa": The acceleration in Bulgaria, which had stopped for those born in 1996 and 1997, has returned: children born after 2000 are taller than their parents and older siblings, a study by the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences shows. Those born in 1996 were 174.5 cm tall on average, which is by 1.5 cm less on average compared to the subsequent generation, due to the serious economic crisis in 1996. In the last one century Bulgarians' average height increased by 10 cm, as a result of the better health and lower birth rate, anthropologist Racho Stoev said.

"Monitor": Catering companies have released coupons for school lunch at two different prices (3.50 leva and 2.50 leva), and this immediately divided children into rich and poor. Kamelia Nikolcheva from a catering company explained that the difference in the price is due to the difference in  the main dish's weight in grammes (200 g and 150 g, respectively). Parents complain, however, that the children on the cheaper menu get mocked by their classmates.


"Sega" presents the findings about Bulgaria in the annual report  for 2018 of Germany's Friedrich Naumann Foundation on the state of freedom in 45 countries. It transpires from the report that in Bulgaria it is a problem who and how funds parties, how the media are used during election campaigns, vote buying, controlled voting, and the obligation to conduct the election campaign in Bulgarian. According to the report, in the last years the elections in this country have been fair but  the power holders have not cleaned the election process from suspicions of manipulations and speculations. Bulgaria was at the bottom of the EU for rule of law and corruption in 2018, the daily writes.


"24 Chassa" publishes some of the questions that Bulgarians have asked Russian Ambassador to Bulgaria Anatoly Makarov on the Russian Embassy's Facebook page as part of the Ask the Ambassador initiative, and the Ambassador's answers. The Russian Embassy will publish additional questions and answers in the coming days, the daily specifies. The most common questions are about a lift of visas for Russia, how to obtain Russian citizenship, when Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Bulgaria, and how to take advantage of free education in Russia. There are also questions about TurkStream, South Stream and the Balkan Gas Hub.


"Capital" reports that former caretaker prime minister and former Bulgarian ambassador to Italy Marin Raykov will head the Bulgarian Embassy in London. President Rumen Radev has coordinated his appointment with the Foreign Ministry. Radev will decree the appointment after a decision of the Council of Ministers and an approval by the UK. Days ago, Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva complained that Bulgarian ambassadors' rotation has been delayed due to lack of constructive dialogue with the President, "Capital" recalls.


"Sega", "Douma" and "Capital" write about an investigation by the Anti-Corruption Fund foundation into illegal construction on the route of Struma Motorway. The story in "Sega" goes that mysterious perpetrators are doing drills and building temporary roads without the institutions' knowledge in the Kroupna-Kresna section of the motorway, for which the public procurement procedure is still open. The Anti-Corruption Fund told "Sega" that they have satellite photos, testimonies from local residents and checks on site as evidence. "Douma" writes that according to the Fund, around 6.4 km of the temporary roads were built even before the public procurement procedure's launch; the Fund has photos of drills and heavy machinery on site taken three weeks before that. "Capital" recalls that this is not the first scandal involving Struma Motorway, particularly when it comes to public procurement procedures. For example, during the bidding for the construction of the Zheleznitsa tunnel, some of the offers of two participants disappeared, to later be found in the home of an external expert from the assessment commission.


"Standard News" writes that in 2019 Vietnam will send at least 120,000 workers abroad, including to Romania and Bulgaria, according to a message by the Vietnamese Labour Ministry as quoted by the Vietnam Plus agency and The press release also says that Bulgaria needs 50,000 workers in construction, agriculture, social care, and other sectors. "Standard News" recalls that last year Association of Industrial Capital in Bulgaria head Vassil Velev forecast that in the next five years Bulgaria will experience a shortage of 500,000 workers.


A story in "Troud" goes that Sofia's Vitosha Boulevard ranks 47th out of 65 shopping streets across the world in the latest edition of the Main Streets Across the World ranking by an international consulting company. This is the highest position in the last five years reached by Sofia's main street in this ranking of the most expensive shopping streets in the world [higher rank equals more expensive street in terms of shops' average rent per sq m]. The average monthly rent for a shop on Vitosha Boulevard is 50 euro/sq m. In comparison, the most expensive street in the ranking - Causeway Bay in Hong Kong - offers an average monthly rent of 2,050 euro/sq m.