site.btaMedia Review: September 25
The topic of energy prices and the effect of banning Russian crude oil imports in Bulgaria dominate Monday’s news media.
24 Chasa’s headline reads that a year after the drastic increase in fuel prices, transport diesel and petrol are once again nearing BGN 3. Bulgarian Petroleum and Gas Association Chair Zhivodar Terziev commented that fuels will hardly depreciate in winter.
On Nova TV’s morning show, reporter Georgi Georgiev presented data showing that consumers should expect higher heating bills this winter. Hard fuels have been appreciating in the past weeks, for example firewood now costs BGN 140-300, compared to BGN 180 on average a year ago. Electricity and central heating will appreciate as well.
In an interview for Trud, energy expert Yavor Kouyoumdzhiev says that the recent changes in the Energy Act that force energy distribution companies out of the regulated market as of January 2024 will undoubtedly result in higher electricity bills. Bulgarian households are supposed to remain on the regulated market until 2026, but indirectly they switch to the free electricity market next year because of how the Energy and Water Regulatory Commission will be unable to impose a regulated price due to the lack of a public supplier – the National Electricity Company (NEK) will no longer play that role. For prices to remain unchanged, someone will have to compensate the energy distribution companies, but such resources are not envisaged in the state budget and even if they were, they might constitute unlawful state aid and thus result in the European Commission launching an infringement procedure against Bulgaria. Kouyoumdzhiev also argues that fuels will nearly double in price several weeks after Bulgaria’s ban on the import of Russian crude oil goes into effect.
On Bulgarian National Television’s morning show, energy expert Martin Vladimirov of the Centre for the Study of Democracy argued that the ban will not result in higher fuel prices. Those who claim otherwise are paid by Lukoil to spread such information, because that company profits from the imports of Russian crude oil, he said. Countries that have imposed a ban maintain the same fuel prices as Bulgaria, he noted. There are at least 15 sources from where Bulgaria could import crude oil to replace Russia’s within a month after the ban is introduced, he specified.
On bTV’s morning show, economist Luchezar Bogdanov commented that only Lukoil profits from Bulgaria’s derogation from the EU-wide ban on Russian oil imports. He showed a chart of the increase in fuel prices in Bulgaria compared to the price of Russian oil as evidence that the price in Bulgaria has been quite higher since the start of the war in Ukraine. Bulgarian Petroleum and Gas Association Chair Zhivodar Terziev commented that the decision to lift the derogation is hasty and politically but not economically based. “Bulgaria lost eight to ten months in which it should have made significant steps in the search for alternative sources. It is fully possible for Bulgaria to obtain non-Russian oil from the Caspian Region, but back then we heard other political statements saying that would be the same oil, simply repackaged,” Terziev said.
Capital.bg sheds light on the effect of negative prices in electricity exchange trade in other European countries on Bulgaria. The cases of negative prices abroad have been many, and in Bulgaria that happened on July 2 for the first time. Those cases are rare here because of the way the balancing energy is priced, making it more profitable for companies to sell the excess energy to the Electricity System Operator rather than through the exchange. However, that leads to speculative profits for some and additional expenditures for the state operator and, eventually, consumers. There are working models on how to change that, but the question is when they will be introduced. The article warns that in autumn, the cases of negative prices might increase in number.
Trud’s front-page story is about the bill on bankruptcy of natural persons that is about to be put to a second-reading vote in Parliament. The article presents the positions of the National Consumer Protection Association and of 47 judges from the Sofia City Court against the bill. Both positions argue that the bill will lead to much slower proceedings. According to the Association, another drawback is that debtors will be burdened will many additional costs. The position of 47 Sofia City Court judges reads that the bill might block the work of district courts, which are only 28 and have 489 civil law judges.
Approached by Segabg.com, Binance President David Princay said that Bulgaria is among the European countries where the interest in cryptocurrency is the strongest. French financial expert Princay, whose company specializes in crypto operations, specified that 18% of Bulgaria’s population has savings in one or several of the 150 cryptocurrencies in the world, compared to an average of 8% to 12% in Europe. “You could say that Bulgaria is a leader,” he added. According to him, that is because Bulgarians do not trust banks. The situation is similar in Greece. The citizens of countries with more developed economies and stronger role of banks have weaker interest in cryptocurrencies; they trust banks’ guarantees for their savings and financial operations. Princay was in Bulgaria last week to get acquainted with the opportunities for the establishment of a Balkan centre for crypto transfers in Eastern Europe.
Telegraf has an interview with lawyer Dimitar Markovski about the recent legislative changes aimed at reducing the number of traffic accidents caused by intoxicated drivers. According to him, blood testing of drivers should become compulsory. At present, the drivers are tested for drug and alcohol use on devices available to traffic police.
On Nova TV’s morning show, Interior Ministry Secretary General Zhivko Kotsev said he will propose that criminal liability be sought for drivers with more than 0.5 promilles of alcohol. At present, there is no penalty for driving with less than 0.5 promilles of alcohol, and there is administrative-criminal liability for quantities of between 0.5 and 1.2 promilles, provided the driver has not caused a traffic accident. Kotsev specified that a debate on how to apply the new measure will be held within an expert group. His personal opinion is that there should be no threshold when alcohol is concerned. In August, there were 438 cases of pretrial proceedings for drunk driving. This month, their number is 138, Kotsev noted.
Nova TV sought the opinion of lawyers Silviya Petkova, Iliya Todorov, and Emanuil Yordanov on whether intoxicated drivers who have killed someone should be charged with intentional homicide. Yordanov argued against this measure, because then the court would have to base its indictment on assumptions. According to Petkova, every case should be analysed individually. Todorov argued that the problem lies not in the lack of serious penalties but in the courts not imposing the maximum penalties possible.
Bulgarian National Television’s morning show focused on the case of the Russian Church in Sofia, which was closed after last week’s expulsion of its rector and two Belarusian priests in connection with hybrid activities carried out by the three individuals against Bulgaria's national security and interest. Security experts Yordan Bozhilov and Tihomir Stoychev commented on the expulsion, arguing that the Russian Orthodox Church is one of the instruments for Russian influence in Bulgaria. Theologian Kostadin Noushev underscored that the Bulgarian authorities have nothing to do with the closure of the Russian Church in Sofia. “We should distinguish between the attitude towards certain individuals expulsed from Bulgaria and the closure of the Russian Church. Those are two sides of one and the same problem, and the measures for expulsing the priests have nothing to do with faith,” he said.
On bTV’s morning show, journalist and historian Goran Blagoev commented that there were no grounds to close the Russian Church, because there are two Bulgarian priests working there. Journalists and philosopher Toni Nikolov specified that the priests are working in a filial of the Russian Church but can be transferred to the Russian Church.
24 Chasa has articles about GERB’s candidates for mayors of Sofia, journalist Anton Hekimyan, and of Plovdiv, Trakia Borough Mayor Kostadin Dimitrov. The articles present the biographies of the two candidates.
On Bulgarian National Radio, political expert Lidiya Daskalova commented that there will be high voter turnout at the local elections in October. The elections will not result in a shakeup of the current government but will reconfigure significantly the political forces, she argued. There is a high risk of control voting, so the Interior Ministry’s bodies should carry out significant control. Daskalova does not expect big scandals during the election campaign.