site.btaMedia Review: July 5
NEW CABINET FORMATION
Interviewed on Bulgarian National Radio, Evelina Slavkova from Research Centre Trend said that if prime minister designate Assen Vassilev manages to win support from 121 MPs, they will not make things easy at all for the cabinet. As a result, the implementation of its planned policies, some of which are very adequate, will not be as successful as Continue the Change expect. The opposition believes that Bulgaria is heading for early elections because Continue the Change will fail to form a Cabinet. After the opposition saw the first ever successful no-confidence vote in Bulgaria, it would be suicide tobackpedal and support a new cabinet of Continue the Change - such a move cannot be explained to the electorate, according to Slavkova. "Continue the Change have not realized yet that they are no longer in power," she said.
Talking about the new Cabinet on the bTV morning show former Sports Minister Radostin Vasilev explains that so far there have been no talks about him taking the same position in his former ministry again. He denies any speculations that he might become Interior Minister in the new Cabinet, however, according to Vasilev, if that happens it will cause some people to experience panic and terror. "It will be an incredible shock and horror for the mafia," Vassilev added.
Interviewed on Nova TV, Democratic Bulgaria Cochairman Atanas Atanassov talked about the six-month governance programme which is being drawn up by experts in Parliament. If the cabinet led by Assen Vassilev is elected, it will consider whether to seek a confidence vote afterwards. Atanassov said it is crucial to set priorities which can be implemented in six months. The Democratic Bulgaria coalition wants to see the first cabinet-forming mandate fulfilled. If the President gives it the third mandate, the coalition will do its best to avoid early elections, Atanassov said.
On the morning show of the Bulgarian National Television Bulgarian Socialist Party's deputy floor leader Filip Popov says that the policies that unite Continue the Change and his party are the fight against corruption, the judicial reform, and the continuation of the compensation package to households and the business. According to him a new Parliament in autumn is a waste of time for Bulgaria. Asked what will happen to the Finance when Assen Vassilev is nominated for Prime Minister, Popov says that Vassilev can be a better prime minister if he learns from the mistakes of former Prime Minister Kiril Petkov and of the coalition. According to him, the big mistake of the current government is the broken communication.
On the morning show of bTV former labour minister Ivailo Kalfin says that a majority in Parliament relying on independent MPs is unstable. He says he hopes that Continue the Change will also change their approach this time. Kalfin says that the mistake of the former government was that it was a difficult-to-assemble coalition that wanted to make a lot of reforms. He adds that the politicians who have failed to do what they want are now saying that the communication in the coalition was broken.
Trud frontpages a story entitled "Skopje misses the European train", referencing the reaction of the country to the French proposal for unlocking the stalemate between Sofia and Skopje regarding the start of EU accession talks with North Macedonia. The print daily writes that the hysterical reactions of the opposition party VMRO-DPMNE in Skopje on the occasion of the French proposal show that the Bulgarian position, adopted by the National Assembly with a constitutional majority, is well defended. North Macedonia's people are protesting against the French proposal since Saturday. 24 chasa writes that opposition parties in North Macedonia called thousands to the streets who are yelling "Bulgarian fascism – European value". Protesters also demand from the government to resign.
Trud also features Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama's comments on the situation saying that his country will continue the negotiating with the EU without North Macedonia I they do not accept the French proposal now. He also says that this is the last one that they will receive. According to him, from now on no one would be interested to tackle the issue and North Macedonia will have to wait for another 17 years. Rama is also quoted by 24 chasa saying that "Bulgaria was a mistake", when commenting on the Bulgarian veto on the start of EU membership talks with North Macedonia, because the veto "holds two countries [Albania and North Macedonia] hostage". He continues by saying that Bulgaria itself is not the problem, but the European Union is with its old-fashioned practices. According to him, the European Commission is "the largest bureaucracy machine in the whole world".
DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA
Considering the recent events in Bulgaria regarding the Russian diplomatic mission here, Kalfin comments on bTV that "it is unacceptable and unprofessional for Eleonora Mitrofanova to issue ultimatums", . He also says that expelling an ambassador from any country is tantamount to war. According to Kalfin, if Russia sends new officials to Bulgaria, it can possibly end this episode of strained relations between Russia and Bulgaria. Kalfin comments on the decision to expel 70 Russian embassy staffers by saying that this is not how these things are done. According to him, if it was about reciprocity between the diplomatic missions in Bulgaria, he could think of other countries with larger diplomatic missions than Russia's but did not specify. If it is about unregulated activity, then there is no need to give explanations.
An article in Duma reads that Russia has stopped issuing tourist visas to Bulgarian nationals. According to the text the Russian Embassy here is issuing visas only to direct relatives. Duma quotes Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying that Russia will respond to the expulsion of diplomats in the same way. According to him, the expulsion is related to external pressure on Sofia by Washington. Trud frontpages that the Russian Consulate is issuing all types of visas to Bulgarian nationals despite rumours distributed in the media. The daily approached the Russian Consulate on Monday morning to confirm the information but they were not given a clear answer at the time. By noon the Consulate had confirmed that it is working as has always done. Trud quotes the Consulate saying that any Bulgarian citizen who wants to visit Russia can do so.
Duma and Trud write that a 25% discount on fuel prices voted by MPs will enter into force within three days after its promulgation in the State Gazette, which is expected on Tuesday. This means that the discount will be available from Friday at the earliest. Gas stations will have a choice whether to offer the discount or not. Small gas stations will most likely not be able to provide the discount due to irregularities surrounding the launch of the measure, said to bTV Nikolay Nikolov from the national association of small fuel dealers.
Trud writes that Bulgaria will lose over BGN 1 billion from the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, because the European Commission reduced the total amount of the grant for Bulgaria. The reason is that, according to Eurostat data, the decline of the Bulgarian economy in 2020 due to the pandemic was not serious enough compared to other European countries. This country will have to fulfil all the commitments and projects that are included in the National Recovery Plan, and the 1 billion should be provided from the national budget or secured through low-interest state loans. After the revision, the grants under the Recovery Plan for Bulgaria will go from EUR 6.27 billion to EUR 5.69 billion until 2026. Duma writes that based on preliminary data and estimates, the budget balance under the consolidated fiscal program (CFP) as of June 2022 is expected to be positive in the amount of BGN 1.16 billion (0.8% of estimated GDP), the Ministry of Finance predicted. In June, an excess of revenues over expenses is expected in the amount of BGN 555 million, and the improvement of the budget position for the month is mainly due to the higher receipts in connection with the June 30 deadline for submitting the annual tax return for 2021. Income from indirect taxes and aid - mainly grants under EU programs and funds - also have had a positive impact on revenue growth.
Duma reports that bread prices were reduced by 20% after the adoption of the zero VAT rate for bread and flour. The measures proposed by the Minister of Economy and Industry Korneliya Ninova had an effect. By July 1, large retail chains began to replace the labels with new ones at a lower price. "In this difficult socio-economic situation, our main priority is taking care of people," said Ninova.
Mediapool writes that within the financial framework of the European programme Environment 2021-2027 for Bulgaria, objectives and the allocation of funds by sector have been approved by a working group. The set goals are greener and more sustainable, the Environment Ministry said. The programme, which has been developed for two years, has also successfully passed an environmental assessment. The total budget of the operational programme is EUR 1,531,590,093, which is expected to go towards the continuation of the previous objectives of improving water supply infrastructure and ambient air quality, environmentally sound waste management and protecting Bulgaria's rich biodiversity. Funds are also provided for the prevention and management of the risk of floods, landslides and forest fires.
Mediapool writes that the electricity business reported sales revenue to the National Revenue Agency in the amount of BGN 24 billion for the period JanuaryNovember 2021, according to the tax agency's report for last year. This is an increase of 85% or BGN 11 billion compared to the same period of the crisis year 2020, the data show.
In an interview for Trud, Bulgarian Road Safety Institute Head Bogdan Milchev talks about the road accidents occurring at the Kresna Gorge (southwestern Bulgaria) due to the construction of the Struma motorway and the EU funds that Bulgaria is missing out on because of the decisions of incompetent politicians and environmental activists. The Kresna gorge claimed two more victims in a road accident last week. The 17-kilometer "death stretch" has been a disaster for all governments for more than 30 years since the "Iron Curtain" fell and normal travel of people and goods began on the road between Bulgaria and Greece. Asked whether there is a quick way to handle road safety in the area, Milchev said that in 2019 he and several experts from his Institute announced to the media the outcome of training they went to in Sweden, where they asked how they could tackle the issue. He explains that he and his colleagues were familiarized with how similar problems are solved in Sweden. The group asked specifically about Kresna and was advised to install rubber delineators. These have already been put in various places in Bulgaria, the purpose being to allow crossing into the oncoming traffic lane at a low speed when it is necessary to reverse the traffic. At high speed, the delineators damage the car's undercarriage without harming the driver and the passengers. They make it difficult to pass cars in places where it is prohibited. Milchev says that it is a quick temporary fix, but even that has not been done in Kresna. He speculates that green racketeering is responsible for delays in the construction of the motorway causing drivers to use the more dangerous road alternative.