site.btaMedia Review: March 22
Trud's frontpage and articles in Telegraph and Duma are dedicated to the 2022 Country Report on Human Rights Practices in Bulgaria, which the US Department of State's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor released on Monday. The texts point out that the arrests of former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, former Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov, and public relations advisor Sevdelina Arnaudova in August 2022 were illegal, as concluded by the Sofia Administrative Court. In April the Sofia Regional Court ruled that authorities had failed to collect "a single good piece of evidence of the accused’s complicity in the alleged crime". On March 17, police arrested the three as part of an extortion investigation but released them after 24 hours without pressing charges.
24 Chasa quotes Borissov's comments on the Report, which suggest that such illegal arrests pushed Bulgaria's progress back to its level from the 90s. The former Prime Minister stated that the Continue the Change - Democratic Bulgaria coalition lacks the capacity to conduct a judicial reform or observe the rule of law.
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An article in Mediapool warns that President Rumen Radev keeps isolating Bulgaria from the EU and NATO by promoting pro-Russian rhetoric. The President said: "As long as the caretaker government is in power, Bulgaria will not provide Ukraine with its fighter jets, anti-aircraft missile systems, tanks and armoured personnel carriers". According to the website, the President is hiding behind messages of peace, while the EU Member States are planning to club together to supply one million artillery shells to Ukraine under a EUR 2 billion armament programme. Radev stated: "Bulgaria does not support and is not part of the joint order for the supply of shells to Ukraine. Our country will support European diplomatic efforts to restore peace."
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In an interview for 24 Chasa, Stanimir Stanev, Deputy Secretary General of the Interior Ministry, said that the Ministry initiated 26 pre-trial proceedings, which is twice as many as in previous election campaigns. Stanev insisted, however, that 100 pre-trial proceedings may result in three convictions, or a 3% success rate, which is "ridiculous". He pointed out that that is why to focus on initiating "clean" proceedings.
Stanev also commented the cases of illegal migration into the country, saying that attempts to cross the border have increased by 48% compared to the same period in 2022.
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In an article in Duma, Georgi Gyokov of BSP for Bulgaria reports that his party continues to support the Maritsa East thermal power plant, while calling the European Green Deal "a serious problem for the region [South Central Bulgaria]".
Dean of the Faculty of Law at Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski and former Minister of Education, Daniel Valchev, told Bulgarian National Radio (BNR) that Bulgarian politicians got used to using judicial reform as a populist partisan tool. He said: "Of the five amendments to the Constitution since it was adopted, in four of them we have included the matter, not to mention that we are entirely devoted to the judicial reform, and each time we say that this is the first decisive step towards a judicial reform. So far, we have taken four first decisive steps. It is time to take the second step." Commenting on the way of voting, Valchev said that the changes to the law over the years cast doubts in supporters of machine voting caused complete despair among supporters of the paper ballot.
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An article in Trud is critical towards a decision from January 17 made by the European Court of Human Rights, according to which same-sex marriages do not contradict the traditional understanding of the term family. The article criticizes the Court for interpreting the European Convention on Human Rights and suggests that the decision from January opens the door for same-sex couples to adopt children. The article continues to praise the Bulgarian Supreme Court of Cassation, which on February 20 issued a decision to bar trans people from having their civil-status gender records legally changed.
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24 Chasa reports that former UDF member of parliament and head of the Supreme Judicial Council, Ivan Dimov, will be extradited to Austria to be trialled for money laundering. The prosecution alleges that an Austrian bank transferred EUR 170,000 to Dimov's account, which he then wired per his client's instructions. Dimov was arrested in early February. He told the court he did not understand what exactly he was charged with and argued that "Austria is a country that has not shed the vestiges of its fascist past".
BNR quotes data from the Institute of Social and Trade Union Research at the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria, according to which the minimum monthly wage in 2024 is likely to reach BGN 1,003, compared to the current BGN 780. The Institute based its prediction on the automatic mechanism adopted by parliament for setting the minimum wage as 50% of the average for the last 12 months. Caretaker Minister of Finance, Rositza Velkova-Zheleva, told BNR that the minimum monthly wage is expected to reach BGN 940 next year.
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Ivan Ivanov of BSP for Bulgaria is quoted by Duma as saying that its next mandate in government, the Bulgaria Socialist Party should implement a price cap on consumer goods and services that are essential for the survival persons and households with comparatively low income.
In another article, Duma quotes The Slovak Spectator, according to which eight retail chains in Slovakia have agreed to introduce price caps on 400 food products over the next three months. The chains include Billa, Lidl, and Kaufland.
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Mediapool quotes a Bulgarian National Television (BNT) interview with National Revenue Agency Executive Director Boris Mihailov, in which he reported that the Agency is carrying out inspections on Bulgarians, who own property in Greece. Mihailov said: "In cases [of undeclared income] we impose a 10% tax plus interest for the relevant period. Some cases we give to the Counter-Corruption and Unlawfully Acquired Assets Forfeiture Commission, and the property may be seized".
BNT, bTV, and BNR quote caretaker Minister of Energy, Rossen Hristov, who reported that the Council of Ministers approved a derogation from the EU sanctions imposed on Russia. The derogation concerns the purchase of the necessary materials and spare parts for the planned annual repairs of Kozloduy NPP. Hristov said: "This is critical for the safety of Kozloduy NPP. We are talking about materials and parts for which we are yet to find alternative suppliers. We continue to look for such contractors. In addition, we are also working on re-supplying such parts to secure Kozloduy NPP in the coming years."
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Svetoslav Benchev of the Bulgarian Petroleum and Gas Association told Nova TV that he expects stabilization and lower prices in the coming days. He pointed out that the price of petroleum and diesel dropped 20% over the last three months. The expert added: "The zero VAT rate on liquefied petroleum gas and the reduced VAT rate on methane and gas should be abolished. This means a BGN 0.24 increase in the price of propane-butane and about BGN 0.35 on methane per kilogram. For the state budget, that's about BGN 110 million a year in the treasury."
Secretary General of the Interior Ministry, Petar Todorov, said on BNT's morning block that the EU will allocate more than EUR 600 million to strengthen the Bulgarian border with Turkiye. This was confirmed in a letter from President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen. The funds will be invested in equipment such as cameras, sensors, and vehicles.
Trud reports on a 1949 painting by Jackson Pollock seized by the General Directorate for Combating Organised Crime on Tuesday in an anti-trafficking operation that spanned Bulgaria and Greece. The National Art Gallery in Sofia concluded that the signature on the piece is real. Experts suggested that the canvas, which is absent from catalogues of Pollock's paintings, can be auctioned for as much as USD 50 million. Duma, 24 Chasa, and Telegraph on the other hand suggest that the price can reach EUR 50 million.
Secretary General of the Interior Ministry, Petar Todorov, confirmed on BNT's morning show that the painting is an original Jackson Pollock.
Telegraph's frontpage is dedicated to a mass fight between two Roma families that took place in Kazanlak, Central Bulgaria, on Tuesday. The families used blunt objects and bladed weapons to try and settle a conflict that started 40 years ago, when one of the families abducted a woman from the other family to be married. One man died in Tuesday's fight; four others have life-threatening injuries.
Nova TV reports that the fight triggered a police operation across 43 addresses and 46 vehicles that resulted in 13 arrests.
Astronomer Pencho Markishki told Telegraph that once every three years, the two brightest planets in the night sky, Jupiter and Venus, appear so close together that many people confuse them for UFO. Another occurrence that gets mistaken for UFO is satellites launched in orbit by Elon Musk's SpaceX.