site.btaMedia Review: March 28
Interviewed by www.mediapool.bg, journalist Petko Georgiev says that the drives to hold referendums against gender ideology in school, against the euro and for a presidential republic abuse people's trust and all three referendums are incorporated into the campaigns for the April 2 elections. He sees the anti-euro and pro-presidential republic referendums as "two sides of the same coin: Bulgaria's Putinization, support for Putin's fascist regime and taking the country out of the family of European peoples." In his opinion, Boyko Borissov is unaware that he is long past his prime as a political leader. This hinders the formation of a stable government, and President Rumen Radev stands the most to gain from such a situation. In Georgiev's personal opinion, the forthcoming elections are already rigged because the reintroduction of the paper ballot opens the door to a massive-scale doctoring of the voting results and because of the "absolutely outrageous meddling by the caretaker cabinet and the prosecution service in the campaign." "Radev keeps campaigning against Continue the Change and Democratic Bulgaria. He has been attacking these two entities since last year, when he shared in the ouster of the Kiril Petkov government." The interviewee insists that Radev "is serving Putin's fascist regime in Bulgaria and must be denied access to the levers of the executive." "Radev's policy towards Ukraine is a disgrace for Bulgaria," Georgiev argues. "This disgrace has both emotional and purely practical dimensions. Bulgaria cannot possibly attain its political and economic objectives if it is headed by a Putinist. This is not a matter of ideology. It is a matter of a deliberate conduct of Radev and the caretaker cabinet he has appointed." According to the journalist, a coalition between GERB, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms and the Bulgarian Socialist Party stands the best chances of forming a cabinet after the elections.
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Trud runs a full page profile of GERB leader and former prime minister Boyko Borissov titled "The Winner".
Trud leads on "inaction" by Regional Development and Public Works Minister Ivan Shishkov during his two terms in office despite the greenlight for the project, as a result of which BGN 1.2 billion in EU financing for the construction of the Krupnik-Kresna stretch of the Struma Motorway may be lost. The daily refers to an alert submitted to Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev by the Road Safety Institute. The environmental impact assessment of the project was suspended by Environment and Water Minister Borislav Sandov in the Kiril Petkov cabinet who opposed the "Eastern Variant", envisaging two separate lanes: one along the existing route of E-79 and the other to the east of the gorge. The Supreme Administrative Court has revoked Sandov's order, but this judgment is being appealed by a non-governmental organization. Trud writes that, as rumour has it, the most ardent opponents of the Eastern Variant are paid by Swiss construction companies to lobby for an alternative route of the motorway, including a 15 km tunnel in the Kresna Gorge and broadening the existing road to motorway dimensions. Back in 2015, the Bulgarian Construction Chamber warned that this option would be more expensive, less environmentally friendly, more time consuming and inappropriate for one of the Balkans' most earthquake-prone areas, in addition to allowing a lower speed of motor traffic. Approached by the daily, Shishkov's Ministry denied a risk of forfeiting EU financing and said that the construction contracts for the Eastern Variant will be signed as soon as an analysis of the environmental impact assessment and an evaluation of the compatibility of the project with specific biodiversity objectives are completed. The story continues on two full inside pages.
24 Chasa reports a bomb hoax that was emailed to 15 schools in Burgas, Sofia and 15 in Varna on Monday morning from an organization calling itself "Free Misanthropic Unabombers Legion (FMUL)", originating from an IP address in Russia. The text was probably machine-translated into Bulgarian. The Interior Ministry later confirmed that this was a hacker attack. The Telegram channel, created on March 25, has just 23 subscribers. FMUL said in a sort of manifesto that "we will conquer Bulgaria, Macedonia, Greece and the rest of Europe. We are setting up a new era, an era of terror, an era of cleansing the world of the human biowaste."
Telegraph and Trud also cover the story.
Interior Minister Ivan Demerdzhiev said on bTV and Nova TV Tuesday morning that the partner services in Europe and the US have been alerted and are trying to detect the source of the hoaxes because the emails containing the threats were registered in the Google network, which only the US services can investigate. "The main lead is that these are hybrid attacks linked to Russia," he specified.
In an analysis contributed to Trud, Kostadin Filipov warns that Bulgarians in North Macedonia risk finding themselves yet again abandoned by Bulgaria, now that their two cultural clubs, in Bitola and Ohrid, have been deregistered. Filipov asks why Bulgarian President Rumen Radev did not phone President Macron to tell him the news about the clubs and that his "French proposal" has not produced anything so far except hypocritical promises on the part of the authorities in Skopje. The author claims that North Macedonia's President Stevo Pendarovski is among the inspirers of the idea to adopt extraordinary legislation so that any attempt of Bulgarians in that country could be "suppressed by law".
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Interviewed for 24 Chasa, Prof. Plamen Pavlov describes the closure of the Bulgarian clubs as "an exceedingly short-sighted and absurd decision of the authorities" and "an exceedingly bad sign on the part of Macedonia and in general about its EU orientation". In his opinion, Skopje's moves are so absurd that it seems that the authorities there are themselves boycotting their EU entry, waiting for Belgrade and Moscow to tell them what to do. "This policy of the powerholders, to say nothing of the so called opposition, is counterproductive for North Macedonia itself," the historian argues. He comments that, considering that the anti-Bulgarian card is essential for both government and opposition in Skopje, they use Macedonian Bulgarians as a bargaining chip in the struggle between them. Replying to a question, Pavlov says that the Bulgarian reaction to the closures is reasoned but is always belated. In his words, Bulgaria lacks a clear and consistent strategy in respect of North Macedonia, and this is a major flaw.
Interviewed for Trud, financial expert Atanas Katsarchev argued that it would be reasonable to have a single VAT rate which should be 18%. In his opinion, a proposal by a number of economists to increase the rate to 22% would prompt a further price hike instead of lowering inflation. The interviewee insists that progressive income taxation should be introduced with poverty and wealth thresholds.
Adrian Nikolov of the Institute for Market Economics writes in 24 Chasa that despite the cascade of crises, the employment rate in the 15-64 age group reached 70.4% in 2022, slightly above the previous record of 70.1% in 2019. Unemployment in the same group dropped to 4.3% from the previous year but varies widely by education, from 1.7% for university graduates to 25% for people with primary and lower education. At the same time, the share of persons aged 15 to 29 who are Not in Education, Employment, or Training (NEET) remains relatively high at 15%. National Employment Agency surveys show that the jobs in the hottest demand and shortest supply are industrial workers.
Telegraph quotes Shteryo Nozharov of the Bulgarian Industrial Association as saying that wages in Bulgaria grew by 16.5% in the last quarter of 2022, which was the largest increase in the EU. The steepest rise, 23.1%, was in the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sector (due to farm exports) and in production and distribution of electricity and heat and gaseous fuels (due to the skyrocketing prices of electricity). Next come hairdressing services and home repairs (20%). Healthcare and social services saw the lowest wage increases. According to Nozharov, a 17% growth of both wages and pensions in Bulgaria last year offset inflation. By December 2022, the average gross monthly wage in Bulgaria was BGN 1,947. Sofia had the highest average wages: BGN 2,853 in banking and insurance and BGN 4,417 in the IT sector.
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Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria President Plamen Dimitrov said on Nova TV Tuesday morning that the trade unions demand from the future powerholders to offset the incomes of those which have not been offset over the last two years. "The nearly 30% inflation has been offset in some sectors but not in all," he specified. "The wage rise has not been that substantial in water and sewerage and in the textile industry," he added.
ELECTRICITY MARKET MANIPULATION
Duma frontpages the news that Bulgaria's Energy and Water Regulatory Commission (EWRC) has imposed a pecuniary sanction of BGN 165,238 on Energy Supply EOOD for wholesale electricity market manipulation. The daily writes that the company is owned by Sonya Nikolova-Kadieva, whose husband, Georgi Kadiev, a candidate for Parliament from the Left! coalition. In a separate signed comment, Alexander Simov writes that "a quasi Left husband goes round the TV studios to explain that people need to be helped and more social measures are needed. At the same time, the wife acts as an electricity market shark and piles up excess profits." "We see a paramount hypocrisy and, at the same time, insatiability, mimicking as something new, social and Left," the author argues, calling on readers "to pick the original rather than the fake on the Left side".
Duma summarizes a page-long televised interview with Dr Desislav Taskov, MP candidate of BSP for Bulgaria, who says that Bulgaria has the most market-oriented healthcare in the Europe, which is the reason for all current disproportions. The most important thing is to ensure patients' access to professional medical care which is sufficiently adequate to their health status. Hospitals must not be business companies. Medical devices must be procured at state auctions so as to achieve an affordable and admissible price. Doctors' and nurses' work has to be valued appropriately so as to discourage young medics from emigrating, the interviewee says.
www.dnevnik.bg quotes a Facebook post by economist Georgi Angelov, who comments on a food prices website that has recently been launched by the government. He found that the data contained there are "rather odd" and do not cover price fluctuations on the international markets. If these data were available, both consumers and the government would have noted that the wholesale prices on the Bulgarian exchange are unrealistic and would try to find out why, the expert writes.
Economy and Industry Minister Nikola Stoyanov said on National Television Tuesday morning that the food prices website is important because it pools in a single place the entire information from the National Revenue Agency, the National Customs Agency and the commodity and wholesale markets. In his opinion, this is just one measure in a system of measures that can push prices down. Retailers are expected to start uploading their prices on the platform that was launched last Friday. "The website makes it possible to show clearly the imbalances between wholesale and retail and between importer and producer prices. Apart from providing information, it will have an indirect regulatory function," Stoyanov pointed out.
Interviewed on National Radio Tuesday morning, Bulgarian Gas Association President Plamen Pavlov said that while the TTF price, which is regarded as reference, was 47% lower than the price in Bulgaria in October and 57% lower in November, the price in Bulgaria was 43% higher than the TTF price in January and 20% higher in March. "Very expensive gas is delivered on the Bulgarian market at this point, even without taking into account the quantity injected in the Chiren storage facility," Pavlov explained. In his opinion, the problem is that Bulgargaz has been left as the only trader actually capable of supplying natural gas but, being ineffective, fails to protect the local market.
Telegraph has interviewed Judge Valeria Vateva of the Sofia Regional Court, who says that the number of divorces by mutual consent in Sofia has decreased from 1,400 in 2018 to 1,200 in 2022 and of divorces by petition from 850 in 2018 to 750 in 2022. The reason is the larger proportion of de facto cohabitants' couples, which approximates 50%. Vateva notes the lack of an official register of de facto cohabitants.