site.btaMedia Review: June 7
A topic in all print media is the new regular cabinet that Parliament elected on June 6, 2023.
Journalist Asen Agov told Nova TV Wednesday morning that the "coalition" that formed the government is not sufficiently united, unlike Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov and Deputy Prime Minister Mariya Gabriel themselves. According to Agov, GERB-UDF MPs are struggling to explain to their electorate why the government was formed with the second mandate that was given to Continue the Change - Democratic Bulgaria (CC-DB) rather than with the first mandate that was given to GERB-UDF.
Prof. Rosen Stoya told Nova TV: "The current Cabinet is Denkov's, not a rotating one".
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Commenting on the GERB-UDF CC-DB rotating cabinet, GERB Deputy Floor Leader Daniel Mitov said on Nova TV's morning show that Bulgaria needs a regular government, which is why personal emotions are irrelevant. Mitov said that Tuesday saw the end of the revolution that started two years ago and clarified: "The goal of any revolution is to convince people that they are victims of some external circumstances, to strip them of responsibility for what is happening. Two years ago, we were fighting a ten-headed hydra called corruption, whose heads we had to cut off for everything to be alright. Obviously, this proved to be untrue."
Mitov also commented on the Movement for Right and Freedoms (MRF), saying that its involvement will be needed for the implementation of the necessary constitutional reform.
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GERB-UDF MP Temenuzhka Petkova shared on Bulgarian National Television (BNT) on Wednesday morning that she would not trust CC-DB too much. Petkova added that GERB will closely monitor the work of the government and will enforce ubiquitous control. She said: "Yesterday's decision was the only possible and correct one. That is why I voted with conviction that there should be a regular government in Bulgaria. The fact that we support the government does not mean that we will not monitor very closely what is happening within this cabinet and how it is being run. At the slightest indication of a wrong direction, believe me, we will react immediately."
Commenting on the decision of Delyan Peevski and Mustafa Karadayi of the MRF to support the cabinet, Petkova said: "The solution to [some serious problems in Bulgaria] goes through a change in the Constitution. For this change, a certain support is needed. It must be sought within all parliamentary forces. And there is nothing illogical in seeking support from the MRF as well."
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In an interview for Duma, political analyst Borislav Angelov says that President Radev is the reason for the union between CC-DB and GERB, which also enjoyed support from the MRF. Angelov points out that key figures who were fighting against the “Borissov model” have now become a part of it.
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In a comment for Trud, Viktoria Georgieva reminds of Kiril Petkov’s declaration that was submitted to President Rumen Radev with false information. According to Georgieva, this is but one of the reasons why the former Prime Minister should be prosecuted and taken to court. Georgieva mentions the memorandum of understanding with London-based asset manager Gemcorp and the report on the matter by the State Agency for National Security from 2022, which Petkov “was hiding for three months in his drawer”.
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Trud also publishes an overview of all the recent requests for lifting of immunities of MPs – of former Prime Ministers Petkov and Borissov, of Delyan Dobrev (which was returned to the Sofia City Prosecution Office by the Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev), of Dimitar Avramov from MRF, of Radostin Vasilev, and of Angel Georgiev and Veselin Veshev from Vazrazhdane for bodily harm and hooliganism.
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Plamen Kirov, former judge in the Constitutional Court of Bulgaria, says for bTV that this government could last for a full mandate. According to Kirov, the rotation could become more complicated if new subjects become part of it. The idea for rotation comes from foreign experience, which according to the former judge is rather dangerous.
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Mediapool publishes the results of an express survey by Alpha Research, made for the Bulgarian National Television. One in three respondents think the government will last about six months or until local elections. Another 29% expect the cabinet to run for a year. Only 24% predict a life of more than a year, and 16% of respondents expect an 18-month rule. Another 14% could not estimate how long the life of the regular government would be. Over half of the respondents, 53%, expect the work of the Denkov-Gabriel cabinet to be accompanied by conflicts. A total of 31% assume that the government will handle its duties with understanding, and 16% cannot navigate the situation.
In an interview for 24 Chasa, Simeon Djankov, former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance between 2009 and 2013 provides an analysis of the newly formed Bulgarian government. He says that he knows most of the ministers and that describes them as a strong team, but he expresses regret that the experts of DB are not in leading positions. Djankov thinks that it would be very hard to achieve a 3% deficit in the new state budget if VAT isn’t returned to the levels from before the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Djankov, it is unlikely that GERB and CC are ready to follow financial discipline, which makes the adoption of the euro in Bulgaria in 2025 unlikely. He believes that there will be no deep economic crises, but the European economy is indeed slowing down. There is already a recession in Germany, which leads to slowing down of the Bulgarian economy. Regarding the Schengen Area, he thinks that Bulgaria has a realistic chance to become part of it by the end of 2023. Apart from Schengen, the number one priority of the new government will be the judicial reform, followed by the adoption of the Recovery and Resilience Plan, he adds.
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24 Chasa publishes an overview of financial experts' proposals, which they believe the new Finance Minister should follow, in order to achieve the 3% deficit in the state budget he declared instead of the 6.6%, proposed by the caretaker government. Above all, the new government will count on the National Revenue Agency and the National Customs Agency to collect BGN 45 billion. At the same time, at least BGN 5 billion of the planned expenses will have to be cut. Some major projects will be postponed until next year. Another possible measure is the removal of the VAT preferences. The experts expect that the reduced VAT will continue to apply only for bread, flour, baby foods and books.
On a related note, 24 Chasa summarizes new data for the first quarter of 2023, published by the National Statistical Institute, which shows that over 75% of Bulgarians still struggle with daily expenses. Some 19.7% of individuals can fairly easily cover their daily expenses, and only 3.5% do not experience any difficulties. In total, the share of persons without difficulties in the first quarter of 2023 increased by 1.5 percentage points compared with the first quarter of 2022. The situation is mirrored in the data on increase of household income. During the first quarter of 2023, for 74.6% of the persons, household income remained unchanged compared with the last 12 months. This share increased by 1.6 percentage points compared to the same quarter of 2022. An increase in income was indicated by 20.1% of the persons, which is 1.6 percentage points more compared to the first quarter of 2022, when 18.5% of the persons had an increase. A decrease in income for the last 12 months was indicated by 5.3% of the persons, which is 3.2 percentage points less compared to the first quarter of 2022.
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Financial expert Levon Hampartzoumian told Nova TV that accelerating the money turnover in Bulgaria is key for the country's faster economy growth. According to Hampartzoumian, this would also be a solution to the notorious 3% deficit problem.
Financial expert Vladimir Sirkarov said for the Bulgarian National Radio that the most realistic variant for the budget deficit is 4 to 4.5% this year. Sirkarov said: "If the new cabinet starts working effectively and starts achieving the goals step by step, the political tensions will be quelled. The budget is one of the most crucial issues. The demands are good, as it is very important to reduce the deficit. In the current macroeconomic situation, we should not be talking about a deficit at all [...]. We have economic growth, the labour market is stable, unemployment is low, we have wage increases, we have inflation. In such an atmosphere, deficit spending is unacceptable".
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Trud's frontpage reports on the Energy and Water Regulatory Commission's (EWRC) public discussion of the proposed higher prices of heating, hot water and electricity. The daily points out that while the electricity consumption day and night rates will rise by 31% and 150% respectively, other components that determine the bill will drop, meaning that households will experience an average increase of 3.63%. Participants in the discussion pointed out that it is unclear why the companies decided to make these significant changes to the prices, as the justification was deleted from the public reports, even though this is not a trade secret.
Heating bills for households are expected to see an 11% spike in the 2023-2024 winter period despite the lower gas prices.
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Telegraph quotes Sofia Deputy Mayor Doncho Barbalov, who said that as of December 2022, Sofia Municipality's debt is BGN 638.7 million. The largest share of the debt, more than BGN 555 million, is owed to the European Investment Bank. While BGN 51.8 million was paid back last year, other loans totalling BGN 35.2 million were also drawn. Barbalov specified that the Municipality has enough funds to use in 2024, 2025 and 2026. The Municipality has no procedure to trade issues of securities on the international market, however, the Deputy Mayor believes that such a procedure should be implemented.
Telegraph quotes Prof. Rumen Draganov of the Institute of Analysis and Assessment in Tourism, who said in an interview for Nova TV that some 13 million foreign tourists are expected to visit Bulgaria in 2023, making it a record-breaking year for the country. Another 24 million trips will be taken by Bulgarians within the country. Draganov praised the Ministry of Tourism under the caretaker government and compared the new Tourism Minister, Zaritsa Dinkova, to the captain of a ship, as it is her responsibility to "lead the way".
Expert at the Anti-Corruption Fund Daniela Peneva said on BNT's morning show that the findings of the anti-corruption bodies are either that there is no corruption or that it is hidden, so there are practically no persons in Bulgaria that are guilty of corruption. Peneva added: "In the last six years, there has been only one single conviction and that was in the case of the Mayor of the Sofia Borough of Mladost, Desislava Ivancheva". According to the expert, some of the problems include the lack of transparency, as authorities fail to release enough information to the public, as well as the lack of guarantees for the independence of the members of the anti-corruption commission.
Telegraph quotes security expert Slavcho Velkov, who in an interview for Nova TV said that convicted fugitive Angel Hristov must have been either scared or forced by circumstances to return to Bulgaria. Hristov and Plamen Galev together are known as the Galev brothers. Both were put on the national wanted list in 2012 after they could not be found at their home addresses to serve their sentence of five years for organizing, running and participating in a crime group engaged in racketeering and extortion. Hristov died in his villa in the village of Resilovo, Western Bulgaria, late last week, even though Bulgarian authorities believes that he had fled the country. Forensic scientist Ivan Savov told Nova TV that Hristov's presence in Bulgaria had sent shock waves across some circle, as this was a man, who "had a lot of information".
"As far as I have observed such processes, I am willing to bet that the truth will never be come to the surface," commented for Radio Blagoevgrad Emanuil Yordanov, former MP and Minister of Interior on the numerous unknowns surrounding the death of Hristov. Yordanov recalled that "at the beginning of the transition, powerful criminal groups had quite good contacts in a number of political parties. This is no secret to anyone. When Vasil Iliev was killed, according to Botyo Botev, he [Iliev] went to meet a prominent politician of that time. So there is nothing that is unknown. At the same time, many of the big criminal bosses were killed. Those who were more fortunate were able to retool their activities and became very successful businessmen. Things are very different now from what we once saw."
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In a spread interview for the daily Trud, Head of the Bulgarian Drivers' Association Hristo Radkov discussed a study, according to which 55% of Bulgarian drivers break the speed limit in populated areas, 10% break the speed limit outside populated areas and 9% do so on motorways. Radkov offered several explanations for the data: the poor traffic management in populated areas, the lack of control and prevention, as well as the unnecessarily low limitations on some roads. He called such roads "feeders", as the traffic police only uses them to impose fines, even though the roads are good, with few to no pedestrians, meaning that the speed limit should be much higher. The expert was adamant that fines are neither a good control mechanism, nor an effective prevention mechanism.
Radkov stated that casualties of traffic accidents in populated areas total less than half, even though 55% of the cases of speed limit violations are in populated areas, meaning that breaking the speed limit is not the main factor in traffic accidents.
The interview reflects on the significant share of drivers, 8.1% or some 200,000 people, who check their phones while driving. Radkov agrees that this is a serious problem and proposes a campaign to educate mostly young drivers on the risks of checking their messages while on the road.
24 Chasa quotes the new Minister of Interior Kalin Stoyanov, who stated that his Ministry's top priority will be to tackle the high number of traffic collisions in Bulgaria.
Telegraph reports on Sofia Municipality's 2023 Vacation Programme, which will give young people free access to sports activities across the city of Sofia. The sports in question will include football, basketball, volleyball, table tennis, swimming and athletics, among others.