site.btaMedia Review: September 14

Media Review: September 14
Media Review: September 14
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INTERNATIONAL POLITICS 

Trud writes that in her State of the Union address on Wednesday, EC President Ursula von der Leyen called for admitting Bulgaria and Romania to Schengen "without further delay". "They have proved it: Bulgaria and Romania are part of our Schengen area," von der Leyen said. The EC President also thanked Bulgaria and Romania "for leading the way and showcasing best practices on both asylum and returns". 

Trud, 24 Chasa quote Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mariya Gabriel who expressed gratitude for von der Leyen's strong messages about Bulgaria. She noted that it was more than support for Bulgaria's entry into Schengen, but also acknowledgement that  Bulgaria and Romania have not only fulfilled the technical criteria, but are an example of good practice. This was an answer to those countries that are still skeptical, saying that the European migration policy, the European Schengen area needs to be strengthened, said Gabriel.

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24 Chasa, Trud report that  Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandakova spoke online with Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko during Fandakova’s meeting with the Deputy Mayor of Kyiv responsible for sports and youth activities, Olena Hovorova, who is paying a working visit to Sofia. "Support for Ukraine helps us to stay strong, and I would like to thank you and Sofia’s citizens for the support you have lent to Ukrainian women and children in your city," Klitschko said. He also expressed his gratitude to Fandakova for the cooperation initiatives in the two capitals in the fields of culture, sport, and childcare. Fandakova assured Klitschko that she and her team have supported Kyiv from day one of the war, and this support has been clear, consistent, and firm.

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24 Chasa, Trud quote a position by the State Agency for National Security (SANS) in connection with publications that the service expressed opinions on political issues. In its position, SANS stressed the EU's proposal regarding the removal of obstacles for membership negotiations with Republic of North Macedonia, also known as the French Proposal, does not contradict the interests and does not threaten the security of the Republic of Bulgaria and has been approved by all the Bulgarian authorities. Claims that SANS was involved in the political process that led to the formulation of this proposal, and even more so that the Agency had a critical position on this issue, are speculations that do not correspond to the truth, the statement read.

BAN ON UKRAINIAN AGRICULTURAL GOODS IMPORT 

Sega reports on a decision by the Parliamentary Committee on Economic Policy and Innovation for Bulgaria to support the lifting of the European ban on the import of agricultural goods from Ukraine, which caused unrest among the political parties, and the agricultural sector threatened with national protests and strikes. The issue of lifting the ban will be discussed on September 15 at the European level. Agriculture Kiril Vatev surprisingly said that the MPs did not ask his opinion. He made it clear that he does not approve of the lifting of restrictions on Ukrainian goods, especially sunflower seed. 

Sega adds that few days ago, the Agriculture Ministry admitted that Bulgarian grain is stagnant and the reason is not Ukrainian imports, it's just that the goods of Bulgarian producers are unsellable because they have a very high cost and are not listed on international markets.

Telegrah, Mediapool, 24 Chasa, Sega and Trud quote Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov, who said that the government supports the Parliamentary Committee's decision. Imports will stimulate competition on the market. This, in turn, will lead to a reduction in the prices of basic food products and inflation, which is one of the cabinet's main priorities, and will have a favourable effect on the fulfillment of the criteria for Bulgaria's accession to the Eurozone, which is another important priority of the government, Denkov explained.  The Prime Minister refuted with numbers the claims of agricultural producers about the "lack of any state support for the sector". In 2022, agriculture received about BGN 1.6 billion in subsidies and aid. In 2023, about BGN 2 billion have been paid out, or are scheduled to be paid out.  Along with the lifting of the import ban, Bulgaria will ask the European Commission for additional compensation for the losses of Bulgarian agricultural producers. The Cabinet is committed to strengthening the phytosanitary control of products arriving from Ukraine to ensure their safety and health of citizens. Bulgaria will demand the same from the other member states, Denkov said. 

Mediapool and Trud quote Finance Minister Assen Vassilev, who argued that the ban on the import of Ukrainian grain, which the caretaker cabinet requested from the European Commission, has currently caused damage to the treasury in the amount of BGN 146 million from unpaid VAT. 

Trud, Sega report that farmers are ready to stage a general national protest in defence of Bulgarian food, fruits, vegetables, honey, meat, milk and grain. This transpired at a press conference of the Bulgarian Agrarian Chamber, attended by representatives of most branch organizations in agriculture. The cheap import of agricultural products from Ukraine makes it impossible for Bulgarian producers to sell their products. But cheap imports do not lead to lower prices in stores, farmers explained. They demanded a meeting with the Prime Minister and the ministers of finance and agriculture to resolve the issues, to extend the ban on grain imports from Ukraine and to introduce a ban on the import of milk powder. The decision of the Parliamentary Committee on Economic Policy and Innovation to lift the ban on imports from Ukraine was a shock for the entire agricultural industry, said Iliya Prodanov, head of the National Grain Producer Association. Agriculture Minister Kiril Vatev sided with the farmers. On Bulgarian National Television's morning programme on Thursday, representatives of the industry predicted bankruptcies.

BTV's morning programme focused on both sides of this conflict, quoting Rosen Kosturkov from the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, who said that the ban on Ukrainian imports was intended to protect  transport and storage infrastructure. He explained that Bulgaria produces sunflower seeds twice less than the capacity of processors in the  country. Bulgaria is huge processor of sunflower seeds, and the State has lost about BGN 200 million this year from VAT from the ban on grain imports. On their part, grain producers said that there is still a lot of unsold product in warehouses and that from the moment this declaration was talked about, "trading stopped, the price collapsed". Production is high quality, but there is no interest. "The year is very difficult for all farmers. The whole sector is about to collapse. It will be difficult for everyone," added grain producer Maria Dikova.

DEFENCE 

24 Chasa, Mediapool and Trud report that the Council of Ministers approved a A Memorandum of Intent between the Bulgarian and Ukrainian defence ministries, which is to be signed by  Defence Minister Todor Tagarev. The memorandum outlines a wide range of areas for bilateral cooperation in the field of defence, including scientific and technological cooperation, development of military education and science, exchange of experience in the preparation and use of the armed forces, development of communication, information, navigation and sensor systems, military medicine and other areas of mutual interest. The signing of the Memorandum will be a sign of the readiness of the Bulgarian side to strengthen cooperation for the development of Ukraine's capabilities to protect and strengthen its resilience and to increase its interoperability with NATO.

24 Chasa, Sega, Duma, Telegraph, Mediapool quote Defence Minister Todor Tagarev, who said that the Defence Ministry plans to build an entire small town for NATO ally soldiers, part of the international battle group on the territory of Bulgaria. The estimated cost is at least BGN 100 million. The town, which will permanently house about 1,500 soldiers, but should be able to shelter up to 5,000 people, should be ready in 2025. NATO and Bulgaria will co-finance its construction. Tagarev argued that the project would economically develop Yambol and its region, though the location has not been finalized yet.

Duma quotes Deputy National Assembly Chair Christian Vigenin, who criticized Tagarev for not providing enough transparency. "People don't trust you because you often leave the impression that you are not defending Bulgarian interests, but foreign ones," Vigenin said to Tagarev.

Sega, 24 Chasa, Telegraph, Mediapool also quote Tagrarev, who said during his National Assembly hearing that Russia has extended until the end of the month its naval exercise in a water area that also includes the Bulgarian economic Black Sea zone. He defined this as  provocative towards Bulgaria, its security and economic interests. "We are discussing a wide range of possible actions in response to this provocation by the Russian Federation - independently and with our allies," said the Defence Minister.

Sega, 24 Chasa, Telegraph, Mediapool add that the second package of military aid to Ukraine is expected to arrive at the end of this month or the beginning of the next, as Minister Tagarev also said during his hearing. The first package, approved by the previous composition of the National Assembly, arrived in Kyiv in June. In connection with the compensations under the European Peace Facility, which Bulgaria will receive in exchange for the provision of its unused armoured personnel carriers, Tagarev stated that this will happen at a slightly later stage. However, the question of whether Bulgaria provides Ukraine with S-300 anti-missile defence systems will be discussed further at a closed meeting.

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24 Chasa quotes Deputy Defence Minister Atanas Zapryanov, who said that Bulgaria will buy 198 US armoured personnel carriers. "Last week the draft contract was completed. Soon we will have a project for investment expenditure, which we will submit to the Parliament," he explained. Regarding the repair of the engines of the Bulgarian MiG-29 fighters, Zapryanov expressed gratitude to the Polish side for the assistance.

POLITICS

Telegraph, 24 Chasa report that a total of 65 parties and nine coalitions have submitted documents for registration to the Central Election Commission for participation in the local elections on October 29.  The registration of candidates will continue between September 19 and 26.

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24 Chasa writes that the changes to the constitution, introduced by CC-DB, GERB and MRF, will be launched after October 6, preceded by public debates. On September 15, the Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Issues has a meeting with the Venice Commission, which will issue its opinion before the first vote in the constitutional reform can take place.

Trud reports that Vazrazdhane will not support any of the proposals in the general draft for changes to the Constitution. Duma quotes BSP ledaer Korneliya Ninova, who said her party will also not support the changes. 24 Chasa adds that TISP is also opposing the constitutional changes, and that no one has had talks with them yet.  

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Sega, 24 Chasa report on the Vazrazhdane's failed attempt to push through changes to the Referendums Act, which would have allowed a future national referendum on the country's membership in the EU and NATO. The bill contained a number of amendments to the current law which would allow polls to be conducted more easily. However, the most important proposal in the bill was related to dropping a provision regarding issues settled in international treaties concluded by the Bulgarian state, which allows referendums only before their ratification. This also affects the agreements by which Bulgaria joined NATO and the EU. One of Vazrazhdane's main goals has always been organize polls specifically on this country's EU and NATO membership.

There Is Such a People (TISP) and the Bulgarian Socialist Party supported Vazrazhdane, while GERB-UDF, Continue the Change-Democratic Bulgaria (CC-DB) and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) did not. As TISP's Toshko Yordanov stated, the party was created in part due to a failed referendum in 2016, which was 12,000 short to oblige Parliament to accept the results of its poll for introducing a majoritarian electoral system, compulsory voting and cutting the state subsidy for the parties up to BGN 1 per vote. The BSP defended their own rather controversial initiative for a referendum against the so-called "gender ideology".

Sega, Trud, 24 Chasa quoted TISP leader Slavi Trifonov's strong critical reaction in a Facebook post. 

24 Chasa, Trud reported that TISP's parliamentary group issued a statement demanding the resignation of the government, calling the ruling formations "criminals". 

Trud writes that Vazrazhdane demanded the resignation of the Cabinet, after the National Assembly rejected their proposal for a a of the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister on their public statements that NATO battle groups will be deployed on the territory of Bulgaria, in the Yambol region. 

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Bulgarian National Television's morning programme focuses on Thursday's upcoming discussion on the Sofia Municipality budget (a record BGN 2.5 billion), which is yet to be approved. representatives of all groups in the Sofia Municipal Council voiced their opinions to BNT. GERB's Stefan Markov noted that since Wednesday there has been pressure to not adopt the budget. BSP's Ivan Takov argued that the budged is not good for Sofia citizens. Democratic Bulgaria's Boyko Dimitrov noted disapprovingly that the budget is "more of the same", while Patriots for Sofia's Carlos Contrera said that its all a matter of dialogue and whether GERB are able to make corrections.  

JUSTICE 

Sega, 24 Chasa, Trud quote MRF MP Delyan Peevski, who said that he will initiate a procedure for selecting a new Inspectorate to the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) because of actions in connection with a case of domestic violence in Stara Zagora that caused massive outrage this summer. Peevski commented that he received a response from the inspectorate that there was nothing they could do and that they discovered no violations 

Mediapool adds that the SJC Inspectorate has been functioning in this composition for the eighth year in a row, three years past the expiration of its mandate, because a political consensus for the appointment of new members has not been reached in Parliament. The difficulty comes from the required constitutional majority of 160 votes.

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Mediapool, Trud report that the Prosecutors Chamber of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) has initiated seven disciplinary proceedings against four prosecutors and three investigators over the Eight Dwarfs case. The seven magistrates are Dilyan Deyanov (prosecutor at the Pernik District Prosecution Office), Iveta Markovich (prosecutor at the Sofia District Prosecution Office, Kiril Peychinov (prosecutor at the Sofia Military District Prosecution Office) and Miroslav Iliev (prosecutor at the Burgas District Prosecution Office), as well as against Svetlana Stoyanova-Vayze, Neli Todorova and Petranka Rabadzhieva – investigators at the Investigation Department of the Sofia City Prosecution Office. The case took its name from a 2020 investigation of the Anti-Corruption Fund which exposed a ring for company theft and trading in influence, involving members of the judiciary.

ECONOMY

Mediapool, Trud and Sega write that MPs from the Parliamentary Committee on Economic Policy and Innovation voted at first reading to terminate the derogation for the import of Russian oil ahead of schedule. In addition, with a change in another law, it was proposed that the Lukoil Neftochim refinery in Burgas enter special commercial manager appointed by the state. This will happen if circumstances are established that threaten national security, the supply of critical resources, such as crude oil and fuels, or if international restrictive measures, such as sanctions against Russia, are violated. The special commercial manager will be appointed by the National Assembly on the proposal of the government, initially for 6 months, with the possibility of another 6 months. The bill was tabled by GERB-UDF, CC-DB, and the MRF.

Trud reports that revenues from indirect taxes are in 2023 so far, were the amount of BGN 10,454.4 million or 44.7% of the estimates for the year, while the VAT revenues were in the amount of BGN 7,423.1 million (43.7% of the estimates), excise duties amounted to BGN 2,837.6 million (47.8% of estimates), and customs duties amounted to BGN 166.1 million (41.0% of annual estimates). The Cabinet's report on the implementation of the consolidated fiscal program (CFP) for the first half of 2023 shows that there is serious problem with the collection of VAT, financiers explained to Trud. Against this background, Prime Minister Denkov and Finance Minister Assen Vassilev's arguments about VAT losses due to restrictions on the import of Ukrainian grain sound more than strange, the daily stresses. Financial experts recalled that there is no way there can be a loss from VAT at high prices, and, even when importing grain from Ukraine, the consumption of bread and bakery products is constant and it cannot be expected to increase, and VAT on bread and flour until the end of 2023 has a zero rate. The problem with the collection of VAT will reflect negatively on the preparation of the 2024 budget, experts warn.

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Telegraph reports that Bulgaria is the European country with the largest housing stock per capita: 624 dwellings per 1,000 inhabitants, followed by Portugal and France, while on the opposite side are Greece and the UK.  While demand was still more than the supply when it comes to real estate in Bulgaria in 2022, the market has started to cool down. 2022 saw a decline in the number of deals compared to the previous year, especially in the second half.  Sales prices in 2022 continued to rise, with average prices for apartments in Sofia increasing by over 25%. The biggest price increase was in Varna (by 30%).

Telegraph reports that a number of functioning restaurant and pub establishments are on sale for next to nothing. Hundreds of bartenders, waiters and cooks, that are still employed at these establishments, are facing unemployment. Bulgarian Association of Restaurants Chair Richard Alibegov explained that this is a result of the pandemic lockdowns, and that the number of establishment for sale is increasing, but there is no demand, which drives down prices. 

/DT/

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By 15:59 on 02.03.2024 Today`s news

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