site.btaMedia Review: September 27
The topic of the October 29 local elections dominates Wednesday’s news media.
Telegraph features a story on a "shake-up" in the ruling majority in relation to the upcoming local elections. The daily quotes GERB leader Boyko Borissov as saying that the majority is at risk as Continue the Change - Democratic Bulgaria (CC-DB) refuses to support his party's candidates at the election's runoffs. "Who will they support? Vazrazhdane, BSP, who? And if so - who will they expect support from in parliament? If they support these parties, after the elections they will have to seek support from them," Borissov pointed out.
24 Chasa presents an article on the MPs participating in the 29 October elections. A total of 21 MPs "dream of the mayor's chair", the daily says. Most of them are from Continue the Change, Vazrazhdane and There is Such a Nation. GERB, Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) and the BSP are relying on their local structures, while their MPs remain in parliament, the article states.
Trud features an extensive interview with Simitli Mayor Apostol Apostolov (Southwest Bulgaria). Apostolov has held the position since 2003, elected as an independent candidate. He argues that the state is indebted to the municipalities for not making efforts towards achieving decentralization, while promoting such goals. "The municipalities are the backbone of the state, and we look after the people in them, every mayor has the ambition and desire to achieve as much as possible. Those who do not have such goals leave after their first term," he points out.
24 Chasa reports of 13 vote-buying alerts, quoting Interior Minister Kalin Stoyanov. Four of them have pre-trial proceedings, while the others are under investigation. Stoyanov points out that for the first time in two years there will be an active joint unit between the Interior Ministry and the Prosecution Office to fight vote buying.
On Nova Television's morning show, sociologist Andrey Raychev, PR expert Nidal Algafari and political analysts Elena Darieva and Petar Cholakov commented on the race of Sofia local elections. Raychev argued that 6 months ago GERB had dropped out of the contest in the capital, but Anton Hekimian's candidacy increased their chances significantly. He described a possible loss of CC-DB as catastrophic for the coalition. According to Cholakov, the outcome of the Sofia local elections is not important as the outcome will in any way go in favour of the ruling majority in Parliament, but Darieva disagreed: "A party that misses out on local power does not have a long political horizon," she pointed out. She reminded that 6 months ago CC-DB enjoyed a lead of 700,000 votes in the capital's multi-member constituencies (with a usual turnout in the city of under a million residents), while currently the situation is different - GERB not only have ambitions for the mayor's office, but also to expand their representation in the City Council. Algafari pointed out that GERB's move to choose Hekimyan as their candidate was the best possible one. "They could have gotten someone older, a professor, but they would have been clashing generations,“ he stated.
24 Chasa reports that GERB-UDF, CC-DB and MRF proposed that Bulgaria give Ukraine defective C-300 missiles and ammunition with obsolete requirements. The plan is to give just the missiles rather than C-300 anti-aircraft missile systems, as well as NATO-standard warheads. "The missiles are defective and cannot serve the Bulgarian army," Defence Minister Todor Tagarev pointed out. “Their fuel has expired. It is dangerous and toxic and there are no conditions in our country to replace it," the daily quotes experts. The number of missiles is classified, but Chief of Defence Emil Eftimov notes that it is not a large amount. The draft resolution received the approval of the parliamentary Defence Committee and will be voted in Parliament on Wednesday.
Duma's front-page story says that BSP are asking for Tagarev's resignation for his "purposeful policy against Bulgarian national interests". "We have warned that the Defence Minister will also encroach on our last missile armament - the C-300 anti-aircraft missile systems," the daily quotes BSP MP Atanas Zafirov, who argues that by approving this resolution, the MPs will gift away Bulgaria's last remaining missile armament that guards the skies over Sofia and Kozloduy NPP.
On Bulgarian National Television's morning show, Chief of Defence Eftimov explained that Bulgaria does not intend to give its entire arsenal of C-300 missiles to Ukraine. "The unservicable C-300 missiles that we are discussing to send to Ukraine are between 3% and 5% of our total available quantity, and the weapons we have provided so far do not affect the combat capability of our army," he noted. Eftimov said that while the Bulgarian Land Forces are equal to their NATO allies in training, desire and procedures, the equipment is still at Soviet standard. "Modernization is underway. The government has approved the project for modernisation of the land forces. I hope we will be called to the Defence Committee to defend our arguments so the land forces can get a boost," he added.
24 Chasa features an extensive interview with European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Iliana Ivanova. She points out that while concerns about possible price rises upon eurozone entry are understandable, they are not based on facts. "To support this statement, it is enough to look at the most recent example of Croatia, which joined the euro area at the beginning of this year and has not only enjoyed relatively low inflation rates but has also had a record season in the tourism sector," Ivanova stressed. The EU Commissioner highlighted the need for a European research area where researchers, scientific knowledge and technology can move freely. "In this context, the implementation of the measures aiding science careers, especially supporting young scientists, will be a priority for me," she explains. Ivanova adds that she will continue working towards building university alliances and will promote efforts for mutual recognition of exams and degrees as well as a joint European degree. "I will support Member States in ensuring effective digital transformation of education systems. The role of teachers is very important in these processes, and I will promote all good practices to elevate the role of the teaching profession," the EU Commissioner notes.
FLOODS IN TSAREVO REGION
In an interview with the Bulgarian National Radio, Agriculture Deputy Minister Miroslav Marinov said that inspections have shown that there is no excessive logging in the area of Tsarevo, where heavy floods took place in early September. "For 16 hours the rainfall level was above 330% of the monthly norm. Had it not been for the work of the foresters, the disaster would have been much worse," he stressed. Marinov also commented on the WWF report, according to which between 25% and 30% of all logging in Bulgaria between 2018 and 2022 is illegal. He disagreed with the figures quoted, saying illegal logging in the period was only 3%. Marinov stated that the Ministry did not understand the methodology by which the study was done.
Trud's front-page story states that "people may become secret agents against employers and neighbours" after the National Revenue Agency (NRA) offers a reward for reporting tax fraud. The payments will be equal to 10% of the additional revenue to the budget collected as a result of the disclosures and will be carried out only for reports of evasion above BGN 3,000. People will be able to report VAT evasion schemes, concealed or undeclared taxable transactions, income, profits and assets, the daily writes. No money will be paid if information is submitted to the NRA that is available in publicly accessible sources, including mass media, television programmes, paper or internet publications. The identities of people who submit information to the NRA will be protected. If someone submits a report about the same person three times and it is found to contain false information, they will be liable to a fine of between BGN 500 and BGN 1,000.
Telegraph and Duma also cover the story.
On bTV's morning show, Bulgarian Hotel and Restaurant Association Deputy Chair Atanas Dimitrov defined the NRA's proposal to award tax fraud reports as an "exotic experiment". "This is a major innovation for Bulgarian legislation and that is why I am a bit sceptical," he explained. Economist Kaloyan Staykov pointed out that the sponsors of the amendments refer to legislation in the UK and US. He noted that people who can disclose such information are usually partners at the companies or employees with inside information and described it as unlikely that a competitor would get hold of such information.
Duma quotes data from a survey by the Energy Ministry and the independent platform for comparing electricity offers elca.bg, which states that nearly half of the companies in the country expect a new increase in the price of electricity. According to the survey, measures taken to help companies cope with high prices have reduced the negative impact on business.
Trud writes that American companies are the fourth largest foreign investor in Bulgaria, quoting American Chamber of Commerce in Bulgaria President Olivier Marquette, who took part in Tuesday's Business Breakfast with the Government. American investments total BGN 5.5 billion, including Canadian investments of BGN 1.3 billion, Marquette said. American companies have created 40,000 jobs and Canadian investors account for about 5,000 jobs.
Telegraph features an article on the funding envisaged under the Environment Operational Programme for municipalities fighting pollution in the air. A total of 21 municipalities are to apply for funding for projects to replace old wood and coal stoves with new air conditioners and other energy-efficient appliances to heat their residents, the newspaper writes, quoting the Environment Ministry. Funds amounting to BGN 610 million have been earmarked, which will impact some 85,000 households.
Trud quotes Transport Minister Georgi Gvozdeikov as saying that by 2027 the train journey from Sofia to Plovdiv should take less than an hour, as all projects along the route should be completed by then. The railway line between Elin Pelin and Kostenets is part of the project for the modernization of the railway highway from Sofia to Burgas, which is worth BGN 1.3 billion. It is funded under the EU-supported OP Transport and Transport Infrastructure.
Duma reports that the European Council has decided to significantly ease the conditions for the introduction of the new Euro 7 emissions standard, which is due to come into force in mid-2025. The conditions for private cars and buses will not be changed. Bulgaria and seven other EU Member States have opposed the new eco-standard. Although Bulgaria is the poorest country in the EU, new car purchases are soaring, the daily notes. According to the latest figures from the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association, the country has seen a 38.7% annual rise in new vehicle purchases, ranking first in the Union in this statistic.
In an interview for Telegraph, Bulgarian Association of Restaurants President Richard Alibegov says that employers in the industry cannot pay salaries only by bank, as 30% of the staff are temporary residents in the country and Bulgarian banks are reluctant to open accounts for them. He explains that in order to make payments by bank transfer without having accounts, employers and employees have to pay additional fees and such an obligation would lead to a large outflow of staff. He also comments on the proposal that a customer should not pay if he does not receive a receipt: "This is absolute nonsense, but we are willing to accept it so that Minister Vassilev [Finance Minister Assen Vassilev] can see that it does not work. It is not a real measure, it is just a whim," he argues.