site.btaMedia Review: November 30

Media Review: November 30
Media Review: November 30
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2024 STATE BUDGET BILL & POLITICS

Speaking to the Bulgarian National Radio (BNR), social analyst Dobromir Zhivkov of Market LINKS said that Bulgaria is in a transition period in which GERB and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) want to restore the status quo that existed until 2021. However, according to him, no strong political pressure is expected to force Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov to resign by the end of 2023, despite attacks on him, mainly from MRF floor leader Delyan Peevski and GERB leader Boyko Borissov. In Zhivkov's words, this is part of a political game in which the stakes are continuously rising as the country's resources are currently being allocated for next year. The second main purpose of the GERB and MRF attacks on the government is to place their ministers in certain sectors. "The position of [Finance Minister] Assen Vassilev seems stable enough. There are two ministries at risk - the Energy Ministry and the Regional Development and Public Works Ministry, because there are a lot of resources there, a lot of policies involved, thus making them a potential target of GERB and the MRF," Zhivkov said. He added that Peevski's hyperactivity is intensifying. It is linked both to the upcoming election for MRF chairperson and to Peevski's growing ambitions for power.

***

On bTV’s morning talk show, media and journalism expert Georgi Lozanov said that Delyan Peevski is nobody in this governance situation, as he looks like a distant relative, who is sitting on your table, raising toasts, self-imposed and it's neither comfortable to kick him out nor normal for him to be in such a role. In Lozanov's words, recently Peevski has become an informal Euro-Atlantic spokesperson at the expense of the representatives of Democratic Bulgaria, who are the historical spokesperson of Bulgaria as a pro-Western country, not Peevski. Peevski should not be allowed to be the leader of this talk, he stressed.

Journalists Konstantin Valkov and Valeriya Veleva took part in the same discussion on bTV’s morning talk show. Valkov said that Peevski is not needed by the government. Veleva added that the government lacks leadership and responsibility, thus allowing Peevski to step up and start talking about what should happen in the country, orchestrating its governance.

***

In a BNR interview, Plamen Dimitrov, president of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB), says that CITUB have started a series of talks with parties in parliament in order to negotiate the entering of additional BGN 400 million to the state budget for 2024 to raise public sector wages.

***

On the morning talk show of the Bulgarian National Television (BNT), Aleksandar Marinov, former chairperson of the Strategic Council under the President, said that there are no legal obstacles for President Rumen Radev to veto the 2024 state budget bill if he believes that the draft budget does not meet the needs of the people. Earlier this week, President Rumen Radev urged Parliament "to rein in the Finance Minister" and threatened to veto the 2024 state budget bill, if Parliament fails to do so. "No President has vetoed the state budget act but if Parliament fails to rein in the Finance Minister, it could happen," Radev warned on Monday.

LOCAL AUTHORITIES

24 Chasa's front-page story says that mayors of small towns across Bulgaria receive higher salaries than their counterparts in major cities such as Sofia and Plovdiv. The salaries of mayors in Bulgaria are freely set by the members of the respective municipal councils, with an allowable ceiling of BGN 9,436, which equals the ministerial salary. This procedure leads to the paradox of mayors of towns with a population of some 10-20,000 receiving higher salaries than mayors who govern cities with a population of over 200,000, the article reads.

For example, the mayor of the town of Madan [in the Rhodopes, population of approximately 5,100] receives a salary of BGN 4,600. The same is the salary of Stancho Stavrev, mayor of the Tundzha municipality in southeastern Bulgaria [population of some 20,000]. Similar are the cases of the mayors of the town of Svilengrad [southeastern Bulgaria, population of approximately 17,000] and the municipality of Krushari in northeastern Bulgaria [population of some 3,000]. All of the above receive higher salaries than the mayors of the four largest cities in Bulgaria - Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna and Burgas.

SOCIAL POLICY

The Trud daily publishes an interview with lawyer Petar Kichashki, Executive Director of the Institute for Modern Policy, who talks about the rights of people with disabilities. Kichashki comments on the newly established ad hoc parliamentary committee whose main task is to discuss whether the legal institution of injunction can be abolished. In his words, such a step would not lead to positive change for people with disabilities, but to some sort of privatization of psychiatric treatment. "Fine, we abolish the injunction, but then what? How are we going to guarantee the rights of people with mental disabilities? How do we make sure that they will be protected and that their interests, and therefore the interests of society, will not be harmed? Look, disability is not just something that Bulgaria came up with. It exists all over the [countries in the] developed world, including in strong democracies such as Australia, South Korea, Israel and around Europe. In the United States, there is no federal legislation on injunctive relief, but the vast majority of individual states have organized those types of protections. Why to make the country [Bulgaria], and especially disabled people themselves, hostages to some political experiments? In the light of this, I think the important debate would be how to improve the situation of these people, how to improve the existing system, not how to destroy it".

ENERGY

On Nova TV’s morning talk show, former deputy energy minister Elenko Bozhkov commented on rising natural gas prices in Bulgaria. "Currently, Bulgaria is using that old expensive gas from 2021 after the dispute with Gazprom. Gas prices depend on the stock market index and depleted gas volumes. The gas storage in Chiren is about 90% full. The influence of the Energy and Water Regulatory Commission on the price of natural gas is limited," he explained, adding that a reduction in the price of natural gas in Bulgaria may only take place after the winter months. "Our gas storage was full of expensive gas or was not emptying fast enough. It stayed rather full so that [state-owned natural gas supplier] Bulgargaz could keep prices low in the summer. Combined with the cheap Azeri gas, that was possible. Now, when there is need for that gas to be withdrawn, the remaining expensive gas is being withdrawn to empty the gas storage in Chiren so that new gas can come in for the coming season at an acceptable price," Bozhkov explained.

***

Commenting on the severe snowfall during the weekend which caused power outages in many settlements, in a BNR interview National Ombudsman Diana Kovatcheva expressed her outrage that one day of snowing brought Bulgaria back to the Middle Ages, as many people did not have electricity for some five days. This is not a problem that arose on Sunday, Kovatcheva said, adding that she had received numerous complaints and alerts of poor power quality from a number of citizens throughout the year. She stressed that there is lack of investment and adequate maintenance of the power grids and easement areas. "The problem is not just due to the snow that fell. People need to be compensated. This is the least that can be done [...] People are furious and rightly so about the lack of response from the electricity distribution companies, while the institutions are pointing fingers at each other as to who is to blame," she stressed.

TRANSPORT

Most newspapers and online news outlets cover the introduction of a ban on old cars in Sofia city centre between December 1, 2023, and February 29, 2024. The ban applies to vehicles of the Euro 1 emissions category. It includes petrol-fuelled vehicles first registered before January 1, 1996, and diesel vehicles first registered before January 1, 2002. The ban will not apply to cars owned by people who are registered at an address in the specific area, and to people with special needs and disabilities. To be exempt from the ban, they must register their vehicles with the Urban Mobility Centre. Violators will be monitored by cameras and fined. Fines will range from BGN 50 to 500.

AGRICULTURE

In a bTV interview, former caretaker agriculture minister Yavor Gechev, who now serves as adviser to President Rumen Radev on agricultural topics, backed Radev, who Monday argued that Finance Minister Assen Vassilev intends to sell 70,000 ha of state-owned arable land for BGN 340 million. According to Gechev, the sale of state-owned land is included in the 3-year budget forecast of the Agriculture Ministry. "This is not an accidental mistake, it is on purpose. The point is not that Assen Vassilev lied, the point is that we caught him", Gechev stressed. On his hand, Vassilev dismissed Radev's statement that the Finance Minister is planning to sell state-owned arable land, saying that this is not envisaged in the 2024 draft budget. “This is fake news,” Vassilev said on Monday.

/KK/

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By 14:46 on 28.02.2024 Today`s news

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