site.btaMedia Review: February 28

Media Review: February 28
Media Review: February 28
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HIGHLIGHTS 

Wednesday’s news media is dominated by GERB's announcement on Tuesday that it is preparing a coalition agreement to offer to its power-sharing partner, Continue the Change - Democratic Bulgaria (CC-DB) for the next three years.  The proposed agreement is given first-page prominence in Trud which quotes GERB leader Boyko Borissov as saying: “There will be either a coalition agreement or elections”. 

Trud also leads on an article about a programme that will allow flat owners in apartment blocks to profit from installing solar panels on their roofs if they use the electricity produced to charge electric cars. The programme was drafted by the Bulgarian Smart Grid Chamber and the Taxi Union in connection with an Electric Mobility Promotion Bill developed under the guidance of the Innovation Ministry. The aim of the programme is to set out rules that will facilitate the installation of solar panels on rooftops and the construction of charging stations for electric cars near residential building.

Telegraph's leading article is about an increasing number of Bulgarians coming back from their seasonal jobs in Western Europe to claim higher unemployment benefits in Bulgaria. Citing Employment Agency data, the article says that the southwestern town of Blagoevgrad has the largest number of people registered with the job centres, who said they had worked abroad. The data shows that more than 22% of all unemployed people who have worked abroad and registered as unemployed in Bulgaria were in southwestern Bulgaria. More papers have this story. 

On its first page, Duma quotes Bulgarian Socialist Party leader Korneliya Ninova as saying at a Tuesday’s news briefing that her party has moved for an urgent parliamentary hearing of Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov in connection with his statements that Bulgaria is ready to discuss a bilateral security agreement with Ukraine. The article, titled “Are They Dragging Us towards War?", highlights Ninova’s call for strong opposition to sending Bulgarian troops in Kyiv. 

24 Chasa’s lead story is about French President Emmanuel Macron’s Ukraine troops remark at the Paris conference on Monday raising eyebrows in Bulgaria. The article quotes Defence Minister Todor Tagarev, who attended the meeting, saying that the Bulgarian stance is clear and unequivocal: “We have no intention of sending Bulgarian troops to Ukraine”. Prime Minister Denkov confirmed this by saying that the question of Bulgaria sending troops to Ukraine has not been raised at all. President Rumen Radev is quoted as saying that sending NATO country’s troops to Ukraine implies a global clash. The daily also quotes Germany's senior military official Christian Freuding, who told der Spiegel that Ukraine had bought 120,000 shells from Bulgaria. Asked for a comment, Denkov said that this country "produces shells, which are being exported. As far as I know, we haven’t had direct exports to Ukraine, but it is clear that some of these shells go to Ukraine. There is no news here".

24 Chasa also has a lead story about the last survivor of the Belene Concentration Camp, Tsvetana Dzhermanova, who died in late February at the age of 96. She was imprisoned at the age of 20 on charges of anarchism and was released three years and four months later. 

POLITICS

In a 24 Chasa commentary, sociologist Vasil Tonchev says that holding snap elections instead of the government rotation scheduled to take place in March, is unlikely. He argues that if the key players in the government allow early elections to take place, they will be going against their interests and risking an opposition party backed by the President entering Parliament. Tonchev adds that what might change the political dynamics in this country will be mainly the European elections in June and the US presidential election in November. 

The question of whether a rotation or elections are more likely was discussed in Nova TV’s morning programme by sociologist Andrey Raychev and political scientists Daniel Smilov and Dimitar Ganev. 

Speaking on the Bulgarian National Radio (BNR), political scientist Georgi Kiryakov said that the coalition agreement that GERB proposed to CC-DB is in response to CC-DB’s governance memorandum proposal made earlier in February. “A coalition agreement is vital. It is important that it covers the remainder of the tenure,” he noted. “[Prime Minister Nikolay] Denkov and [Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mariya] Gabriel are almost entirely dependent on the majority that supports them in Parliament,” Kiryakov said, adding that snap elections will not bring much change in the electoral configuration. In his words, everything should be done through negotiating compromises so that the state can be “governed for the benefit of society, not for the benefit of individual groups”, leaders, or businesses.

SCHENGEN 

Speaking on the Bulgarian National Television morning programme, ex-Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Milen Keremedchiev commented on Austria’s recent reaffirmation of its veto on Romania and Bulgaria’s accession to the border-free zone for land travel. "There is no change in Austria’s stance," he noted. In Keremedchiev’s words, Bulgaria’s accession for air and water travel should not be regarded as a failure. He pointed out that it is part of a two-stage Schengen accession, and this is exactly how Austria was accepted.

DEFENCE

Commenting on the Paris meeting on Ukraine in a bTV interview, Defence Minister Todor Tagarev said that the participants discussed decisions regarding coalitions to support Ukraine in which the countries cooperate and coordinate their aid. "We have expressed a willingness to get involved in some of them, it's about helping the Ukrainian defence industry so that a large part of what Ukraine needs can be produced there as well. Another issue was about supporting vulnerable partner countries so that they can be better protected against aggressive Russian actions," Tagarev said.

BULGARIAN CITIZENSHIP 

24 Chasa has a two-page interview with Deputy Minister of Justice Georgi Nikolov, who says that people from post-Soviet states often apply for Bulgarian citizenship with false documents and get caught. Nikolov notes that between January 1, 2020 and February 7, 2024, 13,381 applications were filed by Ukrainian nationals, 8,844 by Moldovans, 5,372 by Russians, 363 by Belarussians, 97 by Armenian citizens, 20 by Azerbaijanis, 15 by Georgians, 94 by Kazakhstani citizens, 29 by Uzbekistanis, 9 by Turkmenistan nationals, 15 by Kyrgyzstani citizens, 4 by Tajikistani citizens, 3 by Latvians and Lithuanians. None were filed by Estonian. The Minister says that in the past four years Bulgarian citizenship has been granted to a total of 6,307 Ukrainians, 4,751 Moldovans, 1,090 Russians, 67 Armenians, 44 Kazakhstanis, and 31 Belarussians. 

ECONOMY

Citing data from the Bulgarian National Bank (BNB) and the European Central Bank, Telegraph reports that Bulgaria ranks second in terms of the lowest interest rates on housing loans in the EU, following Malta. The daily notes that the decline persists despite the upward trend in interest rates globally. 

Trud also cites BNB data that shows that banks are lowering interest rates on loans. The annual percentage rate of charges on new consumer loans for individuals averaged 9.21% in January, down by 0.92% compared to December and by 0.24% compared to January 2023. The average annual percentage rate on housing loans was 2.85% in January. The cost of loans increased by just 0.2% year-on-year, but there was a 0.1% decline month-on-month. There was also a drop in interest rates for business loans, except for corporate loans of up to EUR 1 million.

ENERGY

In a BNR interview, Energy Management Institute Chair Slavtcho Neykov singled out several fundamental issues regarding Parliament’s decisions for the construction of new capacities at the Kozloduy N-Plant. The National Assembly adopted two decisions in less than two months, leaving people with the impression that they are not being adequately informed of these decisions. Also, the tentative cost that is mentioned is at least BGN 30-40 billion, which Bulgaria will pay, but the money is sure to be way more. Furthermore, there is not enough qualified personnel and the construction of Unit VII will require 300 highly qualified experts and up to 10,000 medium-skilled personnel. Also, it is not clear how the investment will be recouped. “None of the politicians is talking about how this money will be recovered. We are talking about a project that will start paying off in 15 years," Neykov said.

TOURISM

Telegraph has an extensive interview with hotelier Veselin Nalbantov, who says that offshore wind farms whose construction is envisaged in a bill adopted on first reading in Parliament in late January, will have irreparable consequences for the tourism industry and will be detrimental to the state budget. Nalbantov notes that offshore wind parks are built in places with different natural and geographical conditions than Bulgaria's, and there must be relatively shallow water and no tourism. He says that another setback for this country’s tourism will be a planned temporary closure of Burgas Airport for repair works. He notes that the Southern Black Sea coast is the busiest in terms of tourist arrivals. Nalbantov also comments on the persistent lack of qualified personnel in the tourism sector, saying that state support has been sought for years now, but there is still no efficient long-term solution to the problem. 

HOME AFFAIRS

Trud quotes the head of the Chief Directorate for Combatting Organized Crime, Chief Commissioner Yavor Serafimov, as saying that a mentally unstable person who goes by the nickname the Red Pirate has sent threats to ministers and magistrates, including Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mariya Gabriel, Pleven District Court judge Vladislava Tsarigradska, prosecutors and an investigator at the Sofia Regional Prosecution Office. Serafimov says that they have not found a connection between him and Petar "the Euro" Petrov and late Martin "the Notary" Bozhanov, who have been implicated in building a network of connections with prosecutors and judges whom they allegedly bribed, threatened, blackmailed or otherwise pressured. The topic is also covered in 24 Chasa

***

Citing National Centre of Public Health and Analyses data, Duma writes that cases of аcute intoxication after substance use were on the rise in 2023. A total of 11,761 cases were registered last year, up from 10,446 in 2022 and 9,358 in 2021. Alcohol poisoning is at the top of the list, with 9,392 cases in 2023, up from 8,433 in 2022. The highest incidence is reported among people aged 18 years and over (8,303), about two-thirds of them men. The story cites data from the 2021 World Health Organization European Health Report, according to which Bulgaria is among the top 10 EU Member States with the highest alcohol consumption per capita (12.5 litres), Czechia taking the lead spot with 14.3 litres. There was also an increase in the number of acute drug intoxication cases: 1,492 in 2023, up by 40 compared to the previous year. The largest number of intoxication cases was recorded among people aged over 18 – 1,239, up by 42 compared to 2022. Combined drug intoxication cases also went up significantly, from 563 in 2022 to 877 in 2023. 

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By 15:35 on 21.04.2024 Today`s news

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