site.btaMedia Review: April 19

Media Review: April 19
Media Review: April 19
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MIDDLE EAST AND OTHER HIGHLIGHTS

The latest developments in the Middle East are among the highlights in the Friday print and online media.

On Friday morning, the top news on the website of the Bulgarian National Radio (BNR) and most other online and broadcast media was the Israeli attack on Iran. 

The cover story in the new Capital Weekly is titled “War in the Middle East Leaves the Shadows” and the subheading says that the Iranian attack “has changed the rules of the conflict in the regions but it also strengthened the positions of Israel – as long as it comes with a carefully measured response”.  The United States and UK turned a back on the mounting criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and used their fighter jets and missile defence systems to repel Iran's attack. If Israel goes ahead with reckless retaliation, it risks igniting war and angering the US and other allies. The strike against Iran shifted international focus away from Gaza and that caters to the interests of the Israeli Prime Minister, the story says.

The editorial board of Capital Weekly write that their plan for the issue had been to focus on a different topic, “somewhat optimistic, related to personal finances” but then the events of April 13 changed their plans with the heightened possibility of a bigger conflict in the Middle East. 

Here is what Capital writes about a possible risk for Bulgaria: “At this stage there is no direct threat to Bulgaria's national security. The Foreign Ministry described the attack as ‘an unprecedented escalation that poses a serious threat to regional security’. Rather, in this situation, the government must protect and guarantee the security of Bulgarian citizens in Iran and Israel. ‘In the long term, if the crisis escalates, there could be new refugee waves to Europe. But I doubt what is happening will directly affect us, as we are under the NATO nuclear umbrella,’ says Iskren Ivanov, a professor of international security and conflict management at Sofia University. He draws attention to the fact that Europe should not turn a blind eye to what is happening in the Middle East, although it seems that the war in Ukraine is a priority for the EU. Iran's actions cannot but be coordinated with Moscow, Hamas and Hezbollah, which means that what is happening is part of a larger scheme involving Russia, the expert concludes.”

Capital has more stories on the matter and one looks at how the clash between Israel and Iran threatens global security. The subheading sys that the possible scenarios for escalation “bring us closer to a full-blown armed conflict, possibly with the participation of the US”.

On Nova TV, caretaker Defense Minister Atanas Zapryanov said that Bulgaria is not under any military threat resulting from Israel's actions. “Our people in the intelligence and warning system are monitoring the situation. We do not need to take any action," he said. Zapryanov also said, “What we are being told by our intelligence services and our authorities is that it was a limited strike by Israel on Iranian territory on a military target, an air base northwest of Isfahan. We know that there have also been strikes on [Iranian] proxies in Iraq and Syria, which means that this is a decisive demonstration by Israel that it can also reach Iranian territory."

In the morning programme of the Bulgarian National Television (BNT), journalist Georgi Milkov said, “I hope there are mechanisms to prevent a spiral of the conflict in the Middle East and the response to the response to the response. The US has been trying to contain Bibi Netanyahu for a long time now because that's the main engine of tensions and because nobody wants a war with Iran except him and a little clique around him. Even Israeli citizens don't want such a war - according to a poll 74% of Israelis want no war with Iran. Americans do not want a war with Iran, Europeans do not want a war with Iran, nobody wants this war, but for Bibi Netanyahu this war is very important.” The war in Gaza has been going on for six months without Netanyahu getting what he wants - Hamas is not giving up, its leaders have not been eliminated, and there is strong international pressure on Israel over the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, plus Netanyahu has failed in the most important task of freeing more than half the hostages taken by Hamas. “There is a very big campaign against him in the country and all this is leading him to look for a way out in another country, which could be Iran," Milkov explained. The journalist was adamant that Israel cannot go to war with Iran alone because it lacks the capacity.

Trud leads with a story about pensions outpacing wages with the rate of increase. The subheading says that living standards in Bulgaria are only 62% of the EU average. According to the story, the increase of incomes in the last 10 years is 58% above the rate of inflation.

Telegraf leads with a story about widespread use of palm oil in foods. It used to be a common ingredient in cheeses but when producers were forced to indicate that on labels, it moved to baked goods, the newspaper says citing its own study on the market.

The front-page story in Duma is about the parliamentary ad hoc committee of inquiry into the agreement between the Bulgarian gas supplier Bulgargaz and BOTAS of Turkyie, and the plans of the Bulgarian Socialist Party to forward the report from the work of the committee to the prosecution service on Friday as the committee itself are dragging its feet about it. The ad hoc committee found that the deal is detrimental for Bulgaria.

The story is entitled “Deal with BOTAS to Be Sent to Prosecutors” and the subheading says that GERB are trying to cover up corruption.

24 Chasa leads with an interview with Andrian Nikolov of the Institute of Marker Economics where he takes questions about the mismatch between education and the labour market, and what education promises a good career. The headline is “Get Trained to Be a Machinist: Their Wages Are Growing and Those of IT People Are Down”. Nikolov argues that admissions to vocational schools need to better reflect the real labour market. He says that 13.8% of Bulgarian youths are not in education or on the labour market. There are two groups among them: young mothers and young men who have dropped out from school. The share of those who are not active on the labour market is considerably larger among Roma people. Apparently subsidized jobs do not lead to lasting employment, the analyst says. 

POLITICS

The passions about the plans of caretaker Prime Minister Dimitar Glavchev to change two ministers in his Cabinet, of Foreign Affairs and of Agriculture, gets much media attention. Such a change requires a presidential decree and the President appears to be in no rush to issue one, making some politicians impatient. 

In a Bulgarian National Radio interview, constitutional law professor Natalia Kisselova said that there is no crisis and the President never said that he would not issue the needed decree. “He merely asked why this person is being nominated for foreign minister,” she argues.

Glavchev plans to replace Stefan Dimitrov with Daniel Mitov as the country’s top diplomat but Mitov is one of the two deputy leaders of GERB and President Rumen Radev has made it clear he finds the nomination unacceptable. In Kisselova’s words, the President wants an answer to the question why somebody so high up in the political hierarchy is proposed for Foreign Minister.

On bTV, Anton Kutev, who is a former ranking socialist party member and spokesman of the caretaker cabinets of Stefan Yanev and Galab Donev, it is a very bad idea to have a GERB deputy leader for Foreign Minister. „There have been suspicions in the past 15 years that GERB and MRF were the parties that corrupted the election process. Whether Daniel Mitov is capable of corrupting the election process, if he becomes the Foreign Minister – I cannot say. Probably not because he lacks the tools. The question is that any suspicions that the election process is being corrupted go to GERB and MRF – not to the President. The entire oversees voting process, including in Turkiye, goes through the Foreign Ministry. The Foreign Ministry organizes the sending out of the elections stationery, is in charge of the observers and the party agents, and determines where there will be voting sections abroad,” said Kutev. 

***

Capital Weekly has several stories on the shakeup in the state administration after the caretaker Cabinet stepped in. One story is titled “Fast and Furious: GERB and MRF [the Movement for Rights and Freedoms] are reinstating the [previous] Establishment”. According to the story, the Glavchev Cabinet is operating as “a transitional government of the parties of Boyko Borissov and Delyan Peevski”.

Another story is headlined “The First Purges Came in the Key Sectors” and the subheading says that the appointments in the second echelon were mostly people from GERB’s personnel bank. The story catalogues the changes, sector by sector and comments that it is no surprise the changes started in the sectors that have been crucial for political corruption in the past two decades.

Another headline reads “The Course of Abandoning the Judicial Reform”. “The new team in the Justice Ministry, in a tandem with the prosecution service, are preparing the ground for GERB and MRF after the elections,” the story says.

The opinions column in the online Sega (segabg.com) has a comment titled “The Impudent Are Back in the Government”. It says that “GERB and MRF don’t want to wait for the elections: they are showing that they already have the power in their hands through the caretaker government”.

A Capital commentary titled “Parliamentary Circus on Demand” takes aim at the proposal of GERB and MRF to call off meetings of parliamentary committees and committee hearings when there is no quorum. “If the GERB/MRF proposal for amendments to the parliamentary rules of procedure is adopted, the parliamentary committees will really become a circus. When Borissov and Peevski feel like it, their deputies will secure a quorum against their opponents. When there is a risk that they themselves will be exposed, the committees will not meet for lack of a quorum - a clear mockery not only of the parliament, but also of the voters,” the comment goes.

ECONOMY

Capital Weekly has a story about the delayed full liberalization of the energy market (“Electricity Freedom Gets Delayed”). The liberalization for household users will be put off by a year or more, contrary to Bulgaria’s commitment to Brussels. The decision means continued cross-subsidizing of coal plans through the electricity bills of households. Deputies hinted that it may be lead to losing financing under the National Recovery and Resilience Plan.

In an editorial commentary on the matter (“Who Is Inflating Electricity Bills”), Capital writes: “It was very likely that the new model would have led to lower electricity bills. At the moment, the price at which the National Electricity Company (NEK) supplies households is BGN 0.12/kWh excluding network charges, up from BGN 0.09/kWh on the free market, with a likelihood for a decrease in the coming months due to the overproduction of solar plants. Households, however, will not benefit from this, but will get a new state-regulated electricity price, probably around BGN 0.13/kWh, which could be 50% above the free market levels. The reason is that the Maritsa-East 2 coal plant, whose electricity costs over BGN 0.3/kWh, will again be included in the energy mix. Thus, instead of benefiting from low electricity prices, all Bulgarians will pay the coal plant to produce expensive electricity instead of buying cheap solar. That would have been impossible had the market been liberalized for household users simply because no one would pay as much.”

On Nova TV, Martin Vladimirov, an energy expert with the Centre for the Study of Democracy, said that there is a risk for Bulgaria to be refused funding under the National Recovery Plan in the aftermath of Parliament’s decision to delay the transition of all power plants to the free market. That transition was a key condition for the release of funding from the second Recovery Plan tranche. In the same programme, Atanas Katsarchev of the influential Podkrepa Labour Confederation, argued that the elimination of the regulated market will send electricity prices for household users through the roof.

24 Chasa writes in a headline that half of the power frequency disturbances in Europe have been caused by Bulgaria and the country is faced with fines for that. 50% of the disturbances resulted from surplus production of electricity from solar energy and the lack of more flexible power plants. Three countries have been forced to turn off their own capacity and that costed Bulgaria Energy System Operator EUR 900,000 in sanctions.

***

The morning programme on Bulgarian National Television had a report about stepped up control against trailers, campers and tents on unauthorized locations on the beach. The economic police and the National Revenue Agency are joining the efforts of the authorities.

HOME AFFAIRS

Trud has a story on its front page about the investigation against former Interior Ministry Secretary General and what witnesses have said (that he was being prepared to become Interior Ministry, and that former Interior Minister Boyko Rashkov of CC-DB had multiple meetings with two suspected smuggling ring lords).

In the morning programme of BNT, Tihomir Bezlov, a senior analyst at the Centre for the Study of Democracy, discussed border security, contraband trade and human smugging. Here is what he said of people smuggling: “There are many participants in the illegal migrant transit schemes and there is competition for customers among them. In recent years, they have been actively using closed groups on social networks, various applications to advertise themselves, and this is a serious problem not only for the Bulgarian services, but also for the countries around us. There is a capacity problem and there is a corruption problem in the police services - without exaggerating things, of course.”

THE WORLD

The international pages of Capital Weekly offer stories about the fentanyl crisis in the US; the shape of the European economy (“a cause for some concern but not panic”); “the final death of the cryptorevolution”; AI-based search engines; “the puzzling new rules for doing business in China”.

Trud has a front-page story about “the Waymar triangle” of the French president, the German chancellor and the new Polish prime minister seeking to isolate Ursula von der Leyen in her bid for re-election at the helm of the European Commission. Their favourite for the office of EC President is Mario Draghi, the former Italian Prime Minister and head of the Italian central bank.

SOCIETY

On its second and third page on Friday, 24 Chasa has a set of stories about homeless people in Bulgaria. They take occasion from the recent vandalizing of the grave of Patriatch Neophyte outside the St. Nedelia Church in central Sofia by a homeless man with mental health issues. One story says that the most recent official statistics sets the number of homeless people at 447 but there are certainly more. One in five of them is a university graduate. Local and central authorities help them with food and access to medical care. In the southern city of Plovdiv, the second largest in Bulgaria, 4,000 people are registered for mental problems that could lead to destructive behaviours and vandalism. The city has 40 homeless persons. They use the city shelters in winter and leave them to sleep in the open when the weather gets warm. 

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By 07:07 on 18.05.2024 Today`s news

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