site.btaMedia Review: April 23, 2024

Media Review: April 23, 2024
Media Review: April 23, 2024

THE HOME SCENE

In a two-page interview for Telegraph, political scientist Strahil Deliiski says that caretaker Prime Minister Dimitar Glavchev will fail a good balancing act between President Radev and the parliamentary parties because his cabinet enjoys zero public trust and its lineup cannot be sorted out, which will call into question the arrangements for, and the legitimacy of, the June 9 elections as prerequisites to challenge this legitimacy exist even now, no matter what happens at the elections. In the interviewee's opinion, for the huge majority of parties this election campaign is a matter of political survival for several people rather than a part of a long-term governance strategy. He expects the parties, and especially GERB and Continue the Change - Democratic Bulgaria, to conduct a campaign based on sensation, aggression and confrontation. The conflict in the Bulgarian political debate is disgusting and revolting for voters. "The public feels a profound deficit of sensible political leadership," Deliiski comments. Asked about the post-election power formula he expects, he says that a type of majority enjoying broad public support should be sought, a government with a clear and to-the-point agenda consistent with the public interests, with a clear mandate and political leadership rather than evading responsibility.

FOREIGN POLICY

Interviewed by Trud on two full inside pages, former deputy foreign minister Lyubomir Kyuchukov says that the foreign policy debate in Bulgaria in recent months has been at an alarmingly low level, boiling down to appointments and trips abroad. Replying to a question, the diplomat describes the foreign policy strategy drafted by ex-foreign minister Mariya Gabriel as "a rather sad document", a personal project that was neither discussed and approved, nor adopted by the Government and Parliament, nor published. The key objectives of Bulgarian foreign policy that the strategy formulates: Schengen and eurozone entry, seem quite inadequate and parochial, Kyuchukov comments. He notes that the strategy contains findings but lacks positions and policies on all current international issues. Oddly, the document deals substantially with the relations with Belarus, New Zealand and Jordan but does not mention Germany, France and Italy, which are subsumed under the heading "EU". The interviewee does not see a shift in the caretaker cabinet's policy towards the war in Ukraine. "The big problem is that everybody are channelling their efforts into preparing for war instead of preventing it," he argues. Asked why the US delayed its aid package for Ukraine by a year and a half, Kyuchukov says that Trump is not the only one in the US who would like to see a Russia exhausted and bogged down in a prolonged war and whose containment is entrusted to Europe. "Besides this, the war has re-consolidated NATO around the US, and the American defence and power industries got a major boost," the diplomat notes. In the Middle East, he expects a further escalation in Gaza and in South Lebanon, and Israel to seek a moral legitimation of its actions in the Iranian attack. Unless a lasting two-state solution is reached even after this conflict, steady tensions will ensue, accompanied by periodic wars, the expert predicts. "The war in Gaza has turned into an exporter of hate to European societies, dividing them and generating both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia," he notes. Replying to a question, the interviewee says that anti-Bulgarianism has become a propellant of the election campaign of the opposition in Skopje, and it will probably win the elections, after which it risks getting caught in its own trap.

INTERNAL AFFAIRS

Caretaker Interior Minister Kalin Stoyanov says in a two-page interview for 24 Chasa that he will not tolerate anybody ordering him whom to appoint to which position. He declines to answer why he will not nominate a regular holder of the office of Interior Ministry Secretary General after the scandalous release of Zhivko Kotsev. Approached about his Ministry's contribution to Bulgaria's Schengen entry, Stoyanov says that the Ministry has attained its principal objective: to demonstrate that illegal migrants will find it difficult to reach Europe via Bulgaria. "The figures confirm the categorical policy of zero tolerance to violations of fundamental rights," the interviewee says. Asked what falls short of meeting the criteria for land-border Schengen, the Minister says that mixed teams of Interior Ministry personnel, customs inspectors and tax officers control cross-border traffic so as to prevent the movement of undeclared goods with unpaid fees and taxes. "We have proved that Bulgaria is a secure country that can protect the external borders. Significantly, a large part of our partners back Bulgaria," Stoyanov says, adding that for the first time a recommendation has been issued to the EU Council to commit to a specific date for lifting land-border controls for Bulgaria. The interviewee reiterates that the Interior Ministry does not organize the elections but guards the election stationery and watches for and cracks down on vote buying and selling. Contrary to allegations blaming the Ministry for the large number of invalid ballots, the Ministry is not present in the voting sections and cannot possibly be held accountable for this, Stoyanov insists.

JUSTICE

"Justice is obviously bound with politicians and with the criminal underworld. The prosecution service has turned into an authority which, instead of exercising its powers, is collecting discrediting disclosures and is stashing them away for better times, which usually come in the run-up to elections," Ekaterina Baksanova of the Institute for Market Economics said on Bulgarian National Radio Tuesday morning. "The purpose [of bringing to light certain information right now] is clearly to meet short-term political targets and gain political dividends. Democracy, however, is a sustained effort," she added. "The prosecution service has been pretending to launch investigations [into the chain of recent public scandals], and it comes to nothing at the end. The public already perceives this as rather normal," the expert observes. In her opinion, if the institutions do not want to do a certain job, a committee is set up. "This is a good simulation of an institutional response. It almost never produces a result," Baksanova pointed out.

* * *

Interviewed on bTV on Tuesday morning, Sofia City Prosecutor Iliana Kirilova commented on the leak to the media of photographs discrediting former senior office holders in the Interior Ministry. "Prosecutors are prohibited from commenting on any evidence whatsoever that has been taken by a special procedure. The right place to present such evidence is the court," Kirilova said. Asked about the source of the leak, she said that pinpointing the source is impossible. "The case records pass through a number of hands. When a case reaches the court, the lawyers are entitled to familiarize themselves with it." In her opinion, the leak of the pictures breaches the secrecy of investigation, but "the prosecution service is not tasked with mudslinging." In her words, former Interior Ministry Secretary General Zhivko Kotsev was not pressured. "He came to the prosecution office on his own initiative. He did not comment on a particular investigation. This conversation took place at his request. The investigation in question was not launched at that time. Prosecutors were not designated. We had not yet been notified," the Sofia City Prosecutor added.

EU - NORTH MACEDONIA

Under the headline "Trojan Horse Sent to Skopje?", Kostadin Filipov comments in Trud on the decision of EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell to appoint Greek diplomat Michalis Rokas as the new EU Ambassador to North Macedonia. Filipov quotes ultra-left and Russophile Left party presidential candidate Biljana Vankovska as saying that "the European Union is now handing the whip to a Greek, which is a sheer provocation and threat. Do we realize that we are literally an enslaved country?" One website even took the liberty of asking whether the next chief of EU mission would not be a Bulgarian, to take care of the clauses of the Good-neighbourliness and Friendship Treaty. "Brussels obviously ignores the inherent regional feeling of assessing each political act from abroad concerning the people of North Macedonia," the author writes.

PERTUSSIS SPREAD

Trud writes in its top story that 314 pertussis cases have been recorded in Bulgaria since the beginning of the year, according to information provided by the Health Ministry. The infection is most widespread in Sofia, Varna, Kyustendil, Blagoevgrad and Burgas. The worst affected age group is infants under 1, followed by children aged 10 to 14. National Center of Infectious and Parasitic Diseases Director Iva Hristova is quoted as saying that an epidemic situation is at hand. The long forgotten disease is back, school principals say. Each pertussis patient must self-isolate for up to 30 days, the Ministry told the daily. The story continues on two full inside pages.

PENSIONS

24 Chasa quotes a survey conducted by the National Assembly, which found that Bulgarians want higher pensions but are not ready to pay higher retirement insurance contributions or work longer years and, instead, rely on better compliance. As many as 70% of those polled want a new reform of the pension system. Just 15% agree to the abolition of the minimum pension and to each getting the actual amount based on the contributions paid. Scrapping the pension ceiling is opposed by 43.8%, and 35% back the idea. Just 11% support higher social-security contributions, 41% oppose the idea, and 36% would agree to a slight increase if this would raise the pension amount. Ninety per cent do not support an increase of the pension age. Nearly 53% of pensioners are dissatisfied with the amount of their pensions, and just one in ten is completely content in this respect. Contrary to the IMF recommendation, 37% disagree with the abolition of the maximum contributory income, and 33% don't know. One in five sees low pensions as the worst problem of the Bulgarian retirement model. The second worst problem is the low compliance rate due to the grey economy (generating more than one-third of GDP - the largest share in the EU), evasion of contributions, unreported work, and social insurance on the minimum threshold rather than on the actual income earned. According to the National Revenue Agency (NRA), unpaid but due contributions amounted to BGN 400 million in 2013 and to BGN 300 million now.

GREEN TRANSITION

"Regardless of the political battles and populist promises, the transformation in the [coal-producing] area is happening. The situation, though, is not that easy, when it comes to the specific ways of handling it. The Ministry of Labour and Social Policy estimates that 15,000 people are directly affected [by the closure of the coal mines and the coal-fired power plants], and more than 30,000 people and businesses in the coal-producing areas are indirectly affected," Raya Lecheva writes in www.capital.bg. The author notes that "the just transition funds for the areas will be unblocked soon, and unless the political situation yet again proves a stumbling block, nearly BGN 640 million will be available for business and people in Stara Zagora, Pernik and Kyustendil even this year."  

NUCLEAR FUEL

A signed comment in Duma argues that the delivery of US nuclear fuel from Westinghouse that will be loaded into the Kozloduy N-Plant Unit 5 in May, does not qualify for diversification as touted by the government. It is not yet clear how and where the spent fuel will be stored, despite the last-minute licensing of the plant for this activity, and the Nuclear Regulatory Agency is not on record as having licensed the use of this fuel. Experts have not ruled on whether it is fit for the Bulgarian reactors, considering that the Czechs have decided against using it. The author wonders whether the incumbents "do not diversify themselves too much from our national interests."  

FOOD PRICES

Trud quotes a survey conducted by the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB), which found that some staple foods like cooking oil, frankfurters and milk are more expensive in Bulgaria than in Spain, France, Croatia, the Netherlands, Germany and Romania. A basket of 19 staple foods and petrol, monitored by CITUB, appreciated by 4.2% within a year, from BGN 108.79 in 2023 to BGN 113.33 (EUR 57.97) in 2024, compared to EUR 49.98 in Spain, EUR 53.47 in France, EUR 54.28 in Croatia, and EUR 43.66 in Romania. One minimum monthly wage in Bulgaria (BGN 933) can buy just 8.2 such baskets, way down from 25.5 baskets in Spain, 33 baskets in France (minimum wage: BGN 3,463), 15.5 baskets in Croatia, 32.7 baskets in Germany (minimum wage: BGN 4,057), and 15.2 baskets in Romania. CITUB noted that while bread wheat cheapened by 23.3% from last year, bread, bakeries and cereals went up by 4% in Bulgaria.

REAL ESTATE ABROAD

The top story in Telegraph says that Bulgarians own real estate in all continents except Antarctica. By the end of 2022, a total of 2,154 Bulgarians have purchased immovable properties in 59 countries worldwide, the daily learnt from the National Revenue Agency (NRA). The largest number of Bulgarian-owned properties, 2,184, is in Greece, followed by Spain, 159, Germany, 171, Austria, 113, and the UK, 100. Bulgarians earned BGN 1.3 million from renting out their real estate in Greece, as declared to the NRA for 2022. The comparable earnings in Germany amounted to BGN 2.2 million.

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By 18:15 on 25.05.2024 Today`s news

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