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SOFIA MORNING NEWS FOR 2014-12-22
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22 December 2014, Issue 4112
by Novinite.com
Bulgaria's Daily Newspaper since 2001
10151 subscribers of Novinite.com
148246 articles
590 interviews
9677 pictures
 
BUSINESS POLITICS WORLD SOCIETY SPORTS FORUM
 
Fitch Maintains Bulgaria’s Credit Rating At ‘BBB-‘ With Stable Outlook


Fitch has affirmed Bulgaria's long-term foreign and local currency Issuer Default Ratings (IDR) at 'BBB-'and 'BBB', respectively, with stable outlook. read
Bulgaria's Ruling Parties to Seek Consensus on Pension Reform


Center-right GERB and rightist Reformist Bloc, the two main partners in Bulgaria's ruling coalition, have agreed to hold additional consultations over the country's pension system.read
Die Presse: 'New Signs of Life' for South Stream from Bulgaria


The abandoned South Stream gas pipeline project could be renewed, after Bulgarian and Russian media reports that construction permits will now be issued, Austrian daily Die Presse wrote on Saturday.read
 
 
MORE TOP NEWS
Bulgaria FinMin 'Ready to Backtrack' on Pension Reform

PM Boyko Borisov: New Gov't 'Restored Bulgaria's European Dignity'

Too Early for EU Response on Bulgaria's 'Gas Hub' Idea - Commission VP Georgieva

Anti-Discrimination Protest to Be Held in Sofia over 'Racist Remarks' of Gov't

Cyprus Returns Smuggled Jewellery Items to Bulgaria

Russian Humanitarian Aid Convoy Enters Ukraine's Donbass

Bulgaria President Won’t Veto Contentious Change to Pension Legislation

Serbia Arrests Bulgarian National for Trafficking Afghan Refugees

Selfie of the Day: Kristalina Georgieva, Maxim Behar

MEP Barekov Withdraws Support from His Group in Bulgarian Parliament


UPS & DOWNS
US, Cuba Move to Normalize Ties

Bulgaria's Child Mortality Rate Is 2 Times Higher Than EU's
QUOTE OF THE DAY

"If I were Interior Minister, he would not be more than chief of a regional police department."

Former Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov commenting on the ministry's incumbent Chief Secretary, Svetlozar Lazarov.

Tsvetanov has reiterated Lazarov is not suitable for the position he took over in 2013, under the previous elected government.

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TOP NEWS
BULGARIA ADOPTS 2015 BUDGET WITH 3% DEFICIT

Bulgaria’s parliament has approved the 2015 budget with deficit equivalent to 3% of the projected Gross Domestic Product.

In a marathon session that lasted for 17 hours until early morning hours on Saturday, the MP’s passed in second and final reading the budget that also projects real economic growth of 0.8% and fresh gross borrowing of BGN 8.1 B that will increase Bulgaria’s net debt by BGN 2 B to BGN 24.5 B at end-2015. read more


BUSINESS

BULGARIA AIR IN CODESHARE DEAL WITH GERMANY'S AIRBERLIN

Airberlin, Germany’s second largest airline, and Bulgaria Air will launch codeshare flights on some European routes from January 14 next year, austrianaviation.net has reported.

Under the codeshare agreement, airberlin will apply its AB airline code on Bulgaria Air flights from Berlin, Frankfurt and Vienna to Sofia. read more


FINANCE

FITCH MAINTAINS BULGARIA’S CREDIT RATING AT ‘BBB-‘ WITH STABLE OUTLOOK

Fitch has affirmed Bulgaria's long-term foreign and local currency Issuer Default Ratings (IDR) at 'BBB-'and 'BBB', respectively, with stable outlook.

According to the global rating agency, the affirmation and stable outlook reflect Bulgaria's government plans to target expenditure-driven fiscal consolidation, with the aim of reducing the headline fiscal deficit by 0.5 percentage points a year in 2015-2017. read more


ENERGY

DIE PRESSE: 'NEW SIGNS OF LIFE' FOR SOUTH STREAM FROM BULGARIA

The abandoned South Stream gas pipeline project could be renewed, after Bulgarian and Russian media reports that construction permits will now be issued, Austrian daily Die Presse wrote on Saturday.

In a brief report titled "South Stream: New Signs of Life from Bulgaria", the outlet informs that Bulgaria's Prime Minister Boyko Borisov is now seeking withdrawal of the EU's resistance to the project.

However, Bulgaria could also be issuing permits again only to avoid paying forfeit to Russia, Die Presse concludes.

South Stream was scrapped late on December 1, when Russian President Vladimir Putin said Gazprom felt forced to stop carrying out the project due to Bulgaria's decision to freeze construction. read more


TOO EARLY FOR EU RESPONSE ON BULGARIA'S 'GAS HUB' IDEA - COMMISSION VP GEORGIEVA

EU will have a stance on Bulgaria's idea to build a gas hub at the Black Sea after a formal proposal has been prepared, EU Commission Vice President Kristalina Georgieva has said.

Brussels understands Bulgaria's ambitions to play its role in energy policy and would also like to strengthen the bloc's positions in terms of energy, Georgieva, who is in charge of budget and human resources at the European Commission, is quoted by the Bulgarian National Radio as saying.

In her words, Sofia has to outline a concrete proposal with precise parameters and submit it officially.

Earlier in December Bulgaria's Prime Minister Boyko Borisov proposed that the EU provide funding for a gas hub which could be built at the entrance of South Stream.

His idea, which follows Russia's announcement that it is scrapping the South Stream gas pipeline project, has not been formally commented by the EU and has not been turned down by Moscow.

Russia and Bulgaria's energy ministers discussed the demise of South Stream on Friday, with the Russian minister, Alexander Novak, tying any further cooperation on that matter to a continued issuance of construction permits, a process that had been halted in the summer.

Georgieva added Brussels meanwhile had decided to prepare a "masterplan" on Southeast Europe within the context of the prospective Energy Union.

She reiterated the Commission had never been "against South Stream, to the contrary, but would like to see South Stream within the context of what we are now building - an energy union, one of the new Commission's priorities."

read more


DOMESTIC

BULGARIA'S RULING PARTIES TO SEEK CONSENSUS ON PENSION REFORM

Center-right GERB and rightist Reformist Bloc, the two main partners in Bulgaria's ruling coalition, have agreed to hold additional consultations over the country's pension system.

Reformist Bloc (RB) co-head Radan Kanev wrote on Facebook Sunday that a two-hour-long meeting between him and Prime Minister Boyko Borisov had taken place.

The two spoke of the rift that opened following Friday's marathon session in Parliament which resulted in the adoption of both 2015's state budget and amendments to the pension system, with the RB harshly resisting the changes saying they had not undergone enough discussion between the coalition partners.

In Kanev's words, talks should be expected as early as "before the New Year or at the beginning of January."

RB's co-chair hopes that "a common political solution... will guarantee security of personal pension savings and stability of the financial system, including that of private and public pension funds." read more


BULGARIA FINMIN 'READY TO BACKTRACK' ON PENSION REFORM

The government is inclined to renounce changes to the pension system that make mandatory contributions to private pension funds optional, Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov said on Sunday.

"If freedom of choice is bad, we will give it up," he told private national channel NOVA TV, stressing the government was not intending to force anybody into transferring their money to the National Insurance Institute (NOI).

He added the cabinet would likely review the section concerning those who are currently becoming part of the job market, allowing their contributions to be redirected  to a universal fund if they fail to make their choice within a year.

Goranov is referring to a decision under which citizens entering the labor market for the first time will have the right to choose whether to put their insurance contributions into the NOI or private pension funds.

Those born after 1959, on the other hand, will have to reaffirm their choice within a short stretch of time or their contributions will be automatically transferred to the NOI.

Bulgarians who decide to use private funds will be able to change their mind and redirect the flow of contributions to the national institution.

But after choosing to contribute to NOI one will not be able to switch to a private pension fund.

The opposition has called the move, which was hastily tabled in Parliament this week and passed on Friday evening during a 17-hour-long plenary session, a "nationalization" of private pension funds, with one of the coalition partners, the Reformist Bloc, vehemently resisting it.

For its part the main ruling party GERB has stressed "the right to choose" which in its words the newly-adopted bill observes.

On Sunday, Goranov pointed out that the current pension-system reform had eased a debate as to whether the current model is efficient.

"Half of Bulgarians do not know to which fund they are contributing. They have been allocated ex officio [to certain funds]... The hysteria which was sparked around this decision makes us think that the funds do not want to carry out a debate with their depositors," the minister argued.

Goranov fended off "nationalization" comments, which in his words are "propaganda."

Meanwhile financial expert Lyubomir Hristov warned the new changes could "guarantee to all its patients" they were facing poverty.

"This is the problem with whoice - it is about where choice does not exist. You bear the obligation to contribute 5% of your insurable earnings to a universal pension fund, but you don't have the choice as to how your funds are managed," he told the Bulgarian National Radio, stressing social insurance law still showed a number of flaws. read more


BULGARIA PRESIDENT WON’T VETO CONTENTIOUS CHANGE TO PENSION LEGISLATION

Bulgaria’s President Rosen Plevneliev said on Saturday he wouldn’t veto a controversial amendment to the pension insurance model that makes mandatory contributions to private pension funds optional.

“The government has pledged to be open to a nationwide debate by the end of March next year, to invite experts, employers and unions and everyone else who could contribute to a sustainable pension reform in Bulgaria,” Plevneliev told Darik radio station. read more


MEP BAREKOV WITHDRAWS SUPPORT FROM HIS GROUP IN BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT

Nikolay Barekov, a Bulgarian MEP, is renouncing unconditional support for the parliamentary group which is centered around his own Bulgaria without Censorship party.

Barekov said in a press statement this week's votes in Parliament on the amendments to the Interior Ministry Act and the pension reform had prompted him to cause the move.

Some of Bulgarian Democratic Center (BDC)'s lawmakers moved to support the two legislative proposals coming from the ruling party GERB, and both were passed despite fomenting substantial division in Parliament.

Though he blamed other BDC parties for their behavior, he praised the MPs from Bulgaria without Censorship for not backing moves to "return the Interior Ministry to [its former head Tsvetan] Tsvetanov and to steal the money from the hands of people".

The latter comment is with regard to changes to the pension system, with critics accusing GERB of seeking to "nationalize" the system.

Barekov, who founded Bulgaria without Censorship last year, added he was extending a hand to Radan Kanev, one of the leaders of junior coalition partner Reformist Bloc (RB), if the latter wished t to take part in "a new opposition bloc... to face the status quo."

Barekov's BwC-led coalition came sixth in the October 5 early elections. The MEP, who had previously been quite open about his Prime Minister ambitions, chose then to retain his seat at the European Parliament. read more


PM BOYKO BORISOV: NEW GOV'T 'RESTORED BULGARIA'S EUROPEAN DIGNITY'

The new Bulgarian government has succeeded in reinstating the country has a predictable partner, Prime Minister Boyko Borisov has said.

In a Saturday interview with Darik Radio he reminded of what he describes as "failures" of the previous elected cabinet, with "zero" achievements in terms of European funding and "any other aspect."

In his words, 2014 is a year marking the outset of a "new coalition culture".

Borisov is referring to the one-month-long coalition talks which his party Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) launched days after having won the snap general poll on October 5.

The head of Bulgaria's government also praised the new executive and legislature for starting reforms in the judiciary, healthcare and pension system.

He explained he had already discussed with EU politicians the need of reaching a positive solution on South Stream.

read more


SOCIETY

ANTI-DISCRIMINATION PROTEST TO BE HELD IN SOFIA OVER 'RACIST REMARKS' OF GOV'T

A demonstration targeting discrimination and racism is to be staged in Bulgaria's capital Sofia on Sunday afternoon.

The event has been organized as a response to what civil rights groups describe as "racist" remarks of politicians.

Activists are warning against the silencing of criticism vented at the government after its discriminatory comments about citizens belonging to the ethnic Roma community.

In their words, the approval for the government's actions has been more prominent than dissension voiced by the public.

Earlier in December Health Minister Petar Moskov announced a controversially perceived measure to prevent systemic attacks to which emergency medical aid teams are subject when working in certain neighborhoods across Bulgaria.

The minister explained emergency teams would not enter these areas unless their safety was guaranteed.

Moskov said about two-thirds of the attacks occur in Roma-populated neighborhoods, and his comment sparked the anger of many NGOs which accused him of using "racist" rhetoric.

Others, however, voiced their support for his steps which in their words were aimed at finally putting an end to the picture of beaten medical teams trying to provide aid across the country. Emergency aid workers also backed Moskov's move.

Meanwhile Valeri Simeonov, co-head of the nationalist coalition Patriotic Front, questioned the Roma people's human nature. read more


ARCHAEOLOGY

CYPRUS RETURNS SMUGGLED JEWELLERY ITEMS TO BULGARIA

Cyprus has returned to Bulgaria three ancient pieces of jewellery, part of Bulgaria`s cultural heritage.

According to cyprus-mail.com, the items were smuggled to Cyprus through the post in 2006 and were withheld by customs authorities under legislation for tracing and returning cultural items smuggled to an EU member state. read more


CRIME

SERBIA ARRESTS BULGARIAN NATIONAL FOR TRAFFICKING AFGHAN REFUGEES

Serbian police has arrested a Bulgarian national who illegally transported 44 Aghan refugees across the border with Serbia in a minivan, Tanjug news agency reported on Saturday.

The Bulgarian national, identified only as V.V.,60, was arrested in the village of Metovnica near the town of Bor, some 250 km southeast of Belgrade. He was charged with human trafficking and illegally entering Serbia. read more


LIFESTYLE

SELFIE OF THE DAY: KRISTALINA GEORGIEVA, MAXIM BEHAR

Bulgaria's EU Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva and Maxim Behar, founder and CEO of Sofia-based PR agency M3 Communications Group Inc.,part of global Hill+Knowlton Strategies Group, have taken a selfie.

This happened as Georgieva was turning the first sod on the new "Children's House" in Sofia (an event launched by the For Our Children foundation of which Mr Behar is a member).

Maxim Behar thanked both Georgieva and Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandakova for their attendance and support for the project which, in his words, "will certainly change Bulgaria in the next years."

read more


SMILES

RUBLE TWEETS

"Did you manage to make a wish?" a euro coin asks a dollar coin while watching the ruble fall.


UKRAINE

RUSSIAN HUMANITARIAN AID CONVOY ENTERS UKRAINE'S DONBASS

As many as 90 Russian trucks have delivered loads of humanitarian aid to the Donbass region in Eastern Ukraine.

The convoy has transported there medicaments, construction and New Year presents.

Deliveries have a total weight of 1.4 tons. Some reports say the amount is higher and even put the number of trucks at up to 170.

Pictures from photo agency show that the loads also contain other items such as Christmas trees.

Nine other convoys have been sent to the Donbass region in the last few months, with Ukraine warning the truckload might include weaponry and other lethal aid. Both Moscow and pro-Russian rebels seizing control of Donetsk and Luhansk regions dismiss the claims.

Officials from the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic were quoted by TASS agency as saying the aid would be distributed among schools and hospitals. read more



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