EU RECOMMENDS VISA-FREE TRAVEL FOR TURKISH CITIZENS
The European Commission has proposed to the European Parliament and EU governments to scrap visa requirements for Turkish citizens provided that Turkey will fulfil the outstanding benchmarks of its Visa Liberalisation Roadmap.
European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans commented in a statement on Wednesday that “Turkey has made impressive progress, particularly in recent weeks, on meeting the benchmarks." read more
ALIXPARTNERS ACCUSE CORPBANK OWNER OF TAKING MONEY FROM HIS BANK
Bulgarian businessman Tsvetan Vasilev drained BGN 2.5 B out of his own bank through special purpose vehicles, consultancy firm AlixPartners says in a report made public on Tuesday.
BULGARIAN GOVT PROPOSES TO BAN SALE OF TWO KEY ARMS FIRMS
The report had been ordered by officials to track down the assets of Bulgaria's fourth-largest lender after its insolvency was declared in 2014.
Corporate Commercial Bank (Corpbank or KTB) collapsed in June 2014 following a run on deposits.
The text's Bulgarian-language version of the report is available on the deposit insurance fund's webpage [BG] as of May 04, Monday, following a vote in Parliament allowing the publication through legal amendments.
The report, in its Bulgarian-language version, contains information about a "pyramid" of credit lines to KTB connected to the same mortgage collateral, loans granted to secure the acquisition of shares in other companies that are owned by KTB.
It says clients who were extended a credit line are highly interconnected.
AlixPartners also maintains that loans to a total of 8 entities, which include fuels trader Petrol, Bulgaria's largest telecom Vivacom, and Serbia-based glass factory in Paraćin (all owned or controlled by Vasilev as of 2014), were handed out loans of a total value of BGN 1 B (approximately EUR 0.5 B).
No names of clients (natural or legal persons) are explicitly mentioned, the only exception being made with regard of those entities whose loans have not been cleared off.
It also reads that: "KTB apparently grew quickly since 2009. The total sum of the Bank's assets, as seen in the financial reports, was BGN 6.7 B as of December 31, 2013, compared to BGN 2 B as of December 31, 2009, and net assets also grew more than twice."
Vasilev, who is currently in Serbia waiting for a court to rule on an extradition request by the Bulgarian prosecuting authorities, maintains the collapse of KTB was a premeditated attack by a business partner-turned-rival supported by state institutions.
He has not yet commented on the report's revelations as of Wednesday noontime.
The Bulgarian government has proposed to ban the sale of arms manufacturer VMZ-Sopot and arms trader Kintex on account of their major importance for national security.
Draft legislation to put the two wholly-state owned companies on the list of enterprises banned for privatisation would be submitted to parliament for approval, the cabinet decided at a weekly meeting on Wednesday. read more
BULGARIA TO SPEND BGN 3 M TO ENHANCE PROTECTION OF BORDERS WITH TURKEY, GREECE
Bulgaria’s government on Wednesday gave the green light for spending BGN 3 M (EUR 1.5 M) to increase the country’s preparedness to join the EU’s free-travel Schengen Area.
The funding, part of 2016 central government budget, would go toward completion of a point of contact at Kapitan Andreevo crossing on the border with Turkey. The contact centre will help Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey exchange information related to protection of their common borders. read more
BULGARIA GOVT ENDORSES SPENDING OF BGN 20.5 M FOR DISASTER MANAGEMENT
Bulgaria’s government on Wednesday approved additional spending of BGN 20.5 M (EUR 10.5 M) to back activities for dealing with natural disasters.
The funds will go toward repayment of costs of rescue operations in emergency and crisis situations prompted by landslides and floods. read more
'SIX VYING' TO HEAD BULGARIAN SOCIALIST PARTY ON SUNDAY
As many as six candidates will run to take over the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), the second-largest party in the country, local media report.
The BSP is to hold a national congress scheduled for May 08, Sunday.
BULGARIA'S PEEVSKI 'SOLD 3 OFFSHORE COMPANIES'
MP Korneliya Ninova, Krasimir Yankov, a young BSP lawmaker who is though to be influential in the party, and businessman Georgi Gergov who heads its structure in Plovdiv are among this year's contenders challenging the incumbent's office, daily Standart writes, citing party sources. What they have in common is that they also ran in the summer of 2014, when Mikov was elected.
Ninova has already announced she is running.
But two other MPs, Kiril Dobrev and Valeri Zhablyanov, who so far have backed her and the current leader respectively, also intend on running, possibly diverting some of the vote from the two that have been widely pointed as main contenders.
The BSP, which is currently in opposition, has been trying for years to recover from heavy defeats it has suffered in the last dozen elections.
Mihail Mikov, who has headed the party since Sergey Stanishev stepped down in July 2014, has been widely criticized for failing to modernize the party and cleanse its image of an organization with dependencies. Mikov for his part claims he pursues a course of turning the BSP into an authentic leftist party, one that Europe needs to deal with the repercussions of "neoliberalism".
Controversial lawmaker and alleged media mogul Delyan Peevski has said he has renounced three of his offshore companies.
BULGARIAN NATIONALIST LEADER TELLS EXPATS TO STOP BADGERING
In a declaration under conflict of interest law submitted last week, he states he has sold Redwood Capital Ltd., Uno de senso Group Ltd., and Richi International Ltd.
Peevski has only been known to be the owner of the three companies over the past few months. It is not clear where the companies are based or what their activity is.
Since last summer the MPs has gradually been revealing the ownership of a number of businesses, two years after protests took place against him and his appointment as head of the country's security and counter-intelligence agency, DANS.
Over the past months he has announced he is giving up a number of business projects including the acquisition of fertilizer plant Chimco, TV channel Kanal 3, and several others and has sold his stake at Bulgaria's major tobacco holding Bulgartabac.
Speculation - including on behalf of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov - has been on the rise that Peevski is set to leave the country. read more
A row emerged on Tuesday between Valeri Simeonov, the co-chair of nationalist Patriotic Front coalition, and a representative of Bulgarians abroad over Electoral Code amendments.
BULGARIAN BUSINESSMAN TABLES FUEL PRICES REFERENDUM
Bulgarian nationals living in the West held demonstrations in several European cities to protest government plans (initially approved by Parliament) to ban the opening of polling stations outside diplomatic missions. After continuous demonstrations and a domestic outcry, the political leaders partly backtracked.
But a Bulgarian activist living in the United States told private BiT television she had received a "warning" email from Simeonov.
Right after a protest was held in front of the Bulgarian Consulate in New York last week, Simeonov asked Elena Hambardzhieva if the Bulgarian community was just trying to be "more different" and "more exotic" to gain media attention.
He accused Bulgarians based in US and Canada of not adding enough to the voter turnout:
"Could you have heard of the 136 polling stations opened in TUrkey by the time the new Electoral Code was accepted which poured in between 60 000 and 100 000 votes?"
"Could you have heard that 8000 Bulgarians in the US in Canada voted in the last [Bulgarian] general election, while the other 200-300 000 were out to pick mushrooms?"
"You have not... But as no-one prevents you from arranging your personal life at your convenience, do not badger s as we are trying to find a solution to 25-year problems created by rootless politicians and rootless, whimsical, pseudo-compatriots."
Simeonov has maintained the restrictions on polling stations would curtail the mass vote from Bulgarian nationals living in Turkey who over the years have cast ballots largely for the liberal Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), a party that many of its opponents liken to a corporate structure using its political weight for its own needs.
But Bulgarians abroad maintain that they are being deprived of their voting options by opening stations where expat communities are most populous - especially in the light of other election law amendments that have made voting compulsory. In an email to Simeonov, Bulgarians abroad remind him many of them are still taxpayers contributing BGN 3 B (around EUR 1.5 B) to the Bulgarian economy on an annual basis.
More than two million Bulgarian nationals are thought to have left the country after Communism ended in 1989. According to the latest statistics data, Bulgaria's population is currently around 7.1 million.
Simeonov admitted to having sent the email.
News website Dnevnik.bg quotes him as saying he stands behind every word he wrote.
"I cannot allow a handful of Sorosoids to badger us while we are trying to solve important problems," Simeonov noted.
He added the President, whom Bulgarians abroad urge to veto the restrictions, should "finally show he is President of the Bulgarians and not President of Bulgarians abroad."
A Varna-based delivered on Tuesday some 100 000 additional signatures in an effort to make his 5-point referendum compulsory.
SOFIA SCIENCE FESTIVAL TO FEATURE ROSETTA MISSION'S CHIEF SCIENTIST
Veselin Mareshki, who says he will be running for President in the autumn, tabled a proposal earlier this year to hold a second poll with five questions, following the one by TV show host Slavi Trifonov which Parliament had approved.
Mareshki, who had initially submitted just above 400 000 civic signatures (the threshold making it mandatory for Parliament to set a date for a referendum), was told by civil register only 310 078 of those were valid.
However, if 90 000 the new list of signatures delivered on Tuesday turn out valid, MPs will have to approve and schedule yet another nationwide poll.
The pharmaceutical entrepreneur, who also owns petrol stations, maintains the citizens should have a say on five issues.
- the introduction of state regulation in the fuels market to ensure lower end prices;
- a removal of a restriction of a person to own more than four pharmacies across the country to make the market more competitive and also lower end prices;
- an end to state subsidies for parties and coalitions;
- a reduction of the number of MPs;
- a revocation of lawmakers' immunity from criminal prosecution.
Two of these largely overlap with Trifonov's questions. Both want to see the number of MPs cut in half (to 120, down from 240) and a change in rules for state subsidies allocated annually to parties and coalitions that gained above 1% in the last general election. However, while Trifonov is asking whether it should be slashed to BGN 1 per vote received by the respective party or coalition, Mareshki would like to see subsidies abolished at all.
Mareshki, who also owns petrol stations, made headlines over the past months by offering fuels at prices that are considerably lower than those offered by competitors. At a time when the standard diesel price was nearly BGN 1.90 (EUR 0.95) per liter, his was around BGN 1.60.
Ever since, he has argued the state should intervene to place a cap on fuel prices to avoid further abuse, and has alleged free marketeers warning against his proposal are being paid by the industry.
He has described his actions as a means to fight a cartel existing in the fuels market, where prices have remained steady even against the background of a global slump in oil prices (but tend to rise substantially when global prices are up, amidst events such as the beginning of the Arab Spring). read more
Astronomy will be among the highlights of the Sofia Science Festival's sixth edition that is due next week.
ECB TO STOP PRODUCING EUR 500 NOTE
The festival, organized by the British Council, will take place between May 12 and 15 in the Zaimov park and the adjacent Theater Sofia, near Sofia's central area.
On Thursday evening, a special guest will be Matt Taylor - a British scientist who works on the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission.
The latter is aimed at a detailed study of the comet 76/P Churyumov-Gerasimenko - the first time a cosmic vehicle controlled from the Earth (the Rosetta spaceship) has landed on a comet in the Solar System.
There will be other events about astronomy, but also many dedicated to history, biology, life on the Antarctic, expeditions, physics, and even emotional intelligence.
Every year since 2011, the festival has brought together scientists, science communicators, teachers, kids, parents, and aspiring amateurs.
The full program is available here, while the next link offers a list of events that will be in English.
All events for children are free, and some of those for adults just require a pass that can be collected from the festival's information stand.
Standard tickets for the rest of the events are at BGN 5, or BGN 4 for pensioners and everyone aged below 18.
The European Central Bank (ECB) has decided to stop production and issuance of the EUR 500 banknote.
The ECB has also decided to exclude the largest note denomination from the Europa series, “taking into account concerns that this banknote could facilitate illicit activities”, the Bank said in a statement on Wednesday. read more
EU PROPOSES TO EXTEND BORDER CONTROLS INSIDE SCHENGEN AREA
The European Commission has proposed to extend for up to six months temporary controls at internal Schengen borders in five Member States which attract the majority of refugees and migrants streaming into Europe.
The proposed recommendation, to be decided upon by the Council of the EU, takes into account the fact that despite the significant progress made by Greece, not all of the serious deficiencies identified in the country’s external border management could be adequately and comprehensively addressed within the three months' limit, the Commission said in a statement on Wednesday. read more
EU PROPOSES VISA-FREE TRAVEL TO SCHENGEN ZONE FOR KOSOVO CITIZENS
The European Commission has proposed to lift visa requirements for citizens of Kosovo for short-term travel to the EU’s passport-free Schengen zone.
The proposal was made to the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament on together with the Commission's confirmation that Kosovo has fulfilled the requirements of its visa liberalisation roadmap. read more
TURKEY'S DAVUTOGLU REPORTEDLY MULLS RESIGNATION
Local Turkish media have been running stories about Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu's intention to step down.
BULGARIA'S INTMIN IN TURKEY TO SIGN READMISSION AGREEMENT
Tensions have been on the rise between Davutoglu and the head of state, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as the latter is seeking to introduce an executive presidency through constitutional changes.
Austrian Der Standard's Turkey correspondent and other German-language media quote the local press in Turkey as saying he is yet to take the decision.
Davutoglu reportedly said he was ready to "step down" if necessary.
He heads the Justice and Development Party (AKP) co-founded by Erdogan, who had to publicly distance himself from the country's biggest party following the presidential election which he won in August 2014.
Erdogan has made little secret of his plans to introduce a presidential system in the country, while the AKP itself has recently been taking steps to curb Davutoglu's powers as head of the government.
Turkish Energy Minister Berat Albayrak or Transport Minister Binali Yildirim have been considered as possible successors by Erdogan, Die Zeit writes quoting "press reports".
Erdogan and Davutoglu are now set to meet at 18:00 local time.
Meanwhile, Hürriyet Daily News reported the tensions between the two are rattling the markets, with concerns about a possible impact on monetary policy. read more
Bulgarian Interior Minister Rumyana Bachvarova is heading to Turkey to sign a readmission agreement on behalf of the country.
Bulgaria and Turkey are expected to put their signatures on a readmission protocol providing for the application of an EU-Turkey agreement.
The leaders of Turkey and EU member states reached earlier this year an agreement under which Syrians are to be returned from Europe, with Turkey sending a Syrian refugee from its camps in return for each person it receives.
Ankara tied the agreement to several conditions such as visa liberalization this summer. On Tuesday it announced it was lifting visa restrictions for EU citizens and was waiting for the reciprocal move.