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Bulgaria is one of the few Eastern European countries capable of proposing a UN Secretary General candidate trusted by all Security Council permanent members, an opinion piece on the FT's beyondbrics blog reads.

However, "a fierce battle is under way" in the country over who will be its candidate to succeed Ban Ki-moon, with "no process" and "no open debate" taking place and "now way of knowing how or when a decision will be taken", according to David Clark, who chairs the Russia Foundation.

Bulgaria's government earlier this week announced a decision was due by the end of March - the informal deadline when all countries willing to endorse a candidate must officially have submitted their proposal to the world body.

But Clark says "Bulgaria is already supposed to have nominated its candidate," referring to UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova often described, in his words, as a "frontrunner" and "by all standards a strong candidates".

"The late challenge has come from Kristalina Georgieva, the European Commission Vice-President for Budget and Human Resources," he notes, noting this rivalry has given way to accusations that "the government dithering is damaging Bulgaria's national interest" and pointing to the fact that one of the cabinet's coalition partners, ABV, threatened to withdraw unless Bokova's nomination is confirmed.

"The longer this goes on, the more likely it is that the two Bulgarian candidates will cancel each other out," Clark writes.

"The opportunity before Bulgaria today will not come again quickly, and it will not come again at all if its government is deemed to have mishandled it this time. If Bulgaria wants the prestige and influence that comes with holding the top UN job, it will have to throw its full diplomatic weight behind its strongest candidate," meaning, in his view citing "consensus among seasoned UN watchers, Irina Bokova.

You can read the full text here.


DiEM25, the movement due to be launched by former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, is set to look for allies in Bulgaria, a civic activist said on Saturday.

"I really think so," Lorenzo Marsilli replied when asked in an interview with the Bulgarian National Radio whether DiEM25 would work with organizations in Bulgaria. He also praised the country for having a well-developed civil society, adding it had many ideas in common with his movement.

Marsili, introduced as one of the "driving forces" behind the movement, added "it is very clear to many people" there are two alternatives for the future of Europe at the moment, but neither the preservation of the status quo (of bureaucracy and austerity) nor a return to national states can properly address present-day challenges, Marsili told the Bulgarian National Radio.

He added Varoufakis wanted to "democratize" Europe and return the power back to people, explaining decisionmaking mechanisms should be urgently changed to give voice to EU citizens through the parties they have sent to the European Parliament.

Already known by its acronym, DiEM25, the Democracy in Europe Movement is due to be officially founded on Tuesday in Berlin, with its first members being kept "a secret" to surprise EU citizens which has "no leader" for the moment.
 
Marsili, however, refuted suggestions that the movement's ideological problem rested solely upon the ideas of Varoufakis, saying the former Finance Minister's theses were shared by leading economic minds around the world. He added the goal was to unite organizations, individuals and concepts around Europe and provide funding through donations.

He stressed that, even though DiEM25 wants to shift the balance of power, it doesn't necessarily want to grown into a party, but possibly might also seek to found new parties in other countries.

Lorenzo Marsili is founding director of transnational organization and citizens movement European Alternatives, the initiator and spokesperson of the Media Initiative and host of political webshow TalkReal.

Varoufakis for his part resigned in July of last year, after having served as Greece's Finance Minister for only a few months, citing pressure amid the talks of Greece with international lenders.

The major border checkpoints of Ilinden-Exochi and Makaza-Nymphaea, connecting Bulgaria and Greece, are closed to all traffic as of 13:00 local time (EET), Bulgarian police authorities have said in a statement.

This includes cars and buses as well as transit commercial trucks.

A blockade of Greece's borders with its neighbors has been in place since the end of January as farmers are protesting against a planned pension reform and other austerity measures Athens has agreed with international lenders.

At Kulata-Promachonas, where the biggest queue has been formed over the past few days with stretches of only a few hours a day when transit trucks can move freely, trucks are able to cross both ways only between 12:00 and 14:00 local time (EET) on Saturday.

The other border crossings between the two countries are open to all traffic, police say.

The information comes amid reports that farmers are planning to intensify the blockades across the country and at the borders as part of their effort to pressure the government of Alexis Tsipras into abandoning the reforms.

Athens has so far put forward the idea to establish a committee bringing together representatives of parties and farmers' unions, according to Kathimerini.

Farmers for their part say they will not withdraw unless the government backtracks on the social security reform.

The newspaper also says that, as of Friday, at the border crossing of Promachonas (on the Greek side of the border) trucks were "backed up almost 30 kilometers).

The head of the Bulgarian government's press office has warned that yet another plot has been carried out, aimed at tarnishing the Prime Minister's reputation, during the latter's visit to London on Wednesday and Thursday.

In her second such comment for the past few weeks, Sevdelina Arnaudova is referring to a Q&A session with Prime Minister Boyko Borisov as he was meeting members of the Bulgarian community in the British capital.

A number of awkward questions were asked during the session, heightening tensions in the hall.

One of the expats attending broached the issue of a Der Spiegel article which argues that Bulgaria MP Delyan Peevski is part of the "iceberg of corruption" in the country. Recalling that "Spiegel" means "mirror" in German, he asked Borisov whether he saw Peevski when he looked in the mirror, prompting the PM to retort by enumerating the government's successes in boosting tax and excise revenues and in combating smuggling and organized crime.

A woman earlier wished to know why Sofia had abandoned the South Stream pipeline (suspended by Russia), but he interrupted her and asked her to stop reading from a sheet of paper, the same way he always replied without reading.

Most of the session, largely important to domestic media for much mas emigration to Western Europe has been a major issue, wasn't aired by leading Bulgarian TV station, sparking social media anger about "censorship".

A number of news websites, however, uploaded or offered links to footage of the entire session.

But Arnaudova argued in a Facebook comment [BG] that a plot organized to discredit Borisov had taken place during the meeting, with the controversial questions having been asked - in her words - by activists and members of the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and ultra-nationalist Ataka party.

She opined it had been the head of the BSP's London-based structure (the bigger Bulgarian parties have such structures in London due to the relatively large Bulgarian community living and working in the UK) and an activist with Ataka who directed the questions to the Prime Minister.

There was no immediate comment from either Ataka or the BSP.

"I understand it suits you to portray a foolish act in a way you are being pushed to by your owners, but before writing about "awkward and tough questions" of "the entire Bulgarian community" in London, it is good to check at least who these people are and what actually happened at the embassy," Arnaudova wrote in an apparent address to journalists.

She added methods formerly used by Bulgaria's Communist-era security agency called State Security (DS), were being used even by younger politicians "denying" that the atrocities of the Communist regime.

At the end of January, Arnaudova argued in an interview with public broadcaster BNT that a scenario was being played out to topple down the government.

Borisov's second government took over under the slogan of "stability", vowing to fix all the mistakes made in governance by the previous administrations.

This comes nearly three years after his first cabinet resigned, amid mass street protests over costs of living an in particular electricity prices.

Ever since Borisov and his supporters have maintained the events of mid-February, 2013 were a result of a scenario to make the government step down.   

Bulgaria should pursue deeper reform in the judiciary, Germany's Minister of State for Europe said on Friday.

Visiting Bulgaria to meet officials, Roth recognized the progress achieved so far, but insisted more should be done, after a year in which the Sofia government approved a new judicial reform strategy and changed the constitution, in a move they say will make the judiciary more efficient.

This coincides with the conclusions of a report prepared annually by the EU Commission on the state of Bulgaria's judiciary and the country's anti-corruption efforts whose latest version was published at the end of January (you can read a summary of the key findings here).

"We agree with the European Commission that 2016 should be a year of further steps toward reform," the Bulgarian National Radio quotes Roth as saying.

He added Germany was ready to boost investment in Bulgaria to help create more economic opportunities for young people.

A more intense blockade is due from Saturday across Greece unless farmers' demands to scrap some austerity measures are heard, a Greek daily reports.

Protesters, who have staged blockades for days over a planned pension reform that would increase the value of monthly social contributions is carried through, have severely disrupted traffic both way across Greece's borders, including at the checkpoints with Bulgaria.

As of 06:00 on Sunday, "movement is stopped" at the Kulata-Promachonas and Ilinden-Exochi border crossings, "because of the strike of the Greek farmers," according to the Bulgarian Border Police's website.

It also says trucks have formed a 10-km-long queue at the former checkpoint and a 1-km queue at the latter, on the Bulgarian side of the border.

On Friday, after six hours of talks, representatives of the 62 blockades across the country agreed to intensify blockade if the government in Athens does not act to comply with their demands, daily Kathimerini reports.

It says farmers intend on stepping up the roadblockas on border crossings, junctions and regional airports at noon.

Bulgarian authorities have repeatedly sought cooperation with Greece's government to solve the crisis.

Transit commercial trucks are particularly affected by the blockade, with cars and busses being intermittently allowed to cross into Bulgaria or Greece, respectively.

Trucks have also been granted passage several times over the past week, but hundreds of drivers are still stranded on both sides of the border.

Earlier this week, Greece was left paralyzed by the third general strike in as many months, with thousands protesting against the planned reform which was part of the agreement between Alexis Tsipras's government and international lenders.

Last summer Tsipras secured a third bailout package in yet another effort to tackle the debt crisis the country plunged into in the late 2000s. 

Officials at TUI Russia believe that Bulgaria has all the chances to become the most sought-after destination for ​​early booking by Russian tourists this summer, Travel Russian News reported on Friday.

Bulgaria has attracted more than 60% of the early bookings for the upcoming summer season, according to trn-news.ru.

TUI Russia has attributed Bulgaria's popularity to the fact that the country is one of the alternatives to Turkey in terms of package tours for children and families.

"Right now, sales are not very large, because of the high exchange rate, but bookings are much more than at the beginning of 2015, demand for the destination is higher,” TUI Russia Sales Director Natalia Smirnova told trn-news.ru.

“News of guaranteed abolition of visas for children of up to 16 years and the planned simplification of the visa regime for pensioners and people travelling for medical treatment add up to increase Bulgaria’s popularity," Smirnova commented.

Greece and Cyprus are the other two of the top three destinations for early booking at TUI Russia this year with more than 15% each, according to trn-news.ru.

Russia’s Association of Tour Operators (ATOR) said last month that travel agency Brisco would launch charter flights to Bulgaria’s Black Sea resorts in the summer to compensate for lost sales of package tours to Egypt and Turkey.

The changes to Defence and Armed Forces Act approved on Friday make Bulgaria “a more reliable NATO ally”, Defence Minister Nikolay Nenchev has said, referring to the Parliament’s approval of participation of allied aircraft in joint air policing missions.

“I believe that this is a step forward, despite the hard debate and the difficult realisation of the whole process” Nenchev said at an informal meeting of EU defence ministers in Amsterdam, according to a statement issued by the Defence Ministry in Sofia.

The Bulgarian parliament on Friday approved on second and final reading legislative amendments that allow the participation of allied forces and aircraft in guarding the country's airspace. The amendments were passed in a 96-34 vote with 13 abstentions in the 240-seat National Assembly.

The conducting of joint air policing missions over the Bulgarian territory will be regulated by an international treaty and, in case of need of urgent action, by a Bulgarian government decision proposed by the defence minister, according to the statement.

“As Minister of Defence I give a guarantee that Bulgarian pilots will have increased opportunities to perfect their skills,” Nenchev said. ”The joint policing of our airspace with our allies will be a new form of providing a proof of professional skills.”

In recent years, the Bulgarian Air Force has been directing its efforts and available funds towards maintaining its struggling fleet of Russian-made MiG-29 fighter jets.

Nenchev said last month that the Bulgarian Air Force could have its ageing Russian-made combat aircraft replaced by new Western multi-role warplanes in the next three to three-and-a half years. The government commission tasked with studying the available options is expected to submit a report by the end of March.

 

An earthquake measuring 3.0 on the Richter scale has been registered, in southern Bulgaria close to the border with Turkey, at 16:44 local time on Friday, the European Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC) announced.

The epicenter was located 153 km southeast of Sofia, 32 km north of Smolyan city and 2 km northwest of the town of Luki, at a depth of 5 km, the EMSC said.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

Bulgaria’s consumer confidence index rose by 1.5 percentage points in January 2016, compared to October 2015, the National Statistical Institute (NSI) on Friday.

Among the urban population the increase was 1.8 percentage points while among the rural population it was 0.6 percentage points, the NSI said, announcig the results of a survey carried out quarterly.

The consumers’ assessments of and expectations about the financial state of their households were more favourable in January 2016 than they had been in October 2015.  

The assessment of the development of the economic situation in Bulgaria in the past 12 months was less negative compared to the previous survey, the NSI said.

However, consumers remained pessimistic – to a certain degree – in their expectations about the next 12 months.

While consumers maintained the view that consumer prices had increased over the past 12 months, they noted that the rate of increase was lower compared with the October 2015 survey.

Looking ahead, consumers expected inflation to slow down in the next 12 months. Unemployment concerns had also decreased.

According to the majority of consumers, the present economic situation in Bulgaria remains unfavourable for savings.

Consumers’ views on expectations of making major purchases of durable goods, buying a car or a home in the next 12 months were also negative.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will travel to Ankara on Monday to meet with Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu as she tries to curb the migrant flow into Europe, international newswires have reported.

The decision on the visit had been taken when Merkel and Davutoglu met on the sidelines of the Supporting Syria and the Region donor conference in London earlier this week, the AP quoted German government spokesman Steffen Seibert as saying on Friday.

The two leaders will discuss the implementation of the EU-Turkey action plan agreed in November which envisages stopping the flow of irregular migrants to EU member states and keeping them in Turkey, in return for a EUR 3 B assistance package to be provided to Ankara. 

Merkel and Davutoglu will discuss aspects of the plan that have not yet been implemented as well as possible ways “to make progress on reducing illegal migration and replacing it with legal migration,” Seibert said, according to AFP.

 

There are about 5,000 beggars in Sweden, of which about 1,000 have come from Bulgaria, according to estimates of the Swedish authorities, Bulgaria’s Labour Minister Ivaylo Kalfin said on Friday.

The authorities must distinguish between those who are begging because they have no other opportunity to get by, and the organized trips of groups of people willing to exploit the feeling of compassion towards beggars in Sweden or any other country, Kalfin said at a joint press briefing with the visiting Swedish Minister for Children, the Elderly and Gender Equality, Asa Regner, according to BGNES.

Police cooperation could prove the best deterrent "when it comes to organized business, organized illegal activity, in which unfortunately children and people with disabilities are involved," the Bulgarian news outlet quoted Kalfin as saying.

A large part of the beggars in Sweden are begging voluntarily but there are also people who are involved in organized begging, which could be considered a form of human trafficking, Asa Regner has said. Thereforeit’s very important to treat those foreign nationals involved in organized begging in the same way as the Swedish citizens would be treated in the same circumstances.

There are cases when people go to Sweden in search of jobs, taking advantage of the fundamental European Union right of free movement of people. However, reality doesn’t always match expectations and sometimes some of those people can’t find a job, remain penniless and have to beg in the streets to support themselves, Asa Regner said, according to BGNES.

“Of course, Bulgaria cannot not be cited as a major source of such problems, but those people who remain in the street, they are at agreat disadvantage. Most of them are Roma. A very large part of Roma children drop out of school, they have much bigger problems in finding employment,” Asa Regner said.

On Friday, Kalfin and Renger signed a letter of intent for cooperation in the social policy area aimed at improving the living conditions of vulnerable groups of people. They also signed a working programme for the period 2016-2017.

The letter of intent calls for the exchange of expertise in closing the channels for organized begging by Bulgarian citizens of Roma origin in Sweden, Kalfin said at the briefing, according to a press release of the Labour Ministry.

In a decisive encounter from Group I Europe/Africa of the Fed Cup on Friday, Bulgaria lost its two singles matches against Belgium.

Thus Bulgaria missed the opportunity to qualify for the play-off and compete for promotion to an upper group.

The highest ranking Bulgarian female tennis player Tsvetana Pironkova was defeated by Alison van Uytvanck with 2:6, 4:6.

The other Bulgarian representative Elitsa Kostova lost to Ysaline Bonaventure with 3:6, 6:3, 3:6.

In the doubles match, Bulgaria's Dia Evtimova and Isabella Shinikova are facing Marie Benoit and An-Sophie Mestach, but the outcome will not affect the final standing in the group.

On Wednesday and Thursday, Bulgaria successively defeated Hungary and Latvia with 2:1 each and retained its right to participate in Group I next year.

As winner of the group, Belgium qualifies for the play-off, with the team having a chance to compete for promotion to the upper division.

Bulgarian Transport Minister is traveling towards the Kulata checkpoint at the border with Greece in order to hold talks with the protesting Greek farmers.

The farmers have staged blockades on crossings along the Bulgarian-Greek border in the past weeks.

Until now, Greek farmers have refused to hold talks with Bulgarian authorities, private bTV station informs.

On Friday, the passage of vehicles through Kulata was allowed between 9 and 12 o'clock (EET), with farmers staging a blockade at noon.

Greek farmers have been protesting against the suspension of subsidies and proposed social security reforms, which foresee increase of tax and pension contributions.

Throughout the week, Bulgarian authorities have repeatedly called on Greek officials to take measures against the protesters, who are violating fundamental principles of the EU such as the free movement of people and goods.

During his visit to London for participation in the “Supporting Syria and the Region” international conference on Thursday, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov met with his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras and called on him to intervene and end the blockade.

Earlier during the week, Borisov had a telephone conversation with Tsipras similarly urging him to take measures.

The transport ministry summoned the Greek ambassador to Bulgaria, while the foreign ministry called on the European Commission to address the issue.

Apart from the protests of farmers, which have closed the road network in Greece and border checkpoints with neighbouring countries, Greece was further paralysed by a general strike on Thursday.

Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev demonstrated his football skills at the La Bombonera stadium in Buenos Aires.

Plevneliev went to the stadium during his five-day official visit to Latin America, which featured meetings with his Argentinian and Brazilian counterparts, namely Mauricio Macri and Dilma Rouseff.

At the home ground of Boca Juniors, the Bulgarian head of state met with the president of the club Daniel Angelici and vice-president Royco Ferrari.

Plevneliev and his hosts exchanged gifts, with the Bulgarian head of state being presented with a jersey bearing the number ten and his surname, while he gave a book on Bulgarian sport in return.

The website of Boca Juniors identifies Plevneliev as passionate about football and a friend of Hristo Stoichkov, who made a commitment to strengthen ties with the club.

At the end of his visit to the stadium, the Bulgarian president stepped on the pitch to show some of his skills.

A total of 3460 vehicles were stolen in Bulgaria last year, which represented an increase of 7 % compared to 2014.

At a press briefing on Friday, the Sofia Directorate of the Interior Ministry informed that more than 25 % of the stolen vehicles were retrieved.

The police calls on people purchasing second-hand car parts to be careful as most of the stolen vehicles end up for the sale of spare parts.

The director of General Directorate National Police, Hristo Terziyski, said that the police is demanding amendments to the legislation on the detention of car thieves.

The head of the thefts sector, Aleksandar Petrov, noted that there is a trend for increase in the number of robberies targeting small shops.

Most often the thieves steal goods which can be quickly disposed of such as cigarettes and expensive chocolates.

The police has detained the ringleader of such a crime group which earned around BGN 4000 per day by robbing one or two shops daily.

In most cases, the police establishes that a car has been stolen not at the time of theft, but once it enters into use.

Under the current legislation, in order to punish such type of crime, the police has to establish that the thief had an intention to use the stolen car, which is very difficult to prove.

The Bulgarian parliament approved on Friday amendments to the Defence and Armed Forces Act allowing the participation of allied countries in missions on guarding the country's airspace.

A total of 96 MPs voted in favour of the joint air policing missions, 34 were against, while thirteen lawmakers abstained.

According to the amendments, the air policing missions will be carried out either solely by the Bulgarian army or jointly with the armed forces of allied nations.

The debates and voting took place in the absence of Defence Minister Nikolay Nenchev, daily Dnevnik informs.

During the discussion, the ruling and opposition parties mutually accused each other of the state of the country's air force.

According to the opposition, the bill constitutes a violation of the Bulgarian constitution and national sovereignty.

Former Foreign Minister and MP from the Socialist opposition Kristian Vigenin insisted for a provision stipulating that only countries which are both EU and NATO members can participate in the joint air policing missions.

Other MPs suggested that there should be an exception for allied countries neighbouring Bulgaria, namely Greece, Romania and Turkey which should not be allowed to participate in such missions.

In January, the participation of foreign aircraft in joint air policing missions was approved at first reading.

According to MEPs, the recognition of Kosovo by all member states of the EU will be helpful in normalising the relations between Pristina and Belgrade and in bringing more stability to the region.

In two resolutions adopted on Thursday, MEPs welcomed the beginning of EU accession negotiations with Serbia and the progress achieved in normalising relations between Belgrade and Pristina in 2015.

They highlighted that these relations would be helped further if all member states are to recognise Kosovo.

MEPs called on Belgrade and Pristina to move forward with the full and timely implementation of agreements reached so far, noting that this is one of the conditions for admitting Serbia to the EU.

A resolution on Serbia, which was adopted by 498 MEPs voting in favour, 66 against and 70 abstentions, welcomed the opening of the first negotiation chapter.

The resolution also called on Serbia to pursue its systematic reforms, ensuring that the work of judges, prosecutors and the media is free from political influence.

The European Parliament also urged Belgrade to increase its efforts on the fight against corruption and organised crime.

A resolution on Kosovo, adopted by 403 MPs voting in favour, 130 against and 104 abstentions, noted that five member states still have not recognised Kosovo, namely Greece, Cyprus, Spain, Romania and Slovakia.

The resolution also highlighted that the EU-Kosovo Association Agreement, ratified by the European Parliament on January 21, provides powerful incentive for reforms and the European integration of Kosovo.

However Pristina has to do more in the following fields – independence of the media and judiciary, fight against high-level corruption and organised crime, labour market reforms, which were identified as areas of major concern.

During the week, Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev was on a five-day official visit to Latin America, meeting both his Brazilian and Argentinian counterparts, namely Dilma Rousseff and Mauricio Macri.

The relations between the EU and Mercosur were in the focus of the talks held by Plevneliev with the political leaders and business representatives of Brazil and Argentina.

The commitment of Bulgaria to accelerate the finalisation of the EU-Mercosur free trade agreement was highly appreciated.

Plevneliev foresees that the signing of the agreement will bring great benefits for Bulgaria.

The bilateral documents signed during the visit are expected to deepen political ties and accelerate the commercial-economic cooperation.

During his meeting with Macri in Buenos Aires, Plevneliev noted that Bulgaria is seeking a broader horizon of its diplomatic and economic activities.

This was attested by the fact that Plevneliev was the first European head of state to make an official visit to Argentina after the inauguration of Macri at the end of last year.

Among the topics of discussion was cooperation in the areas of agriculture and food production, mining and energy, ICT and outsourcing, with Bulgarian delegations representing these sectors expected to visit Argentina.

The two countries committed themselves to work for deepening their diplomatic cooperation, with a representative of the Argentinian foreign ministry to visit Bulgaria in the coming months.

The two presidents welcomed the signing of the agreement for cooperation between the Bulgarian and Argentinian commercial chambers.

According to them, this as a real step for development of the commercial-economic relations, which is to ease the contacts between business representatives from the two countries.

In Plevneliev's opinion, Argentinian interest towards Bulgaria is increasing, as Argentina is seeking to expand its exports and it views Bulgaria as a center of southeastern Europe.

In his words, Argentinian entrepreneurs are aware of the strategic location of Bulgaria, which can serve as an entry point to the largest market in the world – the EU.

Plevneliev assured Macri that Bulgaria is a predictable partner which offers favourable conditions for doing business and making investments.

He invited his Argentinian counterpart to visit Bulgaria next year as the head of an Argentinian business delegation.

In the Argentinian capital, Plevneliev laid flowers to the monument of the Bulgarian national hero Vasil Levski and visited the La Bombonera stadium of Boca Juniors.

At the beginning of the week, the Bulgarian president met with his Brazilian counterpart, examining opportunities to attract more Brazilian investments to the countries.

The protests of Greek farmers are expected to continue obstructing passage through checkpoints along the Bulgarian-Greek border on Friday.

The Bulgarian interior ministry informed on Friday morning that cars and buses are allowed to pass through all checkpoints along the border with Greece.

The passage of trucks is not allowed through Kulata checkpoint, with the queue having reached twenty kilometres in each direction.

The blockade of Ilinden checkpoint was lifted on Thursday night, with passage also restored through Kapitan Petko Voyvoda crossing.

Apart from the protests of farmers, a general strike in Greece on Thursday paralysed the country and led to clashes between protesters and the police.

The farmers have been protesting in the past weeks against the suspension of subsidies and the proposed social security reforms which foresee the increase of tax and pension contributions.

They have repeatedly staged blockades on border checkpoints with neighbouring countries as well as on the Greek road network.

During his visit to London on Thursday, where he participated in the “Supporting Syria and the Region” international conference, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov met with his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras.

Borisov insisted on Greek authorities to intervene and end the blockade at the border.

This was announced by the Bulgarian ambassador to London Konstantin Dimitrov, daily quotes him as saying.

Dimitrov added that Tsipras had accepted the arguments of Borisov, but refrained from revealing the response of the Greek prime minister.

Borisov also raised the issue to European Parliament President Martin Schulz and European Council President Donald Tusk.

During the week, Borisov also had a telephone conversation with Tsipras urging him to take measures on ending the blockade.

The Bulgarian transport ministry summoned the Greek ambassador to Bulgaria, while the foreign ministry called on the European Commission to intervene as the blockade is violating fundamental principles of the EU such as obstructing the free movement of people and goods.








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