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Bulgaria's Health Ministry has postponed the introduction of fingerprint identification in the outpatient sector.
The decision will protect the healthcare system from collapse in terms of medical, technical, information and financial stability, stated Health Minister Ilko Semerdzhiev.
The Health Ministry took a decision on the regulatory launching of the procedure on rejecting the introduction of fingerprint identification in the outpatient sector in 2017 and postponing it until 2019.

Bulgarians living abroad have one week left to file applications in order to participate in the upcoming snap parliamentary elections on March 26. The deadline is February 28.
So far, over 15,000 applications have been filed, showed data published on the website of the Central Election Commission (CEC).
The largest number of applications for participation in the elections have been filed in Turkey - over 5,000, followed by Great Britain with over 1,700, Spain, the USA and Germany.
So far, CEC has opened voting sections in the buildings of Bulgaria's diplomatic missions abroad. The final number of voting sections abroad will be known after the deadline for applications for voting has expired.
The number of voting sections in countries which are not EU members may not be greater than 35. By law, in order for a voting section to be opened at a given location, there must either be a diplomatic mission or at least 60 applications of people who wish to take part in the elections.

Greece may rely on a new rescue programme. Athens and the IMF have resolved their differences which will allow the fund to participate in the new loan for the country, reported bTV.
In exchange, the Greek government will have to continue with the unpopular reforms which are causing severe dissatisfaction in the country.
Security employees in state museums joined the farmers in their protests against the policy of the Tsipras cabinet. Thus, all tourist attractions remained closed on Tuesday.
The way to a new rescue plan was opened after months of tense negotiations. Germany and several other European countries are adamantly against the remitting of some of the Greek debt. Athens, on the other hand, stubbornly refuses to implement further pension and income cuts.

There are no injured persons and no gas leaks after a cistern turned over along the Stara Zagora - Nova Zagora road on Tuesday morning, reported BGNES.
Trakia highway has been closed temporarily in both lanes.
The cistern is about to be re-loaded and removed from the traffic lane, announced the Regional Directorate of the Interior Ministry. Traffic will be restored after that.
Meanwhile, passengers may use the old road between Stara Zagora - Nova Zagora.

Novinite has met with Sudan’s Ambassador to Bulgaria, H.E. Ilham Ahmed, whose country is marking 61 years of independence – but also the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Khartoum and Sofia.

Ms Ahmed, whose mission in Sofia started in September 2014, is also accredited to Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania.

She began her diplomatic career in January 1989 and since then has worked at all levels of Sudan’s diplomatic service. Between 1998 and 2004, she was a senior diplomat in Sudan’s permanent mission to the United Nations. From 2008 to 2011, she was Khartoum’s Ambassador to Oslo, Norway.

Your Excellency, Bulgaria was one of the very first countries to recognize Sudan’s independence back in 1956, but later closed its embassy in Khartoum, while Sudan opened one in Sofia in 2007. What was it that made your country take the step after a decade of relatively stalled relations?

First of all, thank you so much for this opportunity. Sudan became independent in 1956 and Bulgaria established relations in July 1956 of the same year - and then immediately took the positive initiative in Khartoum. At the time, as we were a newly independent country, it was difficult to open embassies in the spot. In the first period of our independence, we were represented from Moscow and later on from Bucharest in Romania. To answer your question, because bilateral relations have been going on very well, it was thought it would be very important to have a resident representation of Sudan in Bulgaria. That was why in 1999 the embassy was moved from Romania to Bulgaria. It was a General Consulate at the beginning, for different reasons, including economic ones. But a little before 2007, the government of Sudan thought the country must have a full-fledged embassy and that was why we opened one in 2007 to further promote bilateral relations.

Still, knowing that relations were much more intense in the past, which cannot be returned, and judging from your intense activity as ambassador here, is there a goal to restore the intensity of relations that once existed?

Very much so. First, you are very right about what you just told me. Relations were very intense and active at all levels - academic, political, even military cooperation. But you know, at the time there was a transition and in many parts of the world changes happened. Both countries were busy reorganizing themselves as a result of the transition. That is why each was prioritizing at different levels. But the good thing is that relations have always been there. They were never cut, it was just a matter of embassies sometimes closing and sometimes opening due to the byproducts of the transition. Now we are back again, after all this period, I had before me two or three colleague ambassadors who did their best to promote bilateral ties. Since my tenure here in Sofia actually I try very much to revive relations at all levels, because I believe that we can do something with Bulgaria and Bulgaria can do something with Sudan – now the second-largest country in Africa, with enormous resources. We have always enjoyed historical relationship with Bulgaria, and I thought we can do business together. That is why one of my mandates when I was nominated by my government was also something I told the President of Bulgaria when I presented my credentials - that I came with one message: we want to revive active relations. And I think to a certain extent I have managed to do some movement in that respect.

When you first arrived, you said you would help build a tourist corridor between Bulgaria and Sudan. How far has this project gone?

This is a very good question because it came in the right time. Promoting tourism and promoting Sudan as a tourist destination was in my priorities. I managed to do a lot of talk with universities, with businessmen, with companies reaching out to different regions here in Bulgaria, municipalities and so forth, exchanges of ideas about Sudan and what Sudan can provide to a tourist from Bulgaria. And indeed, to a certain extent we have managed to promote Sudan in that respect. There was one important project I have been working on - and I am very happy to tell you that we managed to organize a tourist group to go to the Red Sea state in Eastern Sudan in order to see for themselves what Sudan can provide. I was truly happy to know that, even before me coming here, there were at least two tour operators in Bulgaria who had already been taking touristic groups from Bulgaria to Sudan, to see the Sahara, to see the Red Sea and other attractions in the Sudan. So this group of tourists from Bulgaria is a very important project to me that I managed to have materialized. It is supposed to move very soon at the end of February and I believe it will be a very good beginning of further visits.

I don't know if the Red Sea trip is more for leisure purposes, but as regards cultural sightseeing, maybe Bulgaria and Sudan do have a task in common: to preserve their heritage. The pyramids in your country, for example, still need preservation care, and so do many monuments here. Is there any potential of working on this or other cultural cooperation?

On the first part of your question, the trip is for leisure, but at the same time from the composition of the group itself you will find businessmen, investors, journalists, academicians who are interested in tourism; you will also find tour operators. All of these people will go talk with their counterparts about what the state can offer.

As to the second part of the question, in fact a few months back I met with the [former] Bulgarian Minister of Culture and we have discussed many issues pertaining to the promotion of real cultural cooperation between the two countries. Interestingly enough, you may know that we already had a very old agreement of bilateral cooperation. One of the points I have presented to the minister is the issue of archaeology and historical sites in the Sudan and that we would like to have Bulgarian scientists and Bulgarian archaeologists to come as a mission in order to study and to help in this regard, bearing in mind we have several missions from other European countries - France, Sweden, Italy and Hungary. We know Bulgaria can share with us very good experience because it is a very rich country in history and archaeology, and so is Sudan. Maybe I can mention a few - Nubia, the pyramids in Bijrawiya, the other temples in the northern states - there is a lot we can offer. Maybe it will interest you that we now have a huge project in this archaeological areas by the Qatar Foundation in order to promote this and build infrastructure in cooperation with the government of Sudan and the other archaeological missions.

Maybe it is too early to say, but do you have any affirmative response from Bulgarian archaeologists willing to go? 

So far no. But I will continue my coordination to see if there is any interest.

Passing on to education, statistics show that during the Cold War many Sudanese students were enrolled in Bulgarian universities. In 2006, there were only two of them and just as many in 2015. There were also years with a zero. On the other hand, Sudanese universities are active trying to draw in Bulgarian students. Has there been any development?

In the field of education yes, the Cold War era actually was the most active time when there was cultural and academic cooperation. It may interest you to know that in that period there were more than 3000 Sudanese graduates from Bulgarian universities, who are now doctors and engineers holding very important positions in Sudan. But now I share with you the regret this number has dwindled. However, this is another field I am trying to work on very hard. There is also another important element that is affecting such cooperation – the system has changed, especially in Bulgaria. Now cooperation agreements take place directly between universities, and this is what is happening now. I am glad we have several MoUs between universities in both countries, but nevertheless, we don't have that big number of students here. From the Bulgarian side – yes, we have been promoting Sudan also as a country where in particular specializations like Arabic language, conflict resolution and conflict management, as we have big experience in this field, so there are some Bulgarian students going there, but it's not up to our expectations. We want both countries to elevate this cooperation, but both sides should continue working together on this. We have to bear in mind also other elements hampering such cooperation - the visa issue, the embassy issue... We need the Bulgarian Embassy also to open soon, hopefully, in Khartoum. But all in all, we continue to work on this field.

Sudan is also far from being in the list of main trade partners. That said, are there any domains where the trade exchange is growing of certain products?

What has affected education has also affected trade due to this transition. I must admit again, trade exchange is below our expectation and we want it to increase very much. I can however say there is a lot of interest and exchanges at the level of businessmen. The main products are gum arabic, sesame, salt and sugar. On the other hand, we have many Bulgarian investments in mining coming right now in the Sudan. But to me also one of the biggest investments is indeed in education, because we do have many Bulgarian professors working on specific contracts with Sudanese universities. If we consider that investment, it is a very good one. But on trade, both countries need to work hard to promote it.

Having in mind this cultural event that was actually the celebration of the 60th anniversary of Sudan - Bulgarians have had little exposure to Sudanese culture these last years. Are there more events coming this year that we should expect?

Yes, actually since I came it was on my agenda to promote culture. Personally I believe in culture as a very strong means to promote a country, to make people to get to know each other, because culture is simple, it goes directly to the mind and heart of normal people. We know that talk and politics are as important as they are, but culture in my point of view is stronger. We managed to carry out many cultural activities to bring folklore from Sudan, to bring artists from Sudan - and yes, this last week we had a very nice event to celebrate 60th anniversary of relations and the 61st anniversary of independence. We do have plans for this year – we already received the invitation for Burgas summer festival, as well as one to participate in an international handicrafts fair in Gabrovo. We want to work towards having artists, because we want to make it a habit to be present in all these events. We are also to participate in another festival that usually comes in May. We are regular exhibitors in December of each year at the International Women’s Club annual charity bazaar.

You tend to have a remarkable stall there.

We do. We have been exhibiting for the past three years, successively, and each year we have a bigger stall and come with a new dimension for exhibits, because we always have very exotic products we want to share with Bulgarian friends and because we love to participate in the charity bazaar due to its benevolent objectives. So we look forward to that, and we look forward to more cultural events.

Is there any other area of cooperation I forgot to ask about but something is ongoing as a project?

We are also working on the issue of sports. An exchange of sports, technical know-how. You know that Bulgarian coaches and academy of sports have been active since long time and in Sudan sports is very popular, especially football in addition to different Olympic sports, so it will be good to have this kind of relationship strengthened once again. We already have a very interesting exchange. We enjoy very excellent relations with the National Sports Academy. Also, last year the football team of the embassy of Sudan in Sofia got the trophy of the UN diplomatic corps tournament. This year both the Sudanese embassy and Sudanese community are playing. So yes, we are looking to promote further cooperation in the field of sports.

To conclude, over these 60 years, is there any stable association in Sudanese people's minds when it comes to Bulgaria? What is it best known for?

It is known for different things. The association is very peaceful and nice, first and foremost. Of course, people still remember the pilots who have been working in the Sudan since the early times of the 1960s to help in crop dusting of the huge agricultural products in the Sudan. The Bulgarian pilots used to help in the Gezira scheme – the largest agricultural scheme in Africa as a whole – as well as in Eastern Sudan in Qadarif area. This is one important element. What is good about this is that it is still ongoing, it has never stopped. And this tells you how strong this association is about Bulgarians. Secondly, I am also happy to tell you that the Sudanese who studied here in Bulgaria –  and Sudanese-Bulgarian families who got married to Bulgarian women and vice versa – established themselves for a very long time in Sudan. Now we have many Bulgarians living in Sudan for such a long time and now they have managed to establish a similar Sudanese-Bulgarian association, which is very active and they coordinate with us here and with the newly established friendship association in Sofia. So rest assured, Bulgaria is in the hearts and minds of the Sudanese people.

An inspection of all tunnels along the Lyulin and Hemus highways is about to be launched.
The examination will be carried out by a specialised unit for inspection. It will include experts from the Transport Ministry, the Interior Ministry, the Road Infrastructure Agency, as well as the University of Architecture.
The experts will have to conduct an examination and give an expert analysis of the condition of the tunnels. They will have to make short-term and long-term proposals for improving the condition of the tunnels.
The specialised inspection unit was created via an order of the Road Infrastructure Agency on February 15.
During the inspections, there will be temporary re-routing of traffic. The experts will not work on the ground on Friday and on public holidays in order not to obstruct traffic.

 

The Duisburg Casino was built to tap into the underserved gambling market in Germany. Germany has almost as many casinos as Denmark, but several times as many residents as its neighbour. The Duisberg Casino is one of around seventy casinos in Germany, but it is one of the most popular in the country.

When the Duisburg Casino Opened

When the Duisburg Casino in Germany opened on February 23, 2007, more than 5,000 people visited it on top of a thousand invited guests. The list of invitees included the Minister of State for Finance and the Duisburg Mayor.

The casino was designed by Gunter Merkle with a classic, modern design. Notable features include a star studded ceiling and spaceships floating above the gaming rooms. It cost more than 35 million Euros to build. The Duisburg Casino opened with one of the largest electronic installations in central Europe.

Duisburg Casino’s Status Today

Duisburg Casino has become the most popular casino in Germany. It saw more than 400,000 guests in 2016. This number rivals those seen in 2011, before the recent economic slump. Its peak attendance was in 2007 when almost 600,000 people visited the casino.

About the Duisburg Casino

Duisburg Casino is a stand-alone casino without a connected hotel, but there are many hotels in walking distance. There are two different bars inside the casino. In its early years, about 75% of its turnover came from slots while 25% comes from live table gaming, and most of the space is dedicated to slot machines. In 2016, about 60% of revenue came from slot machines while about with 40% coming from live games.

Duisburg Casino added over a dozen multiplayer roulette stations to cater to the growing interest in live games and offset decreased interest in slots due to a growing selection of online gaming options. For example, German online casino players like Guts casino, which is why slot machine revenue has been declining. Those who want to enjoy the social aspect of gaming still come to the Duisburg Casino to play poker or roulette.

Live tables and slot machines are in two separate areas, as required by German law. This segregation also ensures that people don’t enter the slot area, which costs less to enter, and then sneak over to the live table area. As of 2017, there are more than 350 slot machines and over two dozen live gaming tables. There are several blackjack and poker tables and poker tournaments are regularly held here. They don’t play bingo, Keno or betting on sporting events. Texas Hold’Em is periodically played along with roulette. There are two mystery jackpots held on a regular basis.

Where Is Duisburg Casino Located

Duisburg is situated in the region of North Rhine-Westphalia. The Duisburg Casino is located in the heart of downtown Duisburg in the Ruhr district.

Duisburg Casino is a modern style casino that is predominated by slots but has expanded its live gaming options over the past ten years. It is a feature of downtown Duisburg with restaurants so good that many people just come for the food and then stay to play.

The trial against 47 people accused of attempting to murder President Recep Erdogan on the night of the failed coup attempt has started in southeastern Turkey on Monday.

38 of the suspects are former military. They may receive life sentences on charges which include attempted murder, an attempt to change the constitutional order and other crimes against the state.

The people on trial are accused that, on the night of July 15, 2016, they attacked a hotel in Marmaris where Erdogan was staying and killed two policemen. Erdogan had left the hotel slightly before it was attacked.

The president believes that the coup attempt was organised by the movement of the Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in the USA, whose followers have infiltrated the army and other state institutions.


The European Union has announced that it will allocate EUR 18 M in humanitarian aid for the population that suffered from the war in the eastern regions of Ukraine.

At least half of the funds will be used to help residents in the territories outside the control of the Ukrainian government.

Together with individual donations by the separate member-states, so far, the European Union has granted nearly EUR 400 M in humanitarian aid for Ukraine since the beginning of the conflict in 2014.

The Embassy of Iraq staged on Sunday a photographic exhibition to muster support for the liberation of Mosul, bringing together Iraqi community members.

Organized by Baghdad's Ambassador to Sofia, H.E. Kahtan Janabi, the event took place on the same day Iraq's Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi launched an offensive on West Mosul to liberate it from the Islamic State (IS) group. IS has been holding the city since the summer of 2014, turning it into its de facto capital.

Themed "Together for the Success of Iraqi Soldiers in the City of Mosul", it unveiled rare moments of the troops' life and interaction with the locals.

The offensive to liberate Mosul, a city of 1.5 million, began on October 10 last year, with a number of neighbouring villages and areas having been liberated first to avoid losses among Mosul residents or massive displacement.

"The Iraqi government is unable to cover the basic needs and healthcare of the displaed population if its number is quite big... The liberation plan is divided into stages, so that displaced people can be returned to the liberated areas at the end of every stage," Ambassador Janabi said while speaking to the audience.

 

"The liberation of the city of Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city considered by Daesh [an Arabic acronym for Islamic State] as their capital, will put an end to the military presence of this terrorist organization on the territory of Iraq,” he added.

Mr Janabi added that his government expected IS would be eliminated soon.

He highlighted the effort of the Iraqi troops and all Shia, Sunni and Kurdish groups helping in the fight against Islamic State, a terrorist group bringing together fighters from more than 100 countries.

All ethnic and religious groups are united in their desire to bring the extremist organization to its end.

After Mr Janabi's speech to the Iraqi community, guests were invited to look at the pictures, listen to traditional music played live, and enjoy delicious Iraqi cuisine.

The report from the inspection of the ministries carried out by the interim government will not become public. The extended version of the report was published on Monday but, in fact, it repeats the statement of interim PM Ognyan Gerdzhikov from last week and does not even present a general picture of suspicious practices during the implementation of public procurement orders.

The report does not include all public procurement orders checked by National Financial Inspection Agency and the Prosecutor’s Office and, thus, even if irregularities are established, these will not be published, reported Mediapool.

The repairs of the Hemus and Trakia highways and the public procurement order for a toll system which was halted on several occasions are among the few actual orders mentioned in the report.

The document gives three recommendations for improving the procedures for the implementation of public procurement orders: increasing the expert capacity of employees, introducing a centralised web platform and considering amendments to the Public Procurement Act and the Law on the Protection of Competition.

A new ceasefire agreement must enter into force in Eastern Ukraine as of Monday, reported BNR.

It was negotiated by the foreign ministers of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine during a meeting at the Conference on Security in Munich.

The diplomatic group known as the Normandy Four also agreed to launch a new round of political negotiations as of March 1 for resolving the conflict in Ukraine. Part of the process is the exchange of prisoners of war and the delivery of humanitarian aid.

Over the last ten days, OSCE representatives in the region of Donetsk documented on several occasions the use of heavy weapons by both sides in the conflict, which contradicts the Minsk Protocol, added BNR.


There is increased police presence along the E-79 road in relation to the armed robbery of a casino located at the border cross checkpoint Kulata near Petrich, reported BGNES.

In the Poligona area of E-79 at the entrance to Blagoevgrad, armed policemen are stopping and checking vehicles, mainly jeeps.

There are similar police checkpoints along the entire section from Kulata to Blagoevgrad.

The signal about the crime was received at about 05:35 hrs on Monday morning.

According to initial information, armed and masked men burst into the Phoenix casino, threatened the staff and took all available cash. After that they left the area in two vehicles, reported the press centre of the local police directorate.

With the increase in temperatures, a new flu wave is expected, warned the director of the National Centre on Infectious and Parasitic Diseases Professor Todor Kantardzhiev. He predicted that the peak of the flu will be in April.

Kantardzhiev specified that the expected virus subtypes are characteristic of the spring-summer season and they will not be the same as the ones that caused the flu epidemic last month.

These virus subtypes last a shorter period of time and they are not expected to cause an epidemic.

 

The Bulgarian Embassy in Berlin has requested permission from the German authorities to open voting sections in 17 cities in addition to the sections in the diplomatic and consular missions of Bulgaria in the federal republic, stated a written reply by the Foreign Ministry in response to BNR’s question on the holding of parliamentary elections abroad.

There is still no reply on the part of German authorities whether Bulgarian citizens living in Germany will be able to vote in sections other than the ones in the embassy in Berlin, the consular missions in Munich and Frankfurt and the honorary consulates in five other German cities.

According to preliminary BNB data, foreign investments in the Bulgarian economy amounted to EUR 682.8 M at the end of 2016. This is a drop of 59.7%, compared to a year earlier.

There is a drop in all categories but the biggest decrease was reported for long-term investments of international companies in share holdings in subsidiaries in the country i.e. in share capital.

For the entire 2016, these investments amounted to EUR 222.3 M, compared to EUR 1.1 B in 2015. These are important because they are of the greatest significance for long-term growth.

The main flows of foreign investment to Bulgaria continue to come from offshore zones like Luxembourg and countries with tax reliefs like Holland where the subsidiaries of several ventures from third countries have been registered. The ventures use the subsidiaries to develop thei business in Bulgaria.

In 2016, a total of 19.9% of the foreign investments in Bulgaria or EUR 135.6 M came from Luxembourg. Most of these funds are probably invested by Bulgarian citizens hiding their property via offshore companies.

President Rumen Radev and interim PM Ognyan Gerdzhikov will meet on Monday to discuss whether an attempt should be made for the caretaker government to nominate a Bulgarian European Commissioner. This was announced by PM Gerdzhikov on Nova TV.

Gerdzhikov specified that Radev and he have agreed to meet every Monday.

Bulgaria was left without a European Commissioner after the Vice President of the European Commission Kristalina Georgieva left in order to occupy a senior post at the World Bank.

Gerdzhikov himself has already announced that he is rather in favour of a quick solution of the issue so that the country does not find itself in a difficult situation months before it takes over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

On Monday, Gerdzhikov stated that he is rather in favour of the caretaker government nominating a candidate.

 

Bulgaria has paid nearly EUR 1 M for verdicts ruled by the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg in 2016, showed data from the Justice Ministry, reported BGNES.

Compensations paid for 2106 amount to a total of EUR 960,100 or BGN 1,877,800. This amount includes friendly settlements and unilateral declarations.

Compensations for guilty verdicts amount to EUR 854,800 or BGN 1,671,800, specified the Justice Ministry.

Austria’s Ambassador to Sofia Roland Hauser has turned out to be the most popular personality in Novinite’s 2016 poll.

Apart from winning the contest’s Diplomacy category, Mr Hauser has obtained the biggest share of votes among all nominees.

Mr Hauser has been exceptionally active in initiatives held all around Bulgaria, always committed to asserting its European culture and past.

Though the latter achievement does not bring any particular award, it reflects his popularity among Novinite's readers and is worth noting.

He is followed by Israel’s Ambassador Irit Lillian and India’s envoy Rajesh Kumar Sachdeva. Germany’s Detlef Lingemann and Turkey’s Süleyman Gökçe follow as No 4 and 5.

In Politics, Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandakova is the overwhelming winner.

Ranking first by a wide margin, Ms Fandakova is among the very few Bulgarian politicians who have retained a positive approval rating amid growing distrust of the political class.

Second comes President Rumen Radev, the former Air Force Commander elected President in November, followed by nationalist politician Krasimir Karakachanov, who came third in the vote, helping turn a patriotic alliance into a power broker. Former Energy Minister Temenuzhka Petkova has the fourth-best result in her category. Last is Lyutvi Mestan, the former leader of the Movement of Rights and Freedoms (DPS) and current head of DOST party.

Vesela Ilieva, the Еxecutive Director of Unique Estates, is Novinite’s Personality in Business this year.

Unique Estates, the first luxury real estate brokerage company in Bulgaria, recently became exclusive partner of the biggest global network selling the most expensive properties in the world, Luxury Portfolio.

Next are Atanas Raykov, Viber’s General Manager Central and Eastern Europe, and Plamen Panchev, who manages the Trakia Economic Zone project – a conglomerate of industrial zones near Plovdiv. Tommy Ver Elst, General Manager at Sensata Technologies, and Dimitar Dimitrov, the CEO of IT holding Allterco.

The winners will be awarded at a special ceremony on March 01.

The report of the Inspectorate of the Council of Ministers on the public procurement orders of the former cabinet will be published on Monday. Some of the results of the inspections were made public by Prime Minister Ognyan Gerdzhikov on Friday.

The interim PM pointed out that certain irregularities have been discovered regarding the highways Trakia and Hemus and warned that there is a risk that the funds under the programme for Rural Development might be frozen due to a delayed audit.

The report must make clear details regarding the tens of violations discovered by the inspectors at the Defence Ministry.

On Friday, the interim PM announced that “indicators for fraud and other serious violations have been discovered under 9 procedures and these have been turned over to the Military Prosecutor’s Office.”

On his part, former Defence Minister Nikolay Nenchev denied the accusations of violations in public procurement orders during his mandate.

Bulgarian revolutionary Vasil Levski cannot fit into the mould where politicians try to place him, President Rumen Radev has said.

At the commemoration of the 144th year since he was executed by the Ottoman authorities, Radev has warned the world is yet to match the ideals of Levski.

"Brotherhood for everyone, faith and ethnicity notwithstanding, Levski used to say, but is it like that today? Alas, neither Bulgaria nor Europe, nor the world are close to this ideal," Radev has told the audience.

"Levski said: If I win, I win for an entire people; if I lose, I only lose myself. The Deacon [one of his nicknames as he was an acolyte prior to becoming a freedom fighter] lost himself, [but] his people won."

"Every age has its slavery and fears, but these are forms of slavery allowed by the mind and fostered by the timelessness which acquiescence turns into an daily routine. This is why the legacy of the Apostle [of Freedom] is especially prominent today, the one saying real freedom is the one we win and stand up for."

Former lawmaker Valentin Nikolov has quit the Patriotic Front coalition, rejecting its move to run together with far-right Ataka party in the upcoming early election.

Nikolov has followed the example of Dimitar Bayraktarov, calling the coalition "unprincipled" in an interview with private broadcaster NOVA TV.

The Patriotic Front shook hands with Ataka last year, after a long feud between PF co-chair Valeri Simeonov and Ataka leader Volen Siderov.

Nikolov has said more PF members will leave the coalition soon.

The so-called United Patriots - the name of PF's coalition with Ataka - raised the candidacy of Krasimir Karakachanov in the presidential election in November. Karakachanov came third.

Meanwhile some media outlets, such as the news websites Mediapool and OffNews report another former PF lawmaker, Slavi Binev - who has also served as MEP and has sparked controversy with a clerical title - has quit the coalition and is now poised to join the liberal, ethnic Turk-dominated Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS).

The PF parties have portrayed the DPS has one of its main enemies in Bulgarian politics for being "pro-Turkish".

The new rthythmic gymnastics team of Bulgaria has claimed its first gold in Moscow, sports media report.

The girls committed only one more substantial mistake in the all-out competition and were awarded 16 100 points, followed by Russia at 14 300 points.

The ensemble now includes Simona Dyankova, Laura Traats, Madlen Radukanova, Eli Bineva and Tedi Aleksandrova.

Friday's competition ranked them second.

Bulgaria, Greece, Slovenia and Turkey "plumped for Russia" as their pick for defense partner if a threat emerged, according to a poll quoted by Bloomberg.

A multi-national Gallup poll published ahead of the Munich security conference "appeared to map out shifts in the post-Cold War security alliances which have come under renewed strain and scrutiny" under Donald Trump, according to the article.

Most countries polled by WIN/Gallup International chose the United States as their go-to defense partner.

Bulgaria and Greece seee their biggest security threat coming from Turkey, another NATO member, according to the poll.

Experts are quoted as saying the poll reflects a divide between the Orthodox Christian world and Western Christianity, with Bulgaria and Greece option for Russia (even though Slovenia and Romania are exceptions, in preferring Russia and the US respectively).

A debate is needed on boosting Bulgaria's military expenditure in line with the country's NATO commitments, interim Defense Minister Stefan Yanev has said.

Yanev's remarks come against the backdrop of the Munich security conference, where NATO states were urged to increase defense spending to at least 2% of GDP, as agreed during a summit in 2014.

Calls to boost the expenditure have been made since ten years, Yanev has recalled.

US Defense Secretary James Mattis made it clear during the meeting that "American taxpayers do not agree to that extent to pay for the security of your children if you don't want to [do it]. That was the message," in he Bulgarian minister's words.
According to Yanev, the process is undeprinned by "simple and deep logic" as the Alliance doesn't look as obsolete now as it did in the 1990s.

He has also pointed to the long-standing issues about the state of the Bulgarian Armed Forces, marked by lack of personnel, low motivation and technological shortages.

Budgetary issues are among the few areas where interim governments (such as the current one) have no competences whatsoever - party because there is no Parliament to accept them.

Bulgaria currently spends less than 1.5% of its GDP on defense. NATO calls to slide the share upwards, to at least 2% by 2024, reiterated by the previous President, were given a snub by Boyko Borisov, the former Prime Minister.

Bulgarian officials have been making conflicting statements as to the nomination of the country's next representative at the European Commission.

The office has remained vacant for more than six weeks after Kristalina Georgieva quit as Vice President for Budget and Human Resources to take a CEO job at the World Bank.

Earlier this week, caretaker Prime Minister Ognyan Gerdzhikov insisted a decision on who would succeed Georgieva should be taken as soon as possible to avoid any hardship for Bulgaria as it prepares to take over the rotating EU presidency in January 2018.

Gerdzhikov told bTV an expert, non-partisan figure has to be picked without waiting for a new government to be formed, possibly in April after the March 26 early election. He pledged to discuss the issue with President Rumen Radev, who appointed the interim cabinet late last month.

He added it would not be a "good sign" if no EU Commissioner designate is offered by Bulgaria, a likely scenario if the country slides into political chaos after the election and parties fail to forge a new governing coalition.

But his deputy Denitsa Zlateva, who is in charge of organizing the EU presidency and coordinating other EU-related issues, made clear on Saturday the caretaker cabinet was "not ready" for a European Commissioner nomination.

The issue has not been discussed at cabinet meetings, she told Bulgara On Air, a private broadcaster. She argued there could be no consensus among parties under the conditions of an ongoing election campaign.

Zlateva recalled that EU Commission Vice President Jean-Claude Juncker had shown "understanding" about the situation and had made it clear there was no need to hurry.

Possible EU Commissioner picks' names mentioned by various media reports over the past months include Rumen Radev's predecessor, President (2012-2017) Rosen Plevneliev, and former Deputy PM and EU Commissioner Meglena Kuneva. Speculation about the latter was fuelled by her move early this week to rule herself out of the parliamentary election, giving up a lawmaker seat to "give way to young generations".

Both Kuneva and Plevneliev have so far denied the reports.

The so-called Lukov March was held in Bulgaria's capital Sofia on Saturday even though Mayor Yordanka Fandakova ordered an end to the torch-lit rally.

Lukov March, known in Bulgaria as Lukovmarsh, is a controversial commemoration of the life and death of Gen Hristo Lukov.

Held since 2003, it honours a supporter of Bulgaria's alliance with Nazi Germany in World War Two.

Gen Lukov was War Minister (1935-1938) and leader of the radical nationalist Union of the Bulgarian National Legions, a staunchly pro-Nazi organization that existed between 1932 and 1943. There are, however, historians who maintain Lukov himself never professed anti-Semitic views.

A full-fledged demonstration has remained outlawed for the past 3 years, even though celebrations do take place in mid-February. What organizers had been given the green light for was a gathering in front of Gen Lukov's house and lay wreaths there.

However, participants gathered in front of the National Palace of Culture (NDK) and marched to Gen Lukov's home despite not having a permit, amidst a beefed up police presence. Flags of Bulgaria and of the Bulgarian National Union, which co-organizes the demonstration, could be seen on the site, but also some of a pro-Nazi group from Poland.

Authorities later said there was information of foreign nationals who are members of pro-Nazi groups also attending the event.

Interpol's Warsaw branch had already informed police in Sofia that Polish nationals with a criminal record had joined Lukovmarsh velebrations.

The foreigners in question were known for participating in a group that spreads pro-Nazi propaganda, according to Focus News Agency.

Prior to the commemorations, both the US and the Israeli Embassy had voiced their concern over the upcoming demonstration. 

Belgium's David Goffin, who lost dramatically to Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria in Sofia last Sunday, managed to oust him nearly a week later in Rotterdam, bringing about Dimitrov's second loss since the year began.

Dimitrov was defeated 4:6, 6:1, 3:6 at the quarterfinals of the ATP 500 tennis tournament in Rotterdam.

The only other match Dimitrov lost this year was Australian Open's semi-final against Rafael Nadal.

 

Bulgaria is marking 144 years since Vasil Levski, the most respected national hero and freedom fighter, was hanged.

Levski was a historic figure of tremendous importance for the freedom movement in Bulgaria in the late 19th century, while the country was still a part of the Ottoman Empire.

Celebrations began on Saturday, February 18, across the country, and notably in his hometown Karlovo, while official commemorations in Sofia are due on Sunday. 

In Sofia, the commemoration begins at 18:00 local time (EET), at the site of the monument.

There will also be a rally to Kakrinsko Hanche, the site where Levski was captured, in Lovech in northern Bulgaria.

Born on 18 July 1837, Levski became known as the Apostle of Freedom for his efforts on organizing and developing a strategy for the liberation of Bulgaria from Ottoman rule.

He fought for equal rights between Bulgarians and other subjects of the empire in a new republic he aspired to, but was sentenced to death and hanged during the preparations for the April Uprising of 1876.

He was the founder of the internal revolutionary organization which run a network of secret regional committees and sought the liberation of Bulgaria through a nationwide revolution.

Levski was also among the founders of the the Bulgarian revolutionary central committee run by Bulgarian emigrants in Bucharest.

He was captured by the Ottoman authorities in the Kakrina inn near Lovech on 27 December 1872. He was first taken for interrogation to Veliko Tarnovo and then sent to Sofia where he was tried and sentenced to death.

He was hanged close to Sofia in 1873 but his bravery inspired the people and eventually Bulgaria managed to secure its freedom during the Russo-Turkish War of 1878.

A monument was later built in his honor at the site of his death, which was back then on the outskirts but is now near the center of Sofia.

After the revolt, Russian forces joined the Bulgarian efforts and the Third Bulgarian Kingdom was established on March 3, 1878.

Far-right groups and other organizations have repeatedly been trying to use Levski's name as a symbol in the name of which a call for more nationalistic policies has to be made.

However, far more than being just a hero, Levski was a visionary who fought for replacing, through a revolution, "the current despotic and tyrannical system... with a democratic republic" where "Bulgarians, Turks, Jews, etc. will be equal in all aspects, be it in faith, be it in ethnicity, be it with regard to civil [rights]... all will be subjected to a common law which will be elaborated upon the agreement of all ethnicities."

 

 








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