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A new stem cell transplantation centre opened on Monday in the St. Marina hospital in Varna, reports the bTV national channel.

It is the most up-to-date in Bulgaria and is expected to partially solve the shortage of such treatment of patients with oncological diseases.

According to the head of the heaematology clinic of the St. Marina hospital, Riana Gercheva, the stem cell treatment often is a life-saving procedure for cancer patients whose bone marrow has been severely damaged by chemotherapy.

According to the deputy rector of the Varna Medical University, Deyan Grancharov, there are two similar centres in Sofia and Plovdiv, but the demand was much higher. “Now it will be much cheaper and easily accessible than similar treatment in Israel, for example,” Grancharov said.

The capacity of the Varna centre is up to 100 patients per year. The procedure is free of charge for the insured.

The price of 1000 cubic metres of natural gas in Bulgaria will be by BGN 0.3 lower as of January 1, ruled the energy watchdog (DKEVR).

According to its website, as of the beginning of 2015 1000 cubic metres of gas will cost BGN 604.14, VAT and excise duty excluded.

Recently the major natural gas importer Bulgargaz asked for a price hike of BGN 12.48 as of January 1.

Unlike Christmas, when the weather in Bulgaria will be warm and sunny, on December 29, the winter will remind of itself, according to Petar Yankov of TV-MET.

On December 29 through the country will pass a cold front, which will bring heavy snowfall. The situation will be most serious in northern and north eastern Bulgaria, where the high winds will pile the snow on high drifts.

According to Yankov, the snow will stick at least until the first few days of January.

The Bulgarian State Railways (BDZ) have provided additional carriages for 127 trains on the main routes in the country in view of the forthcoming Christmas holidays.

The number of buses traveling on the busiest routes will be also increased, the Bulgarian National Television reports.

BDZ provides 10 600 additional places from December 23 to 29, and 111 fast trains and another 16 with additional reservation will be traveling with increased capacities.

Trains with additional carriages are to travel to all parts of the country, both to the most remote – Varna, Burgas, Ruse and Silistra, as well as to the busiest – Plovdiv, Stara Zagora, Vidin and Pleven.

BDZ is to reduce the price of return tickets with between 10 % to 30 %.

Bus carriers have also provided discounts of 20 % for return tickets.

They advise passengers not to wait until the last moment in order to buy tickets, reminding them that tickets can be also purchased online.

The bus tickets for December 23 and 24 have already been sold out.

Only in the span of these two days 600 buses with more than 30 000 passengers will depart from Sofia Central Bus Station to all parts of the country.

All carriers have provided additional buses.

Tsvetan Vasilev announced in an exclusive interview for Novinite news agency that he was blackmailed to give away part of Vivacom in March.

Vasilev was threatened that in case he does not comply with this, there will be fatal consequences.

According to him in the last six months Bulgaria is observing these consequences.

The banker confirmed his thesis that Corporate Commercial Bank (KTB) became victim of series of state institutions – the judicial system, the Bulgarian National Bank (BNB), National Revenue Agency (NAP), Bulgarian Development Bank, security authorities, etc.

The culmination of arrogance and proof for the strong political dependence is the refusal to investigate a blackmailing signal against Delyan Peevski submitted by Vasilev in May.

The official refusal was received only recently, half a year later, enough time for the staging of the purposeful professional theater that led to the collapse of KTB.

Vasilev declared that he has dedicated his time to defending the rights of all that have been unjustly accused in this absurd scandal.

His words are to have greatest weight in the European courts, over which Bulgarian politico-economical groups are not able to exert control.

You can read the full interview here.

Bulgaria receives EUR 1.6 billion from the European Union (EU) for the improvement of transport connections.

The European Commission approved the sum of EUR 1.9 billion under Operational Programme Transport for the 2014-2020 period, from which Bulgaria has to contribute EUR 300 million.

The programme is aimed at development of the Trans-European Transport Network and making transport in Bulgaria safer and more sustainable, private bTV station reports.

It foresees the construction of both railway and road infrastructure – new and modernised railways with a total length of 190 kilometres and a 62-kilometre long motorway.

Most of the funds are projected for the completion of Struma motorway, which is of key importance for the connection between Sofia and Thessaloniki, which is vital part of the Pan-European Germany-Greece corridor.

Large sections of the Sofia-Septemvri and Plovdiv-Burgas railways are to be reconstructed or modernised with the aid of these funds.

The extension of the Sofia underground network will provide the citizens with safe, fast, and ecological transport, as well as direct connections to the airport, the central railway station and various tram and bus lines.

Tsvetan Vasilev ... courted and reviled, awarded and stigmatized, promoted and humiliated ... In 2014, he was undoubtedly the most mentioned person in the Bulgarian media, in private and in public interviews, in courtrooms and in banking circles. Without doubt 2014 was also his most important and most controversial year. In 2012 the Bulgarian edition of Forbes put him second in influence in the country after the then Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, a year later the same magazine placed him at the head of the most influential personalities in Bulgaria. He has received the "Banker of the Year" award; a Doctor Honoris Causa of the Mining and Geology Institute and member of the Board of Trustees of the University of National and World Economy in Sofia. In the summer of 2014 Corporate Commercial Bank (KTB), where the majority owner is his company Bromak, was placed by the BNB under special supervision, while Tsvetan Vasilev himself is now in Belgrade, where he is expecting a decision of the Serbian court on Bulgarian authorities' extradition request.

Novinite's editorial team turned to Mr Tsvetan Vasilev - naturally via email as he is not currently in Bulgaria, with questions which were prepared by the entire team and which certainly matter not only to depositors in KTB, but to the whole Bulgarian society, including numerous state and public institutions. Novinite's editorial team is ready to provide the opportunity of other opinions on the serious issues raised by Mr Vasilev.

Mr Vasilev, you recently said KTB had fallen victim to a campaign, to politicians and key figures in Bulgaria's prosecution. Who are they? Why did they turn on you?

I have said this a lot of times - KTB AD fell victim to a set of institutions – of the politically-economic circles around the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) which since 2004, but most notably in the past few years acquired considerable influence in key sectors, the judiciary, the [Bulgarian National Bank] BNB, the National Revenue Agency, the Bulgarian Development Bank, security services, etc. This influence, unfortunately, has so far been tolerated by all governments which allowed, probably not a coincidence, that the unsound interests of these circles should determine national policies in entire sectors of the Bulgarian economy, as well as the appointment to leadership positions at state institutions. The puppet government ofPlamen Oresharski, in which [former Finance Minister] Petar Chobanov and [former Interior Minister] Tsvetlin Yovchev played a key role, cemented the DPS as one of the hegemons in the state apparatus. Is is hardly a peculiar coincidence that some of these cadres were selected to the party's election tickets for their merit.

Bulgaria's prosecution makes no exception. You could figure out the names of magistrates who took part in the organization of the ignoble attack against KTB AD by thinking who are those among them that are constantly engaged in giving interviews wherein they violate fundamental legal principles such as the presumption of innocence and non-retroactivity of laws. They also incite violation of Bulgarian and European legal norms. Ill-considered statements of those magistrates are the same reason for instilling panic among depositors and the subsequent wave of mass withdrawals from the bank.

As to the question, why does the political and economic circle of the DPS, and also politicians from other parties maintaining it, turned against me, mobilizing the entire state apparatus against KTB AD - the reasons are complex. I would like to point out again that companies enjoying protection from certain politicians are interested in melting down their debt at KTB AD. Furthermore, I have more than once underscored that many Bulgarian politicians consider themselves untouchable - they abuse their office to achieve personal benefit. In March this ear, they started blackmailing me to give away part of Vivacom, threatening than unless I did, there would be fatal consequences. I think I have been observing these consequences over the last six months. It is not insignificant that, unlike many other people subject to pressure, I did not hold my tongue and commented corruption in the Bulgarian state apparatus more than once, including to foreign media outlets and diplomats.

The culmination of arrogance and an evidence of the strong political dependency of the prosecution was the refusal to investigate into my blackmailing signal against Delyan Peevski submitted May 2014. It was quite comfortable that I received an official refusal only recently, after 6 months of professional theater which led to the collapse of KTB AD. Last week's attempt at overtaking Vivacom through an internal coup is also a proof that the appetite of Bulgarian politicians to the company is on the rise.

Against the will of Vivacom's shareholders, the Supervisory Board voted the dismissal of the Governing Council's Chair. Members of managerial bodies confessed to me that a lawyer close to the DPS and GERB personally hinted to key Vivacom executives that if they do not vote as required they should await physical consequences. Unfortunately, the same methods of intimidating and pressure are being applied in Bulgaria since the 1990s - it is just the PR of those "moves" that has developed for that time. Many people argue the same lawyer could often be met at the Investigation Office or on the road between Dubai and Liechtenstein. It is quite interesting whose interests he defend by sending "signals" to executives at Vivacom - his own or those of the parties to which he is affiliated.

Voices can be heard within the public space saying KTB was razed down by the same circles which created it. Some journalists called KTB "the bank of power." Do you owe your success to being close to politicians?

KTB was successful for the sagacity of its management and the professionalism of its team. This is why it became a thorn in many people's side, people who started fearing there is a player on the scene which is successful and independent and cannot  be easily blackmailed. It is no coincidence that since 2009 KTB has been subjected to a carefully planned negative campaign from certain media servicing political and respective economical interests. Tendentiously, society had been instilled for years there is concentration of state money in KTB. Little does society know, however, that due to these texts the attackers of KTB AD had submitted a signal to the European Commission, arguing there is concentration of state money in the bank which amounts to state aid. The Commission carried out a detailed inspection and, to the regret of attackers, concluded there was not a single reason to suspect state aid or concentration. Those who disseminated the "state money" myth for years are categorically shunning this fact.

KTB provided services to state entities after having won tenders where it had offered much better conditions than its competitors had. What is more, state funds accounted for less than 7% of the bank's assets. There are hundreds of state entities in Bulgaria and I can assure you most of them have not been serviced by KTB. KTB has always worked mostly with private firms from structural sectors of Bulgaria's economy.

What are the reasons for the rift between you and Delyan Peevski? Was this that started the bank's trouble? Does the South Stream project have any role?

The thesis that the attack on KTB AD followed a rift between me and Delyan Peevski has been comfortably disseminated by the organizers of the punitive action carried out against the bank. To me, Peevski is one of the visible instruments used for the fulfillment of the plan, but the scriptwriters' names are yet to come up in court. KTB AD was attacked because I stood against the political model in Bulgaria and refused to be blackmailed by the country's leading political parties. Unfortunately, in Bulgaria the mafia has coalesced with power. This is why they did not hesitate to throw all the weight of the state apparatus and also to sacrifice human destinies - to accuse people of what they did not do, to deprive depositors of access to their savings, to tarnish the development prospects of many customers who used KTB as a servicing bank and held their working capital there. The organizers of the campaign against KTB AD are thoroughly motivated by the insatiable and animal appetite for theft and are blatantly using state institutions to their own advantage.

How would you comment on the Supreme Administrative court (VAS)'s decision on December 15 to postpone for February 9, 2015 the trial against revoking KTD AD's license?

At this stage I think it is too early to comment on the court's actions. I can however tell you with certainty that as the owner of the majority shareholder in KTB I will fight to the end against the absurd and illegal withdrawal of the license by the state regulator. The BNB was the main tool in the plot against the bank and was not ashamed to break repeatedly both Bulgarian and European legislation to satisfy the interests of political circles that control it. It literally laughed at KTB shareholders and customers and did everything to deteriorate the state of KTB and hinder its recovery.

Firstly, the regulator applied a double standard by granting state aid to First Investment Bank when it was in the same circumstances, and declining that to KTB on the grounds that KTB is a "specific" bank. It is very strange why the BNB authorized KTB to acquire Credit Agricole Bulgaria EAD if it was convinced there is something wrong with KTB AD? It is no coincidence that the attack on the bank started on June 12, 2024 - the day when the acquisition was finalized. Secondly, the BNB had refused for months to meet shareholders, who had a working plan to recover and restructure KTB AD. Furthermore, I have to remind you, the BNB closed down and halted the activities of KTB contrarily to the Credit Institutions Act. Special supervision means managing the bank on behalf of the BNB, not liquidating it.

To this regard, the BNB appointed conservators who do not meet the requirements of the Credit Institutions Act. It allowed misusing customers' personal data which absurdly and unprecedentedly leaked into the media despite being subject to a "bank secret" and despite the fact that this is illegal. For a long time the BNB did not allow clients to pay off their loans with the assets they have at disposal on their deposit accounts. As a whole many colleagues from KTB complained over inadequate and unprofessional attitude from the conservators. If what came to my ears is true, this is a completely unacceptable behavior - employees were fired against Bulgaria's labor law, spoken instructions were given at odds with the bank's statute, documents and objects were taken out without a protocol and without a trace, and so on.

The culmination of this deliberate campaign aimed at KTB AD's liquidation is the so-called audit which gave grounds for starting a rumor that there is a "gap" at KTB AD worth more than BGN 4 B. On the one hand, the analysis carried out by consultancies does not have an "audit" status - consultants themselves refused to sign the document as an "audit." On the other hand, the analysis was carried out using methodology which had not yet been applied to no other Bulgarian bank and has neither been officially accepted in the Eurozone. As far as I know, there are ideas that is should be applied well after 2018. I am curious to see what the result of similar "audits" on other banks in the country will be! Thanks to this methodology, KTB assets were devalued many times so that the BNB could create the respective "gap" to formally reach the condition to scrap KTB AD's license - a negative equity - to prove the investigative office and prosecution's charges and to instill in the Bulgarian society the liquidators' thesis that the bank has been drained out.

In case the court accept your arguments and KTB is returned its license, what is the best solution for KTB AD?

The real chance to restore KTB in its previous form was lost when conservators authorized the so-called cessions. Regrettably, neither the government nor the BNB took the measures necessary to keep the bank afloat, thus demonstrating complete indifference to KTB depositors, bondholders and international shareholders' interests. However, I believe KTB should be restructured and sold together with its license to a strategic investor, and not in the barbaric way that is currently planned - piece by piece, as if we were on a rural market. Certainly, maintaining the license ill make it impossible for the attractive assets of KTB to be acquired on the cheap by certain political and economic circles who have long been preparing for this.

As both my colleagues and I have commented, KTB needed liquidity and help in reining the media hysteria which sparked panic among depositors. The crisis could have been overcome very swiftly, painlessly and without damage to depositors and customers who trusted KTB as a bank servicing their business.

We should remember what triggered the first wave of withdrawals - public statements by the prosecution that it had prevented the assassination of an MP from the Movement for Rights and Freedoms [DPS], arresting the "murderers," and insinuations that I had been the guarantor. Weeks later the Chief Prosecutor said the prosecution had committed a mistake; and it was only months later that the court ruled those arrested were not guilty. Panic, however, had already been spread and the BNB did not take adequate measures against disseminators of false rumors.

It is strange also how such mistakes can be committed publicly and so much media fuss can be stirred unless there is 100% certainty about the veracity of the allegations.

What was the bank's state before the media attack carried out on it?

KTB AD has always been an exemplary bank - with impeccable indicators, a clear development strategy and lots of satisfied customers. Trust of international investors with good reputation from across the globe which it has deserved over the years, is a clear evidence of its profitability. One should note that Credit Agricole preferred to sell its Bulgarian subsidiary to one of the few Bulgarian-owned banks. This is why the attack on us is not a coincidence. Huge resources, including that of state institutions, was used to bring KTB to an artificial default, so that its attractive assets could on the one hand be acquired by firms related to Bulgarian politicians, and on the other to stop growth at one of the few private Bulgarian banks, independent institutions. Let us not forget that the attack was not only in the media, but a textbook example of the rough, mutra-style approach applied in Bulgaria - the annihilators of KTB AD did not hesitate to force customers into withdrawing their money, to exert pressure on auditors so that they support certain theses, etc.

Why did KTB offer so high (non-market) deposit interest rates? Is it true that the bank used this to secure liquidity after attempts to withdraw from it part of state companies' money?

As I already underscored, deposits at KTB of companies that include state participation accounted for about 7% of the bank's assets. If we use numbers, KTB had assets worth over BGN 5 B before undergoing forceful closure, and deposits of companies with state participation amounted to slightly above BGN 200 M. KTB never needed to keep interest rates in line with the share of state companies within its portfolio.

Unlike most banks on the Bulgarian market, KTb has always approached flexibly and has taken into consideration the needs of its customers. Firstly, KTB AD had two percent lower administrative expenditure if compared to the average ones in Bulgaria's banking system; this is a fact which has been quite comfortably ignored by a number of "experts", including international ones. Besides, we had a long-term strategy fro development and growth of our customer basis by balancing the high deposit interest rates with an adequate selection of borrowers. Unlike many other competitors, KTB AD never used forms to assess borrower candidates; those forms were approved from the other side of the world and were in line with other conditions.

We have always counted on the expert opinion of local specialists who are familiar with the specific conditions on Bulgaria's market, who have entered into details and have drawn are attention to the risks and opportunities of the given market. To the huge discomfort of most banks, bad loans at KTB have always been below 2%. All institutions on behalf of the BNB and affiliated experts are aiming to tarnish the image and to put KTB's professionalism into question.

Do you believe that one day the bank might be opened again, as was the case with Victoria Bank?

I am not optimistic about Victoria Bank not because it has no potential, but because it fell within the criminal circles and in the hands of the Bulgarian National Bank [BNB], which depend on political and economic groups. It was placed under supervision without any well-grounded reason: there were no mass withdrawals of deposits there. The BNB implemented at Victoria the same destructive policy as at KTB. It started to deliberately sell off the institution's credit portfolio. Key cadres of the bank were forced to quit, limiting its possibilities to develop.

Recently the BNB changed its leadership and is acting as if it owned the bank, ignoring the interests of KTB shareholders. Rumors go about that the BNB's Governor personally offered Victoria for sale to the Bulgarian Development Bank, which is under the control of various political forces at the moment. I am convinced there are appetites toward its plundering, which makes me extremely sad, since we had developed, alongside colleagues from KTB and consultants, a thorough plan for the institution's long-term development.

If we return to the issue of KTB, it might become operational again in a new form, but with management of quality and international investment. All implications that it is absolutely useful for Bulgaria to nationalize KTB are just a veil to cover the pillage committed by firms which are directly dependent on political formations in the country.

Is there any chance that you get Victoria Bank back and it starts operating again a bank of yours?

Certainly the main shareholders in KTB will fight until the end for their rights and will make everything possible to stop excesses on both KTB and Victoria. Unfortunately, the whole state engine has been mobilized to make plundering of both institutions easier. We have gathered a significant team of international men of low which will lay up claims in European courts on every single issue that has not been solved in the spirit of Bulgarian and European law.

Why have you been observing silence lately? When should we expect you in Bulgaria?

Regardless of how much I would like it, I cannot solve the KTB case with words thrown into the public. My words might have their weight in courts, mostly in European ones, on which the Bulgarian political and economic mafia cannot exert any control. This is why I have dedicated my time to protecting the rights of all people who have been unfairly accused in this absurd scandal.

I will return to Bulgaria only if my physical security is guaranteed, apart from a fair trial. But currently there are no indications for this. Quite the opposite, the mafia is more and more predominant in the political system and is putting forth a racketeering approach to governance.

There is one (perhaps the most important) question which nobody has ever asked until now. How will the entire story with KTB reflect on Bulgaria's investment image? We know that a group of investors are not only suing the state, but would also like to start a large-scale media campaign to explain how risky the market is...

What the organizers of the attack against me and Corporate Commercial Bank failed to understand is that the country's economic stability has fallen victim to their own interests. Even though bankers from their environment are going around television studios explaining how favorable Bulgaria's investment climate is, we are de facto being pushed to the bottom by policies implemented since 2009.

You have said you will fight for justice to prevail... How do you see the end of this?

The end will not come soon due to the simple reason that I am waiting for the court to do its job in a precise way and to thoroughly make itself familiar with the facts. However, I believe attacking others are digging their own graves. This is why I know that, sooner or later, low-minded passions will stand out increasingly, and the question who professes what values will become clear to more and more people. Sun Tzu said if you wait by the river long enough, the bodies of your enemies will float by. They are in an unholy alliance and will destroy one another well before the court has handled them.

 

The police in Bulgaria's capital Sofia detained 33 people for their planned participation in clashes with ethnic minorities on Sunday.

This happened shortly after the beginning of the demonstration against racism and xenophobia that took place in Sofia on Sunday, electronic daily Dnevnik reports.

According to the Bulgarian National Radio, the detained were planning to attack the participants in the demonstration.

The group of instigators numbered 100 people, among them were football fans and skinheads.

Following their unsuccessful attack at the participants in the demonstration, the group headed to the Sofia quarter Fakulteta.

The police managed to block their route and 33 of them were taken to the 3rd district police department.

The police carried an identification check to the other members of the group and released them following a short interrogation.

The administration in Bulgaria's Interior Ministry will be reappointed according to the Civil Service Act next year, in which way servants will not be able to retire under the conditions pertaining to the first category of labour.

This change was announced by Interior Minister Veselin Vuchkov after the meeting of the government on Monday, Darik radio reports.

The management of the Interior Ministry is to announce a full-scale package of measures on January 12, which are to be implemented during 2015.

Vuchkov said that at present police officers and firefighters are civil servants and they will continue to be such under the scope of the Interior Ministry Act.

The Interior Minister explained that this is a specific civil service, accompanied by a lot of bonus schemes.

Vuchkov stated that the administration, which was currently under the same category as the one applicable to police officers and firefighters, had to be reappointed under the scope of the Civil Service Act.

The Interior Minister listed the other measures that have to be undertaken: partial reduction of the administrative apparatus of the Ministry from 1/3 to ½ and the deployment of more uniformed police officers in places of inhabitance.

Vuchkov also expressed his hope for the establishment of uniform civil service for the Interior Ministry, the State Agency for National Security (DANS), the State Agency Technical Operations (DATO), the intelligence services, which would defuse the constant tension between these servants.

The Bulgarian civil society organisation Protest Network, which was behind the protests against the government of Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski, has demanded the resignation of Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov.

The protesters have also requested the initiation of public and expert discussions of the pension reforms.

Demonstrators gathered with the same demands on Friday outside the building of Parliament, protesting against the proposed changes, according to which pension insurance contributions are to be redirected from private pension funds to the State Social Insurance Institute (NOI).

Protest Network critices the practice of taking important government decisions on a random Sunday afternoon meeting, which was when the proposed changes were agreed by the government and trade unions.

In this case the legally established principle of open trilateral discussion between the government, trade unions and employers' organisations was ignored.

The protesters are not content with the changes to the budget of the State Social Insurance, which was approved by the Parliament on Friday, and demand for their cancellation.

Protest Network is opposed to the way the pension reform is carried out and demands for transparency and public dialogue.

The protesters reminded some of the promises of the Cabinet's governance programme: transparency; mechanism for civil participation; preliminary assessment of the impact of legislative and normative acts; prioritising of open governance.

Protest Network warned that ignoring civic interest would lead to escalating pressure on the government and erosion of the minimum public confidence it enjoys.

The protesters will treat refusal to fulfill these requests as a breach of the principles of transparency and civil accountability, which will lead to demands for the resignation of the whole government.

The relationship between the US and North Korea has been strained in the past few weeks following the cancelled release of a controversial movie and a cyber attack on producers Sony Pictures.

The confrontation started with the announced release of the “The Interviewmovie by Sony Pictures, which portrays the attempt of two journalists hired by the CIA to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The political comedy was scheduled to be released on December 25, but this was cancelled following a cyber attack on Sony, in which the company's computer systems were hacked and information on upcoming movies as well as emails and other personal data were revealed.

The US accused North Korea as being responsible for the cyber attack, which was denied by the regime in Pyongyang.

The hackers, who style themselves as the Guardians of Peace have threatened that everyone who attends a public showing of the movie will suffer a “bitter fate”, the Voice of America reports.

US President Barack Obama has criticised the cancellation of the movie's release and condemned the cyber attack.

Obama even threatened to put North Korea back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism due to the country's alleged participation in the attack.

Pyongyang responded , calling on the US to launch a joint investigation of the cyber attack in order to disprove North Korea's involvement in it.

The Policy Department of the National Defence Commission issued a statement on Sunday, in which it said that it was not aware of the residence of any hackers in North Korea.

On the contrary, it stated that it had evidences proving the participation of the Obama administration in the making of the movie.

Pyongyang warned of “grave consequences” in case the US refuses to join the joint investigation.


The US has so far refused, relying on China to block cyber attacks from North Korea.


Japan has also condemned the cyber attack and expressed its support for the US.

Chairman of Sony Michael Lynton explained on Friday the reasons behind the withdrawal of the movie from film theatres, but assured that the company considers its release through alternative methods such as video-on-demand service or on the Internet.

Russian citizens have increasingly started to settle in the peripheries of Sofia, near mountain Vitosha.

In the past two years Russians have been among the most active purchasers in the region, Bulgarian daily Telegraf reports, based on information of brokers and solicitors who participate in the deals.

Following the sanctions imposed on Russia by the European Union and the devaluation of the rouble, their interest has not come to a halt, but even increased.

The reason is that they see the Bulgarian market as salvation for their savings, as they can invest them in something material.

Back in the summer Russian media reported the trend that Russians have started to choose Bulgaria on a more frequent basis when purchasing real property.

Bulgaria is also seen as more attractive for developing business, so Russians buy properties there and relocate together with their families, Tatre.ru reported.

Several years ago Russians would only concentrate on the big coastal cities in Bulgaria – Varna and Burgas, where they would aim to establish companies.

At present they have started to “conquer” the smaller towns as well, among which Balchik and Kranevo.

The Black Sea town of Pomorie is inhabited by 4000 Russians, who live their on a permanent basis.

The first thing that Russians usually associate Bulgaria with is the Black Sea.

However the current trend shows that more Russians consider the option of permanent residence in Bulgaria.

Russia does not expect South Stream's demise to trigger any financial demands from energy concern Gazprom against Bulgaria, the country's Economy Minister Alexander Novak has argued.

In his words, provisions of forfeit are not part of the intergovernmental agreements Russia struck with all countries that joined the abandoned pipeline project.

The decision to drop the project was not "surprising" but well premeditated, since "such issued cannot be solved spontaneously," Novak says in an interview with Russian daily Kommersant.

Novak reiterates it was impossible to carry out a project if "no permits exist" for constructions.

He explains Moscow is in "constant interaction" with ministers of ex-South Stream partners, citing last Friday's phone conversation with Bulgarian Energy Minister Temenuzhka Petkova and her proposal under which Bulgaria would create a gas hub at the Black Sea.

The second round of the first free presidential elections took place in Tunisia on Sunday.

According to exit polls, 88-year-old Beji Caid Essebsi, who had won the first round with 39 % of the vote last month, was also victorious in the run-off with 55.5 % of the vote, the BBC reports.

Supporters of the rival candidate, interim President Moncef Marzouki, claim that the results are too close to declare the outcome with certainty.

Critics of Essesbsi say that this victory marks the return of a discredited establishment, as the winner had served both under the first post-independence President Habib Bourguiba and the deposed Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Essebsi himself assures that he is a technocrat who will bring stability to the country, which has been shaken following the ousting from office of Ben Ali in 2011.

Tunisia was the first country to depose its leader, setting an example for uprisings in neighbouring states, which led to the Arab Spring.

Although official results are still to be announced, several exit polls show that Essebsi has attracted around 55.5 % of the vote.

In view of the elections, Tunisia has increased its levels of security and closed border posts with neighbouring Libya which has been troubled by continuing unrest.

At least three attackers targeted a polling stations near the city of Kairouan on Sunday, with the security forces killing one of them and arresting three.

Following the end of election day, Essebsi appeared on local television, dedicating his victory to the martyrs of Tunisia.

He thanked his opponent and called on Marzouki to work together without excluding anyone.

Supporters expressed their satisfaction with Essebsi's victory by dancing and lighting fireworks in front of the headquarters of his secular party Nidaa Tounes.

Essebsi, who attracted voters with promises for stability and experience, is popular in the wealthy, coastal regions.

Marzouki, who was an exile under the Ben Ali regime, is more popular in the conservative, poorer south.

It was expected that Marzouiki is to attract some support from the moderate Islamist Enhanda party, which has been influential in Tunisian politics since the Arab Spring, but did not nominate a candidate.

The Constitution which was passed earlier this year provides that the president has limited powers.

The president is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, sets the foreign policy in consultation with the prime minister, ratifies treaties and represents the state.

He can appoint or dismiss senior officers only following consultations with the prime minister.

Newly-adopted amendments to the Penal Code are now enforcing harsh measures targeting concealment of social insurance contributions.

Among the heaviest penalties are imprisonment from two to eight years and confiscation of property.

The heaviest penalty will apply in cases of concealment of contributions that amount to more than BGN 12 000.

An imprisonment of five years and a fine of BGN 2000 await those that conceal contributions worth more than BGN 3000.

According to the adopted amendments, penalties will be applied for the evasion of compulsory contributions for the State Social Insurance or health insurance.

Acts that breach the law include the declaration of insurable earnings lower than their real amount, failure to submit declaration, the submission of false declaration, the destroying or concealment of accounting documents and registers.

Experts say changes make concealment of social insurance tantamount to tax evasion under the Penal Code.

Trade unions had long called for the amendments, adding they would bring some BGN 150 to 200 M into health and social insurance.

Contrary to employers' demands, however, the fresh legislation does not include sanctions against workers who consent to being insured at lower earnings than their de-facto salary.

Amendments were passed alongside changes to social insurance law in a marathon session on Friday evening that was extended into the small hours of Saturday.

As many as 120 Iraqi asylum seekers stormed a Turkish border crossing into Bulgaria, prompting authorities to close it for two hours on Sunday evening.

The Kapikule checkpoint, bordering Bulgaria's south-east and leading to the Kapitan Andreevo crossing, was attacked at about 18:30 EET, private national channel bTV quotes officials as saying.

Police say none of the asylum seekers managed to make it into Bulgaria, with Turkish security officers detaining them over violation of public order.

Romanians should say in five years that their country is the one which stunned the world with its transformation and reconstruction, the new President Klaus Iohannis has said.

At his swearing-in ceremony which took place on Sunday, he thanked his fellow countrymen for "showing the whole world Romania's true face," Romania-Insider quoted him as saying.

Iohannis added he wished to transform Romania into a place where people have a different state of mind and social climate. In his words, Romania needs changes in education, health and social security.

Klaus Iohannis, an ethnic German, won the November 17 run-off of the presidential vote in Romania, surprisingly defeating Prime Minister Victor Ponta.

Within 24 hours after securing a victory, he argued that the country's executive should resign, and also that Romania should consider early elections sometime in 2015.

The ambassadors of seven EU member states have urged Bulgarian magistrates to consider calls of judges at the Sofia City Court demanding top-level resignations.

According to Dnevnik.bg, an open letter has been signed by the envoys of Austria (Roland Hauser), Belgium (Anick Van Calster), Denmark (Christian Konigsfeldt), the UK (Jonathan Allen), the Netherlands (Tom Van Oorschot), Finland (Harri Salmi) and France (Xavier Lapeyre de Cabanes).

They are referring to a demand signed by fifteen judges, who insist that Sofia City Court Chair Vladimira Yaneva and her deputies resign, claiming a flawed system for random distribution of judicial cases has cast a shadow of doubt on their credibility.

Earlier in December France's Ambassador to Bulgaria Xavier Lapeyre de Cabanes told private national channel bTV there are "rotten apples" in the judiciary and alleged that "a theft" of a Bulgarian branch of a French company specializing in the production and trade of wine and vodka was being plotted through a decision of a judge at the Sofia City Court, Rumyana Chenalova. The latter could have been assigned the case on purpose, the ambassador alleged. The three protesting judges wrote their statement the week after.

The Supreme Judicial Council (VSS) heard both Chenalova and the Sofia City Court chairperson and her deputies last week.

The system for random distribution of cases topped the agenda of the latter hearing, with the VSS announcing afterwards it would take steps toward creating a new software product to carry out the distribution 

In the seven diplomats' words, "when a group of respectable professionals voice concern and raise such questions, they deserve special attention and a thorough response."

The ambassadors point out that other magistrates also joined the call of their Sofia City Court colleagues, with the Bulgarian Judges Association also backing the move.

"The sheer fact that judges raised these questions benefits the Bulgarian judicial system and society," the letter goes on, drawing a parallel between their actions and the anti-government protests which shook Bulgaria in 2013.

At the same time the issue "is not just a domestic affair," since Bulgaria has taken a commitment to reaching "the highest standards in justice and rule of law.

Last week's judicial reform strategy which was approved by the Bulgarian government on December 17 is described as a "positive development", which however also requires that MPs show responsibility while reading the texts.

The letter opines "an open and democratic society", stressing it needs "independent institutions" such as a judicial system capable of taking appropriate action.

"Bulgarians need a judicial system in which there is trust," the seven ambassadors conclude.


Nikolay Barekov, MEP and head of Bulgaria without Censorship party, is to step down from the leadership structures of the coalition centered around his party.

In a press statement Barekov argues the coalition was set up with "electoral" purposes.

His move follows two days of tensions between him and MPs, which are grouped in an entity they call Bulgarian Democratic Center, over BDC's decision to support two legislative moves of the main ruling party, conservative GERB.

BDC backed on Friday both a much-disputed pension reform and amendments to the Interior Ministry Act and subsequently was harshly criticized by Barekov for its decision.

As a result of his words, BDC responded by appointing Lyuben Dilov, a well-known figure in Bulgaria's society, as its "Spokesperson", saying he would be the only one to speak on its behalf.

According to the website Dnevnik.bg, Barekov wrote a new press statement later on Sunday to demand that BDC throw publicly its support behind the two bills.

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

Presently, only 6 out of the 14 MPs of BDC belong to his party, even though Rosen Petrov, a former BwC official who left the party last week, pledged "loyalty" to the group.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Friday the Bulgarian government confirmed that it had been asked by the Russian side to issue the construction permits necessary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The convoy's entry into Ukraine comes against the background of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's decision to set up a special governmental committee dealing with humanitarian aid for territories affected from the conflict in Eastern Ukraine. The new structure will be based in the Rostov region, which borders Ukraine, and will be headed by a Deputy Economy Minister.

Kiev accuses Moscow of fomenting unrest in the Donbass, while the Kremlin has repeatedly warned the Ukrainian government against infringing the rights of its Russian-speaking population.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Presently, only 6 out of the 14 MPs of BDC belong to his party, even though Rosen Petrov, a former BwC official who left the party last week, pledged "loyalty" to the group.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bulgaria Air will put its FB code on flights in the airberlin network of domestic routes from Berlin to Duesseldorf, Cologne, Frankfurt and Stuttgart.

Starting in the middle of next month, airberlin’s direct flights from Berlin to Copenhagen, Stockholm, Goteborg and Helsinki will also fly with the Bulgarian national carrier’s code.

All flights in the airberlin route network to and from Bulgaria will be operated by Bulgaria Air under the codeshare deal. Passengers that have already booked an airberlin flight on the Berlin – Sofia route will be rebooked on the new codeshare flights.

Thanks to the agreement, passengers from Sofia can also book onto long-haul connection flights in the airberlin route network such as flights to Chicago, New York and Abu Dhabi.

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

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

The Afghan refugees have sought asylum in Serbia and were accommodated in a refugee centre, Tanjug said.  

 

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

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

“[The pension reform] cannot be delayed but it also cannot be made in a piecemeal mode and at the last moment,” the President said, referring to complaints from politicians, employers and financial analysts that the change to Bulgaria’s pension insurance model was rushed through parliament without proper consultations and could threaten the stability of the minority coalition government and the country’s private pension funds and capital market.

“The government itself has set a 31 March 2015 deadline to make a comperehensive pension reform,” Plevneliev said. “If this fails to happen, then I’ll change my position.”

The Reformist Bloc, the junior partner in the minority coalition government led by GERB party, rejected the change but stopped short of saying it would leave the coalition.

The nationalist Patriotic Front and the leftist ABV party, which have separate agreements with GERB to support the government on certain issues in parliament, have also rejected the amendment.

The Reformist Bloc late on Friday urged Plevneliev to veto the controversial legislation that opens the door for the transfer of mandatory contributions to private pension funds paid by employers and workers to the state pension fund which has been in the red for years.

The move is seen by its opponents as an attempt by GERB to plug a hole in deficit-ridden state pension fund at the expense of private pension finds. GERB has denied this was the motive behind the change, saying it would give workers and employers an option to choose between the state pension fund and private pension funds.

Prime Minister and GERB leader GERB Boyko Borisov said on Friday the contentious change to pension insurance legislation could be withdrawn if coalition partners convinced him that it was ill-considered.

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

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

The tree pieces of jewellery were handed over to Bulgaria’s ambassador to Cyprus by the Director of the Antiquities Department at a ceremony held at the Cyprus Museum on 18 December.

 

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

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

Budget revenue is projected at 36.8% of GDP and expenditure is set at 39.8% of GDP.

The minimum wage, to which some social benefits and pension insurance payments are tied, will rise in two steps of BGN 20 each to BGN 360 and then BGN 380 from 1 1anuary and 1 July next year, respectively.  

Earlier in the same session, the lawmakers approved a contentious change to the pension insurance model that has been in force since 2001.

Despite opposition from junior coalition partner the Reformist Bloc, the main party in the coalition, centre-right GERB joined forces with opposition liberal Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) and several MPs from the Bulgarian Democratic Center (BDC) to push through the change that make private pension contributions optional.

 

 

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

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

“However, based on our expectation of weaker economic growth relative to the government's forecasts, we expect an average reduction of 0.3pp annually,” Fitch said in a statement late on Friday.

Another factor behind the affirmation and the stable rating outlook is that Bulgaria’s public finances compare favourably with rating peers despite the negative impact they suffered in the second half of 2014.

Looking at Bulgaria’s banking sector, Fitch said it has stabilized following “substantial bank runs in June 2014”.

According to the rating agency, the start of releasing depositors’ assets in Corporate Commercial Bank, or KTB, in December 2014 and the extension of liquidity support to First Investment Bank until May 2016 “will support banking sector stability at least in the near term.”

Fitch said that geopolitical risks from Russia and Ukraine and a still fragile eurozone recovery, have led it to significantly cut Bulgaria's 2015 real GDP growth forecast to 0.7% from July's 2.5%, after growth of 1.5% in 2014.

“Bulgaria's economic growth remains subdued compared with 'BBB' peers,” Fitch said.

”Fitch does not expect Bulgaria to enter a prolonged period of deflation, although it is a material risk and could potentially hurt fiscal dynamics. Instead, we expect lower prices to support consumption activity in 2015, which should provide some inflationary stimulus, albeit at a very low level given the impact of weaker imported prices of global commodities.”

Although political uncertainty has eased somewhat with the formation of a new cabinet in November 2014, the minority status of the government coalition of GERB and the Reformist Bloc means the coalition has to rely on outside support from the Patriotic Front and ABV party,

“Policy mandates between all political parties are quite diversified, which risks creating an uncertain policy environment,” Fitch commented.








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