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Bulgaria to export over 2 million tonnes of wheat in 2014, despite the lower yields compared to 2013, according to Ignat Angelov, Chair of the Union of Agricultural Cooperatives “Danube 2000.”

In a Sunday interview for Radio Focus – Veliko Tarnovo, Angelov argued that the decrease by 10-15% in the yield in the 2013-2014 agricultural year would not have a negative impact on exports.

He informed that the total bread wheat yield in 2013 had amounted to over 4 million tonnes, adding that it was expected to reach a similar level in 2014, at around 4 million tonnes.

He said that Bulgaria’s consumption traditionally stood at 1.8-2 million tonnes, meaning that there would be enough wheat to meet local demands.

He said that the decrease in purchasing price of wheat was supposed to result in lower bread prices

Angelov dismissed forecasts of increases in bread prices due to the upcoming power price hike, stressing that electricity accounted for 5-6% of the total cost of bread, compared to a share of 75-80% of wheat.

He said that purchase prices had decreased on an annual basis, with wheat trading at BGN 260 per tonne, compared to BGN 290 per tonne in 2013, and sunflower selling for BGN 500 per tonne, compared to BGN 550 per tonne in 2013.

Angelov claimed that the downward trend was not a good start for the new agricultural year as the revenues from the production hardly sufficed to cover expenses for the cultivation of the crops.

Bulgaria’s caretaker Economy Minister in charge of Tourism, Branimir Botev, has opposed gloomy forecasts about the sector.

In a Sunday interview for the Bulgarian National Television, he emphasized that the National Statistical Institute had registered increases in both tourism revenues and numbers of visitors for the summer season, despite the complaints of tour operators and hoteliers.

Citing data of the Bulgarian National Bank (BNB), Botev noted that the sector of tourism had fetched over EUR 1.74 B by June.

He said that decreases in numbers of tourists had only been registered for Ukraine and the United Kingdom out of the top ten countries by number of visitors.

Botev, as cited by investor.bg, informed that the number of Ukrainian tourists visiting Bulgaria had dropped by a mere 4.6%, instead of 30-35%, as indicated in some forecasts.

He argued that UK visitors had been more active in the winter season.

Bulgaria’s caretaker Minister in charge of tourism boasted of a diversification in the sector, adding that out of a total of 4.5 million tourists who had visited the country in 2014, over 2.4 million had arrived from EU countries, meaning that the trend had been reversed and Bulgaria had grown less dependent on Russia.

He explained that the number of Russian tourists in Bulgaria had increased by 1.7% in 2014, staying relatively stable, against the backdrop of Moscow’s warnings of a 30% slump in overseas travels as the ruble plunged to historic lows.

Botev predicted a substantial growth in the number of Turkish tourists in Bulgaria after the launch of the Varna-Istanbul-Varna flights, stressing that the Varna Airport could turn into a hub for flights via Istanbul to other European destinations.

He pointed out that the flight connection to Istanbul had increased the number of wealthy tourists from the Middle East, China and other Asian countries and expressed hopes that they would keep visiting Bulgaria.

Botev suggested that the launch of the Maritsa motorway would be very beneficial for the mountain resort of Pamporovo, taking into account the interest of Turkish tourists in Bulgarian ski resorts.

He added that the number of Turkish visitors to Bulgarian mountain resorts had increased by 61% to a rate of over 250 000.

Botev also predicted a significant growth in the number of Chinese tourists visiting Bulgaria, stressing that the authorities were developing special routes for them.

He made clear that some 40 000 Chinese visitors were expected to visit Bulgaria in 2015 and the number could swell to 200-500 000 in a few years’ time.

Botev said that Bulgaria was also seeking to draft routes for Russian tourists interested in pilgrimage and religious tourism.

He noted that cruise ship tourism was also gaining popularity, adding that over 50 000 visitors had entered Bulgaria through the ports in the Black Sea cities of Varna and Burgas.

Pope Francis arrived Sunday in Albania on an 11-hour visit.

This is the Pope's first European trip since he took office in 2013.

Addressing a crowd of thousands of Albanians, who had gathered in Tirana’s Mother Teresa square to attend an open air Mass, he praised the peaceful coexistence among followers of different religions in the country and denounced attempts to exploit religion to justify violence.

"Let no-one consider themselves to be the 'armour' of God while planning and carrying out acts of violence and oppression!" he said, according to reports of the BBC News.

The agenda of the visit of the pontiff also includes meetings with Albanian President Bujar Nishani and with religious leaders.

Yordan Yordanov, former CEO of Bulgaria’s Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant, has underscored the need to adopt a national strategy for the development of the energy sector in the period 2030-2050.

In a Sunday interview for the Bulgarian National Radio, Yordanov stressed that it was not possible to have constant power price hikes against the backdrop of overproduction.

He explained that the Kozloduy NPP had no direct access to the free market, adding that it was selling electricity via intermediaries, including the National Electric Company (NEK) and private companies, which caused prices to increase.

He described the electricity exchange, a platform for power production companies, as an important point in the strategy.

“The market determines electricity prices. The lack of a strategy and an electricity exchange leads to constant unnatural power price spikes by the State Commission for Energy and Water Regulation (DKEVR),” Yordanov stated.

He insisted that it was essential to sign the project for the modernization of units 5 and 6 of the Kozloduy NPP as soon as possible as the construction of replacement capacity, or the planned units 7 and 8 in particular, required a period of 10-15 years.

Meanwhile, the new CEO of the Kozloduy NPP, Dimitar Angelov, announced in an interview earlier the same day that he expected the agreement on the extension of the lives of units 5 and 6 of the N-plant to be signed by the end of the month, adding that the implementation was to be wrapped up by end-2016 in that case.

Angelov said that he found it fitting that US company Westinghouse Electric built unit 7 of the Kozloduy NPP under beneficial terms for Bulgaria.

He told journalists that he could not comment on the reasons behind the removal from office of his predecessor, Ivan Genov, adding that Genov had been expected to remain a member of the Board of Directors of the Kozloduy NPP in order to ensure continuity, but he had rejected the proposal.

A Greek ferryboat with Bulgarian passengers on board has suffered an accident near the island of Corfu.

The ferry was traveling from Italy’s Ancona to Patras in Greece with 692 passengers on board and a crew of 80 people.

All of the passengers have been transported to Corfu safely, according to reports of private TV station bTV, citing a relative of a Bulgarian passenger.

According to preliminary reports of Greek media outlets, the ferry boat crashed into underwater rocks near Peristeres.

Police have detained 78 illegal immigrants in an operation at a hostel in downtown Sofia.

The illegal immigrants, Iraqi and Afghanistan nationals, were detained in a joint operation of the Sofia Directorate of the Ministry of Interior and Border Police, according to reports of the Bulgarian National Television.

Some 10 illegal immigrants were sharing one room.

They had entered Bulgaria illegally from Turkey, seeking to reach Western Europe.

They had paid EUR 2000 each to a man from Istanbul to be taken across the Bulgarian-Turkish border.

After being detained by the Bulgarian authorities, the illegal immigrants were taken to the closed-type migrant accommodation center in Busmantsi.

None of the illegal immigrants has filed an application for humanitarian or refugee status yet, according to reports of mediapool.bg.

If the illegal immigrants apply for humanitarian or refugee status, they will avoid expulsion.

Meanwhile, the people living in the buildings near the Sofia-based hostel launched a petition to shut it down due to the loud noise.

An earthquake measuring 5.3 on the Richter scale hit Western Greece on Sunday.

The epicenter of the earthquake was in the region of the town of Nafpaktos and it occurred at a depth of 20 kilometers, according to reports of the Focus news agency.

Nafpaktos, which has a population of over 18 000, is situated on a bay on the north coast of the Gulf of Corinth.

According to reports of the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre, several earthquakes were registered in Greece last night.

An earthquake measuring 4 on the Richter scale occurred at 4.13 am local time on Sunday 15 kilometers northeast of Patras at a depth of 10 kilometers.

At 4.43 am on Sunday, an earthquake measuring 4.1 on the Richter scale struck the Island of Crete. The earthquake occurred at a depth of 5 kilometers.

A 27-year old Romanian national has died in a traffic accident at the Hainboaz Pass (the Pass of the Republic).

The pass was closed for hours due to the accident, which resulted in a huge traffic jam. Traffic was restored at around 10 am.

The accident occurred at around 4.30 am on Sunday.

A Mercedez bus with Romanian registration plate travelling from Stara Zagora to Veliko Tarnovo overturned on the road.

The bus was driven by a 44-year-old Romanian national.

A 27-year-old woman, a Romanian national, died in the traffic accident and five others were injured, according to the police department in Veliko Tarnovo.

The driver of the bus tested negative for alcohol.

The bus was traveling from Turkey to Romania with 50 passengers on board. The tourists were returning from Turkish resort of Kusadasi.

The driver is believed to have lost control of the bus at the turn due to the wet and slippery road surface.

Romania has sent a helicopter to transport two seriously injured passengers once their condition stabilizes, according to reports of Nova TV.

The two are undergoing surgery at the hospital in Veliko Tarnovo and if their condition becomes stable, they will be taken to the airport in Gorna Oryahovitza to be flown home.

Yordanka Chobanova, Bulgaria’s caretaker Deputy Regional Development Minister, will pay a working visit to Edirne in connection with cross-border cooperation with Turkey in the 2014-2020 programming period.

Bulgaria and Turkey will hold an event titled “Together in the new programming period 2014-2020” on September 21, celebrated as European Cooperation Day, according to the press office of the Regional Development Ministry, as cited by dnevnik.bg.

Cooperation between Bulgaria and Turkey in the new programming period will focus on environmental protection, development of tourism, support of entrepreneurship, etc.

Some 60 representatives of Bulgaria and Turkey are to take part in the celebrations marking European Cooperation Day.

In 2003, a program for bilateral partnership between Bulgarian and Turkish border regions was launched, while in the period 2007-2013, a total of 118 projects worth over EUR 29 M were financed.

During the 2014-2020 programming period, Bulgaria will take part in the administration and management of 12 European territorial cooperation programs.

Bulgaria and Azerbaijan have signed two gas cooperation agreements, according to a media statement of the Ministry of Economy and Energy.

Under a memorandum between Bulgarian gas transmission operator Bulgartransgaz and the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR), the two companies will conduct joint exploration activities for the expansion of the Bulgarian underground gas storage near Chiren.

The other document is a Letter of Intent which envisages talks between SOCAR and state-owned gas supplier Bulgargaz on gas deliveries to Bulgaria via the Greece-Bulgaria gas grid interconnection as of 2017.

The two documents were signed during the visit of Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev to Baku, where he attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the southern Gas Corridor.

Ukrainian authorities and pro-Russia rebels on Saturday agreed on a complete ceasefire and buffer zone a bid to bolster the preliminary truce signed on September 5.

According to the agreement signed in Belarus' capital Minsk after negotiations between representatives of Ukraine, Russia, pro-Moscow separatists and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a 30-kilometre wide buffer zone will be set between Ukrainain government forces and the rebels in eastern Ukraine.

To do that, both sides have agreed to move their heavy weapon15 kilometres back from either side of the front lines of the conflict.

The agreement also includes a ban on the use of heavy weapons in residential areas; a ban on flights by military aircraft over the buffer zone except by the OSCE, which has been monitoring implementation of the ceasefire; and the withdrawal of all foreign fighters and military equipment from Ukrainian territory, to be monitored by the OSCE.

Kiev says Moscow has helped the separatist rebels in the mostly Russian-speaking Donetsk and Luhansk provinces in eastern Ukraine with weapons and more than 1,000 Russian troops.

Moscow denies it has any role in eastern Ukraine, saying that Russians who joined the rebels did so as private citizens.

Property prices in Sofia and Varna last month were higher than they were a year earlier but still well below the pre-crisis peaks of 2008, a real estate consultant has said.

According to the latest price index update compiled by Bulgarian Properties firm, August prices in Sofia were 0.92% higher than a year earlier, while those in Varna were up 13.3%.

Sofia and Varna led the way in market recovery last month as compared to August 2013 with rising prices and the biggest numbers of deals, Bulgarian Properties said.  

It added property sales in August hit record high numbers in Sofia, Varna and the Black Sea resort of Slanchev Bryag, supporting the company’s optimistic expectations for the second half of the year. 

Yet, Sofia property prices were 41.7% lower last month than they had been before the crisis. Varna property prices were 35% lower compared to the pre-crisis levels.

Unlike the cities of Sofia and Varna, Slanchev Bryag and the ski resort of Bansko couldn’t show a year-on-year rise in property prices last month.

In August, property prices in Bansko were 5.6% lower than they had been a year earlier, while prices in Slanchev Bryag were 4.6% below the level of August 2013.

Compared with pre-crisis peak levels, August property prices in Bansko were 61.7% lower, while prices of Slanchev Bryag properties were 37% lower.

Bulgarian border police have forced Syrian asylum seekers back to Turkey and has beaten some of them over the past month, a new report released by Human Rights Watch claims.

According to the report, which Human Rights Watch said was based on accounts by victims, the organization has “documented three separate incidents of summary returns from Bulgaria to Turkey involving at least 43 people, all Syrians.”

The  nongovernmental human rights organization said in a news release that those incidents were consistent with the pushbacks to Turkey and abuse of asylum seekers and migrants by Bulgarian authorities  that the organization had documented in a April 2014 report.

"Beating people who may be seeking asylum and then forcing them back across the border is plain wrong, and illegal,”  commented Lydia Gall, Balkans and Eastern Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch.“The EU should press Sofia to keep its borders open to Syrians and other asylum seekers and to put an end to these abusive practices.”

The Bulgarian government has denied the documented reports of pushbacks and other abuses, Human Rights Watch said.

In April the European Commission wrote to Bulgaria about allegations that it broke EU rules by summarily returning Syrians to Turkey. Bulgaria has denied any wrongdoing.

 

Finding alternative gas suppliers and routes has become a matter of national security and key priority for Europe, Bulgaria’s President Rosen Plevneliev has said in Azerbaijan.

Speaking during a groundbreaking ceremony for the Southern Gas Corridor on Saturday, Plevneliev said the launch of the Southern Gas Corridor to Europe will help Bulgaria and Europe as a whole to diversify their gas supplies.

A gas price dispute between Moscow and Kiev in 2009 prompted a cut in Russian gas supplies to Europe via Ukraine.

Referring to the gas crisis of 2009, Plevneliev said it reminded Europe of its biggest vulnerability – its energy dependence. Bulgaria was one of the worst hit countries during the crisis, he added.

On Friday, Plevneliev started a two-day working visit to Azerbaijan where he held a one-to-one meeting with his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev. The two heads of state stressed the importance of laying the foundation for the Southern Gas Corridor in Azerbaijan in terms of international cooperation.

Plevneliev and Aliev signed a joint statement in which they highlighted the importance of last year's contract, under which Azerbaijan will supply Bulgaria with up to 1 billion cubic metres of natural gas a year  from Shah Deniz field for a period of 25 years, starting in 2020.

“Bulgaria has confirmed its readiness and intention to gradually increase the volumes of natural gas imports from Azerbaijan,” the statement said.

In their meeting Ilham Aliyev and Rosen Plevneliev expressed their satisfaction with the successful development of bilateral relations in political, economic and other areas, Baku-based Trend news agency reported. The two presidents said there are good prospects for the further expansion of bilateral economic cooperation between the two countries.

France’s first air strikes against targets of Islamic State militants have destroyed a logistics depot of the jihadist fighters in northern Iraq.

French President Francois Hollande said in a statement late on Friday Rafale fighter jets “hit and completely destroyed” the logistics depot and other operations will follow in the coming days.

A Iraqi military spokesman said four airstrikes hit the town of Zumar, killing dozens of extremist fighters.

US President Barack Obama has been seeking to rally broad international backing to counter the extremist group. The US-led effort has received wide-ranging pledges of support, but France is the first to join the United States in conducting airstrikes to help Iraqi and Kurdish security forces fight the Islamist group.

At a news conference on Thursday, Hollande said France would respond to the request of the Iraqi authorities to offer “aerial support” to the Iraqi army in their fight against the militant group which holds nearly half of the country.

The French President made it clear that unlike the United States, which has vowed to attack Islamic State targets even in Syria where the jihadists have taken over about a quarter of the country’s territory, French involvement would be limited to Iraq.

"We will not go further than that. There will be no ground troops and we will only intervene in Iraq," he said.

In addition to conducting air strikes agains IS targets France is already carrying out reconnaissance flights over Iraq and providing weapons to Kurdish fighters.

 








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