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Bank Insolvency Act amendments aimed at allowing easier access of creditors to information related to the insolvency proceedings passed second reading in Parliament on Wednesday.

Under the newly adopted provisions, the list of creditors who have submitted claims against a bank undergoing insolvency proceedings will be published in the Business Register.

The amendments to the Bank Insolvency Act were backed by 91 MPs, with no votes against and two abstentions.

All other documents prepared by the liquidators, which are related to the rights of the creditors, such as the lists of approved claims, of challenged claims, of objections, etc, will also be accessible via the Business Register, according to investor.bg.

The main reason behind the changes is to ensure that creditors of a bank undergoing insolvency proceedings are informed faster about the circumstances related to the exercise of their rights.

The legal amendments also alleviate the procedure for the submission and review of creditors’ objections to decisions of the liquidators.

Under amendments to the transitional and final provisions of the Bank Insolvency Act, which change the Independent Financial Audit Act, audit firms face a penalty amounting to up to 10% of their revenue for the preceding financial year if they commit violations in the checks of annual financial statements of enterprises of public interest, including banks.

The amendments also envisage an open vote by the Commission for Public Oversight of Statutory Auditors on decisions related to disqualification.

The vote and motives of each of the participants in this procedure are to be included in a protocol from the respective meeting of the Commission for Public Oversight of Statutory Auditors and the protocol is to be published on the website of the authority.

The control systems for auditors from the Commission also change.

In the case of an audit of an enterprise of public interest, the new rules require rotation of audit firms, not just rotation of auditors within a company.

Representatives of employers’ associations and trade unions staged protests over a forthcoming power price hike in a number of cities across Bulgaria.

The rally in Sofia, which started at the Council of Ministers building an ended in front of the National Assembly, was attended by several hundred people, according to reports of Capital daily.

Other cities where owners of businesses opposed the power price hike from August 1 included Burgas, Ruse, Dobrich, Shumen, Popovo, Razgrad, Plovdiv, and Stara Zagora, according to the Bulgarian National Radio.

The protest in Sofia was organized by the Bulgarian Industrial Capital Association (BICA), the Confederation of Employers and Industrialists in Bulgaria (CEIBG), the Bulgarian Industrial Association (BIA), and the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) and was endorsed by the two trade unions, the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB) and the Podkrepa Labor Confederation, and the Bulgarian Federation of Industrial Energy Consumers (BFIEC).

Employers’ associations insist that electricity prices should not increase until trade in electricity is governed by market principles and the Bulgarian Energy Exchange is operational.

Representatives of these associations say that power rates should not increase by the end of 2015, with energy sector reform to be implemented by that time.

Employers fear that a forthcoming increase in the “obligation to society” component of power rates will result in a 20% power price hike, causing output to become costlier, making the products uncompetitive on international markets, necessitating salary cuts and job cuts, and triggering unavoidable bankruptcies, according to investor.bg.

Representatives of the BIA, the CEIBG, the BCCI, and the BICA suggest that the government should examine their proposals for bridging the energy sector deficit instead of blocking the work of the industry through high electricity prices before the liberalization of the electricity market.

Protesters in Sofia demanded the resignation of the Chair of the Commission for Energy and Water Regulation (KEVR), Ivan Ivanov, who said on Tuesday that there was no legal option to further postpone the entry into force of the new power rates beyond August 2015.

Opponents of the forthcoming power price hike also called for an end to thefts in the energy sector and for a closure of illegal renewable energy plants.

Youth unemployment in Bulgaria dropped by 4.1 percentage points on the year in 2014, according to the 2014 annual report on youth approved by the government.

Unemployment in the age group 15-29 stood at 17.7%, down by 4.1% from 2013.

The report provides information about the social and economic condition of young people in Bulgaria, as well as the measures taken by the central and local authorities to improve the situation, according to the government’s press office.

The number of social services provided in the community increased to 841, up by 60 on the year, providing access to 18 933 jobs.

Regarding questions related to the healthy lifestyle and sports, over 25% of the youths polled say that they practice sport.
60% of those polled say that there are a sufficient number of sports facilities near their homes.

Negative trends are observed in the sphere of young people’s civic engagement and interest in politics.

Around 2% of those polled are part of a youth organization or a humanitarian organization or a trade union.

A similar share of young people are part of a political formation and slightly over 1% take part in some other sort of non-political organization.

Only 28% of young people are positive that they will vote at the upcoming elections.

There is a substantial lack of trust in bodies of the central and municipal administration among young people in Bulgaria, according to the report.

Turkey has officially allowed the US-led coalition to use the country’s Incirlik Air Base for airstrikes against targets of Islamic State (IS) group in Syria, state-run Anadolu news agency (AA) reported on Wednesday.

Ankara first announced it would opening its air bases for manned and unmanned coalition aircraft on 24 July following years of reluctance.

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic told reporters on Wednesday that the the government decision to allow the use of Turkey’s air bases for strikes on IS targets “has matured”, meaning the Incirlik base “could be used any time, whenever needed”, according to AA.

The formal agreement only refers to the fight against IS and doesn't include air support to pro-Kurdish People’s Defense Units (YPG)  in northern Syria, Bilgic said. 

Asked about remarks by U.S. State Department Spokesman John Kirby that the opening of air bases would make U.S. support for the YPG faster and more effective, Bilgic said that Turkey’s agreement with the U.S. concerned the fight against Islamic State.

 

 

 

 

A Bulgarian Air Force Pilatus PC-12 transport aircraft has landed on its belly at Graf Ignatievo airfield after its landing gear failed, the Defence Ministry said on Wednesday.

The crew has suffered no injuries, the ministry said in a statement.

Flights at Graf Ignatievo have been temporarily suspended following the incident which occurred when the turboprop single-engine aircraft was preparing to touch down at the airfield near Plovdiv, in southern Bulgaria.

The reasons for the incident were not immediately known.

 

Bulgaria’s government has approved a draft version of the new operational program Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) Initiative 2014-2020.

The operational program has a budget of EUR 102 M, which is to be used to provide more favorable terms for SMEs seeking debt financing, according to the press office of the Council of Ministers.

The resources granted under the operational program are provided entirely by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and it does not include national co-financing.

The improved conditions are related to higher rate of coverage of credit risk and the possibility for a larger reduction of collateral and interest rates on SME loans.

The operational program seeks to eliminate some of the most common problems encountered by SMEs, including insufficient capacity to gain competitive advantage, inability to raise sufficient capital, limited access to innovative financial instruments and high requirements regarding collateral and cost of debt financing.

The decision of the government paves the way for the launch of talks with the European Commission on the new operational program SMEs Initiative 2014-2020.

The resources of the new operational program targeting SMEs are provided as a result of amendments to operational program Innovations and Competitiveness 2014-2020.

The changes will also prevent a loss of funding under operational program Regions in Growth, according to investor.bg.

The changes to operational program Innovations and Competitiveness 2014-2020 need to be approved by the European Commission.

The district governor of Bulgaria's Haskovo Dobri Belivanov has requested aid from the Defence Ministry in extinguishing the wildfire raging between the villages of Bryagovo and Ostar kamak.

A military unit has been dispatched to the area and is already lending support to the crews of firefighters.

The wildfire has been raging since Tuesday evening, engulfing dry grass, bushes and a deciduous forest.

There is no danger for the inhabitants of the nearby settlements.

Although the fire is mostly contained, extinguishing it is complicated by the difficult accessibility of the area.

According to suggestions on the most likely cause of the fire, the case concerns a deliberate ignition.

 

Bulgaria’s government has launched a new procedure for the award of a concession for the airport near the northern town of Gorna Oryahovitsa.

The decision on starting the new concession award procedure was adopted by the government on Wednesday.

The launch of the procedure is part of Bulgaria’s Transport Infrastructure Development Strategy by 2020, according to the press office of the government.

This is the fifth attempt to find a concessionaire for the airport.

On December 19, the government terminated a concession award procedure due to the lack of candidates, according to reports of investor.bg.

In June 2015, Transport Minister Ivaylo Moskovski announced that a US company had expressed its interest in the airport, seeking to build an aircraft recycling facility there, thereby creating 500-600 jobs.

The U.S. Embassy in Sofia announced on Wednesady that Roderick Moore will assume duties as the interim charge d'affaires on August 5.

Moore, who was deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy to Bulgaria in 2000-2003, will serve in the new position until the latter part of this year, the embassy said in a statement.

"An announcement on the nomination of a successor to former Ambassador Marcie Ries will be forthcoming from the White House," according to the statement.

Moore's prior diplomatic assignments include U.S. Ambassador to Montenegro, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy to Serbia, and Principal Deputy High Representative and Brcko District Supervisor at the Office of the High Representative in Sarajevo, in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Most recently Moore has served as State Department Advisor at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.

 

 

 

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Tuesday that the Turkish airstrikes on PKK targets in northern Iraq constituted a violation of the country's sovereignty.

The Council of Ministers considered the airstrikes as “dangerous escalation and a violation of Iraq's sovereignty”, al-Abadi said in a message on his official Twitter account.

The prime minister called on Turkey to respect good relations and expressed the commitment of the government not to allow any attack on Turkey from Iraqi territory.

These development come as Turkey has been conducting a series of airstrikes against suspected Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) targets in Iraq and Islamic State (IS) in Syria since last week.

On Tuesday, Turkey carried out its latest aerial campaign against PKK, bombing targets located both on its territory and across the border in northern Iraq.

The Bulgarian government approved on Wednesday the participation of one serviceman in the EU Naval Force Mediterranean (EUNAVFOR MED) operation.

This decision actively committed Bulgaria to the EU efforts on addressing the influx of migrants coming to Europe from North Africa, the government's press service informs.

The Bulgarian participation in the operation also confirmed the commitment of the country to the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).

Furthermore, the contribution will be favourable for Bulgaria gaining experience in such operations and raising the level of operational compatibility with its allies.

Following the increased number of incidents of migrants drowning as they attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea, the EU decided to mobilise all efforts to prevent further loss of life at sea.

The EU set out to tackle the root causes of the human emergency in the Mediterranean in cooperation with the countries of origin and transit and fight human smugglers and traffickers.

As a result, the launching of a military CSDP operation to disrupt the business model of smuggling and trafficking networks in the Southern Central Mediterranean, was approved.

The aim of EUNAVFOR MED is to identify, capture and dispose of vessels as well as enabling assets used or suspected of being used by migrant smugglers or traffickers.

Turkey has halted the flow of oil in the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline, which was damaged in a suspected sabotage act inside its territory near the border with Iraq, Anadolu Agency (AA) reported on Wednesday.

The Turkish news agency quoted the country's Energy Minister Taner Yildiz as saying the pipeline the suspected sabotage has taken 18 kilometres inside the Cizre district of Sirnak province.

The pipeline is carrying oil from Kirkuk region in northern Iraq to Ceyhan, a port on the south-eastern Mediterranean coast of Turkey.

"Just after the explosion we've closed the oil valves to stop extra oil flow. We have taken measures and the attack won't have an effect on oil supply and demand," Yildiz said, according to AA.

There has been no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, the second attack on a major pipeline in Turkey in less than 24 hours.

An explosion in Turkey’s Agri province, suspectedly carried out by militants of the outlawed Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), halted gas transport along a pipeline linking Turkey and Iran late on Monday.

The Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline has a maximum operational capacity of 400,000 barrels per day, but actual flows are around 300,000 barrels per day due to attacks on the pipeline, which frequently disrupt the operation, the state-run news agency said, citing the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq's Reconstruction. 

Yildiz made no reference to any party suspected of the attack on the oil pipeline but said that Turkey's energy system has suffered many attacks recently. He added that terrorists are taking aim at Turkey's strategic position, stability and development, according to AA.

Telekom Austria Group on Wednesday announced its Bulgarian subsidiary Mobiltel has agreed to acquire 100% of Blizoo Bulgaria from Swedish EQT group.

"The acquisition of blizoo is another step to further develop our challenging Bulgarian market. We see a huge growth potential together with Mobiltel in the strongly rising fixed-line segment, which will be ultimately beneficial for our Bulgarian customers," Alejandro Plater, CEO Telekom Austria Group as of 1st of August 2015, is quoted as saying in a press statement of the company.

Harald Rösch, CEO at Blizoo Bulgaria, for his part says that in combination with Mobiltel, his company "will be able to  offer the full four-play service spectrum to our customer base and this also offers great opportunities for further growth."

Mobiltel (which in Bulgaria has been known for years under the brand "Mtel") is the country's largest telecom. For some time has also been offering fixed-line services, and after purchasing Blizoo will be able to develop further in the segment.

Details about the purchase price will not be released for the moment. The closing is expected for Q4 2015.

Covering a total of 1.3 million households (in a country of slightly over 7 million people), Blizoo is Bulgaria's second-largest fixed-line operator, with 8% share in the fixed broadband and 11% share in the TV market. 

Bulgaria's second-highest ranking female tennis player Sesil Karatancheva proceeded to the second round of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) tournament, which is taking place in Sobota/Rokietnica in Poland.

Karatancheva defeated the representative of the hosts Katarzyna Piter with 6:2, 7:5.

The Bulgarian achieved a break in the fifth game of the first set, coming in the lead with 3:2, daily Dnevnik informs.

Karatancheva consolidated her lead, recorded a second break and easily claimed the first set.

The Bulgarian established a 3:0 lead in the second set, but a drop in her performance allowed Piter to equalise the score.

Karatancheva made a decisive break to come in the lead with 6:5 and after winning her service game, she claimed the final victory.

The Bulgarian is seeded first in the tournament as she is the player with the highest WTA ranking.

In the second round, Karatancheva is to face Martina Borecka from the Czech Republic.

Karatancheva ended a series of five consecutive defeats and successive knock outs from the first rounds of four consecutive tournaments.

Thus, The Bulgarian recorded her first victory since the end of May, when she defeated the former WTA No.1 Jelena Jankovic in the first round of Roland Garros.

Russia is currently ready to sign only an agreement to build the first section of Turkish Stream, Russian news websites quote an Energy Ministry source as saying.

This comes after reports that Moscow has sent a draft intergovernmental agreement to Ankara on the construction of a pipeline set to replace the abandoned South Stream project.

Turkish Stream is envisaged to carry gas from Russia along the bed of the Black Sea, like South Stream, but with Turkey hosting the landfall instead of Bulgaria. It was announced in December 2014 by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who then cited the Bulgaria's reluctance to unblock construction permits for its own coastal area.

The cabinet source quoted by Vedomosti says that Turkey and Russia's heads of state have agreed on a phased implementation of Turkish Stream.

This means the gas delivered to Turkey through the first section (around 16 billion cubic meters) will be for domestic use, while the infrastructure that will deliver volumes for EU members will be arranged in a separate text.

Turkish Stream will have a maximum capacity of about 63 bcm, or roughly the same as the planned capacity for South Stream.

Earlier, Russia repeatedly warned Europe should prepare for a shift in gas transportation from Ukraine to Turkey, adding it would only use the latter as a transit country from 2019. However, reports from the last few weeks suggest Moscow might be abandoning the idea.

Bulgaria’s Parliament on Wednesday voted into office the three deputy governors of the central bank BNB proposed by the new BNB head Dimitar Radev, BNT TV channel reported.

Two of the three deputy governors - Dimitar Kostov  and Kalin Hristov - had served under Radev’s predecessor Ivan Iskrov who stepped down last month.

The incumbent Deputy Governor in charge of the Banking Department, Dimitar Kostov, will now head the Banking Supervision Department. He was appointed in a 122-65 vote in the 240-seat parliament.

The Deputy Governor in charge of the Issue Department Kalin Hristov remained in his position after MPs backed his nomination in a 125-58 vote.

The incumbent chief legal counsel of the BNB Nina Stoyanova will head the Banking Department. She was voted into office by 126 MPs while 61 opposed her appointment.

 

Turkish fighter jets conducted new airstrikes on suspected terrorist targets in the southeast of the country and across the border in northern Iraq on Tuesday.

Two F-16 jets bombed at least three suspected separatist terrorist targets in the southeastern Sirnak province, the Turkish General Staff said in a statement.

The official statement did not specify the name of the group, but it is believed that it concerns the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), Hurriyet Daily informs.

According to the information, the airstrikes targeted two anti-aircraft gun positions and a mortar position in Dugun mountain.

The action was taken in a response to an attack on Turkish gendarmerie forces by suspected PKK members in the region.

It was also reported that PKK members kidnapped Turkish police officer in the southeastern province of Diyarbakir.

Meanwhile, Turkish jets also launched fresh airstrikes against PKK targets in northern Iraq.

These incidents are the latest escalation of tension between the Turkish government and PKK.

On Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Erdogan said that the peace process with PKK can not be continued as long as the group targeted the national unity.

The airstrikes against PKK are part of the larger efforts against suspected terrorist organisations, which Turkey launched in response to the suicide attack in the southeastern town of Suruc last week.

The aerial campaign is accompanied by massive police raids against suspected Islamic State (IS) and PKK militants.

Ukraine has moved ban actor Gérard Depardieu from entering the country over the next five years.

Depardieu, who in 2013 was granted Russian citizenship, has thus become part of a list including Serbian director Emir Kusturica, Hollywood director Oliver Stone, and actor Steven Seagal.

All of them are known for their pro-Russian stance in the Moscow-Kiev dispute over the Crimean peninsula, which Russia incorporated following a local referendum on March 16 of last year.

Depardieu in particular has become "persona non grata" in Ukraine due a need to "guarantee state security", Russian business Ukrinform quotes Ukrainian officials as saying.

In August 2014, Depardieu prompted Kiev's outrage by arguing that Ukraine is part of Russia.

An earthquake of magnitude 3 on the Richter scale was registered in southern Bulgaria on Wednesday.

The epicentre of the earthquake was northeast of the town of Kardzhali, south of Haskovo and north of the village of Maslinovo.

There are no reports of any casualties or material damages resulting from the earthquake, Darik radio informs.

Parliament is to vote Wednesday on the appointment of the three Deputy Governors at the country's central bank, the Bulgarian National Bank (BNB).

The BNB's new head Dimitar Radev, who was elected in mid-July and took over from Ivan Iskrov (who stepped down a month earlier), proposed two reshuffles within the current governance of BNB, largely retaining the composition of the team of his predecessor.

One of the proposed reshuffles foresees for the incumbent Deputy Governor in charge of the Banking Department Dimitar Kostov to become Deputy Governor heading the Banking Supervision Department.

The Banking Department will be entrusted to the incumbent chief jurist of BNB Nina Stoyanova.

The Deputy Governor in charge of the Issue Department Kalin Hristov is to retain his position.

The nominations raised some contradictions because the new governor seems to be wanting to preserve the majority of the governance, which was in office during the collapse of Corporate Commercial Bank (KTB).

Kostov's nomination is much disputed among some political forces, with part of MPs reminding that Dimitar Kostov was Finance Minister in the government of Zhan Videnov (1995-1997) which triggered an economic and financial crisis.

The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), the largest opposition force, on the other hand believes Kalin Hristov should not be part of the Deputy Governors' team, claiming it was he who put forward the idea of a "bank holiday" briefly after KTB was placed under special supervision.


The Bulgarian Parliament approved at second reading on Tuesday the amendments to the Social Insurance Code.

A total of 97 MPs voted in favour of the pension reform of Deputy Prime Minister Ivaylo Kalfin, 20 MPs voted against and 10 abstained, daily Dnevnik informs.

After the retirement age was frozen for two years, it will start to gradually increase from 2016, both for men and women, Darik radio reports.

The reform foresees that next year women will retire at the age of 60 years and 10 months with having acquired a working experience of 35 years and 2 months, while men will be able to retire at the of 63 years and 10 months with a working experience of 38 years and 2 months.

From 2016, the retirement age will increase by two months each year until 2029, while the retirement age for men will rise with two months in the first two years, dropping to one month from 2018.

In 2037, both genders will retire at the age of 65 years, with men having acquired working experience of 40 years, while the corresponding figure for women will be 37 years.

In case, people are lacking the required work experience, they will be able to retire at the age of 65 years and 10 months until the end of 2016, while the retirement age will start to increase from 2017 until it reaches 67 years.

People, who have acquired the necessary work experience, will be able to retire a year earlier, but will receive a lower pension for the rest of their lives.

A minimum retirement age of 52 years and 10 months is introduced for policemen and military personnel.

The corresponding age for pilots, divers and paratroopers will be 42 years and 10 months with a work experience of 15 years.

From 2017, the retirement age for these professions starts to increase by two months until it reaches respectively 55 and 45 years.

Ballet dancers and dancers will retire at the age of 42 years and 10 months, with the retirement age increasing from 2017 until it reaches 45 years.

The retirement age for people in first category of labour will increase for both men and women until it reaches 55 years, while for those in second category of labour the retirement age should level out at 60 years.

In 2017 and 2018, the contribution for pension will increase by a total of 2 %, reaching 19.8 percentage points.

The MPs approved the right of people to switch the contributions for second supplementary pension between the National Social Security Institute (NOI) and the private pension funds.

The contributions can be switched back and forth multiple times, but the final choice has to be made at the latest five years before fulfillment of the retirement conditions.

Business unions in Bulgaria say more than 1000 companies are to protest in 28 cities across the country against a planned hike of power prices.

Electricity bills for industrial consumers are set to go up by 13-20% from August 1, after a long dispute between the national energy regulator and businesses.

Trade unions are also demanding that plans to increase electricity bills from next month be abandoned.

This is the second time in just over a month that business unions are staging a protest. On June 26, more than 1000 Bulgarian companies took part in joint actions by halting work or switching to reduced capacity for an hour to voice their disagreement with the hike, which was then postponed for a month.

On Tuesday, however, energy watchdog KEVR's head Ivan Ivanov warned the decision to raise power prices could not be put off further.

In the capital Sofia, protesters are to rally in the downtown area from the Council of Ministers building to the Commission for Energy and Water Regulation (KEVR).

The demonstration will bring together representatives of a number of sectors of the Bulgarian economy - from engineering and the food industry to tourism.

As with the previous protest, the government of PM Boyko Borisov says there should be no price hikes for industrial consumers. Borisov pointed to a package of reforms adopted earlier in June that would help the state-run National Electricity Company (NEK) rein in its fiscal imbalances.

KEVR, on the other hand, maintains the increase is inevitable if NEK is to tackle its BGN 3 B deficit generated over the past few years.

Former Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nadezhda Neynsky has said one of her main goals as incoming Ambassador to Turkey will be to look for bilateral solutions on how to bolster control at the common borders.

Neynsky is to take over Sofia's mission in Ankara "very soon", though no date has yet been specified.

"Good relations between two countries do not suggest that one of them should have more threats to its national security," she emphasized in an interview with the Bulgarian National Television, but did not elaborate.

"Friendship is important, but security is also extremely important... We should not let illegal immigrants in."

"Turkey is not only our neighbor, it is an exceptional country, it is our partner within NATO," Neynsky added.

She made clear Turkey has the ability to deal with the activity of the Islamic State (IS) group close to its border with Syria.

She praised NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg for showing solidarity with Turkey in Tuesday's Article 4 consultations (called by Ankara after it launched air strikes on IS earlier in June) and said his assurances about the integrity and security of the alliance also apply to Bulgaria.

Neynsky also commented on Tuesday's decision of Parliament to reject two of the three questions put forward by President Rosen Plevneliev as part of his proposal for a referendum on voting rules.

"What happened yesterday [Tuesday] is of no benefit to democracy in Bulgaria. I don't think parties are afraid of the referendum," she said, calling the developments "a game played clumsily".

As many as 21 Bulgarian regions have been placed under Code Orange for Wednesday as extremely high temperatures are expected to sweep the country.

This means most of the 28 regions of the country are bracing for temperatures that could hit 40 degrees.

There are a few exceptions including the capital Sofia and the areas around Pernik (southwestern Bulgaria), Smolyan (Southern Bulgaria) and the Black Sea coastline, where a Code Yellow warning has been issued.

A short trip to Bulgaria is the only thing Greeks have to do to circumvent capital controls, German weekly Der Spiegel says.

"Strict controls which actually had to save Greece's banks from collapse, are leading to a mass exodus to the poorest EU member state," it reports in a Tuesday article.

Up to EUR 14 000 are successfully transferred to Bulgaria every week despite capital controls. Something not only "normal citizens" do (with thousands having opened bank accounts there), but also companies which open branch offices or move their headquarters to the country, Der Spiegel argues.

This is partly owned to the fact that one is allowed to have EUR 2000 daily (or EUR 14 000 weekly) transferred from their account for a trip abroad.

A bank employee in Bulgaria is quoted as saying that for Greek citizens it is quite easy to have accounts set up in her bank in either leva (the Bulgarian currency, BGN) or euro - all it takes is an ID document and wait for two hours. "We have many foreign clients. Of course, Greeks too," she told the author of the article.

Greeks are fearing that a return to the drachma might cost much of their wealth.

"In the months when Greece's crisis peaked they have withdrawn around EUR 45 B from their bank accounts. Now they are bringing the money abroad."

For companies, low corporate and personal taxes in Bulgaria turn out attractive, being at 10 percent compared to Greece's 29 percent of corporate tax. The latter rate was introduced to comply with the demands of international lenders. Lower minimum wage and levels of red tape add to Bulgaria's appeal, and Greek entrepreneurs are able to set up a Bulgaria-based subsidiary normally in just a week.

As a result, there were 11 500 entities with Greek participation in Bulgaria, 2500 more than the year before. Krasen Stanchev, an economist with the Institute for Market Economy, is quoted as saying that some EUR 4.5-5 B have been invested by Greek companies into Bulgaria since the crisis began.

"Until a few years ago Greece was still a beacon of hope and a role model for other countries in the Balkans. We were a developed economy, integrated into the West, part of the center of Europe... Now even Albania looks more attractive," an entrepreneur is quoted as saying.

Der Spiegel's article is available here.

Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov stated on Tuesday that Bulgaria expresses solidarity with Turkey.

His comments come after the request of Turkey for a special meeting of the North Atlantic Council to be convened under Article 4 of the Washington Treaty.

At the meeting on Tuesday, NATO expressed solidarity with Turkey and discussed the security problems after the suicide attack in the southeastern Turkish town of Suruc last week, which left 32 people dead and hundreds injured.

Turkey responded by launching a series of airstrikes on targets of Islamic State (IS) and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in Syria and Iraq as well as massive police raids against suspected IS and PKK militants.

Mitov made it clear that Bulgaria was closely following the events in Turkey and the country was standing “shoulder to shoulder” with Ankara, he said in an interview for the Bulgarian National Television (BNT).

He assured that at the special meeting of NATO, Turkey had requested only political support rather than military intervention.

In his words, Turkey was in its right to respond to the attacks and Mitov called on stepping up the efforts against the IS.

Since Bulgaria was the territory linking geographically two areas of conflict – IS and Ukraine, the army had to be prepared to ensure the security of its people.

Mitov said that the preparedness of the army was being ensured through the military drills.

The foreign minister stated that the allies should not be viewed separately and in case Bulgaria was threatened, it would immediately request aid.

He reminded that at the last NATO summit in Wales, Bulgaria had called on the Alliance to demonstrate its will to apply Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which provides that an armed attack against one member countries should be considered as an armed attack against all.

Bulgarian Regional Minister Lilyana Pavlova said on Tuesday that the section of Struma motorway between the town of Sandanski and the border checkpoint Kulata will be most likely launched on Friday evening.

Pavlova noted that the construction of the section of the motorway was still ongoing and works were being carried out round the clock, she said in an interview for private bTV station.

The minister explained that small finishing touches will be left for completion, but these can be carried out without disrupting the traffic.

Pavlova added that the section of Hemus motorway between the town of Shumen and the village of Belokopitovo will also be launched in the forthcoming days.

The minister stated that the construction works will continue until the end of the season so that people can travel without trouble to and back from the seaside.

However she called on the people not to be tempted by the good roads and to drive with reasonable speed.

As regards one of the deadliest roads in the country – the one between Ruse and Veliko Tarnovo and especially the section between Ruse and Byala, the minister will work towards ensuring the funding required for improving its safety.

 

A wildfire has been raging near the village of Sopovo, located in the municipality of Boboshevo in western Bulgaria.

The fire initially originated in pastures, but later spread to beech and oak forests, daily Dnevnik reports.

More than 20 foresters are involved in extinguishing the fire, along with four fire engines, a specialised vehicle for extinguishing forest fires, while a bulldozer is headed for the area.

The most likely cause of the fire is human negligence after a nearby stubble was set on fire, private bTV station informs.

Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev said on Tuesday that the decision of the parliament to include only the question on electronic voting in the forthcoming referendum, did not take into full account the will of the nation to define the rules on the election of its representatives.

Plevneliev reminded that more than half a million Bulgarians had supported in a petition the holding of a referendum on three questions of considerable importance not only for the election process, but also for the democratic development of the country.

The statement, published by the presidential press service, notes that the constitution clearly sets out the roles and responsibilities of everyone in order to ensure the proper functioning of direct democracy.

The final decision rested with the National Assembly and each of the parliamentary represented parties was responsible for its actions.

The Head of State believes that at the forthcoming referendum, Bulgarian citizens will show through their activity that their opinion is important and that they wish to be active participants in the taking of decisions important for the country.

Plevneliev expressed gratitude to all MPs, who supported his proposal for the holding of a referendum on the electoral rules.

The president had proposed for three questions to be featured in the referendum – introduction of majority voting, compulsory voting and electronic voting.

However the MPs rejected on Tuesday two of the questions and voted in favour only for the inclusion of electronic voting.

Thus, this will be the sole question to appear on the referendum, which will be held simultaneously with the local elections on October 25.

The referendum, which has been proposed by Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev, will feature only the question concerning the introduction of remote electronic voting.

This was decided by the Bulgarian Parliament on Tuesday with 131 MPs voting in favour, 41 voting against, while three abstained, daily Dnevnik reports.

The proposal of Plevneliev, who presented the questions to parliament earlier on Tuesday, featured three questions – the introduction of majority voting, compulsory voting and electronic voting.

The referendum will be held together with the local elections, which are scheduled to take place on October 25.

The MPs supporting the inclusion of electronic voting in the referendum came from the two parties participating in the government – GERB and the Reformist Bloc (RB), one of the parties supporting the ruling coalition – ABV and two opposition parties – DPS and the Bulgarian Democratic Centre (BDC).

The MPs voting against came from the largest opposition party - BSP, one of parties supporting the ruling coalition - the Patriotic Front (PF), and one GERB MP.

The MPs opposed the inclusion of the questions on majority voting and compulsory voting in the referendum.

The question on compulsory voting initially garnered the support of 98 MPs (GERB, RB, ABV), 58 were against and 25 abstained.

After a re-voting was demanded, only 80 MPs voted in favour, 59 were against and 25 abstained.

GERB and ABV were the only parties to support the inclusion of the question on majority voting in the referendum.

Bulgaria's Deputy Prime Minister Meglena Kuneva said on Tuesday that the fight against corruption and the judicial reform represented the two sides of the same coin.

Kuneva stated this at a roundtable discussion organised by the Centre for the Study of Democracy, daily Sega reports.

According to her, without an effective and independent judicial system, there could be no efficient fight against corruption.

At the same time, without good anti-corruption policies, no good judicial system could exist, Kuneva added.

The deputy prime minister revealed that this week the parliament has to vote at first reading the law on preventing corruption among high-level officials.

In her words, in order for the state to retain confidence in itself, it has to demonstrate that legislation is applied equally to all.

Kuneva highlighted that the measures against corruption have to be complex and the anti-corruption law has to be supported by measures in the area of public procurement and electronic government.

NATO supported Turkey’s increased role in the fight against Islamic State (IS) on Tuesday.

“The security of the Alliance is indivisible, and we stand in strong solidarity with Turkey,” NATO said in a statement following a 90-minute emergency meeting of ambassadors from the 28 member states of the Alliance convened at Turkey’s request.

Turkey invoked Article 4 of NATO founding treaty which states that “the parties will consult whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence, or security of any of the parties is threatened.” Article 4 doesn’t automatically trigger military action on the part of other members of the Alliance.

“We will continue to follow the developments on the South-Eastern border of NATO very closely,” NATO said.

The Alliance strongly condemned “the terrorist attacks against Turkey” and expressed its condolences “to the Turkish government and the families of the victims in Suruc and other attacks against police and military officers.”

Last week's suicide bombing blamed on IS that killed 32 people in Suruc, a Turkish town near the border with Syria, made Ankara shed its previous reluctance and enter into battle against Islamic State.  

Turkey's more robust approach has seen its combat aircraft strike IS targets in Syria and an agreement reached for US jets to launch strikes from Turkey's Incirlik Air Base.

“Terrorism poses a direct threat to the security of NATO countries and to international stability and prosperity. It is a global threat that knows no border, nationality, or religion – a challenge that the international community must fight and tackle together,” NATO said.

 

More than 2 460 000 Bulgarians or 34 % of the country's population live below the poverty line of BGN 295 per month.

This is revealed by the latest figures of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (KNSB).

At the end of June, the cost of living for a four-member household (two adults and two children) in Bulgaria amounted to around BGN 2248 per month.

Thus, the cost of living for a member of a household stood at BGN 561.90 per month, which are needed to cover expenses on food, dwelling, healthcare, education and holiday.

The trend for the decrease of the cost of living was sustained in the second quarter of the year, the drop being 0.2 % compared to the previous quarter.

According to KNSB chairman Plamen Dimitrov, the number of people employed at the minimum wage increased by 2.4 % compared to the same period in 2014.

KNSB insists for the gradual increase of the minimum wage each year, reaching a level of 50-55 % of the average remuneration.

KNSB notes that the decrease of the cost of living in the second quarter is expected as there is a seasonal drop in the prices of foods and especially fresh vegetables as well as prices of heating, which decreased by 6.2 %.

Turkey can't continue a peace process with the Kurdish rebels who are attacking Turkish targets, the country’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday. 

It is impossible to continue “the peace process with those who target our national unity and brotherhood,” Erdogan told reporters on Tuesday before leaving on an official visit to China, according to hurriyetdailynews.com.

Erdogan's comments come as NATO started an extraordinary meeting at Turkey’s to discuss the country’s military campaigns against the Islamic State (IS) group and Kurdish militants.

Turkish Air Force jets bombed camps of Kurdish militants in northern Iraq over the weekend after several Turkish police officers and soldiers were killed in attacks blamed on the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), which Ankara lists as a terrorist organisation.

A two-year old ceasefire between the Turkish government and PKK has largely held so far. The PKK has not denounced the ceasefire agreement after the airstrikes, although it said they made the peace process meaningless.

The Turkish government was “sincere” on the peace process, but the process was “exploited”, Erdogan said.

He also called on parliament to strip some lawmakers from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) of their immunity from prosecution and make them “pay the price” for alleged links to “terrorist groups.”

Erdogan also said domestic and cross-border operations will continue against those groups and added it was time to enact security legislation recently adopted by parliament. 

“Those who exploit the people and the state’s tolerance and patience will receive the answer they deserve as soon as possible. Any step back is out of the question. This is a process and this process will continue with the same determination,” he said.

Some Kurds say that “by reviving open conflict with the PKK, Erdogan is seeking to undermine support for HDP ahead of a possible early election and stoke up nationalist sentiment,” Reuters said in its coverage of Erdogan’s comments.
The opposition HDP captured about 13% of the vote in last month’s general election, mostly won at the expense of Erdogan’s governing Justice Development Party (AKP), which lost its majority in parliament.

Erdogan also said that the establishing of a safe zone in northern Syria free of IS militants – an idea discussed by Turkey and the United States - would help the return home of 1.7 million Syrian refugees who have fled toTurkey to escape atrocities commited by the jihadist group.

The Greek Embassy in Sofia has sent out a statement to media outlets to point to Greece's contribution to the Bulgarian economy.

It has reminded that Greece has helped open a total of 70 000 jobs in Bulgaria, with investment worth EUR 2.5 B in the past years.

Greece is also described as "the country which strongly backed the legitimate accession of Bulgaria into the European Union" and "the country with 2500 students in Bulgarian universities".

The statement also sets out concrete projects into which Bulgaria's southern neighbor has invested, namely "part of the state-of-the-art Trakia motorway" and the equipment for oncological hospitals in the towns of Kardzhali, Vratsa and Smolyan (for which it provided nearly EUR 2.033 M in funding).

It also mentions the embellishment of the capital Sofia and Plovdiv, Bulgaria's second-largest city, two projects for which Greece granted USD 65 000 and USD 27 000, respectively.

Tuesday's statement comes against the backdrop of a move by the government in Sofia to support European funding for Greece. In mid-July Bulgaria's Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov said the cabinet would not hinder the allocation of a EUR 7 B bridge loan to Athens.

Combined with the words of PM Boyko Borisov who earlier had said Bulgaria should be ready to support a new bailout program for a "neighborly state", that was met with mixed feelings by part of Bulgarians and some analysts who wondered why a poorer state should help a wealthier one get back on its feet. Others argue it is time for Bulgaria to show solidarity.

The statement, however, makes no reference to official (or unofficial) Bulgarian comments or positions with regard to the situation in Greece.

NATO expressed solidarity with its member Turkey on Tuesday over recent terror attacks in the country as Alliance ambassadors gathered for a meeting to discuss the Turkish military campaign against the Islamic State group and Kurdish rebels.

"Terrorism can never be tolerated or justified; we stand in strong solidarity with our ally," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in an opening statement.

"It is right and timely that we hold this meeting today, to address the instability on Turkey's doorstep, and on NATO's border," he said before ambassadors from the 28 member states went into a closed session in Brussels.

The emergency meeting was called at Turkey’s request to discuss threats to the country’s security posed by Islamic State militants following last week’s deadly bombing in the town of Suruc which Ankara blamed on the jihadist group.

The meeting will be held under Article 4 of NATO’s founding treaty, which invokes consultations but does not automatically trigger military action on the part of other members of the Alliance. The article allows the member states to "consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened".

Stoltenberg said on Monday that Turkey has not asked the Alliance for “substantial military support” in its fight against the Islamic State group and Kurdish militants. In its request Turkey has not invoked Article 5 of the treaty which requires allies to consider military action.

The meeting comes after Turkey agreed to grant the US access to air bases in Turkey to crack down on IS fighters in Syria.

Ivan Ivanov, Chair of the Commission for Energy and Water Regulation (KEVR), has said that there is no option to further postpone the entry into force of new electricity prices.

Speaking after a Tuesday meeting of KEVR, he commented that the demands of trade unions and employers’ associations for a new postponement could not be met as the law did not allow for that step.

Ivanov underscored that the new electricity prices would take effect from August 1.

Citing Energy Act amendments promulgated in the State Gazette, he noted that the electricity pricing period ending June 30 could only be extended by a month, which had already been done.

Ivanov, as cited by the Bulgarian Telegraph Agency (BTA), told journalists that KEVR would announce the decision it had taken at a closed meeting on July 31.

He vowed that KEVR would also shed light on the projected impact of the price changes.

Regarding the plans of trade unions and employers’ associations to organize a nationwide protest against the new electricity prices on July 29, Ivanov said that everyone in Bulgaria had the constitutional right to protest.

The organizers of the protest scheduled for July 29 seek a new postponement of the new electricity tariffs by January 1, 2016.

Trade unions and employers’ associations warn that Bulgarian industrial enterprises face the threat of a devastating 15-20% power price spike as of August 1.

“We would not like to halt production or lose our competitiveness, which has been achieved as a result of huge investments and hard work. This is why we are ready to stage protests and defend our interests,” said the Bulgarian Industrial Association (BIA), the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), the Bulgarian Industrial Capital Association (BICA), and the Confederation of Employers and Industrialists in Bulgaria (CEIBG).

At the same time, employers in the energy sector firmly opposed the request for a new postponement of the new electricity pricing period.

They claimed that a new postponement of the onset of the August 2015 – July 2016 pricing period would lead to the energy system deficit spiraling out of control, to an increase in intercompany indebtedness, and to a delay of the liberalization of the electricity market and its integration into the common EU energy market, and to economic destabilization.

The protest scheduled to take place on July 29 is organized by the BICA, the BIA, the BCCI, the CEIBG, together with the Bulgarian Federation of the Industrial Energy Consumers (BFIEC) and trade unions.

Bulgaria’s gross foreign debt decreased by 1.59 B, or 4% at the end of May compared to the end of 2014, reaching EUR 38.18 B, or 88.9% of the projected 2015 Gross Domestic Product, official data showed on Tuesday.

On a year-on-year basis gross foreign debt increased by EUR 975 M, or 2.6% compared with May 2014, according to preliminary data released by the Bulgarian National Bank (BNB).

Long-term liabilities totalled EUR 30.54 B, or 80% of the total foreign debt at the end of May, increasing by EUR 840 M, or 2.8% from the end of last year. Compared with May 2014, Bulgaria’s long-term foreign debt increased by EUR 2.55 B, or 9.1%.

Short-term liabilities were EUR 7.64 B, declining by EUR 2.43 B, or 24.1% from end-2014. On a year-on-year basis, short-term external debt decreased by EUR 1.57 B.

The general government’s gross foreign debt totalled EUR 6.32 B, or 14.7% of GDP at the end of May, increasing by EUR 291 M, or 4.8% from end-2014 and growing by EUR 2.92 B, or 86% compared with May 2014.

Bulgaria’s net external debt totalled EUR 11.89 B at the end of May, down by EUR 2.28 B, or 16.1% compared to end-2014 due to both the decline in gross external debt and an increase in gross external assets by EUR 690 M.

The net external debt was equivalent to 27.7% of the estimated 2015 GDP, decreasing by 6.1 percentage points from the end of last year. Compared with May 2104, the net external debt declined by EUR 2.82 B, or 19.2%.

The net debt is equal to gross external debt less gross external assets in debt instruments. Gross external assets include the BNB reserve assets, banks’ assets abroad and non-financial sector deposits abroad.

Nearly all of Bulgaria's problems have their origin in the judicial system and electoral law, President Rosen Plevneliev has said.

This is the first time he has compared changes to voting rules and the judicial reform, two issues which he supports avidly.

In an address to Parliament which he used to present his proposal for questions in an upcoming referendum on election rules, the head of state has called on lawmakers to approve the list of three questions which will be offered to citizens to have their say this autumn.

Plevneliev made his point during an extraordinary meeting of MPs just days before their summer recess.

The three issues he wants Bulgarians to be asked about are the introduction of a majority system, compulsory voting, and remote electronic voting.

“Weak economic growth, corruption... all are results of an ineffective judicial system and unsustainable electoral process,” he argued from the rostrum, adding both reforms required “the will and support of the people” in order to be realized.

This is the second time Plevneliev is seeking to organize the referendum after the same set of questions was rejected by Parliament last year. The poll was then proposed by an Initiative Committee thought to be affiliated to the President and it had to collect 0.5 million signatures in a petition to force Parliament into calling a referendum. A vast part of the signatures collected, however, were declared void.

If made by a head of state, such a request has to be considered by Parliament under Bulgaria's constitution.

MPs are due to decide later on Tuesday whether or not to support the questions. Their approval would pave the way for the President to set a final date for the referendum.

He warned the current voting rules failed to provide stability and led to “ceaseless accusations of manipulation and vote buying instead” and helped keep many Bulgarians “away from the country's political process.”

Defending compulsory voting, he explained that the more Bulgarians take part in elections, the more legitimate their vote will be and the more confidence institutions will instill.
 
On the option of remote voting, he opined that it is up to the state to give every Bulgarian citizen an opportunity to cast a ballot, even beyond the country's borders, and even in local elections and referendums (under the law, Bulgarians can vote in Bulgarian elections in polling stations set up by embassies abroad, but only to pick a Parliament and a head of state).

A vote on the referendum questions is one of the four items on the agenda as the deadline is looming to finally approve the questions and for President Plevneliev to set October 25 as a date for the national poll.

He maintains the referendum should be held on that date in order to coincide with local elections, a step which is expected to make it easier and cheaper to organize both votes.

Bulgaria’s business confidence index fell by 1.8 percentage points in July compared to the prior month due to worsened expectations of managers in industry, retail trade and services sectors, official data showed on Tuesday.

The business confidence index in the industrial sector dropped by 2.9 points in July compared with June as managers said they expect the business climate to be more unfavourable during the next six months.

Expectations about exports and the capacity utilization rate also were more pessimistic mainly due to the uncertain economic environment and insufficient domestic demand, according to the surveyed entrepreneurs, the National Statistical Institute (NSI) said in a monthly survey of Bulgaria’s business climate.

The business climate in the retail trade sector deteriorated by 0.6 points in July compared to the previous month due to more moderate expectations about the business prospects of the companies in the sector. The managers’ expectations about the sales and orders to suppliers during the next three months, however, remain optimistic, albeit more reserved compared to June.

The index in the services sector posted a drop  of 3.6 percentage points as managers’s expectations about the state of their business during the next six months shifted to ‘unchanged’ from ‘improving’

The business confidence index in the construction sector was the only component of the aggregate indicator to increase in July, rising by 0.6 percentage points as activity in the sector picked up compared to June. The sector’s order book is full for the next 5.2 months. The uncertain economic environment, increased competition in the sector and insufficient demand remain the factors that constrain activity, according to the NSI survey.

Saif al-Islam, a son of Libya's slain leader Col Muammar Gaddafi, has been sentenced to death over war crimes a Libyan court believes he committed during the 2011 uprising.

Eight other senior members of Gaddafi's regime have also been sentenced including former intelligence chief Abdullah Senussi.

Saif al-Islam's death sentence will be performed by a firing squad.

After Gaddafi was toppled in 2011, Saif al-Islam fled to Niger, but was extradited from there last year.

An explosion late on Monday suspended gas transport along a pipeline between Turkey and Iran, Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yıldız has said.

The pipes were caught in flames due to the blast which was extinguished quickly, state-run Anadolu Agency quotes him as saying.

In Yıldız's words, transportation is set to continue as soon as repair works are finished.

No-one has yet claimed responsibility for the incident.

The development which took place in the Ağrı province, whose population is predominantly Kurdish, comes at a time of renewed tensions between the government and the Kurdish population. Ankara embarked on air raids against Iraq-based targets of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), an outlawed group with which a ceasefire had been in place since the spring of 2013.

A string of recent attacks, carried out alongside a suicide bombing in the town of Suruc (supposedly by the Islamic State group), have been blamed on the PKK and other Kurdish groups.

On Monday, the Turkish state intelligence agency MIT warned there might be terror attacks in major cities in retaliation to the operations against IS and PKK.

The Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office has resubmitted an indictment against Hristo Biserov, former Deputy Parliament Speaker and former MP from liberal party Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS).

The Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office submitted the indictment against Biserov on April 9 but on May 5 it was returned for revision.

Biserov faces three charges - large-scale tax evasion, Currency Act violation related to the failure to declare foreign currency transactions, and submission of a false declaration with the National Audit Office in 2012.

Biserov, who had been until then a key member of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) party and a Deputy Parliament Speaker in the 42nd National Assembly, left Parliament and DPS on November 13, 2013.

Biserov and his stepson Ivaylo Glavinkov came under fire late in 2013 for alleged money laundering and tax evasion, with the former purportedly transferring vast amounts of money to a Swiss bank account and to one in a Macedonian financial entity.

A statue depicting Nobel Prize winner Elias Canetti was unveiled over the weekend in the town of Ruse, northeastern Bulgaria.

German-language author Elias Canetti, born in Bulgaria on July 25, 1904, is a novelist, playwright, and non-fiction writer whose family moved to the UK (and later elsewhere) when he was aged seven.

He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1981, becoming the only laureate born in Bulgaria.

Canetti died in Zürich in 1994.

In 2005, the town of Ruse also started handing out biennially the Elias Canetti award to novelists and playwrights to mark the centenary since his birth.

The statue itself was carved by Georgi Chapkanov, a renowned Bulgarian sculptor, who also attended the unveiling ceremony.

Bulgarian archaeologists have unearthed a peculiar close combat bladed weapon used by the Thracians, Prof Nikolay Ovcharov has said.

The rhomphaias, which can measure up to 1.5 m, are relatively rare finds in Bulgaria where only 13 of them have been found so far.

There are as many as 700 artifacts discovered in this year's excavations, daily Standart quotes Prof Ovcharov as telling journalists on Monday.

With some fresh funding worth BGN 220 000 (EUR 110 000) granted by the government this year, works are expected to continue smoothly through to September, and Perperikon's Acropolis (believed to have been the tallest building there) and a palace-shrine could be completely uncovered by September, Ovcharov believes.

Along with other Bulgarian and international archaeologists, he has often described Perperikon as the country's most famous archaeological site at present.

Summer excavations at the site kicked off in June, and a number of new discoveries have been announced including a Roman temple and an ancient square in the center of the rock city. A number of coins, some dating back to the Byzantine era and others to the Second Bulgarian Kingdom, have also been unearthed.

Bulgarian software company Fadata, a leading vendor of software solutions for financial and insurance business, has new owners - UK-based insurance services group Charles Taylor, and The Riverside Company, a global private equity firm.

Riverside and Charles Taylor have acquired an 80% stake in Fadata, with the current management of the software company retaining a 20% stake, according to a media statement of Fadata.

The deal is to be finalized by October 2015.

The press release does not specify the price of the deal.

According to reports of Bulgarian business daily Capital, the Bulgarian company was estimated at EUR 20.4 M.

This is the second-largest deal in Bulgaria’s IT sector after the sale of Bulgarian software developer Telerik to Progress Software for USD 262.5 M in 2014.

An earthquake measuring 4 on the Richter scale was registered Tuesday morning in Greece near the country’s border with Bulgaria, according to the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC).

The earthquake struck at 7:03 a.m. on Tuesday.

The epicenter was located 27 kilometers northeast of Drama and 40 kilometers southwest of Smolyan and 180 kilometers southeast of Sofia.

The earthquake depth was 0 kilometers.

According to estimates of the National Institute of Geophysics, Geodesy, and Geography at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAS), the earthquake measured 3.6 on the Richter scale and its depth was 15 kilometers.

The jolt was felt in Bulgaria’s southern city of Smolyan.

There have been no reports of injuries or material damage.

Bulgaria’s President Rosen Plevneliev will present his proposal for referendum questions on election legislation on Tuesday in Parliament.

Plevneliev will address MPs during an extraordinary parliamentary meeting, according to the President’s press office.

One item of the agenda of the meeting concerns the request of the President to hold a referendum together with the local elections on October 25.

Plevneliev suggests three questions, including ones on compulsory voting, majority voting, and remote electronic voting.

The parliamentary legal affairs committee gave the green light to Plevneliev’s three questions on July 1.








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