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The financial position of Bulgaria’s National Electricity Company (NEK) is worsening and its debt already exceeds BGN 3.1 B, caretaker Energy Minister Vasil Shtonov has said.

On Tuesday, Shtonov told the first meeting of the newly-formed Energy Board that additional expenses relating to the arbitration case with Russia’s Atomstroyexport over Belene nuclear power plant or bigger losses can push the state-owned company into insolvency.

In addition, domestic electricity consumption is likely to decline in the next few years with fewer households using electricity for heating, which will put additional burden on NEK’s finances.

A period of excess capacity is expected, Shtonov said in his analysis.

The state-regulated segment of Bulgaria’s power market has lost BGN 360 M in the first half of the year and the problem is going to worsen with the expected decrease of the volumes sold on the regulated market. The loss is expected to top BGN 900 M in the year to June 2015, said Shtonov.

“The main task before the energy board is to stabilize the energy sector and guarantee predictability within it,” he added.

Highlighting that raising power prices alone will not resolve the problems in the sector, Shtonov said that an analysis of investments in energy projects needs to be made to avoid price hikes that consumers find impossible to pay.

Established as a consultative body with the government, the Energy Board  has to analyze the state of Bulgaria's energy sector and to look into reasons for its instability. The board comprises government officials, business representatives, the energy watchdog DKEVR, consumer organizations and trade unions.

The number of people displaced inside Ukraine had more than doubled in the past four weeks due to the fighting in the country’s East, the UN refugee agency said on Tuesday.

According to estimates of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates 260,000 people were displaced as of Monday, compared to 117,000 in the first week of August, as a result of fighting betweeen Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine, in particular around the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said the steep rise in the number of displaced over the past three weeks was a deep concern.

"If this crisis is not quickly stopped, it will have not only devastating humanitarian consequences but it also has the potential to destabilize the whole region. After the lessons of the Balkans, it is hard to believe a conflict of these proportions could unfold in the European continent," Guterres said in a press release.

Ninety-four percent of the displaced are from eastern Ukraine and are remaining in the Donetsk, Kharkiv and Kiev regions, UNHCR said.

According to Vincent Cochetel, director of UNHCR's Europe Bureau, shelling had left people in conflict areas with limited access to food, water and other basic necessities. In Donetsk, Makiivka and Gorlovka, the regional authorities estimate there are 20,000 people with disabilities and needing help, the press release said.

The number of Ukrainians seeking refugee status or asylum in Russia increased by almost 66,000 last month. According to data of Russia’s Federal Migration Service, more than 121,000 Ukrainians have applied for refugee status or temporary asylum since January 1.

A total of 4,106 Ukrainians requested asylum in the European Union in the first seven months of the year, compared to 903 applications in the whole 2013. Most Ukrainian applications for asylum were in Poland (1,082), Germany (556) and Sweden (500). In addition, 380 Ukrainians have sought asylum in Belarus, the UNHCR said.

Torrential rains and gale force winds, thunderstorms and in some places hail, have hit the Balkans in the beginning of September, local media outlets reported, Tuesday.

Code Orange and Code Red warnings have been issued in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Croatia due to the potentially dangerous weather.

The whole of Croatia was under the effects of the Simeon cyclone overnight, with pouring rains through out the country. A record 128 liters per square meter fell in the city of Dubrovnik in just 24 hours. The amount of rain that fell on the first day of September, was more than the September average, Croatiaweek reports.

Some 200 liters per square meter have poured down on Montenegro's Petrovac by Tuesday morning.

Code Orange warning has been issued in 8 municipalities in northwest and central Bulgaria over thunderstorms and heavy rains for Wednesday, BGNES reports.

Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves said his country wants NATO to set up permanent bases on its territory to protect it against potential threats from Russia.

“NATO structure should not imply the division of its members into the first and second class states: those that have the alliance’s permanent bases, and those that don’t,” Ilves said at a news conference with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg in the Norwegian capital on Tuesday, Itar-Tass reports.

“This is not the signal the potential aggressor should receive from us,” he added.

At the September 4-5 summit in Wales, NATO is expected to unveil plans for the expansion of its military infrastructure near Russia's borders.

Russia plans to update its military doctrine in response to the emergence of “new military dangers  and military threats”,  a senior Russian military official has said.

Mikhail Popov, deputy secretary of Russia’s military Security Council  has described NATO’s eastward expansion as “one of the external military dangers for the Russian Federation.”

The update to Moscow’s military doctrine has been called for by foreign policy factors, Popov said in an interview with the Russian news agency RIA Novosti on Tuesday, pointing to NATO’s expansion, the creation and deployment of strategic anti-missile defence systems, deployment of arms in space, and the Ukraine crisis.

Referring to NATO’s plans to decide at the alliance’s summit in Wales to create new military bases in eastern Europe to secure the long-term presence of its forces in the region close to Russia’s borders, Popov highlighted  that “…the defining factor in our relationship with NATO remains the unacceptability for Russia of plans to move military infrastructures of the alliance to our borders, including by means of expanding the bloc.”

Popov also said NATO has already planned to deploy heavy armaments, including tanks and armoured personnel carriers, in Estonia.

According to Popov, “all these facts testify” that the US and NATO are aiming to continue creating tensions in their relationship with Russia.

He added work on updating Russia’s current military doctrine adopted in 2010 could be expected to be completed by the end of this year.

Moscow has always looked at NATO’s eastward expansion as a key challenge to its national security. Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday said the Ukrainian government’s recent initiative to abandon the country’s non-aligned status and join NATO could derail efforts to negotiate a peace deal between Kiev and the pro-Moscow rebels in southeast Ukraine.

“There is one very interesting fact: that this initiative appeared right after the meeting in Minsk where agreements on the process of the Contact Group were trying to find a commonly acceptable decision on the current domestic crisis in Ukraine,” Lavrov said during a live televised joint press conference with Tunisian Foreign Minister Mongi Hamdi.

According to Lavrov, the “peace party” in Kiev is trying to develop a negotiation-based and political solution to the crisis in Ukraine, whereas the “war party” is taking steps “targeted at undermining these efforts.”

The contractor selection procedure for the reconstruction of the Winter Palace of Sports in Sofia for BGN 41M VAT excluded has been terminated by the contracting authority Academica 2011.

The new management of the state-owned company has motivated its decision with the unreasonably high estimated value of the contract and the missing funds in the company needed in order to carry out the repair, Dnevnik reports.

According to the decision to terminate the procedure, some 20% of the BGN 35M estimated by the government, has not been allocated and is not available in the company.

"For the implementation of the project in terms of the estimated value, approximately BGN 50M VAT included will be needed. The allocation of the rest of the funding is not guaranteed in any way and there is no certainty that the missing funds will be granted in the future,” a statement of the company said, as cited by Dnevnik.

Academica Sport, which includes Stanilov Ltd and Vamos, was one of the two participants who were not admitted to the opening of the price offers due to documentation irregularities.

"Of all those, whose documents were open, we had the best price. Obviously, that was the reason to reject us. That was completely unfounded, but we will turn to courts," Georgi Stanilov, manager of Stanilov Ltd told Capital Daily.

Slovakia starts shipping natural gas to Ukraine.

The Vojany-Uzhgorod reverse gas pipeline, which passed tests successfully in August, is to supply up to 10 billion cubic meters of gas per year to Ukraine at a price of USD 360 per 1000 cubic meters, down by USD 25 from the price offered by Russian Gazprom to Ukraine, according to reports of the Bulgarian National Radio.

Gazprom stopped direct gas supplies to Ukraine in June, the official reason for the measure being the pricing dispute between the supplier and the receiver.

The disruption has not affected gas transit to Europe so far but the talks have reached a standstill despite the efforts of the European Commission to act as a mediator.

Bulgarian farmers whose agricultural land was completely destroyed by the natural disasters last year, will be compensated with a total of BGN 4.4M, the State Fund Agriculture informed.

Compensation under the scheme will be allocated to farmers who have a protocol for completely devastated agricultural land due to a natural disaster or adverse weather conditions. Those, who have not insured their land, will receive 50% of the due subsidies. The exception is for damages caused by drought, which will be paid without reduction, expert.bg informs.

A total of 335 farmers have applied under this scheme. Compensations are already being allocated to those affected. All subsidies will be paid no later than September 15, 2014.

The budget gap at Bulgaria's Interior Ministry stands at around BGN 97M, according to caretaker Interior Minister Yordan Bakalov.

Bakalov, as cited by the Bulgarian National Radio, announced Tuesday that the outstanding financial obligations of the Interior by August 25 stood at BGN 17M, according to an audit.

Bulgaria's caretaker Interior Minister said that some of the public procurement procedures of the Interior had been stopped due to the lack of funding, adding that payments worth BGN 67M were to be made under public procurement contracts by end-2014.

A total of 850 natural persons inspected in the period January-June 2014 committed income tax evasion worth BGN 20M, according to data of Bulgaria's National Revenue Agency (NRA).

All were issued tax assessment notices.

Unless the due sums are paid in two weeks, the money will be collected through enforced recovery proceedings.

The total of personal income tax liabilities in the first six months of 2014 stood at BGN 33M.

Bulgaria was imposed financial corrections worth BGN 166 M under operational programs under the EU Structural Funds and the Cohesion Funds by December 31, 2013.

The financial corrections amounted to 1.9% of the funds granted, according to a report of KPMG presented by Alexander Hinov at a round table titled “Financial Risks in EU Funds Management – the First Seven years” on Tuesday, according to reports of the Bulgarian Telegraph Agency.

Over ¾ of the total financial corrections were imposed under the operational programs “Environment” and “Regional Development”, at BGN 91.7M, under the “Environment” OP and at BGN 36.3 M under the “Regional Development” OP.

The high percentage of financial corrections indicates the need for measures aimed at boosting the administrative capacity of the respective managing authorities and the main groups of eligible beneficiaries under them, according to the auditor.

74% of the financial corrections were related to public procurement and in almost ¾ of the cases they were established by the managing authority.

The frequency of imposing financial corrections was highest under the two operational programs which were affected by an EU funds freeze imposed by the European Commission, with every second grant agreement marred by a financial correction. Under all operational programs except for “Environment”, most of the financial corrections were imposed in connection with irregularities registered after the payment of the funding.

Caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Iliana Tsanova said Tuesday that the imposed financial corrections drew attention to the insufficient capacity of the central and local administrations, as well as other beneficiaries.

The agenda of Tuesday’s discussion included measures to curb financial corrections related to public procurement. Caretaker Finance Minister Rumen Porozhanov, caretaker Transport Minister Nikolina Angelkova, and Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandakova also took part in the round table discussion.

The forum was organized by Tsanova after the caretaker government examined EU funds absorption in the 2007-2013 programming period and revealed that Bulgaria could lose BGN 200 M in 2014 only.

A repetition of last year's events at the Kostinbrod state printing house is impossible, the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) says.

Its Deputy Chair Mariya Musorlieva explained that the current Election code, which was adopted by the previous government, has stepped up security within the printing process, since all ballots are to be printed by the Bulgarian National Bank (BNB), website Dariknews.bg reports.

Musorlieva made her comments during a meeting of Prime Minister Georgi Bliznashki with representatives of CEC and the Council for Electronic Media (CEM) at which the forthcoming early elections on October 5 topped the agenda.

CEM member Mariya Stoyanova stressed her institution would also oversee the run-up to the vote to make sure the events around the Kostinbrod affair would not be repeated.

On May 11, hours before Bulgarians were to go to the polls, some 350 000 "fake ballots" were seized by the State Agency for National Security (DANS) at the printing house in the town of Kostinbrod.

Allegations were then directed at center-right GERB, the government of which had stepped down 3 months earlier, that it was seeking to use the ballots in a massive vote manipulation.

A number of experts then criticized the media coverage of the Kostinbrod affair, with Chief Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov appearing live on a private national TV station hours before the vote to comment on the developments.

Bliznashki's meeting with CEC and CEM representatives was held before the lot distributing ballot numbers for the snap poll later on Tuesday.

Tourists can spend their holidays at Bulgarian southern Black Sea coast at prices up to 50% lower, due to the traditional September discounts.

September is the month preferred for vacation mostly by Bulgarians and Western European pensioners, Bulgarian National Radio notes.

Sunny Beach will see crowds of tourists at least until the middle of the month because of the attractive prices, Georgi Nikolchev from the Owners Union in the resort told BNR.

In a three-star hotel located at the beach between Chernomorets and Sozopol, a double room with breakfast and dinner included costs BGN 45.

Discounts range between 30% and 50% depending on the hotel and its location. The offers are tempting, but most of them are for after September 7, BNR reports.

Power distributor EVN has submitted a tariff update request with Bulgaria’s State Commission for Energy and Water Regulation (DKEVR), seeking a 17.9% price increase as of October 1, 2014.

The power distributor, which services customers in Southeastern Bulgaria, has informed that 7.2% of the proceeds from the power price hike will go straight to the National Electric Company (NEK) and the EVN companies will receive 10.7% of the total.

The power distributor has explained the price hike with the need to improve service.

Certain media outlets have not published their election campaign ads tariffs and the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) will probably address this matter, CEC spokesman Tsvetozar Tomov claimed.

In an interview for Bulgarian National Radio (BNR), Tomov explained that the information campaign for Bulgarian citizens voting abroad will be more active at the upcoming elections, involving a number of international non-governmental organizations.

Preferential voting will be different from that at the European elections, as this time not using the option of preference will be interpreted as a vote in favor of the party’s electoral list leader, Tomov told BNR.

Regarding the election observers, CEC spokesperson said that Bulgaria Without Censorship and Plan BG, both represented by former journalist Nikolay Barekov, have been denied registration. “Yesterday, CEC refused to register an association due to the political involvement of its representatives, and rejected the draft proposal for the registration of another association for the same reason,” Tomov said.

Parties and coalitions running in the elections can register their observers and representatives who have other functions and can perform these functions to protect the party interests, he added.

The Struma and Hemus motorways are the main priorities under Operational Program “Transport”, according to Bulgaria’s caretaker Transport Minister Nikolina Angelkova.

In a Tuesday interview for Nova TV, she informed that all projects included in the program had to be completed and launched by 2022.

Angelkova noted that Lot 3 of the Struma motorway Blagoevgrad – Sandanski, which was to provide a connection to Greece, had to be completed by 2020-2022.

She explained that the motorway section ran through Natura 2000 area and the construction of the 15.5km tunnel had been selected as the most environmentally-friendly option for the highway out of 8 possible options.

Angelkova also pointed out that Lot 4 of the Struma motorway had been termed a high-risk project, adding that the Road Infrastructure Agency, the beneficiary under the project, was making regular inspections at the request of the Transport Ministry.

She said that the latest inspection had indicated that no construction works were underway at the site.

Bulgaria’s caretaker Transport Minister explained that the project was 55% ready, with no construction works underway, and no evidence that it would be completed on time.

Angelkova, as cited by dnevnik.bg, said that the Hemus motorway, another priority project, was also to be completed and launched by 2022 at the latest.

She noted that the indicative cost of the motorway amounted to EUR 780 M and that drivers would be able to use it for free for the first seven years as the project was being implemented with EU funding.

Russian energy concern Gazprom has accused the European Commission that it is putting a wheel on South Stream for political reasons.

In a letter to the Financial Times also quoted by Russian media outlets, Gazprom´s press secretary Sergey Kupriyanov has warned that, "unlike the northern EU member states, which will profit from the safer supplies through South Stream, the countries of Southeast Europe are not having an alternative route for gas supplies".

"It seems the European Union is ready to shoot itself in the leg by blocking a project that would allow it to boost its energy security and to fulfill its growing need of energy imports," Kupriyanov is quoted as saying.

The Gazprom official has described transit via Ukraine as "carrying risks", since it would take USD 19.5 B to modernize the Ukrainian gas tranportation system.

The route going under the Black Sea, on the other hand, has "commercial support" from leading European companies and the countries taking part in the project, he has argued.

Kupriyanov's letter is in response to an article in the Financial Times dated August 25 which calls the South Stream project "a pipe dream".

Russian President Vladimir Putin has approved the agreement which would incorporate Armenia into the Eurasian Economic Council, according to radio Voice of Russia's website.

Armenia is the fourth country to enter the body also known as Eurasian Union which was established on May 29, 2014 in Kazakhstan's capital Astana.

Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus than set up the council aiming to promote the free movement of goods, services and capital and to assist in the joint implementation of key economic policies.

Out of a total of over 520 refugee children living in Bulgaria, only 96 will go to school in the new school year, according to the State Agency for Refugees.

A total of 424 refugee children will not be able to attend classes as of September 15, despite the assurances of Bulgarian authorities of a swift solution of the problem, according to reports of Sega daily.

According to data of the Bulgarian Red Cross, only 50 children with a humanitarian or refugee status went to school last year. Refugee children are unable to attend classes due to red tape.

Bulgarian authorities still stick to an ordinance which should have been revoked because it cites articles of the Asylum and Refugees Act which have been revoked.

The ordinance stipulates that these children should complete a course in Bulgarian language at the State Agency for Refugees and pass an exam by a committee of the Agency before starting to go to school.

However, such courses were only launched over the past few months, with volunteers only teaching the children at refugee centers, according to Sega daily.

According to Bulgaria’s Education Act, in order to start going to school, a child coming from a foreign country has to present no less than 6 documents from the previous educational institution, all of which need to be translated and legalized.

In the case of refugees, this scenario is largely unthinkable as many of the schools have ceased to exist or are not functioning, or it is extremely difficult to get in touch with them, or the officials are demanding bribes for the issuance of the papers.

Bulgaria’s socialist-led government addressed the problem at the end of its term in office. However, the changes to the Asylum and Refugees Act they had prepared obly passed first reading.

Under the bill, refugee minors are to start going to school within 3 months of the submission of the application for protection, without undergoing exams and without submitting documents from the previous school, and, if necessary, additional language courses are organized for them.

However, the resignation of the socialist-led government and the subsequent dissolution of Parliament blocked the adoption of the much-needed legal changes.

Center-right GERB's leader Boyko Borisov said his party would reject a proposal of President Rosen Plevneliev that military expenditures go up from 1.3 to 1.5%.

He told Bulgarian daily Presa that there was "nowhere to find BGN 200 M [more] for the army" when the country is facing shortage of funding for pensions or EU funding.

In his view, the commitments Plevneliev should take at the forthcoming NATO summit in Wales should be "conformed to the capacities of the EU's poorest country".

The President has reiterated his intentions to declare at the summit that Bulgaria is ready to increase the money it sets aside for defense by 0.2% this year.

"He [Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev] might promise as much as he wants to, it is his right and I am not meddling. But we are the poorest country and it is high time both Russians and Americans, and everydoby understand they cannot constantly demand things from the poorest country and the poorest people," Borisov made clear.

He also spoke against the term "informational war" written in the initial draft version of the Outlook 2020 and against a notion of "any kind of war" with Russia.

"We must not even think of arming ourselves and scaring Russians with war, since what Russians fear the least is to be at war," he explained.

Bulgaria’s caretaker government is to allocate BGN 8 M to the completion of the last metro station of the extension of the second metro line in Sofia.

The proposal for the financial injection has been made available for public discussion which ends on September 11, according to reports of Standard daily.

The allocation is expected to be approved at the first sitting of the caretaker cabinet after September 11.

The money will go to the completion of the extension of metro line 2 from the James Bourchier Metro Station to Hladilnika and the opening of the Hladilnika metro station.

The construction of the new metro station and the 1.3km extension of metro line 2 leading to it started in August and the deadline for completion is June 2016.

The launch of the Hladilnika metro station is expected to increase the number of passengers using this type of transport by around 30 000 on a daily basis.

A new round of talks within the Contact group for Eastern Ukraine held Tuesday has failed to yield results.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Valeriy Haletey has meanwhile announced his country is shifting the strategy of Kiev forces acting in the east, switching from fighting terrorist forces to defensing Ukraine against a so-called "full-scale invasion" allegedly carried out by Russia, UNIAN news agency reports.

The decision comes after kiev troops were forced to withdraw from the Luhansk airport after fierce clashes with separatists.

"A great war has arrived at our doorstep - the likes of which Europe has not seen since World War Two," the BBC quoted Haletey as saying.

Russia denies it is deploying or has deployed soldiers to Ukraine's Donbass region. 
At the same time the meeting in Belarusian capital Minsk ended without producing any results.

Represetntatives of self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic set out conditions to lay down arms.

They insist both regions should be granted "special status", should have their own armed forces and judiciary and should be allowed a more intensive economic activity to achieve integration with Russia and its Customs Union.

Pro-Russian rebels have reiterated the demand over the past few months.

Members of the Contact Group, which includes Russia, Ukraine and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), decided to hold the next round of talks on Friday.

A 2.8-magniture quake has rattled the Bulgarian town of Pernik near Sofia.

According to the National Institute of Geophysics, Geodesy and Geography, the earthquake was registered at 07.54 and was at a depth of 18 km.

Pernik citizens say they perceived a slight jolt as the earth was moving.

No damages are reported, Pernik Mayor Rositsa Yanakieva told private national channel NOVA TV.

Pernik was severely hit by a 5.8-strong quake that rocked the west of Bulgaria early on May 22, 2012.

Bulgaria's Finance Ministry is to place BGN 300 M worth of securities on the domestic market next week, the Bulgarian National Bank (BNB) has announced on its website.

The auction is dated September 8, or next Monday.

According to the statement, the maximum quantity of government securities which a participant may acquire with competitive bids is 50 % of the quantity earmarked for sale through competitive bids.

The ratio of government securities offered for competitive and noncompetitive bids is 70 %:30%.

No specific reason has been given for the one-year bond issuance, even though cabinets usually take the step to secure payments on previous liabilities on which they cannot deliver due to gaps in the treasury.

The Energy Board, which has been recently set up by the Bulgarian government, is due to have a first meeting on Tuesday.

Established as a consultative body at the Council of Ministers, the board is due to analyze the state of Bulgaria's energy sector and to look into the reasons for the permanent instability within the system.

Economy Ministry officials, business representatives, the energy watchdog DKEVR, consumer and trade unions are included in the new body.

Interim Deputy Prime Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva will preside over the Energy Board's meetings.

Sofia City Court has ruled that Russian-French businessman Nikolai Kobliakov is to be placed under house arrest.

The ruling comes after Bulgarian authorities received a request for Kobliakov's extradition sent by Moscow.

Kobliakov was detained at Sofia Airport just before entering Bulgarian territory on July 31.

He was placed into custody for 72 hours but was later released on recognizanse.

The businessman co-heads the human rights organization Russie-Libertes based in France where he lives in exile since fleeing Russia in 2010.

Moscow issued a red notice for him in 2013, with its prosecuting authority accusing him of having obtained the rights to collect the receivables of a French entity in a fraudulent manner. Prosecutors say he managed, alongside accomplices, to drain some EUR 1.2 M from the company.

His Bulgarian lawyer Bilyana Kotsakova maintains the charge against him is vague and does not state clearly enough his perpetration. Kobliakov has pledged to provide assistance to Bulgarian authorities.

He claims actions of Moscow against him are politically motivated.

The website Dnevnik.bg quoted him as saying that the "regime [he is] fighting... is a real threat to the entire Europe".

A threat to Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) leader Lyutvi Mestan emerged during the term of the former legislature, the National Service for Protection (NSO) said.

The National Service for Protection under the President of the Republic of Bulgaria, which has made the announcement for private national channel bTV, has refused to elaborate on the threat submitted from "public order and security services".

Mestan has been guarded by the NSO since the signal was received last year, and the service is to decide after the snap poll on October 5 whether he should remain under its protection.

Gas flow from Azerbaijan to Bulgaria has never been more feasible economically, but is hardly plausible from a political perspective, an Azeri think-tank believes.

These comments are part of an article posted on the website Haqqani.az, run by a prominent human rights organization.

Haqqin.az starts by reminding it "has already told of the history of visits to Baku by East European countries' leaders, including [leaders] from Bulgaria," dating back to the 1990s and, "as [readers] can see, ongoing nowadays."

All world leaders and heads of biggest oil companies flocked to Azerbaidjan then to demand a piece of the pie in 1994 and Bulgaria was among them - with the slight difference that the country ("surely not a rich one") needed to overcome the "not-very-happy prospect" of "full dependence on Russian oil", the outlet adds.

Later, when gas projects followed, Sofia put its hopes there as well, seeking to break away from Gazprom's monopoly.

"It should be noted that the purely economic chances [for Azerbaijani deliveries to Bulgaria] are as high as ever," the article reads.

The authors nevertheless stress that it is Russia that poses the major obstacle "of political origin".

"In theory, if Baku and Sofia wish to solve this problem, there is nothing to stop them. But Moscow is already applying too strong levers in both the former and the latter capital. Bulgaria could nowadays broach the subject - it will be all the same [to Sofia], with a new Parliament to be elected and an interim government to give its way to a news one."

In this situation, Haqqani says, there is little risk that anyone in particular could be in danger.

With Azerbaijan, however, the situation is quite different, since it the government wouldn't afford such a risk given a neighbor like Russia, which "proved with Ukraine, for example, that it is ready to use any measure" to pursue its political and economic ambitions, including those involving gas exports.

Even for Bulgaria, to defy Moscow "could hardly be called a right decision", the text concludes.

The opinion piece is a reaction to a statement Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev made for the Anadolu news agency while on a visit to Turkey last week.

Plevneliev then called the Trans-Anatolian (TANAP) and the Trans-Adriatic (TAP) pipeline projects as ventures of "strategic importance" for all European countries. Plevneliev also said a meeting of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Greece's leaders is due on September 23-24 on which the fate of deliveries via Azerbaijan is to top the agenda.

Sofia City Prosecutor's Office has submitted a formal request that Russian-French citizen Nikolai Kobliakov remain in detention.

Kobliakov, a businessman known to be a critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was arrested at the Sofia Airport on July 31, but was freed three days later.

The Sofia City Court then ruled the charges against him did not constitute a criminal offense.

A month on, however, a demand for his extradition issued by Russian authorities has arrived in Bulgaria, according to the website Dnevnik.bg.

The court is due to sit later on Monday to decide whether Kobliakov is to be taken into custody.

The Bulgarian National Bank (BNB) has received answers to the letters it had sent to Bromak JSC and the State General Reserve Fund of Oman, Corpbank's major shareholders.

Both Vasilev, Corporate Commercial Bank (Corpbank or KTB)'s majority shareholder, and the SGRF a have replied to a demand from the BNB that they table their proposals for a potential capital and liquidity support for KTB, currently under special supervision, in accordance with Bulgarian and EU legislation.

Though their responses do not include precise financial commitments, Vasilev and the Omani fund have declared they are willing to act in principle.

Vasilev for his part has announced he is due to submit a structured proposal in the days to come.

As for the SGRF, it is planning to set up a consortium of investors who will make a proposal on how Corpbank should be restructured. Their suggestions will be based on the asset quality evaluation currently prepared at the supervisory board and on an additional assessment (the so-called “due dilligence”), but also on the proper state support by the Bulgarian government.


About 1 200 000 "phantom voters" can be found in Bulgarian elections lists, Mihail Konstantinov, formerly a high-profile official in charge of elections, believes.

Konstantinov, who is a former Central Electoral Commission (CEC) Deputy Chairman and also headed Information Services (a state-owned company counting the ballots), told the Bulgarian National Television that phantom voters carried a high risk of abuses.

He also argued their presence within the lists undermine public trusts, and this "is something far more dangerous".

Konstantinov called for the introduction of an "active registration" method that in his view would properly address the issue.

"A person who is not in Bulgaria should not be in election lists here. Those who are in the country and want to vote, [should] state their wish and are included in the lists," he elaborated.

Stefan Manov, who is heading civic councils of Bulgarians abroad, exapleined the lists were based on population data including all Bulgarian citizens with a birth certificate and a Uniform Civil Number (EGN).

Manov said "dead souls" appeared there when a certain municipality did not have information of people who had passed away.

The next EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini has criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin for having repeatedly failed to hold on to international commitments.

Mogherini, who was picked by EU leaders to become the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy on Sunday, also slammed Moscow for having refrained from the slightest effort to put pressure on pro-Russian rebels acting in Ukraine's east.

In an interview with Italian daily Corriere della Sera [It], the outgoing Italian Foreign Minister said partnership between Brussels and Moscow had been based on the prospects that Ukraine could choose a "European scenario" for its development and this could turn into a "positive step".

In her words, however "at the will of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin this partnership does not exist. At the moment Russia is not a strategic partner anymore, but continues to have a strategic importance to our continent," she explained.

Mogherini is due to head the European diplomatic service on November 1.

Prior to being elected, she repeatedly came under fire as some EU member states argued she is "too soft" on Russia.

A total of 33 police officers have been detained in Turkey on suspicions of 'plotting against the government', local media outlets say.

Police officials have not immediately commented.

Among the detainees were 14 high-ranking officers, according to Hurriyet Daily News.

Some of them were involved in last December's corruption probes targeting government officials, including four government ministers.

In July a number of Turkish policemen were arrested for allegedly having set up an organized criminal gang and having tapped phone number.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (who was Prime Minister back then) described their actions as part of activity conducted by Islamist cleric Fethullah Gullen against him and others in power.

A bison was found dead on Monday morning at the Sofia Zoo, authorities say.

This is the seventh similar incident in less than ten days, with a baby capricorn and a yak having died last week and a camel and three gaurs the previous one.

Prior to its death the bison had been ill, according to information quoted by private national channel bTV.

The latest version explaining the mysterious developments shows they might have been caused by pesticides in the animals' fodder.

Turkey's Foreign Ministry has summoned the US charge d'affaires over a media report that the United States had spied on Turkey intensively since 2006.

Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc told journalists on September 1 that the Foreign Ministry had summoned the U.S. charge d'affaires, currently the senior American diplomat in Ankara, "to demand an explanation" on the case, according to reports of Today's Zaman.

German weekly magazine Der Spiegel reported on Sunday that the US National Security Agency (NSA) and Britain's GCHQ surveillance agency had carried out "wide-scale spying against Turkey", citing documents from the archive of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Several weeks ago, the German magazine said that Germany's BND foreign intelligence agency had been spying on Turkey for years.

The Foreign Ministry in Ankara also issued a statement urging the US to give a "satisfactory explanation" on activities it allegedly carried out in Turkey.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed on Monday that he would discuss the issues "with leaders first at the NATO Summit and then at the United Nations [General Assembly]".

The alliance meeting is scheduled for September 4-5, while the UNGA is due later this month.

The working paper called Outlook 2020: Bulgaria and NATO in European Defense has been unanimously approved at Monday's Council of Ministers session, the ministerial press office says.

In a statement sent to the media, the office adds that the Outlook will be put forward for a public debate in the coming days.

Caretaker Defense Minister Velizar Shalamanov earlier explained a number of military experts and heads of various military agencies have worked hard to make amendments to the initial draft version of the document which sparked controversy by describing Russia as threatening Bulgaria's security and fighting an "information war".

The interim cabinet also decided at the Monday meeting that the paper would be made public on Wednesday, September 3, just a day before a NATO summit kicks off in Wales.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has attended a ceremony to mark the first weld of the Power of Siberia held Monday.

The pipeline will deliver gas to China from Russia's far east.

Putin was quoted by the website Lenta.ru as saying earlier that the project would have a positive impact on the gas supply of Siberia as well and would lead in time to a merger of the country's entire grid into a single network.

In his words, this could also enable Moscow to redirect the flow of gas in accordance to the international environment.

The first amounts of gas are to be pumped into the pipeline in 2019.

China announced it was planning to start its own segment in the first half of 2015 and was hoping it could even become operational earlier than what Russian estimates have pointed, or by 2018.

The Power of Siberia pipeline, a project that had been stalled for ten years, was given a new lease of life at the Russia-China summit in Beijing on May 20 and 21, when a deal on supplies of 38 billion cubic meters of gas to China every year over the next three decades was sealed by the two heads of state, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jingping, respectively.

The historic contract is estimated at USD 400 B.

A total of three out of four senior executives of Bulgaria's State Fund Agriculture were replaced on Friday.

An official media statement of the Ministry of Agriculture only mentions the removal of its Executive Director, Atanas Dobrev, who was replaced by Lozana Vasileva.

However, it turned out that two of the three Deputy CEOs of SFA were also replaced on Friday, according to reports of Trud daily.

Tatyana Angelova, Deputy CEO of SFA, who was in charge of state aid and the SAPARD program, was removed.

Asked to comment on the step, Angelova said that she had learned about her removal from office on the SFA website, adding that she was on leave and was not acquainted with the details.

Angelova was replaced by Ivanka Bagdatova, current head of the Investment Loans unit of the SFA.

Nikolay Dachev, Deputy CEO of SFA, who was in charge of EU direct subsidy payments for land, was replaced by Zhivko Zhivkov, former head of the district directorate of SFA in Veliko Tarnovo until January 2014,

The only one to keep her post was SFA Deputy CEO Atidzhe Alieva-Veli, currently in charge of the Rural Development Program.

The reasons for the reshuffle have not been announced officially.

Bulgaria is still at the forefront of preferred destinations for Russian-speaking real estate buyers, an investment company says.

Data from Green Life, an entity building and selling holiday properties in the country, shows the market has not yet been affected by the turmoil in Ukraine's east or by the tensions over the breakaway of Crimea.

A drop in inquiries made by Russians goes has been observed, but alongside this trend the number of Ukrainian citizens purchasing dwellings here is 10% up, the website Money.bg reports.

Citizens of Belarus and Kazakhstan choosing to have properties in Bulgaria is also on the rise, Green Life estimates.

Its figures dismiss previous forecasts that the holiday property markets could be affected by the sanctions which EU leaders have imposed on Moscow.

Teofil Petrov, who works for the company, says even though inquiries dwindled twofold in June and July compared to the same period of 2013, it has managed to attract more customers from the ex-Soviet countries.

Kristalina Georgieva, outgoing EU Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, is likely to be appointed Budget Commissioner in the next EC panel, according to sources close to the matter.

Citing Bulgarian sources speaking on condition of anonymity, news portal Euractiv suggests that Georgieva will be awarded the budget portfolio.

The publication also mentions the forecast of former socialist MEP Ivaylo Kalfin that Georgieva will be appointed EC Vice President in charge of the budget portfolio.

Georgieva, a strong nominee for the post of EU foreign policy chief, failed to win the post as Italy's Federica Mogherini was appointed High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs on Saturday, replacing Catherine Ashton.

In a Sunday interview for the Bulgarian National Radio, Georgieva commented that she did not regret the fact that she had not won the post of EU foreign policy chief.

She said that she was aware of what her responsibilities in the next EC panel would be but refused to disclose details prior to the official announcement of EC President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker.

Georgieva, however, listed several options for her portfolio, including environment and climate, budget, transport and energy, adding that they were the most suitable ones in view of her professional experience.

Bulgaria's public debt at the end of July 2014 amounted to EUR 9.4242B, according to data revealed by the Ministry of Finance.

In just a month, Bulgarian government debt has increased by almost EUR 1.31B. The main reason for the growth is the issuance of eurobonds at the international capital markets, the Financial Ministry report showed.

The internal debt in July amounted to EUR 3.9253B which is a decrease compared to the EUR 4.1292B debt in June, while the external debt amounted to EUR 5.4989B (an increase compared to the EUR 3.9867B debt at the end of June), Bulgaria's National Radio informed.

According to the Ministry of Finance, at the end of the reporting period (end of July) the public debt amounted to 22.8% of the gross domestic product (GDP) of the country (compared to 19.7% in June). The share of the external debt is 13.3% (9.7% at the end of June) and the internal debt was 9.5% of the GDP (10% in the previous month).

According to this important financial parameter, Bulgaria still remains at the bottom of the 'negative' public debt rating in the entire European Union and is far below the European debt limit of under 60% of the GDP.

Temenuzhka Yankova has been appointed Deputy Executive Director of Bulgaria's National Revenue Agency (NRA) through an order of caretaker Finance Minister Rumen Porozhanov.

She has been nominated by the NRA Executive Director Boyko Atanasov and she will be in charge of Tax and Social Security Methodology and Tax and Social Security Practice, according to a media statement of the Finance Ministry.

Yankova has long-standing experience in the state administration and has proven her professionalism, occupying over the years different expert and managerial positions. In the period 1992 - 1998 she was tax inspector, chief tax inspector and tax expert in Pleven Territorial Office of the Tax Administration. In the period 1998 - 2002 she worked as expert and chief expert with the Trade and Consumer Protection Commission, Sofia, and at the Ministry of Finance Tax Policy Directorate.

Between 2002 and 2007 Temenuzhka Yankova worked in the management of Sopharma Logistics AD and Kaliman-RT AD. In the period 2009 - 2011 she was Head of Financial Control and Accountancy of Projects Department and Director of Financial and Administrative Services of the Small and Medium Enterprises Promotion Executive Agency. In the period 2011 – 2013, she was Director of the Finances Directorate of Executive Agency "Military Clubs and Military Recreation Activities". Since 2013 Temenuzhka Yankova has been advisor with the political cabinet of the Deputy Prime Minister in charge of economic development at the Council of Ministers.

Hundreds of prison workers from across Bulgaria have held a national protest in front the Justice Ministry in the capital Sofia.

In a peaceful demonstration, they have reiterated their calls for the old working conditions, which were recently changed, to be restored.

Higher salaries are also among a list of requests due to be discussed with interim Justice Minister Hristo Ivanov.

For a month, officers have protested symbolically against the new working hours, demanding to return to the old 24 hour shifts.

Despite the meetings between the prison officers union and the Justice Ministry representatives, an agreement was not reached, Bulgarian National Radio (BNR) informs.

Negotiations are ongoing, the head of the Chief Directorate on the Execution of Penalties Rosen Zhelyazkov told BNR.

The protest of the prison workers union is expected to be joined by members of the Trade Union Federation of the Employees in the Ministry of Interior.

Kiev forces have pulled back from the airport of Luhansk in eastern Ukraine after having fought pro-Russian separatist for hours.

The country's security council confirmed the move in a statement quoted by UNIAN news agency.

Meanwhile reports emerged that a Ukrainian warship had been attacked by separatists in the Azov sea. Kiev says the cutter was assaulted from the coast.

If verified, this will be the first at-sea incident since the conflict erupted in April.

While the latest battle was raging, it was also announced a new Russia-Ukraine meeting is due to be held Monday with the brokerage of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and will be aimed at easing down tensions in Ukraine's east.

Unlike a number of previous meetings, rebel representatives are likely to attend.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko accused Russia of "direct and open" aggression at Ukraine which has shifted the balance of power between Kiev forces and rebels. He added top-level changes within the military ranks were to be made after a series of defeats.

His counterpart Vladimir Putin, on the other hand, believes Europe is turning a blind eye on the atrocities of Ukraine's army.

In his view, outlined in an interview with a Russian TV station broadcast Sunday, the talks should be aimed at "not just technical issues but on the political organisation of society and statehood in south-eastern Ukraine".

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov commented on the forthcoming meeting, arguing he expected an immediate and unconditional ceasefire as a result of the talks.

He ruled out that Moscow could engage in a military intervention.

The diplomatic effort follows a new ultimatum that EU leaders issued to Russia on Sunday.

After an extraordinary summit they warned that new sanctions would ensue if Moscow didn't "withdraw all its military assets and forces from Ukraine".

Russia has seven days to respond before new measures are prepared.

Bulgaria's Security Council does not have the authority to approve the Outlook 2020: Bulgaria and NATO in European Defense document, according to General Miho Mihov.

In an interview for Bulgaria's National Radio, Mihov, former Chief of General Staff of the Bulgarian Armed Forces, and current ABV Movement candidate MP, has expressed hope that the controversial report of the Bulgarian Defense Ministry will be amended and will not be approved at the government's Security Council meeting, Monday.

“The Council monitors the implementation of the strategy and provides solutions for crisis management,” Mikov told the National Radio, saying that the most important issue that bothered him was that the first version of the document meddles with the politics of the Russian Federation.

“In terms of information warfare - if the mediation of Bulgarian politicians and economic agents is the reason for this warfare, then this is a task for the counterintelligence. There are many examples of complex and redundant wording which suggests that they have been copied and translated,” Mihov said.

According to him, the Outlook 2020: Bulgaria and NATO in European Defense document needs an overhaul. “Look at the final statement "At the moment Bulgaria lacks the military resources to effectively perform the role of a guarantor of security, especially the rapidly changing challenges of today's security environment". This conclusion is very frightening. I think that at today's meeting, the Council will make a clearer assessment of our state, Bulgaria's role in peace building in the Black Sea region and the prospect of our armed forces,” General Mihov noted.

The Bulgarian Industrial Association (BIA) has opposed the proposal to increase the minimum wage and the social security contributions.

BIA explains in a media statement that it firmly opposed the plans to cope with the chronic deficit in the systems of social security and health insurance through an administrative increase in the minimum insurance income.

Caretaker Minister of Labor and Social Policy Yordan Hristoskov argued several days ago that the minimum wage could be increased from BGN 340 to BGN 400 without the business sector experiencing negative impact.

Hristoskov rejected allegations that the minimum wage hike would encourage unemployment.

BIA notes that the proposed minimum wage hike substantially exceeds the threshold of 60% of the average wage in most of the administrative spheres, adding that in many municipalities characterized by low employment the percentage reaches 80%.

BIA emphasizes that the ratio stands at 43-45% in most of the EU Member States.

BIA also insists that the minimum wage hike proposal does not take into account the negligible increase in labor productivity and consumer prices, against a backdrop of an annual increase by as much as 10.5% in the average wage in 2013.

BIA points out the lack of reforms in both healthcare and social security legislation.

The Association declares that it expects a realistic approach to the matter on the part of the caretaker government, as well as well-coordinated activities aimed at overcoming short-term challenges in the business environment, employment and financial stability.

The government's Security Council has discussed amendments in a controversial report of the Bulgarian Defense Ministry outlining the upcoming reforms in the sector.

The document, called Outlook 2020: Bulgaria and NATO in European Defense, had to be overhauled as it contained the notion of "an informational war" with Russia in which it said Bulgaria is involved.

Interim Prime Minister Georgi Bliznashki returned the document for amendments, insisting the text should not describe Russia's policies on Ukraine as a threat to Bulgaria's security.

Bliznashki urged that the report should display a more balanced and moderate stance.

Outlook 2020 was published on the Defense Ministry's website last week prior to the forthcoming NATO summit in Wales scheduled for October 4-5, but was removed within hours.

Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev has defended the document saying it reflects NATO's position in the Ukrainian-Russian standoff.

The new draft version is to be tabled at the next Council of Ministers meeting on Wednesday, prior to the summit.

Citing its own sources, private national channel bTV argues the term "hybrid wars", which has enjoyed controversial reception, will be retained, even though it will not explicitly refer to any specific conflict or state.

Commitments to raising defense expenditure to 1.5% of the central budget and to setting aside 15% of the military money on investment in defense and army modernization.

Caretaker ministers also decided that an official Bulgarian position on the Ukraine crisis would be voiced at the the NATO meeting.

The German government has approved a move to send a weapons package to Iraq's Kurdish regional authorities fighting Sunni insurgents called Islamic State (IS).

Berlin gave the green light delivery of 16 000 combat weapons 40 machine guns, 240 anti-tank grenades, 500 anti-tank missiles and 10 000 hand grenades at a ministerial meeting late on Sunday, German weekly Der Spiegel wrote on its website.

The supplies should help 4000 of the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in their push against IS, which has made significant gains in Iraq and also in Syria over the past months.

Jeeps and five Dingo 1-type armored vehicles are also to be deployed to Iraqi Kurdistan.

The arms' value stands at EUR 70 M.

Germany is also to grant EUR 50 M of aid to address the humanitarian crisis raging across the region since the IS offensive reached Iraq's north.

Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has explained the step with the need to support local authorities' efforts in the critical situation, as the developments in Iraq could pose a threat to Germany's own national security.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has described the decision as a "tough one", since this is the first time Berlin is sending weapons to a region where battles are fought at the time.

German supplies are due by end-September.

Kurds have recently requested EU arms, and the bloc is also expected to discuss deliveries.

A number of Bulgarian towns and cities are to see demonstrations calling authorities to draft a plan which could help Corporate Commercial Bank (CorpBank or KTB).

Initiators of the rally have argued a plan should help depositors to use their accounts, which have been frozen since KTB was placed under conservatorship on June 20 following a bank run which prompted the financial company to request central bank BNB to take the step.

A similar event was held on Friday in the capital Sofia and also in the major cities of Plovdiv, Varna, and Burgas.

Bulgarian police have intercepted an international drug trafficking ring, seizing a shipment of 46kg of heroin worth BGN 5.7M.

On August 24, Bulgarian border police stopped a Mercedes car with a Belgian registration plate. The vehicle, driven by a Turkish national living in Belgium, was stopped for an excise duty goods probe, according to reports of the Customs Agency.

A hidden compartment of the car was found to contain 65 packs of heroin weighing a total of 33.501 kg.

The case was taken over by the State Agency for National Security (DANS).

Pre-trial proceedings were opened for neutralizing an international heroin trafficking ring.

The investigative activities revealed that the seized shipment had been scheduled to reach the Netherlands.

The organizer of the trafficking ring, a Turkish national permanently residing in Belgium, was identified and arrested on August 28 on the territory of Bulgaria's Haskovo.

During the follow-up investigative activities, a new shipment of 12.860kg of heroin was uncovered.

Charges were pressed against the two people arrested in connection with the case.

The paper note of BGN 2 will be replaced with a coin in 2015, according to Bulgaria's National Bank sources cited by Standart News.

The new coin will be made of two metals just like the BGN 1, but unlike it the inner part will be yellow and the outer circle will be white.

The BGN 2 coin will be slightly larger and will portray Saint Paisius of Hilendar, a key Bulgarian National Revival figure, Standart News informs.

Paper notes will continue to be used for a certain period of time, however the damaged bills will be withdrawn from circulation, Bulgarian National Bank stated.

Bulgaria's Agriculture Ministry has announced it is receiving applications for aid to compensate the damage caused by the Russian import ban.

The total budget of the aid scheme for all EU Member States amounts to EUR 125 M, and an additional EUR 30 M for peaches and nectarines.

Farmers may file applications for tomatoes, carrots, cabbage, peppers, cauliflower, cucumbers, gherkins, mushrooms, apples, pears, raspberries, wine, plums, peaches and nectarines.

The submission of applications for participation in the aid scheme is organized so as to allow Bulgaria's Agriculture Ministry to collect data which will be notified to the European Commission.

The information will be used to determine the amount of financial resources allocated to Bulgaria.

Bulgarian agricultural workers may receive aid for edible fruit and vegetables withdrawn from the market or edible fruit and vegetables not offered on the market, according to the Agriculture Ministry.

The applications may cite both harvested and unharvested fruit and vegetables.

Agricultural workers should submit applications as soon as possible because the EC will receive the so-called notifications until the financial resources under the scheme are depleted, according to experts.

Less than 5% of natural gas consumption in Bulgaria is provided through domestic production, according to data of state-owned gas company Bulgargaz for H1, 2014.

Bulgargaz informs that local supply amounted to only 64 million cubic meters in the first six months of the year, down by around 1/3 compares to the level in H1, 2013.

Import of Russian gas had a share of 88.2%. Although the share of gas imports from Russia shrank, the quantities of gas supplied increased by 3% to 1.228 billion cubic meters in H1, 2014.

The remaining share, a total of 100 million cubic meters, was supplied by WIEE Bulgaria, a subsidiary of Wintershall, and all of it was injected into the Chiren underground gas storage.

This share of gas supplies also counts as local production because it was bought by WIEE Bulgaria from the gas fields of Petroceltic Bulgaria (formerly Melrose).

They were obtained under a contract of Bulgargaz with WIEE Bulgaria aimed at securing the gas quantities necessary for the winter of 2013/2014 with a buyback option in Q1, 2014.

According to the report of Bulgargaz, the state-owned gas company has another contract with WIEE Bulgaria, which is said to have helped it financially, but no details about the second agreement are disclosed.

In H1, 2014, Bulgargaz bought a total of 1.392 billion cubic meters of gas, up by slightly over 10% y/y.

In H1, 2014, Bulgargaz bought imported gas and gas from local sources at an average price of BGN 555.59 and sold it at an average price of BGN 618.63 per 1000 cubic meters, registering a price difference of BGN 63.04, or a price difference of BGN 43.1 per 1000 cubic meters, taking into account the transit fee.

The first team of taxi drivers paramedics will cruise the streets of Bulgaria’s capital city of Sofia as of September 1, Monday.

So far, the program includes 15 fully equipped vehicles which can be used for the provision of medical assistance in case of car crashes and other accidents, Bulgarian National Radio informed.

The taxi drivers have attended first aid theoretical and practical courses. The vehicles have been issued special certificates.

Number seven seed, Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov held off a strong challenge from David Goffin to reach the fourth round of the US Open, Sunday.

After losing the first set with 0-6, the 23-year-old Dimitrov managed to hit back immediately using an array of powerful groundstrokes to hit 11 winners and earn a crucial break that allowed him to serve out the set 6-3.

Dimitrov used his experience to claim the third set as both players made several mistakes, but the Bulgarian managed to secure a 6-4 win.

The number seven seed broke the Belgian three times in the fourth set and booked his place in the last 16 of the competition.

Dimitrov will now face Gael Monfils in round four at Flushing Meadows.

Five people were killed after a single-engine plane crashed on Sunday afternoon near an airfield north of Denver in US state of Colorado.

The Piper PA-46 aircraft went down near the Erie Municipal Airport, about 40 km northwest of Denver, Peter Knudson, spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board, said.

Emergency crews found three people dead inside the wreckage of the six-seat airplane when they arrived at the scene, according to international media reports. The two crash survivors were taken to hospital but died later.

The Federal Aviation Administration launched an investigation into the incident, Itar-Tass reports.

Bulgaria has failed to cope with many of the problems identified 7 years ago, according to Geoffrey Van Orden, former Rapporteur for the country in the European Parliament.

“Although there has been some progress of the Bulgarian economy and the situation has obviously improved, some of these key problems have not been solved yet. I mean problems with organized crime, the judiciary, and corruption,” said the British conservative MEP in a Sunday interview for the Bulgarian National Radio.

“If you have read the latest report of the European Commission, which came out earlier this year, it mentions lasting weaknesses in all of these spheres. This is why we need a fresh political approach to solve these problems,” he explained, adding that his party saw such potential in the populist Bulgaria without Censorship party of former TV host Nikolay Barekov.

Van Orden arrived in Bulgaria to attend a congress of the Bulgaria without Censorship party in Varna.

Stressing the good performance of Barekov’s party at the European Parliament elections, Van Orden added that the formation had an inspiring leader and a program which was aimed at stimulating economic reform and conducting untarnished policies.

“We have witnessed too many mistakes of the old system which still exists” Van Orden reasoned, specifying that it had been too person-centered, emphasizing personal interest and egotism, at the expense of focus on the country’s real problems.

The British Conservative MEP suggested that these developments had caused Bulgarians to adopt a very cynical approach to politics, adding that the lack of trust in politicians came as no surprise.

Van Orden went on to insist that Bulgaria had to diversify its oil and gas supply sources and routes and secure its independence from Russia, adding that the EU had to offer more assistance in the field of energy independence.

“We need less Europe, in the sense that we do not want European political integration. However, there are many things which Europe can do to help, for instance in the sphere of economy. Bulgaria, for instance, needs foreign investments. You need an organization like the EU which will help you find a path of development but what is also certainly needed is a political system which is directly accountable to the people. We do not want Brussels ruling Bulgaria, we want Bulgarian people to rule Bulgaria through domestic political parties and institutions,” Van Orden said.

Ukrainian Ambassador to Bulgaria Mykola Baltazhy has said that his country expects maximum support from NATO.

In a Sunday interview for the Bulgarian National Radio, he made clear that Ukraine’s request did not involve sending troops to the country but rather military and technical aid. The envoy noted that talks with EU were also underway.

“The military aggression against Ukraine continues. We actually classify it as war, without a war having been declared. I am convinced that the West must be more consolidated and consistent in its actions against Russia. Europe has to be more unswerving in its sanctions, in its clear signals, and, last but not least, in its support for Ukraine,” he stated.

“We are taking all possible steps to protect our territorial integrity and sovereignty but it is only natural to demand the EU’s assistance,” Baltazhy declared.

He called on the democratic community to step up support for his country, adding that it was clear that the actions of Russia constituted impudent aggression against Ukraine.

Baltazhy underscored that the act of aggression was a threat not only to Ukrainians, but also to the Russians and Bulgarians living there, as well as the representatives of over 100 nationalities and ethnicities residing in the country, in other words, “a threat to the whole of Europe.”

He informed that a total of four people from the Bulgarian minority in Ukraine had died, adding that Bulgarians lived in places where there was no military action at present but they were also taking part in the anti-Russian operation.

“Russia keeps using gas as a political mechanism, as a political weapon, which we find absolutely inadmissible,” Baltazhy emphasized.

Bulgaria will make a commitment to increase army funding from 1.33% to 1.5% of the GDP, seeking to reach 2% of the GDP by 2020, according to President Rosen Plevneliev.

Plevneliev commented on the upcoming NATO summit to be held in Wales on September 4-5. Bulgaria’s head of state noted that the other NATO countries were expected to make the same financial commitment.

“We have to realize that it is not fair on our part to cut the military budget and to expect that somebody will come to defend us when the situation becomes difficult or critical. Bulgaria needs to make a contribution to stability and security too, using its skills and capabilities, and to invest in them,” Plevneliev declared in Brussels, according to the President’s press office.

“We hope that a stage of new sanctions will be avoided. We expect Russia to work for creating trust and for a de-escalation of tension and then there will be no extension of sanctions. However, if the situation keeps deteriorating, EU leaders are unanimous in their belief that we should continue with clear signals to Russia that its actions are inadmissible,” Plevneliev said, commenting on the debates on new sanctions against Russia during Saturday’s EU summit.

Bulgaria’s President declared that EU leaders were unwilling to resort to extreme measures in the case of Ukraine. “No weapons or troops will be sent, but the EU, having learned its lessons from WWII, is bound to act decisively and defend its values” he stated.

Plevneliev made clear that the Member States would carefully coordinate their activities related to a new set of restrictive measures against Russia over the coming week, adding that the sanctions could enter into force in 10 days, after undergoing thorough discussions.

He also informed that EU leaders had exchanged views on terrorist organization the Islamic State for the first time on Saturday.

“We shall cite this organization as a major source of instability and a serious threat to peace in the region and Europe,” Bulgaria’s President added.

The Bulgarian Energy Holding (BEH) and power distributor CEZ have signed a memorandum of cooperation on searching technical and economic solutions to extend the life of the Varna Thermal Power Plant.

A working group has been formed for the purpose and it is to function by October 31.

Petr Dokladal, Regional Manager at CEZ Bulgaria, has assured that everything possible is being done to find an efficient solution to keep the Varna TPP operational.

According to a media statement of CEZ Bulgaria, the Varna TPP used to provide 60% of the cold reserve of Bulgaria’s energy system with three of its 210-MW units and its availability tariff was the lowest in the country.

However, rules were changed in 2013, which created uncertainty about the quantities provided for the cold reserve and thwarted opportunities for long-term planning, according to the power distributor.

According to CEZ Bulgaria, the Varna TPP closed 2013 at a loss of BGN 67.6 M.

The EU has threatened to expand sanctions against Russia in a week unless it takes steps to alleviate tension in Ukraine.

The EU leaders have issued a joint statement demanding that Russia "immediately withdraw all its military assets and forces from Ukraine."

Speaking after a Saturday summit in Brussels, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said the European Commission had been tasked with preparing further restrictive measures which were to be presented in a week.

Van Rompuy, as cited by the BBC News, said the EU "stands ready to take further significant steps in light of the evolution of the situation on the ground,” adding that it was clear that the current state of affairs necessitated swift actions. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko warned his country was "close to a point of no return - full scale-war" with Russia.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said expanding sanctions against Russia was inevitable unless the situation improved significantly. She made clear that the new restrictive measures would involve areas which the EC had already discussed, including energy and the financial sector.

The US welcomed the latest move of the EU.

"We welcome the European Council's consensus today to show strong support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity and to prepare further sanctions for consideration in coming days," White House National Security Spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement.

“We are working closely with the EU and other partners to hold Russia accountable for its illegal actions in Ukraine, including through additional economic sanctions,” she said.

“We remain committed to supporting Ukraine as it seeks a diplomatic resolution to the crisis and call on Russia to immediately remove its military, including troops and equipment, from Ukraine and end its illicit support to the separatists,” the US official noted.

Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev has suggested that Bulgaria will be assigned a strong portfolio and will enjoy a much more vocal and dignified representation in the next European Commission.

Plevneliev gave a press conference after Saturday’s summit of EU leaders, during which Italy's Federica Mogherini was appointed as EU foreign policy chief and Poland's Donald Tusk as European Council President.

He underscored that the fact that outgoing Bulgarian EU Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva had made it among the three nominations for EU High Representative was great success, adding that Bulgarian institutions had put a lot off efforts into the campaign.

The consultations on the makeup of the new EC panel are to continue until September 7. According to reports of the Bulgarian National Radio, Plevneliev’s statement can be interpreted as a sign that Kristalina Georgieva will be awarded a position of EC Vice-President and that her portfolio has already been agreed upon.

During Saturday’s summit, EU leaders also gave Russia an ultimatum of seven days to reverse course in Ukraine or face further sanctions.

Asked to comment on further sanctions against Russia, Plevneliev said that the EU had to show decisiveness in order to prevent further escalation of the conflict with Ukraine.

“The crisis in Ukraine is definitely the biggest challenge to security in Europe after WWII” he stated, adding that a political solution of the conflict had to be found.

Calling for a categorical stance on the matter, he insisted that Russia’s actions were unacceptable, adding that the country had to be returned to the negotiating table.

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