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Grigor Dimitrov proceeded to the second round of the 2015 US Open on Monday, defeating the Australian qualifier Matthew Ebden in three sets.

The 17th seed Bulgarian came through by a comfortable 6-4 6-2 6-4 win over Ebden in New York.

Dimitrov needed 1 hour 28 minutes to reach his third victory in as many matches against Ebden. The Bulgarian will meet  Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan in the second round.

Dimitrov hasn’t reached a final this year even though he achieved several notable victories, including wins against Stan Wawrinka, Fabio Foghini and Fernando Verdasco.

 

Bulgaria’s central government budget is expected to show a surplus of BGN 601M equivalent to 0.7% of the projected 2015 GDP as of August 31, the Finance Ministry said on Monday.

The expected figure is improvement on end-August 2014, when the central government budget showed a deficit of BGN 1.28B, or 1.6% of GDP, the Finance Ministry said in a monthly budget forecast.

Based on preliminary data and estimates, the Finance Ministry expects to report BGN 21.52B in budget revenue and grants for the first eight months of the year, an increase of BGN 2.3B, or 12% over the same period of last year. The expected figure is 70.9% of the 2015 plan.

Budget spending including Bulgaria’s contribution to the EU budget, is expected to reach BGN 20.91B at end-August, which is 63.7% of the 2015 plan and an increase over the year-ago figure of BGN 20.49B.

Bulgaria’s central government budget showed a surplus of BGN 789M equivalent to 0.9% of the projected 2015 GDP at the end of July, the Finance Ministry announced on Monday.

This compared with a budget gap of BGN 1.15B, or 1.4% of GDP at the end of July 2014.

The turnaround to surplus was due to an increase in both budget revenue and grants, the Finance Ministry said in a monthly budget report.

Budget revenue and grants combined totalled BGN 19.02B as of end-July, or 62.7% of the 2015 plan. Compared with year ago, budget revenue and grants have increased by BGN 2.18B, or 12.9%.

Tax revenue, including social insurance contributions, grew by BGN 1.25B (+9.4% y/y), reaching BGN 14.44B at the end of last month, or 60.1% of the 2015 plan. Grants, most of them  EU funds, increased by BGN 834M (+58.5% y/y).

Revenue from direct taxes was BGN 2.74B at end-July, a rise of 5.3% from a year earlier mainly due to increased revenue from corporate and personal income taxes.

Indirect taxes such as Value Added Tax (VAT), excise and customs duties brought BGN 7.17B into state coffers in January-July, or 59.2% of the 2015plan,

VAT revenue increased by BGN 520.5M compared with end-July 2014, reaching BGN 4.65B at the end of last month, or 60% of plan. Excise revenue was 10% higher at BGN219.2M, while customs revenue increased by 2% on the year, reaching BGN 87.2M.

Social and health insurance contributions increased by a nominal 9.3% year-on-year, reaching BGN 3.94B at end-July, or 59.3% of the 2015 plan.

The central government budget spending, including Bulgaria’s contribution to the EU budget, totalled BGN 18.23B at the end of last month, or 55.5% of the plan for the whole year. The figure was higher by BGN 242M, or 1.6%, compared with the end of July 2014.

The government’s fiscal reserve totalled BGN 11.2B as of July 31, 2015, including BGN 10.7B deposited with the Bulgarian National Bank and other banks.

The government has projected 3% deficit in the 2015 budget bill adopted by Parliament in December. Budget revenue is forecast at 36.8% of GDP and expenditure is set at 39.8% of GDP.

Bulgaria plans to initiate a discussion within the EU on the need to add new elements to the bloc’s strategy for combatting the Islamic State (IS) group, the country’s Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov has said.

In an interview for 24 Chasa news daily published on Monday Mitov said that migrants are using the so-called Balkan route to reach western Europe increasingly often, which requires changes to be made to the existing EU strategy for addressing the problem.   

”We must distinguish between refugees and economic migrants, and attitudes towards each of these groups should be different,” Mitov said. “At the moment, the European strategy is lacking this element and it’s obvious that we need to modify it.”

“We’ve been talking about countering migratory pressure at European Council level for more than half a year now but it’s obvious that this pressure doesn’t subside. It’s clear that a more serious discussion is needed and new elements must be added.”

Mitov also highlighted the need to intensify contacts with third countries, particularly on readmission and repatriation of migrants. Stepping up the fight against people trafficking is another essential element of the needed update to the strategy of countering Islamic State, he said.

A discussion on the need to add new elements to the anti-IS strategy should be held both in the EU and NATO formats as well as within the US-led coalition against the jihadist organisation, according to Mitov.

Bringing Iran and Russia closer into such discussion is essential for the achieving of its goals, he added.  

Looking at Turkey, Mitov opined that Ankara “has to focus on Islamic State and not allow recent events to destroy the progress in the structured and well established dialogue with the Kurds achieved over the years.”

“This is important for the stability of our neighbor,” Mitov said.

 

Foreign direct investment into Bulgaria’s non-financial sector decreased by 5.9% last year, reaching EUR 21.95B, the National Statistical Institute (NSI) announced on Monday.

The biggest share of foreign direct investment (FDI) went into industry – EUR 8.95B, according to preliminary data, the NSI said. Services followed with EUR 4.58B in FDI attracted in the course of 2014.

While these two sectors together accounted for a 61.6% of total FDI into non-financial enterprises in Bulgaria, their combined relative share decreased by 2.9 percentage points compared with 2013.

The construction sector attracted EUR 994M in FDI last year, an increase of 7% compared with 2013.

About a hundred policemen were wounded in protests outside Ukraine’s parliament building on Monday as lawmakers approved on first reading amendments to the constitution that will give greater autonomy to the eastern regions controlled by Russian-backed rebels, newswires reported.

A loud explosion was heard when an unknown individual threw a grenade into police ranks, according to Ukriane’s unian.info. The blast caused severe injuries.

Over 3,000 people opposed to the amendments that give more powers to the authorities of Donetsk and Luhansk regions set up pickets outside the parliament building in Kiev at the time when the MPs were giving their approval to the controversial decentralization legislation that is a part of the Minsk peace accords signed between Ukraine’s government and pro-Russian rebels in February.

Police have detained 30 protesters during the rally including the grenade thrower, Ukraine’s Interior Minister Arsen Avakov has said.

 

Workers from Romania and Bulgaria have led a jump in European migration to Britain, the Daily Mail reported in its online edition.

“Some 53,000 people from the two countries arrived in the year to March – nearly double the 28,000 in the previous 12 months,” according to dailymail.co.uk.

Nearly every four in five of these, or 42,000 said they were coming to Britain to work, confirming “the fears of analysts who said that the highly-paid British economy would attract thousands of migrants from two of the continent's poorest countries.”

Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU in 2007 in the second wave of the bloc’s eastward enlargement. Their citizens gained the right to work in the UK from the beginning of last year.

You can access the original article here.

 

Independent lawmaker Velizar Enchev has announced he is to put forward in September a bill that would allow for cannabis to be used for medical purposes.

He has warned that "thousands of people suffering in Bulgaria" could find a means to alleviate their pain if they are able to use a mouth spray and has underlined that legalizing smoking has never crossed his mind.

In a Monday interview with private bTV station, citing the experience of several EU countries and a number of US states which have approved medical cannabis, he asserted that "everybody opposing this is also opposing their practices."

Earlier, Enchev launched a petition [BG] calling for the move, explaining he wanted to have "people's voice" heard.

Launched in mid-August, the petition has gathered some 3730 signatures (as of Monday, 13:30 EEST).

It followed an exchange of comments between him and Health Minister Petar Moskov on allowing medical cannabis, a step about which Moskov is cautious, fearing it could be easily mixed up with legalization.

Enchev, a former spy, has been known for often going against the opinions of "party" lawmakers, and he quit the nationalist Patriotic Front (PF) coalition just days after being elected Parliament on its ticket.

In June, Enchev submitted to Parliament an official inquiry to Health Minister Petar Moskov which included the list of diseases whose symptoms which some researchers firmly believe medical cannabis could relieve - including "cancer, AIDS, glaucoma, hepatitis, multiple sclerosis," and many others.

"Unfortunately this is a taboo issue in Bulgaria. What is more, two years ago a person diagnosed with MS in Lovech was brought before court because he planted marijuana after having read in specialized medical publications that cannabis deals successfully with the development of his illness."

Enchev is referring to Marin Kalchev, who was acquitted in March with the judge citing "numerous international studies" which proved the effect of medical cannabis.

But Minister Moskov believes that THC-based mouth sprays (THC is the most active ingredient in cannabis) could bring about "marijuana smoking" which "poses more risks to the human boby than the disease itself."

There have been proposals in the past months by Israeli companies and researchers to cooperate in Bulgaria on medical cannabis.

Rozhen Observatory, the largest in Southeast Europe is running out of funds and might have to stop working in October, its management has warned.

Located 90 km south of Bulgaria's second-biggest city Plovdiv, the astronomical facility announced a few days earlier it needed BGN 260 000 if it was to be run every day until the end of the year, with shortage in funding for water and electricity.

Bulgaria is facing Rozhen's financial needs as the country is to host the 2016 International Astronomy Olympiad, scheduled to take place either near Plovdiv or Smolyan. 

"All big observatories across the world are supported by the state... We will lose our observatory - and if it stops working we will never be able to get it back on track," Nikola Petrov, who heads the facility, told the Bulgarian National Radio on Monday.

He was referring to the need to provide regular maintenance to the equipment which could not be used again if switched off over a long period of time.

"The problem with astronomy... We do not generate material wealth, but everything created as a result [of astronomical studies] is used elsewhere - and we cannot have revenues directly from it," Petrov added.

Several members of the Bulgarian Academy of Science (BAS), which set up Rozhen in 1981, earlier called on citizens to donate money and help save the observatory.


For several days in September, the Bulgarian Black Sea city of Varna will be hosting a festival which was once a young and ambitious contender to become a key event in the world of animated movies.

Dozens of pieces will vie to become best feature films, short films, student films, children's films, or TV series for 2015. Though most of them are European (Russia and Belarus included), some come from countries such as Israel, Australia, Japan, South Korea, and Chile.

Screening will take place between September 9 and 13 at the Festival and Congress Center in downtown Varna. This year's edition will be the fifth year in a row since a small group of organizers first decided to revive a once promising event.

Starting in 1979, the festival initially managed to draw a host of renowned filmmakers from all around the world. Back then, and until 1989, it was held on a biennial basis and worked under the patronage of the International Animated Film Society (ASIFA)

It worked in tight cooperation with partner festivals at Annecy, Zagreb, Ottawa and Hiroshima.

After cultural funding was considerably slashed amid political and economic changes, it was abandoned to be brought back to life only years later.

The full selection of films is available here.

The Bulgarian government has unveiled a package of energy cooperation projects on which it would seek to work with Azerbaijan, Bulgaria's Ambassador to the country has said.

According to reports by the Trend News Agency, Baku is being offered to take part in the construction of filling stations, gas depots, and oil refineries.

"Bulgaria is interested in buying Azeri gas and government plans are about a billion cubic meters per year," Trend quotes Ambassador Emil Karimov as saying.

Mr Karimov has added that the volume could go up in the future.

Gas supplies from Azerbaijan to Bulgaria via the future Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) network are tied to the construction of additional infrastructure, namely the Bulgaria-Greece interconnector (IGB), which has suffered from several delays over the past months. If successfully built and linked to TAP, the IGB could carry gas to the rest of Southeast Europe, though other routes to transport the volumes from the new infrastructure are also being considered.

In Karimov's words, Azerbaijan is studying the projects tabled by Bulgaria and is analyzing their economic viability.

The respective energy ministries are yet to comment.

Defense Minister Nikolay Nenchev has said he is to demand help from Europe in the fight against people smuggling in relation to the deepening migrant crisis in the continent.  

Nenchev has made his comments after the Luxembourg Presidency announced it had called in an emergency Justice and Human Affairs Council session on September 14 aimed at working on a better response to the migrant influx.

In his words, days before the event he is set to meet with European counterparts in an unofficial session in Luxembourg where he is planning to ask for "more solidarity on behalf of European partners".

This came after an incident which claimed the life of 71 migrants in Austria, near the border with Hungary. As of Monday morning a total of 4 Bulgarian nationals have been detained as part of an ongoing investigation and are suspected of having taken part in a people smuggling ring.

Novinite has asked Japan's Ambassador to Bulgaria Takashi Koizumi to comment on international nuclear affairs and also on bilateral relations, in a month when the world marked the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.

Mr Koizumi's first diplomatic appointment was to the Japanese Embassy in Bulgaria, where he was Third Secretary for Cultural, Political and Economic Affairs from 1979 to 1982, and that was followed by a term as Second Secretary at the same embassy in 1988-1991.

Apart from having obtained a degree from a Tokyo university, he graduated in 1978 from the Sofia University where he studied Literature - and is quite fluent in Bulgarian.

Your Excellency, given recent international developments, for example Russia's plans to boost its nuclear forces and the time it took for Iran and the 5 + 1 group to strike a deal, do you think the world has actually learned any lessons from the dreadful events of August 1945?

We could say that the world has not learned yet its lesson after the tragedy in August 1945. On the contrary, we could say there are still countries wishing to possess nuclear weapons because they know about the horrors of nuclear weapons.

Japan and the Japanese are the only country and people who have experienced the atomic bombings and know very well how cruel and inhumane nuclear weapons are. They caused the death of 140,000 people in Hiroshima and 90,000 in Nagasaki. Heat rays of the atomic bomb which killed hundreds of people reached 40000 C. The effects of radiation have been severe. Subsequently, approximately 290 000 people died of cancer and other diseases after effect by the radiation. Nowadays, 70 years later, over 190 000 people are still suffering from the aftereffects. Whatever the motives were, nuclear weapons are the ones that should not be reused never again. I think that Japan and the Japanese have the mission to continually warn about the horrors of nuclear weapons all over the world.

Some countries are lobbying for a total ban on nuclear weapons. What do you think: will this ever become reality?

There are now a total of about 16,000 nuclear warheads across the globe. While that may be a sharp reduction from the 70 000 at the peak of the Cold War, it seems that progress in eliminating them has been much slow and that it is very difficult to become reality in the near future.

Under such situation, Japan as the only country to have experienced the tragedy of nuclear devastation in the war, has an important mission of realizing "a world free of nuclear weapons" by steadily carrying out a succession of realistic and practical measures. This year especially is the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings. At the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), held from April to May in New York, interregional group on Non-proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI), led by Japan, submitted to the UN Secretariat a draft final document containing specific steps toward realizing a “world free of nuclear weapons” and enforced efforts among individual states to reflect its content in the final discussions as far as possible. Regrettably a draft final document could not be adopted. However, Japan remains determined to make even greater efforts towards realizing a “world free of nuclear weapons”, as continuing to call for the cooperation of both nuclear-weapon States and non-nuclear-weapon States. The Government of Japan will submit a new draft resolution on the total elimination of nuclear weapons at the United Nations General Assembly this autumn, as an expression of that determination.

On the other hand, when it comes to progress in eliminating nuclear weapons, it is important not only to be taken initiatives by the states or governments, but also to be transmitted by words of people, regardless frontiers and generation’s gap, concerning the real threat of nuclear weapons. This year in August an exhibition dedicated to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was opened in Sofia Municipal Library, and a ceremony in memory of the victims of the atomic bombing was held in front of the exposed "Stone of Hiroshima", being part of the tramway pavement of that time in Hiroshima city, at the "Earth and Man" National Museum. In this regard, I would like to highly evaluate the strong interest against the devastation power of nuclear weapons among the people in Bulgaria.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is working to revise the country's constitution and to allow a more active role for the army. Does this mean Japan's 70-year-long pacifist policies are also being revised? Judging from reports of international media there was much social opposition to the legislation allowing troops to fight abroad.

Currently the draft of the new legislation for peace and security is under discussion in Japan's Diet. The new legislation aims to allow more effective responses for prevention of conflicts arising including response to aggression which does not reach to an armed attack and response to exercising the right of collective self-defense. In addition, the "Proactive Contribution to Peace" policy by Abe Administration will permit Japan’s participation in a wide range of U.N. Peace-Keeping Operations (PKOs) and other internationally coordinated efforts.

There will be no change in Japan’s basic posture and orientation as a peace-loving nation maintained in the past 70 years. Japan will keep exclusively dedicated defense - oriented policy, without becoming a military force, posing a threat to other countries. Its main policy adheres firmly to the observance of the Three Non-Nuclear Principles. As for exercising the right of collective self-defense which is allowed under the Constitution of Japan, it is permitted under the conditions much more stringent than those permitted under the international law. The conditions refer to viewpoint of securing Japan’s survival and the lives and peaceful livelihood of the Japanese people.

Enacting the legislation for peace and security which enables seamless response to any situation is of essential importance, while the security situation surrounding Japan becomes more and more severe. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expresses his willingness to explain to the people in a polite and understandable way through discussions in the Japanese Diet.

Passing on to Japan and Bulgaria's bilateral relations: compared to the exchange of Bulgaria with other major economies, trade with Japan has been rather modest over the past years. What is it that could improve bilateral trade?

We can hardly say that the trade volume between Japan and Bulgaria is high, compared with such major trading partners of Bulgaria as Germany and Turkey. On the other hand, we have seen the expansion of bilateral trade relations over the past few years. According to statistics of the Japanese Ministry of Finance, Japan's export to Bulgaria amounted to 5.3 billion yen [EUR 38.9 M] in 2011 and rose to 8.4 billion yen [EUR 61.7 M] in 2014. Respectively, Bulgaria's export to Japan amounted to 7.3 billion yen [EUR 53.6 M] in 2011 and rose to 11.3 billion yen [EUR 83.07 M] in 2014.

The main items of bilateral trade are likely to be changed every year, but the export of Japan to Bulgaria in 2014 consists primarily of chemical products, engines, semiconductors and electric components. On the other hand, Japan’s imports from Bulgaria mainly clothes, bags, essential oils and other items. Bulgarian rose, including the category ”essential oils” become increasingly popular among the Japanese. Moreover, Bulgarian wine won gold medal in prestigious wine competition in Japan, so awareness of Bulgarian wines in Japan is gradually increasing. Besides, last year Bulgaria exported for the first time to Japan sunflower oil even in small quantities. All these can be seen as a factor to increase Bulgarian exports to Japan, but there is still scope to expand export mainly of commodities in food processing, agriculture and light industry. For this purpose, the businessmen of the two countries should make efforts to actively exchange and share necessary information in the future.

Bulgaria's Deputy Prime Minister Meglena Kuneva met earlier in August a Japanese delegation and discussed with officials a prospective EU-Japan free trade agreement. Which areas do you think hold the greatest potential for Japanese investment into Bulgaria if the agreement is reached?

Japan and the EU have been developing close relations in both of trade and investment. Therefore, it is expected that the conclusion of so called “Economic Partnership Agreement” (EPA) between Japan and the EU would improve the conditions for business between the companies from both sides and will boost trade and investment. In my view, Bulgaria has hidden potentials in agriculture, food processing, manufacturing, tourism, etc. as an EU member-state. I hope Japanese companies to discover these opportunities as much as possible in Bulgaria and establish mutually beneficial relationships with Bulgarian companies.

I would like to point out that one of the possibilities for expansion of economic relations in the future is to promote the cooperation in the field of SMEs based on the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the agencies for small and medium enterprises of the two countries in March last year. Japan’s SMEs represent more than 99% of all enterprises in the country and possess high technologies and know-how in various fields. I know that the development of SMEs is a task of national importance in Bulgaria. I hope we could expect expansion of bilateral cooperation in this area possessing still unrealized potentials.

Japan recently allowed the import of Bulgarian poultry products. As Bulgaria is looking for new markets to place its output - and given Japan's high food standards - what does it take to boost cooperation in the food industry?

As you’ve been noting, this year in May the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan lifted a ban on imports of fresh poultry products from Bulgaria. I hope it will give positive effect and boost further bilateral economic relations.

As you may know, Bulgarian yogurt was introduced for the first time in Japan at the World Expo in Osaka in 1970. Later, the company "Meiji" imported Bulgarian bacterium and launched manufacture and sale of Bulgarian yoghurt in 1973. We celebrated the 40th anniversary of the sale of Bulgarian yoghurt at the Japanese market in 2013. And today, all Japanese, young and elder, men and women know about it. I am convinced that the good image of Bulgarian yogurt will impact positively appearance of other Bulgarian products at the Japanese market. On the other hand, I think that Bulgaria should actively provide more information about the various possibilities of Bulgarian food industry, including sunflower oil and wines, mentioned before. At the same time, in my view, another important factor, as seen from the successful example with Bulgarian yoghurt, is if Bulgarian manufacturers establish close cooperation with distinguished companies in good relations with the food industry in Japan.

In a previous interview with Novinite you said Bulgaria could draw on Japan's experience in disaster prevention and response. A year after Bulgaria was hard hit by floods, has there been any attempt at sharing experience?

Bulgarian side didn’t forward specific request for assistance to our side in last year’s floods in Bulgaria. As you know, Japan is a country experiencing various natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, landslides, heavy snowfalls, etc.

Japan hosted the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in the city of Sendai in this March. Thus, Japan is actively engaged in international cooperation for disaster risk reduction. At this Conference Bulgaria was represented by Bulgarian Ambassador to Japan Mr. Georgi Vassilev. I hope that, we, Japan and Bulgaria, would share Japan’s experience and lessons with respective Bulgarian authorities on various occasions.

In this respect a lecture on the Risk Reduction in case of Earthquakes was held in Sofia and Pernik, in November 2012, with the assistance of the municipality of Yokohama. The lecture was devoted to the importance of earthquake resistant building constructions and prevention training in case of potential disaster. The lecture was held immediately after the earthquake in Pernik and I was strongly impressed by the active exchange of views between the lecturers and participants in the lecture.

Transport Minister Ivaylo Moskovski has said the government might opt for another Falcon aircraft for the Prime Minister and other members of the Bulgarian government after an incident on Sunday.

In an interview for private national NOVA TV channel, Moskovski said repeated failures would lead to a replacement of the plane if the producer is unable to guarantee systemic technical failures can be addressed.

On Sunday, the aircraft with Prime Minister Boyko Borisov on board failed to reach the city of Plovdiv, southern Bulgaria, from Varna Airport in the northeast of the country.

The plane hovered over Varna during attempts to retract the landing gear after take-off. When this proved unsuccessful, it landed back at the same airport.

The PM was due to attend the opening ceremony of a new sports hall in Plovdiv.

This is the second similar incident in just months, the previous one having taken place in February.

Moskovski added the vehicle was to be taken "directly to the producer's factory in France so that a full check-up is made there".

"I am worried this failure happens quite often," he added.

Bulgarian and Hungarian police officers are performing joint patrols along Hungary's borders with Serbia as Budapest is seeking to stem the rising influx of migrants.

This follows arrests of Bulgarian nationals on suspicions of active involvement in a migrant smuggling ring.

On Sunday, Austrian police discovered the dead bodies of 71 migrants in a truck near the border with Hungary. Four Bulgarians and an Afghan man have been detained so far in relation to the incident.

The Central European nation is taking measures to deal with the tens of thousands of migrants who try to cross into the country every day. Some 140 000 have been detained while trying to enter since the year began, but tens of thousands make their way across the border every week.

Hungary last week completed the border fence two days ahead of schedule amid concerns over the swelling numbers of asylum seekers from Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa.

Thousands of border police officers have been dispatched to guard the border, and the number is set to rise to 3000 in September.

The government Falcon airplane carrying Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov on board performed an emergency landing at Varna Airport on Sunday.

The plane was conducting a flight from Varna to Plovdiv, but did not reach its final destination as the landing gear did not retract after take-off.

Instead, the plane circled above Varna and managed to land there, private bTV station reports.

The crew waited for the fuel to be exhausted and followed the procedure, returning back to the nearest airport – the one in Varna.

Borisov was meant to fly from Varna to Plovdiv, where he was expected to attend the opening ceremony of a new sports hall.

The incident is identical to the one, which occurred in February, when the government Falcon with the prime minister on board performed an emergency landing at Sofia Airport due to the same problem.

Transport Minister Ivaylo Moskovski assured that all passengers on board were safe and revealed that the problem was electronic rather than mechanical.

The last day of the sixth edition of the “Sofia Breathes” annual festival will take place on Oborishte street in the Bulgarian capital on Sunday.

The last day of the festival, which this year is taking place on the five Sundays of August, will be dedicated to music and dance performances.

For a second consecutive year, Oborishte street will turn into a musical stage presenting talented, hard-working young musicians, who have chosen individual and original styles and approaches.

From 16 to 22 o'clock, the section of Oborishte between the Evlogi and Hristo Georgievi Boulevard and the San Stefano street will be closed to vehicles, allowing pedestrians to walk on the streets and admire the performances.

The festival, which is a celebration of urban culture, has become part of the cultural events calendar of Sofia municipality.

Bulgarian orienteer and mountain runner Kiril Nikolov, known as the Diesel, set a new record on completing the longest tourist route in Bulgaria - the 600-kilometre-long Kom-Emine hiking trail.

Nikolov completed the hike in four days, 13 hours, 5 minutes and 30 seconds, becoming the first person to cover the distance in less than five days.

He improved the performance of ultramarathon runner Bozhidar Antonov, who broke an older record earlier in August, with 21 hours and five minutes.

A year ago, the Diesel attempted to break the record, but gave up eleven kilometres before the final due to poor weather conditions.

Throughout the duration of the hike, Nikolov slept only 16 hours and 35 minutes and did not consume any energy foods or drinks.

The Kom-Emine hiking trail follows the ridge of the Balkan mountains from Kom Peak on the border with Serbia to Cape Emine on the Black Sea.

It is the longest high mountain uninterrupted hiking trail in Europe and is part of the E3 European long distance path.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov called on world leaders to sit together and come up with a solution to the refugee crisis.

Borisov insisted that urgent measures should be taken to address the source of the refugee wave, namely the destabilised states in Africa and the Arab world.

According to him, this was not in the capacity of Bulgaria to deal with.

In his words, the country was only suffering from the consequences of the refugee crisis, which was going to deepen and Europe was the most to suffer as the refugees were flocking neither to the US nor to Russia.

Borisov stated that in order for the refugee wave to be halted, the conflicts in Syria and the Arab world should come to an end.

He reminded that one of the main principles in the EU was the free movement of people, but at present this was violated as many countries were building fences along their borders.

According to him, the building of fences was a practice characteristic of Europe 25 years ago.

In his words, the solidarity of the EU was questioned as the refugees should be taken care of and this posed a great challenge to the member states.

Borisov announced that 80 new policemen have been posted to the border and complained that Bulgaria spends too much on guarding its borders.

The Bulgarian prime minister stated that the fence at the border with Turkey cost BGN 30 M, which could have been spent on something else.

He pointed that since the refugees are to stay in Europe, they have to be provided with jobs and education for their children.

Borisov clarified that the Bulgarian army was stationed at the border in order to ensure the safety of the locals rather than shoot on refugees.

Bulgarian MPs spent nearly BGN 470 000 on business trips abroad since they have assumed office ten months ago.

The MP with most business trips abroad was the former Foreign Minister Kristian Vigenin, who traveled 18 times abroad in this period, his expenses amounting to more than BGN 9700, private bTV station informs.

The MP spending the most on business trips was Bulgarian Democatic Center (BDC) lawmaker Rumen Yonchev, who completed 13 trips abroad, which had a total cost of BGN 26 400.

Next are two of the parliament's deputy speakers - Yanaki Stoilov and Dimitar Glavchev, who declared expenses of respectively BGN 18 000 and BGN 16 450.

The speaker of parliament, Tsetska Tsacheva, completed seven business trips abroad, her expenses amounting to nearly BGN 15 000.

The most distant countries, which Bulgarian MPs visited, were Vietnam, Japan, Kyrgyzstan and Gabon.

The majority of the expenses declared in this period were on airplane tickers – more than BGN 285 000.

Social media have changed the world for the better: people are more informed and more critical, while business and politics are more transparent, says the founder of M3 Communications Group, Inc.

 

Q: In my memories you are a journalist, one of the brightest ones. Why did you leave this profession?

A: I still continue to think as journalist. Contrary to many views that those involved in the communication business go to the other side of the barricade, this is not correct. In the modern world everybody is a media outlet, everyone can express one's position through a Facebook profile, for example. Journalism helped me a lot. When I was starting about 20 years ago, I did not have any clue of management, but I had a grasp of media. I knew how one thought and how to influence a media outlet or a journalist in a respectable way with creative approach. This gave me a very successful start. But to this very day, I like keeping myself occupied with writing. I was 25 years old when my father presented me with my first typewriter “Maritsa”. It is still standing in my conference room along with the vice, which I had used for five years while working in a mechanical engineering factory before starting my studies. There I also have my first computer with which I started my business. What I haven’t given up is voicing my opinion, so that someone with stronger arguments could disprove me. In fact, this is what modern journalism is all about.

The best side of the PR profession is that it is a strange amalgam of creativity and business, richly garnished with excitements. This is not a suitable profession for someone wanting to work between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. The synonym of PR is emotion.

 

Q: What have social media changed in your work?

A: First, every person has become a public figure now. Until 5-6-7 years ago, the only public figures used to be show stars, actors, politicians, sports people and some journalists. Now every taxi driver with a second-hand laptop in his garage, who has something to say and knows how to do it, can become popular. Now, there are far more popular bloggers than MPs. Second, if there are 1.2 billion Facebook users, there are as many journalists, because modern journalism means to have something to say and have where to say it. And the third big change is that every social media user wants to do what I’m doing as one is there to promote oneself, one's business, one's family, one's friends. This creates competition on gigantic scale and makes us more creative. The more users are participating in this competition, the more beneficial this is to our business. Of course, PR is a serious profession, it can't be simply compared to a post on Facebook or Twitter, but this is the way to manage the publicity of a person.

 

Q: Isn’t this mass access to social media devaluing the information worth?

A: Not at all, because now the users of this information have the opportunity to choose more carefully from the vast sea of news. All of us, who are active users of the knowledge on social media, cultivate in ourselves a totally different set of qualities – to be able to read fast, to choose what is of interest to us, to share our opinion, to be critical.

 

Q: Traditional journalism has, however, become a shameful profession in our region?

A: This is not the case. The journalistic profession now requires much more knowledge, greater mastery, persuasiveness and arguments. This is the case exactly because of increased competition. When 12 years ago I wrote an article saying that print media is headed for demise, I received phone calls from many people, including my best friend Valeri Zapryanov, who all told me that I was so wrong. But this is the reply I gave to them: journalists sell information, viewpoints, analyses, but they do not sell paper. You have to be happy that nowadays a piece of news can be shared with readers in seconds instead of having to wait for it to be printed. Nostalgia for paper editions is a thing of the past. More than hundred years ago, when Henry Ford presented his automobile, called “petrol carriage”, a lot of people forecasted that its use will lead to incredible risks and it is not good for mankind. In the same way, social media changed a whole generation. I called it Generation F.

 

Q: Where does the F come from?

A: It comes from three traits that characterise our entire society today, not just a certain generation. F like Facebook, F like fear as those same people have great fears. They are afraid of being harmed, rejected, betrayed. And lastly, F like f*ck because many people of this generation say that they don’t care about anything and they swear at the whole world.

 

Q: There have been many allegations that online communication creates sociopaths.

A: I don’t agree. The amount of communication that we can fit into just a few hours’ time today took years 15 years ago. We know more than ever before. We work more than ever before. These are three totally beneficial differences. Apart from that, the most uncertain thing in the world right now is human relations. Swift communication and the substantial information load often lead to quarrels between friends. This is why it makes a huge difference how we talk to people. The words, the language we use, this is of great importance.

 

Q: You say that we know more than ever before but this is trivial information. Books have gone out of fashion, movie trailers are in.

A: Unfortunately, people nowadays listen only in order to respond without any true comprehension of the interlocutor’s words. We fail to let information sink in because of the information overload. These are all changes related to the times we’re living in and they are not necessarily for the worse.

 

Q: A shift from an analogue world to a digital world.

A: Yes, and the best thing about this change is transparency. I have always said that transparent business means ethical business. When I was promoting the first business ethics standard created by me and a group of friends, with everyone around me wondering what this is about, I came up with a definition which I believe is still valid today, namely: “Make profit in a transparent way.” Social scrutiny is a strong motivator for paying attention to what you are saying and doing. When somebody parks their car the wrong way, they risk having a picture of this spread like wildfire. Society is capable of exercising total control over politicians and business people. By the way, I believe that our political system is totally outdated and out of step with the changes of our time. I cannot imagine how it would last. Political parties will be a thing of the past in 10-15 years, to be replaced by MPs who gain the support of their electorate on the basis of concrete ideas, many of them related to business rather than ideologies. Ideologies are nowhere to be found today, that is for sure. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates are people who can unite through projects. How is it possible that intelligent, capable, knowledgeable people vote for someone one-tenth of their own worth, someone who has no opinion, can’t make a decision, doesn’t read and doesn’t care?! At the same time, society is much more educated. This type of political system is already standing in the way of society and its progress. It is small countries like Bulgaria that can make a breakthrough and initiate a change. We are not that conservative as a nation. Moreover, we’ve been through so many jolts over the past 25 years which other nations hadn’t seen in centuries. Small nations can be more resilient. If there are several people in our country who can present good business project in an intelligent way, society may look at them very positively and they will be the creators of a new political system.

 

Q: The European Union itself is a rather cumbersome bureaucratic system.

A: We can’t expect that those 17,000 officials with glassy eyes, as George Ganchev has called them, will reform the system in which they are feeling comfortable. The greater the number of people contributing added value to society, the better for society. Conversely, the bigger the administration, the bigger the obstacle to progress. I don’t want to exaggerate the role of social media but the interactive exchange of opinions has burned out all bridges behind us. There was a humorous picture of pyramid of success with a Battery Charged building block at the bottom, Wireless Connection at the top and everything else coming later – opportunities, projects… After having used warm water to bathe once, you’ll be unwilling to return to cold water rinse.

 

Q: How will you explain your job to a five-year old child?

A: My definitions get simpler as time goes by. Your thought becomes clearer with the accumulation of professional skills. I would say to a five-year old child that I’m doing the following: pronouncing the truth in such a way that it gets across. That’s our business. “Truth” is the keyword in this definition. In our business, if you even think for a moment that you can transmit wrong information to the media to do a favour to someone, you are at risk of misleading millions of people. That’s why ethics and transparency have a cult status in our business. And professionalism in our business means to make information easy to comprehend.

I’m famous among my friends for presenting their very little children with tablets as a gift, most often for their first birthday. This means a five-year old child will probably already know what the truth is, having found found the needed information.       

 

Q: Are you dealing in political PR?

A: We are not working for politicians and political parties because there is a large dose of emotion in politics all across southern Europe, including at home. That’s why, when you work for a certain political party, you are doomed to a nearly lifelong affiliation. On the other side, I’ve never been interested in political projects and I think that it is counter-productive for a businessman to deal in politics. Politics have rules that are outdated and stand outside the logic of good management.

 

Q: What are the basic rules of successful business?

A: Success is a relative category. I think that if you are working thoroughly, you are successful. You may be a taxi driver, you may be a postman, you may be running a big business. Everything depends on the risks you are taking and your endurance. When you have a big business, you are taking care of many people, you are paying big sums in tax and social insurance and you have to provide new rules for management. My generation who started doing business 20 years ago, have one big disadvantage, which is also an advantage: we are self-made. There was no one to teach us and show us how to do things. We’ve gone through many failures and successes, we’ve been learning from our mistakes and other people’s mistakes. However, I think that if people are doing things correctly and properly and are making profit out of this, they will be successful in their business. I also think that a successful Bulgarian abroad is a much greater success for Bulgaria compared to being here. First, such a Bulgarian is living and succeeding in a much more competitive environment. And second, when Bulgarians are successful abroad, they are promoting Bulgaria. It is those people that are making the image of Bulgaria. The money and possessions you own have nothing to do with success. A manager is successful if he has established a good team.

 

Q: When does a successful manager become leader?

A: You become leader without realizing it. You can’t invent being a leader. You become leader when people around you start imitating you and willing to be like you. This is the only definition.

 

*An interview for August/September issue of Bulgaria's Manager Magazine by Ana Klisarska 

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Maxim Behar is the founder and Chief Executive of M3 Communications Group, Inc., a company with more than 25 years of extensive experience in public communication. He is a creative personality influential in Bulgaria’s political and business life. In 2012, he was among the finalists of the contest Manager of the Year and won the online poll of bTV station for the most liked manager among the finalists.

Vice President of the International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO), and Chairman of the Board of the World Communications Forum in Davos, Switzerland, a lecturer at many universities around the world, Maxim Behar is also the author of three books. The English-language edition of the latest one, Generation F, has reached #4 in terms of sales on Amazon.com and its Russian-language version recently became a bestseller on Ozon.ru.

Maxim Behar is a Honorary Consul of the Republic of Seychelles to Bulgaria as well as a honorary citizen of his home city of Shumen. He is member of the Management Board of the Bulgarian Business Leaders Forum as well as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of For Our Children Foundation.

 

M3 Communications Group, Inc. is one of the first PR companies established in Bulgaria. Founded in 1994, the company has invariably been among the leaders on the country’s market of public and media relations services. For more than 15 years now M3 Communications Group has been an affiliate of New York-based Hill+Knowlton Strategies, the global leader in PR business with 88 offices worldwide. M3 Communications has an extremely vast experience in the filed of crisis communication, social media, event management, media analyses and creation and management of Internet-based projects.

The company has won tens of domestic and international awards, including Best Consultancy in Eastern Europe of the influential The Holmes Report, the Best PR Agency in Europe by Stevie Awards (often dubbed Business Oscars) as well as the PR Agency of the Year award of Bright Awards contest held by the Bulgarian Association of PR Agencies. M3 Communications has implemented so far over 5,200 projects for more than 250 Bulgarian and international companies.

Hungarian police detained a fourth Bulgarian suspected in the trafficking of the 71 migrants, who were found dead in an abandoned truck on an Austrian motorway near the border with Hungary on Thursday.

This is the fifth arrest carried out by Hungarian authorities after three Bulgarians and an Afghan citizen had been arrested earlier on Friday.

Authorities believe that the detained men are low-level members of a human trafficking gang and they hope that the arrests will help them in uncovering the leaders of the group.

In a court hearing on Saturday, the four men insisted that they were innocent.

It is expected that the four Bulgarians and the Afghan will be detained for a month until they are officially charged with human trafficking and inhumane treatment.

Austria could request the extradition of the five men.

The most likely cause of death of the 59 men, eight women and four children, was suffocation.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov revealed that the State Agency for National Security (DANS) assisted the Hungarian authorities in the arrest of the suspected human traffickers.

Meanwhile, Germany, France and the UK called on Sunday for an urgent meeting of EU interior and justice ministers to discuss “concrete steps” towards addressing the influx of refugees into Europe.

Prime Minister Boyko Borisov stated on Sunday that Bulgaria's absorption rate of EU funds amounted to 92 %.

Borisov added that in this respect Bulgaria outperformed Romania by 20 %, private bTV station reports.

According to him, if it not had been for the government of Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski, the construction of Hemus motorway would have moved forward rather than still being at project phase.

Borisov pointed out that in the past months the government made enormous efforts to defend the EU projects before officials in Brussels.

The funding for the majority of the projects expires at the end of the year and in case the funds are not absorbed, Bulgaria will not only lose them, but will also face repayments.

The prime minister noted that Hemus motorway is of vital importance to all of northern Bulgaria, especially to business, tourism and the economy as a whole.

Borisov added that Brussels clearly witnessed the achievements of the government and stood firmly behind the cabinet's policies.

In his words, Bulgaria's fiscal stability, decreasing unemployment, economic growth, good investment environment and security were all factors highly appreciated by the EU.

In an attempt to limit the influx of refugees trying to cross into the country, Hungary completed the construction of the 175-kilometre-long fence at its border with Serbia.

The fence, which consists of three rolls of razor wire, was completed two days before the initially announced deadline of August 31, Deutsche Welle reports.

A second four-meter-high fence is already under construction by the Hungarian army, which is scheduled to be completed by the end of October

The right-wing government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced the construction of the fence in June.

The Hungarian government has also prepared a bill featuring harsh penalties for people crossing the barrier, which is expected to be approved by parliament next week.

The bill foresees three-year imprisonment for people crossing the border illegally, five-year prison sentence for those damaging the fence and the set up of internment zone for refugees in the border zone.

The frontier is guarded by 1000 border police officers, whose number is to increase to 3000 starting from September 1.

Being a member of the EU and its visa-free Schengen Area, Hungary has increasingly become a preferred stop for refugees on their route to western European countries such as Germany and Sweden.

Since the beginning of the year, Hungary has intercepted more than 140 000 refugees crossing from the Serbian border and some 10 000 people crossed into the country in the past week alone.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande called for a complete ceasefire in eastern Ukraine beginning on September 1 due to the start of the school year.

The three leaders issued the call during a telephone conversation on Saturday, the main topics of discussion being the situation in southeastern Ukraine and the implementation of the Minsk agreements.

Merkel and Hollande informed Putin about the results of their recent meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Berlin, TASS news agency informs.

Putin expressed concern about the continuing artillery shelling of civilian areas in Donbas by the Ukrainian military and Kiev's build-up of armed forces along the demarcation line.

The three leaders highlighted the need to establish a direct dialogue between Kiev and representatives of the self-proclaimed republics in Donetsk and Luhansk as well as lifting the financial and economic blockade of Donbas.

Putin, Merkel and Hollande also reaffirmed their commitment to continue their cooperation within the so-called Normandy format, which also comprises Poroshenko.

They discussed the need for further talks between the foreign ministers of the four countries and preparations for a new summit conference.

The three leaders were unanimous that the Minsk agreements remained the basis for improving the situation in Ukraine.

They commended the efforts of the trilateral contact group and vowed to ensure the security of OSCE representatives.

The three leaders also discussed issues related to the forthcoming local elections in Ukraine, which are scheduled to take place in the autumn.

Merkel and Hollande noted that if the elections are not held in compliance with Ukrainian legislation, this could pose a threat to the Minsk process.

 








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