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MPs will not be freezing their salaries. This was made clear after the vote on the new rules of procedure of the National Assembly, endorsed after a final vote in parliament today, BNR reported.

The Bulgarian Socialist Party proposal that the MPs’ basic salary remain unaltered at the December 2016 level throughout the entire term of the 44th National Assembly, was rejected.

This means that the MPs will continue to receive a basic monthly salary equal to three average monthly salaries in the public sector, according to the National Statistical Institute data.

‘’We have registered a drop in the number of crimes registered in the capital last year, with grand theft outo marking a considerably decrease’’, Mladen Marinov, Director of the Sofia Interior Ministry directorate told reporters, according to BNR.

A total of 22.292 criminal offences were registered in Sofia last year which is 9.2% down on the previous year. The number of crimes solved is up by 15%.

The Supreme Administrative Prosecution Office has contested a decision of the Energy and Water Regulatory Commission (EWRC) on setting the price of heat energy, the press office of the Prosecutor's Office of the Republic of Bulgaria has announced, quoted by Focus News Agency.

Today, the Supreme Administrative Prosecution Office (SAPO) has contested before the Administrative Court of Sofia City EWRC’s decision adopting amendments to the heat energy price limits as well as electricity preferential prices as of 7 April 2017.

By this decision, the prices of heat energy have been increased by more than 25%. SAPO finds that EWRC’s contested decision in fact is an agreement not to comply with the law in order to ensure the increase in the respective prices.

In addition, observing its constitutional powers to monitor compliance with the law, SAPO has appealed to the Chairman of Sofia Administrative Court to sanction EWRC for failing to comply with a judgment of the court that has come into effect. 

There will be no blitz-control at the National Assembly every first Wednesday of the month. The MPs adopted the amendments to the Rules of Organisation and Procedure of the National Assembly, FOCUS News Agency reports with 113 MPs votes in favour of the motion, 83 against, and zero abstaining.

The Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) suggested that the appearance on Wednesday morning of the Prime Minister and his deputies before the National Assembly and answering topical questions about the general policy of the government should drop.

During the discussions, GERB MP and chairman of the Rules drafting committee Danail Kirilov further explained that the blitz-control will be preserved in the committees and the ministers will report to them.

Estonia's defense minister said on Thursday that Russia may use large-scale military exercises to move thousands of troops permanently into Belarus later this year in a warning to NATO, Reuters reported.

Russia and Belarus aim to hold joint war games in September that some North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies believe could number more than 100,000 troops and involve nuclear weapons training, the biggest such exercise since 2013.

Defence Minister Margus Tsahkna said Estonia and other NATO governments had intelligence suggesting Moscow may leave Russian soldiers in Belarus once the so-called Zapad 2017 exercises are over, also pointing to public data of Russian railway traffic to Belarus.

Tsahkna cited plans to send 4,000 railway carriages to Belarus to transport Russian troops and gear there, possibly to set up a military outpost in its closest ally.

"For Russian troops going to Belarus, it is a one-way ticket," Tsahkna told Reuters in an interview in Malta.

"This is not my personal opinion, we are analyzing very deeply how Russia is preparing for the Zapad exercises," he said before a meeting of EU defense ministers.

Russia’s Defence Ministry did not immediately reply to a Reuters request for comment on the subject.

Moscow denies any plans to threaten NATO and says it is the U.S.-led alliance that is risking stability in eastern Europe. The Kremlin has not said how many troops will take part in Zapad 2017.

"We see what they are doing on the other side of the EU-NATO border. Troops may remain there after Zapad," Tsahkna said, saying that Tallinn had shared its concerns with Baltic and NATO allies. He put the number of potential troops in the thousands.

Such a move could see Russian troops on the border with Poland, Lithuania and Latvia just as the U.S.-led NATO alliance stations multinational battalions in the Baltic region in response to Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimea.

''The price of natural gas, which this country buys from Russia’s Gazprom to be renegotiated each year, while for the first two years, this renegotiating to be made once each six months. '' This is the Bulgarian position in view of the discounts offered by the Russian giant, BNR reported.

''They are related to the case on the monopole position, tabled against Gazprom on the part of the European Commission'', Bulgarian caretaker Minister of Energy Nikolay Pavlov said.

''Bulgaria will also insist for the dropping out of the obligation of Bulgargaz to pay the quantities of blue fuel requested in advance to the Russian side even when they are not fully used'', Pavlov added.  

 

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After GERB and the United Patriots has signed the coalitional agreement and President Radev had handed over to future PM Boyko Borisov the mandate for the constituting of the new government, the latter commented that the agreement guaranteed stable rule, BNR reported.

The document envisages a cabinet of one pm, four vice premiers and 17 ministers with decisions made with consensus.

There will also be a coalitional council of 6 United Patriots representatives and 3 GERB ones.

Borisov assured that the vice premiers, ministers and deputy ministers would be appointed over the next days.

President Rumen Radev handed to GERB leader Boyko Borisov the mandate for the forming of Bulgaria’s new government, BNR reported.

The head of state congratulated Borisov for the coalitional agreement signed minutes earlier with the United Patriots coalition, which rules that the new cabinet will be headed by the GERB leader and voiced to the public his expectation that the coalitional partners would present respectable ministerial candidates.

Before handing over the mandate, Radev held consultations with the parliamentary represented formations of Voya, Movement for Rights and Freedoms, Bulgarian Socialist Party and GERB.

Later on he stated the new government would be able to rely on his support for the implementation of all constructive ideas and proposals.

Caretaker PM Ognyan Gerdzhikov announced in a TV interview that the state revenues over the past three months have increased by EUR 800M on the same period of 2016, quoted by BNR.

The premier said this growth has due to the well-working economy and the good collectability of the customs and the National Revenues Agency.

Commenting the argued and withdraw proposals of the caretaker government for Election Code changes, Gerdzhikov stated that within his lifetime he would argue the right of the illiterate to vote, since in his words people who do not speak Bulgarian and are illiterate shouldn’t determine the rule of the state, also because they violate the constitution, stating that the Bulgarian language is obligatory.

The relationship between the European Union and Turkey has been severely hit by actions taken by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday, AFP reported.

"The developments over the past weeks have severely hit German-Turkish ties as well as European-Turkish relations," she told parliament, noting in particular that Ankara's arrest and treatment of a German newspaper correspondent is "incompatible with a constitutional state".

The Council of Ministers on Wednesday approved Bulgaria's positions for the April 27 EU General Affairs Council and the April 29 European Council in an EU27 format (without the UK). The two forums are to adopt the guidelines for the Brexit talks.

Bulgaria supports the core elements of the draft guidelines, including the EU's unified positions, meaning that there will be no separate negotiations between individual Member States and the UK; orderly withdrawal so as to reduce uncertainty for natural or legal persons; indivisibility of the four freedoms of the Single Market; the principle that "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed"; and a phased approach, meaning that the European Council will determine when sufficient progress has been achieved in the negotiations under Article 50 to allow negotiations to proceed to the framework for the future EU-UK relationship.

Regarding the acquired rights of EU citizens, Bulgaria supports agreeing an enforceable and non-discriminatory arrangement protecting citizens' rights and ensuring legal certainty. Bulgaria sets a key priority on the protection of the rights of Bulgarian citizens in the UK, including in the context of coordination of the systems of social security and cross-border health care.

Bulgaria expects the UK to fulfill all its commitments, including the implementation of the Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020, the EU-Turkey Statement on migration, and other international commitments undertaken during its EU membership.

Bulgaria’s centre-right GERB party leader Boyko Borisov will formally receive the opportunity to form his third government when head of state President Rumen Radev hands him an exploratory mandate on April 27.

The ceremony of handing over the mandate will take place at the Presidency in Sofia on Thursday at 10.30am, Radev’s office said.

GERB and the nationalist United Patriots, which won 27 seats, have been in talks on forming a coalition government. Together, the two groups have just enough support in the National Assembly to get a government voted into office.

Borisov has said that the proposed cabinet will be announced on May 3. It is expected that the vote will take place on May 4.

President Donald Trump has told the leaders of Mexico and Canada that he will not pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement, ABC News reports.

The White House made the surprise announcement in a read-out of calls Wednesday between the world leaders.

The White House says the president "agreed not to terminate NAFTA at this time."

Instead, Mexican President Enrique Pe a Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau "agreed to proceed swiftly, according to their required internal procedures, to enable the renegotiation" of the trade deal to "the benefit of all three countries."

A large explosion hit in the area of Damascus International Airport followed by a fire in the same place early on Thursday the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said, Reuters agency reports.

The cause of the blast was not clear, it added.

The Bulgarian Ministry of Defense has announced that at Graf Ignatievo Air Base in Southern Bulgaria, US F-15C fighter jets are to land for participation in a joint Bulgarian-American flying training ‘’Thracian Eagle – 2017’’, BNR reported.

In order to achieve greater interoperability of the Bulgarian Air Force in operations under the aegis of NATO, from April to June, crews from both countries will be training improvement of precedures logistic support and maintenance of visiting formations

The EU launched legal action against Hungary on Wednesday over a law that could shut a university founded by US billionaire George Soros, the European Commission said, AFP reported.

"We have decided to take legal action on the higher education law by sending a letter of formal notice to the Hungarian government," EU vice president Valdis Dombrovskis told a news conference.

At a meeting on Wednesday, the caretaker government adopted the conclusions of the special committee set up for the acquiring of a new type of fighter jets, BNR reported.

The committee has placed Sweden’s SAAB Gripen jets offer at first place, it was reported. The Swedish bid was preferred over offers for used F-16 planes and used Eurofighter jets.

The final decision will be taken by the future government of the country. Bulgaria wants to buy 8 fighter jets worth some EUR 757M.

The Bulgarian Customs Agency has reported that officer have seized the record amount of 214 kilos of heroin, worth about EUR 7M at the Kapitan Andreevo border checkpoint with Turkey.

The heroin was transported in cans in a lorry driven by an Iranian citizen.

The National Assembly adopted а proposal to amend the Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly so that the Committee on Legal Affairs can invite the Prosecutor-General to a hearing every three months, FOCUS News Agency reported.

The motion was proposed by Danail Kirilov of the Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria party (GERB) and a group of MPs and was adopted unanimously with 193 votes in favour.

The MEPs agreed that the hearing should be related to law enforcement and the activities of the Prosecutor's Office and the investigative bodies, including legislative changes, resource provision, difficulties in judiciary functions, fight against crime, including corruption, cooperation with investigative bodies.

A hearing can also be initiated by the President of the Supreme Court of Cassation, the President of the Supreme Administrative Court or the Prosecutor-General. A report on the results of the hearings will be made available to the MPs.

 At the end of March 2017 the bank deposits of the non-governmental sector in Bulgaria reached a level of EUR 43.3 bln. Or 72% of forecast GDP.

The average rise is 8.4%. Deposits of households reached EUR 22.7 bln. (47.8% of GDP), marking an annual growth, data by the Bulgarian National Bank showed, quoted by BNR.

 

The Prosecutor’s Office is checking contracts that have been concluded by the National Electricity Company (NEC) with consultancy and legal service firms.

This was announced for FOCUS News Agency by Spokesperson for Prosecutor-General Rumyana Arnaudova.

“The NEC has their own administrative capacity to conduct these activities. The Prosecutor's Office has launched this investigation following a tip-off from the State Agency for National Security (SANS) and is now seizing documents from the NEC’s headquarters as these were indicated as evidence in the information received from the SANS,” Arnaudova said.

There is a 3.5 kilometers long queue of trucks at the Dunav Bridge 2 border checkpoint at the exit of the country.

This was announced by the border police officer on duty for Radio FOCUS – Vidin.

The queue of trucks on entry is 1 km long. Traffic is busy, all six lanes are open. At the other two border checkpoints in Vidin Region – Vrashka Chuka and Bregovo – traffic is normal.

The European No Elevators Day is marked today and all citizens, institutions and organizations, supporting the active lifestyle take part in it, BNR reported.

The campaign has been organized in Bulgaria as of 2012 with three main goals: to provide more information on the benefits of physical activities; to encourage the regular participation in different kinds of sports and to improve access options to exercise and physical activity.

In order to show how nice, different and useful experience the climbing of stairs might be, the BG Be Active Society carriers out the campaign across the whole country.

The goal of the latter is to encourage the movement of people in cities, where traditionally lifestyle is sedentary and the need of a minimum physical activity is often neglected.

Today it will be mostly sunny. Clouds will develop temporarily around midday and in the afternoon, mostly in the mountains, slim chance of rain, according to the National Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology (NIMH) at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAS), quoted by FOCUS News Agency.

South-southeast light wind, increasing to moderate along the Black Sea Coast. Maximum temperatures between 20°C and 25°C. Pressure will fall slightly reaching April average.

Mostly sunny along the Black Sea Coast with moderate southeast wind. Maximum air temperatures will be lower than inland: 14°C -17°C. Water temperature 10°C - 11°C

Bulgaria is ranked lower in the World Press Freedom Index 2017 than any other European Union member, Reporters Without Borders said in its annual report on the index, quoted by BGNES.

“This is due to an environment dominated by corruption and collusion between media, politicians, and oligarchs including Deylan Peevski, a former head of Bulgaria’s main intelligence agency and owner of the New Bulgarian Media Group,” Reporters Without Borders said.

Bulgaria is 109th out of a total of 180 countries. The first three are the Scandinavian countries - Norway, Sweden and Finland. The last three are Turkmenistan, Eritrea, and North Korea is at the bottom.

Reporters Without Borders said that its 2017 index shows an increase in the number of countries where the media freedom situation is very grave and highlights the scale and variety of the obstacles to media freedom throughout the world.

The index “shows that violations of the freedom to inform are less and less the prerogative of authoritarian regimes and dictatorships.

Samples obtained by French intelligence show that forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad "undoubtedly" used sarin nerve gas in an April 4 attack in northern Syria, France's foreign minister said on Wednesday, citing a declassified report, Reuters.

The attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun killed scores of people and prompted the United States to launch a cruise missile strike on a Syrian air base in response, its first direct assault on the Assad government in the conflict.

"We know, from a certain source, that the process of fabrication of the samples taken is typical of the method developed in Syrian laboratories," Jean-Marc Ayrault told reporters.

"This method is the signature of the regime and it is what enables us to establish the responsibility of the attack. We know because we kept samples from previous attacks that we were able to use for comparison."

 

The funds contracted under the EU end-April are 40.29%, an enquiry on the implementation of the European programmes shows, quoted by BNR.

The spending of over EUR 3.6 bln. Out of more that EUR 9 bln. Envisaged has been contracted.

56% of the Regions in Growth OP’s money has already been contracted, alongside 21% of the Environment OP’s funding, while under the Science and Education for Smart Growth OP the contracting of 24% has been achieved.

The level of employment in Bulgaria for active people, aged 20-64, increased last year on 2015, an Eurostat analysis reads, quoted by BNR.

The employment index reached 67.7% in 2016 on 67% in 2015, European statistics reports. The index was 71.1% with men last year and 64% with women, on 70.4% and 63.8% in 2015 respectively.

The final employment goal for the Bulgarian population of that age group is 76% for 2020, according to the Europe 2020 strategic program.

‘’Europe’s main task is to restore the spirit of solidarity, of common purpose and common destiny’’, the President of the Party of European Socialists Sergei Stanishev said at the international conference Quo Vadis Europe: Globalism vs. Populism held in Bulgaria’s capital Sofia on Tuesday, BNR reported.

The forum marks the 10th  anniversary of Bulgaria’s membership in the EU.

Sergei Stanishev pointed out that in times of uncertainty and anger, when many people feel forsaken in their own countries, the natural reaction of most creates vast illusion.

Stanishev pointed out also that when national egoism prevails, everyone loses. In his view, no reforms and institutions would help, if the spirit of solidarity in the EU is not restored.

Sweden on Tuesday released a second suspect held in connection with the deadly Stockholm truck attack earlier this month, prosecutors said, The Local writes.

“The person is no longer a suspect,” the prosecution authority said in a statement, providing no other details about the person nor the reason for the arrest or release.

Four people were killed – including two Swedes, one Briton and one Belgian – when the driver of a stolen beer truck mowed down pedestrians on a busy shopping street in central Stockholm on April 7th.

Rakhmat Akilov, a 39-year-old Uzbek national, confessed to driving the truck and is being held in custody, but investigators are still searching for possible accomplices.

The second unnamed suspect was arrested on Sunday and released late Tuesday.

The affirmations of the opposition that it would provide help under important topics is populism and the behaviour of the Bulgarian Socialist Party on the topic related to Bulgaria’s Presidency of the Council of Europe is irresponsible’’, the leader of GERB Boyko Borisov said after the consultations held on Tuesday with the President Rumen Radev, BNR reported.

‘’We acquainted Presiden Radev with details about the difficult talks between GERB and the United Patriots on the formation of a new cabinet’’, Borisov noted, adding that due to the complicated situation in Bulgaria and abroad the two parties had to form a cabinet, because other formulas about a possible formation of alternative ruling coalition are impossible.

Boyko Borisov has assured President Radev that GERB and the United Patriots are to clear all details in the coalition agreement, so that the future government will be stable and complete the whole four-year mandate.

 A network for smuggling of migrants from Bulgaria to Romania through Dunav Bridge border checkpoint with the participation of a Bulgarian Police Officer was dismantled in a successful operation of the Bulgarian competent authorities, BNR reported.

Officers of Romaina’a Anticorruption Directorate also took part at the operation.

The organizer, the members of the migrant smuggling network as well as five migrants were detained in Romania soon after they crossed the border checkpoint.

The foreign nationals were hidden in a minivan.

Number of tourists from the United Arab Emirates showing interest in Bulgaria’s nature and mountain holidays, especially in the Rhodope region, has increased, BNR reported.

It became clear at Bulgaria’s pavilion at the biggest international tourist exhibition in the Middle East-Arabian Travel Market held between April 24 and 27 in the city of Dubai, UAE.

Bulgaria is presented at a 45 square-meter information pavilion organized by the Ministry of Tourism.

The Prime Minister will host Michel Barnier and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker for a working dinner at Downing Street at 7pm on Wednesday, writes The Press and Journal.

It will be the first time Mrs May has met Mr Barnier since taking office and the outcome of the meeting could influence an election campaign in which she is asking voters to give her a mandate for exit talks to begin after the June 8 poll.

The meeting also comes ahead of Saturday’s European Council summit, when leaders of the other 27 EU countries will discuss their draft guidelines for Mr Barnier to take into the negotiations.








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