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Bulgaria's President Rosen Plevneliev is due to meet leaders of parties in Parliament on Friday to discuss the update of the state budget for 2014.

Consultations at the Bulgarian Presidency follow opposition GERB's decision to backtrack on their previous support for amendments to the fiscal plan, despite having voted to approve the motion on Tuesday.

In mid-June the Council of Ministers proposed changes to the state budget which included an increase in the public debt and current account deficit, but also boosted expenditures at the National Health Insurance Fund (NZOK).

Lawmakers from the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Parties (BSP) rejected the move, but it counted on the support of center-right GERB and liberal DPS until the opposition vowed not to back it on the final vote on August 4.

Plevneliev has urged the National Assembly to pass the amendments before dissolving on August 6 to secure more freedom for the caretaker government during its upcoming two-month tenure.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the former shareholders of the former oil concern Yukos are to receive a EUR 1.9 B compensation from Russia.

This is the second sentence Russia has faced over the nationalization of Yukos in just a few days.

Moscow has seriously pushed down the value of the enterprise with fantasy taxes and a manipulated auction, the court found.

Russia's Justice Ministry criticized the verdict for being one-sided and unfair. An appeal is possible within 3 months.

On Monday, Russia was sentenced to pay a USD 50 B compensation to the former shareholders of Yukos by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, Netherlands.

The enterprise used to belong to president Putin's government critic - Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

The former oligarch wasn't among the claimants because he dropped the fight for his property after years in a camp and an amnesty by the president Putin.

His speaker was very happy about the verdict, though. The decision was unprecedented.

Never before has the European Court of Human Rights gave a tougher verdict, Olga Pispansen said.

In 2011 the court announced in a temporary verdict that no disproportionate intervention of the Russian government in the destruction of Yukos was found.

The former shareholders of Yukos have sued Russia in Strasbourg demanding USD 38 B collectively for the 55 000 shareholders.

Besides, the court sentenced Russia to pay EUR 300 000 of taxes and case costs. Russia announced it would appeal.

Russia, which has been threatened by a recession and sanctions because of the Ukraine conflict, will have to begin the payments until the 15th of January. Otherwise interest will begin to accumulate.

In the last days of outgoing 42-nd National Assembly, the MP from the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) Martin Zahariev tabled a draft law on space exploration. 

According to Dnevnik.bg, last week, when it became clear that Parliament won't function normally till the early end of its term on August 6, Zahariev, who is the former publisher of the Bulgarian edition of Playboy magazine, joked that now was the time to table laws, which will never be passed. 

The law on space innovation and exploration is the brainchild of former foreign minister of the Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha government, Solomon Passy. 

He went to Parliament last November to seek support for his project for a law encouraging investments in space technology and exploration. 

According to Zahariev, Passy and he sought the expertise of German specialists.

Bulgaria's government announced Thursday a shareholders' agreement was signed with US-based company Westinghouse on the construction of Kozloduy NPP's Unit 7.

The document, which is due to be paraphed on Friday, will be pending approval from the next elected government after the early general vote on October 5, according to the Council of Ministers' press office, the Bulgarian National Radio reports.

Ministers gave the green light to the agreement on Wednesday, when they held their last cabinet meeting before a caretaker government assumes office on August 6.

The preparation and approval of a Financial model agreement and an Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) contract will also be required for the Shareholders' agreement to enter into force.

Earlier this week, Westinghouse CEO Danny Roderick visited Bulgaria to meet key government representatives.

Roderick revealed a final deal on the construction of Unit 7 is expected next year, during the tenure of the next elected government.

Ukraine's legislature, the Verkhovna Rada, has turned down the resignation Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk submitted earlier in July.

Yatsenyuk announced he was stepping down last week after the governing coalition collapsed due to the decision of two of its parties, UDAR and Svoboda, to quit.

During its session on Thursday the Ukrainian Parliament also passed budget amendments proposed by the cabinet, which envisage an increase in military expenditures.

Lawmakers rejected the resignation by a majority of 16-311, according to Ukraine's news agency UNIAN.

The interim government took over in February, after the Rada voted to declare President Viktor Yanukovych illegitimate amid unrest in the streets of Kiev.

Political leaders then agreed that early general elections should be held in the months to come, though a date was not specified.

Bulgaria's Constitutional Court on Thursday revoked the 20% fee levied on the income of photovoltaic plants and wind farms that has spooked investors.

The fee was introduced by the outgoing socialist-liberal government at the beginning of the year to rein in a rise in electricity costs prompted by the rapid expansion of the share of the more expensive solar and wind energy in the electricity mix during the period 2011-2012.

According to Bulgaria's State Commission for Energy and Water Regulation (DKEVR), the new fee has generated receipts of BGN 36 M by the end of March.

In January, Bulgaria’s President Rosen Plevneliev asked the country’s top court to scrap the fee as unconstitutional as it only applied to photovoltaic plants and wind farms but not to biomass, hydroelectric or co-generation power plants. Ten out of the 12 Constitutional Court judges have backed the scrapping of the fee, the Bulgarian National Radio said.

The Bulgarian Photovoltaic Association (BPVA) welcomed the court’s decision. Its Chair Meglena Rusenova said the ruling restores the rule of law and will stabilize Bulgaria’s energy sector.

”The Constitutional Court sends a strong signal from Bulgaria to all foreign investors that Bulgaria already is a stable destination for their investments and the Constitutional Court safeguards the stability of the investment environment in the country,” Rusenova said.

The Constitutional Court’s decisions have no retroactive force and the sums collected so far will not be restored to the solar and wind energy producers.

Orlando Bloom and Justin Bieber got into a heated altercation at Cipriani in Ibiza, Spain, early Wednesday morning, reports The New York Post. 

After getting in each other’s faces—Bloom threw a punch at the pop star—the crowd cheered.

According to witnesses, Bloom took a swing at Bieber after the singer, 20, made a rude comment about Bloom’s ex, Miranda Kerr. But a source close to Bieber insisted that the comment was only made after Bloom took a swing, and missed.

“Justin was at one table, and Orlando was at another,” a source told The New York Post. “But when Bieber and his party were later walking past Bloom’s table, Orlando refused to shake Bieber’s hand.” Then “Bieber said something rude to Orlando, like, ‘She was good.'”

Another source close to Bieber countered that the pop star didn’t make any rude comment and that “Justin didn’t even know Orlando was there. But when they saw each other, it was Orlando who was just being an a-hole to Justin.”“They got in each other’s faces and there were words,” a source said. “But they were separated by their entourages.”

A witness captured 30 seconds of the confrontation on video and posted it to Facebook. It shows Bloom walking away from Bieber and being separated by a crowd, but then turning back to walk to Bieber and confront him.“When they were back together again, Orlando threw a punch at Bieber,” said a source. “He just tried to pop him! The whole place cheered.”

The bad blood between the two began in 2012 when Bieber was seen getting flirty with Kerr after a Victoria’s Secret fashion show, which reportedly led to tension between the model and her Hollywood star husband, Bloom. The married couple then separated in October 2013.

Then newly single Bloom was seen spending time with Bieber’s ex-girlfriend, Selena Gomez, in April.

Kalin Hristov, Deputy Governor of the Bulgarian National Bank (BNB), arrived at Bulgaria's Presidency on Thursday afternoon.

Hristov refused to comment on the reasons for his visit, which came amid reports of a meeting of President Rosen Plevneliev with future ministers in the caretaker government due to be held later during the day.

Alongside lecturer prof. Georgi Bliznashki, Hristov has been pointed as likely to take over as Prime Minister in the interim government.

Some sources have suggested if appointed, he could also be assigned the Finance portfolio.

A caretaker cabinet is due to be sworn in after Parliament is dissolved on August 6.

Bulgaria's Interior Ministry Chief Secretary Svetlozar Lazarov said police presence will be enforced on the roads countrywide every Friday and Saturday night.

Starting next Friday, some 8,000 police officers will take part in the special police operation. They will inspect all vehicles, focusing on areas near drinking and entertainment establishments, Bulgarian Trud informs.

The new measures will be introduced due to the drastic increase in the number of fatal traffic accidents in 2014. The order of the Interior Ministry Chief Secretary does not specify an end date for the police checks.

Police officers will be authorized to stop all cars for inspection and to check their trunks as well, especially on Friday and Saturday when the traffic is very intense.

Traffic police officers will be only about 2,000, the remaining 6,000 officers will come from the security, highway and border police.

Officers can pull over for inspection up to 10-15 cars at the same time.

Entrepreneurs from Qatar, Abu Dhabi, China and South Korea are considering opportunities to build artificial islands near the seaside town of Pomorie, according to media reports.

The landscape in the region is "very favorable", with a "shallow beach" that is just 5 meters deep, and this would make it easy to place islands there, Kamen Shipkov, an architect from Pomorie, was quoted by the daily Monitor as saying.

Shipkov's own blueprints include three islands off the coast, with a 260-meter bridge to connect them with the mainland.

Facilities like a dolphinarium, swimming pools, water parks could be built on one of them, while the second could host a casino and the third could have five- or seven-star hotels. A twenty or thirty-story hotel like the one at Barcelona's port, which stands in open sea could also be erected, Shipkov believes.

Bulgaria's MPs were fined BGN 663 441 for non-attendance, shows an analysis of the BGNES wire service, based on official information for June 2013 – June 2014. 

Of those 630 000 were for absence from sessions of Parliament and the remainder – for absence from committee meetings. 

The largest sum was deducted from the MPs' salaries in July 2013 – BGN 174 850 when opposition GERB boycotted the sessions of Parliament. 

Most regular was the attendance in September 2013 when the MPs were fined only BGN 3765. 

The National Assembly, however, refused to provide information on the fined MPs by name, as this was personal information.

Deputy Health Minister and National Health Insurance Fund (NZOK) Chairman Boyko Penkov announced funding in the sector could only provide salaries until December.

The minister in resignation said Thursday that the fund would not be able to make any payments from December 1 unless healthcare expenditures in the national budget are updated.

Penkov's words come against the backdrop of tensions around the prospective budget overhaul, which was proposed by the Council of Ministers and approved by lawmakers at a first reading, but was put into question by opposition GERB's decision to renounce the move.

A final decision whether to revise the State Budget of the Republic of Bulgaria Act is due on August 4, but GERB's promise to boycott Parliament jeopardizes the session, and the fiscal plan could be left in its current state.

Under the proposed budget amendments, BGN 225 M are to be additionally allocated to the NZOK to safeguard ongoing financial operation.

The liberal Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), socialist's junior partner in the outgoing government,  is however the only party that presently backs them.

Three large European stock exchanges showed interest in the privatization of the Bulgarian Stock Exchange (BSE), said former Vice PM Daniela Bobeva on Wednesday.

She did not say which were the candidates for the stock exchange.

The government's Privatization Agency said in November that it planned to put up for sale its stakes of 50.05% in BSE and 43.7% in the Central Depository.

Earlier attempts for the privatization of the BSE by the GERB government failed. Eventual candidates were the London Stock Exchange, Deutsche Boerse and the Austrian CCE Stock Exchange Group.

Bulgaria’s population decreased further last year, maintaining the rate of decline from 2012, official figures showed on Thursday.

The ageing of the population has also continued, the National Statistical Institute (NSI) said.

At the end of last year, Bulgaria's population totalled 7.245 million, down 0.5% compared to a year earlier. Bulgarians accounted for 1.4% of the population of the European Union at the end of 2013.

Last year's drop in population numbers extended the decline from 7.364 million recorded in the 2011 census. In 2012, Bulgaria’s population decreased by 0.6% to 7.282 million.

According to a NSI statement, males accounted for 3.524 million, or 48.6% of the total population at the end of last year, while females were 3.720 million, or 51.4%.

Those aged 65 or more were 1.417 million, or 19.6% of the total population at the end of last year, compared with 1.395 million or 19.2% a year earlier. In 2012, the share of Bulgarians aged 65 and over increased by 0.4 percentage points compared to 2011 and by 2.0 percentage points compared to 2005.

Working-age population was 4.472 million at the end of last year, or 61.7% of the total population. Working-age males were 2.364 million and females were 2.141million.

Bulgaria’s population has steadily decreased since peaking at 8.865 million in 1980. The country has experienced a dramatic drop in population numbers since the 1990s when economic collapse prompted emigration on a large scale. Some 1.2 million people, mostly younger adults, had left the country for good by 2005, and the fertility rate is well below the replacement rate.

The average life expectancy for the period 2011-2013 was 74.5 years, the NSI said. Life expectancy for males was 71 years, while for females it was seven years longer.

Bulgaria has failed to take full advantage of the benefits of its membership in the European Union, outgoing German Ambassador in Bulgaria Matthias Hoepfner said.

In an interview with public broadcaster BNR, Hoepfner cited the absorption of EU funds as a case in point and described it as "unsatisfactory", reminding that EU financing allocated under a number of operational programs was already blocked.

He placed an emphasis on the need to improve public procurement procedures, but added Bulgaria was beginning "to realize how important it is to address that issue, more over, [to do it] as quickly as possible".

Hoepfner also hailed "positive achievements" in Bulgaria over the past years, pointing the wakening of the country's civil society as an example.

"Nowadays one openly speaks on subjects that until recently were a taboo, and this is a success for civil society," the ambassador argued.

He also underscored that the presence of "private economic interests that emerged during the [post-socialist] transition and led to a certain interweaving with politics" Bulgaria's main problem.

The diplomat, who has been Germany's envoy to Sofia since 2009, Matthias Hoepfner, who currently holds the position, came under the spotlight last autumn, when he voiced criticism at media ownership in Bulgaria.

On Thursday he repeated media owners should not use their outlets to pursue "their own business interests" and stressed a change in that direction would be one of the challenges for the next Bulgarian government.

Hoepfner's successor, Detlef Lingemann, is expected to arrive in Bulgaria in August.

Average unemployment rates in Bulgaria in 2013 were 11.3%, and the average rate of unemployed in the country was 371 380 per month, the National Statistics Institute (NSI) reports.

A substantial share of the unemployed in Bulgaria's employment offices were periodically released employed people without a mass lay offs procedure, mainly from small and medium companies.

The average salary in 2013 was BGN 808 and has increased by BGN 42 compared to 2012 or with 5.5%, a report by the NSI states.

The average salary in the public sector last year was BGN 839,75 and in the private sector - 797.75. The trend for the public sector average salary to be higher than that in the private sector continues, with a difference of 5.3%.

From the 1st of January 2013 a new minimum wage rate was set at BGN 310. The BGN 20 raise is an increase of 6.9% compared to its former value of BGN 290.

Last year, pensions continued to be the second most important income factor for Bulgarian households. They make up 25.5% of households' collective income, compared to their 26.7% share in the previous year. Overall, the social transfers - pensions, child and social benefits, scholarships and unemployment benefits make up 28.5% of last year's income per person.

In the autumn of 2013 Bulgarian households spent BGN 4 466 per person, which was 10.1% more than in 2012. BGN 1480 were spent on food per person in the household. The relative share of food expenditure among the total expenditures dropped from 33.4% in 2012 to 33.2% last year.

Bulgaria's nominee to become the EU's High Representative should be more vocal on foreign issues of the bloc, outgoing Bulgarian top diplomat Kristian Vigenin said.

Georgieva was officially declared candidate for the post of EU foreign policy chief (High Representative of the Union for Foreign Policy and Security Affairs) by Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski on July 16, just a week before the cabinet stepped down.

Vigenin himself was reportedly preferred by the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), of which he is a member (and represented it as MEP until 2013) as Bulgaria's EU Commissioner candidate. He has repeatedly pointed chances of Georgieva to take over the EU's diplomatic service from Catherine Ashton are very slim.

In his last press conference as Foreign Minister, he commented on national and EU-level developments over the 14-month tenure of the government in resignation.

He hailed achievements of the cabinet in the field of energy diplomacy and added his office had worked on dialogue among all countries that are due to host the South Stream pipeline, website Dnevnik.bg reports.

Vigenin thus repeated his own comments from Wednesday, when he told the Bulgarian National Television Sofia would hold on to its commitment to European rules regarding South Stream.

He once again touched the issue of the latest Western sanctions against Russia imposed earlier this week over the Ukraine crisis.

Bulgaria "will not bear" direct consequences after the new round of restrictions, but possible reactions of Moscow could cause repercussions, the Foreign Minister stressed.

On Wednesday Vigenin argued the measures would have "a negative impact" on the entire EU.

Bulgarian scientists have found more evidence that the moderate drinking of beer is good for one's health thanks to the natural ingredients contained in the ale.

Natural low-alcohol drinks such as beer contain large amounts of vitamins and antioxidants. The levels of these substances in beer are higher than those in some of the most common fruits and vegetables such as watermelons, melons, apples, and carrots, scientists have announced during the 7th National Conference of the Bulgarian Society for Nutrition and Dietetics.

A recent study shows that the beer produced in Bulgaria is an excellent source of important low-molecular-weight antioxidants such as glutathione and proline, BGNES reports. Glutathione is also found in fruits and vegetables and is synthesized by the human body.

In spite the sanctions, Russia's President Vladimir Putin continues expanding his sphere of influence, concludes an analysis of the German intelligence, published in German media.

According to Suddeutsche Zeitung, quoted by Deutsche Welle, the foreign policy committee in the Bundestag discussed Bulgaria and the Russian interests in the beginning of July. 

In his article, the German investigative journalist Hans Leyendecker claims that at the session were invited the head of the German Federal Intelligence Service (BND) Gerhard Schindler and a BND analyst. They discussed the situation in Ukraine, Bulgaria and deliberated on Putin and the oligarchs.

According to Leyendecker, quoting one of the committee members, Schindler said Russia had an interest in the bankruptcy of Bulgaria, so it can reconnect closely with Russia.   

Schindler said, according to the article, that Putin had an interest in weakening the Western democracy principles because in his opinion their individualism was wrong. The BND analysis claims Putin was trying to use the “current weakness of the USA” for his own goals and to impose a new global order, which was supposed to be established by around 2020. Putin was also trying to disunite Europe and to expand his spheres of influence. In Bulgaria and Serbia one could expect new developments.

The chief of the Sigma sub-department at the Sofia Police Directorate (SDVR) has been detained alongside six other policemen from the unit, the website Dariknews.bg quotes officials as saying.

Ivaylo Vasilev, who heads the sub-department, has been imposed detention for 72 hours over financial abuse, authorities reveal, following their previous report that he is to remain in custody for 24 hours.

The operation has been conducted under the supervision of the Specialized Prosecutor's Office.

Bulgaria's Interior Ministry is due to comment on the issue later on Thursday.

All Sigma employees have been summoned to Sofia, including those on a holiday, and a total of 20 employees are currently being interrogated.

The Sigma motorcycle patrol unit is responsible for maintaining public order, carrying out investigations, escorting criminals to court or to an airport in case of an extradition.

Among those escorted was Serbian drug lord Sreten Josic, who was extradited to the Netherlands in 2002 after Interpol issued an arrest warrant.

Nikolai Kobliakov, described as an opposition-affiliated Russian businessman, has been arrested at Sofia Airport, authorities say.

Private national channel NOVA TV reports the operation targeting Kobliakov was carried out on Tuesday evening.

Moscow had issued in 2013 a red notice for Kobliakov over an alleged criminal offense.

On Tuesday the businessman arrived in Sofia flying from French capital Paris and was detained on the passport control checkpoint.

He has a dual Russian-French citizenship and is the co-founder of the human rights organization Russie-Libertes (Free Russia) based in Paris.

The detainee is also the Baltics representative of the French entity Senior Group, which builds residences for the elderly and for people with limited mobility.

Bilyana Kotsakova, Kobliakov's lawyer, was quoted as explaining the wording of the Interpol notice was "too vague", a position also declared in a statement by Russie-Libertes officials.

She also pointed a quick reference on Interpol's website produced no results containing her client's name.

The entrepreneur himself wrote on Facebook that he did not understand why he had appeared on the international warrant list.

The Russian media outlet Rosbalt reported he is facing extradition to Russia.

Kobliakov has been known for his criticism at the policies of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He left the country in 2010 after being summoned for questioning by interrogators.

Meteorologists issued a code yellow warning for possible torrential rains and hailstorms for seven regions in Bulgaria. 

According to the Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology, on Thursday in the regions of Vidin, Montana, Vratsa, Sofia City, Sofia Region, Pernik and Kyustendil are likely torrential rains, thunder and hailstorms. 

The Ministry of Environment and Waters warns of possible rises in the levels of rivers in the western parts of the country.

Bulgarian road carriers have backtracked on their threat to block Sofia's exits after the authorities agreed to relax a planned expansion of restrictions on traffic.

The road carriers on Tuesday threatened to block Sofia's exits at 3pm on Friday after the government’s Road Infrastructure Agency (RIA) said it would ban the traffic of heavy trucks on an additional number of main and secondary roads on Fridays and Sundays during the peak summer holiday season to cut the number of road accidents.

Following a meeting between RIA officials and road carriers on Wednesday afternoon an agreement was reached to add fewer roads to the expanded list than originally announced by RIA on Tuesday, Trud daily quoted the Chair of the National Association of Bulgarian Road Carriers, Krasimir Lalov, as saying.

The traffic ban for trucks of over 12 tonnes remains in force on Fridays 6-9pm and Sundays 2-8pm for the highways until September 15, RIA said in a statement. Restrictions also remain in force for eight main roads and four secondary roads.

Today's plenary session has been canceled due to a lack of quorum as Bulgaria's opposition party GERB refused to register in Parliament.

A total of 95 MPs from Bulgaria's Socialist Party (BSP) and from the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) have attended Thursday's session. Parliament Speaker Mihail Mikov has scheduled the next hearing for Friday.

Both nationalist Ataka party and opposition GERB have refused to work within the current national assembly.

Leader of GERB Boyko Borisov announced that the party MPs will not attend sessions anymore until parliament is dissolved on August 6, to avoid speculations of working together with DPS, Vesti informs.

Three minor earthquakes have been registered near the town of Smolyan, in southern Bulgaria some 150 km southeast of Sofia, Wednesday afternoon.

The three earthquakes measuring from 2.1 to 2.6 on the Richter scale struck between 4:11 p.m. and 7:54 p.m. local time on Wednesday at depths ranging from two to 11 km, the European-Mediterranean Seismological Center (EMSC) has informed.

No damages were reported.

Bulgaria's President Rosen Plevneliev will reportedly hold consultations with future caretaker government ministers, Thursday.

The meeting will take place after Lyutvi Mestan, leader of liberal party Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), rejected the mandate to form a government on Wednesday. DPS's decision was declared after center-right party GERB (Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria) and the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) gave up the proposal to form a government, as well.

Plevneliev and the new ministers will discuss the priorities of the caretaker government until the formation of the next cabinet.

Thursday's information has not yet been officially confirmed by the Presidency.

The caretaker government has to ensure fair elections, to work for the stabilization of the financial and the economic situation, and for the absorption of EU funds, Standart news reports.

The caretaker government will be officially presented on August 5, Plevneliev announced.

Corporate Commercial Bank (KTB) majority shareholder Tsvetan Vasilev said he had made a mistake by appointing MEP Nikolay Barekov as TV7 channel's CEO.

In an open letter to the media sent after politician Yane Yanev referred him to prosecution over allegations that he "illegally financed" Barekov's Bulgaria without Censorship party, Vasilev dismissed Yanev's signals to the Prosecutor's office.

KTB's owner however also stressed it was Barekov whose "financial propriety" should be put into question.

Vasilev delivered his comments amid a scandal in Barekov's Bulgaria without Censorship, which some of its coalition partners have left over the past days.

In an interview for private channel bTV after the KTB affair started, Vasilev admitted Barekov's rise in politics should largely be ascribed to his use of TV7's resources.

Vasilev, to whom the channel was allegedly affiliated at the time when Barekov launched his political career, also acknowledges in his letter that he personally recommended the journalist-turned-politician to take the post in 2012.

US-based company Westinghouse sees big opportunities in Bulgaria, but the government's resignation will delay ongoing projects, CEO Danny Roderick said.

Roderick also told Bulgarian daily Trud the final deal on Unit 7 would be sealed next year.

His remarks, quoted by a number of media outlets, came as he was on a visit to Bulgaria to meet Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski and other officials from the government in resignation.

During their meeting, Oresharski restated Bulgaria's commitment to the project.

Oresharski's government stepped down last week without adopting a final decision to sign a deal with Westinghouse on the unit, leaving the move into the hands of the next elected government due to take over after the vote in October.

In an interview with the Bulgarian National Television, Roderick revealed the prospect of building a second nuclear reactor at the Kozloduy NPP, apart from the Unit 7 of which Westinghouse will be in charge, is currently being considered.

Roderick confirmed that the price tag of Kozloduy NPP's Unit 7 would be slightly over USD 5 B and assured that was the most "competitive" price Westinghouse had offered in contracts so far.

He added the project had managed to raise some financing, including "by a US bank".

The CEO stressed the construction of Unit 7 would create new jobs for the local inhabitants, but also admitted it would suffer delays, as the political environment (early elections included) were changing initial plans to strike an agreement with Sofia at the earliest possible.

Commenting on criticism that the project has drawn over the past months, he warned against drawing parallels between the unit and the Belene NPP project.

"Belene [NPP] was an agreement between states, we at Westinghouse are carrying out things in stages, we do a certain task, then we explain to our customers what we have found," Roderick was quoted by Trud as saying. The chief executive also underscored Unit 7's construction would be blueprinted and carried out in a transparent way, hinting that was the case with Belene.

Belene NPP, also a controversially perceived nuclear project, was frozen in 2010 by GERB's minority government headed by Boyko Borisov, who cited the "unclear timetable" and lack of certainty in financial terms as reasons for the move. A referendum held on the issue failed to revive the plant and intentions to build it were finally abandoned, despite ruling socialists' declarations they might move to renew the venture.

It is expected that Unit 7 could be constructed in five years and operational by 2022-2024. Prior to that it will take two years to complete license procedures.

There is nothing "spectacular" about whether the 2014 budget will be overhauled or not, Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski said on Wednesday.

"If [the motion] is approved, it will provide sense of calm to the next [caretaker government], if is not - they will have to adopt a more careful approach to expenditures and to control [them] in a more effective way," daily Sega quoted him as saying.

His comments come after prospects of approving amendments to the state budget for this year dwindled on Wednesday, with the main opposition party GERB declaring it would reject the move, just hours after it had thrown its support behind it in Parliament.

Oresharski's cabinet in resignation agreed in mid-June on a bill raising expenses in healthcare by BGN 225 M, increasing the projected current-account deficit and the cap of Bulgaria's public debt and also reducing the budget's income statement.

However, the Prime Minister, who submitted his resignation last week has repeatedly assured it is not of utmost necessity to change the fiscal framework.

Oresharski was Finance Minister in the 2005-2009 cabinet of the so-called "Three-Way Coalition" and was picked by the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) to head the last government due to his professional expertise, despite not being a member of the party.

Tests of the local health inspectorate in Blagoevgrad have indicated the presence of radioactive water in a drinking water pipe in the village of Krastiltsi.

According to reports of the Bulgarian National Radio, the laboratory tests were made on a tip-off of locals.

The samples diverged from the norms for total alpha activity and natural uranium specified in Ordinance #9, according to Maria Stancheva from the regional health inspectorate.

She claimed that an order had been issued for stopping water supply and it had been handed to the Mayor.

She suggested that the inspectorate had made several checks, only to find that the water supplied had been stopped and then restored.

Stancheva made clear that the Mayor of the Sandanski Municipality had been imposed administrative sanctions.

Sandanski Mayor Andon Totev, however, vowed to appeal the penal ruling in court.

He said that everything possible had been made to protect the local population from the radioactive water and accused the residents of arbitrariness.

Totev suggested that the claims of the health inspectorate were untrue.

He insisted that water supply had been immediately stopped on their instruction but the locals had managed to restore it on their own initiative.

The Mayor of Sandanski vowed to provide water trucks for the village.

He questioned the accuracy of the tests, stressing that the uranium mine near the village had been defunct for over 35 years.

By leaving parliament GERB sabotaged the National Health Insurance Fund (NZOK) budget update deputy speaker of Parliament Maya Manolova told novinite.bg.

(with abridgments)

Mrs. Manolova, how would you comment the current situation in Parliament after today's decision of GERB not to participate in the remaining sessions?

Apparently Boyko Borisov got scared that the future plans of a coalition between him and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) became public. But this is a very irresponsible action, because the NZOK budget had to be updated. On another hand, it is a good thing, that the plans to allow the future caretaker government to conclude financial contracts. This was an anti-constitutional idea, floated by GERB and DPS, without a precedent. - To give mandate to a caretaker government to take loans with unclear parameters.

Boyko Borisov called his decision “responsible and stately”, you say it was irresponsible. Could you clarify?

It is irresponsible, because by leaving the parliament GERB sabotaged the update of the NZOK budget. Yesterday the update was supported by all parliamentary-represented parties. We need ease of mind for the doctors, the patients, for the Bulgarian citizens. Apparently, this is not going to happen, because there is no quorum in Parliament, so the responsibility on the healthcare system falls on GERB. On another hand, it is a good thing, that the taking of another BGN 3.5 loan won't happen, because the failed second reading of the update of the state budget.

GERB transferred the responsibility from here onwards on BSP – what do you think this Parliament can do by the end of its mandate on August 5?

If GERB are really not coming to Parliament anymore, it can't do anything.

Would you try to gather a quorum on Thursday?

Yes, we will be in the session hall because we continue to think that the update of the NZOK budget is needed by the Bulgarian citizens. Let it be known that Coalition for Bulgaria did everything possible to pass the update and other urgent laws, but those attempts were sabotaged by GERB's irresponsible behaviour.

Lyutvi Mestan, leader of liberal party Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), has rejected the mandate to form a government.

DPS, the third biggest political party, declined the invitation of President Rosen Plevneliev on Wednesday.

DPS's rejection was declared after center-right party GERB (Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria) and the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) gave up the proposal to form a government.

The next step, as outlined in Bulgaria's Constitution, is to dissolve the 42nd National Assembly and to appoint a caretaker government and start preparations for early elections.

Plevneliev, as cited by Dnevnik daily, declared that he would present the caretaker government at 11 am on August 5.

He explained that he would issue a decree for the dissolution of Parliament on August 6, thereby allowing the caretaker government to take office.

The early elections are to take place on October 5, as agreed during the consultations between representatives of the political parties and the President.

The Bulgarian Socialist Party proposes that the Bulgarian Deposit Insurance Fund start repaying deposits of up to EUR100 000 two months after the suspension of activity of a bank.

BSP MP Yanaki Stoilov explained Wednesday that the party had submitted changes to the Bank Deposit Guarantee Act as a result of the adoption of the budget update at the first reading with the support of center-right party GERB (Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria) and liberal party Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS).

Stoilov, as cited by investor.bg, emphasized that the budget update envisaged an increase in the government debt by BGN 3.4 B, meaning that a sum of BGN 1.7 B could be earmarked for boosting the resources of the BDIF.

Before Tuesday's vote on the budget amendments in Parliament, he had warned that his party would embark on the step if the bill was passed.

However, Stoilov's comments came before the announcement of GERB leader Boyko Borisov that GERB was leaving Parliament and the budget update would not be adopted conclusively before the dissolution of the current National Assembly on August 6.

"The legal changes oblige the BDIF to start repaying guaranteed deposits to all people who are legally entitled to it, after a certain banking institution has been placed under special monitoring for over two months and it has suspended activities," Stoilov said.

He added that the provisions were applicable to Bulgaria's Corporate Commercial Bank (KTB), which was placed under conservatorship by the Bulgarian National Bank on June 20.

The socialist MP argued that it was unnecessary to wait for the bankruptcy procedure to end and the depositors of KTB could claim their money from the BDIF on September 21 instead.

He emphasized that, regardless of the launch or a stabilization procedure or a bankruptcy procedure for a bank, it would still owe the money to the BDIF, which had paid depositors.

Stoilov explained that the changes would allow thousands of depositors to access their money several months earlier than the existing deadline.

The BSP MP admitted that the bill was unlikely to be approved by the current Parliament but added that it was important for the matter to be decided for the sake of similar cases in the future.

Moody's Investors Service said it has downgraded the long-term local- and foreign-currency deposit ratings of Bulgaria’s troubled Corporate Commercial Bank (Corpbank).

”The downgrade was prompted by the increased risk of losses to depositors given the uncertainty with regards to when they will regain access to their deposits and the authorities' plan to fully protect uninsured depositors; and the results of an independent audit commissioned by Bulgarian National Bank (BNB) which indicated that Corpbank may incur significant losses, resulting in a larger capital shortfall than previously anticipated,” the global ratings agency said in a statement on Tuesday.

Corpbank’s deposit ratings were lowered to Caa1 from B3. Moody’s also said it had left these ratings on review for further downgrade.

On June 20, the Bulgarian National Bank (BNB) placed Corpbank, also known as KTB by its Bulgarian acronym, under special supervision following a bank run that saw depositors withdraw more than one-fifth of total deposits in a week.

While the authorities had previously announced the bank will reopen for business on July 21, the BNB announced on July 15 that Corpbank may remain closed throughout the three-month supervision period, thus prolonging the period of the bank's deposit freeze.
Moody’s also noted that ”the continued uncertainty relating to the Bulgarian government's plan to fully protect uninsured depositors” was another reason for the downgrade.

The plan needs to be approved by approved by Parliament but “the political consensus required to enact the required legislation has yet to be reached”, Moody’s said. Under Bulgarian law, only deposits equivalent to up to 100,000 EUR in local banks are fully guaranteed by the state.

The rating agency also noted that the preliminary results of the audit commissioned by the BNB “indicate that Corpbank is likely to incur significant losses and, as a result, experience a larger capital shortfall than previously anticipated”.

“Moody's expects that as a result of these findings, there will be a larger capital shortfall than previously anticipated, stemming from significantly higher problem loan levels that the current reported NPL ratio of 1.1%,” it said.

It is unclear, however, how the authorities will be able to protect Corpbank’s uninsured depositors with the government of Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski having now resigned and Parliament awaiting to be dissolved to open the way for early elections.

Bulgaria is one of just three EU member states where over 50 percent of people do not feel like European citizens, a Eurobarometer survey has shown.

About 53% of Bulgarians, 50% of Italians and 51% of Greeks do not regard themselves as having an EU identity, according to a message on the European Commission's website.

The figures come against the backdrop of an average 65% of Europeans who feel like an EU citizen, the poll also reveals.

Bulgarians convinced their voice counts in Europe number 42 percent, just a notch above those who argued it does not make a difference.

However, the results exactly match the EU average.

Sixty-two percent of Bulgarians are optimistic about the EU, which is also above the average 56%.

Levels of support for the single EU currency, the euro, were at 55% across the bloc, but respondents in Bulgaria, which is not a Eurozone member, were utterly divided over whether the EUR should be adopted, with 41 in favor and 42 against.

Figures suggest the gap between the numbers of Bulgarians backing the Euro and those rejecting it is narrow compared to other non-euro area members such as Sweden (77% "strongly against"), the UK and the Czech Republic (73% strongly against in each country), Denmark (66% against), Poland (37% pro, 47% contra).

It was Bulgaria, on the other hand, where resistance against the euro grew the most (by 6%) since the autumn of 2013.

A survey of the German statistics service found that the vacation of the Germans in Bulgaria is by 52% cheaper than in their country. 

Second cheapest are Hungary and Romania – Germans there would pay by an average of 43% less for hotels and restaurants.

Poland is also cheaper – by 23%.

Most expensive is the vacation in Denmark – hotels and restaurants there are by 53% more expensive than in Germany. 

Next most expensive is Sweden – by 50%, France – by 14%, Italy – by 13% and Great Britain – by 10%.

Center-right opposition GERB has stepped back and has announced it is against the update of Bulgaria's state budget.

Leader Boyko Borisov has declared the party will not attend any more Parliament sessions until August 5, when the last meeting of lawmakers in the 42nd National Assembly is due to be held.

His decision puts the overhaul into question, as it is to be approved at another reading before a caretaker government takes over.

The announcement comes just hours after MPs agreed on Tuesday to adopt amendment proposals which include changes to the State Budget of the Republic of Bulgaria Act and expenditures of the National Health Insurance Fund (NZOK).

GERB voiced its decision after a session at the National Assembly failed over lack of quorum.

MPs failed to convene as GERB's Parliament group refused to enter the plenary hall, although they were inside the building. The decision of far-right Ataka not to attend until the current assembly is dissolved has also foiled the session.

Borisov told journalists that his party was "strongly against" the move by the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), the senior partner in the outgoing cabinet, which now argues an "alliance" is being forged between GERB and liberal Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), the junior partner which withdrew its support from the cabinet and triggered its collapse.

He was firm that GERB would not allow the BSP to use that argument as a "strong point" in their last days in government.

Both GERB and the DPS backed the budget overhaul proposed by Plamen Oresharski's cabinet in resignation which the BSP has harshly criticized as "unnecessary".

After the step was initially approved on Tuesday at first reading, Parliament is due to confirm it on August 4, two days before it is dissolved by President Rosen Plevneliev.

DPS leader Lyutvi Mestan, for his part, announced shortly after Borisov made his comments that his party would attend the August 4 session to back the amendments.

The President, who was the first to commend lawmakers for having passed the legislation, has long maintained 2014 projected expenditures must be increased to ensure a better environment for the upcoming interim government to carry out its duties, as it does not have budgetary competences.

A caretaker government, which is to be sworn in after Oresharski stepped down on July 23, will mainly be in charge of tackling key issues in energy and EU funds management, but also of preparing the early elections on October 5.

Around 130kg of heroin and 30kg of cocaine were seized in operations of Bulgaria's State Agency for National Security (DANS) in the first six months of 2014.

The authorities seized over 54kg of marijuana in the first half of 2014, according to the Bulgarian National Radio.

DANS conducted a total of 7 operations aimed at intercepting cross-border human trafficking and 17 operations targeting cyber crime.

DANS also carried out 17 operations targeting tax fraud and illegal VAT draining, two of them with the cooperation of the Belgian services and the US services.

Bulgaria's Commission for Protection of Competition (CPC) imposed the record fine of over BGN 23 M on Bulgaria's state-owned gas supplier Bulgargaz, reports BGNES wire service. 

The company was fined BGN 23 377 600 for abuse of dominant position by imposing dishonest commercial practices. 

According to complaints of Bulgargaz customers from the Overgaz group and Sofiagaz, the supplier imposed on them contracts, which require them to consume even quantities of gas every day, or they would be penalised by a 10% price increase.  

The record fine is just 0.5% of the Bulgargaz annual turnover. The maximum share is 10%. CPC, however, multiplied the percentage of the fine by 2.5 – the period in which the company was imposing those requirements. 

The previous record fine, BGN 15 988 300 was imposed by CPC in 2012 on the official distributor of Hyundai cars for Bulgaria – Industrial Commerce and its daughter company Hyundai Leasing.

Lifeguards in Bulgaria's sea resorts warn tourists to beware of the rip currents that appeared on Monday, reports bTV.

The lifeguards warn that people must be very careful and recommend that they not venture deep into the water.

“This swell is very dangerous, because you cannot see it on the surface,” said Nikola Ivanov, a longtime lifeguard. “Once it grabs you, it will drag you into the deep water and it is very hard to swim back to the shore.”

Traditionally the strong currents that move from the shore into the sea appear along the Bulgarian coast in the end of July and the first days of August – the days, in which according to popular belief, the sea claims the most lives.

Wheat prices for this year’s crop will be five to 10 percent lower compared to 2013, the Chief Executive Director of the Sofia Commodity Exchange (SCE) Vasil Simov said.

Simov told Bulgaria on Air TV channel on Tuesday that the fall in prices is supported by record high global output and stockpiles. A slight rise could be expected after September, when trade in bread wheat usually picks up, but generally there is a downward trend in global wheat prices at the moment due to ample supplies.

Bulgaria expects to reap 4.5-5.0 million tonnes of wheat this year, little changed from last year. With a total of 1.5 million tonnes to be allocated to domestic production of bread and animal feed Bulgaria will be able to offer about 3.0 million tonnes for exports, Simov commented.

Global wheat output for the current year is estimated at more than 705 million tonnes, higher than 630-640 million tonnes in previous years.

According to Simov, the lower wheat export capacity of Bulgaria’s Black Sea ports compared with the ports of Romania, Ukraine and Russia will constrain Bulgarian grain shipments.

Industry sources said earlier this month that a significant part of this year's Bulgarian wheat crop is expected to be exported through Romania after Romania won a wheat supply tender in Egypt in which Bulgaria was unable to participate.

Investor.bg quoted Radoslav Hristov from the National Association of Wheat Growers as saying that currently Bulgarian bread wheat sells at 280-300 BGN a tonne, lower than 330-340 BGN a tonne a year ago. Fodder wheat is trading 260-270 BGN a tonne versus 290-300 BGN same time last year.

Bulgaria's outgoing Foreign Minister Kristian Vigenin has suggested that new sanctions against Russia will have a negative impact on the entire EU.

In a Wednesday interview for the Bulgarian National Television, he claimed that the restrictive measures which the 28 EU Member States were currently discussing would not affect Bulgaria.

He said that the better scenario was for the conflict and the military actions to stop and diplomatic negotiations to start.

As regards the newly adopted state budget update, Vigenin noted that the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) was opposed to the step.

Stressing that BSP had not renounced the outgoing socialist-led government, he added that right-wing formation The Reformist Bloc and the ABV Movement (Alternative for Bulgarian Revival) were also against the budget revision.

He said that the situation at the Foreign Ministry was normal and no last-minute appointments were expected.

As regards the next Bulgarian EU Commissioner, he suggested that the chances of Kristalina Georgieva becoming High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security were minimal.

Vigenin rejected accusations that he was working against her bid but he insisted that her nomination was supposed to have been accompanied by comprehensive debates.

Bulgaria's outgoing Foreign Minister drew attention to the fact that President Rosen Plevneliev had already announced the nomination of Kristalina Georgieva in an interview for a TV program, despite the fact that the political parties had given up talks on the matter, delegating the decision to the caretaker government.

EU leaders have introduced a third stage of sanctions against Russia over the country's stance on the Ukraine crisis.

Under the new agreement, trade in Russian bonds and stocks issued by state-owned companies will be banned, and Russian military entities will be prevented from receiving arms and high-tech items.

Exports of oil-production technology to Russia will also be halted, and investment into economic development projects will not be subsidized, the EUObserver has revealed.

Washington has echoed European leaders' move.

The US has included three banks into the sanctions list (VTB, the Bank of Moscow and Russian Agriculture Bank) and has partially confirmed reports of the Wall Street Journal, which earlier wrote that VTB and Sberbank are widely expected to be in the blacklist.

Washington hopes the new measures would affect sectors such as energy, arms and finance to apply more pressure on Russia, which the US and the EU maintain is supporting the unrest in Ukraine and could have been responsible for a recent plane crash.

Brussels' new measures target the oil sector, defense equipment and sensitive technologies.

Fresh restrictions were adopted after a Malaysia Airlines' passenger jet crashed in the east of Ukraine, where pro-Russian rebels are operating, leaving all 298 on board dead.

The Boeing 777 was reportedly hit by a missile, and both Russia and Ukraine (the latter backed by the West) accuse each other of having a role in the incident.

The West argues sanctions could become a warning sign for Moscow and discourage it from backing the conflict.

"If Russia continues on this current path, the costs on Russia will continue to grow," the BBC quoted US President Barack Obama as saying.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel described the new restrictions as "unavoidable".

Brussels has so far refrained from harsher economic measures against Russia due to discrepancies among member states, but has opted to strengthen the blacklist of individuals who have been imposed travel bans and asset freezes.

Earlier in June the EU also expanded the blacklist of sanctions as 15 Russian citizens and 18 entities also fell under restrictions.

The Russian touroperator Expo Tour said its stop activities due to problems with a Black Sea cruise, reports ITAR-TASS.

This is the third Russian touroperator that goes out of business this month. - In mid-July one of the oldest Russian tourist agencies – Neva – went bankrupt abandoning thousands of its customers abroad, including in Bulgaria.

Recently another agency – Roza Vetrov Mir also went out of business and left 134 customers abroad. 

According to ITAR-TASS, Expo Tour currently has no clients abroad.

Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev has welcomed the adoption of the budget update and the update of the budget of the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) for 2014.

The updates were approved By Parliament at first reading on Tuesday with the support of liberal party Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) and center-right party GERB (Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria), while the Bulgarian Socialist Party voted against.

BSP vowed to refer the budget updates to the Constitutional Court, according to reports of Sega daily.

In his Wednesday statement, Plevneliev emphasized that tough times made true politicians and responsible parties stand out due to their ability to put national priorities above partisan interests.

Bulgaria's President described the update of the state budget as a step in the right direction, adding that it was not going to solve the country's problems, given the existing unpredictable environment.

He said that the update of the NHIF budget was crucial because it would give the sector a breath of fresh air at a time of crisis.

Plevneliev underscored that the need for quality reform in the healthcare sector was still unquestionable.

He said that the budget update would provide Bulgarian municipalities with sufficient funding for the financial corrections which would help unblock EU funding and give the country a chance to absorb around BGN 3 B by end-2015.

Plevneliev claimed that the budget update would spare Bulgarian citizens a part of the heavy burden of the crisis.

He called on MPs to back the updates at the second reading, stressing that it was an appropriate step towards the stabilization of the country through a smooth transition period.

Tax, customs and financial crimes by organized criminal groups in Bulgaria are on the rise, said the Interior Ministry. 

Frequent appointments and changes in law hinder the efficient counteraction to such crimes, according to a ministry report for H1 2014. 

“The continuing reforms in the security and fiscal policies control sectors impede the interaction among the state authorities,” said the report. 

According to the ministry, even though tax crimes are not the most common, they are the top priority of organized criminal groups, as they are the most profitable. 

Only 10% of all crimes can be qualified as “economic”, but have most significant effect on the state finances. 

The prosecutor's office reports that in 2013 it achieved 113 effective sentences and 1369 suspended for various “economic” crimes. On probation were sentenced 142 people and 309 were fined. At the same time, there were 5175 investigations for VAT fraud.

Bulgaria's Constitutional Court (KS) is expected to revoke the 20% fee on the revenues of photovoltaic plants and wind farms.

The fee was introduced by Parliament in the beginning of 2014.

According to preliminary reports of Capital daily, based on sources close to the matter, the reporting judge on the case, Dimitar Tokushev, and the majority of judges at KS back the cancellation of the provisions.

The changes to the Renewable Energy Sources Act were introduced as part of the final provisions of the 2014 State Budget Act.

The 20% fee on revenues of photovoltaic plants and wind farms is transferred on a quarterly basis but the authorities have failed to approve a mechanism for spending the receipts from this fee.

According to Bulgaria's State Commission for Energy and Water Regulation (DKEVR), the fee generated receipts of BGN 36 M by end-March.

KS decisions have no retroactive application and the sums collected so far will not be restored to the companies.

The lawsuit was opened at the request of President Rosen Plevneliev, who referred the matter to KS in mid-January.

Bulgaria's head of state insisted that the new provisions had to be revoked because they only applied to photovoltaic plants and wind farms and not biomass power plants, hydroelectric power plants or combined heat and power (CHP) plants.

Meanwhile, lawyer Mihail Ekimdzhiev announced that he was preparing a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights in connection with the fee, stressing that over 50 photovoltaic companies would join.

The cars with petrol engines are most popular in Bulgaria, shows a survey of the Interior Ministry on the number and type of registered cars as of July 1, quoted by BTA. 

Their number is 1 752 690. Next are diesel engine cars – 1 001 141. Petrol engines, adapted to run on propane gas, are 153 998. 

Hybrid cars on diesel and electricity are 25 and on petrol and electricity – 718. The electromobiles are 114. 

The total number of registered cars in Bulgaria is 3 769 117. Of them, 68% are 15 years or older. New cars – five years or less, are just 3.5%.

Bulgaria has evacuated all staff from its embassy in Tripoli due to the continued deterioration of the security situation in Libya.

In a statement, the Foreign Ministry in Sofia said on Tuesday that Bulgarian citizens in Libya who might need urgent assistance could contact the EU delegation in Tripoli as well as the diplomatic missions of Malta, France, Hungary, Italy and Romania.

On Monday, Bulgaria warned its citizens against all travel to Libya due to rising tensions in the North African country where Islamist militias have been battling their opponents, pushing the country towards full-scale civil war.

The UK, Germany, France and the Netherlands issued similar warnings last week. The U.S. embassy in Tripoli evacuated all staff on Saturday.

Bulgarian road carriers have threatened to block Sofia's exits at 3pm on Friday in a protest against new restrictions.

Krasimir Lalov, Deputy Chair of the National Association of Bulgarian Road Carriers (NABRC) explained in an interview for the Bulgarian National Radio on Wednesday that TIR trucks would block Sofia's exit points unless a July 22 ordinance of the Road Infrastructure Agency was revoked by then.

Lalov noted that the ordinance imposed further restrictions on the movement of TIR trucks of over 12 tonnes.

He specified that the new ordinance increased the number of roads on which the movement of heavy trucks and specialized equipment was restricted on Friday 6-9pm and on Sunday 2-8pm from 5 first-class roads and 1 second-class road to 12 first-class roads and 5 second-class roads plus all highways.

Lalov underscored that RIA had adopted the decision unilaterally, without discussing it with industry representatives.

The NABRC Chair suggested that the ordinance had been adopted to satisfy lobbyists' interests.

He urged Stefan Chaikov, RIA Chair, to revoke the ordinance by July 31 or the Association would disclose whose interests RIA had bowed to.

Bulgarian MPs approved budget amendment proposals during an emergency session on Tuesday afternoon.

Revisal of National Health Insurance Fund (NZOK)'s funds for 2014 by BGN 225 M was also supported by a majority.

The motion on the state budget was backed by 117 votes, with 61 against, all of them from the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP).

Changes to the State Budget of the Republic of Bulgaria Act were adopted at first reading following five-hour-long debates, after the Council of Ministers announced on July 16 plans to overhaul both the national expenditure and that of the National Health Insurance Fund (NZOK), which runs a deficit worth hundreds of millions of BGN.

MPs from the BSP, a senior partner in the cabinet in resignation, defied government proposals, reiterating its stance that is not necessary to overhaul the budget.

Under the ministers' draft bill, current account deficit will be raised by BGN 725 M and will grow to 2.7% of the 2014 projected output. The cap of Bulgaria's public debt will be increased by additional BGN 3.4 B to reach BGN 21 B and thus provide the financing needed to bail out the Corporate Commercial Bank (KTB) if no other investors choose to intervene.

The extraordinary session, scheduled for 13:00 GMT, was held upon a proposal by the co-ruling Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), the socialists' partner in the cabinet.

BSP lawmakers left the plenary hall after the liberals called for Tuesday's meeting last week, but the motion was passed with the support of opposition GERB.

Both the DPS and GERB backed the amendments.

President Rosen Plevneliev had also called for an update which could provide help to the upcoming caretaker cabinet, as it does not have any budgetary competences.

On Tuesday, after the bill was given the green light, Plevneliev praised politicians for having passed the legislation.

Budgetary changes are expected to be among the last issues for the 42nd National Assembly, which is due to be dissolved on August 6, two weeks after Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski's government stepped down.

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