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Bulgaria's last King and former Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha made clear he does not hold a special "interest" or affinity for the Presidency of the country.

Admitting his special attitude to being head of state in principle, has added, in a Friday interview with private bTV station, that for most of his life he has been taught to only take decisions based on careful judgment and not to make moves calculating his own benefit.

"After all, I began my life as head of state, so it is not my last ambition," he pointed out.

Saxe-Coburg-Gotha made his comments against the background of uncertainty about the candidates in the forthcoming presidential elections due in Bulgaria this autumn.

No major party has announced a nominee as of the moment, with election date likely to be scheduled for October.

Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, who returned to Bulgaria early in the 2000s after having lived in exile for more than 50 years, downplayed suggestions that he had returned to the country only to claim ownership of property that belonged to his family before Communist rule. 

A 53-year-old worker died on Friday evening in an incident at the Arsenal arms manufacturing plant in the Bulgarian town of Kazanlak, local media report.

A blast occurred around 22:30 GMT, local time. The man was left with serious injuries and died as doctors were fighting for his life.

Police told bTV station on Saturday morning that authorities were looking into the development.

There are no reports of other injured people.

It was not immediately known what caused the incident. Police suggested the worker in question had not observed safety norms.

But just over a month earlier, an explosion during repairs claimed two lives.

Moody's Investors Service has assigned a provisional Ba1 corporate family rating to the Bulgarian Energy Holding EAD (BEH), with a stable outlook.

"This provisional rating is subject to the successful completion of the issuance of new notes as currently contemplated by BEH," with a definite rating to follow once the process is completed and a review has been conducted of the documentation.

"A corporate family rating (CFR) is an opinion of the BEH group's ability to honour its financial obligations and is assigned to BEH as if it had a single class of debt and a single consolidated legal structure. Any debt issued by BEH would likely be rated lower than the CFR given the structural subordination of the creditors at the holding company. However, the potential notching will depend on the actual balance between the debt at the operating companies versus BEH," Moody's explains.

Factors taken into account include BEH's "dominant position within the electricity generation industry in Bulgaria," an improving financial profile, and the ownership it holds of the country's main gas transit and transmission and electricity transmission assets.

Volatile earnings, uncertainty about the full liberalization of the wholesale power market and its impact on BEH, "relatively un-transparent nature" or regulations and weak liquidity management policy, however, are putting constraint on the rating.

Upward change in the rating has limited potential due to "significant uncertainty over the timing and nature of any liberalisation of the wholesale electricity market," Moody's argues.

At the same time, several factors could trigger a downgrade, such as the reversal of "positive regulatory changes" adopted in 2015 that would cause further deficits, changes in the operating environment leading to a deterioration in BEH's financial profile, a reassessment of the estimate of high support from the government, and a downgrade of the government rating itself.

BEH is the 100% state-owned electricity and gas utility in Bulgaria which owns around 50% of the electricity generation facilities in the country, including the 2 000 MW Kozloduy nuclear power plant, 2 713 MW of hydro plants, and a lignite plant using input fuel sourced at BEH-owned mining facilities.

Through its subsidiary Natsionalna Elektricheska Kompania EAD (NEK), it is the single trader on the regulated wholesale power market. It also owns and operates the high voltage electricity transmission grid and the gas transmission and transit networks in Bulgaria, and is also the main regulated wholesale gas supplier.

The Bulgarian defence ministry is planning to refit two of the frigates currently in service to the navy in order to fully restore their capabilities.

The refitting of Drazki and Verni frigates, both of which used to be in service to the Belgian navy, will be carried at the same time as the acquisition of two new multi-purpose patrol ships.

This was stated by Rear Admiral Mitko Petev, commander of the Bulgarian navy, in an interview for dnevnik.bg.

The refitting is required so that the frigates could be used for participation in operations and missions of NATO in the next fifteen years.

At present, there are six battleships in service of the navy's patrol forces, part of which have been constructed in the former Soviet Union at the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s.

These ships are no match to the contemporary armament and technology and are experiencing serious problems with maintenance and the supply of spare parts.

Moreover, the ships constructed in the former Soviet Union are not operationally compatible with those of NATO, which makes their participation in the collective defence of the Alliance impossible.

The defence ministry's proposal for the acquisition of two new multi-purpose patrol ships will allow for the replacement of the outdated Soviet vessels without reducing the navy's fighting capability.

Petev said that it would be great if the two new ships are built in Bulgaria as this would have a considerable economic and social effect as it would bring revenues from taxes and would create some 400-500 jobs. Moreover, the integrated logistical maintenance will be carried out more easily.

Meanwhile, the parliamentary defence committee approved the projects on the acquisition of new military aircraft and new patrol ships, which had been adopted by the government in March.

According to a study of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAN), around fifteen million people across the world speak the Bulgarian language.

Seven million of them live in Bulgaria, three other million inhabit the Bulgarian language continuum, which comprises the historical provinces of Moesia, Thrace and Macedonia, while the remaining five million speakers are Bulgarian emigrants living across the world.

This was stated by Anna Kocheva, Associate Professor at the Institute for Bulgarian Language to BAN, which has devised a map of the speakers of Bulgarian language across the world.

In an interview for private bTV station on Friday, Kocheva reminded that the Bulgarian diaspora has emigrated at different stages.

For example, there have been four emigrant waves to the USA – at the beginning of the 20th century, after the September uprising of 1923, after the establishment of Communist rule in 1944 and most recently after the fall of Communism in 1989.

In the state of Illinois, Bulgarian has been recognised as an official language since 2005 due to the large population of Bulgarians living there, in particular in Chicago.

In the Cook County of Illinois, Bulgarian has been recognised as official language in the tax administration.

In the eastern part of the USA, scientists organise congresses at which the official languages are Bulgarian and English.

In Austria, the exams at the end of high school can be held in the Bulgarian language.

Kocheva added that in the case of parents of different nationalities, children are more likely to speak Bulgarian if the mother is Bulgarian.

Spain is one of the countries to which Bulgarians have moved more recently.

According to latest data, there are around 300 000 Bulgarians living in Spain, whose origin can be traced mainly to the villages of the Rhodope mountains.

In the opinion of Kocheva, these emigrants will preserve the typical Rhodopean dialect as entire villages have moved to the Iberian peninsula.

The preservation of the language depends on the surrounding environment and it is more difficult to preserve Bulgarian in German or English-language environment.

According to data of the education ministry, at present there are 253 Bulgarian schools around the world, which are attended by the children of Bulgarian emigrants at weekends, as well as two state educational establishments in Prague and Bratislava.

The highest ranking Bulgarian female tennis player Tsvetana Pironkova reached for the first time in her career the fourth round of Roland Garros.

In a match from the third round played on Friday, Pironkova defeated decisively Sloane Stephens from the USA with 6:2, 6:1.

The Bulgarian recorded her first victory in four matches against her US opponent. The two players met at the same stage of the tournament last year, when Stephens won with 6:4, 6:1.

Pironkova did not start the opening set well, conceding a break in the first game and losing the next one.

However she managed to recover quickly, equalised for 2:2 and went on to win the next four games.

The Bulgarian did not have any major difficulties in the second set and claimed the final victory.

In the fourth round, Pironkova, who has not lost a single set in her first three matches, will face Agnieszka Radwanska from Poland.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Friday that the natural gas pipeline planned to run from Russia across the Black Sea to Greece and Italy might pass through Bulgaria or Turkey.

Romania has not been considered as a transit option as this country does not have a common border with Greece, Novak is quoted as saying by TASS news agency.

The choice of the route depends on infrastructure development solutions to be agreed by parties participating in the implementation of the project and interested in being supplied with Russian gas.

Earlier this year, Russian energy giant Gazprom, Greek DEPA and Italy's Edison signed a memorandum of understanding on the construction of a pipeline across the Black Sea which would supply Russian gas to Greece and Italy via third countries.

According to Novak, the projected construction of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), which foresees the transport of natural gas from the Caspian Sea to Greece and Italy, will not interfere with the Russian project.

In his opinion, the foreseen current capacity of TAP, which does not exceed 10 billion cubic metres, is fairly small and European consumers need greater gas volumes and diversification of routes.

This statement comes only a day after an aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the new pipeline from Russia to Greece might pass through Bulgaria.

Meanwhile, Putin is on a visit to Greece where he is expected to discuss with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras the realisation of possible joint energy and transport projects.

Among the possible topics of discussion is the revival of the South Stream project which was cancelled at the end of 2014.

Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev has referred to the Constitutional Court three of the questions featured on a six-point referendum which is scheduled to be held with the forthcoming presidential elections in the autumn.

The holding of the referendum, which has been initiated by the popular TV show hosted by Slavi Trifonov (Slavi's Show), was approved by parliament earlier this month after MPs had initially proposed for the referendum to take place earlier than planned.

In three months, Trifonov and his team collected 673 481 signatures in favour of holding the referendum. A check by competent authorities established that 572 650 of the signatures were valid, surpassing the threshold of 400 000 signatures required for the holding of referendum initiated by citizens.

The questions which Plevneliev has referred to the Constitutional Court concern the introduction of remote electronic voting, cutting the number of MPs in half from 240 to 120 and the direct election of the directors of the regional directorates of the interior ministry and the heads of the district police departments.

The other three questions featured in the referendum concern the introduction of compulsory voting, the introduction of majority electoral system and reducing the state subsidy paid to parties and coalitions to BGN 1 per voter.

Plevneliev has asked the Constitutional Court to rule whether the three questions are in compliance with the Constitution.

In his motives, the president notes that, according to the Constitution, all authority of the state emanates from the people and is being exercised either directly by the people (direct democracy) or through the bodies mentioned in the Constitution (representative democracy), with the two forms of democracy mutually complementing each other.

The head of state reminds that he has always supported active civil society and has expressed the view that the holding of referendums on important issues will increase the confidence of citizens in the political system and its institutions.

In his opinion, the referendum as the most powerful instrument of direct democracy could make the political environment in the country more sustainable and stable.

However this could not be achieved if direct and representative democracy are not being realised according to constitutional principles.

Plevneliev reminds that the last Grand National Assembly ruled that a new constitution as well as the most important changes to the acting one can be adopted by a Grand National Assembly.

According to him, this provision in the constitution should not be bypassed by allowing each national assembly with simple majority to adopt decision on the holding of referendums containing issues concerning the state's form of government.

In his opinion, the rare use of direct democracy in the years of transition has led to great deficit in the democratic development of Bulgaria.

The head of state believes that referendums are yet to play their considerable role for the consolidation of democracy.

The president thinks that it is exceptionally important referendums to be developed on the basis of clear rules and to make it clear what issues can be subject to referendum. Otherwise there is risk to direct democracy and citizens losing confidence in it.

In an official statement distributed to media on Friday, online store eMAG informed that it will appeal the recent decision of Bulgaria's Commission for Protection of Competition (KZK) to fine the company over misleading advertisement campaigns.

The statement notes this is the third time KZK sanctions eMAG, with a total of nine fines imposed this time. The company does not accept the decision of the commission and views it as incorrect and unfounded.

It will appeal the decision before the relevant Bulgarian court and will take all necessary measures to present the case to the European Commission.

The company's lawyers think that there are grounds to believe that justice will prevail.

According to eMAG, the company is being sanctioned for offering good and attractive prices and quality services bringing benefits to the users, all of which constitute elements of the company's business that are being actively communicated.

The company assures that it will continue to make investments in order to bring added value to users and the Bulgarian online market.

On Thursday, KZK issued its decision to fine eMAG over misleading advertisement campaigns such as “Black Friday”, “Crazy days” and several others which had taken place last year or at the end of 2014.

On the request of another online store, the commission launched probe which established that the discounts offered by eMAG during the promotional periods either did not take place or did not correspond to what had been advertised.

The fine is issued to Romania-based Dante International SA, which is the owner of the online store.

The fine exceeds BGN 4.6 M and the sanction has been calculated as percentage of the revenues made by the company last year.

Bulgarian Interior Minister Rumyana Bachvarova said that there has been slight increase in the migrant pressure exerted on the country's border with Turkey in the past few days.

Speaking to journalists in parliament on Friday, Bachvarova revealed that a group of thirty migrants have been detained near the Black Sea town of Primorsko.

The interior minister added that migrants are being detained not only on the border itself, but also in the interior of the country.

She assured that all refugees are undergoing the same procedures of registration and identification.

Bachvarova said that on average 1200 people attempt to cross the border from Bulgaria into Turkey each month.

Meanwhile, Bulgarian authorities detained 23 illegal immigrants at the Kapitan Andreevo – railway station checkpoint at the border with Turkey.

The group, which consisted of eight men, eight women and seven children, was hiding in a freight train transporting magnesium ore from Turkey to Hungary.

With the help of gas analyser, the border police officers found the migrants in the last carriage of the train.

None of the migrants was in the possession of identity documents. Eleven of them identified themselves as citizens of Iraq, while twelve claimed to come from Syria.

The migrants have been taken to the refugee centre in Elhovo on Friday.

The interior ministry informs that in the past 24 hours, authorities have prevented ten attempts of 157 illegal immigrants to cross the border with Turkey.

A discussion held in the British Parliament on Tuesday identified UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova as one of the most suitable candidates for being selected as the next United Nations (UN) Secretary-General.

According to the participants in the discussion, the nomination of former Slovenian President Danilo Turk was also among the most suitable options, 24 Chasa daily informs.

The discussion entitled “United Nations Secretary-General Selection: The Role of the Secretary-General in Russia vs West” was organised by The Henry Jackson Society on the kind invitation of Lord Hannay, life peer at the House of Lords.

The speakers at the event were David Clark, chairman of the Russia Foundation, Steven Erlanger, London Bureau Chief of the New York Times, and Natalie Samarasinghe, executive director of the United Nations Association – UK.

The participants discussed the changes to the selection process and examined the eight candidates that underwent hearings in the UN General Assembly in April as well the challenges they may face in the current standoff between Russia and the West.

Among the topics in the focus of the discussion was the role of Russia in the selection process and the key future tasks the new Secretary-General will have to address in mediating the current tension between Russia and the West.

Erlanger, who was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2002, highlighted that despite Bokova's Communist background, she has proven her leadership capacity, which had been particularly demonstrated during the process of Bulgaria's accession to the EU and NATO.

According to him, it would be pity if her nomination is blocked due to suspicions that have wrongly labelled her as Moscow's candidate.

In his words, the best evidence for her leadership capacity is her undisputed success to ensure the functioning of UNESCO after the USA suspended its financial contributions after the admission of Palestine to the organisation in 2011.

In Clark's opinion, a suitable and qualified candidate from Eastern Europe would allow smoother functioning of the UN as a person from this region would better understand Russian interests and issues.

Prime Minister Boyko Borisov has downplayed again any prospect of running for President in this autumn's elections.

He has told journalists he does not see himself as a "uniting figure" for the right-wing electorate.

"I think there are enough people in GERB [the main ruling party, headed by Borisov] who can be uniting and do a good job," the Bulgarian National Radio quotes him as saying.

Borisov has made clear he is not "attracted" by the idea of becoming head of state. "Nor do I consider that I can be as useful there as [I am] now. Moreover, you can see for yourself what is the level of people claiming power at the moment."

Speculation is still mounting over whether Borisov intends to run. Incumbent Rosen Plevneliev, who was endorsed by GERB in 2011, last week said he would not seek another term, while the Prime Minister maintains he would never sacrifice political stability for his own gains.

Earlier this year, he had said he would prohibit any discussions on candidates until the summer.

This week, however, he explained GERB was planning to announce the name of a candidate in September, or right before the start of the presidential campaign.

The Commission for Protection of Competition of Bulgaria has slapped online retailer eMAG with a hefty fine over misleading advertisement.

This is yet another case of sanctions imposed on eMAG in relation to the advertising campaigns such as "Black Friday", "Crazy Days" and several more that were in place over the past year and at the end of 2014.

The fine relates to Romania-based Dante International, which owns the store.

The commission's ruling followed a claim filed by a competitor who argued eMAG pushed to convince customers that substantial discount would be offered on particular days, which in some cases did not happen, while in others prices were inflated beforehand.

eMAG misleadingly claimed it would offer discounts of up to 70% for some products, while it did so only for 14 of its vast rage of items, while most carried a discount tag of between 30 and 40%.

Another source of discontent for the competitor is the retailer's slogan, which roughly translates as "the easiest way to order, the safest way of delivery, a million ways to rejoice". The commission has ruled that the first part wrongly states no other store has better order arrangements, but also that the retailer does not offer a million products.

The decision can be appealed.

A similar decision was taken last year by the watchdog (but with sanctions being worth much less) over a misleading campaign involving the possibility to win a "trip to the Canary Islands".

A fire broke out in a building next to the European Commission's representative office in Bulgaria, local media report.

Heavy smoke from an adjacent building entered the office and triggered fire alarms.

No injuries are reported either in the building that was caught in flames or at the EU Commission office. 

An increase in the number of people visiting Bulgaria from abroad was registered in April, national statistics show.

Approximately 558 100 people arrived in Bulgaria in April, an increase of 11.1% compared to the number of visitors in April of last year.

Data published by the National Statistical Institute (NSI) on Friday also shows the share of those traveling for holiday and recreation purpose increased by 41.5%, while the number of those arriving for work-related purposes surged by 29.7%. Trips with other purposes dropped by 16.1%.

EU citizens made up the majority of arrivals, at 55.7% if the total number. In April of last year, EU nationals visiting Bulgaria accounted for 41.9% of the total.

This April, there were an increased number of visits from citizens of Greece (41.8% more), Spain (22.8%), France, the Netherlands, and several others. By contrast, the number of Hungarians visiting Bulgaria dropped by 8.2%, and of Belgian citizens dropped by 7.3%.

Outside the EU, Ukrainians recorded the biggest growth in numbers of visitors to Bulgaria, at 21.5%, according to the NSI data.

Among visitors from Israel, and Macedonia, the biggest share was recorded of people graveling with holiday and recreation purposes, with 93.7% and 84.8%.

Professional purposes prevailed among Italian (51.9%) and Austrian (45.8%) arrivals, while the biggest share of travels to Bulgaria with other purposes was from Germany (49.9%) and Turkey (49.9%).

Bulgarian prosecuting authorities will demand that the mayor of the village of Galiche, Tsenko Chokov, should remain in custody after being arrested in a police operation on Thursday.

Chokov has already been indicted on charges of heading an organized criminal gang, the Chief Prosecutor's spokesperson, Rumyana Arnaudova, has told private NOVA TV broadcaster.

However, the indictment has not yet been filed with a court.

As many as 11 others were detained in the same operation, his son, Martin Chokov, being among them.

Apart from the mayor, prosecutors will demand custody for five more of those detained, Arnaudova has explained.

Separately, Chokov is facing charges of usury, extortion, and inflicting actual bodily harm.

His lawyer has told bTV station the charges are based on old proceedings that have already been suspended.

Tsvetana Pironkova, the highest-ranking Bulgarian tennis player, is facing Sloane Stephens in the third round of Roland Garros on Friday, 17:00 Bulgarian times.

This is the second time in a row for Pironkova, currently 102nd in the WTA ranking, to win two Roland Garros matches in the same tournament. On Wednesday she defeated Johanna Larsson, currently 62nd, in the second round, after securing a victory over Sara Errani (18th as of Friday).

Stephens, however, has defeated Pironkova in all three matches the two have played.

Bulgaria's Prime Minister Boyko Borisov has achieved "model student status" among Central and Eastern European leaders, Alexander Andreev writes on Deutsche Welle's website.

The title is a reference to comments by EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who has more than once described Borisov as "my golden boy".

Borisov "knows where to find strong [statespeople] - in Brussels, in Berlin (Borisov has a photo of Merkel on his desk), in Washington and in the Vatican," Andreev writes, also recalling: "In a conversation with British Prime Minister David Cameron, Borisov proudly told him, "Three popes have patted me on the head!" EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has also gained notoriety for having kissed Borisov on the forehead."

While Bulgaria's macrofinancial framework is stable and the country accepted mandatory quotas, it also issues statements and takes actions that draw EU approval, with Andreev citing the case with vigilante migrant hunters (who were first commended and then criticized) and the South Stream pipeline which was abandoned (the latter development, however, occurred after a Russian announcement and not after an official statement of rejection coming from Sofia).

At home, Borisov "is able to play the part of a generous father figure who treats his children to new highways or subway stations almost every day" with the help of EU funding, also using the money to wield influence on media outlets.

The article is available here.

Bulgaria is "so overlooked and underappreciated... and so charming in a Slavic way," Rick Steves writes on the Huffington Post as an introduction to a video he made while visiting a park in the capital Sofia.

"We have got a society Americans don't know very much about but they could," he says while showing the area around, with people playing chess and other strolling along the alleys or near the fountains situated in front of the landmark National Theater in Sofia.

The park in front of the National Theater is the "living breathing heart" of Sofia, Steves says.

"Bulgaria is free and, step-by-step, building a new prosperity," he also concludes, comparing to visits he made in his student days.

The video, which is available here, is Day 44 of his 100 Days in Europe series.




Bulgaria should host a Russian pipeline to avoid becoming a "periphery" in the energy sector, President (2002-2012) Georgi Parvanov said on Thursday.

He told the Bulgarian National Radio that that high-level Bulgarian officials should pay a visit to Moscow to "come to an agreement" on such a project. "This doesn't contravene European interests, nor does it contravene our civilizational choices... This pipeline has to pass through Bulgaria, because otherwise [we would] remain a periphery."

Parvanov commented amid uncertainty over whether he is to seek a third term in office in the presidential elections this autumn. A day earlier he stopped short of announcing his intentions.

During his two terms, he initiated three major energy projects with Russia which were all later abandoned either by either the Bulgarian or the Russian government.

His remarks on the Russian pipeline also follow publications in Russian media suggesting a new Russian pipeline supplying Greece would have to use Bulgaria as a transit country.

In March, Gazprom signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Greece's DEPA and Italy's Edison on the delivery of gas to the two respective countries, but "via third countries". With tensions between Russia and Turkey still flaring, Bulgaria could be the only transit option.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is meanwhile visiting Greece on Friday to discuss possible joint projects in energy and transport with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. Russian media outlets has suggested the issue of "reviving" the abandoned South Stream pipeline via Greece might also be raised during their talks.

Earlier in May, the US' high energy envoy Amos Hochstein warned after an energy summit with EU officials that any gas projects other than the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), interconnectors and LNG terminals would be a "distraction" from common energy goals.

Members of Bulgaria's Religious Denominations and Human Rights parliamentary committee adopted at first reading on Thursday a bill which proposes to ban the wearing of garments concealing the face in public places.

The bill proposed by the Patriotic Front (PF) was backed by MPs from the largest ruling party GERB, the junior coalition partner Reformist Bloc (RB) and the largest opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP).

MPs from the second largest opposition Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) abstained, demanding more precise definition of the terms “face”, “head” and “parts of the face” appearing in the proposed bill.

The interior and justice ministries and the State Agency for National Security (DANS) have also expressed their support for the bill. According to the bill, the ban will not be applicable in places of worship.

On Thursday, Sliven became the third Bulgarian city to introduce a ban on the wearing of garments concealing the face in public places.

The ban, which had been tabled by the mayor of Sliven, was adopted at a meeting of the municipal council.

The mayor said that the wearing of garments concealing the face hampers the identification of people. According to him, the introduction of the ban will increase the feeling of security among citizens.

Previously, such bans have been introduced in the cities of Pazardzhik and Stara Zagora.

Bulgaria's First Investment Bank (Fibank) has repaid the BGN 1.2 B state aid, which was provided to the bank in June 2014.

The repayment was made in compliance with the plan approved by the European Commission in November 2014. The international rating agency Fitch confirmed the bank's ratings with Stable outlook.

Fibank was in urgent need of liquidity support a week after the collapse of Corporate Commercial Bank (KTB) in June 2014 when depositors withdrew BGN 800 M from the bank in a single day due to the dissemination of false information.

Until the full repayment of the state aid, Fibank was subject to external supervision and numerous restrictions.

Bulgarian MPs from parties participating in the ruling coalition or supporting it have proposed relaxing some of the restrictions for voters abroad which have been adopted with the latest amendments to the Electoral Code.

The MPs tabled the latest draft amendments to the Electoral Code concerning the voting abroad on Thursday.

This development comes after parliament had recently adopted controversial amendments which restricted the right of Bulgarians abroad to vote.

MPs had initially proposed to make it impossible to open polling stations outside embassies and consulates.

After popular discontent and protests of Bulgarians abroad, they relaxed somewhat the restrictions, allowing for polling stations to be opened outside diplomatic missions under certain conditions.

Nevertheless, the amendments were still seen as restrictive and were vetoed by President Rosen Plevneliev, but his veto was overriden by parliament.

The newly proposed amendments allow for up to 35 polling stations to be opened in each country outside Bulgaria.

Bulgarians living abroad will have to submit sixty requests in order for a polling station to be opened outside an embassy or consulate.

The latest proposed amendments do not make distinction between EU and non-EU countries, which is the case in the recently adopted changes.

Expectations are that the proposed changes will be discussed in the relevant parliamentary committees next week and will enter the plenary chamber in the second week of June.

Another change foresees settlements with more than 350 residents to be able to elect a mayor. At present, only settlements with more than 400 residents can elect a mayor.

The European Commission backs the construction of Bulgaria's "Balkan" gas hub, which is projected to extract natural gas from the Black Sea.

This became clear after a meeting between Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and EU Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Canete, who is on a two-day visit to Bulgaria on Thursday and Friday.

This represents the first time when such a high-level EU official expresses firm support for the construction of the hub.

Canete said that Bulgaria has the potential to be a key player in Europe's gas network and has the capacity to be leader in the construction of the Balkan gas hub due to its historical capacity and the exceptionally well-built gas transmission network.

According to him, the Bulgarian government has done everything possible for the construction of the gas interconnectors with neighbouring countries.

In his opinion, Bulgaria and the EU have worked tirelessly since last year for the construction of the interconnectors with Serbia, Greece and Turkey, which are key infrastructure projects for Europe and vital for the realisation of the Balkan gas hub.

The commissioner pointed that the gas hub will provide opportunity for different interconnectors, including Russian ones. Borisov also highlighted that the construction of the hub is not directed towards Russia.

Canete added that the Commission and Bulgaria are working together for the construction of the gas interconnectors with Greece and Romania and are seeking funding for the interconnector with Serbia through one of the financial instruments.

He was firm that Brussels will support each infrastructure project which complies with EU legislation.

In his words, the European Commission also appreciates the work done by Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Donchev and Energy Minister Temenuzhka Petkova.

The commissioner noted that Bulgaria and the EU have managed to start and almost finalise all fourteen projects of common interest related to the energy sector.

Canete identified Bulgaria as leader in the security of supplies and added that the country has the potential to become one of the important gas hubs.

The commissioner described Bulgaria as a reliable partner and commended the country for managing to reduce its harmful emissions, enhance the level of energy security and efficiency and surpass the benchmarks.

In his words, Bulgaria is heading in the direction of full liberalisation of its energy market.

Canete added that the EU wants to continue working in close partnership with Bulgaria in order to prevent the repetition of gas crises as the ones which had occurred in 2005 and 2009.

The National Art Gallery Square 500 in the Bulgarian capital is hosting an exhibition of Indonesian batik and Bali art between May 21 and June 26.

The Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia in cooperation with the National Gallery in Sofiaproudly presented “The Indonesian Batik and Art-Craft Exhibition” on May 21.

The exhibition is part of a series of events celebrating the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Indonesia and the Republic of Bulgaria.

The selected batik textiles shown in this exhibition, most of which date back to the early 19th century together with more recent samples, are from the personal collection of H.E. Sri Astari Rasjid, the Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia for the Republic of Bulgaria, Albania, and Macedonia.

She is one of Indonesia's leading contemporary artists and has exhibited her works throughout the world.

Batik is one of Indonesia’s most highly developed art forms and occupies a special position in the country’s history and culture. Indonesian Batik indeed has been placed as a masterpiece of oral and intangible heritage of humanity by UNESCO in 2009.

The development of batik in Indonesia has been strongly reflected in its tradition and culture. A succession of religions (Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam), waves of colonisation (Chinese, Indian, Arab, Portuguese, Dutch and English) and the development of highly sophisticated culture in the courts of Java and Sumatra which encouraged the supremacy of aristocracy, had all left their imprint on Indonesian Batik.

Aside from batik, the exhibition also presents numbers of interesting Balinese art and crafts such as painting and woodcarving.

Bali is one of the provinces in Indonesia that has been regarded by millions of real travelers as one of the best islands in the world. Balinese has made art out of the most basic necessities in their daily life and channeled their creative energy to create beautiful things through painting, sculpture, and carving.

Last but not least, this exhibition is aimed at introducing Indonesia's richness of art and culture to the Bulgarian audience, which hopefully will improve and enrich the 60-year history of bilateral relationship.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov has once again refrained from naming the candidate of his party in the forthcoming presidential elections in the autumn.

In an interview for private NOVA TV on Thursday, Borisov said that it was too early for elections and nominations, adding that GERB's candidate will be announced in August or September.

The announcement depended on the exact date of the elections, which is still to be determined by incumbent President Rosen Plevneliev.

The prime minister made it clear once again that the chairperson of GERB's parliamentary group and former interior minister in the first cabinet of Borisov, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, will not be nominated.

According to Borisov, Tsvetanov has never expressed his wish to run in the elections and therefore his name has never been discussed as possible option.

The prime minister revealed that he had held conversation with Plevneliev on the evening before the latter announced publicly that he will not run for a second term.

Plevneliev had told him that he will not run for reelection due to personal reasons. Borisov said that he will continue to work with Plevneliev in the future, who will continue to work in Bulgaria's interests.

 

The controversial mayor of Galiche, Tsenko Chokov, has been detained in a specialised police operation conducted in the village on Thursday.

The operation is carried out by the interior ministry's General Directorate Countering Organised Crime (GDBOP) under the guidance of the specialised prosecutor's office.

A total of twelve people have been detained for 24 hours, including one of Chokov'sons.

The mayor of Galiche is suspected of heading organised crime group practising usury and other unlawful activities.

The group which is active in the region of the village is also suspected of issuing threats by setting cars on fire.

The authorities have seized money, documents for the purchase of properties, power of attorney featuring the name of Chokov, telephones and other evidence.

More information on the investigation will be provided at a later stage, the website of the specialised prosecution informs.

The arrest comes just a couple of days after people from the village complained of their cars being set up on fire.

In an interview for private bTV station earlier on Thursday, Interior Minister Rumyana Bachvarova said that the arrests were not related to the incident with the cars.

Bachvarova added that the investigation behind the operation has been carried out in the past two months. There is heightened police presence in the village, with the interior ministry having deployed around a hundred officials.

Chokov was reelected to a fifth term at the local elections last year. On several occasions, people from the village have complained of being maltreated by the mayor.

The abundant rainfall caused a flooding in the Bulgarian town of Kazanlak overnight after the Stara reka river burst its banks.

The construction of a dyke began immediately and the electricity, water and gas supply in the neighbourhood of Derelika have been turned off.

Part of a road, several electricity posts as well as parts of the water supply and sewage networks have been carried away by the overflowing river.

At present, it is not raining, but there is torrential rain in the mountain above the town and the water is coming down the course of the river.

Several villages in the region have been isolated and bridges have been carried away after the abundant rain which has fallen in the several past days.

The most affected settlements in the region are the villages of Enina and Dolno Izvorovo as well as the town of Kran.

At present, the situation has been brought under control, but more rain is expected to fall on Thursday.

In the town of Veliko Tarnovo, the level of river Yantra has risen by more than three metres overnight after the abundant rainfall.

The rise of the river level began on Wednesday due to torrential rainfall in Gabrovo and the region which is in the upper stream of the river.

At 6 o'clock (EET) on Thursday morning, the level of the river in Veliko Tarnovo stood at 5.70 metres, with the critical level being 6.50 metres.

The state of the river has been monitored for more than ten hours by the competent authorities.

Streets in the nearby villages of Ledenik and Shemshevo have been partially flooded as well as the road connecting the two settlements.

No streets or buildings have been flooded in Veliko Tarnovo.

The rising level of Yantra has caused serious material damages and landslide in Gabrovo.

No casualties have been reported in any of the affected areas.

EU Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, Miguel Arias Canete, will pay a two-day visit to Bulgarian on Thursday and Friday.

During his visit, Canete will hold meetings with Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev, Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Donchev, Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov, Energy Minister Temenuzhka Petkova and Environment Minister Ivelina Vasileva.

Among the main topics of discussions in the meetings will be the reforms of the Bulgarian energy market, steps to improve the functioning of the electricity sector and key gas infrastructure projects.

In particular, the focus will be on the gradual process of liberalisation of the electricity market and protection of vulnerable consumers.

Ahead of his visit, Canete said that the European Commission welcomes the efforts of Bulgaria towards opening up its electricity market to competition.

The commissioner added that a competitive market is essential not only for modernising the Bulgarian electricity system, but also beneficial for achieving a fully-integrated EU energy market.

The Bulgarian officials and Canete will also exchange views on the state of the gas sector and the Bulgarian gas hub project.

The discussions will also focus on emissions targets for the sectors not included in the Emissions Trading System (ETS).

According to the press service of the Bulgarian government, Borisov and Canete will discuss the development of the European Energy Union and the possibilities for ensuring sustainable energy supplies towards Bulgaria.

The highest ranking Bulgarian female tennis player Tsvetana Pironkova proceeded to the third round of the Roland Garros.

In a contested match from the second round played on Wednesday, Pironkova defeated Johanna Larsson from Sweden with 7:5, 7:6 (6).

The Bulgarian did not start the opening set well and lost the first three games. However she managed to recover quickly and equalized for 3:3.

The score remained equal until 5:5 when Pironkova achieved a decisive break and proceeded to claim the first set.

The Bulgarian started the second set well, recording a break in the opening game. However Larsson returned the break in the next game and equalized the score.

The Swedish player even came in the lead with 4:2, but Pironkova managed to equalize for 4:4.

The Bulgarian remained confident until the end of the set, won the tie-break and claimed the final victory.

In the third round, Pironkova will face Sloane Stephens from the USA.

This will be the fourth encounter between the two players, with Pironkova having lost on all three previous occasions.

The two played in the third round of last year’s edition of Roland Garros when Stephens won with 6:4, 6:1.

 








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