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European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is believed to be set on ensuring” that the euro is introduced in the EU member states still using their own national currencies in a bid to spur European integration after Britons voted to leave the 28-nation bloc, according to UK’s Daily Express.

Besides the United Kingdom, eight other EU member states haven't adopted the euro – Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Sweden. 

Daily Express has also said that according to German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitungthere are plans underfoot to accelerate the "completion" of the monetary union.

Bulgaria operates a fixed exchange rate mechanism called currency board, which curbs the conduct of independent monetary policy by the country's central bank and the pegs the national currency, the lev, at 1.95583 per euro.

Last year, Bulgaria’s government set up a council to propose a date for adopting the euro and draft a plan for introducing the single currency. The lev is not yet within the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM II), the euro's 'waiting room'.

The conclusions and recommendations from the ongoing independent EU analysis of the work of the Bulgarian prosecutor's office will be published in view of the great public interest.

This became clear after the meeting between Bulgarian Justice Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva and European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis on Thursday, the justice ministry informed.

Prosecutors from the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain, specialised in the investigation of heavy crimes and corruption, arrived on a five-day visit to Bulgaria on Monday to inspect the work of the prosecutor's office.

Initially, their visit was scheduled to be at the end of May, but was postponed on the request of Brussels.

By the end of the year, the European prosecutors have to devise independent analysis of the structural and functional model of the Bulgarian prosecution, with their findings expected to feature in the next Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) report which is due to be released at the beginning of next year.

The European analysis was recommended in the latest CVM report issued in January and the assistance was formally requested by Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov.

The Commission once again highlighted that the mission is of entirely expert and technical nature and aims at producing objective and fair analysis.

Zaharieva and Dombrovskis, who oversees the work of the Structural Reform Support Service to the European Commission which organised the current mission of European prosecutors to Bulgaria, assessed positively the work of the service.

They discussed the possibility for the holding of other missions for technical assistance in the future, including expert assistance for implementing the recommendations of the Council of the EU on the new insolvency proceedings framework.

Zaharieva also discussed the progress of the judicial reform with European Commission Vice-President Kristalina Georgieva.

The extension of line 2 of the underground in the Bulgarian capital to the Sofia neighbourhood of Hladilnika will be launched before the end of July.

The initial deadline for launching the section was July 31, but according to Sofia mayor Yordanka Fandakova this can be achieved earlier than scheduled.

On Thursday, Fandakova inspected the progress of construction together with Transport Minister Ivaylo Moskovski.

The section measures1.3 kilometres in length and covers the distance from James Bourchier metro station to the intersection of Cherni vrah boulevard with Henrik Ibsen boulevard and Srebarna street.

The municipality expects more than 20 000 passengers to use the new section daily, with the same number of people passing through the new Vitosha metro station on a daily basis.

With the new section, Sofia will have forty kilometres of underground lines with 35 metro stations. It is estimated that the new section will save more than 70 tonnes of harmful emissions.

The construction has been completed, with tests currently being performed on the section. The movement of trains without passengers is expected to begin after ten days.

There are some finishing touches to be made on the surface, but since the work is going according to schedule, in reality the section could become operational for citizens before the end of July.

Fandakova reminded that construction of the section, which amounted to BGN 43 M, began with municipal funding in 2014 as the state refused to co-finance the project.

Immediately after the formation of the incumbent government in November 2014, the project was divided in two stages.

The first one was allocated funding under the Transport Operational Programme for the 2007-2013 programme period, while the second one was funded by the 2014-2020 programme period.

The mayor was grateful as this has allowed the municipality to redirect resources to the construction of the new third line of the underground.

Bulgarian lawmakers have overwhelmingly adopted draft legislation that aims at fighting high-level graft, local media report.

The bill has been backed on a first reading by a majority of 130-28, with 13 abstentions.

If approved further, it will give way to a new anti-graft body that will possibly be called National Bureau on Fight against Corruption.

The text establishes anti-corruption mechanisms and sets rules and procedures with regard to the forfeiture of illegally acquired assets.

New rules on declaration of assets by officials are also included in the bill.

A text introducing the option to submit anonymous anti-corruption alerts to authorities was considered to be one of the most controversial issues.

This is a second version of the anti-corruption bill going to the parliament floor after MPs surprisingly turned down the "original" last year.

EU member states' ambassadors had raised concerns over whether MPs have the political will to implement reforms.

The initial version envisaged a new corruption body uniting the Center for Prevention and Countering Corruption and Organized Crime (BORKOR) to the Council of Ministers, the Commission for Prevention and Ascertainment of Conflict of Interest and departments of the National Audit Office.

The former head of the criminal police in the Bulgarian town of Tran has been detained for 72 hours on suspicions of trafficking refugees.

On Tuesday, the regional directorate of the interior ministry in Pernik received a signal by officers from the border police department in Tran.

The border police officers tried to stop the vehicle for inspection, but the driver did not obey their orders and fled the scene.

The incident happened in the area of the village of Vukan, with the vehicle heading in the direction of the village of Staychovtsi.

Later in Staychovtsi, border police officers uncovered 25 foreign citizens of Arab origin – eight men, five women and twelve children.

The area of Tran and Breznik was immediately sealed off by police officers and authorities managed to detain the vehicle and its driver in the village of Noevtsi.

Bulgaria's Prime Minister Boyko Borisov has said his country has to sell state-owned gas grid operator Bulgartransgaz or pay off a fine of up to EUR 300 M, citing EU antitrust regulators.

This comes against the backdrop of an ongoing antitrust investigation launched last year into the Bulgarian Energy Holding's practice of allegedly denying competitors access to the Bulgarian gas transportation network.

Borisov has told the media following a European Council session that the EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager's words to him that Bulgartransgaz has to be sold is "a heavy political blow" for Bulgaria.

"Otherwise there is an infringement procedure," he is heard saying in an audio file sent to the media by the government's press office.

"They want to impose on us a procedure over the ownership of pipes and compressor stations. We cannot allow that... It is unacceptable to us, whatever the financial sanctions," daily Capital also quotes Borisov as saying.

He has voiced his indignation at the development, pointing to it as an example of where the EU needs reform and adding he asked Vesthager whether the the regulators are scrutinizing all other member states as well.

"We know where the European Union has to be fixed an everybody at the European Council is putting in effort."

Reuters quotes Commission spokesman Ricardo Cardoso as saying that "as is common practice in antitrust investigations, Commissioner Vestager has met with Bulgarian counterparts to discuss the state of play of the investigation."

In October of last year, Borisov said the country was working to make sure "everything" that regards gas control is fully state-owned.

Turkish authorities detained on Thursday thirteen suspects over Tuesday's terrorist attack at the Istanbul Ataturk airport which claimed the lives of at least 42 people and left hundreds other injured.

The suspects, among whom are three foreign nationals, were detained during simultaneous raids at sixteen different addresses across Istanbul. Another three suspects are still being searched for.

On Tuesday evening, three suicide bombers opened fire with automatic rifles before blowing themselves up at the arrivals section of terminal 2.

There were ten foreign nationals among the victims, three of whom had dual Turkish citizenship, Anadolu Agency informs.

A total of 109 out of the more than 230 people, who sustained injuries in the attack, have been discharged from hospitals in Istanbul.

On Wednesday, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said that according to preliminary reports Islamic State (IS) was responsible for the attack.

Bulgarian PR expert, businessman, journalist and diplomat Maxim Behar on Wednesday received a diplomatic award for his contribution to the popularization of African culture and his work to boost the economic development of the Seychelles.

Behar, who is also Honorary Consul General of the Republic of Seychelles, was handed the award during a celebration of the 40th anniversary since the Seychelles became an independent nation.

Vanessa Calvert, South Africa's Ambassador to Bulgaria, gave him the glass plaque on behalf of all African envoys to the country.

She praised Behar for his constant work to present African culture and improve the image of African nations in Bulgaria and around the world.

In 2015, Behar was promoted to Honorary Consul General by Seychelles President James Michel, after having been Honorary Consul for the previous 12 years.

Bulgarian Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov expects the budget surplus for the first six months of this year to be 3.5 % of projected GDP.

During a round table on Thursday, Goranov was firm that the figures will be far from the 2 % deficit, foreseen in the consolidated fiscal programme for this year.

According to him, this was a serious result which guaranteed the stabilisation of public finances, dnevnik.bg quotes him as saying.

The finance minister expressed modest optimism that in view of the geopolitical and economic instability in the surrounding environment, Bulgaria is performing relatively well and definitely much better than in the past years.

Goranov reminded that from the moment the incumbent government assumed office in November 2014, it has been committed to retaining the tax system and has taken serious efforts to increase the collection of revenues.

In his words, the government remained open to any proposals which would increase the capacity of the state to collect taxes and create competitive environment.

Gazprom's deputy head for economic and financial affairs announced on Wednesday there was "a high degree of readiness" to provide funding for the so-called Turkish Stream pipeline.

Igor Shatalov added the project had reached a stage that allowed it to attract the necessary funding.

His words, quoted by TASS news agency, follow a move by Turkey to mend ties with Russia after a months-long spat over the downing of a Russian fighter bomber.

A letter of apology by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was followed by a phone conversation between him and his Russian counterpart Putin on Wednesday.

Earlier this week, Gazprom's spokesperson Sergey Kupriyanov also said there was room for dialogue on the projects.

In a separate development, however, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak made clear his country stood ready to build South Stream as well.
Turkish Stream is considered to be an alternative to South Stream after the latter was abandoned in December 2014.

Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov advised Bulgarian citizens traveling to Turkey to register beforehand at the website of the foreign ministry.

Mitov's advice comes in the aftermath of Tuesday's terrorist attack at Istanbul Ataturk airport which claimed the lives of at least 42 people and left hundreds other injured.

Speaking to journalists in parliament on Thursday, he confirmed earlier reports that the foreign ministry has no information on any Bulgarians killed or injured in the attack.

There were cases of Bulgarians not being able to contact their relatives, but these have been solved.

Mitov assured that the Bulgarian consulate and embassy in Istanbul are in constant contact and have readiness to react at any time.

The foreign minister once again asked Bulgarian citizens traveling abroad to register through the “Traveling to” electronic service available at the website of the foreign ministry.

The registration takes only several minutes to register, but provides Bulgarian diplomatic missions with the opportunity to react very quickly and get in touch with fellow nationals abroad if the need arises.

Mitov also advised citizens to inform themselves about the latest developments in each country they are visiting or passing through.

Several people have been detained in Burgas after attacking a group of Ukrainians protesting against the arrival of the Night Wolves, police say.

The Night Wolves are group of Russian bikers known for their affiliation to President Vladimir Putin.

Ten people dressed in the camouflage outfits of a nationalist organization attacked the Ukrainian nationals with electroshock batons and knocked some of them down as they were demonstrating in front of a petrol station where the bikers were expected to arrive.

There were also several Russian nationals among the demonstrators, according to news website Dnevnik.bg.

No-one was seriously injured, with police arriving after the scuffle.

No encounters took place between the Night Wolves and the demonstration, with the former avoiding the route where protesters were waiting.

The bikers arrived in Burgas around 08:30 local time. They are expected to continue their ride across the country and were scheduled to reach the capital Sofia tomorrow for a press conference in the Russian Cultural and Information Center.

Their arrival in Sofia will not coincide with the visit of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Thursday.

Daily 24 Chasa reports that only 5 out of the 30 people who arrived as part of the group are Russian nationals, while others are Night Wolves' members and supporters from different Eastern European countries.

Their Bulgarian ride is part of the so-called March for Peace.

According to Bulgarian Interior Minister Rumyana Bachvarova, the threat of terrorist attacks has become a thing of everyday life and the most powerful weapon in countering terrorism is information and the ability to use it.

Commenting the challenges and heightened security measures in the aftermath of Tuesday's terrorist attack at Istanbul Ataturk Airport which claimed the lives of at least 42 people and left hundreds injured, Bachvarova pointed to the frequent number of terrorist attacks in Turkey.

In an interview for the Bulgarian National Television (BNT) on Thursday, the interior minister pointed to the complicated international situation which is reflecting on the internal security of each country.

Bachvarova highlighted the need for joint efforts and identical standards for the protection in order to counter terrorism.

However she doubted that there are measures which could prevent someone from committing suicide in the name of a cause.

She assured that the information reaching the security agencies is monitored very carefully. There are weekly discussions and analyses at which the level of risks is identified. As a result, there is very clear plan according to which different state institutions have to act in the event of heightened threat.

Bachvarova noted that the activities of the security services is defined and restricted by certain conditions.

The minister pointed that it is not always possible to check all information with own means, but it is useful in analysing the chain of events.

She was firm that the terrorist threat in Europe is not over. Moreover, it was developing in different directions and was increasingly directed towards the hitting of soft targets with wider perimeter of security as is the case with international airports.

According to her, security was increasingly gaining the upper hand in the dilemma between ensuring security and safeguarding rights of citizens.

The extension of the security perimeter is increasingly restricting rights and is one of the victories of terrorism over contemporary civilization.

Bachvarova said that Bulgarian experts are participating in the process of creating a system for the integration and automatic exchange of information available in each country.

Bulgarian security agencies are in constant exchange of information with their colleagues from Turkey, Europe and the USA.

The minister assured that all necessary measures have been taken after the attack in Istanbul.

In an extraordinary briefing at Sofia airport on Wednesday, Bachvarova said that Bulgarian authorities have taken measures to ensure the highest level of security.

The minister added that although there was no concrete threat towards the country, there can never be insurance against an attack occurring.

The security measures at the airport in Sofia have been heightened, with the deployment of additional patrols to reassure traveling citizens.

The Bulgarian parliament approved on Thursday the accession of Montenegro to NATO and ratified the Protocol to the North Atlantic Treaty.

A total of 154 MPs voted in favour, five were against and one lawmaker abstained, daily Dnevnik informs.

The decision for Montenegro's accession was taken at the meeting of the foreign ministers of NATO member countries held in Brussels in December last year. The ministers officially signed the protocol on May 19 this year.

The President of the Parliament of Montenegro, Darko Pajovic, arrived in Bulgaria for the vote on the ratification and witnessed the debates in the plenary chamber.

The chairperson of the parliamentary group of the largest ruling party GERB, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, congratulated Montenegro and reminded that the country had participated in peacekeeping missions in Somalia and Afghanistan.

The deputy chairperson of the second largest opposition Movement for Rights and Freedoms, Yanko Yankov, said that it was Bulgaria's duty to respect the choice of the people of Montenegro.

According to him, with Montenegro's accession, Europe is to become safer and more stable.

In his words, the countries from the Balkans can also rely on Bulgaria's support on their way to European integration as the EU needs more stability and more members.

Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov was firm that Montenegro should be part of NATO. He added that Bulgaria has always supported the enlargement of the Alliance as this brings greater stability to the Western Balkans.

Mitov stated that it was in Bulgaria's national interest to have as many neighbouring countries part of NATO as possible in order to ensure an environment of regional security.

The European Union and Turkey are expected to open a new chapter in accession talks of Ankara on Thursday.

Chapter 33, dedicated to budget and finance, is to be unlocked as part of an agreement between the EU and Turkey reached in March that aims at curbing the influx of migrants into Europe.

The development is expected to occur during a visit to Brussels by theee Turkish ministers.

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavusoglu, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag and EU Minister Ömer Celik are set to meet EU Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans.

Turkish officials believe the opening of Chapter 33 is a historic development as it is usually unlocked only with countries that have advanced along the way to membership.

Turkey, however, has officially been a candidate since the late 1990s. Membership talks stalled several years later as Cyprus blocked several chapters.

 

The highest ranking Bulgarian female tennis player Tsvetana Pironkova was ousted in the first round of Wimbledon on Wednesday.

In a match from the first round, Pironkova lost to Belinda Bencic from Switzerland with 2:6, 3:6.

Their match was initially scheduled to take place on Tuesday, but was postponed to Wednesday due to rain.

The Bulgarian started the match well and won the opening game, but then conceded five consecutive games. Pironkova managed to return a game, but eventually lost the first set with 2:6.

The second set was more contested, with the two players exchanging a couple of service games.

With the score being 2:2, Bencic recorded two consecutive breaks and came in the lead with 5:2.

Pironkova returned a break and lowered the score to 3:5, but the Swiss claimed the final victory after recording another break in the next game.

Thus the Bulgarian suffered third defeat in three matches against her Swiss opponent.

Last year, Pironkova and Bencic again played in the opening round of Wimbledon, with the Swiss prevailing with 3:6, 6:1, 6:3.

Meanwhile, Bulgaria's highest ranking male tennis player Grigor Dimitrov continues his participation at Wimbledon having made it to the second round.

On Thursday, Dimitrov is expected to resume his match from against Gilles Simon from France which was interrupted on Wednesday due to rain.

The Bulgarian won the opening game, but rain interrupted the match in the second game with Simon being 30:15 in the lead.

In the first round, Dimitrov defeated Bjorn Fratangelo from the USA with 6:3. 6:4, 6:2.

The Bulgarian has won only once in six encounters against Simon. The two have played twice since the beginning of the year.

In Brisbane in January, Dimitrov won with 6:3, 7:6 (10), while later in April at the Monte-Carlo Masters Simon prevailed with 6:4, 6:3.

Parliament is set to hold a debate on the latest version of a bill aimed at cracking down on graft.

This is a new version of a draft put forward by Deputy Prime Minister Meglena Kuneva which was previously turned down.

Kuneva's proposals includes the creation of a National Anti-Corruption Bureau.

Additionally, the scope of people who will have to submit statements on newly acquired assets will be expanded to include municipal councilors, chief architects, heads of state-owned universities and others.

The EU has repeatedly called on Parliament ot pass the bill, arguing its rejection last year raises serious concern about commitment to reform.

However, MPs remain divided over the newest version as well. The bone of contention is a proposal to allow the submission of anonymous anti-corruption alerts to authorities.

Ukrainian President Petro Porosehnko is visiting Bulgaria's capital Sofia on Thursday to meet counterpart Rosen Plevneliev and discuss bilateral issues, the latter's press office has said.

Issues such as economic and investment cooperation, regional and international security, and specific bilateral documents will be on the agenda, Plevneliev's press office has said.

The two heads of state will also attend the signing of cooperation agreements in sports and astronomy between the respective state agencies.

During Poroshenko's one-day visit, a monument to Ukrainian national hero Taras Shevchenko will be unveiled in the center of Sofia.

The shooting in the Bulgarian Black Sea resort of Sunny Beach has been done by an organized criminal gang, the prosecuting authority has found.

Earlier in June, a shooting in the largest Black Sea resort left one man dead and three others heavily wounded.

One of those wounded, alleged drug lord Dimitar Zhelyazkov, a.k.a., Ochite ("The Eyes") was the arget of the shooting.

Until now, prosecutors had claimed the development was a result of a brawl over a parking lot - an idea embraced by Prime Minister Boyko Borisov.

There is a lot of evidence that "the shooting in Slanchev Bryag has been done by an organized criminal gang dealing with drug trade, extortion, battery, arson, etc." Daniela Popova, from the Specialized Appellate Prosecutor's Office, quoted by Focus News Agency as saying.

Bozhidar Kuzmanov, the owner of the disco where the incident took place, is pointed as the gang leader.

Of those detained, three have been indicted on charges of murder and attempted murder.

The man killed in the shooting was one of his bodyguards.

 

Flights between Sofia and Istanbul have been restored, the airport in Sofia has announced, less than 24 hours after a deadly attack in Istanbul.

The measure is in force as of Wednesday evening, with a plane from Istanbul having arrived at 21:05 and a takeoff due at 21:40.

At least 41 people were killed by three suicide blasts, while 239 were injured.

Sofia-Istanbul flights were initially suspended immediately after the attack, alongside all flights peformed to and from the airport.

Security measures at Sofia Airport, however, have been heightened in the aftermath of the attack.

The Legal Affairs Committee with Bulgaria's Parliament has turned down a five-point referendum proposal on fuel prices, pharmacies, and Bulgaria's political system.

Varna-based businessman Veselin Mareshki in June submitted a petition which includes five questions on which citizens should have a say.

The first question is whether state regulation should be introduced in the fuels market to ensure lower end prices. The second concerns a removal of a restriction for a person to own more than four pharmacies across the country to make the market more competitive and also lower end prices.

The other three are issues related to the political system. Some of the questions overlap with ones in a referendum petition submitted by Slavi Trifonov, the host of a popular TV show. Trifonov's poll will be held later this year, possibly alongside presidential elections.

Mareshki, who also owns petrol stations, made headlines over the past months by offering fuels at prices that are considerably lower than those offered by competitors. At a time when the standard diesel price was nearly BGN 1.90 (EUR 0.95) per liter, his was around BGN 1.60.

Ever since, he has argued the state should intervene to place a cap on fuel prices to avoid further abuse, and has alleged free marketeers warning against his proposal are being paid by the industry.

He has also declared intentions to run for president in the autumn.

The petition tabled by Mareshki fell some 2600 signatures short of the 400 000 that would have made it binding on Parliament to set a date for the referendum.

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree extending the ban on food imports from EU member states and other western countries by 18 months.

The restriction was introduced in the sumer of 2014, in response to economic sanctions imposed by Western states on Moscow over the developments in Ukraine.

Signed on Wednesday and available online [RU], the decree also reads that the duration of the "separate special economic measures" (the ban on imports) can be amended by the government if necessary.

A number of items ranging from fruits and vegetables to meat, milk and dairy products are now blacklisted if they originate from EU countries, the US, Canada, Australia, and Norway.

Subsequently, countries such as Montenegro, ALbania, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Ukraine were added.

Russia had long argued some EU products are reexported from countries falling out of the scope of sanctions.

The EU earlier in June agreed to keep sanctions in place by the beginning of 2017.

Over the weekend, Agriculture Minister Desislava Taneva said the sanctions had resulted in some EUR 400 M in losses for Bulgaria's food processing industry and agricultural sector.

 

 

Miglena Tacheva, a former Justice Minister, has taken over as head of the National Institute of Justice, Bulgaria's main body providing training opportunities for those working in the judicial system.

Tacheva oversaw the judiciary in the cabinet of Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, between 2001 and 2005.

She will now replace incumbent Dragomir Yordanov, who was also running for a second term in office.

The latter was backed by Justice Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva and Supreme Court of Cassation (VKS) chair Lozan Panov, which Tacheva was the candidate preferred by Chief Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov, Supreme Administrative Court head Georgi Kolev, and several others.

Zaharieva and Panov had argued the incumbent was more appropriate for the purposes of the judicial reform that is being carried out under the current government.

Bulgaria's Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov has described policies applied by Russia in the Black Sea region "confrontational".

Mitov, attending a parliamentary hearing called by the opposition to discuss the security environment in the Black Sea, said the country's policies, its modernized military capabilities and its readiness to use force posed "a key challenge" to NATO.

"The activities of Russia in Ukraine and the signing of agreements with separatist republic of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and the situation of Moldova are factors for subsequent and serious changes to the political and military balance of forces in the Black Sea and Caspian region favouring the Russian Federation," Focus News Agency quotes him as saying.

The hearing comes after reports of a proposal made by Romania, under which Bulgaria was invited to joint naval force countering Russia in the Black Sea, divided both Parliament and cabinet members.

Bulgaria rejected the idea, with Prime Minister Boyko Borisov insisting he wanted "love and peace in the Black Sea".

Commenting on the attack at Istanbul Ataturk Airport which left at least 41 dead and 239 injured, Mitov has said that Bulgarian and Turkish security services continue to work on anti-terror measures.

He has made clear there is no increased risk for an atack in Bulgaria as of the moment.

EU leaders agree that Britain cannot have access to the common market after leaving the union unless it accepts the principle of free movement, EU Council President Donal Tusk has announced.

On the second day of an EU summit, the 27 member states (British PM David Cameron arrived only for the first day) have made clear the the access to the single market goes hand in hand will all four freedoms underpinning the EU's architecture, namely the free movement of goods, capital, services, and people.

At their talks after the departure of Cameron, leaders have also ruled out any possible talks with Britain over its relationship with the EU before Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty has been triggered by London.

"Britain's withdrawal from the EU must be orderly and there will be no negotiations of any kind until the UK has notified the EU of its intention to withdraw," Tusk has made clear.

The freedom of movement is thought to have been among the sticking points for the Leave camp, which before the referendum argued the UK would be able to contol its borders in a more assertive manner if it left the EU.

A prisoner, who had escaped from the jail in Varna a month ago, was detained after a shootout with police in the Bulgarian town of Silistra on Wednesday.

The 41-year-prisoner was detected in the centre of Silistra and recognised by police officers. They tried to arrest him, but the prisoner opened fire at them. As police officers started chasing the criminal, a shootout ensued.

The criminal then entered a taxi and hijacked it and asked the driver to take him to a randomly chosen address.

Arriving at the address, the fugitive got off the taxi, barricaded himself in a nearby house which was empty at the time.

The prisoner continued to fire after barricading himself. After some time the prisoner was neutralised and taken to police custody. Luckily, no one was injured in the shootout.

This comes only a day after a shootout between police and criminals took place in Sofia.

The shootout ensued after two armed attackers robbed BGN 3000 and two kilogrammes of gold from a pawn shop on the Lomsko shose boulevard in the neighbourhood of Nadezhda.

The attackers opened fire at police officers who returned in self-defence. A chase and shootout ensued in the Razsadnika neighbourhood. One of the robbers was shot and later died of his wounds. Later the second robber was detained.

It turned out that the killed robber was a former police officer, who had been released from prison after serving a sentence for armed robbery.

 

The EU will not decide on reshuffles to the schedule of rotational presidencies for 2018 before September, member states' leaders have agreed.

The lack of definite timetable for the presidencies, caused by Britain's vote to leave the union, leaves in limbo the exact schedule of the Bulgarian six-month term that was due between July and December 2018.

Before the Brexit referendum, the UK was to host Council of the EU meetings between July and December of next year.

Earlier, Deputy PM Meglena Kuneva had said Bulgaria might have to assume its respective chairmanship six month earlier than expected.

 

In a telephone conversation held on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Erdogan agreed to work towards the normalisation of bilateral relations.

Relations between Moscow and Ankara have been strained since last November when two Turkish F-16 fighter jets downed Russian Su-24 bomber on the Turkish-Syrian border.

On Monday, Erdogan sent a letter of apology to Putin, in which he extended condolences to the family of the pilot killed in the incident and expressed interest in the normalisation of relations.

After the telephone conversation it emerged that the Russian president has instructed the government to begin talks with Turkey on restoring the commercial and economic cooperation.

TASS news agency informs that Moscow has lifted the administrative restrictions on visits of Russian citizens to Turkey, which had been imposed after the downing of the Russian aircraft.

On Wednesday, Putin expressed condolences to Erdogan and the whole Turkish nation over Tuesday's terrorist attack at Istanbul Ataturk airport which claimed the lives of at least 41 people and left hundreds other injured.

Both presidents highlighted the need to enhance international cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

Putin and Erdogan agreed to consider the option of holding a personal meeting in the near future.

They agreed that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu will meet at the session of the Council of Ministers of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation in Sochi on July 1.

The Bulgarian parliament adopted at first reading on Wednesday the changes to the Judicial System Act.

Following a discussion lasting for three hours, 116 MPs voted in favour of the changes, five were against, while nine lawmakers abstained.

During the debates, MPs highlighted that there were both positive and negative sides to the changes, daily Dnevnik informs.

Justice Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva said that she had heard many constructive proposals as well as unfounded criticism.

The changes foresee granting greater powers to the general assemblies of judges, outlining procedures for conducting integrity checks of magistrates by the inspectorate to the Supreme Judicial Council (VSS) and regulations concerning the hierarchy of the prosecutor's office.

The texts also feature regulations on the assessment and career development of magistrates as well as changes to the management of the court and the prosecution.

CSKA Sofia has returned to Bulgaria's top football division after its licence was revoked last year due to outstanding debts.

This decision comes after meetings of the licence and legal committees of the Bulgarian Football Union (BFS).

The club was relegated to the third football division where it was unchallenged, recording 31 victories and one draw and finishing twenty points ahead of the second-placed team.

CSKA also became the first team from third division to win the Bulgarian Cup after defeating Montana 1-0 in the final in May.

CSKA was admitted to participate in the top division after merging with the teams of Chavdar Etropole and Litex Lovech.

Litex itself was relegated to the second football division at the end of last year after its players left the pitch and abandoned a match against Levski.

The legal committee of BFS is firm that the changes in the name and seat of Litex Lovech into CSKA Sofia have been carried out in compliance with national legislation and internal rules of BFS.

Together with CSKA, thirteen other clubs have been admitted for participation in the new format of Bulgaria's top football division, which from next season will bear the name of First professional league.

All nine teams competing in the last season of the A Group will take part in the new format.

This includes incumbent champion Ludogorets, runner-up Levski as well as the two other teams which will represent Bulgaria in the Europa League qualifications – Beroe and Slavia.

Dunav Ruse, Lokomotiv Gorna Oryahovitsa, Vereya Stara Zagora and Neftochimic Burgas are the four teams which were promoted to the top division.

The heads of the Bulgarian intelligence agencies and Interior Minister Rumyana Bachvarova will be subject to extraordinary hearing in parliament in the aftermath of Tuesday's terrorist attack in Istanbul Ataturk airport which claimed the lives of at least 41 people and left hundreds other injured.

This was announced by chairperson of the parliamentary group of the largest ruling GERB party and former interior minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov on Wednesday.

Tsvetanov, who is chairperson of the parliamentary Internal Security and Public Order committee, will propose to his fellow MPs to invite representatives from all intelligence agencies and the interior ministry to participate in an extraordinary meeting on Thursday.

The holding of a joint meeting with the parliamentary committee in control of the security services has also been suggested.

It is reasonable to allow more technological time so that the agencies can make additional analyses of the terrorist attack in Istanbul.

The agencies will also report on the measures that are being taken in implementation of the plan for reaction in such events.

Tsvetanov reminded that the interior ministry had taken preventive measures at critical infrastructure, such as airports, by heightening the presence of police officers.

An Iranian and a Ukrainian are among victims of the terror attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk international airport, the AP reported on Wednesday, citing Turkish officials.

Tuesday's attack involving gunfire and three suicide bombings killed 36 people and wounded around 150 others at the city's main airport.

Reuters quoted Saudi media reports as saying that among those injured were seven Saudis, who were in good condition.

No Bulgarian citizens were hurt in the terror attack, the foreign ministry in Sofia said earlier on Wednesday.

 

Forecasts predict that 10.3 million tourists will visit the Bulgarian Black Sea coast from May to October, making for a very successful tourist season.

This was stated by Rumen Draganov, director of the Institute for tourism analyses and evaluation, Darik radio quotes him as saying.

Draganov estimated that more than half of the expected tourists, or 5.6 million, will be Bulgarians.

Bulgaria can provide accommodation for around 1.5 million tourists. Most of the accommodation remained empty at the beginning of the season.

The ongoing UEFA European Championship in France is further delaying the bookings. The real start of the summer tourist season is expected to be from July 10 onwards.

All tour operators confirmed that there has been 35-60 % increase in the number of bookings made from the main markets.

The forecasts that tourists will be redirected towards Bulgaria have been confirmed.

It was clear from the end of last year that European tour operators will be seeking new destinations as some 15 million tourists are not expected to visit Turkey, Egypt and Tunisia this year.

Draganov admitted that the growth in the number of bookings was due more to geopolitical developments rather than increase in the quality of the tourist products offered in Bulgaria.

Bulgaria’s Parliament on Wednesday elected Yulia Nenkova as head of the country’s anti-trust body, the Commission for Protection of Competition (KZK).

Nenkova, deputy mayor of Sofia in charge of rule of law, coordination and control, was elected in a 137-1 vote with 10 abstentions. Since 2010 Nenkova has also been chair of the supervisory board of the government’s Privatisation Agency.

Nenkova had been nominated to the post by centre-right GERB party, the dominant partner in the minority coalition government.

Dimitar Kyumyurdzhiev, a lawyer and a  former KZK member from 1997 to 2003, was elected deputy chairman of the anti-trust regulator. He had been nominated by the Patriotic Front, an alliance of nationalist parties who support the government of GERB and right-wing Reformist Bloc but hold no ministerial seats.

Parliament also elected five KZK members nominated respectively by GERB, the Reformist Bloc as well as opposition Socialists, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) and the Bulgarian Democratic Center (BDC)  

 

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and European Council President Donald Tusk discussed on Wednesday the three major energy projects which can be realised in Bulgaria.

The meeting, which took place on the sidelines of the two-day European Council summit, was held on the request of Tusk as continuation of their telephone conversation last week.

Borisov asked for the clear and firm stance of the European Commission on Bulgaria's projected “Balkan” gas distribution centre.

The Bulgarian prime minister also raised the issue for coordinating the follow-up actions Bulgaria is to take after the recent ruling of the International Court of Arbitration on the projected Belene nuclear power plant.

The International Court of Arbitration ruled that in the trade dispute between Bulgaria's National Electricity Company (NEK) and the Russian Atomstroyexport, Bulgaria is to pay Russia EUR 550 M for equipment already produced for the suspended project.

According to Borisov, the concept for the “Balkan” gas hub is very good one and would be of benefit to everyone in the region.

However Bulgaria wants to receive the assurance of the European Commission that from a legislative point of view the project is in full compliance with European legislation.

He recommended acceleration of the dialogue in the joint working group on the topic, made up of representatives of Bulgaria and the Commission.

Borisov also mentioned the undetermined fate of the cancelled South Stream gas pipeline project.

He noted that Bulgaria is strictly fulfilling its obligations as member state of the EU and expects Brussels to respond promptly to issues raised by Sofia.

In his words, all three projects are of significant importance for the implementation of the energy strategy of the Union, which puts priority on diversification of sources and supply routes.

He highlighted that none of the projects is purely Bulgarian and all of them concern decisions which have to be taken at the EU level.

Tusk made commitment to inform the Bulgarian government as soon as possible in what ways the European institutions will respond to the issues raised by Borisov.

Bulgarian MPs held a minute's silence on Wednesday to pay tribute to the victims of the terror attack in Istanbul.

Parliament Deputy Speaker Dimitar Glavchev said that Bulgaria strongly condemned the barbaric act of terror against freedom and peace.

„There is no excuse for such monstrous violence targeting innocent people. In Bulgaria, we all grieve for the innocent victims of this huge tragedy”, Glavchev said before the session of Parliament.

The leaders of the party factions in Parliament have decided to ask Interior Minister Rumyana Bachvarova to report to the MPs about the measures being taken to ensure the security of Bulgarian citizens in the wake of the terror attack at Instanbul’s Ataturk International Airport that claimed the lives of at least 36 people on Tuesday night.

Security measures at Sofia international airport have been heightened in the wake of the terror attack in Istanbul.

 

The security measures at Sofia airport have been heightened in view of the terrorist attack which targeted Ataturk airport in Istanbul late on Tuesday.

The simultaneous gunfire and bomb attacks claimed the lives of at least 36 people and left 147 other injured.

According to reports, three suicide bombers started shooting with automatic rifles at passengers before blowing themselves up.

The attacks occurred at the parking lot and at the entrance to the arrivals section of the international terminal.

There were likely foreigners among the victims. So far, authorities have not informed of any Bulgarians injured or killed in the attack.

Turkish authorities have pointed to Islamic State (IS) as the suspected perpetrator of the attack.

Turkish President Recep Erdogan condemned the attack and vowed to continue the fight against terrorism

In the aftermath of the attack the airport was closed for several hours and flights were diverted. Flight were resumed on Wednesday, but passengers are still experiencing serious delays.

Two Turkish Airlines flights between Sofia and Istanbul were cancelled on Wednesday, namely the one scheduled to arrive in Sofia at 9:05 o'clock (EET), the one departing for Istanbul at 10 o'clock (EET).

On the road to terminals, a gendarmerie vehicle is stopping suspicious vehicles for inspection and heightened police presence is expected.

There is no information on whether there will be changes to evening flights. All other flights through Sofia airport are operating according to schedule.

Late on Tuesday, Air France airplane bound for Istanbul performed emergency landing in Sofia.

On the order of Transport Minister Ivaylo Moskovski, the airports in Sofia, Varna and Burgas have readiness to service up to 32 diverted planes depending on their type and category.

The presidents of Russia and Turkey will hold on Wednesday their first conversation since Turkish 
Air Force s
hot down a Russian warplane near the border with Syria in November 2015.
Russian President Vladimir Putin will call his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, TASS quoted
the Kremlin spokesman
Dmitry Peskov as saying on Tuesday.
The phone call will be
Putin answer to Erdogan’s letter of apology over the downing of the Russian Su-24
fighter-bomber, according to TASS.

 

The Bulgarian parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Defence committees will hold hearings of Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov and Defence Minister Nikolay Nenchev on Wednesday.

The ministers are to provide up-to-date information on the state of the security environment in the Black Sea.

The Black Sea has been in the focus of discussions in the past weeks due to a controversial proposal for the establishment of joint Black Sea flotilla between Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov revealed that the issue had been raised by his Romanian counterpart Dacian Ciolos and was later reiterated by Romanian President Klaus Iohannis.

On both occasions, Borisov turned down the Romanian proposals, saying that he does not want to risk confrontation with Russia.

However Iohannis said that during his visit to Bulgaria earlier this month he had been misunderstood and that he had proposed the holding of joint navy training between the three countries rather than the establishment of flotilla.

In a joint briefing last week, Mitov and Nenchev similarly stated that Bulgaria had not made any commitments to participate in a joint Black Sea flotilla or any other regional initiatives with Romania and Turkey.

The two committees will also discuss the positions of Bulgaria for its participation in the forthcoming summit of NATO in Warsaw on July 8 and 9.

The framework positions that Bulgaria will champion at the summit were approved by the government last week.

Long lines of trucks have formed at Kapitan Andreevo and Lesovo crossing on Bulgaria’s border with Turkey on Wednesday morning, according to the Sofia-based Nova TV channel.
The line of trucks at Kapitan Andreevo was about six kilometers long, the line at Lesovo was two kilometers long, Nova TV said citing information from border police.
There were also lines of trucks as long as one kilometer each at the two bridges linking Bulgaria with Romania over the Danube, at Ruse and Vidin, Nova TV said.

Turkish Airlines have cancelled flights on the Sofia-Istanbul route scheduled for Wednesday morning in the wake of the terror attack at Ataturk International Airport.

Flight TK1027 from Istanbul to Sofia scheduled to arrive at 09:05 and Flight TK1028 that had been scheduled to depart from Sofia to Istanbul at 10:00 were cancelled, Sofia Airport announced on its website on Wednesday.

The Istanbul-Sofia Flight TK1029 arriving at 20:45 and Sofia-Istanbul Flight TK1030 departing at 21:40 haven’t been cancelled as of 09:00 Sofia time.

 

According to initial information, no Bulgarian citizens were hurt in Tuesday’s terror attack at Istanbul's Ataturk International Airport, the foreign ministry in Sofia has said.

The Bulgarian embassy in Ankara and the country’s consulate general in Istanbul are in constant touch with the relevant Turkish authorities, the ministry said in a statement on Wednesday morning.

A Bulgarian consul is at the airport, monitoring the situation, according to the statement.

 

 

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has said that initial indications suggested the Islamic State group was responsible for the terror attack at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport that killed at least 36 people.

"The findings of our security forces point at the Daesh organisation as the perpetrators of this terror attack," Yildirim told reporters at the airport, using the Arabic name for the militant Jihadist organization, according to Turkish media reports.

According to Yildirim, three suicide bombers were to blame for the attack at the airport's international arrivals terminal.

 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has strongly condemned the suicide bombing attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport that claimed the life of at least 36 people on Tuesday night.

Erdogan also vowed that Turkey would continue its fight against terror groups, Anadolu Agency reported on Wednesday.

“We expect that a resolute stance against terrorist organizations should be adopted by the world and especially Western countries with their parliament, media and non-governmental organizations,” the news agency quoted Erdogan as saying in a statement.

 

At least 36 people were killed and scores of others were injured in a terror attack on Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport, Turkey’s prime minister said on Wednesday.

Binali Yildirim condemned the attack carried out by three suicide bombers and said that airport operations had resumed.

“Our airport has been reopened to flights as of 02.20 a.m. (2320GMT) and air traffic has returned to normal,” he said, according to Anadolu Agency.

The attackers arrived at the airport by taxi, according to Yildirim. However, there "was no security gap at the airport, he added, according to the Turkish news agency.”

The timing of the attack was very “meaningful” as Turkey had begun new foreign relations approaches with Russia and Israel, Yildirim said.

 

At least thirty-six people died when two explosions shook Istanbul's Ataturk international airport on Tuesday, Turkish media report.

More than 60 people are injured, six of them heavily, according to Anadolu Agency.

Reuters quoted a witness telling Turkish broadcaster CNN Turk that gunfire was heard from the car park at the airport.

CNN Turk footage showed ambulances rushing to the scene, according to Reuters.

Turkey's Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım ordered the formation of a crisis desk into the incident.

Police sealed off the airport, with all flights into or out of it reportedly cancelled.

Britain would have to cut spending and increase taxes to deal with the economic consequences of the voters' decision to leave the European Union, according to the country’s Finance Minister George Osborne.

"We are absolutely going to have to provide fiscal security to people, we are going to have to show the country and the world that the government can live within its means," Osborne told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

 

Russia is ready to build the South Stream gas pipeline if the EU provides guarantees about demand, the country's Energy Minister Alexander Novak has said.

"If Bulgaria and the European Commission officially confirm their interest and guarantee the relevance of the pipeline’s construction and creation of such capital-intensive infrastructure we’ll be able to ensure the construction and supplies of gas required," TASS quoted Novak as saying in an interview broadcast by the Russia-24 TV news channel on Tuesday.

Novak said earlier on Tuesday that Russia was ready to ensure additional gas supplies to southeastern Europe, including in case of consumers' interest in the stalled Turkish Stream gas pipeline project.

Russia said in december 2014 that it abandoned the South Stream project designed to carry Russian gas under the Black Sea to EU member Bulgaria due to competition objections from the European Commission and announced it would replace South Stream by an alternative route via Turkey.

The new project, called Turkish Stream, has been stalled since December 2015 over the downing of a Russian warplane by the Turkish Air Force near Turkey’s border with Syria.

 

Mostly sunny in the morning, rainfall expected in the afternoon, predominantly in central and eastern Bulgaria and along the Black Sea coast.

Mild to moderate winds from the northwest-north expected.

Maximum air temperature seen in a range from 24 to 29 degrees; from 25 to 27 degrees along the Black Sea coast.

Sea water temperatures expected at 24-25 degrees Celsius.

A considerable rainfall with strong winds from the north are forecast for the Rhodope Mountains and the Balkan mountain range.

 

 

 

The dead body of a 19-year old man was found in Maritsa river, in southern Bulgaria, after a six-day search, BGNES reported on Tuesday.

Rescue and search teams including scuba divers assisted by volunteers combed the area before finding the body of Petar Valchev two kilometers downstream from the place where he had disappeared in the region of Plovdiv city, according to the news outlet.

Maritsa, though seemingly calm, can be quite dangerous particularly immediately after heavy rainfall which was the case when the young man disappeared.

 

Bulgarian defender Ivan Ivanov has been signed on a three-year contract by Greek club Panathinaikos, Reuters reported on Tuesday.

"I'm pleased to join one of the biggest Balkan clubs," the newswire quoted the centre back from Lokomotiv Plovdiv as telling local media.

Ivanov, 28, was Bulgaria's footballer of the year in 2013.

 

A multinational flight training exercise of military transport aviation will begin in Bulgaria on Wednesday, the Defence Ministry has announced.

C-27J Spartan aircraft and air force crews from Bulgaria, Italy and Romania will take part in the exercise codenamed Balkan Spartan – 2016.

Vrazhdebna  air base near Sofia will serve as a hub for the exercise that will test flights at low altitude, landing approach for deploying cargo and paratrooper assault, the Defence Ministry said in a statement.

Parts of the exercise will take place at Cheshnigirovo and Plovdiv air bases. The exercise will continue until July 8.

 

The estimated number of migrants and refugees who have entered Europe by sea in 2016 through 26 June has reached 222,291, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

This compared with 146,083 arrivals in the first six months of last year, the IOM said on Tuesday.

Out of the 2016 total, 158,159 migrants and refugees have arrived in Greece, while 62,752 have arrived in Italy. The remainder have reached Cyprus and Malta.

Migrant fatalities in the Mediterranean so far this year have reached 2,888, compared with 1,838 through the first six months of 2015.

The latest two incidents involving fatalities occurred on the Central Mediterranean route to Italy, which has become the most deadly route thus far in 2016 with more than 85% of all deaths involving migrants attempting to enter Europe by sea, the IOM said.

Some 6,000 migrants were rescued in the Channel of Sicily on the 24, 25 and 26 of June. Many of them were still at sea on Monday, and so they were not included in IOM’s estimate of total arrivals in Italy through 2016.

 

Bulgaria’s business climate index increased by 0.9 percentage points in June compared with May as a result of improved business sentiment in industry, retail trade and services, the national statistical office NSI announced on Tuesday.

Services showed the biggest increase, by 3.9 percentage points, among the sub-indices measuring business confidence in the four sectors of the economy (industry, retail, services, construction). The increase was mainly due to the more optimistic expectations about the business position of the enterprises over the next six months, according to the NSI.

The managers’ opinions about demand for services over the next three months remained favourable.

The sub-index for industry rose by 0.8 percentage points in June in comparison with the previous month due to more upbeat entrepreneurs’ assessments about the present business position of their enterprises. However, their opinions about the present production activity were more reserved compared with May, while their expectations about the activity of the enterprises over the next three months improved, the NSI said. The managers expect selling prices in industry to remain unchanged over the next three months.

The sub-index for the retail trade sector increased by 0.9 percentage points compared with May due to improved retailers’ assessment of the present business position of their enterprises. Their expectations about the volume of sales and orders placed with suppliers over the next three months were more reserved compared with May.

The only sub-index that showed a decrease in June was in construction. The business climate indicator in the sector dropped by 1.8 percentage points due to more reserved entrepreneurs’ expectations about the business position of their enterprises over the next six months.

 

 

Russia's Energy Minister Alexander Novak has said that Russia is ready to ensure additional gas supplies to southeastern Europe, including in case of consumers' interest in the stalled Turkish Stream gas pipeline project.

"Southeastern Europe has the requirement for additional natural gas deliveries and reliable energy provision.Russia is ready to supply the required amount of natural gas as we have the resources and we are competitive," TASS quoted Novak as saying to reporters in St. Petersburg on Tuesday.

According to Novak, if there is interest from European consumers in the development of gas transmission infrastructure across the Black Sea and across the countries adjacent to the Black Sea to Europe,” Russia would cooperate.

Moscow suspended talks with Ankara on the Turkish Stream project in December last year following the downing of a Russian warplane near Turkey’s border with Syria by the Turkish Air Force.

Novak spoke a day after the Kremlin announced that it had received a letter of apology from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the downing of the Russian Su-24 fighter bomber in November last year.

Following Erdogan’s apology, Gazprom said on Monday that it was ready for a dialogue on a potential resumption of Turkish Stream.

 

 

At its meeting on Tuesday, the Bulgarian government approved additional transfers from the budget of the education ministry to the budget of municipalities amounting to slightly over BGN 26 M.

Close to BGN 18.6 M will be provided for the purchase of textbooks for children and pupils in up to fourth grade in municipal primary schools and kindergartens for 2016.

The allocation of the funds has been coordinated with the latest information submitted during the latest update on the ADMIN information system made in February 2016.

Funds will also be provided for the purchase of additional textbooks in municipalities in which there is increase in the number of pupils compared to the previous year.

Nearly BGN 1.45 M will be allocated for the payment of scholarships awarded to pupils in municipal schools achieving best results in the state exams in Bulgarian language and literature and mathematics held at the end of secondary school.

Close to BGN 6 M will be allocated to the module “Optimisation of internal structure of schools, kindergartens and individual dormitories” under the national programme “Optimisation of school network”.

These funds will be provided as compensations due to staff for their efforts in optimizing the internal structure of kindergartens and schools.

Bulgaria’s gross foreign debt has increased by 3.8% from the end of last year, reaching EUR 35.38 B at end-April under preliminary estimates, or 76.3% of the projected 2016 GDP, the central bank announced on Tuesday.

On a year-on-year basis, gross foreign debt was 8.7% lower at the end of April 2016, the Bulgarian National Bank (BNB) said in a monthly debt report.

Long-term debt grew by 6.1% from end-2015, reaching EUR 27.80 B. Short-term debt dropped by  3.9% from the end of last year, reaching EUR 7.58 B.

General government’s gross foreign debt totalled EUR 6.72 B at the end of April 2016, increasing by EUR 1.14 B compared with the end of 2015 mostly due to the sale of a double-tranche bond on international capital markets in March 2016, the BNB said.

Year-on-year, general government debt increased by 8% compared with April 2015.

Gross foreign debt service totalled EUR 1.30 B for the first four months of 2016.

Bulgaria’s net foreign debt (gross external debt less gross external assets in debt instruments) totalled EUR 5.71 B at the end of April 2016, a decrease of 16.8% compared with end-2015 as gross external assets grew at a higher rate (+9%) compared with the 3.8% growth in gross foreign debt.

 

ABV, the party of Bulgarian President (2002-2012) Georgi Parvanov, signed an agreement to work with United Russia at the latter party's congress in Moscow, ABV has said.

The left-wing party of Parvanov and the conservative-leaning organization whose former leader is Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed on Monday to "work actively and provide assistance in the further development of mutually beneficial cooperation between Bulgaria and Russia," ABV's press office notes.

Energy, economic development and the improvement of business climate are the key areas where the parties will seek to cooperate.

Parvanov, who maintained close ties with Russia during his two terms as President, was invited alongside the leader of Bulgaria's largest opposition force, the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP).

Also on Monday, Parvanov called for the revival of the South Stream gas pipeline, which Russia abandoned at the end of 2014 and which was part of the so-called "Grand Energy Slam" masterminded by him consisting of three large-scale energy projects Bulgaria was to develop with Russia.

His remarks come months before presidential elections are due in Bulgaria, amid speculation whether Parvanov will try to run for a third term in office.

Bulgarian authorities detained a bus carrying a group of 65 illegal migrants near the Black Sea town of Tsarevo on Monday.

The bus, a MAN bearing Sofia licence plate, was travelling on the Rezovo-Burgas road when it was stopped in the area of the former shipyard located between Varvara and Tsarevo.

None of the migrants, who were from Afghanistan and Iraq, was in the possession of identity documents. Among them were many children of different age.

The driver of the bus, a 34-year-old man from the village of Aldomirovtsi in the municipality of Slivnitsa, has been detained for 24 hours.

 

Bulgaria’s energy regulator KEVR has endorsed a proposal by gas utility Bulgargaz to cut gas price for end suppliers by 9.97% for the third quarter.

The new price would be BGN 281.08 (EUR 143.71) per 1,000 cubic meters, free of VAT and excise, KEVR said in a statement on Tuesday.

The cut in the price is equivalent to BGN 31.13 per 1,000 cubic meters.

End suppliers will sell gas to end consumers connected to the low-pressure network of transmission operator Bulgartransgaz for BGN 288.80 per 1,000 cubic meters, free of VAT and excise, in the third quarter.

Bulgargaz had proposed to cut gas price by 9.97% for the third quarter of 2016 citing an expecred drop in the price of gas supplies. Natural gas price in Bulgaria has been cut by 48% since the start of the 2016.

 

Bulgaria's new Ambassador to the US Tihomir Stoychev has handed over his credentials to US President Barack Obama, the Foreign Ministry in Sofia has said.

Stoychev and Obama have discussed the activities of five work groups set up to boost bilateral cooperation in defense, counter-terrorism,  energy security, rule of law, education, and people-to-people contacts.

The new Ambassador has underlined Bulgaria's commitment to increasing defense spending, reforming the judiciary, and working toward energy diversification.

The European Parliament has adopted a resolution urging Britain to "immediately" triggering Article 50 notifying of its intention to leave the European Union.

The vote at the emergency session, held in Brussels, comes ahead of a two-day European Council where Brexit is to be discussed among all EU member states, the UK being included in Tuesday's talks and excluded from those scheduled for Wednesday.

Bitter discussions have taken place among MEPs and the attending EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, with UKIP leader Nigel Farage delivering a "post-Brexit" speech inflaming the plenary hall.

Juncker has meanwhile urged UKIP MEPs to leave the European Parliament.

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the UK should make its position on Brexit clear as soon as possible.

His comments, at the opening of the European Parliament session dedicated to the UK's prospective withdrawal from the EU, came as British Prime Minister David Cameron was to meet leaders of member states for the first time since Thursday's referendum in his country.

Juncker on Tuesday made clear neither official nor unofficial talks would be conducted with the UK on that matter before it triggered Article EU of the Lisbon Treaty, thus clearly stating its intention to withdraw.

Cameron, however, said after referendum results were announced that he would leave it up to his successor to deal with the withdrawal and announced he was stepping down in a few months.

London made clear it was not mandatory for it to immediately trigger Article 50. Other EU powerhouses earlier warned they would like the procedure to begin as soon as possible to avoid months of limbo.

A two-day summit dedicated to Brexit is due on Tuesday and Wednesday, with the second day bringing together leaders of all the remaining (Britain excluded) 27 member states.

A total of 340 cruise trips are expected to pass through the Bulgarian city of Ruse during this year's tourist season on the Danube river which begins in April and lasts until the beginning of November.

So far, 111 vessels and more than 13 700 passengers have arrived in the city, daily Dnevnik informs.

As usual, the largest number of tourists is from the USA and Germany, their numbers being respectively 3867 and 3734.

These are followed by 1100 British tourists, 920 French visitors, 760 guests from each of Australia and Switzerland and 630 Canadians.

More than half of the tourists are above 65 years old, with only 2 % being under the age of 35.

A total of 170 ships of fifteen companies are operating on the river, their number being a hundred at the beginning of the century.

All six ships sailing under Bulgarian flag are owned by the “Danube tours” company from Ruse.

At its meeting on Tuesday, the Bulgarian government approved a draft memorandum of understanding between the Bulgarian interior ministry and the US Naval Special Warfare Group 2 for the holding of joint anti-drug and counter-terrorism training.

The aim of the training is to enhance the capabilities of the interior ministry for response to terrorist threats and the conduct of operations in the fight against drugs.

In view of achieving sustainable results, an emphasis will be placed on the training of coaches from the competent structures of the interior ministry.

The planned joint training is example of the excellent bilateral cooperation in the fight against terrorism and corresponds to the priority objectives of the strategic dialogue between Bulgaria and the USA.

The Bulgarian government has approved a request from the Czech Republic to open an honorary consulate in Plovdiv, the cabinet's press office has said.

It has also proposed Ivan Sokolov as Prague's honorary consul to Plovdiv.

The Czech Republic has made the request citing willingness to deepen ties at a regional level and its plans to expand its network of diplomatic missions and boost its consular services.

Plovdiv, Bulgaria's second-largest city, “has been chosen as one of the most significant cultural and economic centers of Bulgaria, and the expectation of the Czech and the Bulgarian side is that the honorary consul will work in support of economic and trade cooperation and will contribute to cultural exchange,” the government adds.

In  2019, Plovdiv will also be a European Capital of Culture alongside Matera (Italy).

 

Commenting the outcome of last week's referendum on the UK's membership to the EU in which 51.9% of British voters supported Brexit, former Bulgarian Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski said that nothing positive has come out from the decision to leave the EU.

On the contrary, Brexit is to lead to only negative consequences for Bulgaria, the UK and the EU as a whole.

In an interview for private bTV station on Tuesday, Oresharski said that Brexit would not have significant direct effect on Bulgaria in terms of trade as the commercial exchange with the UK is not so significant.

However since there are many Bulgarians working in the UK as well as many British citizens visiting or living in Bulgaria, inevitably there would be consequences.

The former prime minister added that the people in the UK, including Bulgarians, were already experiencing one of the effects of Brexit, namely the devaluation of the pound.

Oresharski pointed that many things were still unclear and it was too early to say whether the UK would actually leave the EU. Furthermore, it is unknown what conditions will be negotiated in case the UK does leave.

The conditions under which Bulgarians will continue to work in the UK are also unclear, but most likely these would not be as favourable as the ones offered in the member states.

According to him, the outlook was for the EU to face problem with its budget as the UK is the fourth largest contributor.

Oresharski is afraid that this would necessitate the introduction of restrictions to the EU budget. Another less realistic alternative is to increase the contributions paid by the remaining member states, but this would would lead to a new wave of Euroscepticism.

The realistic development for Bulgaria is to receive less funding as a result. The other possible development is to increase the Bulgarian contribution. In both cases, there would be negative consequences.

Another worrying effect comes from the fact that the Bulgarian economy has become heavily dependent on EU funds, which means that any decrease in funding would have negative consequences.

The former prime minister reiterated that Bulgaria is at the beginning of debt crisis. Although Bulgarian debt has remained relatively low compared to other member states, in short time it increased from 14 % to 29 % of GDP.

Brexit would have no direct threat to Bulgarian banks, but would lead to shifting of layers and London will lose its status as financial centre.

In his words, Bulgaria should take the necessary measures to protect the interests of its workers, students and investments in the UK.

Oresharski does not expect all Bulgarians currently in the UK to come back, especially the highly skilled ones. According to him, many of them will likely seek employment in other European countries.

Prosecutors in Burgas have ended pretrial proceedings into the death of an Afghan migrant who died at gunshot not far from the Bulgarian border.

The incident, which made headlines around the world, occurred in October of last year.

Border police officials said the movement of over 50 people trying to enter Bulgaria had been detected kilometers from the border with Turkey. They maintain that, after shooting in the air as a warning sign, a bullet "rebounded" hitting one of them in the back of the neck by mistake, Kostov has explained, without elaborating. Human rights organizations pointed to the development as a possible case of police brutality.

According to the Burgas District Prosecutor's Office, however, the probe had established that no crime whatsoever had been committed by police officer Valkan Hambarliev.

Prosecutors accept the version according to which the bullet fired by Hambarliev ricocheted off the bridge, changing its movement and hitting the migrant. They say as many as 70 witnesses have been questioned, and a number of expert analyses have been carried out.

"In this particualr case, the warning shot produced by Hambarliev was evidently in line with legal norms allowing for the use of arms both to detain people about whom there is sufficient evidence they committed a crime and tried to flee and to ensure his personal safety."

Prosecutors also cite Article 2 (2) of Council of Europe's Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

The section they refer to reads that: "Deprivation of life shall not be regarded as inflicted in contravention of this article when it results from the use of force which is no more than absolutely necessary:... in order to effect a lawful arrest or to prevent the escape of a person lawfully detained."

"In this particular case," the prosecution goes on, "it is beyond doubt that Hambarliev produced a warning shot by targeting his firearm in a direction perpendicular to the direction of movement of the [wounded person]... Hambarliev was neither obliged to or could foresee the consequences of his act."

Gazprom spokesperson Sergey Kupriyanov has announced that the energy giant is ready to discuss Turkish Stream with Ankara following the move by Turkey's President Erdogan to apologize over the downer Russian warplane.

"Gazprom is open to dialogue on Turkish Stream, it has always been," TASS news agency quotes Kupriyanov as saying.

Turkish Stream was announced as an alternative to the South Stream gas pipeline project which, going under the Black Sea, was to deliver Russian gas to Central Europe via Bulgaria and Serbia. However, Russian President Vladimir Putin abandoned the project during a visit to Turkey in 2014, citing EU opposition. Gazprom later said Moscow would pursue Turkish Stream instead.

Talks and any further activity on the project were suspended a year later, days after the incident involving a Russian Su-24 fighter-bomber that Turkish air forces shot down after it allegedly violated the country's airspace.

Turkish Stream negotiations had earlier been market by pricing disputes as well, including possible discounts per 1000 cubic meters of gas to which Moscow was reluctant to agree. Gazprom later announced the pipeline would have only half the initially projected capacity as Europe did not show interest in linking its gas infrastructure to the future pipe in Turkey.


 

The body of the fourteen-year-old girl, who had gone missing in the Danube river near the Bulgarian town of Silistra at the beginning of June, has been found.

The body was found in the Romanian section of the river and will be handed to Bulgarian authorities, Darik radio informs.

The drowning incident occurred at the beginning of the month after the girl had gone swimming in the river with a group of friends. When they decided to go out of the river, the girl suddenly disappeared in the water.

The children swam near the bank, but they also engaged in swimming competitions, one of which proved fatal for the girl.

Bathing in the river is prohibited with a permanent order of the mayor of Silistra.

Meanwhile, the search operation for the nineteen-year-old man, who went missing in the Maritsa river in Plovdiv last week, continues.

Petar went bathing with his girlfriend in the area of the rowing base, but got carried away by the water and started drowning.

The seventeen-year-old girl managed to get out of the water on time and tried to help Petar by passing him a piece of wood, but he did not manage to catch it.

 

Bulgaria is increasingly becoming a final destination for migrants seeking asylum.

This was stated by Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister and chairperson of the National Commission for Combating Traffic in Human Beings Meglena Kuneva on Monday.

Kuneva was one of the participants at the international discussion “Enhancing multidisciplinary cooperation in the identification and support for victims of traffic among migrants and asylum seekers” organised by the commission.

In her words, it was important to closely monitor the migrant routes, take all necessary measures to tackle illegal migration, as well as to treat each personal story individually.

Kuneva explained that people fleeing war are inclined to take all kinds of risks to ensure their safety, while traffickers are making use of the hopes of people for finding stability, shelter and protection.

She called for distinguishing between the trafficking of people and their illegal smuggling across borders.

She pointed that some migrants are paying high price to smugglers to reach a place of safety, but they part ways after crossing the border.

Other migrants do not have the means to pay the high price and can be subject to sexual or labour exploitation.

Kuneva added that the commission focuses on improving the identification of victims of trafficking among migrants.

Together with the State Agency for Refugees (DAB), the commission organises training for the structures of DAB and the agency's interviewers working with asylum seekers to identify the signs of trafficking and exploitation.

She admitted that for a long time the problem with migration had been neglected in Europe.

In a video statement, Bulgarian MEP Mariya Gabriel estimated that human traffickers had earned between EUR 5 B and EUR 6 B last year.

Gabriel also pointed to Europol data, according to which 10 000 unaccompanied migrant children went missing in 2014-2015.

A 65-year-old man died after engaging in pursuit with police in the Bulgarian city of Plovdiv on Monday evening.

The pursuit ensued after the driver had repeatedly disobeyed the instructions of traffic police to stop the vehicle as he was speeding.

The driver crashed with high speed in a truck parked on the road lane and died on the spot. An emergency medical service arrived shortly after the crash, but only established his death.

Some claim that the pursuit lasted fifteen minutes. According to locals, the driver was drunk, but officially there has been no information whether he was driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The man died after sustaining heavy injury to his skull. No other people traveling with him in the car.

In the past two weeks alone, more than ten people died in road traffic accidents in the region of Plovdiv.

The heads of state or government of the EU member states are to convene at a meeting of the European Council in Brussels on Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss the outcome of last week's referendum on the UK's membership to the EU in which 51.9 % of British voters supported Brexit.

The political consequences of the decision made by the majority of British voters for their country to leave the EU will dominate the agenda of the summit.

Among the other topics to be discussed at the summit are measures to address the migration crisis, deepening of the single market and enhancing the security of the EU through closer cooperation with NATO.

On Tuesday, British Prime Minister David Cameron, who announced his resignation last week, will discuss the situation in the UK after the referendum, which will be followed by a first exchange of views.

On Wednesday, the leaders of the 27 member states will hold informal meeting to discuss the political and practical implications of the referendum results.

They will review the so-called “divorce process” as stipulated in Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union and will also begin a debate on the future of the EU made up of 27 member states.

As regards migration, the EU leaders will pay particular attention to the situation in the Central Mediterranean and cooperation with third countries of origin and transit.

They will also assess the state of the implementation of the agreement between the EU and Turkey on the return of migrants and the closure of the Western Balkans migratory route.

The participants in the summit will also call for deepening of the single market, with special focus on digital agenda.

The leaders will also endorse the country-specific recommendations under the 2016 European Semester and assess the first results of the European Fund for Strategic Investments.

They will also discuss the cooperation between the EU and NATO in view of the forthcoming NATO summit in Warsaw in July.

A joint statement issued by the leaders of the main EU institutions on Friday, called on the UK to activate Article 50 as soon as possible and to avoid any delay of its withdrawal which would unnecessarily prolong uncertainty.

Also in Brussels on Tuesday, the European Parliament will hold an extraordinary plenary session to discuss the outcome of the referendum and assess its consequences for the EU.








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