Books on Bulgaria
Update No: 122 - (26/07/07)
Bulgarian 'Scapegoat' nurses freed by Libya
Gaddafi is not renowned for his common sense. What conceivable point there can
be to trying foreign nurses as killers of children is quite unclear, except to
divert attention away from the lamentable failings of his hospital and health
system. In the extremely implausible case of the five Bulgarian nurses being
guilty, why would they have hung around to be charged. The signal to all other
foreign medical staff and aid workers, indeed foreign managerial and technical
contract staff in general, is whatever else, to keep out of Libya and the
clutches of the fickle dictator, with his dangerous whims.
Bulgarian President Georgi Puvanov met his German counterpart, Horst Koehler, on
July 3rd during the German president's visit to Bulgaria. President Purvanov
praised the German EU presidency for including the trial of the five Bulgarian
nurses sentenced to death in Libya on the EU agenda, according to the Bulgarian
news agency BTA. They now of course have been released and returned to Bulgaria.
Libya Benefited from Deal with EU over Bulgarian Nurses
In a press conference on July 25th, Libya's Secretary of Foreign Liaison and
International Cooperation, Abudlrahman Shalgham, said that Libya has achieved
most of its objectives from the deal of releasing the convicted Bulgarian
nurses, about whom he repeated the grotesque claim that they deliberately
infected 438 innocent children with HIV in a Benghazi hospital.
Six foreign medics jailed for life in Libya were freed during the early hours on
July 24th and flown to Bulgaria, after the European Union pledged to improve
ties with Libya.
Despite the fact that he said that Libyan public opinion is rather disappointed
that these six "criminals" have got away with what has been
represented as the "mass killing of innocent children", the Libyan top
diplomat sounded upbeat as to the results of the deal that was finally reached
after day-long negotiations on July 23rd.
He said one of the gains is guaranteeing the life-long treatment of the infected
children in European hospitals; another the payment of one million dollars to
each family of the victims in compensation from a fund that is financed by
European countries including the Czech Republic, France, Bulgaria, Slovakia and
others, and a third the rehabilitation of the three medical centres in Benghazi
by European countries.
A relative of one of the already dead children who they claimed was deliberately
infected by the Bulgarian nurses, told The Tripoli Post "the reception of
these criminals with flowers at their arrival in Sofia makes an indentation in
our hearts and reveals that Europeans are not sensitive to the suffering of our
children and families."
" It reveals the double standards according to which Westerners are dealing
with Muslims and Arabs," the victim's relative added, who declined to be
When told by a reporter that the French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that
neither the European Union nor France paid money to Libya to win the group's
release, Shalgham said that European countries, the Czech Republic, France,
Bulgaria, Slovakia and others, have paid for all financial compensations made to
the families' victims.
In fact, he said, the funds made by these countries have surpassed those made to
the families by some extra number of millions, without revealing who had got the
Answering a question on what has Libya gained from the release of the medics,
Shalgham said "what would we gain if we kept the medics in jail for
Shalgham also pointed to closer political ties and cooperation between Libya and
the European Union as a result of the signing of the memorandum of understanding
only hours before the six medics had left Libya.
This agreement, according to Shalgham was signed by Mr. Abdul Atti Al-Abaidi,
together with the Secretary of European Affairs and EU External Relations
Commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner.
Asked whether the agreement with EU has to do with the case of Abdelbaset Ali
Mohmed Al-Megarahi who is spending a life sentence in a prison in Scotland for
the alleged bombing of Pan AM flight 108 in 1988, Shalgham said we do not have
an exchange of prisoners' agreement with Britain although we are working on it.
He also said that the case of Al-Megarahi has been referred to the Appeal Court
in Edinburgh, Scotland's highest court.
In Brussels, European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso confirmed that a deal
on improving ties had been struck in order to secure the medics' release.
"I told (the Libyan leader) that if this matter were settled we would do
our best to further normalise these relations," he said.
Ferrero-Waldner said the release had cleared the way for "new and
enhanced" EU ties with Tripoli, but did not go into details.
However, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on July 24th that neither the
European Union nor France paid money to Libya to win the group's release.
However, he said Qatar mediated the release and hinted the Gulf country may have
had a broader role in resolving the crisis. He did not elaborate.
"Neither Europe nor France has made the smallest financial contribution to
Libya," Sarkozy said at a news conference in Paris shortly after a French
plane carrying the medics touched down in Sofia.
Shalgham told reporters that Libya and Bulgaria have an exchange of prisoners'
agreement that was signed in 1984 and went into effect in 1985. According to
this agreement, he said, Libya released the nurses whose death sentence was
commuted to life in prison. He also said the Bulgarian president had the right
to pardon the six medics, (which given the denial of justice they have
experienced for so long, surely may be soon expected).
The fight against crime and corruption
Responding to a question about the omission of safety clauses from the
latest European Commission report about Bulgaria, Purvanov said that this is an
acknowledgement of progress made by Bulgaria over the past six months.
"The report is rather encouraging for Bulgaria," Purvanov said.
He said that Bulgarian institutions are very concerned with crime and corruption
and to continue to fight against them. Bulgaria's Parliament is expected to
approve a motion calling for reinvigoration of the campaign against corruption
and organised crime. Bulgaria was making "insufficient progress" here.
The European Commission gave Bulgaria and Romania 12 months to meet basic EU
membership rules on justice and home affairs.
The shooting in Sofia in early July of Manol Velev, a businessman who helped to
fund the 2006 re-election campaign of President Purvanov, a former leader of the
Bulgarian Socialist Party, called attention to a failure by authorities to deal
with organised crime. Local criminal groups have been held responsible for more
than 100 unsolved contract killings in Bulgarian cities over the past decade.
Investigators, prosecutors and judges have said they have encountered political
pressure to delay, or even drop such cases.
Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev was setting up a national security agency to
combat corruption and crime. The agency would be answerable to him. The aim of
the agency was to unify intelligence operations among the defence, interior and
According to analysts, progress may be slow, given the socialists' weak position
after a poor showing at the European Parliament elections and a lack of popular
pressure to implement judicial reform.
US Military Bases in Bulgaria Ready Until Spring 2008
Bulgaria may not be in the good books of the Europeans, but it is very much
in favour in Washington. Bush came to town in June and praised Bulgaria as a
stalwart US ally.
Bulgarian military bases, which are to be used by US troops, will be ready for
living and training until the spring of 2008, Defence Minister Vesselin
Bliznakov said at a June 12th meeting with intellectuals. US military officials
could come to Bulgaria for conducting short training programmes even this
summer, the minister explained.
He underlined that the US President George Bush highly appreciates Bulgaria's
army contribution to the process of strengthening the relations between the two
countries as the head of state thanked the troops in Iraq during his two-day
official visit to Sofia.
Bliznakov explained to the intellectuals that the country relies on them for
helping the popularisation of the soldier's profession and the army's history by
making documentaries and writing books on the issues. In return, they will be
allowed to use the military holiday home in the seaside resort of Sozopol as
well as the military publishing house and TV channel.
Bulgaria's Ousted Energy Minister Remains at Head of Sofia's Socialists
Rumen Ovcharov, Bulgaria's former Energy and Economy Minister, who left the
government in the wake of a corruption scandal, will remain at the head of the
Socialist Party's representation in Sofia.
Ovcharov enjoyed the confidence of the Sofia's party members and they let him
continue leading the local organization.
"I have taken many responsibilities bearing in mind that you would support
me. If it continues to be so, we will be able to participate in the local
elections in the capital," Ovcharov said at the party's plenum in June.
"If you decide to remove me from the position, you will have to elect new
leadership, while all the rest are voting for a new mayor," the socialist
At the plenum also discussed was the work of the socialist representatives in
the Capital's Municipal Council and the future of the ruling three-way
coalition. The resignation of the ex-Economy Minister Rumen Ovcharov was
accepted by the Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev after the corruption scandal,
which involved the head of the national investigative service Anguel Alexandrov.
Ovcharov decided to resign even after a prosecutor probe did not find any
evidence whatsoever to prove adverse allegations, such as that he was involved
with Alexandrov over the Sofia heating utility case or the activities of
country's tobacco monopoly, Bulgartabac. Despite the absence of evidence on the
main accusations against them, the two will nevertheless be investigated on
charges that they tried to interfere with the judiciary system by influencing
the probe into the alleged corruption at Sofia heating firm, Toplofikatsia.
Unique Thracian Symbol of Royalty Discovered in Bulgaria
Archaeologists have discovered the most ancient ruler's symbol on Bulgarian
territory, what was once the kingdom of the Thracian tribes.
The Bulgarian archaeologists Daniela Agre and Deyan Dichev, who are leading the
Strandzha expedition, made the announcement for the exceptional finding on the
Bulgarian National Radio on June 11th.
The artefact was unearthed near the village of Golyam Dervent. Dichev and Agre
were researching a dolmen (dolmens were the first Thracian tombs) when they
noticed a frieze of intertwined zoomorphic and geometrical elements carved on
the entrance of the tomb. The most interesting part of the discovery is the
double-axe (labris) - a symbol of power in the Thracian society - placed inside
a circle. The labris has lots of additional ornamentation on it, Dichev said.
The frieze includes the images of snakes, which were the symbol of the king in
the Thracian religious beliefs.
This is the first time when such an artefact is found on the territory, where
Thracian tribes have lived in the 9-8 BC.
The ladris had later become the symbol of the royal dynasty of the Odris tribes,
which had the most powerful state organization in the second half of the first
millennium before Christ.
The appearance of this symbol three centuries earlier shows that organizing a
state started on this territory first.
Two years ago archaeologists found similar symbols of royalty on the entrance of
a neighbouring dolmen. There is no doubt that these two dolmens were the tombs
of an important clan of rulers and priests, who lived around the end of the 9th
and the end of 8th century BCE.
Unique Cybele Temple Findings Exhibited in Bulgaria
Antique archaeology findings, that were unearthed in the temple of the Phrygian
Goddess Cybele in Bulgaria, will be exhibited in the seaside town of Balchik.
Recently the archaeologists working there found a third marble statue of the
goddess - a deification of the Earth Mother. One of the most precious findings
in the temple of Cybele is a 50-centimeter-high Doric column with a
well-preserved inscription addressed to the Roman emperor Valerius Licinianus
Originally a Phrygian goddess, Cybele was a deification of the Earth Mother who
was worshiped in Anatolia from Neolithic times. Like Gaia (the
"Earth") or her Minoan equivalent Rhea, Cybele embodies the fertile
earth, a goddess of caverns and mountains, walls and fortresses, nature, wild
animals. Her title "potnia theron", which is also associated with the
Minoan Great Mother, alludes to her ancient Neolithic roots as "Mistress of
the Animals". She becomes a life-death-rebirth deity in connection with her
consort, her son Attis.
CAA revokes licences from 4 Bulgarian airlines
The Civil Aviation Administration (CAA) in Sofia revoked the operator licences
of Air Sofia, Bright Aviation Services, Scorpion Air and Vega Airlines after
safety deficiencies were confirmed in services provided by the four Bulgarian
carriers, the Bulgarian Transport Ministry was cited as saying by Sofia News
The decision was made in accordance with the Civil Aviation Act. The decision
for stripping the companies' licence came in the wake of the review that experts
from the European Aviation Safety Agency carried out in May.
The experts argued that there are substantial lapses in the area of aviation
safety. Air Scorpio, one of five associated companies in the group of Scorpion
Air, is allowed to continue its flight training services, but may not operate
commercial flights until its business is brought into compliance with Regulation
20-42 and the operating standards of Europe's Joint Aviation Authorities. Yet
another Bulgarian company, Heli Air, retains its right to fly to any non-EU
The above-listed carriers underwent checks between May 28 and June 1 in
accordance with European Commission rules. The checks showed systematic
deficiencies in terms of civil aviation safety, the Bulgarian Transport Ministry
was cited by the news agency as saying. Representatives from the five companies
had estimated the costs of upgrading each AN-12 cargo plane used by the
companies at US$150,000-180,000.
The grave problems in Bulgaria's aviation struck out in December last year when
the European Commission decided to invoke a safeguard clause over "grave
deficiencies" in safety procedures. The safeguard clause excluded Bulgarian
air carriers from the benefit of being considered a "community
carrier" The EU's air space includes all member states, but also
Switzerland, Iceland and Norway, countries that are not part of the bloc.
The companies have been under special supervision from the European Aviation
Safety Agency (EASA) and the CAA. The checks were carried out by a team of
inspectors from CAA, the European Commission, EASA and the national aviation
authorities of EU members Romania, Germany and Italy.
EBRD extends 5-mln-Euro credit line to Unionbank
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) recently inked a
five million Euro deal to extend Bulgarian bank MKB Unionbank a credit line to
help local industries reduce emission levels and boost energy efficiency, reads
a press release. The loan builds up on a previous three million Euro loan, which
was extended to MKB Unionbank in 2004 to help nine private industrial businesses
cut energy waste significantly or produce energy more efficiently, the banks
recently said in a joint statement, New Europe reported.
The loans are provided under the Industrial Energy Efficiency and Renewable
Energy Framework, set up in 2004 by the EBRD together with the Kozloduy
International Decommissioning Support Fund (KIDSF) and the Ministry of Economy
and Energy through the Energy Efficiency Agency. EBRD Director for Bulgaria,
James Hyslop, said the loan is building on the success of the first issued to
MKB Unionbank, which has helped promote the efficient use of energy, helping to
cut pollution levels through reduced carbon emissions.
This project reflects the EBRD's strong emphasis on supporting Bulgaria's
efforts in the development of an energy efficiency programme, which was one of
the conditions for Bulgaria's accession to the European Union and remains a
strategic priority for the country now as an EU member. Furthermore, by cutting
energy wastage, businesses are saving costs and contributing to improved
competitiveness, Hyslop was cited as saying.
MKB Unionbank CEO and Chairman, Maria Ilieva, said lending of this kind is very
important for private industrial businesses in improving their energy
efficiency. With this EBRD loan, MKB Unionbank will help Bulgarian businesses
compete within the EU, while also enabling them to operate on a more
environmentally-friendly basis. Just recently, the EU member countries,
including Bulgaria, decided to lower harmful emissions 20 per cent by 2020. This
energy efficiency loan to MKB Unionbank contributes to meeting this target, she
added. Under the framework, participating banks such as MKB Unionbank receive
funds from the EBRD that they then lend to private-sector industrial
enterprises. Businesses use the finance to improve energy efficiency by, for
example, introducing better energy consumption, automation, control and heat
recovery systems, and promote the use of renewable energy technologies.
Commercial Bank Allianz gets stable outlook from Fitch
Bulgaria's Commercial Bank Allianz Bulgaria AD received an A- issuer default
rating, a short-term F2 rating and a D individual rating, with a stable outlook,
by Fitch Ratings, according to a recent press release, New Europe reported.
The IDR and short-term ratings reflect the extremely high probability of support
from Allianz SE, which controls the bank via a 66.16 per cent stake in Allianz
Bulgaria Holding, in case of need, it was reported. The individual rating
reflects the bank's small size and short history, but also its adequate
profitability and capitalisation and prudent risk appetite, Fitch said.
LUKoil targets 30% of Bulgarian retail market for oil products
Bulgarian economic magazine Capital quoted LUKoil-Bulgaria Deputy General
Director, Nikolai Ivchikov, as saying that Russia's LUKoil plans to corner 30
per cent of the retail market for oil products in Bulgaria by 2010. He was cited
as saying that in the period 2007-2009, LUKoil-Bulgaria would build or acquire
200 new filling stations in the country, Interfax News Agency reported.
Investment in expanding the company's retail network will amount to over US$300
million. There are currently 170 filling stations operating under the LUKoil
brand in Bulgaria. The company also plans that by 2010 about US$700 million will
be used to modernise the LUKoil Neftokhim Burgas oil refinery, it was reported.
It is planned that this refinery will start to produce Euro-5 standard fuel in
Ivchikov said that in 2006 the refinery in Burgas had throughput of 7.1 million
tonnes, and in addition, last year, the company launched a system for the
subsequent transportation of oil products through the Burgas-Stara-Zagora
pipeline, and acquired a complex to tranship liquid hydrocarbon gasses at the
port of Russe, Interfax reported. "A favourable investment climate for
Russian investors has been created in Bulgaria and the case of LUKoil in
Bulgaria is paradigmatic," he was quoted as saying.
Germany to invest 4m Euro for entrepreneurship
Germany will provide four million Euro to encourage entrepreneurship and
professional education in Bulgaria, it was announced at a regular parliamentary
sitting, Sofia News Agency reported.
The funds will be provided as a result of an agreement for technical cooperation
signed between the two countries in 2006, and will be used for the execution of
four projects, including a programme for encouraging employment, for
professional education and for the development of the Rhodope Mountains region.
Conditions for each project will be specified in separate agreements. Each
country will appoint an institution responsible for the specific programme and
for its funding and execution.
World Bank lends 15m Euro for social policies
The World Bank has agreed to lend Bulgaria 15 million Euro to put towards its
social inclusion policies and infrastructure, Ready2Invest reported.
Bulgaria is working to improve its social inclusion as it continues to open up
trade with other EU nations - a process that could be of benefit to property
investors in the area because of the associated economic benefits, it was
reported. The Novinite.com Sofia-based news agency said that the loan has a
17-year maturity, as well as a 5-year period of grace. Shigeo Katsu, the World
Bank's regional vice-president for Europe and central Asia, was quoted as
saying: "Building up the institutional capacity is of key importance for
Bulgaria now when the country has to utilise EU accession funds and this project
will help in that respect."
Recent statistics from the Bulgarian National Bank revealed that foreign
property investment in the country has increased rapidly over the first three
months of 2007. The Sofia Echo quoted Prian.ru as saying that foreign property
investment in Bulgaria reached 1.13 billion Euro in 2006.
BTC to invest big in mobile arm, Vivatel
BTC shareholders approved on June 19th the plans for a Bulgarian 240-million-lev
cash injection in the company's mobile arm, which operates under the Vivatel
brand name, Sofia News Agency reported.
BTC is Bulgaria's dominant fixed-line operator. The telecom's executives will
decide on the timing and size of the cash transfers, the shareholders agreed at
their annual meeting, it was reported. They also approved a gross dividend of
0.55 levs per share, payable to BTC shareholders as of June 29th. US insurance
giant AIG agreed to pay US$108 billion for the majority 65 per cent stake, owned
by Viva Ventures, an investment vehicle of US equity fund Advent, Sofia News
Agency reported. AIG beat off competition from Dubai-based Oger Telecom and
Turkey's largest mobile operator Turkcell, the early favourites to buy the first
option on the stake, held by Icelandic mogul Thor Bjorgolffson. AIG has the
option to buy another 25 per cent from Bjorgolfsson for US$580 million and plans
to make a buy-out offer to the minority shareholders, taking the company
private. The insurer has already announced plans to contract up to 585 million
Euro in syndicated loans from four banks to refinance BTC's existing debt and
stimulate further growth. BTC is the main telecom operator in Bulgaria with a
payroll of 20,000 and has 2.9 million phone lines, which account for 97 per cent
of the fixed-line segment of the market.