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BULGARIA


  
  

 

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Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 19,859 15,608 13,600 69
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 2,130 1,790 1,650 106
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

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Update No: 126 - (26/11/07)

Criminality at European level, says president
There is no doubt what problem all along gave Brussels negotiators most apprehension in the build-up to the entry of Bulgaria and Romania into the EU. That was that they were not ready in terms of curbing crime and corruption, for which they were long deservedly notorious. In Bulgaria in particular, the connections with Russia in energy and other fields dear to the "KGB -mafia",(in some areas they were indistinguishable) were certainly pronounced. The isolationism of the Ceaucescu years at least kept Romania free of that entanglement.

Bulgarian President Georgy Purvanov is now on the record of being optimistic about this issue. He believes that there are visible results in the fight against criminality in Bulgaria. Purvanov expressed his stand in the conference 'Problems of criminality's contraction', which took place on November 16 in Sofia.

The head of state considers the level of local criminality has stabilised around the European one. Even though this won't calm prosecutions, police departments and investigations, he added. Too many of them would reckon, along with outside observers, that it has rather stabilised around the Balkan level.

In his speech, President Purvanov also praised the work of the office of state prosecution, since Boris Velchev has been leading it.

The forum was also attended by the main prosecutor, Boris Velchev himself, Justice Minister Miglena Tacheva and Internal Minister Rumen Petkov.

Minister Petkov supported the main prosecutor's stand about a new criminal policy that will divide heavy from light crime.

New head of justice department
In a related move, on November 12 Purvanov issued a decree to appoint Lazar Gruev as the chairman of the Supreme Court of Cassation.

This officially ended Gruev's mandate as a constitutional judge. On November 9, the Supreme Judicial Council of Bulgaria elected Gruev chairman of the Supreme Court of Cassation. He replaced Ivan Grigorov as chairman when his mandate expired on November 20.

Lazar Gruev entered Bulgaria's Constitutional Court through the president's quota. Before this he was Purvanov's legal issues adviser. Gruev was nominated for the position by 17 members of the Supreme Judicial Council. He was elected chairman of the Supreme Court of Cassation with 19 out of 25 votes, Dnevnik daily said.

During his formal hearing at the Council he promised to work to increase the law interpreting activity of the Court and to establish closer contacts with other courts. He also declared his support for the adoption of a new Penal Code.

PM makes historic visits to the Caucasus republics
Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev made official visits to Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia, the first for a leader of a Bulgarian government in these countries, after their independence had been declared. He made headlines: 

- New gas deal expected with Azerbaijan 
- Support for Armenia's entry in the EU 
- Georgia emergency called off when he visits
The state of economic relations and stimulation of the realisation of joint projects in the fields of power engineering, small and medium-sized enterprises, agriculture and tourism were the main topics which were discussed in Baku, Yerevan and Tbilisi. But the tour ended in a sensational way in Georgia where the opposition called off demos and agitation for the duration of his visit, an effusive compliment in recognition that Stanishev was representing, not just Bulgaria, but the EU too.

During the visit in Azerbaijan it became clear that the country was ready to participate actively in the realisation of the Nabucco project which provides for construction of a gas pipeline from the Caspian Sea to South-east Europe. This was decided during the meeting of Stanishev with his colleague Arthur Rasi - Zade. According to Rasi-Zade, apart from Azerbaijan, some other countries extracting gas must also take part in the project. Stanishev expressed the opinion that the construction of Nabucco was a priority, not only for the separate countries, taking part in the construction itself, but for the whole EU. 

The project is profitable for Azerbaijan itself, Stanishev pointed out. The pipeline was a basic topic in the talks between Stanishev and President Ilham Aliev. "Now is the time for Azerbaijan to enter the Bulgarian market, because your country is a door to the whole world," the Azerbaijan president pointed out.

During the visit to Baku of the governmental delegation accompanying Stanishev, specific measures were discussed for interaction between Bulgargas and the local state-owned gas company, Sohar. The improvement of the economic interaction between the two countries was also supported by the signing of three agreements in the economic sphere.

During the visit of the Bulgarian prime minister to Yerevan it became clear that Armenia was on the list of countries, which Bulgaria, being a EU member state, would support financially. The concept of lending assistance for development was accepted by the government in the summer. 

Bulgaria expects Armenia to submit concrete projects in the field of education and professional qualification, so that their financing could get under way, Stanishev pointed out after his meeting with Prime Minister Serj Sarkisian. The prime ministers of both countries expressed their satisfaction with the very good relations at a political level, but they also went on to say that the economic relation did not correspond to the potential of Bulgaria and Armenia as yet.

Stanishev also met with His Holiness Garekin II, supreme patriarch Catholicus of all Armenians. During the meeting Stanishev pointed out that the friendship between the Bulgarian and Armenian people determined the good level of the political relations between the two countries. His Holiness blessed Bulgaria and expressed the wish for a better life and prosperity of all Bulgarians.

During his visit to Georgia, Stanishev received an assurance that normal and democratic elections would be held in the country in January. He demanded that on behalf of the EU, since he was the first prime minister of a EU member state to visit the Caucasian country after the beginning of the political crisis in the country. The government intends to invite EU observers to monitor the whole campaign of the presidential elections, not only on the day of the vote, Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli announced during talks with his Bulgarian colleague. 

The visit is expected to give a new impulse to economic relations, as well as to the process of the European Atlantic integration of Georgia. A high appraisal was given to the cooperation in the field of defence and it was emphasised that the Bulgarian embassy in Tbilisi was a NATO contact point for the country.

Stanishev met with both Georgia President Mihail Saakashvili and with the opposition. The EU position and the common messages which the Bulgarian prime minister made in Georgia, had been specified in a telephone conversation with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. After this news the state of emergency in Georgia was called off on the day of the visit of the Bulgarian prime minister.

Borissov triumphant in Sofia
Municipal elections have proved a triumph for the incumbent Mayor of Sofia and his allies around the country, who improved on their performance two years ago.

There could be implications for national politics. But it is a sign of grass-roots democracy taking on in Bulgaria, something unheard of under communism and now thriving inside the EU. 

"I scooped more votes at re-election, which occurred after two years in office," Boiko Borissov, leader of the centre-rightist party GERB told a news conference in the National Palace of Culture (NDK) in Sofia on October 30. "This vote, therefore, pays tribute to our performance and is indicative of the fact that the electorate did not succumb to shallow statements but believed in our pragmatic programme for Sofia's development, which is strictly tailored to the Sofia City Hall's budget," Borissov added.

Pushing all major projects through, however, would not be easy, he went on to say, as the team of municipal councillors would comprise representatives from the incumbent ruling coalition, which in its defence and defiance, will be placing roadblocks all the way through.

Since there is much work to be done, however, Borissov will be looking for partnerships with Martin Zaimov, in particular, despite his election night reluctance to do so. "I am sure we will find common ground on the right projects," the GERB leader added.

There is no sector in Sofia, which has all its problems solved, while solutions have been protracted for decades. The first project to be put up on the municipal council's agenda would be the waiver of boards at municipal companies, deeming them redundant and delaying operations.

The garbage problem has also been set out. The project for a refuse recycling plant is at a pre-project research stage. It is to be built on a 2.5 hectare plot of land, which has been recently bought, the re-elected mayor said. 

The main issues would be projects aimed at a cleaner Sofia, especially one to create a good road infrastructure.

Taking the developments at municipal elections nationwide, Borissov said his party won the highest number of votes, more than 512 000. "This means that our political project is gaining popularity and I will be building a party, which is set to outlive me," Borissov said, thus dismissing post-election statements of Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev that Sofia citizens voted for a personality rather than a party.

Responding to journalistic questions, the leader of the party said he aimed at neither the prime ministerial or presidential posts, yet said he would relinquish his mayoral post should his party win a mandate in parliament. He staved off Zaimov's comment that he would desert the mayoral post in favour of a more lucrative position. "I do not understand how one could desert in favour of a more demanding post," he said.

Borissov repeatedly avoided questions about early parliamentary elections, though said the vote was testimony that his party responded to the wish of foreign counterparts from France and Spain to create a centre-rightist formation that would have the power to consolidate the rightist political spectrum.

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