Books on Bulgaria
Update No: 116 - (25/01/07)
Two things of note have happened to Bulgaria of late. It has
joined the European union (EU), as of January this year, and it has acquired a
youngish elder statesman in its president, re-elected in the autumn, who has
long championed the European cause.
Bulgaria joins the European Union
The cacophony of a spectacular fireworks show thrilled the thousands who
gathered on Sofia's central Knyaz Alexander Battenberg Square to welcome the New
Year and Bulgaria's accession to the European Union. Up to the final countdown
into 2007 and the EU, the crowd enjoyed a spectacular concert organised by
Bulgarian National Television, featuring some of Bulgaria's favourite singers
There was, however, a difference in tone to the euphoria of the 2004
celebrations when 10 new states joined the EU. Many of the people in the square,
as well as Bulgarians celebrating in other cities and towns, wore paper
tricolour ribbons inscribed "You Are Not Alone" as a token of
solidarity with the five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor sentenced to
death in Libya on false charges of causing an AIDS epidemic among Libyan
children. Many were pinning their hopes on EU entry helping to bring freedom to
the medics in Libya.
After the traditional countdown, when the Bulgarian flag transformed into that
of the EU a few seconds before midnight, the national anthem was played. For the
first time it was followed by the European anthem, Ode to Joy, performed first
by a full symphony orchestra and choir in the original German, and later on a
cappella by a group of folk singers in both the German and Bulgarian languages.
World famous light artist Gert Hof staged a magnificent laser show in the night
sky, with the illuminations and fireworks providing a glittering arch under
which the crowd joined in the horo, the traditional Bulgarian circular dance.
All major TV channels and radio stations in the country broadcast the event
live, and media from other European countries were present to report on the new
member state's EU accession celebrations.
After a recorded message from European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso,
Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev congratulated Bulgarians on the
country's EU accession.
"A dream came true today: the dream of generations of Bulgarians, who have
always wanted to live together with Europe's free democratic peoples in peace
and prosperity," Stanishev said.
"We have proven to the Europeans and to ourselves that we can succeed when
we work hard. Now we have every reason to be proud of our past, culture,
alphabet and what Bulgaria contributes to the EU: a capability to develop fast,
to adapt to change, a can-do spirit," he said. "We will not give up
our drive to secure the return of the nurses from Libya safe and sound. They
have yet to share our celebrations with us," Stanishev said. He wished all
Bulgarian citizens health, happiness and love during the New Year.
In a taped address broadcast on television shortly before midnight, President
Georgi Purvanov said that Bulgarians' success as a nation depended on their own
efforts. The beginning of 2007 was a "star moment" for Bulgaria,
"a moment not only of opening the calendar on yet another year but of
overcoming a historical divide," Purvanov said. He said that January 1 2007
would undoubtedly go down in Bulgaria's history as one of its landmarks.
"Tomorrow we enter the EU with our language and alphabet, with our
centuries-old history and traditions, with our achievements and weaknesses, with
our hopes and concerns," Purvanov said. He thanked everyone whose efforts
had meant the achievement of the goal: Bulgaria becoming part of a community of
prosperity, social justice and solidarity.
"But let us realise right away that our future success as a nation will
depend not so much on EU funds and resources as on our own efforts,"
Purvanov said. He spoke of his wish for better opportunities for Bulgaria's
talented youth, a dignified old age for all parents and more care, warmth and
kindness in the treatment of both young and old.
"If we want to protect our children from violence and aggression, we should
first look at ourselves and our relationships with others, not forgetting that
tolerance and goodness have always been an integral part of our national
tradition," Purvanov said. "The outgoing year put both the nation in
general and a lot of Bulgarian families in particular through hard tests,"
he said. "That is why our thoughts are with our compatriots all over the
world; that is why we are rising as one in support of the Bulgarian nurses in
Libya. You are not alone! This is the message of solidarity of the entire
Bulgarian and international democratic community."
Purvanov said that his wish for Bulgaria was that 2007 be a year of solidarity,
understanding and support for all disadvantaged people and all Bulgarians in
The EU accession of Bulgaria and Romania means that the population of the newly
enlarged union of 27 members now is about 500 million and stands out as the
world's biggest market and trade partner in value terms.
The two new member states organised joint celebrations at the Danube Bridge
connecting Bulgaria's city of Rousse with Giurgiu of Romania. There were
fireworks displays in almost all towns on both banks of the Danube River, which
forms about 80 per cent of the borderline between the two countries. Romanians
and Bulgarians met to congratulate each other at the border.
Later on January 1, leaders and members of all main parties in Bulgaria attended
a military ceremony to raise the Bulgarian and EU flags in front of the Unknown
Soldier monument in Sofia. Large number of diplomats and EU officials also
attended the celebrations in Sofia, including the President of the European
Parliament Josep Borrell, EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn, and Germany's
foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, whose country took over the rotating
presidency of the EU on January 1.
Georgi Purvanov's year: life at the top
There is a common principle about dignity, power and beauty. All are in the
eye of the beholder. Like that other sought-after commodity, respect, all are
based on the perceptions of others. You cannot demand what you cannot command.
Is Georgi Purvanov one of nature's statesmen, or is he simply an incredibly
skilled politician? Do dignity, power and respect attend him simply because of
his office, or does he have a quality that keeps him in that hallowed
stratosphere somewhere above the griminess and viciousness of daily politics?
His detractors have tried, and especially because 2006 was an election year,
tried very hard in the past 12 months, to portray him as a deceitful hustler, a
politico like any other. Purvanov seemed to breeze through it all unruffled. The
second term as President that he won this year is the last allowed him by the
constitution. One day, he will be out of a job, and while journalists
customarily remind us that he is an historian, it seems that Purvanov would be
well qualified to lecture political science; or go where the better money is,
and be a political consultant.
But all of that is in the future, and this is about Purvanov's past 12 months.
And about his deeper past.
In January, Purvanov addressed Parliament, to mark the anniversary of the day in
2002 when he took office. In a wide-ranging speech, he underlined a message of
ethnic and all other forms of tolerance. He did so against a background of
continuing concern about intolerance in Bulgaria, of which Volen Siderov's Ataka
is the most public festering manifestation.
On his own office, Purvanov let it be known that he favoured the presidency
becoming more active, rather than ceremonial, although he said that he did not
want a presidential republic (perhaps a reference to the 2003 wish by the
then-chief secretary of the Interior Ministry Boiko Borissov for just such a
constitutional change. At the time Purvanov was speaking, there was speculation
that Borissov could attempt to vault from the office of mayor of Sofia to
becoming head of state).
Political and media critics decried Purvanov's remarks to Parliament, in which
he also detailed what he had been up to in terms of foreign visits, vetoes of
legislation and other actions, as an election campaign speech. Well, they would,
wouldn't they? And just what was he supposed to have talked to them about?
Perhaps the fact that he allegedly had been a communist-era agent of state
security. By May, he acknowledged that there was a dossier on him. We found out
that he had the code-name Gotse. Purvanov said that he had turned up on the
radar and been given a code-name because of his work under communism as an
historian. His hard-core critics declined to believe his involvement had been as
innocuous as that. Ahead of the October election, anti-Purvanovites set up a
website, Gotse.net. Purvanov seemed to be a little sensitive about the name.
Interviewed about a controversy involving the historical figure Gotse Delchev,
Purvanov referred to him only as "Delchev." Just did not want to say
Purvanov did not allow himself to be seriously distracted by smear attempts. He
stuck to his day job, vetoing and returning to Parliament for improvement the
laws, respectively, on the commercial register and on people with disabilities.
He made fresh attempts to intercede with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddaffi on
behalf of the Bulgarian medics in Libya. He represented Bulgaria in new attempts
to achieve progress on the Bourgas-Alexandropoulis pipeline. He joined in the
promotional campaign to ensure Bulgaria's EU accession. He took initiatives
towards a solution to Bulgaria's demographic problems. He turned out for charity
sports matches, including as a player. In short, as an item on the public
payroll, Purvanov was value for money.
Purvanov allowed an election campaign to be run on his behalf, themed on him
being "The President". To paraphrase the first Bush, it was the
dignity thing. His election campaign poster depicted Purvanov's face as a
collage of a myriad Bulgarians. He went on whistle-stops to every city, town and
apparently almost every village, and his campaign managed to make these look
more like presidential visits than trawling for votes. In the second round, his
opponent was the Hater-in-Chief, Siderov, who called Purvanov "Al
Capone" and got about one vote for every four that went to Purvanov. In the
second round, a number of traditional centre-right supporters held their noses
and voted for Purvanov, immediate past leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party,
as the palatable alternative to the poison being hawked by Siderov. Voter
turnout was low in both rounds, so it was with an air of quiet satisfaction
rather than euphoria that Purvanov returned to his office and the desk that will
remain his, assuming no unfortunate intervention, until January 2011.
Government okays Bulgaria Air Sale contract
The government has approved the draft agreement for the sale of 99.99 per cent
of national flag carrier Bulgaria Air. The move paves the way for the final
signing of the deal with Balkan Hemus group, which was selected as winner in the
tender. Balkan Hemus Group is to be the new Bulgaria Air owner. The company
received Cabinet approval on November 2nd 2006, Sofia news agency reported.
The state is to maintain its influence over strategic decisions as it keeps one
golden Bulgaria Air share. A golden share enables its owner veto decisions of
the majority owner. The Bulgaria-based company, part of airline company Hemus
Air, offered to buy the flag carrier for 13 million levs (about 6.6 million
Euro). According to the investment programme, the company guaranteed to invest
82.1 million levs over the coming five years, which will create about 500 new
jobs by the end of the fifth year after the sale. In the first year after the
acquisition, Balkan is to offer 621 work places, which will increase in the
coming years to respectively 956, 978 and 1062. The buyer plans to open 36 new
destinations and 164 new frequencies for serving regular air routes. The new
owner is deprived of the right to transfer shares in the coming five years.
Bulgaria Air will have a board of directors, responsible for the approval of
Economic growth is still going strong in Bulgaria
The final agreement signed between Bulgaria and the International Monetary Fund
(IMF) is about to end without producing major positive results, Sofia news
Bulgaria and the IMF signed an agreement in 2004, which expires in March this
year. Bulgaria's Finance Minister, Plamen Oresharski, and the Chief of the IMF
mission in the country, Robert Hagemann, gave a press conference after the
fourth review of the IMF's agreement with the Bulgarian government was
concluded. According to the IMF, Bulgaria's economic growth is strong but the
current account deficit is a matter of concern. According to experts, Bulgaria's
current account deficit is expected to exceed 15 per cent due to the slow
restructuring of the corporate sector in Bulgaria. This figure has surpassed the
prognoses. It is envisaged that the real growth of the GDP for 2006 to be 6.2
per cent and will remain the same for 2007.
There are no symptoms of "overheating" of the economy and the increase
of salaries corresponds to labour efficiency, Hagemann said. He also welcomed
Bulgaria's reasonable fiscal policy. Bulgaria's government and the IMF agreed
that the budget surplus in the country in 2007 should be at least two per cent
of the GDP. It was noted that the IMF mission was unsuccessful as Bulgaria
carried out some of the harmful IMF requirements and failed to follow the useful
recommendations. The IMF played an important role in getting Bulgaria out of the
1996-1997 economic crisis, the report said. One of its main tools pushing
forward the implementation of reforms was the provision of credits.
Chevron may pump oil through Burgas-Alexandroupolis
US oil company Chevron is holding talks with Russia's Transneft on guarantees
for oil supplies from the Tengiz field in Kazakstan through the planned
Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline, Ian MacDonald, director of Chevron Neftegaz,
the company's division in Russia, said, Interfax News Agency reported.
He said the talks with the Russian side on guarantees for supplies of Tengiz oil
through the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline are continuing, but that it is
expected that the supply volumes will correspond with the final shares of the
MacDonald said that Chevron is considering the possibility of participating in
the Burgas-Alexandroupolis together with Transneft and Kazakstan's KazMunaiGaz.
However, he said that Chevron's participation would hinge on approval for a
project to expand the Caspian Pipeline Consortium, through which Tengiz oil is
transported to the Black Sea coast.
Meanwhile, Transneft said that it has already decided on the form of
participation in the project - it will own 33.34 per cent of
Burgas-Alexandroupolis Pipeline Consortium, which will represent Russia in the
international consortium for the project. Other shareholders in the company will
be Rosneft and Gazprom Neft with 33.33 per cent each. Greece and Bulgaria,
through which the pipeline will be built, have not yet decided which companies
will represent them in the consortium, however they have already announced that
they may share their 49 per cent with private companies in exchange for
additional transit charges.
Transneft President Semyon Vainshtok said earlier that the expansion of the
Caspian Pipeline Consortium pipeline would be expedient only with the
construction of pipelines bypassing the Turkish straits, for example the
Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline, as otherwise the expansion might worsen the
traffic problem in the straits.
WB to loan 150m Euro for development
The World Bank will provide Bulgaria with a development loan totalling 150
million Euro, Sofia News Agency reported.
The loan project was approved by the Bulgarian Cabinet and suggested the
National Assembly to carry out negotiations, it was reported.
The new partnership strategy between Bulgaria and the World Bank received the
bank's approval in June 2006. According to the strategy, Bulgaria would receive
three loans for policy development and national reforms. Loans can total 450
They would support the government's long-term plans for institutional and
political reforms, as well as the country's European integration attempts, Sofia
News Agency reported. The first loan would aid Bulgaria in improving its
institutional framework shortly after EU entry.
It would also help the country reach European standards in healthcare, education
and social security. Bulgaria will have a five-year gratis period. The loan
should be returned within duration of 17 years.
Brits continue eyeing Bulgarian property investments
The number of Brits buying overseas property in Bulgaria and Romania is set to
increase in 2007, Sofia News Agency reported.
"Bulgaria and Roman's official inclusion in the European Union is a key
opportunity for property investment in these emerging markets," MRI
Overseas Property's John Triton was quoted as saying. "With major tour
operators now increasingly starting to focus on Bulgaria and Romania, the
tourism boost will in turn feed the rental market so second home owners have the
opportunity to generate a rental income," Triton said, adding: "The
new EU status will benefit the existing and future investors and we expect
growth to continue to increase for several years to come."
MRI Overseas Property's research reveals that one in seven (13 per cent) of
Brits thinking about buying property abroad are already considering either
Bulgaria or Romania. While Britain was planning to introduce labour market
restrictions for Bulgarian and Romanian workers upon their EU entry, British
buyers have been increasingly attracted by Bulgarian property. British bankers
predicted that a quarter of all mortgages taken by 2020 would be needed for the
purchase of property in Bulgaria, it was reported. However, MRI Overseas
Property is warning potential investors to not be swept up in a perceived
"gold rush", saying in a statement: "Prospective buyers should
ensure they do their full research into the local area's economy, facilities and
infrastructure and research the property's potential rental income before
investing in properties in these new European markets, as well as being prepared
to view the purchase as a long-term investment."
A 5.54% rise in Bulgaria's foreign tourists in Jan-Nov
The World Tourism Organisations and the European Committee on Transport and
Tourism recently announced that a total of 4,839,746 foreign citizens, without
the transit passengers, visited Bulgaria from January-November 2006. The State
Agency for Tourism said the figures are 5.54 per cent higher year-on-year.
A total of 4,103,268 of the foreign tourists visited Bulgaria for recreation and
vacation without the children featured in parents' passports in January-November
2006 or 5.32 per cent more than in the same period of 2005. The number of
foreigners who visited the country without the transit passengers in November
stood at 261,544 which is a 15.91 per cent rise. The tourists coming for
vacations and holidays stood at 197,535, an increase of 21.51 per cent compared
to November 2005. According to preliminary data, revenue from international
tourism, without transport, for the first 10 months of 2006 amounted to
1,886,200,000 Euro or 4.20 per cent more than in 2005. Costs of Bulgarian
citizens for travelling abroad in the same period stood at 999,800,000 Euro or a
13.34 per cent rise year-on-year. European Union countries continue to be
Bulgaria's most important generating market for international tourism with a
relative share of 52.23 per cent. A 0.48 per cent rise in the number of tourists
from the EU is observed, with a 0.26 rise from the old EU members and a 1.63 per
cent rise from the newly acceded countries. In the January-November 2006 period
Bulgarians made a total of 3,847,683 trips abroad, which is a 1.85 per cent
FCC wins 116m Euro contract for Danube bridge
Spanish company Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas SA (FCC) said it had won a
contract for some 116 million Euro to build a bridge over the Danube to join
Bulgaria and Romania, Sofia News Agency reported.
In a statement to the Spanish bourse, FCC said the bridge will be 1,971 metres
long and will be divided into three stretches, two of which will be for both
railroad and highway purposes. The bidding process lasted two years, and FCC
beat 15 other groups for the contract, the company added. Other participants in
the tender were led by France's Vinci SA and Bulgarian companies, Moststroy PLC,
and Glavbolgarstroy; a consortium of Germany's Zublin AG and France's Eiffel;
and a consortium of France's Bouygues SA, Italy's Rizzani de Eccher SpA and
Bulgaria's Transstroy Varna PLC, it was reported. Meanwhile, a senior transport
ministry official said Bulgaria will sign a deal for the long-awaited
construction of a new bridge across the Danube River by the end of the month.
"The tender proceedings are not over yet, but we expect to have a contract
signed by the end of January," Deputy Transport Minister, Vesela
Gospodinova, was quoted by the news agency as saying. The bridge is due to link
the Bulgarian Danube port of Vidin to the Romanian city of Calafat by road and
rail. It is a key element of a European transport corridor from the German city
of Dresden to Istanbul in Turkey. Bulgaria and Romania signed an agreement to
build the Vidin-Calafat Bridge in 2000, but various bureaucratic obstacles
delayed the project.