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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: 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 and bands. 
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 need. 
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 the G-word.
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.

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AVIATION

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 major decisions. 

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ECONOMY

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 agency reported. 
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.

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ENERGY

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 partner companies.
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.

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FOREIGN LOANS

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 million Euro. 
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. 

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PROPERTY INVESTMENTS

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." 

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TOURISM

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 decline year-on-year. 

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TRANSPORT

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.

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