Books on Bulgaria
Update No: 120 - (30/05/07)
President is tops
A poll carried out in March shows that among all politicians, Bulgarians give
highest support to President Georgi Purvanov. Nearly two thirds of all
Bulgarians approve the work that Purvanov has done, research of the National
Centre for Researching Public Opinion (NCRPO) shows. He stands above the party
strife and incarnates his nation.
But only a third of all Bulgarians approve the work of Prime Minister Sergei
Stanishev, a more controversial figure, mired, as we shall see, in a scandal. He
heads the Bulgarian Socialist Party and a tripartite coalition government.
Approval for leaders of other political formations has consequently increased.
Among ministers, Culture Minister Stefan Danailov, Education Minister Daniel
Vulchev and Foreign Minister Ivailo Kalfin get the highest support.
Sofia mayor, Boiko Borissov, a key critic of the government here, enjoys the
support of 61 per cent of all Bulgarians. Support for Borissov, nevertheless,
slightly decreased. Researchers said that the decrease could have resulted from
the start of members of the European Parliament (MEP)'s electoral campaign.
The work of the National Assembly is none too popular. People aged 30 to 50 are
most critical. Supporters of the rightist Democrats for Strong Bulgaria (DSB)
and ultra-nationalist movement, Ataka, feature among the other people most
dissatisfied with the work of the National Assembly.
Bulgaria Withdrawing Troops from Iraq
The Bush Administration is as widely detested in Bulgaria as elsewhere on the
continent. To be associated with it in any way in its misadventure in Iraq is
not a way to improve one's poll ratings.
In a move no doubt to boost his popularity, Defense Minister Veselin Bliznakov
announced in early may that Bulgaria plans to withdraw its troops from Iraq.
Bliznakov told the Kuwait News Agency, KUNA, Bulgaria plans to withdraw all its
troops from the U.S.-led multinational force. About 120 Bulgarian troops have
been monitoring the Ashraf refugee camp 25 miles north of Baghdad.
KUNA didn't report a reason for Bulgaria's withdrawal. It said Bliznakov had
just returned from Iraq where he visited Bulgarian troops and met with a deputy
commander of the multinational force to review their work.
Bulgaria withdrew its combat troops from Iraq in December 2005 amid strong
public opposition to the war. Thirteen troops and six Bulgarian civilians have
died in Iraq since Bulgaria sent its 400 troops to Iraq in 2003, the BBC
In February 2006, Bulgaria agreed to send 120 soldiers and 34 support staff to
Iraq to guard the refugee camp.
Economy minister under threat
One minister who is none too popular and may well forfeit his post is
Economy and Energy Minister Ruman Ovcharov. Independent deputies initiated a
subscription list in the Parliament for his suspension in relation to a recent
ongoing political row.
The GERB party has demanded Ovcharov's resignation. The leader of the 'Democrats
for Strong Bulgaria' party, Ivan Kostov, is also demanding the resignation of
the Economy Minister. Kostov stated that the current situation may be called a
war between institutions.
In the centre of the scandal stands Minister Ovcharov from the Bulgarian
Socialist Party (BSP). This is an unprecedented case, say his opponents, above
all Luchezar Ivanov, GERB's representative, in which one person set himself over
the state and asked for money illegally from judicial officials.
The party of SDS declared that the Government is unable to rule over Bulgaria.
It is obvious that Bulgaria nurtures political corruption; and this is the most
massive corruption scandal in the country for the moment, said the leader of the
right wing party, Peter Stoianov.
The party insists on the suspension of Rumen Ovcherov and Angel Aleksandrov.
They also call on the NDSV party to leave the triple coalition and to remove
their party from the Government.
Sofia's Mayor Boiko Borisov said that Brussels could expel Bulgaria from the EU
if Ovcharov was not removed from his position. He is here echoing what many have
thought - that it was in fact a big mistake to bring in Bulgaria and Romania
into the EU before they had put their house in order.
Bulgaria's Economic Growth Slowing Down
Whether corrupt or not, Ovcharov is presiding over a flagging economy.
Bulgaria's economic growth was lagging during the first three months of 2007,
the Centre for Economic Development (CED) said in a report. Industrial growth in
Bulgaria is still on the rise, despite the lowered overall values, but the
problems in the railways sector remain worrisome. Unlike previous years, the
tourist industry seems to be growing at a slower pace, too.
But CED experts believe that the economic growth in the country may speed up in
2008 and 2009, propelled by the EU funds, if they are properly utilised.
Last year the Bulgarian gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 6,1%, a touch
slower than the 6,2% recorded in 2005, and well below the 6,5% official target.
In nominal terms, Bulgaria's GDP last year was BGN 49,1 B, or EUR 25,1 B,
according to the data by the country's statistics board NSI.
Stanishev urges MEPs to more independence
Bulgaria lacks strong debate in the members of European Parliament (MEP)'s
electoral campaign, Prime Minister Stanishev said. Candidates fail to stand out
and often rely on the image of party leaders, Stanishev told a press conference
on May 2nd.
Stanishev asked MEP candidates to get involved in social activities more often
and to participate in debates on Bulgaria's priorities.
Representative of Platform of the European Socialists, Iliana Yotova, said that
according to the coalition these priorities include the freedom of the Bulgarian
nurses in Libya and the protection of Bulgaria's nuclear energy.
Stanishev said that the Cabinet is carrying out policies in favour of nuclear
energy production. Bulgaria initiated the European nuclear energy forum, which
will discuss issues like the operation of Bulgaria's Kozloduy and Belene nuclear
power plants, he said.
Plans to cooperate in agriculture field with Bulgaria
Bulgaria and Latvia's Ministers of Agriculture, Nihat Kabil and Martins Roze,
outlined the major perspectives for cooperation in the field of agriculture,
forestry development and unified payment scheme for agriculture land, Kabil said
at a briefing held after a meeting between the two ministers, New Europe
Kabil reportedly emphasised that this was the beginning of a future cooperation.
Roze was cited as saying the two countries had a lot in common and Latvia could
serve as an example as to how to absorb European Union funds as the country had
achieved 100 per cent success.
CEZ to invest 96m Euro this year
The owner of three power distributors in western Bulgarian, Czech
electricity company CEZ, plans to invest 96 million Euro in Bulgaria this year,
Sofia news agency reported.
A big chunk of the expenditure will be to acquire parts of the power grid owned
by local authorities. CEZ plans to also introduce uniform organisational
structures in the three companies it owns in Bulgaria to increase efficiency, it
Cooperation agreement inked with Saudi Arabia
Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, met with his Bulgarian
counterpart, Ivailo Kalfin, who was in the country on an official visit on April
14th, in what was the first visit by a Bulgarian official to Saudi Arabia since
Sofia and Riyadh established diplomatic relations in 1995, Sofia news agency
During the talks, Faisal stressed that Bulgarian engineering firms have great
opportunities for direct participation and investment in infrastructure,
transport and construction projects in Saudi Arabia, the news agency reported.
The two signed a general agreement on cooperation between their countries and a
memorandum on bilateral political consultations between the foreign ministries.
Kalfin expressed Sofia's desire to open an embassy in Riyadh shortly. For his
part, Prince Saud identified the transit of goods as a sphere of bilateral
cooperation. Saudi Arabia is currently building two hi-tech logistical centres
which will facilitate goods transit via the Arabian Peninsula, it was reported.
Saud said his country offers an "open door" for all Bulgarian goods
shipped to the region. Both ministers also considered ways to deepen bilateral
cooperation in the energy industry. Kalfin stressed that Bulgaria is interested
in diversifying its energy supply sources. The chambers of commerce in Sofia and
Riyadh are expected to exchange delegations by the end of this year, the foreign
ministry said. The two also discussed current international affairs, focusing on
the situation in the Middle East and the Western Balkans. Kalfin acquainted
Faisal on the Benghazi AIDS case in which five Bulgarian nurses and a
Palestinian doctor have been sentenced to death. Saud showed full understanding
for the Bulgarian position. Meeting with Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, who
is Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, Kalfin conveyed an invitation
from Bulgarian President Georgi Purvanov for King Abdullah to visit Bulgaria.
Prince Sultan showed interest in cooperation in tourism, laying special emphasis
on spa tourism in Bulgaria, saying the two countries can also promote their
cooperation in the fields of infrastructure and energy.
AIGGIG to acquire 65% stake in BTC
Bulgarian Telecommunications Company (BTC) recently confirmed in a statement
that Iceland-based Novator Holdings and Vienna-based Viva Ventures GmbH (Viva)
have inked an agreement with Insurance giant AIG Global Investment Group (AIGGIG)
by which AIGGIG will acquire Viva's 65 per cent stake in BTC for 1.08 billion
Euro, Sofia news agency reported.
AIGGIG is also expected to acquire shortly an additional 25 per cent of the
shares of BTC as part of the deal, AIGGIG said. At present, Viva owns 65 per
cent of the assets of BTC, and Novator holds an option for purchasing all shares
of Viva. The transfer of the BTC shares to AIGGIG will take place on or after
June 11, 2007 when all restrictions of the BTC's privatisation agreement of 2004
will expire, it was reported. The deal is signed under certain conditions,
including approval by the regulatory and competition protection authorities. The
acquisition price per share is 11.25 levs (5.75 Euro) or 2.112 million levs
(1.08 million Euro) for the 65 per cent stake, Sofia news agency reported.
The price includes the recently proposed dividend of 0.55 levs (0.28 Euro) per
share. Thus, the total price of BTC is 3.249 million levs (1.661 million Euro).
The deal is considered the largest private merger and acquisition transaction in
Bulgaria to date. The price of the 65 per cent package is four-fold the price at
which the Privatisation Agency sold BTC to Viva three years ago, it was
reported. Then the US Advent Investment Company paid 230 million Euro through
its Vienna-based subsidiary Viva Ventures. Subsequently Icelandic billionaire
Thor Bjorgolfsson acquired an option to buy Viva's stake through his company
Novator. Novator has also acquired shares of the BTC through the stock exchange.
BTC, the former national telecoms monopoly, has some 20,000 employees and runs
more than 2.5 million fixed-line connections.