Books on Bulgaria
% of GDP
Update No: 114 - (28/11/06)
Bulgaria to continue effective foreign policy and economic
Bulgaria needs to be an active EU member state, rather than part of the union's
periphery, President Georgi Purvanov told a news conference after the second
round of presidential elections on October 29, which saw him victorious.
Purvanov won a second term in office with the support of nearly 78 per cent of
voters, defeating the leader of the ultra-nationalist Ataka movement, Volen
Siderov, who compared the winner to Al Capone, a case of 'accuser; c'est
s'accuser,' being a character he rather resembles himself.
Bulgarians had voted wisely and responsibly, said Purvanov. Various political
leaders had offered contradictory advice but voters had managed to make the
correct choice. Purvanov said that with the elections over, he was willing to
work with all democratic parties in Bulgaria. Purvanov said he had no personal
conflict with Siderov. "I am against policies that aim to create artificial
ethnic tension in regions that have a mixed population," Purvanov said.
It was the first time in Bulgaria's history that a presidential candidate had
got more than 60 per cent of the vote in both rounds of an election, he said.
Purvanov said that he would continue following a foreign policy that ensured
Bulgaria's EU future. Other foreign policy priorities would include a focus on
problems like the trial of the Bulgarian medics in Libya, said Purvanov.
He said that the priorities of his next term as President would include national
defence and the professionalisation of the military, said Purvanov, who as
President is Commander-in-Chief of Bulgaria's armed forces. Other priorities
would be to work in co-operation with municipal authorities, and to promote
Active budget policies and preferential treatment for Bulgarian companies were
also needed, said Purvanov. He said that he wanted to see an increasing number
of young people involved in the setting up of the country's institutions.
Bulgaria and Romania will join the EU; but under close supervision?
Bulgaria and Romania are very different countries. But they share a mentality of
legerdemain when it comes to matters to do with money and property, bred by
decades of communism no doubt.
This is very well known in Europe. It makes their reception into the EU a
The basic argument for their inclusion is clear. EU membership will deeply
anchor democracy, the rule of law, and the free market economy in the new member
states and will enhance regional stability. It was agreed in the turbulent 1990s
when it made great sense to promote stability in the Balkans.
Accession of both countries was already agreed upon during the EU summit in
Helsinki, in December 1999. The Thessaloniki Summit (June 2003) set the
accession-date of Jan. 1, 2007. On April 25, 2005, both countries signed their
Accession Treaties in Luxemburg. These treaties also contain protocols on a
possible one-year postponement, but cancellation of the operation as such was
out of the question.
The rejection of the European Constitution by French and Dutch voters last year
was clearly a turning-point. It has been interpreted as a clear hint that the
inhabitants of the old and rich member states are no longer willing to pay for
obscure, unknown peoples in the East and Southeast. This time, there were no
flags, emotional euphoria, and grandiloquent-bombastic rhetoric about "the
final end of the Cold War," which was the case on May 1, 2004, when eight
former Soviet satellites joined the ranks of the happy European family. Instead,
Bulgaria and Romania received a remarkably lukewarm welcome.
Brussels the watchdog
On September 26th, the European Commission, the executive body of the
European Union, announced that the Balkan-duo would be allowed to enter the EU
on January 1st, 2007. Like a severe martinet of a schoolmaster, the EU
commission immediately admonished the two errant pupils.
Its (draft) report, compiled under the auspices of enlargement commissioner Olli
Rehn, pointed out that the two are in need of additional education about
European rules and values. Rehn's report states that Bulgaria has only produced
limited progress in modernizing its justice system, adding a complaint about the
lack of investigation and prosecution of high-level corruption, and warns
Romania that "petty and small scale corruption remains a problem."
If Romania and Bulgaria fail to push on judicial reform, judgements and warrants
issued by their Courts will not be recognized in the EU. On March 31st, 2007,
they will have to convey clear proof of progress in the field of justice and in
the combat of corruption.
The EU also imposed other transitional arrangements on its latest
"acquisitions": a restriction on the free movement of workers - so
far, only little Estonia has officially announced that it will welcome Bulgarian
and Romanian labour-immigrants - and bans on food exports and cuts to the EU
funds, in case problems with the reform of the backward agricultural branch
The Times gives its views
An article was published in The Times of London on September 25th, which
indicates that indeed a lot of work is awaiting Bulgaria and Romania. The
leading British daily - a dedicated advocate of EU-enlargement - wrote that
efforts to wipe out corruption have been stepped up, but at the same time
provided some examples of the rotten mentality that is still keeping parts of
Bulgarian and Romanian society in its stranglehold.
In Bulgaria, a former director of the state-owned heating company is being
accused of tax evasion and transferring US$2.85 million to foreign bank
accounts. Six prosecutors were sacked for "forgetting" a massive
corruption investigation. Bribing the police is everyday, practical routine, not
to mention the 150 gangland-killings over the last five years.
On the weekend before the publication of the Commission's findings, 18 customs
officers and 2 former secret agents were arrested at Bucharest Airport. Many
(Western) tourists could add stories about their personal experiences with
"civil servants" demanding payment of "local" or
"environmental taxes" at the Bulgarian and Romanian borders.
Balkan Hemus group to buy Bulgaria Air
The cabinet recently announced Balkan Hemus Group as the winner of the tender
for purchasing 99.99 per cent of the capital of national flag carrier Bulgaria
Air, the Government Information Service said in a press release, Sofia News
Balkan Hemus Group offered 13 million levs for the acquisition of the national
air carrier. In the first five years after the acquisition, the buyer plans to
invest 82.1 million Euro. In the coming two years, the investment would reach
65.85 million Euro. Balkan Hemus Group is going to increase the number of
Bulgaria Air work places from the current 522 to 1,062 by the end of the fifth
year after the sale. The company intends to open 36 new destinations and 164 new
frequencies for serving regular airlines. Bulgaria will still keep its so-called
"golden share," allowing the state to veto strategic decisions
regarding the flag carrier. The application of the golden share mechanism is in
compliance with the European practice, which permits state control over the
activity and management of privatised companies in the cases when companies of
importance for the national security are sold.
The country's privatisation agency ranked Balkan Hemus' offer as the top one,
placing Italy's Air One as second. Balkan Hemus Group CEO, Dimitar Pavlov, told
Sofia News Agency that if his company ends up winning the bid, Hemus Air and
Bulgaria Air might actually merge. Bulgaria Air is a company that is important
for the national security of the country. Its privatisation has been carried out
under a strategy approved by the government on February 2, 2006. The main goal
is to establish Bulgaria Air as a leading Bulgarian air carrier, which meets
public needs and guarantees regular, secure and safe carriage and which will
provide a connection between Bulgaria and the EU member states, the press
release said. The other main tasks include optimisation of company activity, an
increase in the number of destinations and an increase the airline employees'
Eight low-cost airlines to land at the seaside - Bulgaria
Bourgas Airport at the south of Bulgaria's seaside is currently negotiating with
eight low-cost air carriers that are willing to open flights to the hot tourist
destination, Sofia news agency reported.
Kalin Barzov, head of the airport in the seaside city, said that currently three
low-cost flyers that service the airport are Wizz Air, Sky Europe and Nordvision
Air Shuttle. With such companies landing at Bourgas Airport, the situation will
change drastically, for now the tourist area is just about two hours away from
anywhere in Europe, Barzov said. Nearly two million passengers were expected at
Bourgas airport in 2007 thanks to low-cost airlines. Four other low-cost
airlines planned flights to Bulgaria, Dnevnik daily reported. Italy's Myair,
Ireland's Ryanair, the UK's Easy Jet and Germany's GermanWings, intended to fly
to Bulgaria's capital after the country's EU accession on January 1 2007.
Support offered in drive for EU Constitution
Less than three months before Sofia joins the European Union, Bulgarian
Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev gave his strong backing on November 6 for a
drive to resurrect Europe's draft constitution, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa)
Speaking at a conference in Berlin, Stanishev said: "I strongly oppose
those who declare that the constitution is dead." Coming in the run-up to
Bulgaria and Romania becoming the EU's 26th and 27th members in January,
Stanishev's government has clearly identified the fresh campaign to introduce
the constitution as a key part of Sofia's contribution to the Brussels-based
bloc. He told the conference, which was organised by the socialist group in the
European Parliament, that the constitution was an important step forward and
that it set out reforms badly needed in the EU. Stanishev went on to express his
confidence that Germany would be able to give the constitution new impetus when
it takes over the EU's sixth-month presidency in January. German Chancellor
Angela Merkel has indicated that reviving the constitution will play a central
role in Berlin's EU presidency. While Stanishev conceded that there was no magic
solution to achieving acceptance of the constitution, Bulgaria had "high
hopes" of what Germany could achieve during the first half of next year.
Bulgaria-France to broaden cooperation in several areas
Infrastructure, the energy sector, the nuclear power industry, tourism, high
technology and infrastructure are some of the areas in which Bulgaria and France
can broaden their cooperation, Bulgarian Prime Minister, Sergei Stanishev,
announced at the recent economic forum on Bulgaria at the Paris Chamber of
Commerce and Industry, Sofia News Agency reported.
Stanishev said that the development of the national infrastructure is a priority
for his government. "Bulgaria and France are countries with a
well-developed nuclear power industry, and this is one of the spheres in which
their cooperation can continue and develop further," he said.
Stanishev told the participants at the forum that although Bulgaria is not rich
in mineral resources, it does have a human capital of well-educated and dynamic
people. French Minister Delegate for Foreign Trade Christine Lagarde said that
it plans to invest 400 million Euro of direct investment in Bulgaria. "With
its population of eight million and a GDP exceeding 21,000 million Euro,
Bulgaria is a promising market for French enterprises," Lagarde said. She
added that in 2005, bilateral commercial exchanges reached 1,000 million Euro
for the first time and were almost equally divided.
Over the past six months, French exports to Bulgaria have increased by 24 per
cent, Lagarde said. "France is not among the destinations targeted by
Bulgarian migrant labour," Stanishev told a news conference after attending
forum. "The free movement of labour in the EU is a very sensitive subject
and in recent years has given rise to quite a few fears, but they are myths
rather than realities," the Bulgarian premier noted. "It should be
clear that despite all restrictions imposed on the free movement of labour,
where economic interest exists in the host country, ways are found to hire
migrant workers," he added. Stanishev observed that 200,000 Bulgarians live
and work in Greece, 150,000 in Spain, 80,000 in Italy and much fewer in France.
A substantial influx of Bulgarian labour into the French market would hamper
France's job market, Stanishev added. It was noted that Bulgarian-French trade
has increased considerably and recent years have seen a growing French investor
interest in Bulgaria. "France is Bulgaria's fourth largest trading partner,
and French manufacturers and companies stand to gain from the enlargement of the
single European market and from their free access to the Bulgarian market,"
He stated that French investors are receiving good treatment from the Bulgarian
government. Stanishev cited a contract with Eurocopter on the procurement of 18
helicopters for the Bulgarian Armed Forces as a "clear, encouraging
political signal given by the Bulgarian government." "The interests of
the various countries need not necessarily be opposed. For instance, France and
Russia are working jointly on and share an interest in the Belene Nuclear Power
Plant project," Stanishev said.