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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: 125 - (26/10/07)

Sarkozy comes to town
Official fanfare and a motley crowd waving the tricoleur greeted French president Nicolas Sarkozy on his first official trip to Bulgaria. This is a visit of no small moment for Bulgaria.

His day-long visit began with him being welcomed by President Georgi Purvanov a little after noon on October 4 in front of the Alexander Nevski Memorial Cathedral in Sofia. The two placed a wreath on the monument to the unknown soldier, accompanied by Franco-Bulgarian singer Sylvie Vartan, who was influential in spurring the release of the seven Bulgarian medics and Palestinian doctor from their eight-year imprisonment in Libya.

Vartan, who was born in Bulgaria and whose father was Bulgarian of Armenian descent, had created an online petition in which she called on people to take it onto themselves to help the Bulgarian nurses in Libya. In December 2006 she sent an open letter of support to the Bulgarian nurses who were being held in Libyan jail on the accusation of deliberately infecting 400 children with HIV. Sarkozy's visit, too, is in relation to his and his wife Cecilia's decisive role in helping to free the medics. The day's schedule included a lecture at Sofia University, a meeting with Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev, and much speculation about the positive future of French-Bulgarian economic relations. The medics did not, it appears, suffer in vain.

Government survives no-confidence motion
Bulgaria's Socialist-led government, pressured by a long-running teachers' strike, survived a no-confidence vote on October 23, fending off opposition claims that it had failed to fund schools adequately.

The motion, tabled by the parliamentary opposition, was rejected in the 240-member legislature along party lines by 160-61, with one abstention. The remaining 18 lawmakers were absent.

It was the third confidence vote the centre-left government had survived since taking office in 2005, and the second since the country joined the European Union on Jan 1st. A teachers' strike has left most schools in Bulgaria shut for more than a month. They are demanding 100 percent salary hikes and more state funding for education.

Some 120,000 teachers work in Bulgaria's state schools and nurseries - roughly a quarter of all state employees - at an average monthly wage of 440 leva (€225; US$317), according to government figures. Despite repeated attempts, the government and teaching unions have so far failed to reach a compromise that would end the strike.

Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev has said that giving in to the teachers' pay demands would fuel inflation - which at 13.1 percent on the year in September is already the EU's highest.

During debate, opposition lawmakers accused the government of failing to live up to its promises to increase educational funding and said excess centralization stifles the independence and development of schools.

Former prime minister Ivan Kostov, who leads the Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria, a right-wing opposition party, said the cabinet had reneged on a promise that education wages would exceed the public sector average, even though the country's budget is running a substantial surplus.

Stanishev acknowledged "internal contradictions and tensions" in the teachers' status but claimed that most of the problems were inherited from previous governments.

He warned that doling out the budget surplus would undermine hard-won successes in society, increase inflation and bring renewed pressure on the lev. "We will not allow this to happen under any circumstances because financial stability, guaranteeing people's real income and savings, is the foremost condition for the success of the country," Stanishev said.

The government - a centre-left coalition of the Socialist Party, the centrist National Movement of Bulgaria's former king, Simeon, and a mainly ethnic Turkish party - was formed in 2005.

Education the solution
In his opening speech at the General conference of UNESCO in Paris on October 16, Bulgarian President Georgi Purvanov said that Bulgaria appreciated UNESCO's decisiveness to address the challenges of today's world like illiteracy, deepening poverty, exploitation, social instability, intolerance and discrimination, and the destruction of the environment.

"The solution to all these problem starts with education," Purvanov said. It is a fact that education of girls brings a massive benefit in the shape of a fall in the birth-rate and a fall in population, which greatly alleviates these ills. 

UNESCO's General Conference consists of the representatives of the States Members of the Organisation. It meets every two years, and is attended by Member States and Associate Members, together with observers for non-Member-States, intergovernmental organisations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

The General Conference determines the policies and the main lines of work of the organisation. The meeting takes place from October 16 to November 3 2007 in Paris.

BULGARIA AND THE GAS PIPELINE PROJECTS
Bulgaria was hoping that the 900-km South Stream gas pipeline project of Russia's Gazprom and the Italian group Eni would strengthen a long-standing partnership between Gazprom and Bulgargaz, the natural gas distribution company in Bulgaria, Energy Business Review wrote in an article on October 17.The new pipeline was expected to transport gas from Russia to Italy via Bulgaria's Black Sea port of Bourgas, cross Greece and pass through the Adriatic Sea.

The Financial Times quoted Bulgarian President Georgi Purvanov as saying that the country was "attempting to build modern relations with Russia", based on economic activities. 

Purvanov further said that Bulgaria had contacts with Moscow because Russia was the major source of energy for the region. However, the Balkan country's vision was to become a part of European Union's energy policy through diversifying its oil and gas sources as well as the pipeline routes, Purvanov was quoted as saying. 

As part of its attempts to diversify EU energy sources, Sofia also signed up for the Nabucco gas pipeline project, a proposed natural gas pipeline expected to transport natural gas from Turkey to Austria, via Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary. 

A recent article in Eurasia Daily Monitor however, said that Bulgarian authorities seemed to prefer Russia's South Stream project seeing it as the cheaper and better of the two. Should it materialise, Bulgaria's opportunity would be a loss for a number of countries: mainly those involved in the Nabucco project, but also Ukraine and, ultimately, European consumers, Eurasia Daily Monitor said. 

South Stream is a rival to the Nabucco project, both for gas resources in Central Asia and for markets in Southern and Central Europe.

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