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Archive for February, 2010

EU LEADERS OPPOSE BULGARIA’S EURO ASPIRATIONS

European Union political leaders have sent a discouraging message regarding Bulgaria’s ambition to adopt the single currency in the next two to three years.
This has been reported by foreign media in the wake of Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boyko Borisov meetings in Brussels with European Central Bank president Jean-Claude Trichet, Germany ‘s Chancellor Angela Merkel and France ‘s President Nicolas Sarkozy.
The message confirms fears that political support for admitting a new euro area member in the face of a struggling government in neighbouring Greece to regain control over its finances will be insufficient for a successful Bulgarian application.
Boyko Borisov, who has drawn international accolades for cutting spending while maintaining high levels of public support, said after his return he fears Bulgaria’s fiscal performance won’t guarantee entry to the 16-nation euro zone.
Greece’s woes may end up foiling Bulgaria’s aspirations to join the euro in three years, despite the country’s budgetary rigor, the prime minister announced.
After months of speculation over when the former communist state would formally apply to the bloc’s exchange-rate mechanism, the so-called Eurozone waiting room, the prime minister refused to cite a concrete date.
Bulgaria initially planned to apply to join the exchange-rate mechanism in November, but delayed it for the beginning of 2010 after all member states submit their convergence programs, which contains the mid-term goals of the fiscal policy.
Borisov reiterated the assurances of Finance Minister Simeon Djankov that the country can significantly contribute to the stability of the single currency as it boasts the best fiscal policy parameters across the European Union.
Officials from the European Commission (EC), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will arrive in Bulgaria February 18 to examine the country’s readiness to join ERM II.
The experts will visit Sofia at the invitation of Bulgaria’s Minister of Finance Simeon Djankov who has discussed the issue during his formal trip to Germany and Luxembourg last week.
Countries must be members of ERM II for two years before they can formally join the eurozone. Bulgaria believes that it could be ready for euro entry by 2013.
Bulgaria, which joined the EU in 2007, posted the smallest budget deficit among the 27 member states last year, according to the finance ministry. It is expected to be the only EU nation to balance its budget in 2010.
Minister Djankov, a World Bank economist, hopes to offset a possible reluctance to admit Bulgaria into the ERM, stemming from the global crisis, by garnishing the application with a targeted balanced 2010 budget, the smallest 2009 deficit in the EU and laws overhauling the inefficient health-care and social-security systems.
Joining the exchange-rate mechanism would bring Bulgaria closer to the umbrella of the euro region and the protection of the European Central Bank and is conditional on whether the new government will succeed to restore Brussels trust.
The lev is already linked to the euro in a currency board that keeps the Bulgarian currency at 1.9558 to the euro. Joining the exchange-rate mechanism may allow the lev to fluctuate by as much as 15 % around a central band, though the central bank has said it will leave the lev tightly pegged to the euro through the duration of the two years. “Novinite”

WWW.WEBFACTORY.BG

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Ashmolean Museum in Oxford (UK) acquires work by Bulgarian/Dutch artist Peter Lazarov

The Ashmolean Museum of Art has recently acquired “Sisyphus”, a woodcut print by Bulgarian/Dutch artist Peter Lazarov.
The museum acquired the work for its cabinet of prints collection of which it will officially make part. For Peter Lazarov, currently living in the Northern Dutch city of Groningen, it is not his first work in a distinguished public collection
Already last year,2009 , his works were accepted in the Prestigious collection of the Plantin Moretus Museum in Antwerp Belgium and in the last 20 years numerous public museums have entered his works in their collections, not in the least the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, home also to Rembrandt’s famous “Night watch”.
Peter Lazarov is at the moment in China for the creation of a series of Chinese Scroll type woodcut prints to be shown at GreenCat Gallery Antwerp late this year and GreenCat Gallery Sofia beginning of 2011
Peter Lazarov confirms again to be amongst the highest rated Bulgarian Artists in the world today

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Full blockade at Greek border to Bulgaria, Macedonia

Focus – Greek farmers’ blockade of the Bulgarian-Greek border is getting more intensive and over the next days the Kalata border checkpoint will stay closed.
Meanwhile, it is no longer possible to use the transitory route through Macedonia since as of Thursday there will be a 48-hour strike of the Greek customs officers at the Macedonian border.
There are declarations that Greek farmers’ protests will intensify, said the Greek ambassador to Bulgaria.
There is something that is made very clear, including in Bulgaria, and it is that the actions of the Greek farmers are not united in one general front, Greek ambassador to Bulgaria Danae-Madeleine Koumanakou said after meeting Bulgarian Minister of Agriculture Miroslav Naydenov, FOCUS News Agency reporter informs.
Koumanakou explained that this makes the negotiations with their representatives even harder.
The ambassador added that there are declarations that the protests will get more intensive despite that one of the blockades have been already lifted.
“All that is happening comes after a consultation made on the spot”, Koumanakou said.
The ambassador has no information about which of the blockades have been lifted. Asked whether there is any tolerance bounds on behalf of the Greek government, Koumanakou remarked that there are talks and efforts are made but there are no set deadlines. She added Greece’s government has seriously undertaken the issue, explaining the possibilities.
The Kulata-Promachonas border checkpoint will be closed for several days, Border Police announced. At the moment only the Zlatograd checkpoint is working normally at the Bulgarian-Greek border.
Chief Border Police Directorate received information from the Greek border authorities that the protesting Greek farmers have announced that they will allow no vehicles cross the border checkpoint over the next 3 – 4 days.
The last time the blockade was lifted was last night. Some of the heavy-freight TIR trucks that cross the border during the admission regime have been waiting there for more than 72 hours.
Citizens who have to travel to Greece should use other border checkpoints where the blockade is not for such a long time.
As of 11.30 a.m., the Ilinden-Exochi border checkpoint is closed for all kind of vehicles.
The Kapitan Petko Voyvoda-Ormenion border checkpoint is closed, too. According to latest information, it will be opened again at 2 p.m. on Thursday.
The Zlatograd border checkpoint is working normally.
Stock-breeders from the town of Drama, Greece, will stage protest at the Exochi border checkpoint at the Bulgarian-Greek border and will pour huge amount of milk on the road as a mark of protest, local media report.
The demonstration will be in support of farmers’ demand for financial aid and solution to their institutional demands.
Similar actions will be taken by farmers in Xanthi on Friday. The protestors plan to invade the building of the local government.
On Wednesday, stock-breeders from Doiran poured milk on the road, joining Greek farmers’ protest.
On Saturday, the stock-breeders will hold a meeting in Thasseloniki to decide their future actions.
In addition, tax and customs officers in Greece announced they go out on a two-day strike to protest against the cut allowances provided in the state budget and the frozen remunerations, local media report.
The strike will be held on Thursday and Friday, January 4-5.

http://www.focus-fen.net/index.php?id=n209072

Bulgaria’s nominee well-received by MEPs

FT – Bulgaria’s replacement nominee for the European Commission delivered a competent performance on Wednesday at a European Parliament confirmation hearing, smoothing the way for the new Commission to win approval next week.

Kristalina Georgieva was thrust into the role as commissioner-designate for humanitarian aide and crisis response after Bulgaria’s first choice for the job, Rumiana Jeleva, was forced to withdraw last month amid questions about her qualifications and business dealings.

“When the call came, I felt it was my duty,” Ms Georgieva, a former World Bank vice-president, told MEPs, explaining the circumstances of her nomination.

Her three-hour hearing was markedly different from the stormy session in which Green, Socialist and Liberal MEPs grilled a shaky-but-defiant Ms Jeleva.

Her subsequent withdrawal has added to delays in seating the new Commission so that it can begin its five-year term while serving as another example of the Parliament’s growing authority in Brussels. It also touched off a wave of recriminations among the Parliament’s political groups.

By contrast, Ms Georgieva found a more supportive audience on Wednesday. She was treated to a round of applause after her opening remarks. At one point, Ivo Vajgl, a Liberal MEP, praised her, saying: “let me compliment you on your peaceful manner and the confidence you are exuding today”.

During the hearing, Ms Georgieva praised the speed and generosity of theEuropean Union’s response to the Haiti earthquake – something that has come in for criticism in many quarters.

“If I’m confirmed, it will be my immediate duty to make sure we Europeans bring to Haiti the best our union has to offer,” she said.

Still, the nominee allowed that there was a need to make the EU response to such disasters faster, more coherent and more visible in the future.

She repeatedly skirted questions about whether she would support the establishment of a common EU reaction force to accomplish that goal, saying that such an initiative would have to be discussed with Lady Ashton, the EU’s new foreign policy chief.

Ms Georgieva also said that she would have to further study the proper role of the military in aid work.

The nominee ended the session by promising to fulfil an old request from her mother – 89 years old on Wednesday, and a survivor of the second world war and the partition of Europe.

“If my nomination is confirmed, I will make the effort to learn French,” she told MEPs, who showered her in applause.

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/fdc3233e-10e6-11df-9a9e-00144feab49a.html

Bulgaria’s land swaps become an issue of European law

Sofia Echo – Only weeks after the disparity between Bulgarian and European Union regulations was put in the spotlight by the questioning of the alleged conflict of interest during the confirmation hearings of Bulgaria’s former commissioner-designate Roumyana Zheleva, another possible discrepancy could get more attention in the coming months.

The issue in question is the controversial land swaps carried out en masse during the tripartite coalition’s time in government. Soundly criticised by the opposition and environmentalist groups as a means to exchange land in remote areas for plots in prime locations, which often became the target of real estate developments, land swaps are now being investigated by the European Commission as a possible instance of illegal state aid.

Land swaps routinely were carried out at prices below market valuations, making them much more profitable for the beneficiaries rather than the state. A moratorium on such deals has been put in place since then.

The EC has asked Bulgaria to provide, by March 2, its arguments why the land swaps should not be considered state aid or apply for permission from the Commission for this kind of state aid. Failure to comply would trigger an infringement procedure against Bulgaria, Prime Minister Boiko Borissov said.

According to Borissov, Bulgaria could face fines of up to 1.5 billion leva if land swaps are found to be illegal state aid. Borissov, who criticised the practice during the electoral campaign, said that he did not plan to defend it to the European Commission and that one way to dodge EU sanctions would be for Parliament to undo the land swaps retroactively.

Land swaps are entirely legal under Bulgarian law, Prosecutor-General Boris Velchev said, re-iterating his earlier statements on the issue.

Borissov’s predecessor, socialist leader Sergei Stanishev, said that there were no mentions of sanctions in the European Commission letter sent to Bulgaria and that the current Government was using the issue to blacken the name of its political opponents. The swap deals themselves were not state aid, because the increased value of the land came from local administration’s decisions to allow construction on those plots, Stanishev said.

Borissov has called a meeting of the Prime Minister’s security council on February 9 to discuss the issue and possible solutions.

Sex with animals to be punishable in the Netherlands.

Both houses of the Dutch Parliament approved the proposal to pornography and sex with animals to be a criminal offense. Only CDA (Christian Democrats) and VVD (Liberals) in the Senate  (Upper House) voted against. The dissenters stand behind the goal to fight bestiality, but they wonder whether this law is the right way.  They claimed that it  is not feasible to maintain. Other parties in the Senate find the proposal of PvdA (Labour) MP Harm Evert Waalkens not to go far enough, but are happy with this step.

Waalkens predicted on the day before the vote in the Senate, that it would be a tight vote.  At the end, there were 39 for voters and 34 senators voted against. Waalkens’ initiative came is meant to reduce the trade of movies about bestiality with animals on the Internet. Most bestiality porn is manufactured in the Netherlands.