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News from Bulgaria

December 1, 2009, Tuesday

Standard & Poor's Upgrades Bulgaria's Outlook to Stable

Standard & Poor's Ratings Bulgaria Standard & Poor's Ratings Services said on Tuesday it had revised its outlook on the Republic of Bulgaria to stable from negative. The 'BBB' long-term and 'A-3' short-term sovereign credit ratings were affirmed.

"The stable outlook reflects our view of the government's commitment to fiscal discipline. We believe this is likely to be demonstrated by the full implementation of the budgetary plan and supplementary deficit-reducing measures, should the current downturn lead to stronger budgetary pressure than what is currently foreseen," Standard & Poor's credit analyst Marko Mrsnik said.

"The outlook also hinges on our expectation that the government will implement structural reforms in the social security system, particularly in health care, despite the adverse economic environment."

According to the agency Bulgaria continues to face economic risks due to the uncertain outlook for external demand and the sharp tightening of the external commercial credit channel, which negatively affects domestic demand.

Standard & Poor's expects Bulgaria's GDP to contract by around 6% in 2009 and a further 2% in 2010, followed by a positive growth rate in 2011.

The deficit for this year is set at up to 1% of GDP, the lowest in the EU. A similarly low deficit is expected in 2010, on the back the government's plan to implement significant budgetary adjustment.

News from Bulgaria

Monday, November 23, 2009

BAS official - Aliens are among us

Bulgarian Academy of Science Photo by Reuters

Aliens live on Earth and are in constant communication and interaction with us, Bulgarian scientists told Novinar, quoted by Dnes on November 23 2009.

It was even claimed that some alien species were present during a media statement in which they had answered more than 30 questions put forward by Bulgarian Academy of Science (BAS) personnel.

Luchezar Filipov, deputy head of the Space Exploration department within the BAS, told reporters that "they (the aliens) are here right now, among us". He said that, although there is little awareness of their presence, they are conducting surveillance and research on Earth.

The scientist said that they are not hostile in any way; on the contrary, they are friendly and willing to help us. Unfortunately, due to our lack of evolution and development, we are unable to conduct any coherent form of conversation with this superior life form. "They want to help us, but the problem is that we don't know what to ask of them once a contact is established," Filipov told Dnes daily.

Filipov reckons that it will be impossible to try and track extraterrestrial life with our current radar equipment, or through the usage of radio telescopes. Apparently, the aliens were "categorical" that any future means of contact between us and them would be conducted through mental power and telepathy.

"The aliens are very critical of our immoral behaviour and our destruction of the environment. They say that global warming is attributed mainly to infrastructural engineering. Additionally, they are very skeptical of our use of cosmetics, and artificial insemination because this is 'unnatural,'" Filipov said.

According to Filipov, his team of scientists are currently analysing the answers to their questions from the interactions with the visitors. The scientists aim to have a coherent "strategic plan" pertaining to questions which they will put forward to the extraterrestrials in their next meeting, which is said to be in the spring of 2010, Dnes reported.

News from Bulgaria

November 15, 2009, Sunday

Yordanka Fandakova First Woman Mayor of Bulgarian Capital Sofia

Yordanka Fandakova First Woman Mayor of Bulgarian Capital Sofia With her landslide election Sunday, Yordanka Fandakova has become the first woman Mayor of the capital Sofia in the country's history.

Fandakova, a candidate of the ruling GERB party vigorously endorsed by popular Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, has become the 61st Mayor of the capital Sofia. All sixty mayors before her since the Sofia Mayor position was established in 1878 have been men. Five of those men have come to rise from Sofia Mayor to the highest position in the country - Prime Minister.

Those include Bulgaria's communist dictator Todor Zhikov, who was Sofia Mayor in 1949, and then state and party leader in 1954-1989; Stefan Sofiyanski, who was Sofia Mayor in 1995-2005, and Prime Minister for a brief period in an interim government in 1997; and Fandakova’s predecessor, Boyko Borisov, who was Sofia Mayor in 2005-2009, and became Prime Minister in July 2009.

Bulgarian News Online

November 10, 2009, Tuesday

Bulgaria Marks 20 Years since Communist Party Coup of November 10, 1989
Bulgarian Communist Party This historic photograph from the November 10, 1989, plenum of the Bulgarian Communist Party shows Petar Mladenov (left) taking over from Todor Zhivkov (right back), whose expression shows a state of utter shock.

Bulgaria is marking Tuesday, November 10, 2009, the 20th year since the internal coup at the Bulgarian Communist Party which led to the ousting of long-time dictator Todor Zhivkov, and the crumbling of the communist regime, and eventually paved the way for reforms instituting democracy and market economy.

Todor Zhivkov became First Secretary of the Bulgarian Communist Party in 1954, which was then the second top position at the Party; 2 years later, he became the head of the party as the higher-ranking post of Secretary-General was abolished. This made Zhivkov the de facto ruler of Bulgaria.

In 1962-1971, he was also the Prime Minister of Bulgaria, and in 1971-1989, he was the Chairman of the State Council – a de facto president in a modified presidential republic regime.The process of change in the Soviet Bloc states in Eastern Europe began with the policies of perestroika initiated by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev after 1985. In 1988-1989, the first opposition and dissident protests are organized in the Bulgarian society by groups around Zhelyu Zhelev and the Club for Support for Glasnost and Perestroika.

On November 10, 1989, several hours after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party holds a meeting in which Zhivkov is forced to resign as party head and head of state.

The intra-party coup against Zhivkov is supported by his close associates – Central Committee of the BCP members Yordan Yotov, Dobri Dzhurov, Dimitar Stanishev (father of Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev (2005-2009)), Stanko Todorov, Grisha Filipov, and Georgi Atanasov.

The demand of Zhivkov’s resignation was initiated by Politburo member Petar Mladenov and candidate member Andrey Lukanov.As a result of the intra-party coup, which is widely seen as a move on the more energetic party of the BCP leadership to come ahead of the emerging opposition and to retain the power within the Communist Party, Mladenov is confirmed as the new BCP Chair.On November 17, he is also elected as Chair of the State Council of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria by the Parliament, which also removes from the Penal Code the texts incriminating criticism of the government.

On November 18, the first informal opposition organizations, Labor Confederation “Podkrepa” (“Support”) and “Ecoglasnost” organize the first free demonstration in Bulgaria since the 1930s on the Alexander Nevsky Square in Sofia.

On December 7, 1989, a coalition of newly-formed and restored parties and organizations form the major opposition democratic bloc known as the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF).

On December 11-13, 1989, the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party adopts a course in favor of parliamentary democracy, and proposes the abolition of Article 1 of the 1971 Constitution (known also as “Zhivkov’s Constitution”) which stipulates the “leading role” and monopoly of the BCP on political power in Bulgaria.

These changes are adopted by the Parliament only on January 15, 1990. The so called “Round Table” including representatives of the BCP and the opposition UDF, which paves the way for Bulgaria’s peaceful transition to democracy and market economy, holds meetings from January 16 until May 15, 1990.

On December 29, 1989, the Politburo of the Bulgarian Communist Party decides to restore the Arabic-Muslim names of the ethnic Bulgarian Muslims and Bulgarian Turks, effectively reversing the so called "Revival Process" (or "Regeneration Process") instituted by the Zhivkov regime in the previous years in order to speed up their assimilation.

On January 29, 1990, Zhivkov is arrested on charges related to the forcible renaming and exodus of Bulgarian Turks and Muslims.On April 3, 1990, the Parliament (National Assembly) elects Petar Mladenov President of the Republic of Bulgaria.The same day the Bulgarian Communist Party adopts the name “Bulgarian Socialist Party”.

The first democratic elections in Bulgaria after the 1930s are held on June 10 and June 17, 1990 – the elections for a Grand National Assembly, which is supposed to discuss and adopt a new Constitution.

The Grand National Assembly are won by the BSP, the former Communist Party, which got 47,15% of the votes, and 211 deputies in the 400-seat Grand National Assembly. The opposition UDF got 36% of the votes, and 144 seats; the ethnic Turkish party DPS got 8% of the votes, and 23 seats.

The results of the elections were disputed by the UDF, which started street protests, leading to the resignation of Petar Mladenov as President, including over a quote that he is believed to have said at the time, “It would be better if the tanks came out”, i.e. in order to suppress the protesters.Mladenov resigned on June 6, 1990, and the BSP and the UDF reached an agreement for the election of a new President from the UDF – its leader Zhelyu Zhelev was confirmed on August 1, 1990, as President for the duration of the Grand National Assembly term. The new Constitution was adopted on July 12, 1991, by the VII Grand National Assembly.

Under the new Constitution, which provided for a parliamentary republic and limited powers of the President, Zhelev was elected democratically as the President in the elections on January 12 and January 19, 1992.

Despite an investigation, Bulgaria’s former communist dictator Todor Zhivkov died on August 5, 1998, without any sentence against him. After 1990, he was kept under house arrest.In the 20 years after 1989, Bulgaria had one Grand National Assembly, and six regular Parliaments, and was governed by 12 Prime Ministers.

What is new in Bulgaria?

October 31, 2009, Saturday

Bulgaria Ski Resorts 40% Cheaper Than French Alps - Survey

Ski vacation in Bulgaria According to a survey compiled by InsureandGo, a UK based insurance company, tourists can save up to 40% by traveling to Bulgaria rather than the French Alps to ski this winter.

The insurance company compiled a survey of flights, accommodation and lift-pass prices to reveal that between Christmas and New Year, skiers are likely to spend approximately GBP 819 on a ski holiday in a top Bulgarian resort, compared to GBP 1 366 in a typical French alpine resort, GBP 1 162 in Austria or GBP 1 045 in Italy.

InsureandGo founder Perry Wilson said: “Christmas falls conveniently on a Friday this year, so many British skiers and boarders will be looking to get away on Boxing Day for a week on the slopes.

Wilson added; “Despite signs of economic recovery people are still feeling the pinch, so we predict that many skiers and snowboarders will be taking advantage of the significant savings they can make by going to a country like Bulgaria.”

Photo by overseassunshinehomes.co.uk

News from Bulgaria

October 22, 2009, Thursday

Bulgaria to Offer Easier Citizenship Procedure to Foreign Students

Foreign nationals who have completed higher education in Bulgaria may soon be able to acquire Bulgarian citizenship through a simplified procedure.

Bulgaria’s Minister for Bulgarians Abroad, Bozhidar Dimitrov, made this proposal Thursday. The motive for the proposal is allegedly that these people have undergone the natural process of naturalization for the period of study, and the state can use their potential.

Dimitrov has already prepared an official proposal for changes in the Bulgarian Citizenship Act, which will be reviewed within a month at a meeting of the government.

Another idea for change is to restore citizenship to Bulgarian citizens of the territories lost to Bulgaria in the Paris Peace Treaty of 1947. These citizens would only have to submit a formal request to the Minister of Justice.

Dimitrov's team is also working on a bill for Bulgarian communities and Bulgarians living outside Bulgaria. The document will govern the relationship between the state and diaspora, and the powers and interaction between the competent Bulgarian institutions in the Bulgarian communities.

What is new in Bulgaria

October 14, 2009, Wednesday

Bulgarian Orthodox Christians Celebrate Petkovden

Reverend Petka-Paraskeva Tarnovska Photo by bulgariainside.com

The Bulgarian Orthodox Church celebrates Petkovden on Wednesday October 14, a day that marks the beginning of the Bulgarian Winter.

Bulgarian Orthodox Church honors the celebration of the Reverend Petka-Paraskeva Tarnovska on Wednesday, known amongst the general population as Petkovden.

Reverend Petka was born near the Sea of Marmara in the 11th century. After leading a ‘godly life’ St. Petka's relics, which allegedly have a curative effect, became a symbol of the struggle to preserve Christian culture from Islamic assimilationTsar Ivan Assen II took her relics to Veliko Tarnovo, where he kept them until his capture. After many travels the relics are now resting in the Romanian city of Iasi.

Petkovden is considered to be the end the summer and autumn, and thus the beginning of winter holidays. On this day offerings are traditionally made for health and fertility. Pitkas (Bulgarian flat bread) with honey and boiled mutton are usually served.

Sofia News Agency

September 30, 2009, Wednesday

Bulgaria Fire Dancing Gets UNESCO Protected Cultural Status

Bulgaria Fire Dancing The Bulgarian traditional fire dancing (nestinari) has been declared a part of the world's cultural heritage by the United Nations.

UNESCO's Intergovernmental Committee of Intangible Heritage granted the fire dancing protected cultural status at its meeting in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates.The status aims maximum preservation and transmission of these thousands of ages old tradition.

According to the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, the intangible cultural heritage (ICH) – or living heritage – is the mainspring of our cultural diversity and its maintenance a guarantee for continuing creativity.

Intangible Cultural Heritage means the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills – as well as the instruments, objects, artifact and cultural spaces associated therewith – that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage.Fire dancing is Bulgaria's second item included in the list of the world's intangible cultural heritage. In 2005, the traditional Bulgarian songs choir “Bistritsa Grannies” was include, too.

Fire dancing (nestinari) is an ancient pagan mysterious ritual - barefooted dancers (nestinari) in a trance, performing on burning embers. When the Christianity entered in the Bulgarian culture, this dance has been transformed – dedicated to Christian saints. The dancers began to perform it, holding in hands an icon. It is a religious and mystical ritual for expelling illness, for health and fruitfulness.

The tango dance has also been included in the United Nations protected traditions during the latest UNESCO meeting.

Bulgarian news online

September 23, 2009, Wednesday

Bulgarian New UNESCO Leader Irina Bokova Vows Reforms

Irina Bokova the new UNESCO Director General Bulgarian diplomat Irina Bokova, who became on Tuesday the first woman to lead the UN's agency for culture and education, has pledged to implement reforms in a bid to streamline the operations of the organization.

"UNESCO needs reforms, some of them have already been started, so that it can become more efficient and less bureaucratic," Irina Bokova told the Bulgarian National Radio on Wednesday morning.

"UNESCO is a UN structure and we need to align the operations of each organizations in the system so that they can work and develop in one and the same direction," she added.Asked how she feels after her big success, Bokova said she was a little tired, but very happy.

"That was a very long campaign and the five rounds of voting were also very tiresome, but I am very happy," she said, adding that the race was very tight.

"The hardest part of all was to manage to drum up support for my candidature from the majority of UNESCO board members.""I am a friend of the Arab world and all the other regions. UNESCO is a universal organization, we have universal goals and ideals and will do everything possible to convince my Arab friends that this is the case," Bokova said.

"I will work to convince everyone that I assign huge priority to tolerance, dialogue, cultural and every other kind of diversity. This is the basis of UNESCO values."

Irina Bokova, 57, defeated Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosny after a suspenseful and drawn-out race, sealing victory in the fifth round of balloting at the organisation's Paris headquarters.

The vote among UNESCO board members was 31 to 27.The race was tight and closely watched, with a flurry of secretive diplomatic efforts between each round, allegations of fraud and an uproar over Hosny's candidacy.

Bulgarian Newspaper Online

July 13, 2009, Monday

Legendary 108-Year-Old Yoga Teacher Visits Bulgaria

Swami Dev Murti yoga teacher
Swami Dev Murti
Photo by BGNES

The legendary 108-year old yoga teacher Swami Dev Murti is again in Bulgaria after last visiting 40 years ago.

Murti stated, "Hello, my dear yoga family. I am very happy that after 40 years there is still such an interest in yoga. Last time I was in Bulgaria I was very surprised when I had the chance to meet a 127-year-old vegetarian woman."

"You Bulgarians have to think about yourselves, for your blood and your body - both of which have to be beautiful. I want to be here with you all - to help, to do yoga exercises and for the children be vegetarian and healthy," concluded Murti, cited by Darik Radio.

Maharishi Swami Dev Murti started practicing yoga at the age of three. The great Himalayan yoga masters used to take 5-year-old Murti to the Himalaya caves and there they tought him the secrets of yoga.

Matiji Maharaj, Maharishi Swami Dev Murti's teacher (who lived to roughly 140-years-old) sent him out of India in 1958 to spread the science of yoga all over the world. He set out on foot to Europe.

Having studied the needs of the modern men he created a special system of exercices for the spine which allegedly gives results after only 7 minutes of daily practice.

Murti has also allegedly pulled a 20 ton truck with his teeth, stopped 4 cars from driving with one hand, lay under a train which passed over his chest... and healed people from various deseases. He was also Indira Ghandi's and Jawaharlal Nehru's teacher.

Elections Bulgaria 2009
Sofia Echo News

Friday, Jul 10 2009

Winners and losers

Sofia major Boiko Borissov, of leader of GERB
Sofia major Boiko Borissov, of leader of GERB

On July 5, Bulgaria’s voters gave Boiko Borissov’s party GERB 116 of the 240 seats in Parliament, persuasive proof – if any was needed – for his political opponents that he is the most powerful politician in the country.

Whether it was for the open and aggressive way he speaks, his macho image or because of the more than 5000 media appearances he has had in the past eight years, the 39.7 per cent Borissov won at the elections made it clear that Bulgarians want him to take control of the country.

True to form, Borissov did not wait a minute to announce that he was ready to take the post of prime minister and to form a cabinet as soon as possible.

"People know who I am and what I have done in the past 10 years," Borissov said on election night. "They know the projects I have worked on, as mayor and before that at the Interior Ministry," he said, and he was right. Compared to previous prime ministers, Borissov is arguably the best-known figure, even up against former monarch Simeon Saxe-Coburg who won a landslide election victory in 2001 amid people’s great expectations for a positive change.

Unlike Saxe-Coburg, who appointed Borissov as chief secretary of Interior Ministry in 2001, Borissov will have not just the task of improving Bulgarians’ living standard but keeping their jobs and businesses open. This was why it was no surprise when the first name he announced as his future finance minister was that of Simeon Dyankov, a former chief economist with the World Bank.

Although analysts will continue arguing whether Borissov’s win was in fact a result of Bulgarians’ negative attitude towards the three ruling parties, Borissov worked hard to carve himself the image of a fighter against corruption and crime, the two things Bulgarians want dealt with once and for all.

Serving this image, Borissov said that anyone who had helped Bulgaria lose money under EU operational programmes had no place in his administration, and people on the boards of state-owned companies would no longer get 10 000 leva salaries. To live up to people’s great expectations, however, he would undoubtedly need the support of his fellow party members who, with the exception of three of four people, are basically unknown outside their birthplaces.

Saxe-Coburg had the same problem in 2001 when his win sent to Parliament a number of people inexperienced in politics, which later led to the split of the party, an option Borissov is yet to experience as leader of a party that is the biggest, and yet one of the youngest, in Bulgaria.
Sergei Stanishev Bulgarian Socialist Party leader
Bulgarian Socialist Party leader Sergei Stanishev

Not second best

Winning second place at elections is generally considered as not that bad a result for any party that has been in government.

This, however, is hardly the case with Sergei Stanishev’s Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP). The half-empty table at his election night news conference was bitter evidence of the crisis the party is facing, having been hit by one of its biggest election defeats.

There were several factors that led to the party’s downfall, according to analysts. Naturally, the four years the BSP spent in power made it an easy target for its opponents, but it is also true that during the election campaign the party failed to present any ideas of substance on how it was planning to rule the country. Instead, it concentrated entirely on negative campaigning against Borissov, portraying him in the darkest of colours.

"Negative campaigning is something which an opposition uses, not the ruling parties," said political analyst Ivan Krastev, and noted that "changing the elections’ laws at the last minute also made people go out and vote as a form of protest against the status quo".

Indeed, highly controversial changes to election legislation – the introduction of 31 majority candidates - led to the feeling that the BSP was trying to win the election in advance.

The result of this last-minute change was that BSP failed to win a single seat out of the 31 majority candidates. Borissov’s personal charisma, the never-ending corruption scandals and the frozen EU funds have also taken their toll, but the faces at the half-empty table during the BSP news conference made it obvious that none of the party functionaries wanted to associate themselves with such a devastating defeat, of 17.7 per cent.

The result raised the question of who should assume political responsibility for the bad result, to which BSP leader Stanishev responded that he was not going to flee the ship, but would stay on, and that anyone was welcome to ask for his resignation at the party’s next national council meeting.

He made it clear that he intended to hold on to the party leadership and keep the BSP from being torn apart by internal quarrels, which, according to former BSP official Tatyana Doncheva, "could lead to a situation when at the next elections, the BSP could be fighting to get into Parliament rather then claiming to rule the country".
Ahmed Dogan, leader of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF)
Ahmed Dogan, leader of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF)

If only...

The most disappointed person on election night probably was Ahmed Dogan, leader of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF). Dogan led one of the best-organised campaigns, visiting almost every town and village with a Muslim Bulgarian population, asking for their support.

Unfortunately for Dogan, he failed to predict the 60.2 per cent voter turnout which gave his party third place, 14.46 per cent. If only turnout had been lower, Dogan’s otherwise spectacular result (more then 600 000 votes), would have probably made it not just number two in Parliament, but would have maintained Dogan’s position as a key factor in the country’s political life.

Indeed, the MRF result was something which any party that had been in power for eight consecutive years could only dream about.Dogan was correct in saying that almost every party used the MRF as its target during the election campaign, with anti-Turk rhetoric because the MRF’s core supporter are Muslim Bulgarians.

But he failed to mention his words from a few weeks previously, that he was the instrument of power in Bulgaria, the controller of the flow of money.Instead, on election night Dogan urged Nato and EU observers to monitor the ethnic tension situation in Bulgaria, although "I am not threatening anyone".

Whether this was a real threat or just the words of someone who for the first time in eight years will be out of government, is something that only Dogan can say, but it added to the grim feeling emanating from the MRF in spite of its otherwise successful election result.
Volen Siderov leader of nationalist Ataka party
Volen Siderov leader of nationalist Ataka party

Keeping the pace

When the ultra-nationalist Ataka party entered Parliament in 2005, many considered that it would not last long. True to his winning strategy from 2005, however, Ataka leader Volen Siderov once again bet on anti-MRF and anti-Dogan speeches mixed with nationalist slogans, and won 9.36 per cent.

He got almost the same result as in 2005, which guaranteed him a safe spot in Parliament. Siderov’s bigger success, however, was that this time he managed to do it alone.

While in 2005 Ataka was a coalition of small-scale parties which one by one quit the coalition, this time around Ataka won its result standing alone. This gave Siderov a well-organised and consolidated group in Parliament that will not repeat the mistakes of 2005 which led to several MPs splintering away from Ataka.

The other big difference is that while in 2005 Ataka was seen as a bad by-product of Bulgarian democracy, fighting against the entire political class, in 2009 Siderov showed more political flexibility and stated his nominal support of a right-wing GERB-dominated government provided they conduct a policy based on protecting Bulgaria’s interests.
Martin Dimitrov and Ivan Kostov - leaders of the right-wing Blue Coalition
Martin Dimitrov and Ivan Kostov - leaders of the right-wing Blue Coalition

Ray of light

For the first time since 2001, right-wing supporters had reason to celebrate, although the Blue Coalition, formed by the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) and the Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria (DSB), got 6.76 per cent or fifth place at the elections.

Suffering from internal quarrels and personal conflicts, the two right-wing parties, inheritors to the party that ran the country from 1997 to 2001, managed to find common ground and stand as one at the elections. Their other success was that by conducting a positive campaign based on what should be done in a time of crisis, the Blue Coalition managed to present itself as a factor for stability for both the country’s public and private sector.

It was this kind of outlook that made the Blue Coalition a natural partner to Borissov’s GERB, and UDF leader Martin Dimitrov was quick to announce that the Blue Coalition was ready to talk with GERB on forming a new government. Dimitrov’s words were evidence of the balance of power within the Blue Coalition.

Ever since he lost the post of prime minister in 2001, DSB leader Ivan Kostov has been blamed for the split in the right wing in Bulgaria, and when Dimitrov sided with him in the elections, Kostov’s critics suspected that he was only trying to survive in Parliament at the expense of the young and inexperienced Dimitrov.

At their election night news conference, however, Kostov made it clear that it was Dimitrov who would be leading the talks with GERB and that he had no personal ambition to get back into power. This alone came as a ray of light that the time of personal quarrels and fights within the right wing had come to an end.
Yane Yanev leader of Order, Law and Justice (OLJ) party
Yane Yanev leader of Order, Law and Justice (OLJ) party

Side effects

When Yane Yanev was asked to comment on his Order, Law and Justice (OLJ) party’s 4.13 per cent election result, which made it the sixth party to pass the four per cent threshold, he said plain and simple "this was an emotional vote".

Well, Yanev was one of the politicians who put a lot of emotion into describing the current ruling parties as the most corrupt and criminal political organisations ever, and who had betrayed the country’s national interest.

Yanev’s campaign for the elections began almost a year ago when he started pulling out documents alleging public officials were involved in wrongdoings, which led to speculation that someone with access to classified information was feeding him with facts. Together with his anti-MRF rhetoric, this was enough for Yanev to win several seats in Parliament to the dissatisfaction of Ataka, which claimed that Yanev had copied its script.

End of story

Voters drafted a death warrant for the once-mighty National Movement for Stability and Progress (NMSP) led by former monarch and prime minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg. The party failed to pass the election threshold and now faces the difficult challenge of surviving outside Parliament, with Saxe-Coburg announcing his resignation as party leader. The eight years the party spent in power together with MRF and the BSP took their toll and now a whole generation of Bulgarian politicians will be replaced by the new wave of Borissov’s GERB, just as the NMSP swept away Kostov’s UDF in 2001.

Bulgarian Newspaper Online

Friday, May 15 2009

Property visa for Bulgaria

Bulgarian Visa for Non EU Citizens
Photo by: Tsvetelina Nikolaeva

The Bulgarian Government’s fast access visa system for non-EU nationals who own property in Bulgaria is reaping results with Russians emerging as the largest group, Deputy Foreign Minister Milen Keremedchiev told The Sofia Echo on May 11.

Keremedchiev said that it was Russians, followed by Serbians, who had best exploited the procedure to provide them with a three-year long multiple entry visa.The logic behind the visa system, which has been in effect for more than a year, provides for granting an entry visa to non-EU nationals who own property in Bulgaria.

If non-EU nationals own property in Bulgaria they can apply for a multiple entry visa for up to three years, also valid for their spouses and children under 21. Applicants must also have had a Bulgarian visa - minimum one year-long, issued before that. Besides the three-year long multiple entry visa, foreigners would be entitled to stay in Bulgaria for 90 days.

"This has had an effect, especially when it comes to interest shown by Russians," Keremedchiev said. "All they need do is present their title deeds to one of the Bulgarian embassies’ consulate services and apply for the visa."

Since non-EU nationals cannot own land in Bulgaria they could apply for this procedure by presenting a document stating that they owned the company that had bought the property. "Many people do so when it comes to owning a single house but as regards owning an apartment in a residential building, there is no problem for non-EU nationals to have the deed in their name," Keremedchiev said.

The procedure came about when many Russian tour operators and real estate companies said that Bulgaria’s protracted visa system policy was deterring Russians from visiting.

The decision was also based on dwindling interest from British and Irish buyers, perturbed by continuing rising prices and the beginnings of the global economic crisis. Russians, on the other hand, still found prices viable. This allied to close cultural ties and a shared past, made Bulgaria an attractive destination, hence the request for a streamlined visa system.

According to some complaints, property-owning Russians in Bulgaria were also treated the same as Russian tourists. As a result, Bulgaria’s Foreign Ministry introduced a separate procedure for non-EU nationals that entitled them to access to their property. How this will change when Bulgaria joins the EU Schengen Agreement area is yet to be seen.

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