Borislav Stefanov, deputy executive director of InvestBulgaria Agency, has been appointed its head, the economy and energy minister announced on Monday.
The appointment comes shortly after the agency's previous head Stoyan Stalev submitted his resignation.
“My first priorities will aim to improve Bulgaria's marketing strategy for the attraction of new investments and to create better conditions in the country for the big investors,” Stefanov commented after the news broke.
Meanwhile Economy and Energy Minister Traicho Traikov announced a number of measures, which will seek to attract new capitals to the country, such as lower thresholds for the investors Class A and B and incentives for investors who create new jobs.
The proposed changes will be subjected to a wide public debate.
April 12, 2010, Monday
Bulgarian Antarctic mission maps the sea floor around eastern Livingston Island
Photo by Lyubomir Ivanov
The Bulgarian Antarctic Institute (BAI) has created a 3D model of the seabed of the south coast near the Bulgarian antarctic base St Kliment Ohridski in the eastern Livingston Island, Bulgarian Stroitelstvo Gradut weekly said on April 12 2010.
In addition to mapping the sea floor around the eastern Livingston Island, the Bulgarian expedition installed equipment which accurately measures the shape of the shoreline and the changing of the tides on a daily basis.
The Bulgarian base is on the South Shetland Islands, a stretch of seafront called the Bulgarian Beach, Emona Harbour.
This is the 18th Bulgarian antarctic expedition; it will be based on Livingston Island from November 2009 until December 2010, constituting 27 Bulgarian scientists. The base is used for research in the field of geology, biology, glaciology, topography and geographic information.
According to the mission's official website, St. Kliment Ohridski is visited by cruise ships from Hannah Point, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Antarctica, just 12 km to the west.
Bulgaria launched its polar activities in Antarctica back in 1967-1969, when Bulgarian meteorologists took part in the XIII Soviet Antarctic Expedition. Subsequently, in the austral summer season of 1987-1988, six Bulgarian scientists participated in joint projects with the British Antarctic Survey and the Soviet Institute for Antarctic and Arctic Research.
Between 1993 and 2007, Bulgaria dispatched 16 successive Antarctic campaigns. The Bulgarian base is provided with logistic support and assistance from the Spanish Polar Institutions, as both missions are working together in "close co-operation".
April 8, 2010, Thursday
Bulgaria PM Meets with US President Obama in Prague
US President Barack Obama (left) welcomed Bulgaria's PM Boyko Borisov (right) first of all 11 Eastern European leaders at the dinner at the US Embassy Residency in Prague. Photo by EPA/BGNES
Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boyko Borisov met with US President Barack Obama for the first time in Prague Thursday night.
Borisov is among the leaders of 11 Eastern European states – Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia – who have been invited to a dinner with the American President, who went to Prague for the signing of the renewed START treaty with his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev.
Before the dinner, US President Obama posed for photes with each one of the 11 Eastern European leaders including Bulgaria’s Boyko Borisov.
The access of journalists to the residence of the US Embassy in Prague where the informal dinner is held is limited, the Bulgarian National Radio reported.
The major themes on the agenda of the US President Barack and the Eastern European heads of government and/or state have to do with the establishing of the US missile shield in Europe, Iran’s nuclear program, and the situation in Afghanistan.
March 24, 2010, Wednesday
Kuwait Investors Eye Bulgaria Black Sea Highway
Photo by BGNES
Investors from Kuwait have expressed strong interest in taking part in the construction of the “Black Sea” highway, Bulgaria's Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, announced.
The highway is to connect Bulgaria's two major Black Sea cities – Varna and Burgas.
Borisov is on an official visit to Kuwait Wednesday, after a 2-day trip to Doha, Qatar. The PM already met with Kuwait's Emir Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, and Kuwait's Prime Minister Sheikh Naser Mohammed al-Sabah.
Borisov further informed the Kuwaiti side had expressed strong interest towards Bulgaria's farming and tourism, and connected it with the recent Parliamentary vote banning Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) on Bulgarian soil.
The PM voiced hope the projects would be moved forward quickly despite the “bad legacy from years past” stemming from a legal dispute over USD 40 M to expand the runway at the Sofia Airport financed by the Kuwait Development Fund.
Kuwait had also asked to launch regular flights between the two countries and the contract is expected to be signed later Wednesday evening. The move comes on the heels of Borisov's announcement that Qatar Airways are beginning direct services between Doha and Sofia in October 2010, according to the agreement signed in Qatar Tuesday.
March 22, 2010, Monday
Bulgaria, Qatar Set Up Joint Venture Investment Company
Bulgaria PM Borisov and his Qatari counterpart Sheik Hamad al-Thani (standing, l and r.) at the signing ceremony for the setting up of a joint investment company. Photo by BGNES
Bulgaria and Qatar have agreed to set up a joint company through which investments of the Arab country will be developed in Bulgaria.
Qatar's Prime Minister expressed his confidence that his country would be interested in increasing investments in Bulgarian projects.
"Today we agreed to create a company between the two countries to assess investment opportunities in Bulgaria," Sheikh Hamad al-Thani said on Monday.
Bulgaria PM Boyko Borisov, who is on an official visit to Qatar, confimred that: "Today and tomorrow, ministers will work on the state joint venture between the two parties, to very quickly prepare two or three to five projects".
His counterpart indicated the possible scale of his country’s level of investment.
"We have not discussed how much money we will invest in Bulgaria, but Qatar is ready to invest until there is mutual benefit from it. You know that, last year, the total foreign investment of Qatar was USD 30 B. We plan this year to invest that much money overseas," he stated.
The Qatari PM also announced that he expected his country would open an embassy in Bulgaria before the end of 2010.
March 21, 2010, Sunday
Bulgaria 2010 Eurovision Entry Releases Angel Video
The official preview video of Miro’s ‘Angel Si Ti’ - the 2010 Bulgarian entry for the Eurovision song contest was released on 20 March.
In the video Miro is depicted as an angel who comes down to earth from heaven and walks around the streets, while crowds gather behind him and follow him.
Miro has the honour of representing Bulgaria at the forthcoming Eurovision Song Contest in Oslo in May with his own song Angel si ti.
Bulgaria will be competing in the 2nd Eurovision Song Contest semifinal on the 27 May. This will be Bulgaria's 6th Eurovision entry since their debut in 2005.
March 09, 2010, Tuesday
European Parliament eases travel rules for non-EU nationals
Photo by Seabhcan
A non-EU national staying in one of the member states on a long-stay visa will be allowed to travel to most other Member States for three months in any six-month period under the same conditions as the holder of a residence permit, under a new regulation approved on March 9 2010 by the European Parliament.
The regulation, which MEPs approved with 562 votes in favour, 29 against and 51 abstentions, is set to enter into force by April 5 2010.
The increased freedom of movement should not pose any extra security risk, thanks to a system of controls and alerts, but will in any case not apply to the UK, Ireland or Denmark as a result of their opt-outs, the European Parliament said in a media statement.
Under present EU law, long-stay visa holders - for example students or school pupils wanting to go on a study or field trip in another member state, scientists, academics, family members of third-country nationals and EU citizens - are not allowed to travel to other member states during their stay, nor pass through the other states when returning to their country of origin, as the Schengen Convention does not allow for this.
The fact that a student who is granted a visa to attend a course in Belgium cannot travel to a specialized library in the Netherlands to obtain information for the purposes of writing his thesis or to Barcelona for a weekend visit "is simply unacceptable", said Portuguese centre-right MEP Carlos Coelho, author of the report by the EP Civil Liberties Committee.
"This is an example of how absurd situations can arise", he said..
With the new legislation, a long-stay visa (for stays exceeding three months) will - as regards the Schengen area - have the same effect as a residence permit: a third-country national holding a "long-stay D visa" issued by a member state could travel to the other member states for three months in any half year, under the same conditions as the holder of a residence permit.
Long-stay visas will be valid for no more than one year. If a third-country national is allowed to stay for more than that time, the long-stay visa has to be replaced before it expires by a residence permit.
To meet any security concerns, the regulation states that non-EU citizens will be able to move freely "on the basis of that permit and a valid travel document", and only if they "are not on the national list of alerts of the member state concerned".
Most EU states will be able to use the Schengen Information System (SIS) to consult such lists but the UK and Ireland are not members of the Schengen area and will not be bound by or subject to the regulation. Denmark has a period of six months after the date of adoption of the regulation to decide whether it will enact it in its national law.
March 8, 2010, Monday
Bulgaria Offers Best Eastern European Outsourcing Quality
Photo by colliers.com
Bulgaria is among the leading European countries, in terms of the cost and quality of the outsourcing services the country offers.
A joint analysis by Colliers International and AT Kearney concluded that Bulgaria held the top position for outsourcing possibilities among the 12 European countries surveyed.The other countries were: the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine.
The country competes internationally in the top 15 countries, with its combination of attractive locations for outsourcing and offshore activities.
"The assessment was based on criteria such as financial attractiveness, the overall economic climate and the availability of a skilled workforce," said Atanas Garov, executive director of the Bulgarian branch of Colliers International.
According to him, the current time is very suitable for Bulgaria to attract investments in the outsourcing industry."Outsourcing could become a major economic engine for our country with the opportunity to reveal a large number of highly skilled jobs. For this to happen it is a necessary and active engagement on behalf of the government, local administration and businesses," said Garov.
Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries will continue to be among the leading global destinations for outsourcing services, according to the study. Their chief advantages are a combination of skilled staff, excellent foreign language training, know-how, cultural proximity and tolerance.
This combination of positive factors makes this sector one of the main drivers of the labor market and demand for office space in CEE, the study reveals.
Compared with established large business centers, the smaller cities are financially more attractive, and are not necessarily inferior in qualifications of available labor.
The report reveals that a high quality and modern office space is key to the long-term existence of outsourcing centers. This factor is important for optimizing operational costs and to retain employees in the company.
Within Bulgaria, the Black Sea town of Varna is a typical example, says the report."Varna offers the most competitive rental prices for office space among other secondary markets in the CEE region. This factor, combined with a skilled workforce, an easily accessible geographical position and well developed infrastructure, makes the city an attractive outsourcing and off shoring destination," said Rumyana Lepicheva, executive director of the office of Colliers in Varna.
February 24, 2010, Wednesday
Bulgaria Star Jekova 'One of Most Attractive Winter Olympians'
Photo by slavymagazine.com
Bulgarian snowboarding star, Alexandra Jekova, has taken part in a photo shoot for the popular Vanity Fair magazine in Vancouver after being picked as one of the most attractive women at the Winter Olympics.
The half hour photo session was made on Wednesday morning at the Vanity Fair offices close to the Vancouver Olympic village. The photos will be posted on the internet site of Vanity Fair at the end of the week.
Jekova was also listed as one of the top ten most beautiful Winter Olympians on the popular site covers.com.Last week, sources from the Bulgarian headquarters in Vancouver revealed that there was a huge Australian interest in Jekova as she is the girlfriend of Australian snowboarder Alex Pullin.
Jekova, who was tipped for one of the few gold medals for the country at the Winter Olympic Games at Vancouver, was forced to quit the competition due to injury.
February 17, 2010, Wednesday
Bulgaria's UNESCO Head Bokova, EU Commissioner Georgieva to Help Haiti
Photo by EPA/BGNES
The two Bulgarians with highest international ranks, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova and EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid, Kristalina Georgieva, met in Brussels Wednesday to discuss the Haiti relief situation.
Bokova and Georgieva’s talks focused on the international aid for Haiti in the fields of education and culture.
“I believe that with respect to much of the activity of the organization that I have been in charge of for three months, the European Union, and especially the European Commission are a natural partner since we share many common values in the field of tolerance, cultural diversity, dialogue between cultures, education, science, communications, and preservation of cultural heritage,” said the UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova during their join press conference.
“As the Commissioner who is in charge of crisis response, for me our cooperation with UNESCO is especially important in the places where UNESCO has developed a full-fledged early warning system,” EU Commissioner for humanitarian aid, Kristalina Georgieva, stated in turn.
“In fact, there is already a relative small joint project between UNESCO and the EC exactly in the field of early warning in the event of a tsunami or other natural disasters in the places where UNESCO has the necessary resources,” Georgieva said.
As part of her work on humanitarian aid and crisis prevention, Georgieva has vowed to work with various global and local partners on the ground in order to be able to achieve more substantial results.
February 9, 2010, Tuesday
European Parliament Approves Barroso II European Commission
Photo by EPA/BGNES
The new 27-strong team of European commissioners got the approval of the members of the European Parliament in a vote on Friday.
A total of 488 MEPs voted for the proposed members of the new European Commission chaired by incumbent EC President Jose Manuel Barroso, 237 voted against and 72 abstained.
Following is a list of the new European Commissioners:
Joaqu ín ALMUNIA: Competition. Vice-President of the Commission.
László ANDOR: Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion.
Baroness Catherine ASHTON: High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security and Vice-President of the Commission.
Michel BARNIER: Internal Market and Services.
Dacian CIOLOS: Agriculture and Rural Development.
John DALLI: Health and Consumer Policy.
Maria DAMANAKI: Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.
Karel DE GUCHT: Trade.
Štefan FÜLE: Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy. *
Johannes HAHN: Regional Policy.
Connie HEDEGAARD: Climate Action.
Maire GEOGHEGAN-QUINN: Research and Innovation.
Kristalina GEORGIEVA: International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response.* The Bulgarian Commissioner
Siim KALLAS: Transport. Vice-President of the Commission.
Neelie KROES: Digital Agenda. Vice-President of the Commission.
Janusz LEWANDOWSKI: Budget and Financial Programming.
Cecilia MALMSTRÖM: Home Affairs.
Günter OETTINGER: Energy.
Andris PIEBALGS: Development.*
Janez POTOČNIK: Environment.
Viviane REDING: Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship.Vice-President of the Commission.
Olli REHN: Economic and Monetary Affairs.
Maroš ŠEFČOVIČ : Vice-President of the Commission for Inter-Institutional Relations and Administration.
Algirdas ŠEMETA: Taxation and Customs Union, Audit and Anti-Fraud.
Antonio TAJANI: Industry and Entrepreneurship. Vice-President of the Commission.
Androulla VASSILIOU: Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth.
The 27-strong commission has 13 conservative members, including Barroso, as well as 8 liberal ones and 6 affiliated to the socialist group.
The Commission is the EU's executive arm, responsible for drafting EU laws and ensuring that the 27 member states comply with the EU treaties.
Before the vote the conservative European People's Party (EPP), the largest in parliament, said it would vote in favour. The other two main factions in the assembly, the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) and the Liberal-democrats (ALDE) were more critical, but also backed the new commission.The head of the Green group, former 1960s firebrand leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit, led the 'no' camp.
"We are staring at a coalition of hypocrites: just a few days before Valentine's Day, they tell Mr. Barroso 'We don't believe you but we will vote for you'", he joked.
Cohn-Bendit was particularly scathing against S&D chief Martin Schulz, suggesting he decided to support Barroso to curry the EPP's favour for his political ambitions.
"I don't why do you get angry, you are not yet the president of the European Parliament, be calm comrade," the Green leader told Schulz.
Other smaller groups - the hard-left European United Left (GUE), right-wingers from the Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD) – were set to join the Greens in rejecting the EU executive. The British Tory-led European Conservatives and Reformists' group (ECR) said they would back it.
Each commissioner has already faced a hearing in the European Parliament.
Bulgaria's first nominee, Rumiana Jeleva, failed to convince MEPs about her suitability for the job, so she was replaced by Kristalina Georgieva.
The parliament's vote on the whole Commission was delayed by three months because ratification of the Lisbon Treaty was not completed until November.
Under the treaty, the number of commissioners will be reduced by a third by 2014. So this will be the last time MEPs voted for a Commission with candidates drawn from every member state.
The president of the Commission, veteran Portuguese conservative Jose Manuel Barroso, has already been approved for a second term by the EU government leaders.
January 25, 2010, Monday
Bulgaria PM Borisov to Meet Merkel on Official Germany Visit
Photo by EPA/BGNES
Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boyko Borisov is on an official visit to Germany Monday.
Borisov is going to have lunch with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He is in Berlin at the invitation of the German government.
According to the official announcements of the Bulgarian government, the Prime Minister is going to seek German support for Bulgaria’s Eurozone accession, and is going to assure Chancellor Merkel of his cabinets measures to curb organized crime and corruption.
Borisov and Merkel are also expect to agree on a date for an official visit of the German Chancellor to Bulgaria.
German’s governing party CDU and Bulgaria’s ruling party GERB are close allies within the European People’s Party, and Merkel has declared her all-out support for Borisov a number of times.
The Borisov-led delegation to Berlin includes Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov, Minister of Economy, Traicho Traikov, and Minister of Regional Development Rosen Plevneliev; all of them are going to meet with their German counterparts.
On Monday, Borisov is also going to meet with the Chair of Bundestag, Norbert Lamert, and with the Berlin Mayor, Klaus Wowereit. Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandakova is also part of the delegation, and will meet with the Mayor of the German capital. On Tuesday, Borisov is going to participate in a business breakfast.
11 January 2010, Monday
PM: Bulgaria to launch euro zone bid in January 2010
Bulgaria will launch its bid to join the euro zone at the end of January, Prime Minister Boiko Borissov told The Wall Street Journal in a January 10 2010 interview.
The country, however, was increasingly fearful that the debt crisis erupting across the currency bloc could harm its application, Borissov said.
Bulgaria will no longer need to tap the International Monetary Fund or international bond markets for emergency financing to plug its budget gap, he said.
Separate documents seen by Dow Jones Newswires on January 10 showed the country's Finance Ministry will upgrade its forecasts for 2010 gross domestic product to tip a 0.2 per cent expansion from the previous estimate of a two per cent contraction, The Wall Street Journal said.
"We have everything in order and we're ready to start the road to the euro zone by the end of the month. It is now the first foreign policy priority of my government to enter the euro zone," Borissov said.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Borissov's words ended months of speculation over when "the former communist state would formally apply to the bloc's exchange-rate mechanism -- a two-year currency stability test for euro hopefuls".
The paper said that in terms of its economic and fiscal management, "Bulgaria has become a role model for the other countries in Europe". "Bulgaria's experience has a lot to teach other economies preparing to cut spending," said Nigel Rendell, emerging markets economist at RBC Capital Markets.
Borissov's concern, however, was that a debt recession and intensifying debt crisis may set the bar higher for new entrants into the single currency, as nervy euro-zone policy makers opt to consolidate existing borders rather than expanding the bloc.
"I am afraid that the debt crisis in newer euro-zone countries will negatively affect us," he said. "We hope that the authorities respect the admission criteria as we've worked hard to get here."
"It makes sense for Bulgaria to apply, but I worry that at a time of crisis the European Central Bank could postpone the application on a technical point because they want to consolidate," Ivo Prokopiev, chairman of industry group the Confederation of Bulgarian Employers and Industrialists told The Wall Street Journal.
In a separate move likely to be welcomed by markets, Borissov said he would extend the powers of Finance Minister Simeon Dyankov, adding increased supervision of the real economy to his treasury portfolio.
Borissov also made it clear that his Government's efforts to guarantee fiscal discipline were not limitless. "If fiscal discipline is still hitting people really hard in the years ahead, then we'll have to reconsider our approach," he said.