Press – Review – News


Sofia, October 22 (BTA)

HIGHLIGHTS

“Douma”: Under the headline “US Moves Tanks from Germany to Bulgaria”, the Left Daily leads on a report sourced to the TASS News Agency, quoting US Defence Secretary Mark Esper as saying at the Atlantic Council in Washington: “My recent meetings with the Defence Ministers from Romania and Bulgaria, and correspondence received from Baltic States, there is now the real opportunity of keeping the 2nd Cavalry Regiment forward in some of these countries on an enduring basis.” The story continues on an inside page under the title “Pentagon Plans Combat Units in Bulgaria against Russia”.

“Troud”: The National Revenue Agency said in an opinion on the amendments to the Value Added Tax Act, which cut the VAT rate for the use of sports facilities to 9 per cent, effective between August 1, 2020 and December 31, 2021, that using swimming pools for recreation and entertainment should be taxed 20 per cent, whereas using pools for sports and fitness purposes should be taxed 9 per cent. The same criterion applies to gyms, spas, ski lifts, etc.

“24 Chassa”: According to a proposed amendment to the Social Insurance Code in the 2021 Public Social Insurance Bill, over 120,000 Bulgarians who retired because they reached the required age but not the required contributory service will no longer benefit from a lifelong invalidity pension or supplement in addition to their regular pension. As from January 1, 2021, the lowest monthly invalidity pension will be increased to 255 leva (for 50 to 70.99 per cent disability) from 212.50 leva now. Those disabled between 71 and 90 per cent will be paid a pension of 315 leva (up from 262.50 leva now), and those with permanent disability of over 90 per cent will get 345 leva (compared to 287.50 leva now).

“Monitor”: Twelve of Bulgaria’s 28 administrative regions do not have any virologists, and another eight regions have one virologist each. There are no immunologists in 20 regions and one each in four regions. The distribution is grossly uneven: a total of 27 virologists and 31 immunologists are registered in Sofia. Out of a total of 421 pulmonologists, 126 (one in four) practise in Sofia. This country has fewer than 500 practising specialists in infectious diseases, of whom 47 are in Sofia. The daily found the figures in a national register maintained by the Bulgarian Medical Association and describes them as a “deplorable picture amidst the coronavirus pandemic”.

“Telegraph”: A draft revision to the Act on the Measures and Actions during the State of Emergency Declared by a Resolution of the National Assembly of 13 March 2020 and on Addressing the Consequences, tabled by GERB Deputy Floor Leader Krassimir Tsipov, will extend by six more months the validity of the identity cards and passports expiring between March 13 and October 31, 2020 until January 31, 2021. The extension will not apply to the expiring driving licences. A total of 381,000 identity cards and 181,000 passports were issued between June and August, and over 303,000 cards and 110,000 passports will expire between November 2020 and January 2021. Bulgarian citizens’ expired ID documents are accepted in all EU Member States and several others, a total of 48 countries.

POLITICS

In “Douma”, Valentin Georgiev comments on the Partnership Agreement submitted to Brussels by the Bulgarian Government which, as the author put its, is in stark contrast to Boyko Borissov’s and GERB’s daily bragging of stunning successes, presents Bulgaria as a “backward, poor and troubled in a number of areas, including in Borissov favourite road construction.” The idea is to move the European Commission by the dramatic condition of a number of sectors in this country so as to justify the need of the 9.7 billion euro that Europe is supposed to funnel here in the 2021-2027 period.

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In its coverage, “24 Chassa” points out that the Three Seas Initiative (TSI) Summit that President Rumen Radev will host in October 2021 – a major international event involving 11 heads of State plus a US president or vice president, will give him an attractive PR boost in the last days of his first term in office and at the end of his re-election campaign (if any). The paper assumes that this was why Radev headed for Tallinn together with his wife and 33 businessmen and journalists despite being warned about having had a close contact with the COVID-infected Air Force Commander. Cabinet members tried to persuade him to attend online, as did his counterparts of nine TSI countries. The daily explains in a box that the TSI is a US project intended to help 12 Eastern European countries get rid of their mainly energy dependencies on Russia and build an infrastructure of their own.

Interviewed by “24 Chassa”, journalist Kalina Androlova says that the President showed “his typical flagrant irresponsibility” when he did not disclose that he had been in contact with an infected person, when he started a street war ignoring its future implications, and when he said that Borissov was scaring the anti-government protesters with the virus. Asked why he did not attend online, the interviewee says that “Radev’s ego has always overridden the public interest”. “Radev has rudely dedicated himself to dividing the nation. He obstructs the Cabinet’s efforts to cope with the hazard, he sabotages its decisions and eggs on the crowd. But he will definitely lose because people refuse to accept a policy of hate,” Androlova argues.   

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“24 Chassa” has interviewed Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) Election Campaign Headquarters Chair Georgi Svilenski, who says it is too early to say whether the BSP will back Radev for a second term and that it is unclear whether he will run or will start a party of his own. Svilenski says that if the Presidents sets up a party, this will be a big mistake because he cannot possibly offer a better alternative than the BSP. Pressed by the interviewer, the BSP functionary is noncommittal about his party’s possible pre-election and post-election coalition partners.

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In a page-long item contributed to “Troud”, Assoc. Prof. Dr Spas Tashev of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences analyzes the snares in the language dispute between Bulgaria and North Macedonia. Tashev notes that at present one and the same language is referred to by two names. If Bulgaria unconditionally recognizes Skopje’s modern codified language, this will result in a paradox of those who identify as Bulgarians in North Macedonia speaking Macedonian, which would be tantamount to their yet another spiritual murder with Bulgaria’s assistance, the author argues.

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“24 Chassa” dismisses the TASS report about the relocation of a US regiment to Bulgaria as “the latest in a series of hybrid attacks intended to inflame the Russophile moods in Bulgaria”.  A source in the Bulgarian military intelligence described as “an active measure of GRU. “There is a real opportunity to relocate the 2nd Cavalry Regiment or parts of it to Poland as part of beefing up the US military presence in that country, US Defence Secretary Mike [sic] Esper actually announced on Wednesday,” the daily writes, specifying that a cavalry regiment in the US is equivalent to a mechanized infantry regiment in Bulgaria. Washington and Warsaw agreed on an increase of the numerical strength of US troops in Poland from 4,500 to 5,500 at Poland’s request.  

COVID-19

All papers cover an order issued by Health Minister Kostadin Angelov extending mandatory mask wearing to outdoor public spaces as from Thursday. Prime Minister Boyko Borissov specified that mask wearing will be optional for uncrowded settings.

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Kouzman Iliev comments in “Troud” that Bulgaria should keep its more liberal restrictions and not yield to external pressure and panic to tighten the measures because the economic, social and political impact will be far graver in this relatively poorer country.

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“24 Chassa” reports that Volya MP Simeon Naydenov has tested positive for coronavirus. He is the fifth National Representative to get infected since the onset of the pandemic, after Daniela Daritkova, Daniela Maleshkova, Hasan Ademov and Nikolay Tsonkov.

SOCIAL POLICY

Nearly half of Bulgaria’s 2,118,000 pensioners will get a 300 leva minimum monthly pension as from January 1, 2021, “Monitor” reports, citing information from the National Social Security Institute (NSSI). Both the minimum and the maximum pensions will be increased by 20 per cent, the maximum becoming 1,440 leva compared to 1,200 now. The maximum monthly contributory income will be unchanged at 3,000 leva. The NSSI will spend 12.8 billion leva of its 15 billion leva budget on pensions next year. “Telegraph” also covers the story.

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Sofia will have 67 new kindergartens by 2023. Twelve new buildings are being constructed and four other are being extended. There are plans to start 31 new buildings in 2021 and 24 in 2022-2023, “Troud” reports, quoting Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandakova. Currently, there are 278 kindergarten in the capital city, and 2,281 kids are on the waiting list for a kindergarten and 6,644 for a creche. “Douma”, “24 Chassa”, “Telegraph” and “Monitor” also cover the story. The latter quotes Fandakova as saying that there were 34,000 places in Sofia’s kindergartens in 2006 and 49,000 in 2018,

CULTURE

“Troud” carries a large interview with Turkish journalist and writer Vercihan Ziflioglu, whose book exploring and describing the dwindling Bulgarian diaspora in Istanbul was press-launched a month ago. The book is entitled “‘The Children of Lost Times & Istanbulite Bulgarians”.

MEDIA

“24 Chassa” reports that Bulgarian National Radio Director (BNR) General Andon Baldakov has tendered his resignation to the Council for Economic Media (CEM). His move was actually prompted by a bill amending the Radio and Television Act regulating the financing and management of the public service media, which is being submitted to public consultation. Baldakov said that this draft, reported by Culture Minister Boil Banov, was not approved by the working group but is passed over as approved by the BNR, which he describes as “absolutely arrogant and brazen manipulation” that he cannot tolerate. “Troud” quotes Baldakov as explaining on BNR: “I am shocked by the lack of a governance will for a revision of the Bulgarian regulatory framework to guarantee a public Bulgarian National Radio that is independent and completely free of political interferences.” CEM Chair Betina Joteva told “24 Chassa”: “I hope he will reconsider and withdraw his resignation”. Baldakov was elected director general on January 22, 2020 and wants to quit on November 1. “Telegraph” also covers the story.

 

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