The Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov has set out the four priorities for the Balkan country’s presidency of the European Council.
The Azerbaijani energy company SOCAR has expressed an interest in investing in the Bulgarian gas transmission network. The news was reported by Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev himself on the occasion of a visit by the Prime Minister of Bulgaria Boyko Borissov to the central Asian country.
Bulgaria’s Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov has suggested that the Balkan country is ready to join the eurozone, and that it will take its first steps along the road to adopting the single currency this summer. Mr Goranov told assembled journalists in Sofia on January 11 that Bulgaria will “most likely apply in the first semester” to join the EU Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM II), the successor to ERM which helps non euro-area countries prepare themselves for participation in the euro area. The convergence criterion on exchange rate stability requires participation in ERM II.
When discussing entrepreneurship and start-ups in Europe, Sofia, let alone Bulgaria, is not among the usual destinations that gets mentioned. And yet surprisingly enough, the country that joined the European Union eleven years ago and currently holds its first ever Presidency of the Council of the European Union, is now proud of an emerging start-up ecosystem that is now spreading from its capital city of 1.3 million people to some other major cities.
Bulgaria took over the rotating presidency of the European Council from Estonia on January 1. “Bulgaria takes charge of the EU presidency at a key moment for the union,” said Prime Minister Boyko Borisov. “May the slogan ‘strength in unity’ guide us. I am confident that we shall work with success on our priorities, on continuity.” Continue reading Bulgaria Takes on EU Presidency
Plans to create one of Europe’s largest ski areas in the mountains above the Bulgarian town of Bansko moved closer to reality on December 28 when the country’s government approved a new management plan for Pirin National Park. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) the new management plan may eventually allow construction in up to 48 per cent of the park, a World Heritage site home to bears, chamois, wolves and centuries old pine forests. The decision, announced a few days before Bulgaria takes over the Presidency of the European Council, came a day after the closure of a public consultation on the proposed changes, but makes no mention of the consultation’s outcome.
The European Commission begins sanction proceedings against Poland for its attacks on the rule of law, Hungary declares to fight Poland’s corner and all of a sudden Brexit is a forgotten, minor skirmish on the fringes of the European Union. In Romania the ruling coalition appears hell bent on creating the EU’s first criminal-centric state, as it passes law after law which not only impact the independence of the justice system but also dismantle so many parts of the penal code that – according to one prosecutor – it will become “just about impossible to convict anyone of anything.” Even Bulgaria, which assumes the presidency of the European Council on January 1, 2018, was – along with Poland, Hungary and Romania – the subject of a scathing critique in the Financial Times in December which stated that all four countries posed a real threat to democratic principles and were doing too little to combat corruption.
A major new report carried out by See News for the Sofia Investment Agency shows that more than one in five Bulgarian workers is employed in Sofia. The unemployment rate in the capital has decreased by almost a third over the past four years and is now just 3.8 per cent, well below the national average of 6.2 per cent. Sofia also accounts for a staggering 40 per cent of Bulgaria’s total GDP, and is currently enjoying growth of 7.7 per cent. Growth for Bulgaria as a whole is less than half of that, albeit at a still impressive 3.4 per cent. In 2016, 52 per cent of all foreign direct investment to Bulgaria went to Sofia.
In November 2016, Bulgarian opposition Socialist, Rumen Radev, won the presidential election, defeating the centre-right speaker of parliament, Tsetska Tsacheva, an ally of Prime Minister, Boyko Borissov. The PM had pledged to step down if his candidate lost, and he did thus triggering an early election.
Larisa Manastirli, Director for Bulgaria at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), which is a leading investor in the Bulgarian economy, spoke to Andrew Wrobel, about the reforms the country has introduced and the improvements that are still required, ten years after Bulgaria joined the European Union. Continue reading Larisa Manastirli: Where is Bulgaria After Ten Years in the EU?