Bulgaria

Bulgarian steel workers launch new protest

BulgariaSofia  - Workers at the Kremikovtzi steel mill in Bulgaria launched a further protest Monday, demanding backlogged salaries and a programme to save the company from liquidation.

Apart from salaries unpaid since July, labour unions want the state, which holds a 25-per cent stake in the bankrupt mill and holds most of its liabilities, to step in and save it from liquidation.

The majority-71-per-cent stake belongs to Pramod Mittal, the brother of the Indian-born steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal.

Hungary, Bulgaria and South Korea to pull out of Iraq

Hungary, Bulgaria and South Korea to pull out of Iraq Baghdad - Hungary, Bulgaria and South Korea will each withdraw their troops from Iraq by the end of 2008, a spokesman for Iraq's Ministry of Defence told the Voices of Iraq news agency on Friday.

The troops will leave after finishing their tour of duty, said spokesman Mohamed al-Askary adding that most of the soldiers duties were "humanitarian."

Bulgarian Minister of Defence Teodor Melescanu was quoted by US media as saying some Bulgarian personnel would stay in Iraq to work as advisors to the Iraqi national authorities.

Protesting Bulgarian farmers block highways

Bulgaria farmersSofia - Some 3,000 Bulgarian farmers on Thursday blocked several key highways in protest against the government's agricultural policy, the national radio said.

Grain producers, joining the months-long protest of dairy farmers, are demanding subsidies which they claim the state owes them and are demanding more money than what is planned in the 2009 draft budget.

They also are demanding the resignation of Agriculture Minister Valeriy Cvetanov, saying he did not meet promises he made.

Bulgaria's top diplomat hints at Iraq pullout

Sofia - Bulgaria would consider a pullout of its troops from the international military contingent in Iraq, Foreign Minister Ivaylo Kalfin was quoted as saying Thursday.

"We are analyzing our presence (in Iraq), but believe that our mission is largely accomplished," Kalfin told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday.

It was not the first time the pullout is discussed in Sofia - Socialist Premier Sergey Stanishev promised to end the unpopular mission in Iraq already in his election campaign in 2005.

Despite Stanishev's pledge and the 13 casualties suffered in what many Bulgarians feel is not their war, Bulgaria remained among the staunch European supporters of US policy in Iraq and has kept its troops there since August 2003.

Bulgaria's top diplomat hints at Iraq pullout

Sofia, BulgariaSofia - Bulgaria would consider a pullout of its troops from the international military contingent in Iraq, Foreign Minister Ivaylo Kalfin was quoted as saying Thursday.

"We are analyzing our presence (in Iraq), but believe that our mission is largely accomplished," Kalfin told reporters after a ministerial meeting in Brussels on Wednesday.

Bulgaria: US to remain global leader under Obama

BulgariaSofia  - Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov on Wednesday expressed confidence the United States would remain the "leader in building and strengthening of a peaceful and prosperous world" under Barack Obama's presidency.

"I and the Bulgarian nation congratulate your election as president of the US and wish you success in the highly responsible mission of heading a great country ... a major player in the world's arena," Parvanov said in a statement.

Bulgaria offers troubled mill to India-born magnate Lakshmi Mittal

Sofia - The Bulgarian government on Thursday invited the world's largest steel concern, Arcelormittal, to take over the troubled Kremikowtzi mill.

"It is one of the world's best-known enterprises," Economy and Energy Minister Petar Dimitrov said, announcing the decision to call in the company of the India-born billionaire Lakshmi Mittal.

Lakshmi's younger brother, Pramod, already owns the majority stake

in the debt-ridden Kremikovtzi mill, near the capital Sofia, which went bankrupt in August.

Dimitrov said however that the government is negotiating the sale of its 25-per cent stake in Kremikovtzi with "other domestic and foreign candidates."

Bulgarian archaeologists unearth millenia-old 1.5-metre golden chain

Sofia, BulgariaSofia - Bulgarian archaeologists have discovered a large gold chain made 4,000-6,000 years ago, in the Bronze Age, media reports said Tuesday.

The 1.5-metre chain, made of 320 links, was found along with gold and silver artefacts in a grave in southern Bulgaria.

The find may shed more light on the ancient period of which there is very little knowledge, the head of Bulgaria's National Historic Museum said. (dpa)

Fuel retailer launches Bulgaria's fourth mobile operator

Fuel retailer launches Bulgaria's fourth mobile operator Sofia - The Bulgarian fuel retailer Petrol would become the Balkan country's fourth mobile phone operator this week, it said in a statement Monday.

The Petrol mobile service, which the company would run alongside its core business of operating petrol stations, is set to launch on Wednesday.

Using the network of the largest operator, M-Tel, Petrol would offer pre-paid packages for the low-income segment of the market - students, pensioners and the economically challenged.

Fuel retailer launches Bulgaria's fourth mobile operator

Sofia  - The Bulgarian fuel retailer Petrol would become the Balkan country's fourth mobile phone operator this week, it said in a statement Monday.

The Petrol mobile service, which the company would run alongside its core business of operating petrol stations, is set to launch on Wednesday.

Using the network of the largest operator, M-Tel, Petrol would offer pre-paid packages for the low-income segment of the market - students, pensioners and the economically challenged.

Also offering mobile phone services to the 7.6 million Bulgarians are companies Global and VivaTel. The overall market coverage is estimated at 130 per cent, as many use several numbers or operators. (dpa)

Foreign investments drop in Bulgaria amid global crisis

Sofia, BulgariaSofia - Foreign investments in Bulgaria have dropped at a rate of 7-8 per cent owing to the global financial crisis, an economic expert said Monday citing raw data.

Foreign investments in first eight months of 2008 totalled 1 billion euros (1.35 billion dollars) less than in the corresponding period in 2007, the head of the Centre for Liberal Strategies, Georgi Ganev, told Darik Radio.

Stressing the figures were "preliminary," without the seasonal factor included, Genev said "the final drop would be around half a billion euros, or 7-8 per cent, from the 6 billion in 2007.

Bulgaria launches first trial for abuse of EU funds

BulgariaSofia  - A Bulgarian court on Monday launched a trial against 9 people accused of embezzling millions from European Union aid funds.

The defendants were accused of stealing 14 million leva (9.6 million dollars) from funds made available to Bulgaria by the EU as part of the SAPARD (Special Accession Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development) programme.

The defendants allegedly imported used machinery for meat processing, but forged documents so the machines could be registered as new. The EU fund was drawn upon for the cost of new equipment, with the defendants allegedly pocketing the difference.

Trial starts in Bulgaria against 9 persons for embezzling millions from EU Aid Funds

Sofia - A Bulgarian court on Monday launched a trial against 9 people accused of embezzling millions from European Union aid funds.

The defendants were accused of stealing 14 million leva (9.6 million dollars) from funds made available to Bulgaria by the EU as part of the SAPARD (Special Accession Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development) programme.

The defendants allegedly imported used machinery for meat processing, but forged documents so the machines could be registered as new. The EU fund was drawn upon for the cost of new equipment, with the defendants allegedly pocketing the difference.

Bulgaria passes overdue law on conflicts of interest

BulgariaSofia  - Almost two years after joining the European Union, Bulgaria has passed legislation designed to control conflicts in interest for politicians and officials.

The law was passed Thursday by Bulgaria's parliament. It requires that Bulgaria's president, legislators and administration members, as well as mayors and judges, provide regular declarations on possible conflicts of interest. Those declarations would be available online.

Bulgaria has recently been focused on increasing transparency and fighting corruption. Brussels has repeatedly called Bulgaria out for insufficient corruption fighting measures since it joined the EU in 2007. (dpa)

Bulgaria overshoots annual inflation target rate in September

Sofia, BulgariaSofia - Bulgarian retail prices went up by 1.1 per cent in September, dragging the inflation rate to 7.4 per since the start of 2008 and overshooting the annual target with only three-quarters of the year gone, the National Statistical INstitute said Monday.

The 2008 budget was based on a projected rate of 6.9 per cent annual inflation rate, following 12.7 per cent in 2007, Bulgaria's first year in the European Union.

With the latest jump in September, following a slow-down in August, the year-on-year inflation rate in Bulgaria was 11.0 per cent. (dpa)

Bulgaria raises guarantees for savings to 50,000 euros

Sofia, BulgariaSofia  - Bulgaria will raise guarantees for bank deposits from 20,000 to 50,000 euros (27,200-68,100 dollars), Prime MInister Sergei Stanishev said Thursday.

The decision to provide state guarantees for larger amounts in savings was made this week by the European Union to suppress panic as a crippling financial crisis spreads globally from the United States.

Stanishev stressed that there was no cause for concern in Bulgaria, where most banks are owned by large EU banks.

"Not a single bank has so far encountered problems and there is no immediate reason to intervene," said the Socialist premier. (dpa)

EU reprimands Italy, Bulgaria, Romania over emergency number

Eurpeon Union LogoBrussels - The European Commission on Thursday opened legal proceedings against Italy over its failure to fully implement the European Union's common emergency phone number - 112.

The EU executive, in its role of guardian of the bloc's treaties, also referred Bulgaria and Romania to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for similar failures.

Bulgarian prime minister stuck in cable car

Bulgarian prime minister stuck in cable car Sofia - Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev was stuck for 40 minutes in a controversial new cable car system Wednesday, Bulgarian media reported.

A power cut left the car he was travelling in stranded 30 metres above the ground before eventually being lowered to safety at the Bodrost-Kartala resort in the Rila Mountains.

The resort has been modernized with state aid - but to the objections of ecologists claiming construction of the cable car system violated environment-protection regulations. (dpa)

Bulgarian inflation slows, but still threatens annual target

Sofia - The retail prices inflation in Bulgaria slowed to 0.1 per cent in August, reaching 6.3 per cent since the start of the year, the National Statistical Institute said Friday.

Despite the seasonal easing of inflation the rate almost reached the annual target of 6.9 per cent projected by the 2008 budget. Year- on-year, the inflation rate was 11.2 per cent in August. (dpa)

Bulgaria launches work on new nuclear power plant

Sofia  - The Bulgarian government Wednesday launched the construction of the nuclear power plant at Belene, which Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev described as the "largest project in the last 18 years."

The 5.8-billion-dollar plant with two 1,000 megawatt generators is being built on the Danube 220 kilometres northeast of Sofia. Bulgaria already runs the Russian-built Kosloduy plant some 100 kilometres upstream of Belene.

Bulgaria, a member of the European Union since 2007, awarded the Belene project to the Russian firm Atomexportstroy in late 2006. French and German giants Areva and Siemens were hired as sub- contractors in the project.

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