Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte started today his visit in Sofia, and expressed his support for Bulgaria to join the Schengen Area, but added that the country needs more work to achieve this aim. Netherlands is one of the most insisting opponent countries for Bulgaria and Romania to join the Schengen Area. Borissov told that he believes “we will persuade the Dutch parliament to support us about Schengen”.
Bulgarian President Radev vetoed a bill intended to change the rules for establishing the status of lands designated for agricultural use. The bill modified also some sections of the Farmland Protection Act on the rules for the status of farmlands. As a motivation, the Presidency explained that “these regulatory changes will stimulate farmland owners to change their status and, for a prolonged period of time, not carry out any development, waiting for a convenient moment of investor interest”.
Joachim Herrmann, Bavarian Interior Minister, announced that he does not want Bulgaria to be part of Schengen Area. He would rather to introduce Bulgaria together with Romania in the area in the long term, but for the moment is “out of the question”. He explained that “it is still dangerous to accept Bulgaria because of the high level of corruption and its big problems with organized crime”.
Plovdiv’s journalist Kamelia Dimitrova told at the National Commission for Combating Trafficking of People in 2017 that 197 where the victims of human trafficking during the year in Bulgaria, due principally to sexual and labor exploitation. In December the Commission voted a National Anti-Trafficking Program to improve the coordination with NGOs to protect victims.
The Risk Analysis for Variants of the Belene NPP projects concluded that it is not possible to implement a nuclear project, such as the Belene NPP, without the contribution of the state. They strongly recommend to the Bulgarian government to reconsider their non-participation in this project.
Interior Minister Valentin Radev visited Athens, Greece, on Friday, and met with Greek Minister for Immigration Mouzalas and EU Commissioner for Migration Avramopoulos. He congratulated with the efforts achieved by Greece, and added that “in the field of home affairs, the Bulgarian EU Presidency aims to achieve more efficient management of migration and asylum processes and a balance between responsibility and solidarity”.
The non-governmental organization Freedom House published its annual ranking of freedom in countries. Bulgaria places itself among the free states, but the freedom of the media is ranked as “partially free”.
During a joint conference European Commission President Juncker and Bulgarian Prime Minister Borissov discussed the priorities of the Bulgaria’s EU Presidency semester. They agreed on the aim of a higher connection between Western Balkans and the rest of Europe. Juncker, concerning Bulgaria, showed himself pleased by the progresses achieved in the economy, but that there is still some work to do in order to join the ERM-2. About Turkey, he stated that of course an attempt should be made to normalize relations, but that progress will not be achieved until there are journalists in Turkish prisons.
In Bulgaria only 57175 babies were born in 2017, as the Birth Information System of the Ministry of Health reported. The majority of the born ones focused in Sofia and Plovdiv, but generally the rate was very low, signing a bad record since 1945. In 2016 64884 babies were born (about -12%).
The Macedonian, Bulgarian Defense Ministers and Albanian Deputy DM, Radmila Sekerinska, Krasimir Karakachanov and Petro Kochi respectively, discussed Friday in Ohrid on possibilities for fostering the cooperation in the sphere of defense.Today we have expressed political will to strengthen our cooperation in defense and our teams will begin to prepare plans for 2018, Sekerinska said after the meeting, which ‘voiced strong support for the Alliance’s open door policy and Macedonia’s full-fledged NATO membership.’ The closer cooperation between Bulgaria, Macedonia and Albania doesn’t cover only the economic cooperation with respect to Corridor 8, but may also be extended to the sphere of defense, Karakachanov said.Kochi said that Albania and Bulgaria would be staunch advocates for Macedonia to join NATO as soon as possible, as the membership status is significant not only to the citizens of the country, but also to the region as a whole.