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Macedonia and Bulgaria sign several cooperation deals

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Officials of the governments of Macedonia and Bulgaria signed agreements on cooperation in several spheres as part of a joint session taking place Thursday in Strumica, eastern Macedonia. Ministers of defence of Macedonia and Bulgaria, Radmila Sekerinska and Krasimir Karakachanov respectively, signed a protocol on cooperation to organize training for Macedonian servicemen at military schools in Bulgaria. The document envisages practical training of tank crews in Bulgaria and it also includes other measures to boost defence cooperation. Also, Macedonia and Bulgaria today made the initiative on cutting international roaming charges in telecoms services official by inking a memorandum.A joint platform is expected to facilitate all participants trading electric power. Under the new market procedures, Macedonian traders will joint forces with their Bulgarian partners on daily markets realized by the Bulgarian power distributor on behalf of the two operators. Common markets on the Bulgaria-Macedonia border will contribute to an increase in electricity trade in the region and increase liquidity of national energy stock markets.Joint procedures are a requirement to unite energy stock markets of the Western Balkans and SEE. Bulgartransgaz, natural gas transmission operator of Bulgaria, and the company Macedonian Energy Resources signed a deal on preparing a feasibility study regarding the construction of a new gas inter-system connection.Its signing implements the memorandum between the Ministry of Energy of Bulgaria and the Macedonian Economy Minister, signed on 1 August 2017, to cooperate with respect to natural gas.Furthermore, the cadastre agencies of the two countries signed an agreement to share cartographic and geodetic materials and information.

Sterjovski : Recognising Bulgarians minority is genocide on Macedonians in Albania

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Recognising the Bulgarian minority in Albania is genocide on Macedonians in Albania where there were no Bulgarians, Vasil Sterjovski, general secretary of the Macedonian Alliance for European Integration (MAEI) party in Albania, said in the interview with Tirana-based Tema television.According to him, Bulgarians have been trying for years to artificially present Bulgarian minority in Albania, Kosovo and Greece aimed at avoiding Macedonia with artificial Bulgarian minority and to “prove” that there is no Macedonian nation.Albanian foreign minister at several meetings stated these are the minorities living in Albania and the matter is completed. Even at one of the meetings at the request of the Albanian-Bulgarian Friendship Association, he said that although hundreds of Albanians have Italian passports that does not give Italy the right to claim its minority in Albania. However, under the pressure from Bulgaria and EU’s vetoing Albania, the Albanian authorities yielded to the demands and Bulgarian became the ninth minority in the country.The Macedonian Alliance for European Integration and the Macedonian Association “Ilinden” strongly reacted to this and asked Albanian President Ilir Meta not to sign the bill and to forward it to parliament to be reviewed again.

Bulgaria, Poland Unanimous on Topic of Security

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Speaking at a joint news conference with his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda here on Thursday, Bulgarian President Rumen Radev said that in respect of security, the two countries have “total unanimity that Europe is faced with a number of important challenges from within, as well as from without”. Radev continues his visit to Poland which opened on October 4. Radev said further that as far as the threats facing Europe are concerned: terrorism, addressing the migration crisis, the two heads of State have a clear position that this is a problem which requires a single European solution which should also observe the sovereignty of the individual countries and guarantee their security. Radev thanked Poland for its unconditional support for Bulgaria’s membership in the Schengen Area. “Given that Bulgaria fulfilled all technical requirements back in 2011, we think that Bulgaria not being part of the Schengen Area is unfair”, he said. Radev also thanked Poland for its support through Frontex in the protection of the EU external borders. He noted that it should be clear to all member states that the EU’s external borders are not those of Bulgaria, Greece or Italy, but rather that these are Europe’s common borders so that true solidarity is needed with real actions in support of these countries. The Bulgarian President also thanked for the overall awareness of and support for the management of the migration flows and fighting the smuggling of humans.

Bulgaria, Greece, Romania Back Serbia’s EU Membership

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The prime ministers of Bulgaria, Greece, and Romania have expressed support for Serbia’s bid to join them in the European Union, saying the move would help guarantee regional peace and security. “All of us know that the natural place of Serbia is in the European Union”, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov told reporters after a summit on October 3 in the Black Sea city of Varna. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Romanian Prime Minister Mihai Tudose, and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic also attended the talks, which focused on joint infrastructure projects, economic and energy cooperation, and security issues. Serbia, along with Montenegro, is the Western Balkan country closest to joining the EU, having initiated accession talks with Brussels in 2014. Serbian leader Vucic, a former nationalist, has remade himself as a pro-European Union reformer while at the same time seeking to maintain good relations with traditional ally Russia. Despite the hopes of EU membership, Vucic on October 3 accused the bloc of having a double standard by refusing to accept this week’s Catalan independence referendum while having previously agreed to an independent Kosovo. “We support Spain. It is our friendly country”, Vucic said. “But the European Commission responded in a different way [regarding Kosovo] and it was against my people and my state”.

Bulgaria and Romania open new border crossing in the eastern part of the border.

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Prime Ministers Boyko Borissov of Bulgaria and Mihai Tudose of Romania Tuesday opened a new border crossing between the villages of Kajnardzha and Lipnitsa in the eastern part of the Bulgarian-Romanian border. At the opening, Tudose said that this day was very important because it marked a significant moment for the bilateral ties and was the result of many efforts by the two countries. “The more border checkpoints are opened, the easier it becomes for the population, the business, and tourism on both sides of the border, and the more we get to know each other”, Borissov said. A Kajnardzha-Lipnitsa cross-border road worth over 6 million euro has been constructed under the Bulgaria-Romania Cross-border Cooperation Programme 2007-2013. Later on Tuesday, a joint meeting of the Bulgarian and Romanian governments at the Euxinograd residence in Varna (on the Black Sea) focused on topics of bilateral interest in the sphere of economy and infrastructure, the Government Information Service said. Prime Minister Borissov noted that the traffic between Bulgaria and Romania will become easier and increase through the construction of bridges, including a second bridge between Rousse and Giurgiu, working ferry connections, new border checkpoints, and improvement of the navigation conditions along the Danube. He added that the further development of Pan-European Corridor IV, VII, and X is a prerequisite for the achievement of infrastructural connectedness, including with the Western Balkan countries. In his words, this is of significant importance for competitiveness and growth. Bulgaria and Romania are seeking joint investments for three major infrastructure projects, said Prime Minister Boyko Borissov. Borissov also talked about the EU’s internal security through strengthening its external borders, and underscored the importance of Bulgaria’s and Romania’s quick entry in the Schengen area. He noted the significance of Balkan cooperation within the EU as well as the EU prospects for the countries in this region. Romanian Prime Minister Tudose described the meeting in Varna as very beneficial and said it would remain in the two countries’ history. He said that the two sides agreed to hold joint government meetings regularly. The two delegations adopted a joint declaration on the main topics covered during the plenary sitting.

Labour Ministry to Propose Increase of Guaranteed Minimum Income

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The Labour Ministry will propose an increase of the guaranteed minimum income (GMI) from 65 to 75 lv, Labour Minister Bisser Petkov told journalists on Sunday. He said that the GMI hadn’t been adjusted since 2008 and that some 80 million leva would be needed for the increase. Petkov recalled that the Labour Ministry has proposed an increase of the means tested criteria for entitlement to child benefits to 450 lv from 400 lv. This is done to prevent the exclusion of working families with lower wages from receiving child benefits. Petkov said that a second increase of the minimum contributory pension to 200 leva will increase the incomes of over 820,000 pensioners. From July 1 2018, the increase will be by 3.8 per cent, said the Minister.

Defence Minister Karakachanov: Radicalization Attempts Aimed at Roma Ghettos, Muslim Communities in Rhodope Mountains

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Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Krassimir Karakachanov said here Wednesday that radicalization attempts in Bulgaria are aimed at the Roma ghettos and Bulgarian Muslims in Rhodope mountains, which he described as two communities that have difficult lives. According to him, radicalization efforts are concentrated there, along with funding and the creation of cultural structures. All countries are threatened by radicalization, the Defence Minister noted. Karakachanov believes that the Higher Islamic Institute in Bulgaria should be licensed and teach according to a programme approved by the Education Ministry. Each Bulgarian citizen who has graduated abroad must be licensed by the Education Ministry before they are allowed to teach, he said. The Defence Minister explained that legislative proposals are drafted concerning matters of religious financing and teachers of theology. It is not right for young people who have studied for eight to ten years at private Islamic universities, located in countries where the official religion is Wahhabism, to come to Bulgaria and start working at the Chief Mufti’s Office or mosques, he commented.

Brussels will Check Bulgaria’s Progress in Judicial Reform

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The European Commission’s Expert Mission on the Co-operation and Evaluation Mechanism begins work today in Sofia, reported BGNES. The mission will last for three days and includes meetings with representatives of the legislative, executive and judicial authorities as well as independent control bodies. Euroexperts are in the Bulgarian capital for the preparation of the Annual Progress Report. This time, the report is expected to be released earlier, not as usual on the last Wednesday of January. The reason – the EC does not want to make recommendations with regard to a Member State which is at the same time President of the Council of the European Union, and Bulgaria becomes one on January 1, 2018 for a period of six months. The EC Commission report, which will be announced by the end of 2017, may also be one of the last, according to EC Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s announcements that at the end of the mandate of this Commission, the so- called “monitoring mechanism” for Bulgaria and Romania will be terminated and replaced by a common monitoring that will apply to all EU Member States.

President Radev Meets with Bulgarians in Chicago

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Bulgaria needs new strategic investors to help transform the business climate in the country, Bulgarian President Rumen Radev said at a meeting with Bulgarians who work for global companies operating in Chicago’s financial city, his press secretariat reported Sunday. In Radev’s words, advertising Bulgaria to the would-be investors should not rely on low labour costs but rather on the quality of human capital, and this requires that the connections between the educational and research institutions and business be strengthened. “Unless they see the opportunities for their career development in Bulgaria, the people will continue leaving the country,” the President noted, quoted by his press secretariat. No institution alone can make Bulgarians abroad return to their homeland: this requires national efforts and the whole society’s responsibility into turning the country into a much more attractive place to live, Radev also said. Earlier in the day, Radev visited the John Atanassov Bulgarian school in Chicago. He thanked the US authorities, the teachers and the Bulgarian community in Chicago for their efforts to preserve the Bulgarian language in the city, and awarded Boyanka Mladenova with the Bulgarian President’s Badge of Honour.

Prime Ministers of Bulgaria, Poland Speak against Two-Speed Europe

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“The European Union should stay united and avoid moving at two speeds”, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo told a news briefing after their meeting here on Wednesday. Polish Prime Minister Szydlo commended Bulgaria for the efficient controls of the EU border and said that the country is fully prepared to access the Schengen area. Szydlo went on to say that Bulgaria and Poland had a lot of things in common, among which a belief that unity should be the foundation to the future of the EU. “We believe that some countries are trying to divide Europe for the sake of their interests but we think that unity is key”, said Szydlo. For his part, Borissov said Bulgaria managed to protect its border at the cost of 160 million euro in EU aid, while other countries had received billions without much result. Borissov said that Bulgaria is honouring its commitments to NATO. He added that the issue of sanctions against Russia may be raised during the Bulgarian presidency of the Council of the EU and that a solution should be found in a calm and pragmatic manner. Borissov said Polish Prime Minister Szydlo and he discussed the future of the mining industry and large combustion plants which are threatened by an upcoming adoption of an EU directive. The two countries will put up an united front on the issue of mining and energy, said Szydlo.

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