Tag Archives: Bulgaria

Bulgaria abandons passport for investment practice

Bulgaria plans to end practice offering wealthy foreigners to obtain citizenship against investment, the justice ministry said on the 22 of January,  adding the scheme had failed to bring any significant economic benefits.

The legal changes come a day after the media reports about the European Commission plans to warn against such an application schemes, which could be used by foreign organized crime groups to infiltrate the EU. It also increases the risk of money laundering, emblazonment, corruption and tax evasion.

Bulgaria is one of three EU countries, along with Cyprus and Malta, that currently grant citizenship against investment. The other 20 member states, including these three, also offer the resident permits on similar conditions.

EU warns against “selling passports” to wealthy

The European Commission will warn against selling the EU citizenship or residence to wealthy individuals, which could help foreign organized crime groups infiltrate the bloc and increase the risk of money laundering, corruption and tax evasion.

The warnings are included in a draft report that is expected to be published on January 23 by the European Union’s executive, according to Reuters.

Although individuals who purchase citizenship and residence in EU states can do it for legitimate reasons, the commission said the schemes posed “risks of infiltration of non-EU organized crime groups in the economy, money laundering, corruption and tax evasion.”

Malta (pictured), Cyprus and Bulgaria are the countries practicing attraction of wealth in exchange of the citizenship.

The issue of granting EU citizenship is regularity under fire of criticism, while countries issue passports to individuals in spite of their criminal records.

Matera and Plovdiv starring as EU capitals of culture

Plovdiv is the first ever Bulgarian city to be chosen as European Capital of Culture. With a full programme under the motto “Together”, 2019 will bring new opportunities to the region and international visibility for the city. More than 300 projects have been organised in Plovdiv, as well as the South Central Region of Bulgaria, and the cities of Varna, Sofia and Veliko Tarnovo, including festivals and community-based projects, structured around themes linked to the characteristic features of Plovdiv, its history, cultural heritage, as well as the challenges facing the city.

From discovering the Cyrillic alphabet through various exhibitions, to joint theatre productions with the Western Balkans and the Roma and Turkish communities, visitors will have an array of activities to participate in. The opening celebrations will take place from 11 – 13 January, with a series of indoor and outdoor events, including a music, light and dance performance on the evening of 12 January.  Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel will attend the official opening ceremony on 12 January.

plovdiv

“The programmes for Plovdiv and Matera show how these cities envisage both their own future and that of Europe, whilst celebrating their extraordinary centuries-old heritage, – European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Tibor Navracsics, said. “The European Capital of Culture initiative brings people together and highlights the role of culture in building a European identity. Both cities will help ensure a long-term impact of last year’s successful European Year of Cultural Heritage, which has demonstrated how culture can transform our cities and regions for the better. I wish Plovdiv and Matera every success in the coming year.”

The programme for Matera has been organised under the motto “Open Future”, and will have a special focus on social and cultural inclusion and collaborative innovation. Highlights include “Ars Excavandi”, a contemporary look at the history and culture of subterranean architecture; “Re-reading Renaissance”, a journey through the artistic past of Basilicata and Apulia; and “Poetry of primes”, an exhibition on the central role of mathematics in the work of artists throughout the ages. Matera will also stage the first open-air performance of the opera Cavalleria Rusticana in co-operation with Teatro San Carlo, as well as 27 projects developed with local creative communities and partners from Europe. The opening celebrations will take place on 19 and 20 January and will gather 2,000 musicians from all the villages of the Basilicata region and many other parts of Europe. Commissioner Navracsics will attend the official opening ceremony on 19 January.

Holding the title of European Capital of Culture is also an excellent opportunity for the cities to change their image, put themselves on the world map, attract more tourists and rethink their development through culture. The title has a long-term impact, not only on culture but also in social and economic terms, both for the city and the region.

Homer times shipwreck discovery

Probably the oldest shipwreck in the world ever found by man it is lying on the seabed of the Black Sea for 2400 years, practically intact off Bulgarian coast.

A 23 meters long vessel, used for trade and originally from classical Greece has been discovered by a team of archaeologists led by the British Joe Adams in the framework of a fascinating submarine research program called Black Sea Maritime Archeology Project.

The shipwreck is located at about 2000 meters below sea level – and for the time being intended to remain there -, is complete with tree, rudder and posts for the rowers. And its exceptional state of conservation is due to the conditions of lack of oxygen at that depth, as well as to the particular habitat of a closed and prehistoric basin such as the Black Sea.

A surviving shipwreck intact from the classical era, at 2 km of depth, it’s something I never thought possible to see,” Professor Adams told. “This is a discovery that will change our knowledge and our compression of shipbuilding and maritime activities in the ancient world“, he added.

A carbon 14 test was also carried out by researchers from the UK University of Southampton who were able to analyze small pieces of the wreck delivered to the surface. And this examination also confirmed the estimated age of about 2400 years.

The shipwreck is believed to represent the vessel of Ulysses at the time of the meeting with the Sirens narrated poetically by Homer in the Odyssey. However, Adams has confirmed that his ‘ship of Ulysses‘ will not see the light for now.

The team said their findings varied in age from a “17th-century Cossack raiding fleet, through Roman trading vessels, complete with amphorae, to a complete ship from the classical period”.

Sofia Summit: EU ‘waiting room ticket’ for Western Balkans

Aleksandar Mitić, OPINION

Eighteen years ago, as AFP correspondent, I attended the first EU-Western Balkans Summit, held in Zagreb in 2000. Enthusiasm and talk of fast entry into the EU dominated after the era of conflict in the 1990s. Almost two decades later, however, we are still talking about “European perspectives”, while EU investment in the region and its infrastructure is rather low, political conditionality has been toughened and enlargement fatigue in Western European countries has grown dramatically.

The official position of the European Commission is that the proposal for the new EU budget 2021-2027 does not include funds for new EU members, but that it includes an increase for the candidate states in the form of the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA). Although the European Commission has mechanisms to make amendments to the budget in case a country becomes an EU member in the meantime, the political message is quite clear: new EU memberships in the following period are quite unlikely. It means that the EU expects candidate states to stay longer in the “waiting room” – which is a perfect status from the point of view of EU and its member countries: the funds they have to give for candidate states are much smaller than if these countries become EU member states, while at the same time, the candidate states are much more vulnerable to EU political conditionality. In other terms, for the EU, having countries for a long period of time in pre-accession rather than becoming members means using a “powerful stick” with a “cheap carrot”. This is particularly important for policy towards countries such as Serbia or Turkey, which path into the EU is made extremely difficult by political conditionality.

The European Commission presented in February its “Enlargement Strategy”, which should be the backbone of the Summit in Sofia. Yet, this document is extremely weak and bland. It is also a document of the European Commission only, since the EU member states have been divided over it and have not given their approval. The EU is extremely divided over enlargement in general. Germany, France, the Netherlands are all against giving promises for the 2025 membership. Those most welcoming are countries of Eastern Europe, which still have openness for new members due to their own recent membership. But, it is clear that with German and French opposition, 2025 looks like a mirage.

French President Emmanuel Macron recently said he was against further enlargement before further strengthening of the EU core and of the current structures. He thus “killed” the EU enlargement strategy, at least its 2025 prospects.

Furthermore, when we look at the European Commission document itself, it is, for example for Serbia, an extremely negative document. Yes, it gives the possibility of the 2025 date, but at what cost? The document is tougher on Serbia than previous EU positions as it asks Serbia for an urgent signing of the legally-binding agreement with Kosovo Albanian separatists which would allow for an “independent Kosovo” to become an UN member. It is also calling for fast harmonization of Serbia’s foreign policy with the EU, which means imposing sanctions on Russia, something that Belgrade has said it would never do.

Dr.Aleksandar Mitić, President of the Center for Strategic Alternatives, Belgrade

Sofia hosts Western Balkans Summit

The EU – Western Balkans Summit will take at the National Palace of Culture in Sofia, Bulgaria, on 17 May. It will bring together heads of state or government of EU member states with the Western Balkans partners: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Kosovo.

The meeting will be hosted by Boyko Borissov, Prime Minister of Bulgaria, which currently holds the Presidency of the Council. It will by chaired by the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk who, together with the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, will represent the European Union.

The President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, the EU High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini, and the Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn will also attend the Summit.

The Western Balkans partners will be represented by Edi Rama, Duško Marković, Aleksandar Vučić, Hashim Thaçi, Bakir Izetbegović as well as Zoran Zaev.
Representatives of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the World Bank, the European investment Bank and the Regional Cooperation Council will also participate.

The Summit should first and foremost reaffirm the European perspective of the whole region. It will be centred on the theme of connectivity with a view to improving the links between the EU and the Western Balkans as well as within the region itself. The summit will also aim to boost cooperation in areas of mutual security concerns, including terrorism, organised crime and illegal migration.

The leaders of the European Union are expected to adopt a declaration with which the Western Balkans partners have aligned themselves.

EU-NATO: informal meeting in Sofia

“We will have today, I believe, a good discussion with the Defence Ministers in an informal setting, so we will not take any decisions” – the EU top diplomat Federica Mogherini said ahead of the NATO meeting in Sofia.

“We will have, first of all, the opportunity to look at the implementation of the Permanent Structured Cooperation in particular. The projects, the state-of-play of the advancement of the implementation of the projects, and obviously starting to prepare the European Council in June that will focus again on how much we have advanced on our European defence work. And indeed, I have to say, I am very satisfied – it is a remarkable job Ministers have managed to do together.”

“And then we will have another point that to me is very important: a discussion with the Deputy Secretary Generals of the United Nations and NATO that are both here with us on how and what we can do better in the world together, coordinating our missions and operations in peacekeeping, prevention of conflict and crisis management. It will be a broad range – let’s say 360 degree – look at the world to see where cooperation is already working, and working well, and where we can and must do more, and what kind of synergies we can have.”

“We will have the NATO summit in July, so it is also an important moment to prepare for that. We will come there with important work done on military mobility, making it easier for military equipment and personnel to move around Europe. This is work that the European Union is doing in coordination with NATO and that, I believe, will be at a very advanced stage for the July Summit with NATO” – Mogherini concluded.

 

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