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General Bulgarian news News Index Team: We Wish You Good News in 2007! Team: We Wish You Good News in 2007!

Views and Records
Dear readers,

The Editorial Staff of wishes you Happy New Year!

In Sofia Weekly last issue for this year, we are offering you a round-up of the highlights in 2006 and an informed forecast for 2007 (see the Barometer section).

The review of 2006 will bring you back to the news that made headlines in the past year just as they broke first at

The preview of 2007 is our perspective of the news that will make history in this watershed year, the year of Bulgaria's accession to the European Union. It promises to be a fascinating year!

The country's first steps as a fully-fledged member of the European bloc will be followed day by day in a broad coverage of the "Bulgaria in EU" section. Here you will find lots of background information, articles, commentaries and exclusive interviews.

Two weeks ahead of the publication of Sofia Morning News issue Number 2000th, we would like to invite you, our committed subscribers, to send us your suggestions, recommendations or thoughts that you would like to share with us and the other readers.

Certainly 2000 issues of regular daily publication is something to be celebrated!

It has always been our principle to make a daily that you can trust. On January 12, 2007, however, we will surprise you with the liveliest edition of Sofia Morning News you have ever received. It is our recommendation that you have a breakfast of good humour and a coffee of high spirits the morning when you receive the special issue!

We hope that you join us in our celebrations by your suggestions, recommendations or thoughts, which will be published in this edition.

Sofia Morning News online daily newspaper will not be published on January 1st and 2nd. The newspaper will be back to the readers with its first issue for 2007 on January 3.

In the meantime - during the holidays and not only then, please follow the events real time at and

Happy holidays! Editorial Staff
FT Cites SNA: "Trial in Libya Will Be Sofia's 1st Test for Brussels"
FT Cites SNA: "Trial in Libya Will Be Sofia's 1st Test for Brussels"

Top News
The trial in Libya will be Sofia's first test for Brussels, FT says citing Sofia News Agency's editor-in-chief Milena Hristova.

Bulgaria and Romania became full-fledged EU members on January 1, 2007, which has been the most historic moment for the two countries since the fall of the communist regime in 1989.

Lots of pressure from the EU will be put upon Romania and Bulgaria in order for them to continue the reforms and meet the requirements of the Union.

"Not all the pressure, however, will be on the new members. Bulgarians have voiced an immediate demand for help from the EU in securing the freedom of five Bulgarian nurses who, along with a Palestinian doctor, were sentenced to death by a Libyan court last week for allegedly infecting more than 400 children with HIV", the article says.

"The verdict and sentencing outraged Bulgarians, who have long called for a more active diplomatic effort from the EU on the nurses' behalf. Last night, the vast majority of those celebrating Bulgaria's EU entry wore red, white and green ribbon - the country's national colours - showing their support for the five nurses", FT concludes.
H.E. Campagnola: Europe is Dead without Enlargement
H.E. Campagnola: Europe is Dead without Enlargement

Exclusive Interviews
Italy's Ambassador to Bulgaria Gian Battista Campagnola was born in Rome. He graduated Political Sciences at the University of Rome. His diplomatic career began in 1982 at the State Protocol Office. Ambassador Campagnola has covered various diplomatic positions in Tokyo, Brussels, Miami, San Jose (Costa Rica), Belize. He has also been Head of Secretariat and co-ordinator of the economic activity of the Direction General of the Economic Affairs of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and worked as advisor for foreign affairs of the Minister of Foreign Trade and the Minister of Industry, Trade and Crafts. Ambassador Campagnola has also visited lecture at the "Brookings Institute" of Washington on Transatlantic questions, and guest speaker at the University of Miami and the Florida International University on Italian-USA relations. Before being nominated for Italy's Ambassador to Bulgaria, Gian Battista Campagnola was Head of the Department for Relations with the Parliament of the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Ambassador Campagnola answered questions of Sofia News Agency Editor-in-Chief Milena Hristova *

Q: Do you see the timely accession of Bulgaria to the European Union as the end of a success story?

A: This is not the end, but the beginning of a success story. From this moment on the verb to be used will no longer be "adhere", but "integrate". Integration has always proved to be the most complex and important effort that a new state has to cope with. Bulgaria did its utmost to be as prepared as possible to this date. Nevertheless, just like Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and UK several years ago, Bulgaria has to start a dynamic process to implement all of Europe's rules and share its experience with Europe.

Q: How can Bulgaria silence those who doubt it is ready to join the block?

A: The European Commission decided on September 26 that Bulgaria can be welcomed into the block on January 1, 2007. This is a good indication that the minimum standards prerequisites were met. Is Bulgaria finished with this job? No! Bulgaria will knuckle down to it on January 2, 2007. I am sure that Bulgarians energetically and with determination will get through this dynamic process, which will be beneficial to Bulgaria, to Europe and to the people.

Q: Where do the main risks of failure and safeguard clauses lie?

A: I do not want to even think about it! Bulgaria managed to prove, mainly in the course of the last three years, that it is able to cope with a need every time it is requested or urged. When I say the country, I mean certainly the government, but mostly the parliament and the people.

I arrived in Sofia in May 2003 and on the following month became a rotative president of the European Union for Bulgaria. When Mr Verheugen requested Bulgaria to make constitutional amendments within two months, I thought it would be impossible. I was greatly surprised, just as Mr Verheugen was, that in the middle of September the parliament, whose session I personally attended, voted unanimously - all the 240 MPs present - in favour of the amendments. This is an indication that if the country believes in what it is doing, it can get it.

Q: Do you expect the Italian government to approve measures to curb jobseekers from Romania and Bulgaria after the two countries join the European Union in January? How would you justify that decision?

A: Italy's Vice-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Famiano Crucianelli and Interior Minister Giuliano Amato recently paid a visit to Bulgaria. The visit of President Amato, at the initiative of Interior Minister Rumen Petkov, came at a very delicate moment when Italy was deciding on its approach towards the movement of citizens from the newly acceded countries. He had already given some indication about Italy's approach towards the Bulgarian citizens. Italy does not see the presence of Bulgarians, numbering about 80,000-90,000, as a problem. There are bad exceptions, of course, but they exist everywhere. The majority of the Bulgarian community are very good, hard-working migrants, who are not only doing something for their own experience, but for the good of the country as well. Italy's position towards the Bulgarians is favourable. Of course this favourability may translate into a non-application or limited application.

The presence of Romanians in Italy is much larger and the matter in their case will probably be more complex. Yet I am an optimist and believe that we will have the best possibilities for both Bulgarians and Romanians.

Q: How would you comment the proposal the rapporteur for Bulgaria Geoffrey Van Orden for a delay in the decommissioning of the nuke units, due on January 1? What was the political message that the proposal sent? Could Bulgaria benefit from it even though it was rejected?

A: The matter is very complex. A diplomat is always accustomed to make his evaluation on political and diplomatic facts. The closure of the two units was a prerequisite for the start of the negotiations and in 1999 Bulgaria took an engagement to this effect. There were conflicting reports about the safety of the two units. I am not an expert, nor am I a technician. What I can do now is only look at the engagement that Bulgaria took and tell you that the safety design is a precondition that the two units did not meet. Yet I do not discard another approach, justified by an evaluation of the economical factors. But I would not comment further on that.

I applaud Bulgaria for keeping the engagement to close the units 3 and 4 despite the changes of governments. I applaud Bulgaria for the work that Kozloduy and the ministries have done in meeting all the requirements of the European Union for the transitional period.

Q: Do you think Bulgarian politicians did their best to spell out the impact of EU accession to the average Bulgarian?

A: This is a very important question about a very complex and difficult matter. It has to relate to different levels of people and culture - from the farmer to the diplomat. It is easy when one deals with politicians, diplomats, professors, but it is a different story when one has to explain the changes to less educated people. It was the same in Italy. We faced huge problems when we had to explain to farmers that the assistance should have been overtaken by diversifying cultures and products.

Did the Bulgarian government do enough? I am a witness of the process in the course of 2003-2005. I traveled a lot, together with Bulgarian politicians, and addressed audiences that were able to receive the matter - universities, chambers of commerce. What I told them was that the engagement starts on January 1, 2007. Certainly, the engagement will be diversified for the different sectors, professions or economical structures, but the real work starts now. People has to be educated about what are the good aspects and privileges that the accession to the European Union will bring, as well as the rules which this involves.

Q: Do you share the opinion that the European Union is "doomed" to continue its expansion?

A: Have you ever seen a body living without a heart? Some of the countries, which have to have the European perspective, represent the heart of Europe. Without them, Europe is dead. Europe went through difficult times over the last two years. The fifth enlargement, unfortunately, became a reality at the same time when certain factors of the so-called euro-skepticism affected the idea of Europe, e.g. the constitution, the referenda. I know that there were countries that had a balanced approach towards the fifth enlargement. At the same time more and more countries voiced the opinion that a sixth enlargement should be taken with very great precautions. I believe that two approaches are not contradictory. It would be inevitable that other countries have the European perspective. Italy's Prime Minister Romano Prodi made it clear at the latest European Council summit that his country wants to see the Western Balkans reach forms of agreement and forms of negotiations to pave the way to their accession. The euro-skeptics will not have political longevity because Europe means prosperity, peace and development. If we don't want to have problems within Europe, we should offer the European perspective to more countries.

* The interview was done before the decision of Italy's government to apply an one-year transitional period for the internal labour market access of Bulgarian and Romanian citizens
Bulgaria Summons Last Conscript March-2007
Bulgaria Summons Last Conscript March-2007

Top News
The last regular conscript to be summoned to the Bulgarian Army will gather in March 2007, the defense ministry announced.

Bulgaria has decided to scrap its conscription troops as of 2007, thus making way to the entry of professional soldiers to the Bulgarian Armed Forces.

The last regular troops numbering 2230 men will hold their service for six months, starting earlier than usually, Defense Minister Vesselin Blzinakov said Saturday.

They will be distributed mainly to land troops, as navy and aviation forces of Bulgaria have nearly completed their full professional ranks. Turning the Bulgarian Armed Forces into professional ones would cost an extra EUR 20-25 M to the state budget, estimates show.

Lined by Chief of Army staff Zlatan Stoykov, the minister presented the priorities of the Bulgarian Army in 2007, the first year of full-fledged membership of the Balkan country.

The Defence and Armed Forces Act envisage persons who have not served their military service by December 31, 2007, to be discharged on January 1, 2008.
Sixth Birthday for Bulgarian News agency
Dear readers,

June 1, 2007, marked the sixth anniversary since, the country's first and leading English-language news provider published the first issue of its online newsletter - Sofia Morning News daily.

More than 80, 000 articles, hundreds of interviews, thousands of pictures and subscribers later, we're both proud and thankful.

June 1, 2001 saw the first issue of the English language online newspaper. It was then called Breaking News as that was a watershed year for the country, in which Bulgaria elected both new president and a new government. The unique newspaper was later renamed to The News and two years ago to Sofia Morning News, a newspaper that now has thousands of committed readers.

The Sofia Weekly, the first English language online weekly in Bulgaria, was launched in the middle of October, after and, Bulgaria's leading online news providers, pooled their efforts and promised to launch new successful products on the market.

It was you, our readers, who encouraged and appreciated us as a reliable and objective source of news for Bulgaria and convinced us that the introduction of the online service is a welcome one.

And it will be thanks to your guidance and precious advice that the service will continue to develop its quality, bringing more and more benefits to its readers.

The staff of would like to thank its thousands of subscribers for being committed readers throughout our six years. We do hope that we will continue to follow together the latest developments in Bulgaria and the world.

Enjoy reading! Editorial Staff
Bulgarian Bus Driver Receives 4 Yrs Prison Sentence for Lim River Tragedy
Bulgarian Bus Driver Receives 4 Yrs Prison Sentence for Lim River Tragedy

Driver Ilia Izmirliev was sentenced to four years behind bars for causing the tragic bus accident in the river Lim three years ago by Bulgaria's Supreme Court of Cassation on Monday. The sentence cannot be appealed.

The Court also ruled put that the families of the 12 killed children should get compensations amounting BGN 1.2 M.

Izmirliev was sentenced for causing the hellish bus crash in the river Lim in Serbia when 12 school students drowned. He was found guilty for causing the death of Alexandra Gergova, 17, Antonia Bratova, 14, Boryana Petkova, 11, Zhenya Angelova, 11, Svetoslava Panteleeva, 12, Valentin Marinov and his brother Victor also 14, Lora Nikolova, 14, Gloria Georgieva, 11, Yulian Manzarov, 18, Svetoslav Kolev, 15 and Antoana Evtimova, 13.

The crash occurred on April 4, 2004 around 10.10 pm on the road from Bjelo Pole town to the town of Prjepole in Serbia.

Izmirliev, and the company he worked for, "Pamporovo" will have to pay to every of the killed children's families the sum of BGN 50 000.

The District Court in Veliko Tarnovo sentenced Izmirliev to seven years behind bars on March 9, 2006, but the Court of Appeals reduced the sentence to four years eight months later.

Technical reports on what caused the tragic crash are still dubious and leave many questions unanswered. Both the prosecution and the defence still haven't been able to prove whether the reason for the crash was a technical failure of the bus or the driver's negligence.
Romanian Seeking Restitution of Land in Bulgaria Dies, Trial on Hold
Romanian Seeking Restitution of Land in Bulgaria Dies, Trial on Hold

Romanian citizen Feca Dimu, who sought the restitution of 15 000 hectares of forest in Bulgaria's Pirin range, has passed away, his lawyer told the court in Sandanski, southwestern Bulgaria.

The death certificate will be presented to the court in the near future, lawyer Tanya Ilieva told the judge, who postponed the trial indefinitely.

Dimu claimed to be the descendant of one Mihai Misu, who owned 60 000 hectares of land in the range, according to a document dating back to 1835.

The rest of the lands are claimed by his relatives. In the 19th century, the region had a sizeable ethnic Romanian population, the descendants of which are now trying to reclaim property in Bulgaria.

But their chances are usually very slim because in most cases their paperwork proving ownership dates back to the period before Bulgaria won independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1878.

In Dimu's case, the forests are now state property and part of the Pirin National Park. His heirs have six months to file a new restitution lawsuit.
Bulgaria's Unique Estates Become Christie's Great Estates Exclusive Affiliate
Bulgaria's Unique Estates Become Christie's Great Estates Exclusive Affiliate

Christie's Great Estates, a wholly owned subsidiary of Christie's, the world's oldest fine art auction house, signed a contract on Tuesday with the Bulgarian Unique Estates, which is part of AG Capital.

Bulgaria is the first country from the European Union's 12 newest member states that the brand approached with a proposal to become Christie's Great Estates exclusive affiliate. The talks between the two companies started in September 2004, the head of AG Capital's managers' board Hristo Iliev said.

Christie's Great Estates, which is the largest network of real estate brokers, is dedicated to the marketing and sale of luxurious properties. The network comprises more than 850 real estate offices and nearly 35,000 sales associates in more than 35 countries. The combined annual sales volume of all affiliate real estate companies is approximately USD 125 billion.

Unique Estates, which is the latest subsidiary of AG Capital Holding, is focused on the high-end niche of the residential property market. It covers the market segment of luxury residential properties in Bulgaria and abroad. It has been created especially for the purpose of meeting the needs of luxury-orientated foreign and Bulgarian clients.

Varna Mall Project Granted 1st-class Investment Certificate

Orchid Developments Group, a UK-listed property developer and hotel operator focusing on the Bulgarian market, received first class investment recognition for its planned Grand Mall complex in the port city of Varna.

"The working name of the project was Orchid Mall Varna, but we decided to change it to Grand Mall, because of the unique vision and the exceptional size of the project", the group's chief executive Ofer Miretzky said.

Orchid Developments plans to invest upward of EUR 100 M in the construction of the 150 000 square meters project, which will feature 45 000 square meters of commercial space for lease, as well as office space.

Work on the project will start in the third quarter of the year and will be completed by end-2009.

Israeli firm Moore-Yasky-Sivan Architects (M-Y-S) will carry out the architectural design and oversight, together with Varna firm LAGIS Ltd.

M-Y-S also designed Mall of Sofia, which opened last year, while former Mall of Sofia chief executive Eli Egosi will act as consultant on the project.

Real estate consultants Colliers International will handle all leasing contracts in the complex.

Recognition as a first-class investment from the country's investment agency BAI entitles the project to fiscal incentives.
Bulgaria Seeks EU, Russia's Help in Blazes Fight
Bulgaria Seeks EU, Russia's Help in Blazes Fight

Bulgaria is to ask the EU and Russia as well as the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre for help in the fight against the fires that continue raging across the country.

The decision was made at an extraordinary session of Disasters and Emergencies parliamentary commission, held two days ago, the National Civil Defence Service Head Andrey Ivanov announced Monday.

Bulgaria's Disaster and Emergencies Minister Emel Etem and the Interior Minister Rumen Petkov were among the officials, who joined the sitting.

Russia should assistance Bulgarian fire brigades according to an agreement between the governments of the two countries.

Austria, Spain and Turkey have also offered to assist the extinction of the flames, caused by the heat wave that swept Bulgaria, burning thousands of acres of woodlands to the ground.

Bulgarian authorities reported 345 wildfires in the country over the last 24 hours, including 70 that resulted damages to private property.

Two people have been reported dead in the fires that have raged since last week, while another four have been wounded.
Bulgaria Seeks EU, NATO's Help in Fires Fight
Bulgaria Seeks EU, NATO's Help in Fires Fight

Bulgaria's Disasters and Emergencies Ministry has officially asked the EU, NATO and Russia for help in the fight against the blazes that continue raging across the country.

The plea was sent to the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre as well as to the European Commission.

Russia has been asked to provide a plane, which is to assist Bulgarian fire brigades. The aid comes after an agreement previously reached between the governments of the two countries.

The decision of seeking help was made at an extraordinary session of Disasters and Emergencies parliamentary commission last week.

Bulgaria's Disaster and Emergencies Minister Emel Etem and the Interior Minister Rumen Petkov were among the officials, who joined the sitting.

Austria, Spain and Turkey have also offered to assist the extinction of the flames, caused by the heat wave that swept Bulgaria, burning thousands of acres of woodlands to the ground, officials reported.

Bulgarian authorities reported 345 wildfires in the country over the last 24 hours, including 70 that resulted damages to private property.

Two people have been reported dead in the fires that have raged since last week, while another four have been wounded.
Discarded Cigarette Set Bulgarian High School on Fire
Discarded Cigarette Set Bulgarian High School on Fire

A discarded cigarette has sparked the blaze that enveloped a high school in Bulgaria's town of Cherven Bryag at noon on Wednesday.

The flames burst out after a wooden wall on the first floor of the Trade School "Vassil Aprilov" caught fire.

Fire brigades that have immediately arrived on the spot managed to rescue all the students, who were inside the building at the time of the accident.

The damages on the building are set at BGN 200, officials reported.
Bulgaria Flat Tax Reform Comes into Force
Bulgaria Flat Tax Reform Comes into Force

The amendments introducing a flat 10% income tax rate in Bulgaria, which the country's Parliament passed after extensive debates last month, have come into force on January 1.

Despite extensive criticism from the opposition and trade unions, the Socialist-led ruling coalition decided also to drop the provision that exempted the first BGN 200 of all wages from tax.

Under the new tax regime, all who earn below BGN 490 will end up paying more in taxes.

Bulgaria's parliament has been busily amending the tax legislation for over a month, ringing in the changes required before it could pass the draft budget for the new year at second reading.

The leaders of the three parties in Bulgaria's ruling coalition have agreed in summer on the tax reform, with a flat rate of 10%, the lowest in Europe, replacing the progressive taxation system with three brackets.

Since Estonia introduced a flat tax system in 1994, enjoying stable GDP growth, eastern European countries have been attracted to the flat tax that promises to attract foreign investments and increase transparency.

Slovakia, Romania, Albania and many former Soviet republics have all adopted a flat tax. Readers Name EU Entry Bulgaria\\\'s Event of 2007 Readers Name EU Entry Bulgaria's Event of 2007

Bulgaria's accession to the European Union was picked by the majority of readers as the event that put the country on the world map in 2007 after sweeping one third of the votes.

Bulgaria's return to the big European family snatched the top spot in annual poll after a neck-to-neck race with the haunting documentary about an orphanage in the village of Mogilino, which caused huge uproar over the conditions in which disabled children grow up in the state institutes in Bulgaria.

One month after the launch of the poll, Bulgaria's EU entry snatched the first place by collecting 33% of the votes against 28% for the runner-up, BBC probe of alleged child-trade and Mogilino documentary.

Third came in Bulgaria's ongoing corruption and organised crime lawsuits, which was picked as the story they will remember best from last year by 16% of the readers, followed closely by the Bulgarian nurses release from Libya with 14%.

The Eurovision success of the Bulgarian duo Elitsa and Stundzhi was supported by 4% of the readers, followed by the high-profile spat with Brussels over the spelling of the euro (3%).

Even though making headlines across the globe all the year round, the real estate boom in Bulgaria ended up last in poll, after only 2% of the readers said this is the story that drew their attention most.

None of these contests, however, can compare to the intensity of Clash of the Titans where Sofia mayor Boyko Borissov faced famed Roma gay and popfolk star Azis. Only to be defeated after a month of unprecedentedly heated race.

The controversial popfolk star Azis was named Bulgaria's most media-savvy man after garnering 52% of the readers' votes.

Houses for sale in Bulgaria in Granitovo in Bulgaria 38000
Houses for sale in Bulgaria in Granitovoin Bulgaria 38000
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Houses for sale in Bulgaria in Pobeda in Bulgaria 10300
Houses for sale in Bulgaria in Pobedain Bulgaria 10300
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Houses for sale in Bulgaria in Kirilovo in Bulgaria 38000
Houses for sale in Bulgaria in Kirilovoin Bulgaria 38000
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Bulgarian properties commercial in Kirilovo in Bulgaria 29995
Bulgarian properties commercial in Kirilovoin Bulgaria 29995
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Houses for sale in Bulgaria in Elhovoin Bulgaria 7000
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