Sofia, January 14 (BTA)
"Special Regime for Conventional Criminals," runs the leading headline in Troud. The daily quotes Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev as saying that offenders who have one or two pending cases against them, or have been granted early release from prison, or have received probation or a conditional sentence, should be placed under surveillance by the police and the prosecution service. If they commit the smallest offence, every measure should be taken against them before they perpetrate a serious crime.
Geshev and Interior Minister Mladen Marinov were in Galiche, in the northwestern Vratsa Region, after the brutal rape and murder of a local 18-year-old girl and the arrest of her 17-year-old assailant. The Prosecutor General said: "The people who harass the population in small settlements are known to the local mayor and police officer and to the respective police department. It is time to improve the coordination between the prosecution service, local governments and the Interior Ministry and to take necessary legislative measures to ensure that such people are not at large and prevent tragedies from happening."
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Health insurance contributions are stolen in an organized and coordinated manner under administrative protection, Socialist MP Dragomir Stoynev said, as quoted in the top story in Douma. "This endangers the lives of patients and undermines the work of medical professionals," Stoynev warned, adding that the Bulgarian Socialist Party will alert the prosecution service about the draining of the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF).
An apparent conflict between the NHIF and the Health Ministry is analyzed in an article published on Capital.bg. At the heart of the conflict is the question of who should make the rules and who is responsible for obeying them, the story says.
POLITICS & MILITARY
The Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) proposes that members of Parliament and relatives of the President, of the National Assembly Chairperson and of the Prime Minister should pay for their security if it is provided by the National Service for Protection (NSP), 24 Chassa reports in its main story. A bill to amend the NSP Act, moved by MRF leader Mustafa Karadayi and MRF MPs Delyan Peevski, Yordan Tsonev and Hamid Hamid, also proposes that persons who are protected by the NSP because they are linked to national security should pay for their own security as well.
The daily notes that the draft provisions will affect President Rumen Radev's wife Dessislava Radeva, who currently uses bodyguards, a car and a driver, all of them provided by the NSP, as well as MRF Honorary Chairman Ahmed Dogan and one of the sponsors of the bill, MP Delyan Peevski. Last month, Karadayi explained that the party was paying for the NSP cars and equipment for Dogan and Peevski, while the state was paying for their bodyguards.
The proposed legislative change is supported by the President, the Prime Minister and NSP Director Krassimir Stanchev after the latest incident involving an NSP car. In that incident, a young boy was hit by an NSP vehicle in Sofia. The driver was on his way back from the home of a presidential secretary, whom he had driven off after work.
The bill suggests that for the above-mentioned category of persons the NSP services should be paid for according to a price schedule set by the Finance Minister at the proposal of the NSP Director.
The bill is described by SegaBG.com as an attempt by the MRF to "legalize the public-private security services for Peevski and Dogan."
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The bargaining in the ruling coalition over who should take the office of Environment and Water Minister, vacated by Neno Dimov, will continue until the last minute, SegaBG.com predicts. The matter should be decided at a meeting of the ruling coalition of GERB and the United Patriots on Tuesday. According to MPs of VMRO (a member party of the United Patriots), talks with potential candidates have been tough and none of them is eager to take over the post.
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The question of whether Neno Dimov's arrest and the charges against him have been convincing is discussed by Capital.bg (see also the previous item). The website notes that Dimov became the first serving government minister in Bulgaria's recent history to be held in indefinite remand. His ostentatious arrest and the serious charges he faced were met with mixed feelings by observers.
The prosecution's case has two major flaws, the analysis goes. First, the prosecution assumes that a dissipation of assets has occurred, that is, water in the Pernik area has been used for industrial purposes rather than as tap water. But the water was not actually "disspiated," because someone paid for it. Second, the prosecution assumes that the Minister single-handedly decided how much water should be supplied to whom. The truth is that there are at least two expert levels in the ministry below the Minister and they have to handle the water supply orders. The whole correspondence with the Pernik water company was carried out by Dimov's deputy Krassimir Zhivkov, who was not questioned by the investigators until after Dimov's arrest, the website argues.
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US visas for Bulgarian travellers will be lifted following President Donald Trump's assurances last November, provided that there are enough punctilious applicants who have their own family and a good job, 24 Chassa says. According to the daily, the process can begin in February or March, when the US Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs will visit Bulgaria, and can be completed in a year and a half.
The paper finds that the irony with which some people met Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva's suggestion to follow the Polish model was undeserved. Zaharieva said recently that Bulgarians could follow the example of the Poles and apply for US visas in large numbers even if some of them do not actually intend to make the trip. In this way, the visa refusal rate can go down, paving the way for a visa waiver. The Croats are already doing it, after they saw that the visas for Polish travellers were lifted on November 11. For the Bulgarians, visa refusals should drop to 3 per cent of all applications; in 2019, the rate was 9.75 per cent, the paper says.
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"Mariya Gabriel Will Not Listen to Boyko Borissov," caps a story published on SegaBG.com. It says that the Bulgarian member of the European Commission, Mariya Gabriel, vowed before the Court of Justice of the European Union not to carry out instructions by any government, presumably including the Bulgarian government. At a special meeting in Luxembourg, President Ursula von der Leyen and the other members of the new Commission took a solemn oath before the Court. In the Commission, Gabriel is responsible for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth.
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The training of pilots who will fly the new F-16 Block 70 fighter jets has begun, MediaPool.bg says. Initially, they are using L-39 ZA aircraft, and later on, they will go to the United States.
Bulgaria has bought eight F-16 Block 70 fighters from the US and Lockheed Martin for a price of 2.1 billion leva. The first six of them are expected to arrive in Bulgaria in 2023 and the remaining two in 2024. The pilots should complete their training by then, the website says.
Desperate retailers who cannot meet the deadline for replacing their cash registers and sales management software according to the new requirements staged a protest outside the Finance Ministry offices in Sofia, SegaBG.com reports. The discontented have been organizing themselves via the social media for several days now. Dozens of corporate executives joined the rally, but were not received by Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov or any other official in the ministry.
The notorious Ordinance No. 18 on cash registers has been making life difficult for business people for more than a year with new requirements for their fiscal memory storage devices and computer software, since the National Revenue Agency (NRA) announced that much turnover was being concealed by retailers, the website recalls. January 31 is the deadline for all VAT-registered companies and firms using sales management software to begin using only software approved by the NRA. More than half of VAT-registered companies cannot meet the requirements by then.
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Pensions in Bulgaria are among the lowest not only in the European Union but also in the Balkans, 24 Chassa says, unveiling the findings of a survey conducted by its own staff. Only Serbs and Kosovars receive lower pensions, the paper notes.
In Serbia, the lowest monthly pension is equivalent to 175.34 leva, which is 74 leva below the level in Bulgaria. However, the highest pension in Serbia is 2,197 leva, almost double the size in Bulgaria. The average pension in Serbia, at 431.89 leva per month, is also higher than in Bulgaria.
The highest minimum pension in the Balkans has been recorded in Slovenia. Since 2017, it has been 500 euro (975 leva) per month. This makes the poorest pensioners in Slovenia four times richer than their Bulgarian peers, with an income almost equalling the highest pensions in Bulgaria.
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"Catch 22, Pernik-style," headlines an analysis in Troud. The author Mihail Krustev notes: "It is a unique paradox of the Bulgarian national character that public confidence in both central and local government institutions is very low, while at the same time private enterprise and private management are regarded with a kind of contempt that verges on superstitious fear. This dramatic psychological conflict has been clearly manifested over the last few months in connection with the so-called water crisis. I am talking not only about Pernik but also about many other settlements in Bulgaria which are faced, or will be faced, with water problems."