Sunday, 31 January 2010

Drip, Drip, Drip !

Well readers the Great Snow of 2010 is now over and the Great Thaw begins.My garden is slowly but surely turning into slush and the snow is gradually sliding off my roof a great slice of it is perching precariously off the edge and I dont want to be under it or else I will look like someone off a Mack Sennett silent movie !.(stop press there was just a loud bang and the snow and ice fell off)

So by tomorrow the roads will be flooded, and the benefit of taking off your shoes when you enter a house will become all too apparent.

I do hope that we have had the worst of the winter weather, but we have February to get through yet and I would not count upon it.

My hermit like existence in the past three weeks has not been helped by the fact that the satellite tv has started to take on a mind of its own, caused mainly by the icy winds knocking the dish out of kilter, so now it has to be manually adjusted every time I move satellites.

The village also ran out of most foodstuffs, the exception being bread.The bread van struggled through here every day which was a remarkable achievement.I now understand the national obsession with pickling everything; pickled runner beans and chillies are actually very nice.

More on the thaw later !.

Saturday, 30 January 2010


INSEAD Professor's Bid for Bulgarian Govt 'Frozen' over Speculations

INSEAD Professor Ilian Mihov announced Friday night that he was not going to join the Bulgarian government as a Deputy Prime Minister for the time being.

Speaking live on the bTV channel, Mihov said his bid to join the Borisov Cabinet was now "frozen".

He explained this was his personal decision that resulted largely from political speculations about how his joining the cabinet would affect the currency peg, and respectively, the economic stability in Bulgaria.

Mihov referred to the speculations in the Bulgarian media in which a number of critics raised their concerns saying that upon joining the Borisov Cabinet, the INSEAD professor would modify the currency peg in the country in dangerous ways. The grounds for such allegations were his past statements in which he recommended greater flexibility of the currency peg.

Mihov made it clear that his nomination to join the Bulgarian government as a Deputy Prime Minister was put on hold, not withdrawn. He told bTV he had not pulled out, and that PM Borisov had not terminated his invitation for him.

"Those speculations are a matter of a political attack. I have made it clear - as early as 2001 when I published an article about it - that I support the currency peg, and think that it is the greatest achievement of Bulgaria in the last few years. I don't want to abolish it or to change the current exchange rate. The idea of my joining the government is to help the cabinet team because there is a lot of work. I fail to comprehend those political speculations," Mihov said explaining this was what he told PM Borisov during their meeting on Thursday.

The INSEAD Professor made it clear that he could join the Bulgarian government once the country became part of the Eurozone waiting room - the ERM 2.

"Once we join it will be clear that the current exchange rates will be preserved, so there could be no speculations of my potential interference with the currency peg," Mihov said.

He stressed the fact that his decision to "freeze" his nomination was motivated by his concerns that heated internal debates over his potential intentions regarding the currency peg could be construed as a matter of instability that might hinder Bulgaria's accession to the ERM 2.

"The moment there are political machinations, there is a risk of economic instability and insecurity. There are no set criteria for joining the Exchange Rate Mechanism, admission is granted based on a country's stability. So if someone looks at Bulgaria from abroad and sees all the quarreling, they might think its stability is threatened," Mihov explained making it clear he preferred to step back temporarily if this could in any way jeopardize Bulgaria's chances to make progress towards adopting the euro.

Professor Mihov made it clear that he was going to continue to cooperate closely with the Borisov government.

In mid-January, Mihov was nominated by PM Borisov to become a new Bulgarian Deputy PM without a portfolio who would coordinate EU funds absorption, and would help Bulgaria adopt the euro. His nomination came to replace World Bank VP Kristalina Georgieva who was supposed to join the Borisov government in 2010 but instead became Bulgaria's new EC nominee.

Uncles Comment: The 'elephant in the room' here is that the Lev is overvalued against the Euro by around 20%, if not more this makes exports expensive and imports cheap.Not good in a recession, but other EU states will not allow devaluation because it will give the Bulgaians a competitive advantage, if you take away raw material costs rising like petrol which is increasingly priced in Euros.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Ceaucescu's Palace to be Mall ????

Silvius Prigoana thinks the parliament building where he serves as a liberal-democrat would make a great mall for citizens and tourists and a lot of money for Romania.

The lawmaker plans to submit a bill on the issue, which he claims will create more than 20,000 new jobs.

The idea for Romania's seat of parliament -- known in the communist era as the People's House and today as Parliament Palace -- has split politicians and the public.

A prosperous businessman with the backing of his peers in the commercial world, Prigoana argues that one of Bucharest's main tourist attractions is too expensive to maintain by the government. "From a public spending point of view, [it is] a catastrophe," he said.

The lawmaker noted that only 30% of the building is used, at a cost of more than 50m euros a year.

"When the state budget needs every penny, it is not permissible to ignore a potential for several hundred million euros per year," said Prigoana on his blog. "I consider less important the subsequent fate of the building or who will administer it … instead of spending public money, we make money for the budget."

Economists said that a shopping centre at the palace -- which would be four times larger than Afi Palace Cotroceni, currently the largest mall in southeast Europe -- could bring Romania 100m euros in annual revenue.

Many bloggers disagree.

"The building is part of Bucharest's history [and] identity … and is admired by foreigners. Why kill our history, tear the historic print of our city, seized by the post-1989 frustrations, to try to build a different Bucharest? A city lives with its history," said Ioana Despina Camino on her blog.

Daniela dislikes the commercial idea while imagining the building for more cultured purposes -- "a science centre: planetarium, aquarium, museum, exhibition halls, theatre and cinema halls, libraries". She does not believe anything will come of it.

Alinp noted tremendous sacrifices that went into constructing the building. "I say that no state institutions should function there. If what they say is true -- that the place was built with many human sacrifices and suffering -- then I think that any decision taken there is not for the country's benefit."

Journalist Costi Rogozanu took a worst case scenario perspective. "What if it doesn't work out? What if the business fails?" he said, warning of the risk of a "huge and deserted house, the symbol of Romanian capitalism, right at the very heart of the city".

Leon agreed -- at least in principle -- with Prigoana. "The man seems to be pragmatic. If they use only 30% of the building, why not use it all for a bigger profit? I am sure they won't lack customers.

Currency News

The Bulgarian government adopted a convergence programme for 2009-2012 on Wednesday (January 27th) to prepare the country for joining the European Exchange Rate Mechanism II (ERM II) and the eurozone. The programme focuses on improved GDP performance, a balanced budget and stable government debt. The European Commission will assess it by the end of April before the start of negotiations for joining ERM II.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Mnogo Studeno

Bulgaria registered record low temperatures early Monday morning, the coldest spot being the northwestern town of Knezha with -24,5 degrees Celsius.
The city of Veliko Tarnovo saw -21,2 degrees, Varna -17,8, the easternmost town of Shabla -19,2. The warmest place in the country was the southwestern town of Sandanski with -8 degrees.
The top record was set by the Bulgarian capital Sofia, which saw -15,2 degrees Celsius.
The temperatures expected around the country in the coming days are between -5 and -10/-15 degrees Celsius.

Uncles Comment : These are the temperatures WITHOUT windchill so it actually feels much colder.

Inspector Clouseau Reports !

The European Commission's interim report in connection with mechanisms for collaboration and control of internal affairs and justice systems in Bulgaria and Romania will be issued in February, according to reports.
The exact date has not been penciled in yet, the Bulgarian News Agency announced, citing well informed sources from the European Commission.
The reports will certainly be published after February 9, when the new Barroso II Commission is expected to be invested, the sources said.
This will be the first European Commission report to assess the measures undertaken by the new center-right government, which swept the elections in July and made an attempt to shake off the country's reputation for rampant graft and crime.
Bulgaria and Romania are still not doing enough to tackle corruption and organized crime, so they will have to accept European Union monitoring for at least another year, the EU's executive said in its latest annual report on the duo, released on July 22 last year.
Romania and Bulgaria joined the European Union on January 1, 2007 but owing to shortcomings in justice reform and dealing with corruption the commission has kept an eye on developments through a special monitoring mechanism.
Any failure to redress the problems means that surveillance will continue, a process which resulted in Bulgaria being deprived of hundreds of millions of euros in potential funds.

Uncles Comment : Keep your ears open for the sound of crap hitting the fan !.

Come Fly with me..

Sofia airport has served 3.134 million passengers in 2009, marking a 3% decrease over the previous year in what has been described as “better than expected results”.
The number of served flights went down by 6%, totaling 45 698, while the processed cargo recorded a fall of nearly 20%, standing at 15120 tons.
Exerts commented that the losses that the airport has suffered due to the global economic crisis are less than expected.
Twenty-eight Bulgarian and foreign air companies have served domestic and international flights as scheduled. Another ten companies have served summer and winter charter programs, while the cargo flights have been served by six specialized air companies.
Former national carrier Bulgaria Air holds a 26% market share in the number of served passangers from and to Sofia airport, leading the top five list. Low-coast Wizz Air comes in second at 16%, followed by Lufthansa, Europe's second-largest airline (11%) and no-frills easyJet (8%).

Uncles Comment  : Note the 24% market share for budget airlines . Let us hope that Varna and Burgas go down the same route.

Real Estate

Banks' Attitude to Determine Bulgaria 2010 Real Estate Market

The future of the Bulgarian real estate market in 2010 will depend on the attitude and behavior of the banks, leading real estate experts forecast.
The experts, cited by the Bulgarian news agency BTA, spoke during a press conference Monday, saying the financial institutions' actions will determine if there will be stability and growth after the end of the crisis or chaos and low prices.
If in the next few months the banks decide to list on the market the foreclosed properties and sell them fast, the collapse will become inevitable. But if they find a mechanism to hold those properties for a while, the supply can be significantly reduced.
According to one of the largest brokerage agencies in Bulgaria - “Address”, the market now is experiencing a complete shortage of the most desirable properties – 2-bedroom apartments in districts with good infrastructure and such listings sell in less than a week. If the shortage continues, the discrepancy between the “good” and the “bad” properties will deepen, "Address" experts say..
72% of the perspective buyers in the capital Sofia and the Black Sea city of Varna are looking for an apartment listed for up to EUR 40 000 while in the second largest city of Plovdiv and the other Black Sea city of Burgas the desired price is only up to EUR 25 000. In addition, those willing to upgrade to a larger or more luxurious property, are almost non-existent now, compared to a few months ago.
In Bulgaria's largest cities EUR 40 000 can buy a 60 square-meter panel apartment or 45 square-meter one in a newly constructed building. In smaller cities and towns, buyers are not in a hurry to make a deal and wait for another price reduction.
According to “Address” data, the price reduction in 2009 is 28% year on year. In Sofia's “Ovcha Kupel,” “Nadezhda,” and “Lyulin” districts the prices are down 30%. There is also a price slump even for attractive downtown Sofia locations.
Data from the National Statistics Institute (NSI) shows that the average housing price in 2009 for the entire country has been BGN 1002 per square meter. The prices are the highest in Varna - BGN 1686 per square meter, followed by Sofia – BGN 1585, and Burgas – BGN 1360.

Bulgaria Top for Hookers !

Bulgaria is the third-biggest exporter of prostitutes for Western Europe, a survey has found out in a grim side-effect of the former communist country’s entry into the European Union and the start of visa-free travel in 2007.
A survey by Tempep, an EU-funded network of sex industry health agencies, found that one in eight foreign prostitutes in Europe was Romanian, replacing Russians as the main nationality since the previous assessment in 2006.
The report assessed that about two fifths of Britain’s estimated 80,000 prostitutes were migrants, most commonly from Lithuania, Thailand and Poland. The proportion of foreign prostitutes was highest in London at 70-80 %. Few British women had worked as prostitutes abroad - about 5 % - with the most common destinations given as Spain, Ireland and Australia.
Bulgaria, which ranked at number four in 2006, the year before its accession to the European Union, now accounts for eight percent of the migrants total.
The top ten of the list also features Ukraine, Nigeria, Brazil, Belarus, Moldova, Poland, Hungary and Thailand.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Cold weather brings grim news

BUCHAREST, Romania/ANKARA, Turkey/SOFIA, Bulgaria -- Five people have died due to severe weather in Romania, authorities announced Saturday (January 23rd). A 65-year-old homeless man was found dead in Bucharest early on Saturday. Two other men -- 70 and 72 -- died in the Mehedinti and Alba regions. Two others were found dead in Arges and Bacau. The health ministry advised all Romanians, especially the elderly and children, to avoid going outside.
Turkey has been gripped by severe cold and two people have been reported dead while dozens more have sought help at hospitals. Heavy snowfall and strong winds have paralysed life in many regions, including Istanbul. In Bulgaria, a homeless man was found dead in Sofia, where temperatures have been reported at 20 below zero Celsius. (RIA-Novosti, BNT - 24/01/10; AFP - 23/01/10)

Package Holidays your having a laugh !

Just when you thought that the Bulgarian Tourism industry might be getting a small dose of realism they get the rumbles of greed in their bloated stomachs.I came across a 'bargain' offer, a week B&B in a two star in Golden Sands ONLY 329 quid.This is supposed to be cheap ?, pull the other one its got bells on, and yet by June they will be virtually giving hotel rooms away because of under-occupation.If they had any sense they would sell weeks like that for 199 pounds, they will get the rest of the money in bar bills !.No wonder people are going to Blackpool its probably cheaper for a beer than Albena !.

Uncles Comment: Make me Chief of the Bulgarian Tourist board and i'll get it sorted !.

Weather latest

It appears that the current extremely cold snap (-19 C today) will break on Friday. Prepare for the floods now, but at least those of you with flights booked can heave a sigh of relief.Hoever we still have 5 weeks of what I would call winter left so be warned !.

Friday, 22 January 2010

New Property Law delayed till May-Earliest

The new law requiring all property transactions to be through bank accounts, to reduce fraud, will not be operational till May/June according to parliament sources.The idea was to abolish the cash only tax avoidance deals that are normal in Bulgaria.The new system, based upon the French, one is flawed in that you can pay X through the bank accounts and thus for tax,but actually top it up with a cash payment of Y so not alot different to the current set up.


Bulgaria's finance minister has announced that Value-Added Tax (VAT), which currently stands at 20%, could be cut to 16% by the end of the new center-right government in 2013.
“The value-added tax will be reduced by 2% in 2011 and by another 2% over the next two years,” Simeon Djankov said in an interview for Darik radio.
The statement comes ten days after the proposal for gradual VAT reduction, which has drawn mixed responses in the country.
The idea for reducing Value-Added Tax (VAT) in Bulgaria from its current 20 % rate by the end of 2010 was announced after Prime Minister Borisov's meeting with Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu, who made this recommendation as a measure to fight the financial crisis.
“This is not a bad idea, but we knew about it before Netanyahu told us,” Djankov added.
Bulgaria has the lowest personal and corporate income tax in the EU at 10%, which was introduced at the beginning of 2008, replacing the previous system, which combined several different tax rates - between 20 and 24%, depending on income.
After coming into office, the new Bulgarian government announced it plans to keep unchanged the flat income tax rate and cut the Value-Added Tax (VAT) from the current 20% to 18% in 2010 and by a further 2% by the end of the term of office of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov’s administration.
The country will apply in January this year to join the exchange-rate mechanism, the two-year currency stability test prior to euro adoption, and seek to switch to the common currency by 2013.

Uncle's Comment: Note the last point 2013 is the target date for the Euro.

Money Money Money !

Moody’s raises outlook on Bulgaria’s ratings
Moody's Investors Service on Thursday said it has increased to positive from stable the outlook on Bulgaria's Baa3 ratings.
“The rating action restores the positive outlook that was in place prior to the financial crisis in September 2008. This is also the first positive rating action on an EU sovereign since July 2008”, the agency said.
In early December, Standard & Poor’s changed its outlook on Bulgaria’s rating to stable from negative to reflect the government’s fiscal policy.
Moody’s said the rating increase is contingent upon the government’s capacity to lead the economy back to the growth path.
The Bulgarian government's finances were relatively resilient through the 2008-09 financial crisis," said Kenneth Orchard, Vice-President/Senior Credit Officer in Moody's Sovereign Risk Group.
"Despite a deep recession, Bulgaria will have very low budget deficits by global standards in 2009 and 2010, keeping government debt ratios low and stable,” he added.
Brussels estimated in November that Bulgaria will run up a budget deficit of 1.2% of its GDP in 2010 and just 0.4% in 2011.

On the piste

Tourism pins hopes on Balkans
More than half of the tourists in Bulgaria’s upscale ski resort of Bansko, in the west, come from Greece, confirming projections that the winter sector’s performance hinges on regional markets. Airports in Sofia and Plovdiv say if charter flights are filled to full capacity, Bulgaria will welcome no more than 65,000 holidaymakers for the whole winter season. The ski resorts of Borovets, Pamporovo and Bansko can sleep 38,000 people a day, according to official statistics. Alternative markets such as Greece, Romania, Macedonia and Serbia have seen an increase since the start of the winter season even though they cannot offset the expected decline in tourist numbers. As they grope for a way out of the economic tumult, Bulgarian tourist firms are getting more flexible, launching for the first time winter all-inclusive packages and adding various extras.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010


Two interesting developments from the UK.First of all unemployment actually fell by 7000 in the Sept-Nov quarter.This is unexpected as unemployment was meant to be on a solid upward curve well into 2010.
Secondly the unexpectedly high inflation figure of 2.9% that was recently announced has fuelled speculation that UK interest rates are about to rise.The side effect of this is that the pound stands at 2.22lv, its highest in months.

That was the good news, the bad news is that Colliers International are predicting a further 10% property price fall in Bulgaria in 2010 However there appears to be a consensus now among the more reliable observers, that 2010 will see the bottoming out of the market. This could be the beginning of the end of the slump.

More weather...

It looks as if flights into Varna are being cancelled, I just noticed Bulgaria air have cancelled their internal flight from Sofia.Please check before travelling, especially internationally, if you do get stranded at least hotels in Sofia are plentiful and cheap.Easyjet have just opened a hotel in Sofia check that out, prices start at 10 Euro's per night.If not the Hotel Pliska is cheap and cheerful and close to the airport (circa 10 minutes).

I just checked the local forecast for Varna and its worse, snow everyday till Monday, night-time temperatures down to -11 C (without windchill).Still its good news for the ski resorts (if the greek farmers aren't blocking the border).

If there are any further important travel updates I will try and post them here.

Weather News

Eastern Bulgaria woke up Tuesday in the grip of a heavy snow storm with treacherous roads, power outages and canceled school classes.
In the Region of the Black Sea City of Burgas, about 20 towns and villages are without electricity and schools in several villages are closed over impassable roads. The worst conditions are reported in the Ruen municipality where only 3 villages can be reached by car and many abandoned vehicles can be seen on the icy roads.
All roads around the city of Burgas are passable, so is the main road Burgas-Sofia.
In the other Black Sea city of Varna, the Mayor issued an order to close all schools. The decision about school closures on Wednesday will be announced by 5 pm. The day care centers in Varna are, however, open and public transportation is running, but experiencing delays. The ambulances are running as well. Snow plows, controlled by a GPS system, have been cleaning all through the night and are continuing work.
Heavy snow is reported in the Sliven, Slistra, and Ruse Regions but all roads are passable. Trucks have been stuck in several locations in the Silistra Region where a number of schools are closed.
The Regions of Dobrich, Yambol, and Shumen are also experiencing heavy snow and road closures. Bus transportation to a number of villages there has been canceled.
In the Stara Zagora Region driving through the Shipka Mountain pass is reported as very difficult; all vehicles must use chains while the road is closed for heavy trucks and tractor-trailer’s. The “Trakiya” highway is open for all traffic.
In Sofia, the situation is reported as normal with public transportation running on time. The Deputy Mayor informs all streets where public transportation vehicles are running have been cleaned by 4 am.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Breaking News: Rumiana Jeleva nomination fails

Bulgaria's nominee for European Commissioner has resigned her nomination and resigned as Foreign Minister.This comes after rumours over her and her husbands business dealings and her competency levels to fulfill her brief. CORRECTION: It appears that Jeleva has not resigned as Foreign Minister despite an official press release.So it appears she will remain as a sort of dejected house poodle for the PM.

This is a major embarassment for Bulgaria.

To my exasperation it now transpires that Jeleva has resigned as Foreign Minister to be replaced by the Defence Minister Mladenov, a General replaces him.

My house in the snow !

1.My frozen solid pool
2.The house and part of the pool
3.Frontal view of the house

      Officially its -6 C at the moment but with windchill -15 C.The snow is knee deep and getting deeper, we have a few more days of this !.
Summer pictures of this house are featured on my website, just click on the title.

Brilliant West Ham United News !

David Sullivan and David Gold have completed their takeover of West Ham United, buying 50% of the club with an option to acquire the remaining 50%. They will have operational and commercial control of the club with immediate effect and the duo, who sold Birmingham City to Carson Yeung this season, said Gianfranco Zola will definitely stay on as the club's manager. The deal values West Ham at £105m.
"We will spell out the book we are taking over," Sullivan said on BBC 5 Live. "The imbalance in the squad and the crazy wages the Icelandics were paying that brought the club to its knees."
Sullivan confirmed that Karren Brady, who was managing director at Birmingham, will become vice-chairman at Upton Park. He told Sky Sports that the club was in a "serious mess". "I don't think we would have bought West Ham if we weren't fans. It is a serious mess there but we are West Ham fans and it is nice to see that we beat off two foreign investors.
"Zola is absolutely staying. I can say that categorically. West Ham United need stability after all the recent upheavals. We appointed four managers and parted company with two at Birmingham in 16 years. We believe in our managers and give them the time and support they need," he added, revealing that he wants to take West Ham into the Champions League in the next decade. "We have a seven-year plan to get them into the Champions League.
"We are deeply and passionately involved in West Ham. It is where I have wanted to be for 20 years. We have done [what we have done] in a way that is good for Birmingham and we have got the club we wanted. Over the next seven years we will spend a lot of money."
Sullivan said part of their plan for the future of West Ham is to move from Upton Park to the Olympic Stadium. "It is the natural home for West Ham," he said. "We hope to persuade the government to let us move into the new Olympic Stadium and I believe the people of east London would support that move."
Sullivan and Gold became the favourites to buy the east London club after their rival Tony Fernandes, chief executive of AirAsia and team principal of the new Lotus F1 team, pulled out of the race.
Sullivan added: "West Ham is a bigger club than Birmingham with bigger aspirations and I appreciate that we have to achieve a lot more. It will be an immense privilege to lead this great football club and more importantly its supporters. Our first priority has to be securing the Premier League status of West Ham. I believe the players at this club have shown great commitment in trying circumstances and the new board and I will get behind them in every way we can."

More on the Dole in Bulgaria

Bulgaria's unemployment rate is expected to mark a sharp increase by the end of 2010, reaching 19-20%, up by about 10% year-upon-year, experts say.
“The North-Eastern and North-Western regions of Bulgaria will see the most shocking rise in unemployment, going up as high as 60%,” the Bulgarian Industrial Association (BIA) Chairman, Bozhidar Danev, said on Monday.
He added that this may seriously hamper the country's exit from the crisis, as it will fuel non-performing loans, shrink consumption and revenues to the state budget and the security system.
Trade unions and employers' organizations forecast as early as at the end of 2008 that the average unemployment rate in Bulgaria in 2009 will be two-digit.
Official data shows that the jobless rate at the end of December 2009 stood at 9,13%, while 338,000 have sought employment at the labor bureaux. The figures however do not account for the people who lost their jobs, but did not register as unemployed.
The Bulgarian Industrial Association advised the government to speed up the implementation of infrastructure projects in a bid to combat unemployment.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Siberia Cometh !

Well readers the big big freeze is coming 6 days of snow and -8 at nights. I asked a bulgarian friend to get me some bread from the shop today and he came back with 4 loaves. I now know why !.

It is something of a myth that countries with lots of snow in the winter just get on with it, they dont.Roads become impassable, airports close.Some towns are isolated for days.Then there is the danger of power cuts, which is why one needs a wood burning fire.My village, which is very close to main roads, was cut off for days three winters ago. As long as I have food, heating tv and the internet I dont care though !.

Bansko News

With the voiding of visa requirements for Serbian, Macedonian and Montenegrin nationals, the Bulgarian mountain resort town of Bansko has seen a "big increase" in tourists from those countries, a welcomed development given the vacuum created by the absence of tourists from traditional markets, website investor.bg reported on January 14 2010.

Serbian, Montenegrin and Macedonian nationals have been able to visit and travel in Bulgaria freely as of December 19 2009.

Traditionally, British, Greek and Romanian tourists frequented Bansko the most. This year, the Greek and Romanian guests have arrived in their usual high numbers, but there was a "drastic decrease in British tourists".

As of January 14 2010, there was a notable rise observed in Russian and Ukrainian tourists, who came to Pirin and Bansko in particular, according to investor.bg, without giving exact numbers.

One reason for the spike in numbers, according to hotel proprietors in Bansko, was that both countries celebrate Eastern Orthodox holidays using the Julian calendar, which means that Christmas is on January 7 and the unofficial New Year's Day is on January 14.

Despite the economic crisis, the business sentiment among hotel owners in Bansko for 2010 was positive, investor.bg said, citing a "decent" quality of service and "marginal" efflux tourists.

VT Culture Capitol of Balkans

Bulgaria's medieval capital, Veliko Turnovo, was selected the cultural capital of the Balkan peninsula, Dnevnik daily reported on January 18 2020. The accolade was awarded to the town by the Balkan Hotel and Restaurant Organisation. The official awarding ceremony is scheduled to be held on April 4.

Last year, Veliko Turnovo was accepted as the only Bulgarian town in the internaitonal committee of historic towns and villages (CIVVIH), which has 70 members, including the likes of Paris, Rome, Prague, Vienna and Brussels.

Veliko Turnovo is the second Bulgarian town to win the award from the organisation. In 2009, Velingrad was selected as the "spa capital of the Balkans".

The decision is perhaps only a deserved reflection of the consistency and popularity of Veliko Turnovo, not only with Bulgarians but with foreign tourists as well.

In spite of the global economic downturn, about 271 000 tourists visited the Tsarevets castle in 2009, according to Sonya Petrova, head of the tourism department in the regional history museum in the town, Bulgarian news agency Focus said on January 8 2010.

The breakdown includes 84 000 primary and secondary school pupils and 34 000 university students, 110 000 Bulgarian adults and more than 43 000 foreigners. The number of visitors in 2009 was higher than in 2007, but eight per cent less than in 2008.

"This is by no means a drastic drop. It is apparent that the economic crisis has had an effect, but whereas some other historic sites are perhaps neglected, Tsarevets retains its pull," Petrova said.

With Veliko Turnovo becoming the cultural capital of the Balkans, the local tourism industry would be forgiven to expect a healthy business outlook for 2010 as well.

Uncles Comment: Well deserved been there countless times beautiful old city marred by spaghetti junction road system at entrance, but pretty old town plus the aforementioned fortress and some great restaurants.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Probably accurate property news

Bulgaria Real Estate Negative Trends Continue in 2010 – Report

The negative trends in Bulgaria's real estate market will continue at least until the third quarter of 2010, a property report of the “Foros” agency reveals Tuesday.
Due to the unstable economic situation in the country there are no expectation for changes in the investment climate while price decrease, low demand, low sales, lack of foreign buyers and limited bank crediting are to continue at least until mid-2010.
The only difference, according to the report, is that in the first three quarters, the supply of residential units will continue to go down, leading to a short-term balance between supply and demand. In 2009, in Bulgaria's largest cities, home sales went down an average of 39%, but currently the supply is still larger than the demand.
In the third quarter there are expectations for new residential projects to appear and revive the real estate market.
The number of finalized sales in the first half of 2010 will go down 10% - 13% compared to the same period last year when 87 459 sales were concluded in Bulgaria – a staggering 35% less that January – June of 2008.
Sales prices and rent prices will also continue the trend of going down and in the first six months of the year they will be 10% lower in some areas of the country. In comparison, during the same period of 2009, sales prices were down 16% and rent went down 19% with the majority of the sales concluded with prices about 20% lower than the listing ones.
In 2009, Bulgarians have formed the majority of those who have purchased homes in the country – 92%, followed by Russians and citizens of the former Soviet Republics.
By the end of the third quarter of 2009 the revenues from foreign real estate investors have been EUR 433 M compared to EUR 1 081 M in 2008, or a decrease of 60%.
The one-bedroom apartments have remained top sellers in 2009. Only 5% to 10% of the home purchases have been financed through mortgages due to banks limiting the granting of loans while in 2008, 65% of the purchases have been financed by bank loans.

Uncles Comment: I find little to disagree with here. The market will re-balance itself, as supply decreases.For those who have money there are some really great offers out there.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

About Bulgaria

If anyone reading this blog requires further information about Bulgaria then they can e mail me on info@gobg.co.uk, or post comment on the blog.

EU Shennanigans

Rumena Julieva, the Bulgarian nomination for the International Co-operation and Human Rights portfolio, is in trouble.She gave what was termed a 'weak' performance at the hearing into her confirmation, and there are big suspicions about non-declaration of business interests during her time as an MEP.She has also been described as a 'gangsters moll' due to her husbands alleged links to gangsters on the Black Sea, and the dodgy TIM insurance company.
It may be that her nomination is withdrawn, or there is the possibility that the whole commission will be rejected.
The sub-plot to this is that the Slovak nominee is also in trouble for anti-gypsy remarks.He is a Socialist nominee and Julieva is from the rightist European Peoples Party.This is adding to the underlying tension.
So we wait and see.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

EU-Turkey update

Bulgarian Minister Admits Faux Pas over Turkey EU Bid

The Bulgarian official, who caused an uproar after threatening to block Turkey's application to join the European Union unless it pays out billions of euros in compensation for displaced people, has repented over his rash step.
“I have made a faux pas. The prime minister is right, it is my gaff, not his,” Bozhidar Dimitrov, a Bulgarian cabinet minister without portfolio who runs the country's Agency for Bulgarians Abroad, said on Thursday.
According to Dimitrov he has gotten wrong a report of the European Commission on Turkey's progress, which has recommended that the country sticks to its commitments.
“Obviously this has been just a recommendation, not a condition for EU membership,” Dimitrov added.
A day earlier Prime Minister Boyko Borisov threatened to sack Dimitrov in an attempt to make good in the dispute over Turkey's EU accession, which has elicited a high-level rebuke from Turkey.
Bulgarian deputy foreign minister Marin Raykov also tried to ease tensions, saying that there is no threat of a veto and that Bulgaria backs all the decisions of the European Union, concerning the dialogue between Brussels and Ankara.
Bulgaria and Turkey concluded a deal in 1925 in which they agreed the value of the lost land and property, but the compensation has never been paid. In 1983 the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry claimed that the assets left behind by the expelled Bulgarians were worth USD 10 B.
Minister Bozhidar Dimitrov however had said that considering the years of foot-dragging Sofia is within its rights to demand at least twice as much money.
Turkey began accession talks with the EU in 2005 but progress has been slow, with just 12 out of 35 negotiation chapters opened so far.

Uncles Comment: This is a PR disaster the European press has had a field day with this.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Payback time...

Turkey Calls for Calm as Bulgaria Threatens Veto

Days after Sofia threatened to block Ankara's application to join the European Union, Turkey's foreign minister has urged the Bulgarian government to avoid statements that could hurt bilateral relations.
“The friendship between Bulgaria and Turkey is for the good of the two countries. It would be much better if statements that might hurt this freindship are avoided,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Tuesday, taking up a journalistic question.
The call comes shortly after Bozhidar Dimitrov, Bulgarian cabinet minister without portfolio who runs the country's Agency for Bulgarians Abroad, said his country may block Turkey's application to join the European Union unless it pays out billions of euros in compensation for displaced people, in a case dating back to the days of the Ottoman Empire.
Bozhidar Dimitrov pressed the claim in remarks to the Bulgarian newspaper, 24 Hours, on Sunday (3 January). An official in the Bulgarian government's press office, Veselin Ninov, told EUobserver on Monday that Dimitrov's statement reflects government policy and that the dispute is being handled by a Bulgarian-Turkish intergovernmental working group. The information was cited on Tuesday in a number of Turkish newspapers, including Sabah, Zaman and Radical.
Talking to journalists on Tuesday, Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu pointed out that important issues between the two countries, such as this one, should not be commented through the media.
In his words the relations between Ankara and Sofia are a model of excellence for the region, while their cooperation of mutual interest and set an example on the Balkans.
Sofia has not approached officially Ankara with regards to these claims, Ahmet Davutoglu said.
Bulgaria and Turkey concluded a deal in 1925 in which they agreed the value of the lost land and property, but the compensation has never been paid. In 1983 the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry claimed that the assets left behind by the expelled Bulgarians were worth USD 10 B.
Minister Bozhidar Dimitrov, who is responsible for government policy on Bulgarians living abroad, says that considering the years of foot-dragging Sofia is within its rights to demand at least twice as much money.
Turkey began accession talks with the EU in 2005 but progress has been slow, with just 12 out of 35 negotiation chapters opened so far.

A curious tale

Who Is Who: Murdered Bulgarian Journalist Bobi Tsankov

Boris Nikolov Tsankov, aka Bobi Tsankov, was murdered in broad daylight in downtown Sofia on January 5, 2010.
He was born in Sofia in 1979, and graduated from the Sofia Music High School “Lyubomir Pipkov”. He was the host of radio and TV shows including SMS Text Message betting games on a number of Bulgarian media – Radio 7 Days, Radio Hit 7, Radio Signal Plus, Radio Sport, Radio Viva, Radio Bravo – Varna, Radio Praktika, Radio Extreme – Pernik, TV Channel 2001, Balkan Bulgarian Television, SKAT TV, BGTV, and 7 Days TV.
He first became famous as a controversial figure when he was first arrested on June 24, 2003.
The signal against him was submitted by businesswoman Vanya Chervenkova. Tsankov was allegedly linked to the attempted murder on 35-year-old Vanya Chervenkova that filed a claim against him. Chervenkova has brought a lawsuit against Tsankov, claiming that she had paid the radio anchor some BGN 50 000 for advertising on Radio Viva. However, Tsankov never broadcasted any ads of Chervenkova's mineral water brand.
In June 2003, the Deputy Sofia Prosecutor, Petar Chalamov, said that the arrested radio host was charged with large-scale fraud as over 1 000 people from around Bulgaria had filed suits against him. In August 2003, Tsankov was released on a BGN 25 000 bail.
According to media reports, Tsankov committed fraud in several ways. One was to announce people could win free advertising in his show but then asked them to pay the amount of the value-added tax where he kept the money without broadcasting any ads. Another way was to ask the potential advertisers for money for billboards in Sofia which also never came up. A third way was to ask those who were said to have won free advertising to pay half of the amount of the ad to distribute the money among the owners and sponsors of the radio. He is said to have taken sums ranging from BGN 3 000 to BGN 17 000.
In November 2003, a bomb went off in a building in the centre of Sofia at the Neofit Rilski and Tsar Asen Str. The bomb was placed in front of the apartment of the parents of the controversial radio anchor Bobi Tsankov. The family of Tsankov was home during the blast but no one was injured.
The blast spurred rumors that Tsankov was a close associate of Sofia drugs boss Anton Miltenov, aka The Beak, and that the explosion was actually directed against him.
Tsankov was arrested again on June 3, 2004, for interrogation over his connections with Miltenov. A day earlier, he was injured in an evident attempt on his life when a hand-made bomb exploded in front of his home.
On February 27, 2006, Tsankov was arrested again over numerous frauds. His home at Tsar Asen Street where he lived with his parents was searched and he was interrogated by the Economic Police Unit.
On March 2, 2006, he was left behind bars by the Sofia District Court. Businesswoman Vanya Chervenkova was the main witness against him.
On June 27, 2006, he got a suspended three-year sentence with a five-year trial period over frauds during his time as host at the Viva Radio.
A second investigation against Tsankov is ongoing. He is investigated for misappropriation of property while he was the Executive Director of the 7 Days Radio in 2001.
In November 2009, Bulgarian Police arrested drugs kingpin ‘Jacket’ (Sako) in Sofia after he chased former radio host Bobi Tsankov through the streets of the capital in his car. ‘Jacket’ is also reported to have made previous threats against Tsankov’s life. Tsankov called the police while being chased.
Tsankov said that he had been chased in his car from the South Park in Sofia to the traffic lights in the City Center from where he managed to escape. He alleged ‘Sako’ was attempting to stop him writing about another famous mafia boss Metodi Metodiev a.k.a. Meto Ilienski being alive when he was thought by the authorities to be dead.
At the very end of 2009 New Bulgarian Media Group owned by media tycoon Irena Krasteva, who is the publisher of the Weekend paper, published Tsankov’s book in which he claims that Sofia drugs boss Metodi Metodiev, aka Meto Ilienski was still alive even though he disappeared in November 2003, and that he had become an agent of the US Drug Enforcement Agency DEA.

Well it's a bit different


German high school seniors are the tourists Bulgaria largest sea resort Sunny Beach counts on to fill its hotels.
Over 30 hotels have reservations for German high school proms and the students are expected to be the first tourists arriving at the resort in May.
The increased interest had been a surprise even for travel agents, while the groups are expected to stay at Sunny Beach at least for a week.
In addition to Sunny Beach, German high school seniors are expected in the northern Black Sea resorts of Albena and Golden Sands.
Travel agents say the reservations, which begin booking at the end of 2009, are higher in numbers compared to the last season.

UK Govt urges crackdown on property fraud

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office has urged Bulgaria to raise standards and tighten controls in the Real Estate sector in the country.
A letter to Bryan Talbot, who recently won his final appeal after having his dream EUR 98 000 villa stolen from him and sold on three times, was exclusively shown to Novinite.com regarding the issue.
Natalie Luscombe from the European Directorate of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office stated that the UK Ambassador in Sofia met with the then Bulgarian Deputy Foreign Minister in early 2009 “to emphasise the need to raise standards and tighten controls in the Real Estate sector and also sought assurances that the problems encountered by British Nationals purchasing property in Bulgaria would be taken seriously at government level”
Luscombe added that “following the parliamentary elections in Bulgaria on 5th July a new Bulgarian government was sworn in on 27th July our Ambassador (Steve Williams) again raised these issues in his introductory calls on relevant new Ministers.” She continued by praising the “new governments subsequent commitment to promoting more transparent and effective overall public administration, and to tackling corruption much more rigorously than in the past.”
“I hope that the efforts of our Embassy, and the stated commitment of the Bulgarian government, will help, to raise regulatory and professional standards in the Bulgarian Real Estate sector, .....and people who purchased in Bulgaria to have better protection and access to advice in the future,” she concluded

Michael Shields

Michael Shields: Left with a Lingering Sense of Injustice

Views on BG
From independent.co.uk
By Jonathan Brown
If Michael Shields thought that the authorities were going to help smooth his return back into normal life, he was sorely mistaken. The combined shortcomings of the British and Bulgarian legal and political systems had already condemned the young Liverpool football fan to serve four-and-a-half years in prison for a crime he did not commit.
So when it came to his release, after a prolonged and impassioned campaign by his family and the people of his home city against his wrongful conviction for the attempted murder of a Bulgarian waiter, he was inured to the prospect of being let down again.
"If someone commits a crime and they get out of prison I know it's not much help but you do get a probation officer and they keep an eye on you. But no one has ever contacted me. I've never had anything from them, no offer of counselling or an offer of a reason why it happened," he says.
It is four months since the quietly spoken 23-year-old became the first Briton to be granted a royal pardon for a wrongful conviction overseas, and in that time he has begun to rebuild his life.
Shortly before Christmas, the young engineer found himself a job working on-site for a property management company. Still fit-looking from his time pumping iron at the prison gym, his hair longer now than in the pictures which publicised his campaign, work has provided a welcome change. In the immediate aftermath of his release, he spent long restless days in front of the television at his family home, trying not to mull over the sense of injustice burning away inside him. Life after jail poses considerable challenges for any former inmate. For those wrongly convicted those pressures can be immense.
Yet in many ways, admits Mr Shields, he has been lucky. He has a large and protective family and the support of a strong community of neighbours and fellow Liverpool FC fans. The club itself was pivotal in keeping up the pressure over his wrongful conviction, and he celebrated his first match back in the luxury of the directors' box at Anfield. His parents, Michael and Maria, who devoted all their energies to campaigning for his release, are having to adapt too. "They are fine. You can see them getting better. They are smiling more. It affected them more than anyone," Mr Shields acknowledges. "Through my family, I have had time to find my feet," he says.
Sitting in the front room of the smart terraced house in the Wavertree area of the city, with its vivid red colour scheme in tribute to Liverpool Football Club, he says he has found it easy to rekindle friendships that were put on ice when he was sentenced to 15 years by the court in Sofia in 2005 (though he declines to discuss whether he is now in a relationship). "The first two months everything happened too fast. I just couldn't take it in ... I couldn't relax. I couldn't sit down and watch the telly. I had to keep myself occupied. The last four weeks have been better." he says.
It was on the last day of his first-ever trip overseas, to see Liverpool win the Champions League, that normality was suspended for the young engineer, aged just 18 at the time. He was arrested by Bulgarian police investigating a brutal late-night attack on the waiter, Martin Georgiev, who had been punched to the ground and hit on the head with a heavy stone, leaving him severely injured. Failures in the inquiry, notably a flawed identity parade, meant Mr Shields was wrongly picked out. Another Liverpool fan, Graham Sankey, confessed to the assault, although he later withdrew his statement.
As protests grew back home, including an emotional display on the Kop at Anfield, the Supreme Court in Sofia in 2006 reduced the sentence on appeal, but refused to grant a retrial. Mr Shields was transferred to finish his sentence in the UK – but not until a benefit concert helped raise the £90,000 needed to pay off his outstanding costs, including £80,000 compensation to the victim.
Yet despite the ongoing doubts over the safety of the conviction, and the insistence of the High Court in London to the contrary, Justice Secretary Jack Straw remained adamant that it was not in his power to review the case. Following the submission of fresh evidence, Mr Straw eventually recommended a royal pardon. "I thought that it wasn't going to happen. I thought, 'He's not going to do it'. I had no faith, or no hope, in Jack Straw whatsoever," Mr Shields recalls. "They should have just looked at the facts of the case. When you look at the facts of the case it is there. When you bring politics into it, and you think these will be upset and those will be upset ... – but we were upset because of the miscarriage of justice," he says. The Shields family have yet to receive an official apology, and there is still no prospect of compensation. Even getting written confirmation of his pardon required a spectacular degree of effort, Mr Shields recalls. And "The thing that wound me up most was getting no apology. I'm definitely still looking for one, and someone has got to give me one. I think I should get two – one from the British Government for doing nothing about it, and one should come from Bulgaria."
Jail was a difficult time for a young man from a close-knit family who had never been in trouble with the police before: "It was frustrating that no one believes you, or frustrating that no one is doing nothing about it, or frustrating that people have got away with doing this thing to you... There were a few times when I had visits and I'd just say 'That's it: just forget about it – I don't want to know'."
Now he says he has to force himself to move on – even though the real culprit has never been brought to justice: "I don't think about it. If I do, I get angry and bitter, so I just make myself not think about it," he says.
There remain serious obstacles to getting the retrial he seeks – not least that the victim picked him out in court. "It was a horrible thing what happened to him ... It messes with your head. It should be important to the victim to see justice happen too," he says. To help fund the campaign Mr Shields has recounted his own version of events in his book, My Story. He continues to support other people wrongly jailed overseas, working with the campaign group Fair Trials Abroad.
But it is the small things he is relishing now. "Four-and-a-half years is a long time, especially when you are young. Sometimes when I'm out, someone will say, 'Remember when this happened or then we did this,' and I'll have to say, 'I wasn't there – I was away'. Then I'll be left with bad feelings, though I like to think I'm wiser for it," he says. "There were loads of things I missed – every little thing – but the fact that now I can go and see mates, or Saturday night I can just go for a drink... People take things for granted so much."

important property update

Bulgaria Delays Outlawing of Property Cash Buys

New rules that envisage that all property transactions in Bulgaria must be carried out via bank transfer will come into force in the summer and not as of January 2010 as originally planned.
The delay is due to the parliament's failure to approve before the end of the year amendments to the country's Notary Act, which are still in the pipeline.
“The best case scenario is for the bill to be approved by the parliament at second reading at the end of January,” Iskra Fidosova, head of the judicial commission in the National Assembly, commented. “Most probably the law will start to be implemented not earlier than May or June,” she added.
There is hope that the new rules will help to reduce property fraud and money laundering, as well as ensuring that all fees and taxes owing to the state are paid.
Whilst the change to buying and selling was first mentioned a year ago as part of a bigger plan to reduce corruption in the property sector, it is only now starting to come to fruition.
As well as reducing corruption, it also aims to ensure that all fees and taxes owed to the state are paid, through the creation of a State Depositary Bank which would serve as a guarantee for all payments in the form of the state acting as custodian for deposits.
The legislative changes will require that both the vendor and the buyer specify their bank accounts for conducting a property deal. Alternatively, they could use the account of their notary public.
The conditions for depositing money into bank accounts as part of the deal will be specified by the respective sides in written agreements.
These legislative changes are seen as the first step to an all-out regulation of payment in purchase deals through a special law to be called Deposit Account Act.
There is also hope that the new laws may inspire more confidence from overseas property buyers.
But, there are risks to this new system, as sellers and buyers may want to avoid the new fee charged by the bank for servicing the transactions.
Thus, they may agree a lower price for the official transaction and then do a cash deal privately. This is common in France where the new system planned for Bulgaria is already in use.