Thursday, 30 September 2010

French thieves steal entire Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard !

Thieves in France have broken into a vineyard and stolen an entire crop of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, say police.
They struck in Villeneuve-les-Beziers on Sunday night, taking advantage of a full moon and using a harvesting machine to seize 30 tonnes of the crop.
Farmer Roland Cavaille said similar crimes had taken place before in the Languedoc-Roussillon, one of France's best-known wine growing regions.
He said the theft amounted to a year's work and about 15,000 euro (£12,900).
"They used a harvesting machine to gather grapes. This means there was no need to have lots of people, two people would have been enough," Mr Cavaille told Le Parisien newspaper.
"The area was quite isolated, it is a a few kilometres from the village and near a river. So the thieves were able to work safely."
One witness reported hearing engine noises in the early hours of the morning and police have been examining footprints left at the scene, said the newspaper.
But Mr Cavaille said the thieves were clearly professionals who could easily sell on the grapes.
He said there had been a similar grape theft had been reported in the area four years ago and that another complaint had also been filed this year.
While his vineyard was insured, it did not cover the loss of the grapes themselves.
Mr Cavaille told Europe1 news he had no idea who had taken the grapes but that he was angered and surprised by the theft, as he believed there was a "degree of solidarity" between winemakers

Another health minister bites the dust

Bulgaria has moved onto its third minister of Health in two years with the resignation of Ana-Maria Borisova.She was appointed as a breath of fresh air, but that really meant she knew nothing about Bulgaria's underfunded and creaking healthcare system.Proposals to close smaller hospitals in small towns have not gone down well and staff struggle with low wages and outdated equipment.

The real problem is a lack of cash in the system and a lumbering healthcare bureaucracy.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Buying to become more transparent...er..

New rules that envisage that all property transactions in Bulgaria must be carried out via bank transfer have been attacked by opponents, who say they serve the interests of banks and notaries.
"The law will trample on the interests of a large number of Bulgaria to the benefit of banks and notaries," comments Nikolay Pehlivanov from the nationalist Ataka party as the legislative amendments are about to be moved to parliament for their conclusive approval.
According to him the new rules mean more fees for the clients without any guarantees for their safety.
The rules that envisage that all property transactions in Bulgaria must be carried out via bank transfer were proposed in the hope that they will help reduce property fraud and money laundering, as well as ensure that all fees and taxes owing to the state are paid.
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.
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.

Bad News for travellers

Wizz Air, the largest budget air carrier in Central and Eastern Europe, is shutting down its Sofia – Varna service for the winter, according to a Varna Airport media statement on September 22 2010.

There will be no flights during the winter months, and according to the carrier's website, no flights can be booked currently past the date November 1 2010. However, for the moment, there is no official statement from the carrier itself that the flights are being ceased.

Wizz Air launched its Sofia – Varna service in July 2008, with tickets averaging between 60 and 80 leva, while some tickets were as cheap as 20 leva, depending on reservation. With that, Wizz Air started competing directly with coach companies in Bulgaria which operate on the Sofia – Varna route, charging passengers about 30 leva for a one- way journey.

According to Wizz Air CEO József Váradi, the company has 35 per cent of the budget air travel market in Bulgaria and 19 per cent of the market in Central and Eastern Europe.

Wizz Air expects that by the end of 2010 about one million Bulgarians would have used its services.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Independence Day

Wednesday, September 22, is a national holiday as people across Bulgaria are celebrating the 102nd year since the country's formal declaration of independence from the Ottoman Turkish Empire.
Even though the third Bulgarian state was technically restored in 1878, for the first 30 years of its existence it was a tributary principality to Ottoman Turkey, until complete independence was achieved on September 22, 1908.
After the medieval Bulgarian empire was conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1396 AD, Bulgaria was formally restored as a nation-state on March 3, 1878, as a result of the Russian-Turkish War of 1877-78 brought about by the bloodily crushed April Uprising of 1876.
Under the San Stefano peace treaty between Russia and Ottoman Turkey, Bulgaria was set up as a state on a territory of 170 000 square kilometers encompassing the three historic-geographic regions traditionally inhabited by Bulgarians - Moesia, Thrace, and Macedonia.
Three months later, in July 1878, the Great Powers from the so called "European Concert" revised the San Stefano Treaty in the so called Berlin Congress, an outcome of their conflicting great power interests.
As a result, the Principality of Bulgaria was set up in most of Moesia and the Sofia region on a territory of 63 000 square km. About half of Thrace, or Southern Bulgaria was made an autonomous Ottoman Province called Eastern Roumelia, with a territory of 36 000 square km. The rest of the Bulgarian lands under the Berlin Treaty - including all of Macedonia and half of Thrace - were left in the Ottoman Empire. The Principality of Bulgaria was a vassal state, while Eastern Roumelia was technically an Ottoman province.
Bulgaria's entire political and social life in 1878-1944 was marked by the desire to unify all Bulgarian-populated lands in one nation state - leading the country to participate in five wars in that period. First, the Unification of the Principality of Bulgaria and Eastern Roumelia in 1885, and the declaration of full independence in 1908 were hailed as crucial and successful but only partial steps towards this goal.
On September 6, 1885, the Principality of Bulgaria unified with the autonomous Ottoman province of Eastern Roumelia, a few years after its liberation from Ottoman yoke.
The historic proclamation was made after a march by a handful of Bulgarians from the small town of Saedinenie  ("Unification") to the town of Plovdiv, removing one of the gravest injustices imposed in the wake of the Berlin Congress. The Unification was prepared by a network of secret revolutionary committees in Eastern Roumelia, and was backed by the then Bulgarian ruler, Knyaz (King) Alexander I Batenberg.
Great Britain had been the primary protagonist in downsizing Bulgaria during the Berlin Congress because it feared a large Bulgarian state with access to the Mediterranean would be under Russian influence. However, in 1885-1886, it backed informally but rather noticeably, Bulgaria's Unification, seeing that the Russian Empire at the time was against this move, which stirred diplomatic tension in the Balkans, and seized the chance to demolish Russian influence in Bulgaria.
As other Balkan countries objected to Bulgaria's Unification, Serbia attacked Bulgaria in November 1885. In a grand national effort to defend the Unification, the young Bulgarian Army, which had just been left by its senior Russian officers, repulsed the attack, and defeated the Serbs on their territory, thus making the Unification of Northern and Southern Bulgaria a fait accompli.
But it was not until 1886 when the Great Powers recognized the almost doubled state of Bulgaria with a Bulgarian-Ottoman treaty.
After the Unification of 1885, Bulgarian efforts were focused on making Macedonia and the rest of Thrace part of the country. Thus, Bulgaria backed the VMORO (Internal Macedonian-Adrianople Revolutionary Organization) and its staging of the Ilinden-Preobrazhenia Uprising in 1903 and several other revolts in then European Turkey in that period.
As the uprisings of the Bulgarian populations in Thrace and Macedonia failed, the Bulgarian leadership decided the only way help its compatriots still living under Ottoman yoke was to wage a war against Ottoman Turkey. To do this, Bulgaria had to be able to enter international alliances, and to declare war as a sovereign nation state.
Thus, the Bulgarian Cabinet and ruler declared the country's independence on September 22, 1908, in a historic ceremony in one of the nation's medieval capitals Veliko Tarnovo. They used the fact that one of the European Great Powers broke the Berlin Treaty – Austria-Hungary had declared the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which it was supposed to rule for a period 30 years, under the Treaty.
The actions of the Bulgarian leaders were in fact coordinated with those of the emperor and government in Vienna. Austria-Hungary announced the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina the following day, ushering into the Bosnian Crisis (or Annexation Crisis) of 1908-1909 creating diplomatic tension among the Great Powers that served as a preview of the Bosnian or Sarajevo Crisis of 1914 leading to the breakout of World War I.
Thus, as a result of Bulgaria's declaration of independence, the Bulgarian ruler Ferdinand I, who until then had been a Knyaz (the Slavic equivalent of “King”), became a Tsar (technically the Slavic title for emperor). Under international diplomatic pressure, Ottoman Turkey reacted to Bulgaria's declaration of independence only with diplomatic protests, without military action.
As it became independent, Bulgaria subsequently took part in the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913, World War I (1915-1918) in seeking to regain all of its national territory (and in World War II (1941-1945)), being ultimately unsuccessful.
The celebrations of Bulgaria's Indep Day are traditionally held the night of September 22 in Veliko Tarnovo, the capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire that in 1908 Tsar Ferdinand and Prime Minister Alexander Malinov chose as the site for the proclamation of independence.
The Independence Day has been celebrated as an official public holiday since a decision of the Bulgarian Parliament from September 10, 1998.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

A national disgrace !

A total of 238 children have died in state-run homes in the country over the past decade, the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee said in a report Monday (September 20th). According to the document, three quarters of these deaths could have been prevented: 31 were caused by starvation, 84 were the result of exhaustion and two children died as a result of violence. In some cases, children were tied to their beds or wheelchairs or were given strong tranquilising medicines to be "chemically immobilised". Chief Prosecutor Boris Velchev told reporters Monday that investigations are under way in connection with 166 of the reported deaths. "In these cases there is enough evidence to suspect criminal negligence," he said.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Europe According to Bulgaria

This is a Bulgarian designers humourous take on how Bulgarians see the rest of Europe !.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Domingo update

The latest news from Balchik Council is that the concert will be next year.When further information is available it will be posted here.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Summer slowly ebbs away

Things are starting to wind down here.The seaon for tourists is coming to an end and the resorts are emptying.Those people who head to the coast for their annual vacation are now back at their desks and the holiday home owners are returning to winter in their countries of origin.

This time of year is always strange as it gets perceptibly quieter, I suppose its a sort of 'the party is over' feeling but it is also nice to get back to something approaching normality.Unfortunately 'normality' also involves a bloody freezing winter, and a period of massive snowfall.

Priority number one now is to get some logs in for my kamina (wood burning fire) which, with its duct work, comfortably heats the lounge and my bedroom.The ductwork is the pipework that takes the smoke from the fire into the chimney stack it rises a metre up and then over two metres across into the stack.I must admit it is nice to have a roaring fire, but it has to be cleaned out and re-lit each day and constantly stacked up.Very few places in Bulgaria have mains gas, and only a few cities have this luxury.The alternative is electric heating but the bills are huge.Air-conditioning units can be useful but they need to be A rated ones and the sturdier ones as the winter temperatures are so extreme that cheaper units cannot convert very cold air into warm easily and can burn out.

I will need probably 8m3 of wood to last all winter, its an enormous amount when you see it delivered and costs about 200 GBP.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Website News

Periodically I post information about my business website (www.gobg.co.uk), today I am updating about services we offer to clients.

We provide a fully comprehensive service to our clients, not only selling property but also new builds and general maintenance.We offer airport pick ups, and settling in services such as buying furniture etc.

A property management service is also available ie cleaning,pool maintenance,paying bills,gardening.

If you have any particular needs e mail me at info@gobg.co.uk or just visit the website by clicking the banner heading.

To Placido or not Placido..that is the question

Readers may recall that I posted the exciting news that Placido Domingo was to sing in Balchik on 4th September, one big problem..it never happened.I think this can be filed away with the Formula 1 racetrack near Sofia and Johnny Depp in Burgas, all absolute nonsense dreamed up to get publicity in the August 'silly season'.

The problem is that people will stop believing what the powers that be actually say.When I heard about the Domingo booking I immediately wondered how they could seat 3000 people in the botanical gardens, it is a large site but undulates wildly (ie its hilly).

The lesson from this is that one should exercise a high degree of solipsism, in other words 'believe it when you see it'.

Snail like Progress in fighting crime

EU urges Bulgaria and Romania reforms to fight crime

Bulgarian police - file pic, 15 Mar 09  
Bulgaria's police and courts are under pressure to root out organised crime.
EU leaders say Bulgaria and Romania must take urgent action to tackle crime and corruption - areas in which they are failing to meet EU standards.
EU foreign ministers said Bulgaria must strengthen the transparency and accountability of its courts and impose tougher penalties for organised crime.
Major shortcomings were also found in Romania's judiciary and the EU voiced concern about conflicts of interest among government officials.
Both countries joined the EU in 2007.
The European Commission set up a Co-operation and Verification Mechanism just for Bulgaria and Romania because the EU judged that they needed to do more in the areas of judicial reform, combating corruption and - for Bulgaria - organised crime.

Pressure has increased for them to speed up the reforms because they both want to join the Schengen zone next year - the area of passport-free travel for EU citizens, which covers most of the EU.
In 2008 the Commission suspended about 500m euros (£413m) of aid to Bulgaria, saying it must do more to fight corruption and organised crime.
'A matter of urgency' At their meeting in Brussels on Monday, the EU ministers praised Bulgaria for having stepped up penal reforms and indictments for high-level corruption and organised crime.
But they complained of "important deficiencies" in court procedures and inadequate judicial follow-up of organised crime cases, recommending the use of dissuasive sanctions and asset forfeiture.
In Romania, they said new legal codes set to take effect in October 2011 "will provide an important opportunity for a thorough reform of the Romanian judicial system".
But the EU statement said "little effective progress has been achieved as regards the efficiency of the judicial process, consistency of jurisprudence and the accountability of the judiciary".
"Human resources remain a major challenge. A co-ordinated anti-corruption policy across the different sectors of government is missing. Substantial improvements are required in the field of conflict of interest" in Romania, it said.
"The [ministerial] Council encourages Bulgaria and Romania to intensify their reform efforts as a matter of urgency," the statement said.

Uncles Comment : The fact remains that not one major organised crime figure has been convicted and served a sentence of any length.Often the judiciary blames the largely untrained police force for not reaching a convincing standard of evidence, the police on the other hand blame the judges for being too weak (the implication of corruption is always in the background).Often an accused individual can delay their court appearance by simply sending in a sick certificate !.

The only people who do get convicted are the comparative minnows, who seem to be offered up to the Bulgarian public as some sort of sacrificial lamb. 

Monday, 6 September 2010

Great English Language website

For those of you bored with the TV output from Bulsat and ITV Partner, here is a great website with tv programmes and the latest films. It's free and high quality.Just click the headline of this post its www.veetle.com

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Any spare cash ?

Thousands of Roma families from across Bulgaria gathered for the traditional bride market, with bids of up to 50 000 leva (about 25 000 euro) from would-be grooms, Bulgarian National Television reported.

Negotiations were held at a church near Bachkovo Monastery, in central Bulgaria about 10km from Assenovgrad – the latter town, coincidentally, formerly held sway as the centre of wedding dress-making in Bulgaria.

High prices were demanded, and offered, in spite of the financial crisis that has severely hit Bulgaria.

One man, identified only as Sergei in the report, said that he had offered 40 000 leva for the bride he wanted. He said that prices depended on the beauty of the bride, whether she was hard-working and on her skills.

The bride-to-be said that she was happy with the transaction "because I love him".

The bride’s grandfather, Mitko, said that prices of brides only went up over the years, never down.

However, some young men went away empty-handed this year, because they could not afford the prices demanded during haggling. They would have to wait until this time next year, for love and better and financial times, the report said.

Kolyo, a bachelor from Chirpan, said that prices averaged 20 000 to 25 000 leva, often higher, in spite of the economic crisis.

Prices were about 10 to 15 per cent higher than in 2009.

"Brides are getting more expensive?" the television reporter asked him.

"Yes, like gas prices," Kolyo said.

great news for taxi passengers

Bulgaria’s Cabinet has tabled in Parliament amendments to the Carriage by Road Act that would empower municipalities to set limits on taxi tariffs, in a move intended to end abuses in the industry – but the move already has been opposed by the Commission on the Protection of Competition and some in the taxi industry, who have threatened to blockade Sofia’s streets if the legislation is approved.

Exorbitant tariffs charged by some taxi firms and drivers have been the subject of numerous complaints over the years, especially among foreigners and expatriates in Bulgaria, although it is not only non-Bulgarian-speakers who fall prey to cheating by copycat companies and unscrupulous drivers who charge excessive fees or use special devices to inflate fares.

There have been moves from authorities and from some major players in the industry against abuses, including a raid by police and tax authorities in early summer 2010 against "pirate" taxis in Plovdiv, and court actions by large companies such as OK Supertrans against rivals who mislead passengers by mimicking the names and logos of reputable companies.

At the beginning of August 2010, Bulgarian National Television (BNT) reported that some drivers continued to use "pumps" to manipulate their taxi meters.

BNT interviewed a taxi firm executive, Iliya Vassilev, who said drivers in some companies were using "pumps" that were operated by various means, sending electronic pulses to taxi meters in various ways, including a remote control device in the driver’s pocket, or buttons linked to the volume button on radios or music players or electronic windows.

"Maybe some passengers will have noticed how drivers turn up the volume on music, or open and close windows," Vassilev said.

Such pumps were usually difficult to find, inspectors said, because the mechanisms customarily were concealed deep in the electronics of the car.

Nikola Chavdarov, of the inspectorate in Sofia, said that inspectors did not have the legal right to dismantle a taxi’s dashboard, for instance. "It (a pump) can be hidden anywhere," he said.

Even if passengers complain about inflated tariffs, inspectors might not arrive in time to prevent the driver removing such apparatuses, BNT said.

However, taxi companies said that they usually took matters into their own hands, fining drivers who were the subjects of complaints. "A good image among customers is directly linked to their profits," according to the BNT report.

Companies said that they routinely fined drivers, including one case of a driver who regularly had been fined about 200 leva a week. However, when asked to show documentation of these fines, the firms said that these were confidential.

Travelling with an odometer, a BNT reporter found some discrepancies between the mileages recorded by taxi meters and the distances recorded by the odometer. While sometimes the distances matched, in other cases there were differences of about 30 per cent.

In July, Sofia’s deputy mayor in charge of transport, Lyubomir Hristov, said that the municipality intended to introduce ceilings on the amounts that taxi companies would be allowed to charge customers.

Any limits would be put in place with the consent of the major taxi companies in Sofia, he said.

The amendments envision price limits being imposed by the local authorities, who also licence cab companies, and would have to be updated at least once a year or at the request of the Transport Minister.

Hristov said that the price would be determined using a formula that would include vehicle ammortisation, an average weighted price of fuel and even the driver's salary. Sofia municipality was already working on drafting several such formulas that could be presented to taxi companies as soon as Parliament approved the amendments, he said.

According to city hall statistics, about 5000 cabs in Sofia had valid licences. The amendments envision fines of 3000 leva for taxis charging more than the ceiling imposed by the local authorities.

In June, the country's competition watchdog rejected the Transport Ministry's proposal on cab price caps, saying that it would only serve as an excuse for taxi companies to institute a price cartel, stifling competition and innovation.

"Putting a maximum price ceiling on the taxi service would mean that all parties affected would create a cartel among themselves and establish prices which are close to the preceding ones," Dnevnik quoted a spokesperson of the Commission for the Protection of Competition as saying.

The report said that the Transport Ministry had requested the opinion of the commission on the matter, and in turn, the commission said that that they "understand the social aspect of implementing such a measure, but that it would be against established European practices".

"This would negate the initiative from the companies. It will deter them from improving the diversity of their services, and the quality of service," the commission said.

Bulgarian-language media reports on September 1 2010 said that taxi companies had said that if Parliament approved the proposed amendments, they would blockade Sofia.


As regular readers of this blog will realise, it has always been my intention that this site would be interesting,informative and quirky.It covers a range from satirical to serious politics.I must be doing something right as we have had nearly 800 readers since I put the visitor counter on.My estimate is that, from the beginning, over 2500 people have looked at Uncle Bulgaria's musings.
Thanks to regular readers, and please dont be afraid to contribute, my idea has always been to get a dialogue going with my readers.Please keep visiting and enjoy !.Any suggestions or requests for info/articles are very welcome.