France speeds up deportations
French government presented its first big immigration bill last Wednesday, which is expected to face stormy debates in Parliament with migrant charities and left-wingers blasting the bill as repressive. Even some members of French President Emmanuel Macron's party are reluctant to back the law, observers believe. The bill will double the time for which undocumented migrants can be detained to 90 days and shorten the deadlines to apply for asylum, from 120 days to 90 days after a migrant's arrival in France. It will also make the illegal crossing of borders an offence punishable by one year in jail and fines. The new bill aims to cut the waiting time on asylum applications from 11 months to six, while providing help to those who want to go home.
New EU corporate tax plan approved
Firms would be taxed where they earn their profits under new proposals for a harmonised corporate tax system, agreed last Wednesday by the Economics Committee, the EP press service reported. The new approach for the first time considers in a fair and proper way companies' online activities in order to calculate their tax. The so-called Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base (CCCTB) is a part of a wide-ranging proposal aimed at creating a single and clear EU corporate tax regime. It is complimented by a separate measure, which creates the basis for the harmonised corporate tax system.
Going circular puts industry, consumers in driver's seat
Maria Koleva, Brussels
The transition to a circular, resource-efficient and low-carbon economy is well on track, placing industry and consumers in the driver's seat. What's next in this field was debated at the Circular Economy Stakeholder Conference in Brussels on 20 and 21 February by more than 400 people from industry, EU institutions, public authorities, NGOs and citizens.
Banking scandal shatters Latvia
Latvia was shattered last week by a scandal involving Central Bank Governor Ilmars Rimsevics, who was arrested and questioned for several hours on corruption suspicion, news wires reported. His office and one of his private properties had been raided by the special Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB). No details from the questioning have emerged, but according to people close to the inquiry Rimsevics is suspected of demanding a huge bribe of no less than €100,000.
Direct payments: simplified and targeted at active farmers
European Agriculture Ministers meeting in Bulgaria on 19 February said direct payments could be more targeted at active farmers. During the debate, the ministers underlined the importance of direct payments and considered that their design could be further improved by making them fairer, more targeted and effective for farmers across the EU.
EU defence industry programme approved
The new European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP), with a budget of €500m for 2019-2020 period, was last Wednesday approved by the Industry and Research Committee, the EP press service reported. The main aim of the programme is to foster the EU's strategic autonomy in the field of defence. EU financial assistance will cover the development of new and upgraded products to make the EU enhance its defence capabilities. Under the programme, Member States will be able to work together to pool resources and spend defence budgets more efficiently.
Europe can double renewables
The European Union can boost the share of renewables to 34% of its energy mix by 2030, triggering hundreds of billions of euros in investment and accelerating reduction of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. This is one of the main findings from a new report released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), on request from the European Commission. Lawmakers in the 28-nation bloc are currently discussing policies for the next decade.
Borisov and Orban promote reliable EU borders protection
The prime ministers of Bulgaria and Hungary, Boyko Borisov and Viktor Orban, promoted the idea of reliable protection of the European Union's borders and control over the migrant influx. This was a central topic of conversation during their meeting at Boyana Residence in Sofia on 19 February. The future of the bloc and the role of the countries of the Western Balkans in it were also discussed during Orban's official visit.
Why fears of civil society are on the rise
They talked of war and conflict but most of the “strongmen” lashing out at each other at the recent security conference in Munich are more fearful of their own citizens than they are of each other. Civil society activists are under increasing pressure worldwide, their pursuit of dignity and equal rights-for-all clashing with governments' determination to silence dissent and “disobedience”.
Ukraine's Donbass law signed
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko last Tuesday signed the law on reintegration of Donbas, which makes no reference to the Minsk agreements, news wires reported. However, on his Facebook page Poroshenko insisted that the bill does not violate the international obligations of Ukraine, including Minsk deals. The Russian Foreign Ministry said it saw the law as “preparations for a new war” and accused Kiev of violating the Minsk peace process.
EU executive hands out big cartel fines
The European Commission imposes €546m ($673.49m) fines to car shipping groups and car parts suppliers for anti-competitive behaviour, the EU executive announced last Wednesday. “The three separate decisions taken today show that we will not tolerate anticompetitive behaviour affecting European consumers and industries,” Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy said.
Four-nation alliance set to counter China
The US, Japan, India and Australia could soon join forces to set up an alternative to China's Belt and Road Initiative in an attempt to counter Beijing's growing influence.
Italy to get new national carrier
Meridiana, an airline based in Sardinia, launched its bid last Monday to become Italy's leading carrier with a new name: Air Italy, news wires reported. The new airline, which is part-owned by Qatar Airways, aims to replace Alitalia, the bankrupt flag carrier that is in the process of being auctioned off in parts to other European airlines.
Strong Viennese presence in The Csardas Princess
The only living heir of composer Emmerich Kalman, his daughter Yvonne Kalman, is set to visit Bulgaria at the end of the season for a new production of the operetta of all operettas - The Csardas Princess, staged at the Music Theatre in Sofia. She could not attend the premiere shows on 24 and 25 February but Blagovesta Rankova, a long-time personal secretary to the composer's wife, Vera Kalman, was watching from the box. The 80-year-old Yvonne, who lives in Munich and owns a hotel chain in Mexico, sent a congratulatory letter to the cast of the Bulgarian production of her famed father's most recognisable work.
Marta Petkova - pointe work to the top
Some days ago, she was caught off guard by her daughter's question: “Mother, do you consider yourself a happy person?” In such moments Marta Petkova, the premier danseuse of the Sofia Opera and Ballet, is made aware of how blessed she is. She is dancing in all sorts of places across the world - her latest projects include appearances as guest principal dancer in Dallas, Naples, etc.
Documentary retro journey shot across Bulgaria
A crew of the German television channel SWR, including Hagen von Ortloff, the legendary host of Eisenbahn-Romantik, visited Bulgaria recently to make a documentary about the Septemvri-Dobrinishte narrow-gauge railway and the old trains in the country.
The Bulgarian Archaeology 2017 traditional exhibition, whose goal is to introduce the general public to the most significant and impressive finds of the past year, was officially opened on 16 February at the National Archaeological Institute and will welcome visitors until 1 April.