France’s political parties are banding together to stop Le Pen
After a heated presidential election, French independent candidate Emmanuel Macron and far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen will face each other in a runoff election vote on 7 May. With 97% of the vote in, Macron leads with 23.9% of the vote to Le Pen’s 21.4%. Conservative Republican party leader Francois Fillon and far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon were narrowly edged out of the final round, with 19.9% and 19.6% of the vote respectively. Opinion polls have consistently predicted Macron, 39, defeating his rival in the run-off.
The change aims to identify ways to alleviate the administrative burden for Member States
The Commission launched last Wednesday a consultation on how excise duties are applied to alcohol and alcoholic beverages, as it eyes a revision of tax rules to support small drinks producers, the EU press service reported.
 
Internet of Things Summit in Brussels focuses on security, privacy and connectivity
Maria Koleva, Brussels
Connected cars, free of congestion streets and avenues in the big towns, non-polluted air and e-healthcare will be simple things of our day-to-day life in the near future thanks to Internet of Things technologies.
 
Strengthening EU-China ties
Maria Koleva, Brussels
Cooperation on glo­bal challenges, regional and security issues as well as the preparation of the upcoming in June EU-China Summit were the main topics of discussion of the 7th EU-China Strategic Dialogue that Federica Mogherini, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and VP of the European Commission held in Beijing with State Councillor Yang Jiechi.
How low oil prices might be named elephant in the room
A prominent event on the new narratives of energy and energy policies for “debunking myths” was convened in Brussels on 20 April by the Joint Research Centre, which is known as the EU science hub, and MAGIC project.
Erdogan fulfils ambition, but at cost
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has finally fulfilled his long-held ambition to expand his powers after the 16 April referendum handed him the reins of his country’s governance.
Betting further on blue economy
The Commission launched last Wed­nesday a new initiative aimed at supporting the sustainable development of the blue economy in the Western Mediterranean region, the EU press service reported.
GERB and United Patriots reach cabinet agreement
A government programme stretching until 2021 has been prepared by GERB and the United Patriots, revealed a statement by the leaders of the two political parties, Boyko Borisov and Valeri Simeonov respectively, made at a briefing ahead of the long Easter weekend.
New parliament begins work
Vowing to complete their four-year term, the new parliament’s 240 members had their first day of work on 19 April. During the 44th National Assembly’s first session, they took the traditional oath to uphold the constitution and the laws of the country and be guided by the citizens’ interests in all their actions.
The Korean trap
Prof. Mihail Konstantinov
The US naval strike group headed by the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier is expected to be in the waters off the Korean Peninsula very soon. Presumably advised by his generals, the new US President Donald Trump has promised to solve the North Korean nuclear problem one way or another.
May likely seeks mandate for a softer Brexit
Fabian Zuleeg
After PM Theresa May has called for a general election on 8 June it is far from clear what this will mean in terms of the Brexit process.What seems almost a foregone conclusion (if the opinion polls are any indication) is that this will be a resounding victory for the Conservative Party. The Labour Party seems in no shape to fight, let alone win a general election, and the Liberal Democrats are still a long way from regaining the strength they had when they became junior partners in government in 2010. The threat from UKIP has been seen off by the Conservative Party strongly advocating the Leave position ever since the referendum. And the Scottish National Party will struggle to replicate its stunning electoral success in 2015.
Ukraine peace pledge renewed
Germany, Russia, Ukraine and France have renewed their commitment to implementing a shaky peace deal for eastern Ukraine where fighting between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces has flared since 2014, Germany said last Tuesday. Chancellor Angela Merkel's office said the German leader spoke by phone last Monday night with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and French President Francois Hollande.
US, North Korea play game of nerves
The tension in the region of the Кorean peninsula is rising among concerns that Pyongyang could throw down the gauntlet to US President Donald Trump with a nuclear test. Along with concerns, there are frequent appeals to calm the situation through diplomacy and cooperation with countries in the region.
Trump pushes 'Hire American' policy
President Trump signed an executive order on 18 April that directs federal agencies to review employment immigration laws to promote “Hire American” policies. "The buy and hire American order I'm about to sign will protect workers and students like you," Trump told a crowd of technical students and manufacturing employees at the headquarters of Snap-On Tools, a Wisconsin-based manufacturer. Trump said the order would "aggressively promote and use American-made goods and to ensure that American labour is hired to do the job."
Saudi Arabia forced to cut costly projects
Saudi Arabia's government is ordering its ministries and agencies to review billions of dollars' worth of unfinished infrastructure and economic development projects with a view to shelving or restructuring them, government sources told Reuters.
Malaysia Airlines to track its planes with satellites
Malaysia Airlines became last week the first airline to sign a deal for space-based monitoring of its aircraft's flightpaths, news wires reported. The carrier is still reeling from the loss of the missing MH370 three years ago.
Magic of realism
Art Gallery Paris in Sofia is celebrating its 14th anniversary in style with the group exhibition Realism, which is opened to visitors until 5 May. The show features some of the best contemporary representatives of realism, hyperrealism, surrealism and magic realism in Bulgarian painting. The exhibition’s motto is a thought popularised by famous German artist Max Beckmann: “If you wish to grasp the invisible, penetrate as deeply as possible into the visible.”
Alicia Sancha - cosmopolitan born in Sofia
Irina Gigova
The history of Alicia Sancha’s family reads like a film script. Life has scattered members of her kin all over the world and keeps taking them in different directions.
Damien Hirst returns with sunken 'treasures'
Damien Hirst has been quiet for a few years now, and his star has dimmed - as have his prices. So at the age of 51, it seems it's time for a little bit of reinvention for the British artist.
Where water of life flows
Adelina Lozanova
Nestled in the folds of south Mount Vitosha, some 50km away from Sofia, lies the village of Bosnek, often referred to as “the village of healing water”. It has earned its nickname thanks to a unique spring outside of the settlement that alternately gushes water and dries up. This curious pattern has apparently been going on for centuries as there is a 17th-century record of the esteemed Ottoman traveller Evliya Celebi describing it.
In Brief
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Global economy in good shape
 
Global economy is picking up the momentum and it can be sustained in medium and long term, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said last Thursday at the World Bank/IMF 2017 Spring Meeting in New York. Photo: EPA

Mogherini in New Delhi
 
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini held talks with India`s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi on 21 April to prepare the India-EU summit. Photo: EPA

Slovaks protest against corruption
 
Thousands of Slovaks joined a rally last Tuesday to pro­test against corruption and demand the resignation of Interior Minister Robert Kalinak, over his ties with a businessman under investigation for tax fraud. Photo: EPA

Trump: Strong Europe is very important to US
 
A strong Europe is "very, very important" to the US , said President Donald Trump at a news conference with Italian PM Paolo Gentiloni in Washington on 20 April. “We want to see it, we will help it be strong and it’s very much to everybody's advantage,” he added. The meeting comes a month before Trump is to travel to Italy for the first G7 summit of his presidency. Trump praised Italy as a key partner in the fight against IS, but made it clear that the US would not send ground troops to stabilise Libya.

Champs-Elysees gunman known to police forces
 
A gunman opened fire on police on the Paris iconic Champs-Elysees boulevard, killing one officer  last Thursday night, 3 days before a general election in France. Two other police officers and a woman tourist were wounded. Police shot and killed the gunman. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility just a few hours after the attack. The attacker, a 39-year-old man named Karim Cheurfi, was known to French security services. Media reported he had served nearly 15 years in prison.

New cars fall behind EU fuel efficiency target
 
The fuel efficiency of new cars sold in the EU improved last year but at the smallest annual improvement recorded over the last decade, according to new data from the European Environment Agency. The average CO2 emissions of a new car sold in 2016 were 118.1 g CO2/km, which represents a decrease of 1.4 g CO2/km (1.2%), compared to the previous year. Official emissions have, however, decreased by more than 22 g CO2/km or 16% since 2010.

EU Literature Prize winners announced
 
The EU Prize for Literature 2017 winners were announced last Friday, recognising literary talent from all corners of Europe. Bulgarian Ina Vultchanova is among the 12 winners, with the rest coming from Albania, the Czech Republic, Greece, Iceland, Latvia, Malta, Montenegro, Serbia, the Netherlands, Turkey and the UK. “With the prize, we shine the spotlight on emerging literary talents across Europe and recognise the importance of the European book sector,” Commissioner for Culture Tibor Navracsics said.

Magic Flute's new look
 
Russian soprano Olga Pudova (top) as Queen of the Night and Romanian soprano Adela Zaharia as Pamina during the rehearsal of the opera `The Magic Flute` by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in Erkel Theatre, Budapest, Hungary, 19 April. Photo: EPA 

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