Sofia and Istanbul may serve as examples for ethnic tolerance
Bulgaria must improve the relations between the European Union (EU) and Turkey in 2018, in the first half of which Sofia holds the Presidency of the Council of the EU. This was noted by Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, who took part in the official unveiling of the restored Orthodox church St. Stephen in Istanbul on 7 January. The ceremony was also attended by Patriarch of Bulgaria Neophyte, Grand Mufti of the Muslim Denomination in Bulgaria Mustafa Hadji, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Turkey's President Recep Erdogan and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, diplomats and public figures. Bulgarians residing in Istanbul and nearby cities flocked to the courtyard of the so-called Iron Church especially for the event. “Generally speaking, mixed communities and migrants are used to exert pressure, create conflict. We have the rare opportunity to make it so that Bulgarian migrants and Muslims in Bulgaria serve as a bridge of friendship and security, a guarantee for ethnic tolerance. Bulgaria has always strived to have excellent relations with both the Christian and the Muslim worlds.
Prokopiev, Donev and Donchev have a semi-conspiratorial meeting to which only their media outlets were allowed access
The clique of media oligarchs Ivo Prokopiev, Sasho Donchev and Ognyan Donev organised its latest semi-conspiratorial meeting that saw them complaining for nearly two hours about lack of freedom of speech in Bulgaria and attempting to convince the world that their media outlets were the only objective ones. As is their habit, the currently indicted members of the country's behind-the-scenes clique blamed the state and our publisher Delyan Peevski for all their troubles. The oligarchs spared no expense in holding their pompous event, renting one of the halls of the Sofia Balkan Hotel to host the presentation of their “voluminous work” of a 32-page book, so-called White Paper on Media Freedom in Bulgaria.
Offshore companies and undeclared money feed the Fake News Factory
Offshore companies, undeclared funds and capital flows running against all rules of operating companies traded on the stock exchange lay the financial foundations of the oligarchy's Fake News Factory. This was revealed by the newswire Monitor Agency's investigation into the source of the funds backing the media outlets of the slandering factory created by Ivo Prokopiev's Capital group and supported in its mission by the publications of the other members of the oligarchic clique - Tsvetan Vassilev, Ognyan Donev and Sasho Donchev.
Bulgaria takes EU's helm
The President of the European Council Donald Tusk chose a verse by one of Bulgaria's greatest poets, dedicated to the love for the fatherland, to start his speech during the official opening ceremony for the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU. Tusk gave his speech in Bulgarian, which brought to their feet the Bulgarian and EU political elite in attendance during the event held on 11 January at the National Theatre in Sofia. “As a Pole, I understand well how much work, courage and determination it cost you, Bulgarians, to achieve European success for your fatherland. No one gave you anything for free,” he said. “We would all like it if the present and future of the Balkans were less like dramatic screenplays.
Testing next long-term budget goals against EU added value
Maria Koleva, Brussels
The design of the next EU long-term budget post-2020 is one of the pressing topics in the Commission programme for this year. On Wednesday, at its first for 2018 meeting, the College of Commissioners held the first orientation debate on the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF).
UK risks tensions in appeal to Germany
Two top British ministers risked fresh tensions with Brussels last Wednesday by reaching out directly to Germany with a call for a new trade and economic model of cooperation with Berlin and the EU as Brexit talks enter a critical phase, news wires reported.
Faster progress in removing illegal content online eyed
Maria Koleva, Brussels
Online platforms have the responsibility to provide a secure environment for their users, and they have been removing more illegal content than ever before showing that self-regulation can work, but regulation remains an option, said EC Vice-President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip.
It's now or never
Giles Merritt, Shada Islam
This is the year when Jean-Claude Juncker's ‘Last Chance’ Commission must chalk up worthwhile achievements and shake off the sense of inertia that already risks turning into full retreat. The theatrics of Brexit overshadowed much of 2017, but with the UK-EU relationship hopefully relegated to the intricacies of behind-closed-doors trade negotiations, the Union should focus public attention on key topics that will determine the European elections of mid-2019. It may be tempting to hand over the keys to Europe’s future to French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Debunking the 'Peevski' myths
Lyubomira Budakova, Natalia Radoslavova
Oligarchs, members of a unique club because of ongoing court cases against them and ownership of struggling businesses, have been trying to undermine the state for the past several years. To facilitate their propaganda attacks, Ivo Prokopiev, Sasho Donchev, Ognyan Donev and Tsvetan Vassilev even created their very own Fake News Factory, whose members are spewing the same talking points and slandering statements as if produced on a conveyer belt.
Greece, Macedonia melt ice
Greece and Macedonia agreed last Tuesday to make a renewed effort to settle a dispute over the latter's name which has been dragging on for decades and holding up its aspirations of joining the EU, news wires reported. In the last years, Athens has repeatedly blocked the ex-Yugoslav republic's attempts to join NATO and has put obstacles to its EU membership bid, because it says the name Macedonia implies a territorial claim over Greece's own northerly region of that name.
Iran arrests dozens linked to protests
Iran says it has arrested dozens on suspicion of “terrorist activities” during a recent wave of protests. The official IRNA news agency on 10 January carried a statement from the Intelligence Ministry saying security forces confiscated arms and explosives from “safe houses” kept by the detainees.
Emerging markets to drive 2018 growth
The global economy is set to expand by 3.1% in 2018, slightly up from 3% last year and marking the first year since the 2008 Great Recession that it will near or achieve full growth potential, the World Bank said on 9 January. In an update of its twice-yearly economic report, the Bank however warned that the economic upswing this year was temporary, unless governments adopted policies that would focus on increasing workforce participation. The pace of world growth was expected to moderate to 3% in 2019 and 2.9% in 2020, it said.
France woos China amid concerns over its power
French President Emmanuel Macron crowned his visit to Beijing last week with several business deals but also pleaded for European unity in the face of China's growing economic power, news wires reported. The French leader launched last Monday his charm offensive in the Asian giant amid growing international concerns over Chinese expansionism.
CES 2018 bets on artificial intellect
A wide range of cool new products was presented last week at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2018 in Las Vegas, which ran from 9 to 12 January, in attempt to provide a taste of the future, news wires reported.
La Scala stars shine in Sofia
The legendary opera singer Katia Ricciarelli and tenor Francesco Zingariello are set to present a spectacular music show on 14 April in Hall 1 of the National Palace of Culture in Sofia. The concert is entitled With Music in the Heart and tickets are already available. The Sofia programme of the two La Scala superstars features about 20 emblematic and beloved opera arias and popular songs such as Lascia ch'io pianga - a famous soprano aria by George Handel, Ah la paterna mano - Macduff's aria in the opera Macbeth by Giuseppe Verdi.
We should love others as we love ourselves
Leo Bogdanovski
Full of work. I travelled all around the country with my latest monodrama Black Chicken based on three “wild” stories by Nikolay Haytov. I received the Chudomir Award for it in Kazanlak.
Best art biennials
The year is shaping up to be interesting for art lovers and travellers. The 10th Liverpool Biennial: Beautiful World, Where Are You? will take place from 14 July until 28 October and its venues include Tate Liverpool.
New life for Iron Church
Adelina Lozanova
After six years of repairs, the end of 2017 saw the conclusion of the complete restoration of the Bulgarian Orthodox church St. Stephen in Istanbul, also known as the Iron Church.
In Brief
Bulgarian EU Presidency officially launched
Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker promised to work closely with Bulgarian PM Boyko Borisov during the six-month Presidency and attended a signing ceremony of the biggest so far project in Bulgaria guaranteed by the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI).

The College of Commissioners held a joint session in Sofia on 12 January together with the Bulgarian government ministers to discuss the priorities of the Presidency and to mark the most important issues that have to be worked on in depth.

European Council President Donald Tusk and European Parliament President Antonio Tajani spoke at the ceremony in Sofia.

Bulgarian Patriarch Neophyte (C) was among the official guests of the ceremony.

The beautiful hall of the National theatre hosted the launch of the Bulgarian EU Council Presidency.

The Children's Choir at the Bulgarian National Radio performed the Anthem of Europe at the stage.

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