President Donald Tusk said that the EU has a real chance of closing the Central Mediterranean route
Maria Koleva, Brussels
Focusing on the migration external dimensions, driving towards Digital Europe, moving ahead with defence cooperation, taking stock on Brexit and foreign affairs issues were the main topics on the European Council’s agenda on 19 and 20 October. Contrary to expectations of some heads of government and media, the Catalan crisis was not discussed during the sitting. At a news conference after the first session, EC President Donald Tusk conceded that the situation in Spain is concerning but added that “formally speaking there is no space for EU intervention here.” On arrival Vice-President Federica Mogherini evaded a journalistic question on Catalonia saying “that’s definitely not foreign policy”. For the first time this year the meeting took place at the Council’s old building Justus Lipsius, as a new incident with noxious fumes in the kitchens of the new Europa premises occurred again.
Germany and France urged US Congress not to reimpose sanctions on Tehran
The EU vowed last Monday to defend a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers and urged US lawmakers not to reimpose sanctions after President Donald Trump chose not to certify Tehran's compliance with the accord, news wires reported. Germany and France led a chorus of warnings to the US that any weakening of the agreement to prevent Iran obtaining nuclear weapons could have serious consequences for peace. “As Europeans together, we are very worried that the decision of the US president could lead us back into military confrontation with Iran,” German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told reporters at a meeting with his EU counterparts.
Austria People's Party leader Sebastian Kurz has intention to reshape the Alpine country
Rumyana Kotchanova
At 31 years old, Sebastian Kurz is set to become the world's youngest leader. The conservative People's Party leader is poised to be the next Chancellor of Austria, the latest European country to take a sharp turn to the right in 15 October election, won as a result of his hard-line position on immigration.
Lawmakers want ban on letterbox firms
Maria Koleva, Brussels
The EP special committee investigating the 'Panama Papers' revelations on money laundering, tax avoidance and tax evasion (PANA) adopted on Wednesday evening its conclusions and recommendations in the final report. The voting session as a whole took more than four hours.
Enforcing 'equal pay, equal work' pattern by new rules
Maria Koleva, Brussels
Employment Committee MEPs adopted new measures for workers who are sent temporary to carry tasks in another Member State that aim to introduce ‘equal pay for equal work’ model, putting an end to social dumping and countering unfair competition between companies.
Madrid is ready to restore rule of law
The Catalan crisis nears a breaking point as the Spanish government last Thursday announced it will hold an extraordinary cabinet meeting on 21 October to trigger procedures to suspend home rule in the province. "The Spanish government will continue with the procedures foreseen by Article 155 of the Constitution to restore legality in the self-government of Catalonia," a statement said.
Opinions matter: listening and understanding them
A­ survey commissioned by the European Parliament shows that a clear majority of European citizens (57%) believes that EU membership is beneficial to their country. The rate is close to the figures registered in 2007 before the onset of the financial and economic crisis.
Stepping into digital era
Maria Koleva, Brussels
For two days, on 17 and 18 October, the European Parliament sheltered a vibrant exhibition named “Generation Code: Born at the Library”.
All sectors are priority with the cabinet
All sectors are priority with the government. This was indicated in comments made by Prime Minister Boyko Borisov during the Business and Government on One Team conference organised by the International Business Leaders Forum. He still singled out education as the most important factor, as results from it can be expected to show up in 10-12 years. Borisov reminded that this year 10,000 more kids were enrolled in school. “They would have stayed illiterate and become reliant on the social system in time,” the premier noted. Borisov also revealed that some 100 laws will be amended in order for the administrative burden to be eased. He reminded that when two years ago his party GERB took over, the contraband cigarettes accounted for 34% of the market share, while the public budget was BGN 2bn lower. Today, that smuggling rate has fallen to 6-7%.
Europe needs its own Commissioner for Happiness
Andreas Kaplan
Can the EU still portray itself as a strong reliable institution for all Europeans? The UK’s 2017 Brexit vote and recent events in Catalonia have raised questions about the role and value of the EU. Another symptom was the alarmingly weak participation in the most recent European parliament elections, in 2014. The lack of interest is all the more worrisome when remembering that the initial idea of the EU’s founders was to bring peace and prosperity to its citizens.
EU should not turn its back on Turkey, dialogue to go on
Amanda Paul, Demir Murat Seyrek
Getting EU leaders to agree on a strategy for Turkey is like herding cats. While all member states are alarmed over the backsliding on democracy and the rule of law in the country, a common response is missing. When weighing up the various options, it is important that the EU understands that a change in approach from Turkey’s leadership ahead of the numerous elections in 2019 (local, presidential and parliamentary) is unlikely. Foreign policy choices will continue to be dictated by domestic political imperatives. Staying in power is the number one priority for President Erdogan. Hence Ankara’s frequent jingoistic anti-EU rhetoric is likely to continue. Representatives of the EU and its member states should not allow themselves to be caught in a perpetual war of words with Ankara, which unfortunately is currently the case. Rather, while maintaining a principled stance on civil liberties and freedoms, the EU should first look for avenues for constructive engagement that could help reduce tensions.
Xi's grand vision for China
President Xi Jinping laid out a sweeping vision to transform China into a strong global power, while guaranteeing Communist Party rule for decades, Bloomberg reports. In a speech to party cadres that went on for more than three hours, Xi on 18 October outlined a three-decade road map to entrench China’s great power status. By 2050, Xi said the country would be a global leader in innovation, influence and military might.
German court rescues ECB QE
Germany’s Constitutional Court last Wednesday rejected a new request to stop the Bundesbank from taking part in the European Central Bank’s €2.3tn ($2.7tn) asset purchase programme, leaving the case with the European Court of Justice. Although Germany’s top court has expressed reservations in the past about the asset buys, it argued an injunction would essentially pre-empt a European ruling on the case, since it would severely restrict the ECB’s ability to carry out asset buys, commonly known as quantitative easing.
BGN 50m OSRAM plant opened in Bulgaria
Projects to the combined tune of about BGN 800m have been submitted to the InvestBulgaria Agency and are being processed. The statistic was announced by Vice-Minister of Economy Aleksandar Manolev during the official opening of the first Bulgarian plant of the technological giant OSRAM.
Daimler to restructure, split car, truck units
Daimler has started the process of creating separate legal entities for its Mercedes Benz cars and Daimler Trucks & Buses divisions under Daimler's overall roof, news wires reported.
Van Gogh's soul in 129 masterpieces
A true journey through the soul of the Dutch master Vincent Van Gogh offers an exposition opened on 7 October in the Italian town of Vicenza. It will run through April 8 in the splendid spaces of the Basilica Palladiana. The great cultural event in Vicenza, titled "Van Gogh: Between the Grain and the Sky", presents not only the ten years of frantic activity of the artist (1880-1890), but also the previous decade that can be considered as “preparatory” to his artistic activity.
My starting point is always something personal
Irina Gigova
This really is an interesting coincidence. Ralitza Petrova, the director of Godless, and I are good friends and we were recently joking that now each of us has a “leopard”. Jokes aside, these decisions have nothing to do with nationality - the jury panels are different and representing various corners of the world.
Two elite musicians sharing the stage
Penka Momchilova, BTA
Two Stradivari violins will sound in a concert by renowned Bulgarian violinist Mila Georgieva and her Polish colleague Radoslaw Szulc at Bulgaria Hall in Sofia, which is scheduled for 7.30pm on 25 October.
Overlooking Sofia Plain
Adelina Lozanova
Nestled in the folds of Mount Lozen, only 15km southeast from Sofia and 5km away from the village of Lozen, lies the “St. Spas” Lozen Monastery, also referred to as the “eastern pearl” of the Sofia Sveta Gora complex of monasteries. The cloister is situated on a natural terrace revealing a stunning view of almost the entire Sofia Plain and the Balkan Range.
In Brief
Borisov talks with Tusk
PM Boyko Borisov (L) and President of the European Council Donald Tusk discussed in Brussels the upcoming summit on the Western Balkans, 19 October. Photo: BTA

Spain royalty award to the EU
Spanish King Felipe VI (L) welcomes EP President Antonio Tajani before the Princess of Asturias Concord Award to be granted to the EU, Oviedo, 20 October. Photo: EPA

Workers protest in France
Public workers unions march to protest against the labour law reform bill in Paris, France, 19 October. Photo: EPA 

G7 concerned about new terrorist threats
The threat of fresh attacks on the West by foreign fighters fleeing the fallen IS stronghold of Raqa dominated a G7 meeting of interior ministers, held on 19 and 20 October. The meeting also tackled the hot issue of terrorism online. "The internet plays a decisive role in radicalisation. Over 80% of conversations and radicalisation happen online," Italy's Interior Minister Marco Minniti said. For the first time, representatives from Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter took part in G7 event.

Stronger e-privacy rules proposed
Draft proposals to ensure high standards of privacy, confidentiality and security in electronic communications were approved by the Civil Liberties Committee last Thursday. These would update the EU’s existing e-privacy rules to cover recently introduced internet-enabled services such as WhatsApp, Skype, Messenger and Facebook. MEPs call for a ban on “cookie walls”, which block access to a website if the person does not agree to his or her data being used by the same site. 

Aviation emissions: MEPs, Council reach deal
Airlines will remain exempt from paying for CO2 emissions from intercontinental flights until 31 December 2023. The legislation, informally agreed on 18 October by Parliament and Council negotiators, will prolong the exemption for intercontinental flights till the end of 2023, when the first phase of ICAO’s Carbon Reduction and Offsetting Scheme for International Aviation will kick in. Aviation accounts for 2.1% of global CO2 emissions, and intercontinental flights account for around 1.3%. 

World’s first ever 3D-printed bridge
Dutch officials have opened what is being called the world’s first 3D-printed concrete bridge. The structure, which is primarily meant to be used by cyclists, is located in the southeastern town of Gemert. “The bridge is not very big, but it was rolled out by a printer, which makes it unique,” Theo Salet, from the Eindhoven University of Technology, says. Work on printing the eight-metre (26-ft) bridge, which has some 800 layers, took about three months. 

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