The 2019 draft targets €166bn in commitments to make European economy furthermore stronger and resilient
The Commission tabled last Wednesday the 2019 draft EU Budget of €166bn in commitments and €149bn in payments, which corresponds to a 3% increase over 2018, and aims at investing in a stronger and more resilient European economy, and promoting solidarity and security on both sides of the EU's borders, the EU press service reported. This budget is the sixth one under the current 2014-2020 long-term EU budget and operates within the limitations set therein. It is designed to optimise funding for existing programmes as well as new initiatives and to boost European added value in line with the Juncker Commission's priorities. Generally speaking, the EU budget is primarily an investment one. “We are proposing an ambitious budget that continues to support our priorities, in particular on investment, jobs, youth, migration, solidarity and security, and that delivers European added value for our citizens. We need stability for the EU and I look forward to reaching an agreement with Parliament and Council as soon as possible,” Budget Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said.
Ministerial meeting in Sofia reaffirms long-standing cooperation in justice, home affairs
The Bulgarian Council Presidency hosted on 22 and 23 May an EU-US Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial Meeting, which reaffirmed the long-standing fruitful cooperation between the EU and the US in the areas of justice and home affairs, as well as the importance of jointly addressing common security threats, BTA reported. The two sides discussed their shared efforts to combat terrorism, focusing on effective information sharing, preventing radicalisation, use of the internet for terrorist purposes, and vigilance with respect to aviation security and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats and explosives, especially in relation to the evolving chemical threats to aviation and in public spaces.
 
Youth, digitalisation, AI among the main topics at the European Business Summit
Maria Koleva, Brussels
Hosted again at the Egmont Palace in Brussels, this year's European Business Summit was a scene of a thorough debate on a huge scope of pressing topics considered through the viewpoints and thoughts of business players, political leaders, including EU commissioners, MEPs, ministers, and also prominent experts. Under the main theme “Leading in a changing world: Europe at the forefront of global economic, social and political change” during the forum were held 35 sessions with 150 speakers.
 
Meagre progress to euro adoption
None of the seven Member States that are legally obliged to adopt the euro are actually ready to join the single currency, according to the 2018 Convergence Report presented last Wednesday by the Commission.
Little-known lawyer appointed Italian PM
Italy's President Sergio Mattarella appointed last Wednesday the little-known lawyer Giuseppe Conte to lead a populist coalition government, with plans to slash taxes and boost spending, as well as demands for reform of the EU, which worry Brussels and the financial markets.
Sofia proposes strategy for tourism energy efficiency
Bulgaria plans to propose the creation of a common strategy for energy efficiency in tourism, announced Bulgaria's Minister of Tourism Nikolina Angelkova at the International Conference on Macro-Regional Cooperation in Tourism and Energy held in Sofia on 23 May.
Greening our cities for prosperous future
Maria Koleva, Brussels
Imagine there is a city in the form of huge water lily that is floated at sea. This futuristic vision and many other brave ideas for the future presented at this year's Green Week in Brussels Vincent Callebaut, lead architect at Paris-based Vincent Callebaut Architectures. The Lilypad project, which he developed jointly with the University of Singapore, is concretely dedicated to helping the 250m climate refugees that will appear by 2050. He also gave his answers on how the post-carbon, post-fossil, post-nuclear and post-insecticide city will look like.
Binding obligations on Gazprom imposed to enable gas free flow
The Commission adopted last Thursday a decision imposing on Gazprom a set of obligations that aim at addressing the competition concerns and enabling the free flow of gas at competitive prices in Central and Eastern European gas markets, to the benefit of European consumers and businesses, the EU press service reported.
Boyko Borisov: Instead of divided, let us celebrate holidays together
Tihomira Mihaylova
Bulgaria and Macedonia have shown that it is better to celebrate holidays like 24 May together instead of being divided by them. This said Prime Minister Boyko Borisov in the presence of his Macedonian counterpart Zoran Zaev in Rome during a visit to mark 24 May - Day of Bulgarian Education and Culture and the Slavonic Script.
Civil society of tomorrow
Luca Jahier, President of the European Economic and Social Committee
Centralisation of power in the executive, politicisation of the judiciary, attacks on media independence and lack of trust in the traditional political parties are just some of the symptoms of the current widespread crisis of democracy. It is not an understatement to say that European democracy is experiencing its biggest setback since the 1930s and that traditional models of participation seem ill-equipped to cope with the acceleration of change.
Europe needs neighbourhood policy rethink
Luigi Scazzieri
The main thrust of the EU's response to the migration crisis has been to enlist the co-operation of third countries in an attempt to better control its own borders. The EU struck a deal with Turkey in March 2016, and supported Italy's efforts to co-operate with Libyan authorities in policing their coasts better and cracking down on people-smuggling.
Missed chances for peace
Chances for peace on the turbulent Korean peninsula vanished last week despite North Korea's goodwill gesture to dismantle its nuclear test site in the country's far Northeast, which was carried out in front of foreign journalists. The decision for demolition of the site was considered by international observers to be a good omen leading up to a potential meeting between Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump in Singapore next month.
Washington further enrages Tehran
The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week outlined an aggressive series of “painful” measures against Tehran following Washington's withdrawal from the nuclear deal, which in response intensified the voices of more world leaders in the pact's defence.
EU notifies WTO on US steel tariffs
The EU presented last week to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) a list of US products on which the bloc may in the future apply extra import duties in retaliation to tariff measures on steel and aluminium the US is readying, news wires reported. “This would be to compensate in an equivalent manner for the impact of the US tariff measures on steel and aluminium, which the EU considers to be safeguard measures in effect, should they enter into force,” the EU said in a written statement. This notification does not result in any immediate imposition of additional duties on imports from the US so far, it added. The EU said some retaliation could be applied already from 20 June.
US-China trade war put on hold until wider deal
The world's largest economies, China and the US, agreed to drop their tariff threats while they work on a wider trade agreement, news wires reported last week. The US said it will not impose $150bn in tariffs on China, as negotiations under which China would import more energy and agricultural commodities from the US will be launched.
Sony takes control of EMI in $2.3bn deal
Sony announced last Tuesday it is buying a controlling stake in EMI Music Publishing for about $2.3bn, effectively becoming the world's largest music publisher, news wires reported. With the deal, the Japanese company takes control over two million songs by artists from Queen and Sam Smith to Alicia Keys and Kanye West.
Star-studded cast shines in Aida
Following a triumphant tour to Bolshoi Theatre, the Sofia Opera and Ballet is presenting a true musical feast, this time in Sofia, with three different casts performing one of Giuseppe Verdi's most beloved operas, Aida - on 8, 9 and 10 June. It promises to be an experience with a different emotional intensity, featuring Bulgarian singers enjoying global success. The concerts will be conducted by Italian maestro Giordano Bellincampi, music director of the Auckland Philharmonia and chief conductor of the Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra.
Life is salsa, so dance it
Olya Al-Ahmed, BTA
It comes from our ethnic diversity and rich combination of folk traditions. We are a hotchpotch of a nation. You can find white blond people, black people, mulattos, mix-race, Africans and people with Asian roots in Cuba.
Ennio Calabria's great return in Sofia
The great Italian artist Ennio Calabria has returned to Bulgaria through his incredible love-filled works in the style of Neo-Expressionism. Organised in association with the Italian Cultural Institute, his exhibition The Body is on show at the Contrast Art Gallery in Sofia and is dedicated to his 60-year artistic journey. The collection of prints and paintings will be on display until 30 June.
Bulgaria introduces Cyrillic script to EU
Adelina Lozanova
Among the EU 28 Member States, Bulgaria is unique with its alphabet, the Cyrillic script. Its earliest version was devised in 855–862 and is known as the Glagolitic alphabet.
In Brief
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Merkel on a two-day official visit to China
 
China's President Xi Jinping (R) welcomes German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, 24 May. Photo: EPA

Juncker met with Groysman
 
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (R) met with Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman in Brussels, Belgium, on 24 May. Photo: Xinhua

New era for EU data protection
 
The Chair of the European Data Protection Board, Andrea Jelinek, announced at a news conference that new privacy regulations (GDPR) went into effect on 25 May. Photo: EPA 

Rules adopted for tax intermediaries
 
The European Council adopted on 25 May rules aimed at boosting transparency to prevent aggressive cross-border tax planning and corporate tax avoidance. The directive targets intermediaries such as tax advisers, accountants and lawyers that design and/or promote tax planning schemes. It will require them to report schemes that are potentially aggressive. The information received will be automatically exchanged through a centralised database, and penalties will be imposed. 

Financial sector takes the lead in fighting climate change
 
The Commission tabled last Thursday concrete proposals aimed at helping financial sector to lead the way to a greener and cleaner economy. The proposal sets harmonised criteria for determining whether an economic activity is environmentally-sustainable and at the same time introduces clarity on how institutional investors should integrate environmental factors in their investment decision-making. “We should put our money into projects that are compatible with the fight against climate change,” VP Valdis Dombrovskis said.

Helping SMEs get finance through capital markets
 
As part of the Capital Markets Union agenda, the Commission proposed last Thursday new rules to give small and medium enterprises (SMEs) better access to financing through public markets, so they can expand. “Given the crucial role played by scaling-up SMEs in creating growth and jobs, it is essential to ensure that all the right incentives are in place for these companies to grow,” VP Jyrki Katainen said. The initiative will also cut red-tape for SMEs trying to list and issue securities on 'SME Growth Markets'.

Macedonia's new name on the table in New York
 
Foreign Ministers of Macedonia and Greece, Nikola Dimitrov and Nikos Kotzias, spent six hours in talks in New York last Thursday with Matthew Nimetz, the US Special Representative for the naming dispute between the two countries, saying right after that they need another meeting later on Friday. Some days ago, Macedonia and Greece PMs, Zoran Zaev and Alexis Tsipras, said in Sofia that they agreed on the name “Republic of Ilinden Macedonia”, but Athens later called for new negotiations.

Bulgaria celebrates Cyrillic Script Day
 
The Day of Bulgarian Education and Culture and the Slavonic Script was celebrated with parades across the country on 24 May. Photo: BGNES 

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