European Council agrees to deepen efforts against foreign terrorist fighters and to better manage migration
Maria Koleva, Brussels
At their Summer European Summit in Brussels on 22-23 June, the presidents and prime ministers of Member States met to discuss an overcrowded agenda concerning cooperation on security and defence, including strengthening the fight again terrorism, but also managing migration, some foreign policy and economy issues, and the developments around Brexit. For the new French President Emmanuel Macron and the Irish taoiseach Leo Varadkar, it was the first participation at a European Council sitting. Leaders agreed on setting up permanent European cooperation in defence and in three months period Member States will agree a common list of criteria and commitments, as well as concrete capability projects, so as this cooperation to be up and running. European Council President Donald Tusk said this is a “historic step” because such cooperation will allow the EU to move towards deeper integration in defence.
Macedonia counts on Bulgaria’s support for its NATO and EU membership campaigns
Macedonia will count on Bulgaria’s support for its NATO and EU membership bids, Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev told journalists following a meeting with his Bulgarian counterpart Boyko Borisov on 20 June. The text of the good neighbourly relations agreement between the two countries is almost finalised. The final version is expected to be signed on 2 August in Macedonia, Zaev informed. “This is a historic moment, my first stop following my visit to Brussels is Sofia because we want to secure Bulgaria’s backing and support for our EU and NATO membership,” Zaev said.
 
If approved, Mariya Gabriel will work on targeted initiatives in cybersecurity
Maria Koleva, Brussels
At their sitting on 21 June the members of the EP Committee on Industry, Research and Energy and the Committee on Culture and Education recommended in a letter that Mariya Gabriel, Bulgarian commissioner-designate for Digital Economy and Society portfolio, be propped up for the job by the full house during the next plenary session.
 
First talks hint of hard Brexit
The Brexit talks were officially launched last Monday in Brussels with the EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, pointing out that he was “not in the frame of mind to make concessions or ask for concessions,” news wires reported. British media commented his words as a hint that the negotiations are going on a road to hard Brexit. Barnier also said that there would be “substantial” consequences from Brexit for both sides.
Tax intermediaries to get tough regulation
The Commission proposed last Wednesday tough new transparency rules for intermediaries - such as tax advisors, accountants, banks and lawyers - who design and promote tax planning schemes for their clients.
Managing migration by new rules, creating legal avenues
A day before the important European Council meeting where migration is topping the agenda, a conference on migration management was held at the European Parliament in Brussels.
Romania left party ousts its own PM
Romanian PM Sorin Grindeanu was last Wednesday forced from power by his own party, in a no-confidence vote in parliament, news wires reported. He lost the censure motion by 241 votes to 10 after beeing at the post for less than six months.
Effective values-based Union to guard the future of Europe
European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans hosted last Monday a high-level meeting with fourteen representatives from philosophical and non-confessional organisations from across Europe with the aim to discuss the future of Europe, the EU press service reported.
Burning hell under Portugal sky
More than 2,000 firefighters battled Portugal's deadliest wildfires in the central region of the country, where one blaze killed 64 people, while authorities came under mounting criticism for not doing more to prevent the tragedy.
The therapeutic effect of Brexit
Nadia Ilieva
The European Union has drastically improved its image and rating of approval since the fairly recent slump, shows a survey conducted by the Washington-based Pew Research Center published mere days ago. A year removed from the UK referendum, European citizens have improved their opinion of the EU, the results suggest.
Terror and counter-strike
Prof. Mihail Konstantinov
Since 2015, terror attacks in Europe have become more frequent, to the point of regular; it is hard to keep track of the attackers’ names, even as not all of them have been identified. But there is one name we are likely to remember – that of a slightly demented subject of The Crown, an alcoholic, homeless man, who is father of four.
Quiet coup in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia's King Salman made last Wednesday a kind of a quiet coup in the kingdom by removing his nephew Mohammed bin Nayef as crown prince and elevating his son Mohammed bin Salman to this position, news wires reported. According to a royal decree, the 31-year old prince would become deputy prime minister as well and will retain defence, oil and other portfolios he has already had. At the same time Mohammed bin Nayef was relieved of all positions.
Russia and US in conflict that risks turning armed
Russia’s defence ministry said it will treat as targets US-led coalition planes in Syria, west of the Euphrates River, after the US military shot down a Syrian Air Force jet on 18 June.
Germany to focus on free trade at G20
Germany wants to make progress in its presidency of the G20 on improving free and fair trade and will try to get broad agreement on open markets at next month's leaders' summit, Chancellor Angela Merkel said last Tuesday. She cautioned, however, that this might not be easy with US President Donald Trump who has made waves with his protectionist rhetoric. “Open markets and free, fair sustainable and inclusive trade is a key focus of our G20 presidency,” said Merkel.
Russia builds artificial islands to ship LNG
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed last Saturday a decree for the creation in the Barents Sea of four artificial islands, the Cabinet of Ministers announced on its website. It is reported that artificial objects are created in the Kola Bay for the arrangement of offshore structures.
Boeing, Airbus seek to outperform each other
The biannual Paris Air Show, the biggest of its kind, opened last Monday at Le Bourget with all eyes at aviation giants Airbus and Boeing, which were set to use the show once again to beef up their order books, news wires reported.
Munich Film Festival rolls out red carpet
The 35th Munich Film Festival rolled out the red carpet on 22 June for film stars, celebrities and fans, with a programme of 180 films from 60 countries. "This is a sensational selection of films," festival director Diana Iljine told DPA. The 12 films in competition will run for top two prizes: CineMasters best film award and CineVision award for the best newcomer director. The festival opened with the French film Un Beau Soleil Interieur, starring Juliette Binoche. The festival will end on 1 July with the screening of the British film Their Finest, featuring acting legend Bill Nighy.
An orchestra is a microcosm of society
Irina Gigova
To me, the Sofia Philharmonic is and has always been a very special orchestra. I had my first concert with it in 2001 and later the then-director Yavor Dimitrov invited me to be a visiting principal conductor.
She-wolf seen as nursing life
In Bulgaria’s contemporary art, Emil Popov is known for his sculptures of stone, metal, clay and wood. His expressive masterpieces carry the energy of the earth and create the impression of freedom of movement, while leaving a sense of deep connection with the artwork. The artist’s cohesive relationship with nature infuses his works with power and energy.
From Hesychasm to revolution
Adelina Lozanova
The “St. Archangel Michael” Monastery of Dryanovo is located in a scenic karst valley at the foot of steep rocks some 4km away from the town of Dryanovo and to the south of the former Bulgarian capital Veliko Tarnovo.
In Brief
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Programme outlining EU priorities approved
 
The PMs of Bulgaria, Estonia and Austria, Boyko Borisov, Juri Ratas and Christian Kern (L-R) approved the prog­ramme outlining the EU priorities in the next 18 months at a meeting in Brussels, 23 June. Photo: BGNES 

Mogherini urges Bosnia to speed up with reforms
 
The EU wants from Bosnia and Herzegovina real reforms, HR/VP Federica Mogherini told Mladen Ivanic, Chairman of the country Presidency, Brussels, 22 June. Photo: EPA

Summer in full swing
 
People enjoy the water of a fountain in Lyon, central France, 22 June, as temperatures rose up to 36 degrees Celsius. Photo: AP

EU 2014-2020 budgetary framework revised
 
The EU is devoting more resources to help boost jobs and growth and to address the migration crisis. It is also strengthening its capacity to react to unexpected events. These are the main purposes of a revised EU budgetary framework for 2014-2020 which was adopted by the Council on 20 June. The revised multi-annual financial framework  increases the resources earmarked for EU's main priorities by €6.01bn for the years 2017-2020. 

Balkan migration route is not closed, goes via Bulgaria
 
In theory, the Western Balkans route is supposed to be closed but in reality it has just been diverted via Bulgaria, according to a new report by the German think tank Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. The document points out the fragility of the situation since the EU-Turkey deal, which was aimed at stemming the flow of refugees to Europe. Apart from Greece, as of the end of 2016, Serbia and Bulgaria are the countries with the highest number of stranded asylum seekers. 

Consumer protection finds modern solution
 
The EP and the Council reached a political agreement on the Commission's proposal to improve the EU-wide cooperation mechanism for consumer protection. It provides faster tools to react jointly when illegal practices are reported by consumers in at least two-thirds of EU countries. "Strengthened cross-border enforcement is crucial in the digital age where harmful practices can be replicated easily in many countries with just one click," said Commissioner Vera Jourova.

Spain's parliament rejects Catalan bid for referendum
 
Spanish lawmakers last Thursday threw out a Catalan bid to hold an independence referendum in October which a court had already ruled illegal. Some 250 out of 350 lawmakers, led by PM Mariano Rajoy's conservatives and backed by the main opposition Socialists and centrist Ciudadanos, voted against the bill presented by pro-separatist regional president Carles Puigdemont (pictured). Pro-independence parties as well as the far-left Podemos group voted in favour of a referendum.

UN: Earth's population to reach 9.8 billion by 2050
 
The world’s population will reach 9.8 billion by 2050, according to a new United Nations report. The document tallies the current population at 7.6 billion people. The number of people aged 60 or above is expected to more than double from the current 962 million to 2.1 billion in 2050. 

Sand Sculpture Festival in Belgium
 
Sand carver Franco Daga from Italy works on a sculpture during the Sand Sculpture Festival 'Disney Sand Magic' in Ostend, Belgium, 22 June.

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