Split over Western Balkans
Deep splits emerged within the European Union on 15 and 16 February over membership plans for Balkan states, with some countries warning that Russia would take advantage unless the bloc sped up the accession process. Meeting in Bulgaria, the EU ministers discussed for the first time the plan by the European Commission that set out 2025 as a goal for Serbia and Montenegro to join the bloc. A week ago, the EU unveiled its new strategy for the region, which aims to give membership to some states by 2025 but insists they must first resolve all border rows. The front runners to join are Montenegro and Serbia, with Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia lagging, but all are getting impatient after the EU put expansion on hold four years ago.
Stark warning on cryptocurrencies
Cryptocurrencies such as the very popular Bitcoin have shown clear signs of a pricing bubble and consumers could lose all of their money, the EU's banking, securities, and insurance and pensions watchdogs warned last Monday in a joint statement.
Commission points finger at social media companies
Social media companies need to do more to respond to the requests, made last March by the Commission and Member States' consumer authorities, to comply with EU consumer rules, the EU press service reported. “Social media networks must fully respect consumer rules. I am pleased that the enforcement of EU rules to protect consumers by national authorities is bearing fruit,” Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova said.
How roles of civil society will change
Maria Koleva, Brussels
Pressed by worrying demographic trends, economic crisis, digitalisation, populism and shrinking of civic space, civil society organisations (CSOs) undergo changes that will not stop in the years ahead. This topic was at the heart of the debate held at the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) in Brussels on 15 February, impelled by the study named “The future evolution of civil society in the European Union by 2030”. It was commissioned by the Committee's Various Interests Group and analyses the changing CSOs' role, displaying possible developments in the next decade.
Tourism fund, map of 100 major attractions proposed
Ministers responsible for tourism from EU Member States discussed on 13 and 14 February in Sofia the establishment of a European Tourism Fund. It will promote the sustainable development of the sector and will help resolve any arising issues in areas like funding, staffing, the creation of joint projects, and others.
Employment across EU goes steady up
Backed by a robust economic growth, employment in the EU continued to rise more strongly than expected in the third quarter of 2017, while unemployment figures declined further according to the latest Quarterly Review on Employment and Social Developments in Europe, the EU press service reported.
EU Ombudsman urges Member States to end secrecy of debates
The EU's secretive decision-making process hampers public accountability and alienates voters, European Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly warned last Tuesday. EU governments should not hide their debates behind a wall of secrecy but openly declare their positions on proposed EU laws, she added.
Yes, Bulgaria serves Prokopiev and Donev
Fear is the word best describing the state of the behind-the-scenes clique of media moguls and oligarchs in Bulgaria in the aftermath of the media transparency bill introduced to parliament by our publisher, lawmaker Delyan Peevski and his fellow MRF members Yordan Tsonev, Velislava Krasteva and Hamid Hamid. The bill is designed to reveal the real owners of a media outlet, be it a newspaper, a news website, a radio station or a television channel, and tell society if its funding comes from non-market sources. The bill would also put an end to the speculations and fake news disseminated by the behind-the-scenes clique’s town criers regarding an existing monopoly on press distribution in the country because it provides for the establishment of a public register that would shine a light on the owners of newsstands.
Black swan runs fake news
The oligarchy's black swan, as the wife of the infamous chairperson of the Supreme Court of Cassation Lozan Panov, Elisaveta Panova, has been dubbed, made her latest contribution to the dissemination of fake news by the slandering media machine controlled by the behind-the-scenes clique in Bulgaria.
Time to see how to govern Europe better
President Donald Tusk has called an informal meeting of the European Council of 27 on 23 February to discuss constitutional questions after Brexit. Andrew Duff, Visiting Fellow at the European Policy Centre and President of the Spinelli Group, reflects on the agenda and makes proposals on the following interconnected matters: Seats in the EP: The Parliament struggles to meet the criteria laid down in the Treaties despite the Brexit dividend of 73 vacant seats.
AI is the weapon of next Cold War
It is easy to confuse the current geopolitical situation with that of the 1980s. The United States and Russia each accuse the other of interfering in domestic affairs. Russia has annexed territory over US objections, raising concerns about military conflict. As during the Cold War after World War II, nations are developing and building weapons based on advanced technology. During the Cold War, the weapon of choice was nuclear missiles; today it’s software, whether its used for attacking computer systems or targets in the real world.
Russia blamed for cyber-attack
Britain last Thursday accused the Russian military of being behind last year's “NotPetya” cyber-attack, which started in Ukraine before spreading globally, affecting thousands of computers, news wires reported. “The UK Government judges that the Russian Government, specifically the Russian military, was responsible for the destructive NotPetya cyber-attack of June 2017,” Foreign Office minister with responsibility for cybersecurity, Tariq Ahmad, said in a statement. “The attack masqueraded as a criminal enterprise but its purpose was principally to disrupt,” he noted.
Promises of billions of dollars to rebuild Iraq
Iraq received promises of billions of dollars from allies last Wednesday, mostly in credit facilities and investment pledges, but has so far fallen short of the amount the government says is needed to recover from three years of war, news wires reported.
EU CO2 prices go up as reform starts
The cost of a right to emit a ton of carbon dioxide in Europe moved last Wednesday into double figures for the first time since 2012, news wires reported. EU carbon dioxide allowance futures prices under the Emissions Trading System (ETS) for delivery in December 2018 rallied as high as €10.02/mt, up from €9.90/mt at the close Tuesday. The return to double-digit carbon pricing follows more than two years of legislative work in Brussels to overhaul Europe's flagship cap-and-trade system, following years of oversupply that led to carbon prices sinking as low as €2.50/mt in 2013.
Trump $4.4 trillion budget cuts social costs
President Donald Trump presented last Monday his budget proposal for fiscal year 2019, seeking to bolster military spending and requesting funds for infrastructure, construction of a wall along the border with Mexico and opioid treatment programmes, news wires reported.
Airbus confirms huge order from Emirates
Airbus and Emirates Airline signed a contract for 20 A380 planes and an option for 16 more worth $16bn at list prices, firming up an earlier memorandum of understanding, the two companies announced last Sunday. The order would guarantee that the giant jet production will continue for at least another decade, news wires reported citing the statement.
Berlinale red carpet welcomes film stars
The Berlin film festival started last Thursday with 400 new movies on the screen and an engagement for a panel discussion on sexual abuse and discrimination. A total of 24 films will be part of the festival's Competition, 19 of which will be eligible for the Golden Bear, the top prize awarded for Best Film, and the Silver Bears awarded for individual contributions such as best directing, acting and screenplay. Director, screenwriter, film composer, and producer Tom Tykwer heads the jury. The members are actress Cecile de France (Belgium), photographer and former director of the Filmoteca Espanola Chema Prado (Spain), producer Adele Romanski (USA), composer Ryuichi Sakamoto (Japan), and film critic Stephanie Zacharek (USA).
Young people need more opportunities
Family circumstances, as my husband's work brought us first to Sofia and then to Belgrade. Developing Operosa in the Balkans has been an exciting time and I look forward to many new plans and projects. The Balkan region has a very special vibe. It is just the right size and it has a bit of everything for a private or professional life.
Paris Grand Palais to get total revamp
France unveiled last Monday a spectacular near half-billion-euro overhaul of the Grand Palais in Paris, one of its most beloved buildings, driving a new pedestrian boulevard through it to link the Champs Elysees with the River Seine.
Spiritual heart of northwest Bulgaria
Nestled in a stunningly beautiful valley in the western part of The Balkan Range, at the foot of the Todorini Kukli peak near the resort town of Varshets, some 60km to the north of Sofia lies the Klisura Monastery “Saints Cyril and Methodius”, often referred to as the spiritual centre of northwest Bulgaria.