Skip to content

Media Review: February 6

The protest of farmers and grain producers dominates Tuesday’s news media.
On Tuesday, the agricultural producers began indefinite street demonstrations over the government’s failure to deliver on promises of support and improve the conditions for agricultural activity. Following a meeting on February 4 at the Council of Ministers between industry representatives and state authorities, the regional associations of the National Grain Producers Association (NGPA) unanimously decided that the state’s proposal was unsatisfactory and unacceptable, the statement said. The NGPA said that the support mechanisms presented at the Council of Ministers lacks competent economic expertise, as the annual tax return for 2023 categorically cannot prove that farmers have been running at a loss, which has been increasing over the last three years.
The representatives of the Bulgarian Agrarian Chamber (BAC), which is also actively participating in the protest actions, do not accept the government’s proposed amount of BGN 150 million to support sectors such as fruit and vegetable growing, greenhouse production, viticulture, potato production, tobacco production, livestock breeding and beekeeping. According to BAC, the Agriculture Ministry should make new calculations and analyses to compensate Bulgarian producers for their losses due to the war in Ukraine, high production costs, unfavourable climatic and economic conditions, requirements under the Green Deal, among others.
The farmers demand for the five main crops in the grain production subsector (wheat, barley, maize, sunflower and rapeseed) to be included in the government aid scheme in support of farmers’ liquidity to overcome the adverse economic impact of the war in Ukraine without affecting aid to other farming subsectors.
They also insist on the implementation of legislative initiatives to improve the conditions for agricultural activity. These initiatives should be aimed at: facilitating the conclusion of voluntary agreements for consolidated use of farm land; regulating the conclusion of long-term land lease agreements; adopting a state mechanism to regulate land lease payments, based on crop yields and selling prices; drafting and adopting laws on agricultural organizations, the agrarian chamber, and farmer cooperatives; declaring irrigation a strategic national priority and taking measures to upgrade irrigation farming (such as subsidizing water costs and relaxing the requirements for investing in water saving technologies).
The farmers third demand is for the government to take a firm stance to protect Bulgarian producers when renegotiating the EU regulation on liberalized trade with Ukraine. It should avert a renewed risk to Bulgarian grain and essential oil crop production by making sure that the regulation sets out protective measures, licensing requirements and quotas for imported crops.
Furthermore, in connection with the environmental requirements in agriculture arising from the Green Deal, the Bulgarian government should work at the EU level to relax the green rules in the strategic plans for the development of agriculture and rural areas, which should include achieving a derogation in 2024 from the requirements about GAEC 7: Crop rotation and diversification, and GAEC 8: Minimizing the share of arable land designated for non-production purposes.
The agricultural producers also demand for the government to push for equalizing the subsidies and the support for grain producers across the EU.
The topic is thoroughly covered in all online news outlets and print media.
The Bulgarian National Radio (BNR) has an interview with journalism professor Ivo Indzhov, who comments on Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) floor leader Delyan Peevski’s proposal to the parliamentary majority to establish an ad-hoc committee to investigate the circumstances surrounding the assassination of Martin “The Notary” Bozhanov. Bozhanov was shot dead in Sofia on Wednesday. A leading hypothesis for the murder is property fraud. According to the prosecution magistracy, there are also alerts that Bozhanov had threatened magistrates.
Peevski’s proposal comes as a response to the call of the Anti-Corruption Fund platform for investigative journalism for establishing such a parliamentary committee. “On one hand, it is good when politicians listen to experts and reputable NGOs. But the big question is why now and why [they listen to] Mr Peevski,” journalism professor wonders.
In Indzhov’s words, Peevski’s reaction should be interpreted in the context of his recent political hyperactivity and his attempt to clear his reputation, as there have always been many question marks over it.
In 2021, Peevski was designated by the US under the Global Magnitsky Act as an oligarch who “has regularly been engaged in corruption, using influence peddling and bribes to protect himself from public scrutiny and exert control over key institutions and sectors in Bulgarian society.” The MP is challenging the designation in a US court. His lawyers argue that there is no evidence of any wrongdoing by their client.
Ahead of the government rotation in March, the Trud daily publishes an interview with political scientist Tatyana Burudzhieva, who believes that GERB will continue to impose policies inside Parliament in attempts to somehow keep themselves distant from the government’s actions. According to her, Boyko Borissov’s party will thus be looking for a different partner that Continue the Change – Democratic Bulgaria (CC-DB) to form a future government with. “GERB’s big problem is that they have no one else to form a government with at the moment. It is no longer a problem for Continue the Change [CC-DB] to make a government with GERB,” Burudzhieva argued, adding that surveys of electoral attitudes show that GERB is considered a certain participant in a future government, while CC-DB is not.
GERB is now part of the Denkov Government and will rotate the Prime Minister’s office with CC-DB. That means that Mariya Gabriel of GERB, currently the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister in Denkov’s Cabinet, will take over as Prime Minister in March for the cabinet’s second nine months.
On Monday, it transpired that an employee of the General Directorate Combating Organized Crime (GDCOC) had been detained on suspicion of spying in favour of Russia. According to the Bulgarian National Television (BNT), the law enforcer acted together with an employee of the State Agency for National Security (SANS).
The 24 Chasa daily frontpages a story on the topic titled “CIA Uncovers Russian Spies in GDCOC and SANS Who Leaked Classified Data of Sanctions Evasion Investigations”. The article reads that the US foreign intelligence service, CIA, has reported that a GDCOC law enforcer and a SANS agent are leaking information to a Russian diplomat expelled from Bulgaria. Over the past few months, the two were placed under surveillance. The GDCOC employee was leaking the classified information from his office computer. The data he sent was related to attempts to circumvent EU sanctions on Russian capital imposed after the war in Ukraine. The detainee is a long-time employee of the Bulgarian Interior Ministry. He has several overseas assignments from where he acquired contacts with foreigners. He worked in several GDCOC departments, including the Cross-border Organized Crime department and Human Trafficking department. He then joined the GDCOC’s analytical division after a demotion, 24 Chasa’s frontpage story also reads.
DEFENCE has an interview with Sofia Security Forum President and former deputy defence minister Yordan Bozhilov, according to whom one should not think that money should not be spent on defence just because Russia will not attack Bulgaria, even though it is unlikely for Russia to attack a NATO country. “Russia has a lot of resources, it has a leadership that does not exclude the use of military means to achieve political goals, so we have to think about our defence,” Bozhilov warned.
Steadfast Defender works out the capabilities of NATO countries to defend themselves against foreign attacks. “Of course, it is clear that it is related to Russia because of its policy in Ukraine and its aggressive rhetoric. The important thing about this exercise is that it is focused on the Northern Flank, where the Alliance is considered vulnerable. There are several factors to consider. This is the Suwalki Gap on the border between Poland and Lithuania, which connects Belarus and Kaliningrad. And for Russia, this city is very important. It is believed that Russia could launch potential military action there,” Bozhilov emphasized.
ECONOMY “To Destroy Sea by Lobbying Law”, runs the headline of the main story in Trud. The tabloid daily writes that business representatives, ecologists, fishermen, and local residents categorically reject the proposal to have offshore wind parks built along the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. Summarizing opinions from institutions, businesses and organizations that would be affected by the implementation of projects under the bill on offshore wind parks, Trud says that after covering in concrete the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, now there is a danger of passing a bill that would cover in concrete and decimate the sea itself. However, the media does not provide any of their sources’ names. The bill on constructing offshore wind farms was submitted by MPs of GERB-UDF, Continue the Change – Democratic Bulgaria and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, and was adopted by Parliament on first reading on January 25.
In a Nova TV interview, former finance minister Simeon Dyankov expressed his opinion that EC’s convergence report on Bulgaria’s readiness to join the eurozone will be a negative one. It is expected to be releases in late-May or early-June. According to Dyankov, the budget deficit reduction is due to the cabinet’s failure to deal with infrastructure projects. In his words, tax collections in 2023 are down, year-on-year. “We are worse than previous years in terms of deficit,” Dyankov stressed.
On Nova TV, Education Minister Galin Tzokov said that the proposal for waiving tuition fees for students who compete for state-subsidized places in state universities will stimulate individuals from families with lower economic status to join the higher education system. In Tzokov’s words, some 10% of the state-subsidized places in state universities are currently unfilled. According to a report of the Organisation for Economic Development and Co-operation, some 17% of young people aged between 18 and 25 are neither working, studying nor training to acquire some form of qualification. The envisaged measure to waive tuition fees aims to integrate those young people, Tzokov explained.
An article in Trud reads that the Zheleznitsa tunnel on the Struma motorway (southwestern Bulgaria) will be opened to traffic on Bulgaria’s national day, March 3. The 5-kilometre-long extension of the Struma motorway is expected to solve the congestion problem on the road connection between Blagoevgrad and Simitli.