Donald Tusk: climate and trade issues 'remain open', no common opinion about Russia was reached
Maria Koleva, Brussels
US President Donald Trump’s 30-hour visit to the Belgian capital was hardly able to mitigate the tensions that have been accumulating over the last 6-7 months in Europe from some of his acrid comments on the EU, Brexit and trade policy, but it is considered by observers in Brussels as the beginning of ice breaking. He arrived on 24 May in the afternoon and left the next evening. During that time he held several meetings before participating in the NATO summit on 25 May afternoon. Not surprisingly, there were unprecedented security measures undertaken throughout the city, including blocking traffic in certain areas, changes in public transport routes, and the police presence was greatly enhanced. Protesters against Trump’s visit gathered in Brussels and in several cites were seen flyers ‘Trump not welcome’, ‘Refugees in, Trump out’.
As Donald Trump urged, all allies agreed to share more fairly the pact’s financial burden
Maria Koleva, Brussels
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to join the ranks of the Global Coalition fighting against terrorism, although all its members are individually already in, and the allies to share more fairly the financial burden of the pact, decided the leaders of the NATO 28 member countries during their meeting in Brussels on 25 May. It was the first summit in which the US President Donald Trump took part. The event was held for the first time at the new NATO headquarters, a modern 254,000 square metres building, which is worth about €1.12bn. During the forum, Belgium officially handed over to NATO the new headquarters, as its Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg name it “a 21st century home for a 21st century alliance”.
 
Michel Barnier believes agreement will be reached rapidly
First Brexit talks are expected to take place in the week starting on 19 June, the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier said last Monday after he received the legal mandate to lead the Article 50 negotiations with the UK. The first set of negotiating directives was approved by EU ministers.
 
Fostering migrant jobs integration
Maria Koleva, Brussels
Employers together for integration is the name of the Commission’s new project on boosting migrant integration kicked off at the European Business Summit, held in Palais d’Egmont in Brussels on 22 and 23 May. This year the European Business Summit gathered over 2,000 participants, policy makers and influential business leaders to debate on the pressing issues in Europe. In its sessions took part 9 EU commissioners.
Strengthening public finances, boosting investment across EU
Member States should use the window of opportunity offered by the economic recovery to pursue structural reforms, boost investment and strengthen their public finances, the Commission said last Monday while presenting its 2017 country-specific recommendations, the EU press service reported. While priorities vary across the EU, further efforts are essential to achieve robust and sustainable growth.
Pragmatic sheikh reformer wins
Iranians yearning for more freedom at home and less isolation abroad have emphatically re-elected President Hassan Rohani, throwing down a challenge to the conservative clergy that still holds ultimate sway. The architect of Iran's still-fragile detente with the West led with 57% of the vote, compared with 38% for his main challenger, hardline judge Ebrahim Raisi.
Adopting euro seen as only option
Adopting the euro is the only option for Bulgaria, Minister of Finance Vladislav Goranov said during a forum dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the Association of Commercial Banks in Bulgaria. “The current government, just like the previous ones, believes that after nearly 20 years of a currency board the natural next step is the Eurozone,” Goranov was adamant. He went on to add that it was not that simple and not just a matter of one-sided willingness, both sides should demonstrate the sentiment – the Eurozone and the country applying for membership. Under the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, Bulgaria has to become part of the currency union sooner or later, Goranov continued.
Good macroeconomic data being felt by consumers
BGNES news agency
The latest macroeconomic data shows that Bulgaria’s economy is improving. According to the flash estimates of the National Statistical Institute (NSI) for the first quarter of 2017, the gross domestic product (GDP) increased by 3.4% compared to the same quarter of the previous year, and by 0.8% compared to the fourth quarter of 2016. GDP at current prices amounted to BGN 19.594bn, while gross value added in the first quarter of 2017 stood at BGN 16.803bn.
Bulgaria should strongly support Macedonia
Georgi Markov
Starting 1 January 2018, Bulgaria will assume the 6-month rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union for the first time in its history. During that period, besides organising numerous Member State meetings, Sofia will have to propose policies to be included in the EU agenda. In light of the increasingly volatile situation in the Western Balkans and events in the wake of last summer’s failed coup attempt in Turkey, the EU presidency affords Bulgaria a great opportunity to play a crucial role by getting Member States to commit to solving the region’s problems.
Macron, Merkel and strong euro
Charles Grant
Throughout much of the EU's history, a strong alliance between France and Germany has been a necessary, though not sufficient condition for European integration. They hold fundamentally different views on many issues, which means when they have found a compromise, their partners usually follow. In this century, however, the tandem has lost its force. The EU's eastern enlargement reduced the relative weight of France and Germany.
Turkey opens trial on plotters
A trial opened last Monday in Tur­key's capital for 221 suspects, including 27 former generals, accused of being the instigators of the attempted coup in 2016 aimed at ousting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The main defendants are Gen. Akin Ozturk, a former air force commander, and other alleged members of the so-called Peace at Home Council, a group on whose behalf a coup declaration was read on state television. Other defendants include the former military aide to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as well as the brother of a ruling party legislator. The suspects face life prison terms if found guilty of charges that include attempting to destroy the government and parliament.
Trump's showy Middle East trip ends with vague results
President Trump got the royal treatment in Saudi Arabia, receiving a lavish welcome that he hoped could erase two weeks of bad headlines at home, refocusing his presidency and uniting allies against terrorism. His nine-day foreign trip - the first as President - saw the signing of arms sales agreements and discussions on trade, terrorism, Iran and the wars in Syria and Yemen, and pusheds for peace between Israeli and Palestinians.
Oil output cut extends by nine months
Oil ministers of OPEC gathered in Vienna last Thursday, decided to extend cuts in oil output by nine months to March 2018, Reuters first reported. Maintaining the same production cuts through March “is a very safe and almost certain option to do the trick,” Saudi Oil Minister Khalid Al-Falih said at the opening session of the group’s meeting. “It’s likely we’ll be balanced earlier than later.”
Switzerland votes for new energy policy
Switzerland voted last Sunday in favour of a massive overhaul of the country's energy system by gradually replacing the power from its ageing nuclear reactors with renewable sources.
Clariant, Huntsman merge to create chemical giant
The US-based Huntsman Corp and Switzerland's Clariant AG announced last Monday that they are combining to create a chemical manufacturer with a market value of more than $14bn (€12.4bn). The accord comes after years of tentative mutual approaches.
EU Prize for Literature presented
Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport Tibor Navracsics presented this year’s EU Prize for Literature at a ceremony held in Brussels on 23 May. The event was also attended by Vice-President of the European Parliament Dimitris Papadimoulis. Ina Vultchanova from Bulgaria is among the 12 winners of the award. Recognised for her novel The Crack-Up Island, Vultchanova is the first Bulgarian female author to have received the accolade and the third Bulgarian writer overall.
Bulgarian folklore is unique
Neyka Krasteva
Enthusiastically as ever. We have had at least 10 tours there and the audience has always called for encores and delighted in our performance. And I am not only talking about the Bulgarians who live there and are a constant presence at our concerts but the Americans too.
Sculptor stretches hands over Venice
Venice has been caught in the grip of massive hands. The unique artwork is Italian artist and sculptor Lorenzo Quinn’s means of artistic protest.
From cloister to hotel and back
Nestled in the western Rhodope Mountains, in a picturesque area covered with centuries-old oak and beech-trees, the Gornovodenski Monastery “St. Kirik and Julita”, among the Bulgarian cloisters with most turbulent history over the past few centuries, is situated some 6km outside of the town of Asenovgrad.
In Brief
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Juncker welcomes Macron
 
French President Emmanuel Macron (L) last Thursday was welcomed by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (R) prior to their meeting in Brussels. Photo: EPA

Erdogan breaks ice with Brussels
 
Council President Donald Tusk (R) met last Thursday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was on his first visit to Brussels after last July's coup. Photo: EPA

Timothy Garton Ash gets Charlemagne Prize
 
British historian and author Timothy Garton Ash poses with his Charlemagne Medal for European Media during the ceremony at the town hall in Aachen, Germany.

Italy hosts most challenging G7 summit
 
The hard G7 two-day summit, which started on 26 May in Taormina, Italy, is marked by major differences between US President Donald Trump and other world leaders on trade and the environment. "There is no doubt that this will be the most challenging G7 summit in years," EU Council President Donald Tusk said before the meeting. He also indicated that the final communique is expected to confirm that sanctions on Russia should remain due to its conduct in Ukraine. 

Cyprus peace process thrown into limbo
 
The UN envoy for divided Cyprus Espen Barth Eide said on 26 May he was ending a shuttle diplomacy bid to continue peace talks in Geneva because rival sides had failed to agree on conditions for a final summit. Failure to agree on further negotiations effectively throws a two-year process of Cyprus peace talks into limbo, though Eide said talks had not collapsed. The UN envoy met separately with the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders over the past nine days.

EU to make social media tackle hate speech
 
The EU ministers approved proposals on 23 May to make social media companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Google's YouTube tackle videos with hate speech on their platforms. The proposals, which would be the first legislation at EU level on the issue, still need to be agreed with the European Parliament before becoming law. But EU lawmakers have similarly pushed for social media companies to do more to tackle hateful content on their platforms. 

Gunmen attack Coptic Christians in Egypt, kill 26
 
Masked gunmen attacked last Friday a group of Coptic Christians in southern Egypt, killing 26 people and wounding 26 others. The group was travelling in two buses and a small truck to a monastery in Minya province, which is home to a sizeable Christian minority. Eyewitnesses said the Copts were attacked as they were going to pray at the monastery of Saint Samuel the Confessor in the western part of the province. The masked men stopped the vehicles on a road leading to the monastery and opened fire.

Cirque du Soleil back in Sofia
 
Actors from Cirque du Soleil made acrobatic performances in front of St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia, 23 May. Photo: BTA

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