Parcel operators are concerned about rise in red tape
Maria Koleva, Brussels
A plan to boost e-commerce by tackling geoblocking, increasing the transparency of parcel delivery prices and enforcing consumers' rights, was tabled by the Commission on 25 May. It was part of the third Digital Single Market package which contains as well a proposal for bringing up-to-date the EU audiovisual rules so as to create a fairer environment for all participants, “promote European films, protect children and tackle hate speech better”.
The Eurogroup unlocks €10.3bn in loans, agrees on debt relief
Greece will get cash under new deal agreed last Tuesday by the Eurozone finance ministers, news wires reported. The deal will unlock a further €10.3bn in loans from its international creditors. The Eurogroup also agreed on debt relief for Greece, extending the repayment period and capping interest rates. Greece needed this tranche of cash to meet debt repayments due in July.
 
Operation Sophia mission to be upgraded to dismantle the smugglers' business model
The EU will help rebuild Libya's shattered navy and coastguard to tackle migrant smugglers after a plea for aid from the new UN-backed unity government in Tripoli, the EU foreign ministers agreed last Monday.
 
Good intentions, no action
First-ever World Humanitarian Summit last week in Istanbul brought together the international community in search of ways to solve what the UN has described as the worst huma­nitarian crisis since World War II. Disasters, both man-made and natural, mean that 130 million people need huma­nitarian aid, costing an annual $240bn, a 12-fold increase since 2000, but still just 1% of global military spending, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said. The meeting ended with promises whose implementation will be difficult to control, according to observers.
Juncker Plan delivers sound success stories
Maria Koleva, Brussels
The European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI), which is in the core of the Juncker Plan, is approaching its first anniversary scoring up striking figures.
What we use to put on our dinner plates every day
Maria Koleva, Brussels
At this year’s Open Day, organised on 28 May, the European institutions based in Brussels are opening their doors to the general public to show and explain on-site where, what and how the EU bodies work.
Protecting nature across Europe
The winners of the 2016 Natura 2000 Awards were officially announced last Tuesday by Commissioner Karmenu Vella, the EU press service reported.
Borisov: Money for refugees is no solution
Viktoria Boyadzhieva
The political solution is evident - wars must be ended while developed nations continue to support Third World countries. Simply giving money is not a solution, Prime Minister Boyko Borisov commented possible steps to curb the migrant influx to Europe during the first ever summit on humanitarian issues, which took place in Istanbul, Turkey, on 23 and 24 May. According to the Bulgarian premier, over the past several years we have been faced with unprecedented in number, scope and duration humanitarian crises and disasters.
Migrant pressure at border with Turkey is minimal
At a meeting of the Council of Ministers last week another BGN 6.2m was earmarked for the design and construction of the fence along Bulgaria’s border with Turkey. On 22 May Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, together with Min­i­ster of Interior Rumiana Bachvarova, Minister of Defence Nikolay Nenchev and MP from the Patriotic Front Valeri Simeonov, inspected the facility intended to prevent illegal crossing of the Bulgarian-Turkish frontier.
Europe's troubled future
Giles Merritt
Ten persistent myths stand in the way of Europe’s ability to address its decline. Unless Europeans can be persuaded that these are false notions, vote-seeking politicians are unlikely to make tough decisions that will pay off in the long run. So what ideas and policies can give Europe a better 21st century foothold? For starters, a quick demolition job on the misapprehensions that have lulled us into a false sense of security.
Austria turns its back on a political cartel
Kurt Richard Luther
The second round of Austria’s presidential election has finally produced a winner. The international media was captivated by this election thanks to the serious prospect of post-war Europe’s first far-right head of state: the softly-spoken 45-year-old Norbert Hofer MP, candidate of the Freedom Party (FPO) once led by the late Joerg Haider. Yet after the postal votes had been counted, it turned out that Austria had instead picked 72-year-old Alexander van der Bellen, the former chairman of the Green Party, by a razor-thin margin of only 31,026 votes. The result was welcomed by Austrians who feared an FPO president would have tarnished the country’s image, and outsiders who worried that a Hofer victory might encourage their own populists.
Turkey's PM charts his mission
The new Turkish government plans to overhaul the constitution and introduce a presidential system of governance as soon as possible, indicated Prime Minister Binali Yildirim’s announcement, 25 May, of his Cabinet, formed by some of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s most trusted allies.
Most right-wing Israeli cabinet born
The Israeli government made a sharp turn to the right as last Wednesday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his choice for defence minister, ultranationalist Avigdor Lieberman, signed a ruling coalition deal, news wires reported.
G7: Flexible spending to spur world growth
Group of Seven leaders voiced concern about emerging economies at a summit in Japan on 26 May as their host, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, made a pointed comparison to the 2008 global financial crisis but not all his G7 partners appeared to agree, Reuters reported. The G7 leaders did agree on the need for flexible spending to spur world growth but the timing and amount depended on each country, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroshige Seko told reporters, adding that some countries saw no need for such spending.
Obama's visit to Vietnam brings deals worth $16bn
President Barack Obama’s visit to Vietnam last week kicked off with a demonstration of the countries’ deepening economic relationship. The US leader tried to strike a balance between business and politics during his three-day visit, announcing the lifting of the arms export embargo on Vietnam.
Agrochemical business faces new consolidation
Bayer is set to become the world’s biggest seller of seeds and farm chemicals. The German drugs and crop chemicals group said last week it made an offer to buy US seeds company Monsanto for $62bn in cash.
Milestones along the way
Lilyana Karadzhova, Novinar Daily
A retrospective of Sta­nislav Pamuk­chiev reveals his artistic journey with a collection arranged in seven halls of the National Art Gallery in Sofia. Transition. Milestones along the Way covers 35 years of work and transformations. His pieces combine the personal life story with complex interactions throughout the history of painting. The programme’s emphasis is on the development of Pamukchiev’s emblematic paintings and objects created with ash, charcoal and wax. Some of his earlier pieces are shown for the first time.
All sacred books teach first and foremost love
Dimitar Nikolov
Absolutely, and that is the strongest message of my book: there is no guarantee that a similar conflict could not happen again. These people, in theory at least, had lived like brothers, neighbours, spouses in mixed marriages, etc.
Free artist's pantheon
Georgi Ruzhev has been one of the most remarkable figures on the Bulgarian cultural scene since the 1990s. He is more than a photographer known from his works for what was defined as conceptual photography.
Rich in gold, silver and decoration
The beauty of contemporary Bulgarian women has been universally acknowledged. But had the ladies who lived in the Balkans ages ago been as fabulously beautiful?
In Brief
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Dutch king talks to Parliament
 
Dutch King Willem-Alexander (L) last Wednesday addressed the EP plenary for the first time since his accession to the throne in April 2013. Photo: EPA

Obama lays wreath in Hiroshima
 
Barack Obama laid last Friday a wreath at Hiroshima Memorial Cenotaph after becoming the first US president to visit the city. Photo: EPA

Anti-austerity protests in Belgium
 
Brussels police chief Pierre Vandersmissen was injured during clashes at  a major anti-austerity demonstration last Tuesday.

Germany readies new bill on skilled workers immigration
 
Germany's Social Democratic Party (SPD), Merkel's coalition partner, unveiled plans for a new law to better control the immigration of skilled workers in the country. The SPD intends to put it forth in autumn, according to Thomas Oppermann, parliamentary leader of the party. “For refugees who are looking for work and a better life, the asylum process is not the right way,” he said. The new law would be beneficial to Germany's economic interests, Oppermann argued pointing out that channelling skilled workers into the country could help fill labour gaps. Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) are currently refusing the proposed bill. The news follows the approval last Wednesday of a new integration law which seeks to ease access to the labour market for refugees in exchange for certain duties like learning German. The bill, however, does not regulate the immigration issue.

Brexit debate sparked by record number of migrants
 
A record number of migrants came to the UK to work last year, official figures revealed last Thursday, sparking a fresh row in the EU referendum debate. The key measure - the difference between the number of people arriving and leaving the country - was estimated at 333,000 for this period. Net migration from the EU rose by 10,000 to 184,00. The figures also show that 77,000 EU migrants have come to the UK without employment.

European platform on undeclared work launched
 
Following the approval of the Commission's proposal to create a platform to combat undeclared work, such a platform aimed to turn it into declared was launched last Friday. It aims to ensure social protection for millions of Europeans who lose out through various kinds of risky job arrangements. “We have taken bold action to defend our social values and to strengthen fairness in our common market,” Employment Commissioner Marianne Thyssen said.

Nationwide strikes, clashes in France over labour reform
 
Protesters against a French labour reform law took to the streets of Paris and other French cities as the country’s powerful trade unions put on a show of force against the government’s refusal to scrap reforms aimed at boosting employment. Anti-reform strikes have spread to French ports, oil refineries, and railways, while blockades of fuel supply depots have forced some petrol stations to ration motorists. The country's two main oil ports were blocked and only two of France's eight refineries were working. Sixteen of France's 19 nuclear stations voted to join the strike. French President Francois Hollande pledged on 27 May in Japan he would press on with his labour reforms, despite strikes that have paralysed the nation. Protests in Paris descended into violence, clashes also erupted in Bordeaux.

Day of Bulgarian Culture and Slavonic Script
 
With nation-wide parades, flowers and music, Bulgaria celebrated the Day of Slavonic Script and Bulgarian Education and Culture on 24 May. In Varna outstanding students marched at the head of the procession. Photo: BGNES

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