Sofia summit reaffirms Western Balkans' EU perspective, puts forward a €10 billion infrastructure package
Leaders of the European Union reaffirmed its unequivocal support for the European perspective of the Western Balkans, and their Western Balkans partners recommitted to the European perspective as their firm strategic choice, at a joint summit in Sofia on 17 May, the first in 15 years. The forum urged the six countries of the region - Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Albania - to keep up the pace of reforms, but stopped short of indicating if any of the six countries in the region would join the 28-member bloc in the near future. A declaration in this regard was adopted, widely seen as culmination and the crowning event of the concluding in a month Bulgarian Presidency of the EU Council. The Sofia declaration says that the EU is determined to strengthen and intensify its engagement at all levels to support the region's political, economic and social transformation, including through increased assistance based on tangible progress in the rule of law, as well as in socio-economic reforms by the Western Balkans partners.
Protection of EU firms, negatively affected by the US decision, on the agenda
European Union leaders last week demonstrated a united approach to keeping the Iran nuclear deal alive after US President Donald Trump withdrew from the pact. Meeting in Sofia ahead of the EU- Western Balkans summit, they also agreed to initiate work to protect European companies negatively affected by the US decision, which involves Washington re-imposing sanctions on Iran. After the US move, the Iran issue entered ad hoc in the agenda of the leaders' dinner last Wednesday in the Bulgarian capital. Commenting on “the capricious assertiveness of the American administration”, the European Council President Donald Tusk said that, looking at President Trump's latest decisions, “someone could even think, with friends like that, who needs enemies”.
 
Pressure on external borders persists, vigilance and preparedness to respond needed
The Commission put forward last Wednesday a proposal to upgrade the Visa Information System (VIS), the database containing information on persons applying for Schengen visas, in order to better respond to evolving security and migratory challenges and improve the EU's external border management, the EU press service reported.
 
Helping Europeans breathe clean air
Standing up for Europeans' need to breathe clean air, the Commission made last week further steps to provide national, regional and local actors with practical help to improve air quality across Europe and stepped up its enforcement against seven Member States who have breached EU rules on air pollution limits and type approval for cars, the EU press service reported.
Italy to have a cabinet of change
The leaders of Italy's two political upstarts, the Five Star Movement (M5S) and the League, announced last week they have agreed on the final draft of a “contract for a government of change”.
Bulgarian road hauliers: Mobility Package kills us
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, EU Mobility and Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc and representatives of Bulgaria's road haulage industry talked for more than three hours in Sofia on 14 May. As a result, the Bulgarian EU Council Presidency drafted a proposal on the key points of the EU Mobility Package that displease the Bulgarian road transport companies, which was immediately sent for consideration to the European Commission. A day later, the EC returned the texts with its amendments.
Tightening cooperation to counter cyber-attacks
Maria Koleva, Brussels
Cyber-attacks on civilians and military targets are increasing and the EU countries have to cooperate more closely to counter the threats. This said MEPs from the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Subcommittee on Security and Defence in a non-legislative resolution, backed by 45 votes to 8, with 8 abstentions, on 16 May.
Frognews drags US senator into fake news item
Monitor Agency
The Fake News Factory's impudence has taken on international dimensions after it became clear that one of its megaphones - the website Frognews funded by fugitive banker Tsvetan Vassilev - has dragged even a US senator into its latest manipulation. The website of former State Security agent Ognyan Stefanov (aka Academician), which plays the role of a personal press service of Tsvetan Vassilev, announced that none other than US Senator John Cornyn from Texas has promised to speed up the Magnitsky Act procedure launched by the fugitive banker. According to the Frognews article, Cornyn was contacted by the NGO We, the Citizens, which is controlled by another former State Security agent, Vera Ahundova, and which has ties to Vassilev.
Tusk and Radev turn down Fake News Factory's conference
Telegraph team
President of the European Council Donald Tusk and Bulgaria's head of state Rumen Radev refused to be part of the propaganda campaign that the Fake News Factory's mentors Ivo Prokopiev, Tsvetan Vassilev, Ognyan Donev, and Sasho Donchev tried to organise on behalf of the Union of Publishers in Bulgaria. In reality, the association serves the interests of the behind-the-scenes clique in Bulgaria, along with Reporters Without Borders and the European Newspaper Publishers' Association.
Conveyor belt for lies against Peevski
The Bulgarian oligarchy's media servants at the Fake News Factory are having a panic attack over the increasing likelihood of their shadowy connections being exposed. The reasons for their nervousness are several events from the past few days. First, the talking points slandering our publisher, MP Delyan Peevski, were left out of the report prepared by the European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE).
Integration cannot be forced
Neyka Krasteva
There is nothing more frightening than a barbarian slave class which has learned to think of its existence as an injustice and is preparing to take revenge, not only for itself, but for all generations. These words belong to the great thinker and philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.
Increasingly loveless Trans-Atlantic marriage
Garret Martin
Beyond its potentially dramatic consequences for Middle East stability, Trump's 8 May decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal has also damaged the United States' relations with its European allies. France, Germany and the United Kingdom worked with the Obama administration to barter the United Nations-approved Iran agreement in 2015. Now, the three European signatories must figure out how to save that deal and continue working with a US president who has mostly shown them contempt. As a scholar of transatlantic relations who has followed the Iran deal for years, I am frankly sceptical that Europe can manage either.
Iraq in limbo after elections
An alliance spearheaded by nationalist cleric Moqtada Sadr claimed victory at Iraq's first nationwide election since the defeat of the Islamic State group. The rival Conquest Alliance of pro-Iranian former fighters appeared to be coming in second, squeezing internationally favoured PM Haider al-Abadi into third. Praised for the victory over the IS, Abadi was punished by the voters for his failure to beat corruption.
Peace slips further away from the Middle East
The opening ceremony for the new US Embassy in Jerusalem on 14 May fuelled the bloodiest violence in Gaza in years, as Israeli forces killed more than 60 Palestinians near its border. Israel has said it is acting in self-defence, and the US backed that response to the Palestinian protests, but many countries condemned the use of deadly force and also blamed Washington for the decision to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
WTO: EU failed to remove Airbus aid
The World Trade Organisation (WTO) ruled last Tuesday that the EU had maintained illegal support to Airbus, prompting the US to threaten sanctions against European products in the first of two key aircraft subsidy decisions due this year, news wires reported. US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said the US would slap countermeasures on European goods unless the EU stopped “harming US interests”. WTO rules allow it to target any industry since all goods fall into one category. “It is long past time for the EU to end these subsidies,” he said.
Oil glut almost gone, OPEC still cuts more
A global oil glut has been virtually eliminated thanks to an OPEC-led pact to cut supplies in place since January 2017 and due to rising global demand, figures published last Monday by OPEC showed.
Sivantos and Widex in €7-billion merger
Hearing-aid makers Widex and Sivantos agreed to merge on 16 May to form the world's third-largest supplier behind market leaders Sonova and William Demant. Germany's Sivantos, formerly known as Siemens Audiology, and Denmark's Widex will create a company worth more than €7bn ($8.28bn), including some €3bn in debt.
Cultural Heritage praised
The winners of the 2018 EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards were announced last Tuesday by the Commission and Europa Nostra, the leading European heritage network. The 29 laureates from 17 countries have been recognised for their impressive accomplishments in four different categories: conservation, research, dedicated service, and education, training and awareness-raising. As a contribution to the European Year of Cultural Heritage, this year's Awards put special emphasis on the European added value of the selected heritage achievements.
I capture obsolete people's faces
Rumyana Kochanova
First of all, I would like to say that the people in question are part of our globalised society. Why gaze at one's navel? The trend I have been noticing of late is that whenever exhibition halls have something to present, it is inevitably connected to our contemporary life. The people I photograph are not on the social periphery.
Mystery Choir releases new album BooCheeMish
The new album of the Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices (Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares) will be released globally on 25 May, its producers Schubert Music Publishing have announced, cited by BGNES.
Where Jesus' eyes follow worshippers
Adelina Lozanova
The “St. John the Baptist” Lopushan Monastery is located in north-western Bulgaria, nestled in the Chip­rovtsi section of the Balkan Range. Believed to have been established back in the 10th century, the monastery was destroyed and restored numerous times during the Ottoman occupation, like most Bulgarian cloisters.
EU meets Western Balkans in Sofia
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Bulgaria's PM Boyko Borisov, France's President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Theresa May and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel (L-R) arrive at the EU summit with Western Balkans countries in Sofia, 17 May. Photo: EPA

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