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Bulgarian report Bulgarian report
by Euro Reporter
2012-02-07 08:10:10
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Bulgaria among EU’s lowest government debt-to-GDP ratios

Bulgaria is among the three European Union countries with the lowest ratio of government debt to GDP, according to Eurostat figures released on February 6 2012, covering the third quarter of 2011.  
The highest ratios of government debt to GDP at the end of the third quarter of 2011 were recorded in Greece (159.1 per cent), Italy (119.6 per cent), Portugal (110.1 per cent) and Ireland (104.9 per cent), and the lowest in Estonia (6.1 per cent), Bulgaria (15 per cent) and Luxembourg (18.5 per cent).
At the end of the third quarter of 2011, Eurostat said, the government debt to GDP ratio in the 17-member euro zone was 87.4 per cent, down compared with 87.7 per cent at the end of the second quarter of 2011. Across the 27 member states of the EU, the ratio increased from 81.7 per cent to 82.2 per cent. Compared with the third quarter of 2010, the government debt to GDP ratio rose in both the euro area (from 83.2 per cent to 87.4 per cent) and the EU27 (from 78.5 per cent to 82.2 per cent).

At the end of the third quarter of 2011, securities other than shares accounted for 79.3 per cent of euro area and 79.7 per cent of EU27 general government debt. Loans made up 18per cent of euro area and 15.8 per cent of EU27 government debt. Currency and deposits represented 2.8 per cent of euro area and 3.8 per cent of EU27 government debt. Compared with the second quarter of 2011, 14 EU countries registered an increase in their debt to GDP ratio at the end of the third quarter of 2011, and 13 a decrease. The highest increases in the ratio were recorded in Hungary (+4.8 percentage points - pp), Greece (+4.4 pp) and Portugal (+3.6 pp), and the largest decreases in Italy and Malta (both -1.6 pp) and Romania (-1.0 pp). It should be noted that the change in debt ratio between two successive quarters can be influenced by seasonal patterns, Eurostat said.


U.S. supports Bulgaria's shale decisions

Bulgaria has the right, as a sovereign state, to make its own decisions on the extraction of shale natural gas deposits, the U.S. envoy to the country said. Bulgaria has as much as 35 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in its Novi Pazar shale deposit; though the government last month imposed an indefinite ban on an extraction method called fracking and pulled a shale exploration license from U.S. supermajor Chevron.

U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria James Warlick said Washington respects Sofia's decision, noting that there are inherent risks with energy production. "It is up to the Bulgarian government to decide and we will respect any decision," he was quoted by the Sofia News Agency as saying.

Last week, right-wing lawmakers, including former Prime Minister Ivan Kostov, called for a reversal of the ban, noting legislation should be drafted to ensure tighter control of the practice. Critics of shale gas exploration note chemicals used in fracking fluid could reach groundwater. A series of small earthquakes in the United Kingdom and United States have been attributed to shale natural gas development.


Ex-EU Commissioner could run in general elections

The Bulgaria for Citizens movement founded by Bulgarian former European Commissioner Meglena Kuneva might participate in the next general elections 2013. This was revealed by Kuneva herself Sunday at a press conference in Varna, where she nevertheless said it is still not clear whether the movement will morph into a party. "There must be civic energy, a national cause, and it must be clear that we are not politically represented. If those three conditions are fulfilled, we can make a step forward. If not, we don't need to hurry, we can wait," said the ex-EU Commissioner. At the same time, Kuneva said that transformation into a party is not the only option for participating in the upcoming parliamentary elections.


At the press conference Sunday Kuneva and fellow movement participant, ex-Minister of Education Daniel Valchev spoke of imitating a debate on the development of Bulgaria's economy, which they said was stalled. In particular they drew attention to what they saw as an ever growing gap between the richest and the poorest, to the effect that they lived in what they termed as "two Bulgarias." Kuneva founded the Citizens for Bulgaria movement in December 2011, after re-entering politics in the summer, when she decided to run as a candidate in the October 23 presidential elections. Eschewing the support of political parties, she ran as an independent candidate and finished third in the race, gathering 14% of the first round vote. These led analysts to comment that she has a good basis of support to start a new liberal-rightist political project, something she has said she is not averse to.

Asked Sunday whether the Bulgaria for Citizens civic movement might morph into a party, Kuneva said that this is possible, if circumstances mandate it. Meglena Kuneva entered Bulgarian politics in 2001, when liberal National Movement for Stability and Prosperity, headed by ex-Tsar Simeon Saxe-Coburg swept to power. Since 2002, she has been Bulgaria's European Affairs Minister and chief negotiator on EU accession. Kuneva went on to keep her ministerial position in the next coalition cabinet, led by Bulgarian Socialist Party president Sergey Stanishev. Upon Bulgaria's entry in the EU in 2007, Kuneva became the country's first European Commissioner, taking care of the consumer rights portfolio.


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