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Bulgarian report
by Euro Reporter
2016-05-17 09:54:17
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Bulgaria Ex-President Urges Change of Constitution

President (2002-2012) said on Monday he would prefer to run in presidential elections under a presidential republic and a new constitution. In an interview with private NOVA TV broadcaster he refused to make clear whether his name was among those discussed in his ABV party as a candidate for the election this autumn. However, he stressed he didn't see any legal barriers if he is to run, as constitutional limitations refer to "reelection" for a second consecutive term in office.  "I can be elected until the end of the world," he opined, adding: "I don't have a desire to run for president as I have other ambitions, other ideas for my personal life, but the political decision is yet to come." Article 95(1) of Bulgaria's Constitution reads that: "The President and the Vice President shall be limited to a single re-election to the same office." Parvanov maintains the right interpretation of the text refers to consecutive terms, and not to their overall number.

bulgaria_400_02In the interview he also explained it would be wrong to name any of the discussed candidates as it could affect "negotiations". He was referring to parties that attended his left-wing Alternative for Bulgarian Revival (ABV)'s national conference on Sunday. These included VMRO (a nationalist party that currently co-chairs that Patriotic Front coalition backing the minority government) and several smaller parties, but also the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) which, despite not being described by Parvanov as part of the talks, attended the conference.

Parvanov also told NOVA TV the forum had produced a "big and interesting coalition of centrist, center-left, center-right, with a patriotic emphasis, with left-wing organizations." The alliance in question is being forged in the light of the presidential vote.  Opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), however, did not attend the forum despite intense speculation over the past week about possible "dialogue" and a joint presidential candidacy. ABV splintered off the BSP in 2014, severely affecting socialists' election results. It was part of the country's coalition government until last week when it left the cabinet. Parvanov's two presidential terms were marked by rapprochement with Russia, with the head of state kickstarting three major energy projects with Russian companies that were abandoned for different reasons in the first part of the 2010s.


Bulgarian Police Issue First Fine for Wearing Full-Face Veil in Public

Police in Pazardzhik has issued the first fine in Bulgaria for wearing a face-covering Islamic veil in a public place. A woman wearing an opaque veil that hid her entire face with the exception of the eyes was stopped in the street by police who asked her to show her identity card, BNR said. As the woman carried no identity document, she was taken to a police station in the Roma neighbourhood of Pazardzhik to find out who she was. Police found that the woman was a resident of that neighbourhood.

The woman wil have to pay a fine of up to BGN 300 for first-time violation of an order of Pazardzhik Municipal Council which bans the wearing of apparel that hampers personal identification. Failure to pay the fine will result in suspension of social security benefits of the person who has violated the local government regulation. Fines for repeated violations of the ban can reach BGN 1,000 apiece. Pazardzhik became the first city in Bulgaria to ban the wearing of full-face veils in public places last month, citing potential threat to security. The city of Stara Zagora has followed suit, prohibiting the wearing of those veils which have never been typical for Muslim women in Bulgaria.

Popularly known in Bulgaria as the "burqa ban" (even though most women it is targeting wear the so-called niqab which leaves the eyes and part of the nose uncovered), the restriction was first put forward by Chief Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov, who suggested to prohibit the wearing of "burqas" in public places. Proponents of the ban have maintained that, while full Islamic veils might be typical for some Gulf states and elsewhere, they have nothing to do with the religious traditions of Bulgarian Muslims.


Bulgaria tо return migrants to Turkey from June 1

Bulgaria will be able to send back migrants who have crossed its border with Turkey illegally from June 1, according to the protocol signed between Sofia and Ankara. The country is the first among EU member states to sign the protocol, which sets procedures for sending refugees back to Turkey. “The most important thing is that we are sending a very strong signal to the traffickers and the refugees who plan to cross the Bulgarian-Turkish border,” Bulgarian interior minister Rumyana Bachvarova said in Ankara. Brussels and Ankara initially reached an agreement on the readmission of illegal migrants who entered Europe from Turkey in 2013, in exchange for speeding up talks on visa liberalisation for Turkish citizens. But the process was accelerated after the EU and Turkey sealed their controversial deal on returning refugees on March 18 this year, which forced Brussels to make serious concessions to Ankara in an attempt to halt the migrant flow.

Despite harsh criticism, the European Commission proposed lifting visa requirements for Turkish citizens from June. Turkish interior minister Efkan Ala said on Thursday that Turkey will sign similar documents with other EU countries and that it is ready to fulfil its commitments. The Turkish and Bulgarian interior ministers also agreed on procedures for a joint contact centre between Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece, which will start operation in several weeks’ time at the Capitan Andreevo border checkpoint on the Bulgarian-Turkish border. It aims to allow the three countries to exchange operational information on issues related to people-smuggling, contraband and counter-terrorism. Bachvarova pointed out that in the first three months of 2016, the illegal trafficking of migrants into Bulgaria decreased by 30 per cent on a year-on-year basis to 1,500 people. In attempts to halt the refugee and migrant flow through the Bulgarian-Turkish border, Sofia has deployed additional police to boost its border guards and allowed the army to participate in border patrols.

A 133-kilometre barbed-wire fence is still under construction along the country’s land border with Turkey. Meanwhile, in an interview with the AFP news agency, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov confirmed Bulgaria’s commitment to the EU refugee quota system, according to which Bulgaria has to take 1,200 asylum seekers. “It does not matter whether there are 1,200 or 2,000, we are ready to accept them,” Borissov said. He called for more solidarity from other Eastern and Central European member states that oppose the refugee quotas. However, at a meeting of the European People’s Party at the end of April, the Bulgarian premier admitted so far Bulgaria had taken only two refugees under the EU relocation scheme, and one of them had already escaped back to Western Europe.


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