When long-time leaders refuse to leave; the shortest-lived Parliament in a 100 years; tourists are welcome

When long-time leaders refuse to leave; the shortest-lived Parliament in a 100 years; tourists are welcome

K Insights 30/04: What do football and politics have in common, dubious court about to be disbanded

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The last time Bulgaria qualified for a big football championship was in 2004. A little after that, in 2005, one man assumed the presidency of the country's football union (BFU) and has led it ever since - ex-national goalkeeper Borislav Mihaylov.

You might think football has no place in a politico-economic newsletter. And you would be wrong.

Let me explain.

It is hardly a coincidence that in the years since the Bulgarian national team has reached the bottom of European rankings, the local football league has all but died out and corruption has been pervasive. There is now literally no plan on how to start producing quality football players, or a clean and competitive league or how to make it - at least resemble - a business. Too many vested interests and corrupt officials ensure this.

A year-and-a-half ago, Mihaylov finally gave in and deposited his resignation after the shameful game with England, when racist slurs almost got Bulgaria disqualified. His colleagues in the Union's board also resigned. A ray of hope appeared for Bulgarian football.

This week, a full 550 days later, Mihaylov suddenly reappeared, said he would retract his resignation and announced he would run for office yet again next year. "I don't see much improvement since I'm gone. I have rested and I can assure you I am ready for you," he said smilingly. Hundreds of clubs, Mihaylov pointed out, want him to lead.

The situation in BFU resembles exactly the situation in Bulgaria as a whole: a rotten and controlled system, dominated by one man and his cronies, refusing to die out. "You've got no one better than me," claimed ex-Prime Minister Boyko Borissov after elections denied him the opportunity to form another government. Mihaylov claims the same, facing a challenge by a new, clean face - ex-Manchester United's Dimitar Berbatov.

The only difference is Borissov can't retract his resignation, even though he would surely like to do so.

We are yet to see if any wind of change will blow through the Football union or Parliament, for that matter. But removing old, entrenched figures might prove harder than qualifying for the World Cup.

POLITICS

From Borissov's kitchen table - to Brussels desks

After a month's delay and just days before the deadline, Bulgaria finally filed its Resilience and Recovery Plan. The document, comprising projects for over 6 billion euro, was the subject of a heated debate in the new Parliament. The Anti-GERB coalition wanted to bring Borissov to Parliament to discuss the Plan, while the ex-PM decidedly didn't want to.

In the end Borissov won: the Parliament will dissolve, meaning no new government will be able to file the Plan before the deadline. Sitting on his kitchen table, surrounded by his ministers (for some strange reason, the government in resignation is working from Borissov's kitchen), he announced they are sending the document to Brussels.

"This is not a Bible, it can be reviewed and edited," explained Borissov in his usual style.

Speaking of which, Parliament will dissolve

Yes, it's been a month since the elections, but after the second-biggest party - Slavi Trifonov's TISP decided against forming a government, there seems to be no way to create a working cabinet in this Parliament. Unless, that is, the Socialist party decides to announce one and GERB supports it (don't ask). This would be a mockery and hardly a stable coalition, so there seems to be a very slim chance of that.

Awards: shortest-lived Parliament in a 100 years

The last time a Parliament spent so little time together was in 1923. Tip: back then it was ended by a military coup.

Awards: Least desire to govern

This time it isn't the military who is ending Parliament. Except for GERB, no one in this chamber seems to want to form a government, even though TISP had a declared coalition majority of 160 deputies, which might as well be a world precedent.

One thing changed: new electoral rules

At least the parties agreed to change the electoral rules. In summary: new sections abroad, a new electoral committee and machine voting.

New elections will probably be held in July.

One thing still to go: dissolve the specialized court

The one other thing there seems to be a majority for: disbanding the famous "anti-corruption tool" of GERB. Given that in the last ten years the specialized court and prosecution service have had only one verdict for corruption - against a minor opposition mayor, it is hard to argue they are anything else than a political repression tool used by the prosecution service and the government.

Russia: one more diplomat gone

Bulgaria expelled yet one more person from the Russian embassy, citing security concerns and requesting Moscow's assistance in finding out details about four explosions in arms depots and the poisoning of arms dealer Emiliyan Gebrev.

Moscow won't be looking forward to helping though: such unfounded and unacceptable accusations won't be left without a response, said the Kremlin's spokesperson.

ECONOMY

Tourists, welcome!

Bulgaria opens up for tourism this summer, as of 1 May. With a new order, the health ministry allows non-quarantine entry to everyone who has one of the following:

  • Vaccination certificate
  • Negative PCR or antigen
  • Proof of COVID infection in the past 6 months

Yachts, too

Bulgaria's two biggest seaside cities - Varna and Bourgas, will have new yacht zones in the ports. The state-owned Port Infrastructure announced a tender for the design and construction of two yacht zones - one at the port of Bourgas, and one in Varna, plus a service area in Varna for maintenance and housing.

The indicative value of the contract is 11 million levs, and is divided into two parts - one for each city. The deadline for submitting bids is May 18. Applicants will have 9 months to implement their projects - 2 for design and 7 for construction. Currently, Varna and Bourgas have no yacht ports - only several small marinas are in operation.

The tool to fight the gray economy suffered another blow.

In the hope of tackling the gray economy, in 2018, the National Revenue Agency (NRA) implemented various new regulations, requiring companies to update or completely replace every cash register, electronic fiscal device and sales management system (collectively known in a very Vonnegut style as Ordinance H-18). However, it turned out that sales management systems are not so easily unified because of their specificity. In the past two years, the ordinance has turned into a regulatory Frankenstein of several hundred pages and dozens of applications due to constant patches and additions. This week, the Supreme Administrative Court repealed some of the texts in Ordinance H-18. The decision of the court is final and concerns the case filed in the summer of 2019 by the Bulgarian Industrial Association (BIA) and more than 40 business organizations and companies.

"This ordinance is already so confusing and difficult - some provisions have been repealed by the SAC and create legal loopholes as a result; other texts are unclear. It would be much more appropriate to rewrite it," lawyer Valentin Savov from BIA said.

Eurohold Bulgaria has hired J.P. Morgan to structure the loan to purchase CEZ.

The company did not specify an amount, but according to unofficial information the loan would be about 300 million euro. Eurohold has two months to find the funds necessary to pay the price for CEZ's assets in Bulgaria. The deal with CEZ is worth 335 million euro but funding will also have to be provided for the public electricity distribution companies for a mandatory tender offer to the other shareholders. This can bring the total price up to about 500 million euro.

BUSINESS

Automotive

Sin Cars

Ruse-based sports car manufacturer Sin Cars plans to raise capital on the stock exchange to make electric cars. The manufacturer is renewing his plans to go public, which were postponed a year ago due to the pandemic. In mid-May, the company will offer 2 million shares with a par value of 1 lev each in the segment for small and medium enterprises BEAM, confirmed the owner Rosen Daskalov for Capital. The company will focus on the production of electric cars for Western Europe.

Venture Capital

Innovation Capital Fund

Sofia-based Innovation Capital Fund is starting its second round of funding for startups. This will be the second edition of the Innovation Capital XLRadar program, which seeks early-stage startups from across the country. In this case, applicants can come from four specific segments - e-commerce, education, healthcare and entertainment. The selected candidates will receive funding for 40,000 euro and will go through the fund's one-month accelerator program.

Real Estate

Garanti Koza

Turkish construction company Garanti Koza İnşaat declared bankruptcy in late March. The company, which also has projects in Sofia's center and Mladost district, has capital of 100 million Turkish lira (about $12 million). The group's financial situation was shaken after a giant project of 5,000 houses in Istanbul's Esenyurt district dissolved into an almighty mess after homeowners were surprised to find that they had mortgages on their properties. It hasn't been able to recover since, the local Hurriyet reported. The company hasn't yet commented how bankruptcy would affect its projects in Bulgaria

ENERGY

Some things never change: 1.3 million levs state money to two oligarchs - Dogan and Kovachki, in May.

In February, the state Electricity System Operator (ESO) started paying various power plants for the provision of reserve capacity. Among the recipients are state-owned TPP Maritza-Iztok 2 and NEK, TPP Varna - owned by the honorary chairman of the MRF Ahmed Dogan, and TPP Bobov Dol, associated with Hristo Kovachki. All in all, provisioning is not unusual. However, the sum each recipient is getting is unknown, and the state refuses to share that information with the public.

Also, although all producers and even industrial consumers from neighboring countries can apply, no other organizations have been applying for the funds besides these four. Now, the monthly payments are starting up again, and the lack of transparency is also continuing.

WATCH OUT FOR

PEOPLE

Dimitar Berbatov

The Ex Man Utd forward will try to clean up the Bulgarian football union next year - this week he announced officially his candidacy to chair it.

Delyan Dimitrov

The husband of Sevdalina Arnaudova - prime minister Boyko Borissov's chief of PR and the lady behind Borissov's Facebook live streams, gets another term in the board of directors of Bulgartransgaz - state gaz operator that built TurkStream.

Diana Miteva

The long-time banker from OTP DSK bank is going to chair the banking association.

COMPANY

Tv Evropa

the brand that used to be an independent news station later bought by people close to GERB, will become Euronews partner in Bulgaria and is already looking for an editor-in-chief.

LOCATION

Rousse

the city on the Danube gets a brand new industrial zone, to be operated by "Trakia economic zone" - the most successful brand in the field in Bulgaria, currently operating Plovdiv's zones.

WORDS OF THE WEEK

Furnajiiska lopata - a baker's peel

Expression used to identify people who change their mind often, depending on what people say or what is most advantageous for them at the current moment. This applies quite well to Sofia mayor Yordanka Fandakova these days. Her municipality gave away a stadium in the most expensive neighbourhood in Sofia for a mere 1000 euro per month to an ex-sportsman only to back down after protests.

She even ordered the restoration of a beautiful piece of urban architecture - a bus stop in a park, that has been cut down by her own people months ago to a public outrcry.

Both of those decisions were correct, yet it always takes a push from somewhere for the mayor to guess what is right.

The last time Bulgaria qualified for a big football championship was in 2004. A little after that, in 2005, one man assumed the presidency of the country's football union (BFU) and has led it ever since - ex-national goalkeeper Borislav Mihaylov.

You might think football has no place in a politico-economic newsletter. And you would be wrong.

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