KATUNITSA, Bulgaria (Reuters) – Nothing in the cool autumn morning suggests the sleepy village of Katunitsa would have been the flashpoint for Bulgaria’s worst outbreak of civil unrest for more than a decade.
Ethnic Bulgarian and Roma villagers agree the trouble behind what developed into nationwide anti-Roma protests was really a local dispute with Roma clan leader Kiril Rashkov, known locally as “Czar Kiro,” after a man he was linked to ran over and killed a 19-year-old.
SOFIA (Reuters) – More than 160 people were arrested in Bulgaria during a second successive night of protests against the Balkan country’s large Roma minority, the nation’s worst violence for 14 years, and police prepared for more trouble on Wednesday evening.
The unrest, provoked by the death of a young man which some have linked to a Roma clan leader, has drawn attention to the tensions in the European Union’s poorest country as it struggles to emerge from deep recession.
SOFIA, Sept 13 (Reuters) – Bulgaria’s privatisation agency
sealed a deal to sell cigarette maker Bulgartabak to a
unit of Russia’s VTB Bank for 100.1 million euros
($136.1 million), the agency said on Tuesday.
Austrian-registered BT Invest, controlled by Russia’s second
biggest lender, won the tender to buy a 79.8 percent stake in
the Balkan country’s dominant tobacco company. It was the only
bidder for the stake after British American Tobacco
withdrew from the competition.
SOFIA, July 27 (Reuters) – Bulgaria’s sole refinery
Neftochim Burgas, controlled by Russian oil major LUKOIL
is stopping operations after the customs office
blocked its oil products sales over tax issues, officials said
The customs office has revoked the tax fuel depot licences
of the 142,000 barrels per day refinery, effectively blocking
its sales after the company failed to install proper measurement
tools and link them to the customs authorities.
SOFIA (Reuters Life!) – A Bulgarian monk is reopening an age-old debate in the Balkan country between Orthodox authorities and psychics.
In a new book, Monk Visarion denounced internationally respected healer Vanga and spiritual leader Petar Danov and attributed Bulgarians’ interest in fortune-tellers and mysticism to decades of atheist communist rule.
(Photo: An Orthodox priest holds up a box containing bones believed to be the relics of John the Baptist, in Sofia, November 12, 2010/Oleg Popov)
Bulgaria’s main Orthodox cathedral is displaying jaw and arm bones and a tooth said to be relics of John the Baptist, in a move state officials hope will boost tourism to the Black Sea resort where they were found. Prominent politicians and simple believers flocked to the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia to view the remains, which were found near the town of Sozopol in July and are on display in the Bulgarian capital through Sunday.
John the Baptist, a Christian saint also revered in Islam, announced the coming of Jesus and baptised him in the River Jordan. The Gospels say King Herod had John beheaded at the request of his stepdaughter Salome after she danced for him.
SOFIA, June 11 (Reuters) – Bulgaria is set to abandon plans
to build a trans-Balkan oil pipeline to carry Russian crude
through its territory to Greece because of environmental
concerns, Prime Minister Boiko Borisov said on Friday.
Borisov said strong opposition to the project from residents
of the Black Sea coast where the 300-kilometre pipeline was due
to start was key concern.
SOFIA, March 30 (Reuters) – Bulgarian prosecutors charged
Health Minister Bozhidar Nanev with graft in connection with flu
vaccine contracts on Tuesday, a new step in the country’s drive
to clean up its image as the most corrupt European Union nation.
Prosecutors said Nanev caused 2.45 million levs ($1.67
million) of damage by signing two contracts last December with
Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding AG <ROG.VX> for the delivery of
the influenza drug Tamiflu.
SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria’s parliament voted on Thursday to tighten a law that effectively banned cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops for scientific and commercial reasons in response to public fears.
The ruling center-right GERB party decided to drop a planned moratorium on GMO production because the new law would keep the European Union member GMO-free, deputies said.
SOFIA, Feb 4 (Reuters) – The Bulgarian government is likely to begin a privatisation programme of its state hospitals this year, once an overhaul of the indebted and inefficient sector is complete, Health Minister Bozhidar Nanev said on Thursday.
He told Reuters in an interview that investor interest would rise once the Balkan country had put in place a better funding structure for hospitals, with extra money likely to come from people paying more into both public and private health funds.
Moves by the centre-right government, elected last July, to close down 21 state-run communist-era hospitals and to raise contribution levels have triggered protests in towns across the Balkan country.
Crowds including doctors and nurses have demonstrated, saying while reforms were badly needed they feared thousands of people living in remoter areas could be left without access to hospital treatment. [ID:nLDE6100UU]
Another 130 hospitals will also be shut or converted to smaller centres, as part of the government’s plan, which Nanev said would be carried out, despite public opposition.
"Privatisation is the way to go," Nanev, 47, a former surgeon said. "There must be privatisation of both hospitals and the services provided by hospitals".
Most of Bulgaria’s 350 hospitals are state-owned, of which 71 were on a list of assets banned for privatisation. Nanev said this could be changed through legal amendments once the government had a clear strategy on sell-offs.
He said the reforms needed to show results so as to showcase the investment potential to investors.
Years of post-communist neglect and lack of political will for reforms have left many hospitals understaffed, heavily indebted, lacking contemporary equipment and even medicines.
Corruption in the sector is widespread and paying bribes to doctors for services due to be covered by insurances is the norm. Opinion polls show Bulgarians are the most dissatisfied with their healthcare system in of the 27-member European Union.
To secure money for the planned reforms, Sofia is considering obliging Bulgarians to pay extra private health insurance and to raise by 2 percentage points to 10 percent of gross income, payments to state health funds as of 2011. An existing voluntary scheme to contribute to private funds has failed to work.
The ministry was also working on a new methods of calculating prices of medical services to reflect the market reality, he said.
"Reforms needs money. We cannot make reforms by saving money, this must be clear," Nanev said but did not give figures.
The budget of the state health fund for hospitals fell 24 percent to 709 million levs ($503.2 million) in 2010, data showed. Hospitals’ debt stood at some 350 million levs by end-November last year.
The poorest EU country cut total health spending this year by 350 million levs to 2.25 billion, or some 4.2 percent of GDP, nearly halve the proportion spent in many Western nations. (Editing by Matthew Jones)