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435. Bulgarian Land Development starts controversial project

Sofia Echo: 2009-06-02

Residential property developer Bulgarian Land Development (BLD) will start work on its July Morning holiday village, the company said in a filing to the London Stock Exchange (LSE), where it is listed.

Set to rise on a site near the town of Kavarna, in northeastern Bulgaria, the development has been put on the list of "destroyers of Bulgarian nature" as the investor plans to "appropriate the coastal line as well," environmentalists claim.

Despite the strong reaction from conservation groups, the project was awarded all the necessary permits from the local authorities. BLD said in its statement that it secured enough funding to launch a scaled-down version of the project, whose first building would have 55 apartments, 41 of which had already been sold.

The building, which will stand on an area of 3600 sq m, should be completed in June 2010 at a cost of about 2.2 million euro.

The entire holiday village is planned to sprawl over 92 000 sq m, accommodating 351 homes, a spa centre, restaurants, small football pitches and mini-golf courses as well as five swimming pools. The total investment in the project is estimated at 40 million euro.

434. Bulgaria property returns to favour with British buyers

Sofia Echo: 2009-06-01

Bulgaria is regaining its popularity with British real estate buyers, according to the first quarter results of major UK portal Property Abroad. Bulgaria became a preferred destination during the real estate boom, but credit crunch in 2008 and the sudden oversupply on the local market have altered market dynamics.

Still, Bulgaria has managed to reclaim some lost territory, according to Property Abroad director Les Calvert. "Not a major jump by any stretch of the imagination, but for us, immersed in the industry, watching and reading the negative press about Bulgaria and seeing thousands of British buyers rushing to sell-up, this is quite a pleasant surprise for us," he said.

Such is the story of Carl Froch, World Boxing Council super middleweight champion, who bought property in Bulgaria from Joe Upchurch, managing director of Aston Lloyd.

Froch has said that his purchase of property in Bulgaria was "just as satisfying as delivering a well-placed left hook", and it is likely to prove a lucrative one, as well.

"What is the point of having money in the bank which is earning nothing?" said Froch, 31, who hails from Nottingham. "I have been investing between 8800 and 44 000 pounds sterling in property in Bulgaria and Turkey over the past 12 months."

Froch has poured money into small flats with the intention of renting them out to local residents, rather than seasonal holidaymakers.

According to the Daily Mail, in 2008 revenue generated by tourists rose by 8.4 per cent over the previous year, with demand from foreign visitors and Bulgarian nationals expected to remain stable in 2009, particularly along the Black Sea coast. The healthy forecasts are attributed to the advertising campaign backed by the Bulgarian Government, worth the equivalent of 3.5 million pounds sterling, meant to promote tourism.

"The rise can be accredited to Bulgaria's economic performance: Bulgaria is now one of only four European Union member states forecast to avoid recession this year, and forecast to do so in the most impressive way; strong growth with a firm handle on the budget deficit. That and the low-prices of course," analyst Julie Liddle said, quoted by Property Abroad.

The British based firm is currently in the market in Bulgaria, advertising hundreds of real estate for rent, sale, resale and off plan, available for less than 10 000 pounds sterling.

Ross Elder, managing director of holidaylettings.co.uk, was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail: "Inquiries for Bulgaria in the first quarter of 2009 are up nine per cent. It's a fantastic holiday option if you are seeking value for money on accommodation, flights and food."

Simon Conn, a property consultant for the 58-room four-star apartment hotel in Kostinbrod, close to Sofia, where Carl Froch has invested in a suite, has said: "In good city locations, such as Sofia and the better-quality coastal developments, there are long-term possibilities."

433. Blue Cards

Sofia Echo: 2009-05-29

Bulgaria is among 27 European Union member states that have two years to pass into national law the provisions of a European Council directive on a "Blue Card" system to ease residence and work permits for highly qualified foreign employees.

The Blue Card system, approved earlier this year by the European Parliament, was given the nod by the European Council on May 25, the same day that it adopted a directive aimed at fighting illegal immigration by prohibiting the employment of illegally staying third-country nationals, laying down minimum common standards on sanctions and measures to be applied in the EU member states against employers who infringe the ban.

According to a statement on the European Commission website, the new rules seek to put an end to abuses by unscrupulous employers who conclude contracts with people illegally resident in the EU, paying them low salaries amid poor labour conditions.

Employers in the EU will be obliged to require that before taking up employment, a third-country national has a valid residence permit or other authorisation to be in the country.

Employers will have to keep for at least the duration of the employment, a copy or record of the residence permit or authorisation for stay for inspection by the relevant authorities of the member states.

Employers will have to notify the relevant authorities of the start of employment of third-country nationals within a period laid down by each member state.

Penalties for infringements of the prohibition will include financial sanctions, which will increase according to the number of illegally employed foreigners. Employers will have to pay the costs of return if an illegal employee is deported.

Other sanctions may also be applicable to employers of illegal workers, such as exclusion from entitlement to public funding or from participation in public tenders.

Currently in Bulgaria, employers caught with illegal foreign workers face fines of 20 000 leva for each worker, and the employees themselves could be fined 5000 leva.

Labour and Social Policy Minister Emilia Maslarova said in July 2008 that companies found to be repeat offenders against labour laws would be excluded from participation in EU operational programmes and all other EU funding of projects in Bulgaria. This is an approach not dissimilar from that approved by the European Council.

Approval by EU institutions on moves against illegal employment of foreign employees may be seen against the background of the issue being increasingly sensitive throughout the EU, not only politically especially for right-wing and nationalist parties but also economically as domestic labour markets feel threatened by competition from foreign workers.

The Blue Card system approved by the European Council establishes more attractive conditions for third-country workers to take up highly qualified employment in EU member states, by creating a fast-track procedure for issuing a special residence and work permit.

The Blue Card will facilitate access to the labour market to their holders and will entitle them to a series of socio-economic rights and favourable conditions for family reunification and movement across the EU.

The directive sets out the common criteria to be set by the EU member states for applicants of the Blue Card without prejudice to more advantageous conditions provided for by national laws.

An EU Blue Card will be between one and four years, and may be renewed. A Blue Card may also be issued or renewed for shorter periods to cover a work contract period plus three months.

432. Carrefour enters Mall Pleven

Sofia Echo: 2009-05-28

French retail chain Carrefour will open a store in Mall Pleven, developer Aladin Investment said on May 27, as quoted by Dnevnik daily. The hypermarket chain would rent 2 400 sq m on the shopping centre's ground floor, Aladin Harfan, owner of Aladin Investment, was quoted as saying.

Mall Pleven, a 80 million leva development, is still under construction but is expected to be completed by the end of the year. "Construction is progressing according to schedule," Harfan was quoted as saying.

The shopping centre is expected to open in early 2010 and has generated "heightened interest" from retailers, according to Colliers International, contracted to rent out the 100 stores that will spread over 17 500 sq m in the finished mall.

Currently, there are eight Carrefour projects under construction nationwide. The first hypermarket of the French group opened for business at the end of March 2009 in Bourgas, Bulgaria's second largest Black Sea city.

The first Carrefour hypermarket in Sofia is expected to open in February 2010 on the Tsarigradsko Chaussee Boulevard.

431. Bulgaria at IMEX Frankfurt

Sofia Echo: 2009-05-27

Bulgaria will be at the global exhibition of congressional tourism in the world, at IMEX Frankfurt, which starts on May 26. Bulgaria will have four exhibitors present: the National Palace of Culture (NDK), Astral Holidays, Bulgarian VIP Tours and Bulgaria Holidays, as reported by the State Tourism Agency.

The IMEX exhibition in Frankfurt will last until May 28. More than 3500 exhibitors from more than 150 countries will attend IMEX 2009.

The show targets companies specialised in research, planning and organisation and make budgetary decisions for association meetings, congresses or conventions. It provides insight for clients involved in corporate meetings and hospitality, exhibitions, incentive travel programmes, new product launches, promotional events, road shows, seminars and training programmes.

The Forum demonstrates the value of the meetings industry by focusing on return on investment and benchmarking. The Forum allows politicians and leaders of major international associations to share experiences and information.

Within the parameters of the show, the exhibiting categories include: national and regional tourist offices, convention and visitor bureaus, hotels, conference centres, cruise liners, technology providers, airlines, luxury trains, transportation companies, ground agents, exhibition centres, spa resorts, trade associations, destination management companies, event management specialists, car rental, golf destinations and trade publications.

430. European Council approves Blue Card system for foreign workers

Sofia Echo: 2009-05-26

The European Council has adopted a directive aimed at fighting illegal immigration by prohibiting the employment of illegally staying third-country nationals, laying down minimum common standards on sanctions and measures to be applied in the EU member states against employers who infringe the ban.

According to a statement on the European Commission website on May 25 2009, the new rules seek to put an end to abuses by unscrupulous employers who conclude contracts with people illegally resident in the EU, paying them low salaries amid poor labour conditions.

Under the directive, employers in the EU will have the obligation to require that before taking up employment, a third-country national has a valid residence permit or other authorisation to be in the country.

Employers will have to keep for at least the duration of the employment, a copy or record of the residence permit or authorisation for stay for inspection by the relevant authorities of the member states.

Employers will have to notify the relevant authorities designated by member states of the start of employment of third-country nationals within a period laid down by each member

state.

Penalties for infringements of the prohibition will include financial sanctions, which will increase according to the number of illegally employed foreigners. Employers will have to pay the costs of return if an illegal employee is deported.

Other sanctions may also be applicable to employers of illegal workers, such as exclusion from entitlement to public funding or from participation in public tenders.

"The directive represents a step forward towards the fulfilment of the European Council commitment of having a set of clear, transparent and fair rules with the objective of strengthening co-operation between the EU member states against illegal employment and

with respect to the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the affected persons," the statement said.

The new legislation, which is line with the principles of the European convention for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms and the EU charter of fundamental rights, will strengthen the legal security of all involved, the statement said.

The directive is a response to the concerns that immigrants can be guaranteed that they will be able to live with dignity in the EU and have the same rights as those of the nationals of the recipient countries, according to the statement.

"By favouring dialogue and co-operation with countries of origin, the EU acknowledges that migration generates wealth both for third countries and for Europe, and contributes in a positive way to strengthening cultural diversity.

"For this reason, the EU promotes collaboration with countries of origin and countries of destination in order to match the migratory flux to the reception capacity of the countries of destination," the statement said.

The same day, the European Council adopted a directive aimed at facilitating conditions of entry and residence in the EU of third-country citizens for the purpose of highly qualified employment.

The directive establishes more attractive conditions for third-country workers to take up highly qualified employment in EU member states, by creating a fast-track procedure for issuing a special residence and work permit called the "EU Blue Card".

The Blue Card will facilitate access to the labour market to their holders and will entitle them to a series of socio-economic rights and favourable conditions for family reunification and movement across the EU.

The directive determines the common criteria to be set by the EU member states for applicants of the Blue Card without prejudice to more advantageous conditions provided for by national laws.

The period of validity of the EU Blue Card will be between one and four years, with possibility of renewal.

A Blue Card may also be issued or renewed for shorter periods to cover a work contract period plus three months.

After 18 months of legal residence in the first member state as an EU Blue Card holder, the person concerned and family members may move, under certain conditions, to a member state other than the first member state for the purpose of highly qualified employment.

Under the rules set by the directive, EU Blue Card holders will enjoy equal treatment with nationals of the member state issuing the Blue Card, as regards working conditions, including pay and dismissal; freedom of association; education, training and recognition of qualifications; a number of provisions in national law regarding social security and pensions; access to goods and services, including procedures for obtaining housing, information and counseling services; and free access to the entire territory of the member state concerned within the limits provided for by national law.

Following its publication in the official journal of the EU, member states will have two years to incorporate the new provisions into their domestic legislation, the European Council said.

429. Bansko officially launches summer season

Sofia Echo: 2009-05-25

A weekend of festivities marked the official launch of the summer season in Bansko, including a concert and folklore singing and dancing as well as a sumptuous food festival in the town's Pirin Hotel.

Mayor Alexander Kravarov headed a press conference in the Pirin Hotel also attended by representatives of Bansko's tourist association at which it was revealed that Bansko had enjoyed 60 per cent bed occupancy during the winter (something acclaimed by the panel as a success given the sharp economic downturn) and that 30 per cent occupancy (of Bankso's 280 hotels) would be judged a success in the summer.

The mayor revealed plans to expand the town's sporting facilities including tennis courts and football grounds and, in response to a couple of critical questions from the press, said that he and the municipality would endeavour to persuade hoteliers to create more green areas around their establishments. Kravarov said he wasn't responsible for any (perceived) over-building because private unregulated agricultural land had been sold to building contractors.

During the weekend a delegation was shown around some of Bansko's main attractions, including the Nikola Vaptsarov Musuem (home of the famous anti-fascist poet murdered by Bulgaria's fascist government during World War 2), the Neofit Rilksi house (home to one of the most celebrated teachers and figures of the Bulgarian National Revival) and the Sveta Troitsa church.

Many hotels were also shown to visitors during the weekend, including some exquisite guesthouses offering rooms for as little as 20 leva a night in the summer.

428. First Bulgarian woman to climb Everest

News BG: 2009-05-23

Petya Kolcheva, lawyer is the first Bulgarian woman to have climbed the highest peak on earth Everest. The climbing happened between 4 and 6 am Nepalese time this morning. She climbed up the peak with her husband Kamen Kolchev. The two took part in the climbing as part of an American expedition, informed DarikNews.bg.

Pety Kolchev is devoted to alpinism for many years. In her career as an alpinist her first eight thousand meter peak is Cho Oio (8201m), the sixth highest peak. Kamen Kolchev is a famous businessman in the broker fields.

427. Apartment complex built on former army base in Varna

Sofia Echo: 2009-05-22

A former army base will be transformed into a "new and modern" residential complex comprised of seven buildings with a total 210 flats. The new real estate will be located just north of the Sofia Varna motorway, on Treti Mart Boulevard, Stroitelstvo Gradut weekly reported.

The former army barracks are at the edge of Vladislavovo borough, one of Varna's suburbs, which has been gradually been transformed into a major local hub, with Billa, Metro, and Piccadilly supermarkets already operational and other major retail chains currently under construction.

Construction on the site started in 2006 with two apartment buildings already completed and the remaining five buildings being scheduled for completion by the end of 2009.

All blocks are equipped with basements, underground garages and cellars, and central heating facilities. The layout withing the enclosed area of the complex encompasses restaurants, cafes, a fitness centre, and playgrounds.

426. Luxurious yacht show starts in Varna

News BG: 2009-05-21

The biggest yacht event on water HYPO Bulgarian Boat Show 2009 will present around 50 new yachts among which there will be premieres for Bulgarian and the region. The event will be held from 21 to 26 May in Varna. This announced the organizers of the exhibition, which will gather the yacht importers and the fans in Bulgaria for the third time. The event is the only that is held on water and is the biggest traditional meeting of the producers and traders in this branch with the consumers.

The total area on which the boats will be situated is around 4000 sq.m with over 25 vessels being on the water and the others on the ground.

The yacht market is dynamic and I expect movement in the beginning of the summer season, claimed Ivaylo Zheglov, manager of Expo Team, one of the organizers of HYPO Bulgaria Boat Show 2009.

According to him the purchase of a yacht is an expensive pleasure but remains a long-term investment. The turnover of the luxurious yachts market in Bulgaria in the last year surpassed 30 million euro, shows the data from the importers. According to them only in the last couple of years over 150 new yachts have been sold.

Cars, motors, scooters, diving equipment, sport goods and accessories which will also be present at HYPO BULGARIA BOAT SHOW 2009.

The opening of the exhibition is tonight at the Maritime station in Varna.

Last year the forum was attended by over 8 thousand people.

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