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425. Logistic and administrative centres are still sought after

Sofia Echo: 2009-05-20

Leading Sofia-based consulting firms have reported that perspectives for investments in industrial sites, warehouse complexes and logistics centres in the capital and the surrounding region have in fact "improved", because the crisis has had a substantially lesser effect on rent levels compared to other types of business properties.

"In the current market, international investors can buy industrial property in Manchester at, say, 9.45 per cent, or say in London, that would generate annual yields of about 8.75 per cent, which results in expectations for 12-15 per cent for Bulgaria as a risk premium," said Mihaela Lashova, manager of Investment Sales in Forton International.

Alexander Gebov, executive manager of construction firm Paladin Property Development, which develops the largest logistics centre in Sofia, in the borough of Elin Pelin, near the Trakia motorway, has revealed that interest in such properties has remained stable.

"We don't suffer from any decrease of demand, in fact, currently we have increase in demand for over 75 per cent for the first phase of the capacity of industrial park Sofia East. The work is intense as we are developing also the auxiliary infrastructure, in and around the complex," he said, as reported by Stroitelstvo Gradut.

Sofia East Industrial park is a large complex spanning more than 40 000 sq m in area, encompassing warehouses, logistical and administrative facilities.

According to Gebov, the lack of financing for new projects is the main hurdle at the moment, but this also is potentially exploitable by firms who have reached advanced stages with the construction of their projects, as the tenants (companies who need the retail space) have less opportunity to construct facilities of their own and so are left with no other choice but to rent them out. This, in turn, has kept the market stable.

424. Property visa

Sofia Echo: 2009-05-19

The Bulgarian Governments fast access visa system for non-EU nationals who own property in Bulgaria is reaping results with Russians emerging as the largest group, Deputy Foreign Minister Milen Keremedchiev told The Sofia Echo on May 11.

Keremedchiev said that it was Russians, followed by Serbians, who had best exploited the procedure to provide them with a three-year long multiple entry visa.

The logic behind the visa system, which has been in effect for more than a year, provides for granting an entry visa to non-EU nationals who own property in Bulgaria.

If non-EU nationals own property in Bulgaria they can apply for a multiple entry visa for up to three years, also valid for their spouses and children under 21. Applicants must also have had a Bulgarian visa - minimum one year-long, issued before that. Besides the three-year long multiple entry visa, foreigners would be entitled to stay in Bulgaria for 90 days.

"This has had an effect, especially when it comes to interest shown by Russians," Keremedchiev said. "All they need do is present their title deeds to one of the Bulgarian embassies consulate services and apply for the visa."

Since non-EU nationals cannot own land in Bulgaria they could apply for this procedure by presenting a document stating that they owned the company that had bought the property. "Many people do so when it comes to owning a single house but as regards owning an apartment in a residential building, there is no problem for non-EU nationals to have the deed in their name," Keremedchiev said.

The procedure came about when many Russian tour operators and real estate companies said that Bulgarias protracted visa system policy was deterring Russians from visiting.

The decision was also based on dwindling interest from British and Irish buyers, perturbed by continuing rising prices and the beginnings of the global economic crisis. Russians, on the other hand, still found prices viable. This, allied to close cultural ties and a shared past, made Bulgaria an attractive destination, hence the request for a streamlined visa system.

According to some complaints, property-owning Russians in Bulgaria were also treated the same as Russian tourists. As a result, Bulgarias Foreign Ministry introduced a separate procedure for non-EU nationals that entitled them to access to their property. How this will change when Bulgaria joins the EU Schengen Agreement area is yet to be seen.

423. 50 000 euro for 12th International folklore festival in Veliko Tarnovo

News BG: 2009-05-18

The municipality of Veliko Tarnovo to finance the organization and conduct of the 12th edition of the International folklore festival with 50 000 euro. Around this decision gathered the members of the cultural committee during its last session on Wednesday, writes Yantra dnes newspaper.

With regard to the financial and economic crisis and the reduced financial resources the management board of the festival has submitted a request for 60 000 euro from the municipality.

Traditionally the municipality bears the expenses for food and accommodation of the participants in Grand Hotel Veliko Tarnovo. Calculation show that this year the expenses for participant in the event will be 27 euro per person.

Over 660 dancers, musicians and implementers from 15 states will take part in the folklore fiesta, which this summer will be held from 18 July to 1 August. This time again the organizers have invited many attractive groups, which have not been presented in Bulgaria so far.

Unique folklore of the Australian aborigines, one of the best folklore formations in Peru, groups from the Canary Islands, Venezuela and a professional ballet from Argentina will present for the first time in Bulgaria.

So far participation have confirmed group from China, South Korea, Egypt, Jordan, Greece, France, Armenia and others.

422. Belfast-based construction companies look for employment in Bulgaria

Sofia Echo: 2009-05-11

Hit hard by the economic downturn, a group of construction companies in Northern Ireland are considering establishing a foothold in Eastern Europe and the Bulgarian market in particular, the Bulgarian news agency, BTA, has reported.

They consist of more than half of the firms who are initiating a one-week trade mission in Bulgaria and Romania starting today - May 11. The task force is made up of 25 firms in total, who have concentrated their attention on developing markets in Eastern Europe. Some of them are involved with the retail of construction material, others with recycling it two prominent industrial activities in Northern Ireland's economy.

Representatives from the group believe that Bulgaria and Romania have great possibilities for the future. "Bulgaria and Romania are benefiting a lot from investment emanating from the EU and the subsequent modernisation of their economies. And we, in turn, can envisage a lucrative potential," said Vicky Kell, one of the mission's organisers.

"Bulgaria and Romania have benefited from substantial investments in infrastructure overhaul and development and in the creation of modernised production technologies, telecommunications improvement, transport, energy production and protection of the environment," Kell said. "Investments poured into infrastructural projects in Bulgaria alone amount to more than eight billion euro," she said.

421. First foreign tourists for the 2009 summer season arrive at Bulgarian Black Sea coast

Sofia Echo: 2009-05-09

The first foreign tourists have arrived at Bulgarian Black Sea resorts, Tsvetan Tonchev, chairperson of the Bulgarian Tourism Chamber told Bulgaria Focus news agency on May 8 2009.

The first tourists were from Germany, he said, and noted that their arrival coincided with the official opening of the 2009 summer season on the Black Sea on May 5 2009.

On that day the opening of the season was marked in the Black Sea cities of Varna, Bourgas and the largest Bulgarian sea resort Slantchev Bryag (Sunny Beach), he said.

"About 60 per cent of the beds that Bulgarian Black Sea hotels offer are full," he noted. "Three, four and five star hotels that are close to the beach are almost fully occupied," he said.

Tonchev said that the first wave of tourists numbered between 15 000 to 20 000 people and noted that he expected a drop in the number of visitors compared to the summer of 2008.

He also said that prices in Bulgaria and in Greece have basically levelled. "However, I hope that we will have more revenue this year from more affluent tourists willing to spend more," he said.

He said that there was an increase in the number of tourists coming from Russia, Poland and Israel but a drop in the numbers of German tourists.

420. Six day holiday good for tourism - tourism institute

Sofia Echo: 2009-05-04

The six day May holiday has been extremely good for tourism, without any cancellations, Rumen Draganov, director of the Institute for Analysis and Assesment in Tourism said in an interview with Focus news agency.

Hotels that offer balneology were booked up a month earlier. All other hotels, along the seaside as well as throughout the country, report good occupancy.

Tourists are reportedly not only from Bulgaria and neighbouring countries. There has been an increase of visitors from Germany, the UK, Spain and Scandinavian countries, Draganov said.

Sofia has made a name for itself as a quiet town during holidays, a special town for culinary and wine tourism and enjoys a good reputation, Draganov said.

419. Bulgaria is the second favourite tourist destination for Serbs

Sofia Echo: 2009-05-03

Bulgaria is the second most popular destination for Serbian holidaymakers for this upcoming summer. The most popular destination is Greece, according to the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry, citing statistics released by the Serbian national tourist association.

The research was conducted amongst 19 798 Serb citizens who were asked about their plans for the upcoming summer and their favoured destinations as well as their planned budget.

More than a fifth of respondents said they were planning to visit the Bulgarian Black Sea, but a significantly larger proportion 40 per cent indicated that they were planning or had already made plans to visit Greece.

Ranking behind Bulgaria in third place was Turkey with 20 per cent, Egypt with five per cent and Tunisia with three per cent.

Bulgaria has long since overtaken Montenegro, a traditional destination for Serbian holidaymakers. Only about three per cent of those interviewed expressed a desire to go there this summer.

418. "Beautiful Bulgaria" project continues

News BG: 2009-04-29

In 2009 some 241 sites on the territory of the country will be renovated with finds from the state budget under the "Beautiful Bulgaria" project.

A total of 21 million euros will be allotted for the purpose. The money will be allocated to 160 Bulgarian municipalities, which have successfully worked out and defended their projects for the renewal and embellishment of the respective settlements.

"Beautiful Bulgaria" is one of the most successful Bulgarian socially targeted projects. Its basic purpose is to facilitate unemployment in the country by engaging jobless people in construction works with the aim of improving urban environment. The project was launched in 1997 with the assistance of the UNDP. It expanded with the years encompassing a growing number of municipalities. As of 2005 "Beautiful Bulgaria" is ruled entirely by the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy. About 1800 jobless people have so far been engaged in the project, while nearly 12 thousand Bans have changed their qualification moving in the sphere of construction works. The idea for people in this country to inhabit more beautiful and comfortable environment with renewed administrative buildings, churches, schools and reading houses has attracted a growing number of Bulgarian municipalities. In most places local administration has worked out various projects for applying for the financial support of "Beautiful Bulgaria". In late 2008 the project was included in the government plan of action for achieving economic stability in the conditions of a world financial crisis. Here is the comment of Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev:

"We realize that Bulgaria like all other EU countries is entering a harder period of time in view of the economic environment on an international plane. That is why we have looked for all possible ways of supporting the economy, the employment of people and preserving as far as possible their jobs. So these 241 projects are related to improving the social infrastructure, as well as the helping of small business in the tourist branch and the municipalities in general. The projects would guarantee 6400 jobs for people who would be building the respective sites all over the country and will help the re-qualification of 4 thousand Bulgarians. Thanks to this ambitious programme some 1600 permanent jobs would be provided."

I think that with the successful fulfillment of "Beautiful Bulgaria" we successfully proved that we have learned not just to walk but to firmly set foot and manage large-scale projects, said Bulgarian Minister of Labor and Social Policy Emilia Maslarova and added:

"Nearly 70% of Bulgarian municipalities are making use of this project. That shows that we have learned to manage projects. Municipalities made their best to teach people how to earn projects. We tried not only to renew culture and historic monuments in Bulgaria, our churches, reading houses etc. but also to improve our social infrastructure. So far we have renewed 100 nurseries and kindergartens. Furthermore almost 400 social homes and day care centers have been supported one way or another by the project. I think that the repair of 241 sites on the territory of 160 Bulgarian municipalities in the course of the next 12 months is an extremely ambitious task, which we are quite capable of coping with", said in conclusion Social Minister Emilia Maslarova.

417. Lake development selection programme has been approved

Sofia Echo: 2009-04-28

The official selection process for choosing the companies that will develop two large Bulgarian lakes Luda Yana and Plovdivtsi - has been approved by the Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works and will take place in a fortnight, Stroitelstvo Gradut has reported.

Companies interested must submit their applications for Luda Yan by 2pm on May 11 2009 and for Plovdivtsi lake by 2pm on May 18 2009.

The financial resources required for both projects have been allocated by the World Bank's Municipal Infrastructure Development project fund.

The major overhaul, infrastructure works, and subsequent development of the region surrounding both lakes is estimated at 75 million euro in total, 80 per cent of which has been borrowed by the World Bank.

Construction work on the Luda Yana Lake is expected to last 46 months. Work on Plovdivtsi Lake will take about 40 months.

The companies will be tasked with modernising and upgrading the existing systems in operation, and renewing them completely where necessary. Water treatment installations will have to be installed to produce clean drinking water.

Luda Yana is meant to supply Panagiurishte and Pazardjik with drinking water whereas Plovdivtsi will be tasked with doing the same for Madan, Rudozem and another 22 villages in the surrounding area.

416. Interior Ministry invests in Plovdiv and Stara Zagora

Sofia Echo: 2009-04-27

A new player looks set to make new investments in Bulgaria's real estate market. Interior Ministry chief, Mihail Mihov, turned the first sod on April 22 to start construction on the second regional police office headquarters in Stara Zagora.

Later that day, Mihov went to Plovdiv and participated in the official opening ceremony of the newest police precinct in the Trakia borough in the city. The new police base in Plovdiv has been sponsored in full by the Interior Ministry and occupies more than 3500 sq m of a parcel of land conceded by the local municipality.

The value of the Plovdiv police station, which was developed by Bibov and Co OOD, amounts to more than three million leva. Chief architects for the design are Rumen Galov and Engineer Panayot Notov.

The new facility is compartmentalised into two main sections, the first consisting of two storeys and the second of four-storey buildings. Architects insist that the building is modern, efficient and practical and that it complies with Bulgarian and international legislation as well as European construction standards.

Equipped with a large and modern administrative centre, and a new conference hall the new police station will serve 80 000 citizens who reside in the Trakia borough and the villages of Yagodovo and Krumovo.

Meanwhile, the Second Precinct police station in Stara Zagora, which is under construction, will be erected in the borough of Zheleznik.

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