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450. Super Bourgas project is launched

Sofia Echo: 2009-07-01

The Super Bourgas project, which aims to renovate infrastructure facilities and open the city to the sea was effectively given a kick start at a launch ceremony attended by Transport Minister Petar Moutafchiev, Finance Minister Plamen Oresharski and Bourgas mayor Dimitar Nikolov.

The Joint Venture Zone for Social Public Access Bourgas will be entrusted with managing and operating public access to the port, seaport, railway station and the bus terminal in Bourgas. The contract was endorsed by Moutafchiev and Nikolov as well as the secretary of the executive committee, Pavel Marinov.

The next phase in the project is the actual architectural design and subsequent construction.

"The first phase towards fulfilling the task has been achieved," said Moutafchiev as quoted by Stroitelstvo Gradut on June 27. Meanwhile, Oresharski said that "this initiative will be beneficial not only to the city of Bourgas, but to our entire coastline".

The initial capital of the company has been agreed at 500 000 leva. Each of the main shareholders, the municipality of Bourgas, Railway and Port Infrastructure, Bulgarian State Railways (BDZ), and the Port of Bourgas will participate with a 20 per cent stake in the scheme.

During negotiations, it was revealed that the project will be financed by the Bulgarian Bank for Development, and the Joint European Support for Sustainable Investment in City Areas, or Jessica Programme, although the report has so far failed to reveal the total cost of the vast enterprise. There will be a follow-up to this meeting, scheduled for October 10.

449. The Russian visa entered Bulgarian election program

News BG: 2009-06-30

The visa for the Russian tourists who want to rest in Bulgaria to be with a changed regime from permitting to informing. Obligation to lobby for this claimed the leader of the list of coalition LIDER- Novoto vreme in Varna Krassen Kralev. He announced the idea as an example for realization of the election logo of the campaign We want change, informed Trud newspaper.

We have to turn to the Russian tourist market, since because of lousy procedures we lose millions of guests from there, explained he. Kralev appealed also for change in the marketing strategy, which could crack down the status quo of the profile of foreigners who rest in Bulgaria.

The deputies from LIDER Novoto vreme will go regularly to work, promised Kralev. We are creative, we will find a way to cope with the voting with other peoples cards. If necessary we will regularly take photos of the violators and will provide the photos to the media, added the candidate for deputy.

448. Sand figure-carving in Bourgas

Sofia Echo: 2009-06-29

Sand figures were carved as part of an outdoor exhibition in the Sea Garden of Bourgas, Bulgarian news agency BTA said.

Some of the figures were eight metres in height.

The exhibition would remain open throughout the summer.

The sand figure festival was organised for the second year. In the first year, some of the figures survived more than three months, BTA said.

447. New rules for European Union visas

Sofia Echo: 2009-06-26

The European Council leaders of the 27 EU states agreed on June 25 2009 to approve common rules on procedures and conditions for issuing short-stay EU visas.

The European Council said that this was a major step to further develop a common visa policy and to reinforce co-operation in the Schengen area.

"Third-country nationals will benefit from more consistent and transparent application procedures," the council said in a media statement.

The provisions mainly concern transits through or intended stays not exceeding three months in any six-month period, meaning short-term visas.

However, given that the new regulation is based on the Schengen acquis, the United Kingdom and Ireland are not taking part in the adoption of it and are not bound by it.

Denmark should decide within a period of six months after the date of adoption whether it will implement it in its national law or not. On the same grounds, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland are covered by the regulation.

The new regulation establishing a Community Code on Visas (known as the Visa Code) bundles all legal instruments concerning visa decisions and increases transparency and legal security for applicants, the European Council said.

Its main provisions are that it clarifies which EU member state is responsible for processing a visa application and defines the different phases for examination and decision taking, includes new provisions allowing for multiple-entry visas under certain conditions, lists the documents a visa applicant needs to submit and the procedures for their verification, harmonises the fees that can be charged and sets common standards for the service provided, namely non-discrimination and that a decision should be taken within 15 calendar days, and obliges member states to give refused applicants the reasons for their decision and gives them the right to appeal.

The regulation enters into force 20 days after its publication and most of its provisions must be applied six months later.

As a general rule, applicants must appear in person when lodging an application.

They need to turn in a number of documents: an application form, a valid travel document, a photograph, a document indicating the purpose of the journey, proof of sufficient means to cover accommodation and subsistence, proof of travel medical insurance as well as information enabling an assessment of the applicant's intention to leave the Schengen territory before the expiry of the visa.

At the time of submission of the first application, member states should also collect fingerprints and introduce them - along with the photograph - into the Visa Information System (VIS).

VIS is a database where alphanumeric date and biometric identifiers of the visa applicants are recorded. It aims at improving the system for issuing visas throughout the Schengen area. Currently, it is being implemented at member state

level and should be operable at a central level also by the end of 2009/beginning of 2010.

Deployment (roll-out) will be done step-by-step. The first so-called "roll-out region" will be North Africa.

The visa fee is set at 60 euro for people 12 and older and 35 euro for children between six and 11.

For children under six as well as school pupils coming to Europe for study or educational training, researchers and representatives of non-profit organisations under 25 participating in seminars, conferences, sports, cultural or educational events, visas are free.

The visa fee may also be waived for children between six and 11.

For uniform visas, meaning for visas valid for the entire territory of the member states, the member state responsible for examining and deciding on an application shall be: a) the one whose territory constitutes the sole destination of the visit; b) if the visit includes more than one destination, the member state whose territory constitutes the main destination of the visit in terms of the length or purpose of stay; c) if no main destination can be determined, the member state whose external border the applicant intends to cross in order to enter Schengen territory.

The new rules say that during the examination procedure, "particular consideration must be given to assessing the authenticity and reliability of the travel and other documents submitted and whether the applicant presents a risk of illegal immigration or a risk to the security of the member states".

"In justified cases consulates may call the applicant for an interview and request additional documents."

In case of a refusal, member states are obliged to give a motivation of their decision and refused applicants have the right to appeal against the particular member state under its national law.

To facilitate this task, member states have to provide applicants with information regarding the procedure to be followed.

The regulation also allows for the issuing of multiple-entry visas that are valid for six months to five years.

There are two main conditions. First, the applicant proves the need or justifies the intention to travel frequently and/or regularly, in particular due to his occupational or family status, such as business persons, civil servants engaged in regular official contacts with member states and EU institutions, representatives of civil society organisations travelling for educational training, seminars and conferences, family members of citizens of the Union, family members of third-country nationals legally residing in member states and seafarers.

Second, the applicant proves his integrity and reliability, in particular the lawful use of previous uniform visas or visas with limited territorial validity, his economic situation in the country of origin and his genuine intention to leave the Schengen territory before the expiry of the visa.

Further provisions of the new rules concern cooperation between member states in countries where not all member states have consular representation, Common Application Centres, the use of external service providers and co-operation with commercial intermediaries for the lodging of applications (such as private administrative agencies, transport companies or travel agencies).

Other provisions are for a set of general public information; special arrangements in relation to the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games; the collection of statistical data; and for evaluations to be carried out by the European Commission (the first one two years

after all provisions are applicable).

The third countries whose national must be in possession of visas when crossing the external borders of the Schengen area and those whose nationals are exempt from that requirement are listed in Council Regulation (EC) No. 539/2001, the European Council said.

446. Bulgarian advertises a casino of Schwartzenegger, Willis & Stalone

News BG: 2009-06-25

The 26-year old top model Maria Radeva attracts the views of the men from a billboard hung on the entrance of the complex, informed avtora.com. As it is known, creator of the trademark is the trio movie starts Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis and Silvester Stalone, who started with a chain of restaurants in 1992. Later their business grew and went into the hands of far less known people. The casino, however, is constantly visited by the most famous actors in the in the movies world, among which Brat Pitt, Rusell Crowe, Al Pacino, Robert de Niro etc.

Maria, who is originally from Dobrich, Bulgaria, is a bright advertisement of the Bulgarian beauty for already some years. In 2007 she won the competition Image Model Search in Las Vegas, where a little earlier she graduated with destinction the local university. After her success in the competition, participations in various TV show follow. She is often committed to charitable causes.

An interesting fact from Marias personal life is that she is almost adopted daughter of the former governor of Nevada Bob Miller in whose family she lived for long years.

445. Tourism opportunities in Bulgaria: Russian roulette

Sofia Echo: 2009-06-22

Quoting unnamed officials at the Bulgarian-Russian Investment Forum as saying that Russian investors were "opting for partnerships with Bulgarian companies in order to start new casinos in Bulgaria", Bulgarian daily Standart said the country had a "golden opportunity to become the Las Vegas for Russian gamblers."

As reason for the Russian interest, Standart referred to a Russian decision to restrict casinos in four regions on July 1 2009.

Luring rich Russian gamblers, however, was not going to be easy, as the country would have to compete with the likes of Monte Carlo and London.

Blagoy Ragin, chair of the Bulgarian Hotel- and Restaurant-Keepers Association, was quoted as saying that "rich Russians would come only if there was a megacasino giant, luxurious, and with a lot of extras."

Ragin said that such a megacasino would be "most becoming in the western part of the Sunny Beach resort," Standart said.

According to an unnamed source in the tourism sector quoted by Standart, businessmen were already hoping that gambling-loving Russian tourists would "be the prime saviours of this summer's holiday season at the Bulgarian seaside."

444. Belogradchik Rocks have attracted 155 000 tourists since January 2009

Sofia Echo: 2009-06-20

The Belogradchik Rocks have been visited by more than 155 000 tourists since the turn of 2009, according to Svetla Dimitrova, co-ordinator of the committee which has nominated the site as one of the (new) seven wonders of the natural world.

The Belogradchik Rocks's nomination has been backed by 6.3 million people worldwide so far, which currently ranks it in third place, behind the Devil'sTown (rock formations) in Serbia and the Kolka canyon in Peru.

Belogradchik, however, has gathered enough international support to propel it above the Grand Canyon in the United States, which ranks in fourth place, Investor.bg has reported.

Over the course of the past weekend alone, the tourist destination had more than 4500 visitors. The committee are expecting an increase of interest from students and young people throughout the year.

The second phase of the selection will conclude on July 7, when the first 77 natural sites out of 261 will be selected. Upon reaching that phase, a professional group of experts will be entrusted with choosing the new seven natural wonders of the world. On July 21 the international commission will select the final 21 sites for the final phase of the competition, which will be decided in 2011.

"The municipality of Belogradchik continues with its aggressive advertising approach," said Dimitrova, as quoted by the Bulgarian news agency (BTA).

443. EC release 1.5 bln EUR for Bulgarian roads

News BG: 2009-06-19

The European commission has waived the ban on construction of roads under operation programs Regional development and Transport, informed the chairman of the Supervision council of National agency Road infrastructure Ivan Atanassov after inspection of the construction on Lyulin highway.

Yesterday a letter was received from Regional development directorate general which points that Bulgaria can open procedures under both operational programs.

205 million euro are scheduled for the construction of roads under Functional program Regional development and nearly 1 bln euro under OP Transport, informed the press centre of Road infrastructure.

In the beginning of last year the EC banned the road agency to sign contracts the under the operational programs, after a scandal with the late road chief Vesselin Georgiev who have projects for 60 million euro to companies related to his brothers. Then the money under the pre-accession programs PHARE and ISPA was also suspended.

Now, according to the agency chiefs the funds are being released because of the great progress reported in the work.

The first 5 km from Lyulin highway are ready and will be opened by the end of July. The Turkish company implementer Mapa Chingis claimes that by the end of the year altogether 12 km will be ready and by the end of 2010 the whole highway.

The deadline for the establishment of the highway is 30 April 2010. Over 148 million euro are needed for the construction. 75% of them are coming from the European program ISPA and 25% from the state budget.

442. Bourgas open-air mall draws 17 bidders

Sofia Echo: 2009-06-16

A total of 17 companies, including three local ones from Bourgas, are vying to become the general contractor to build the first open-air mall in Bourgas, The Strand.

On June 10, the building permit for the site was approved and issued, Bourgas chief architect Vesselina Ilieva was quoted as saying by Stroitelstvo Gradut weekly. The deadline for construction firms to put in their bids is June 18.

Meanwhile, Dimitar Kaloyanov from investment company ZBS Ltd, which owns the project, has said that "the price will not be leading as a criterion" as quoted by Stroitelstvo Gradut.

Experience and expertise, as well as financial stability, turnover and bank guarantees, will reportedly be the main criteria which will be used during the selection process, Kaloyanov said. Once the general contractor is chosen, construction is set to start at the end of July 2009, with the total investment estimated to exceed 30 million euro.

The shopping mall will offer 30 000 sq m of retail space, a further 8000 sq m of pedestrian and recreational zones and about 18 000 to 19 000 sq m allocated for car parks. The entire complex will be built on a parcel of more than 60 000 sq m along the motorway to Sofia.

The mall is designed by British firm GMW Architects.

Open-air malls have lower operational costs compared to the traditional malls which makes them more profitable. Retailers prefer open-air malls because real estate taxes, utility costs and common area costs are much lower than in enclosed malls. This is largely because department store anchors at enclosed malls typically do not pay for rent, land or development, and the costs are passed on to the other tenants.

441. Equest continues to dispose assets in Bulgaria

Sofia Echo: 2009-06-15

Equest Partners, headquartered in London, an investment management and advisory company, continues to offload its assets in Bulgaria, according to a report from the London Stock Exchange.

Equest Investment Balkans has sold its shares in the Boyana Park residential development complex in Sofia, where the company had a 30 percent share of the total project. The deal is estimated to be 600 000 euro. The name of the buyer has not been disclosed.

Furthermore, Equest has shed assets in Romania for another 800 000 euros.

The company has also confirmed its intention to sell additional assets in Bulgaria. Negotiations have commenced on property disposals including Rodacar, the 12 300 sq m retail warehouse property in Varna, and the mixed use Serdika project, in the centre of Sofia.

Recently, Equest also released its 21.2 per cent share in the Bulgarian branch of the financial firm Uniqa International, as well as Avto Union.

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