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300. Gusenbauer: Bulgaria's economic development is very good

News BG: 2008-11-15

Bulgaria's economic development is very good and this is a result of the consistent fiscal policy, led by the government.

This was announced by the visiting federal chancellor of Austria Alfred Gusenbauer after a meeting with Premier Sergey Stanishev. At the meeting the two have discussed the economic cooperation of the two countries, Bulgaria's membership in the European Union, as well as the effects of the world financial crisis.

The Bulgarian premier emphasized that Austria is the biggest investor in the country and added that this tradition will be kept in the future.

Austrian firms have invested over 3,5 billion Euro in Bulgaria. Stanishev pointed out that for now our country's economy is very stable, but it is not isolated from the other European countries, which have already been affected by the financial crisis. This will probably affect the economic growth of the country.

Austria's federal chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer emphasized that our country is going the right direction. According to him, the EU membership was not premature and a proof of this is the good economic development of the country. Gusenbauer added that the policy of budget surplus is a good move by the Bulgarian government. According to him, this is one of the major reasons for the stability of the country amid the world financial crisis.

The Austrian premier was categorical that Bulgaria is going in the right direction and this will be appreciated in the next report of the EC.

299. Super Borovets to apply for eco certificate

Wise Property: 2008-11-14

The main investor in the new Super Borovets mega ski resort is to apply for an EMAS (Eco-Management and Audit Scheme) eco certificate which guarantees that all work, products and services will be done in accordance with the highest European eco standards. So far, Super Borovets is still only on the drawing board, as construction is yet to be given the go-ahead.

The Eco-Management and Audit Scheme is the EU voluntary instrument which acknowledges organisations that improve their environmental performance on a continuous basis. The system has been active since 2001.

EMAS-registered organisations are legally compliant, run an environmental management system and report on their environmental performance through the publication of an independently verified environmental statement. They are recognised by the EMAS logo, which guarantees the reliability of the information provided.

Until now, no Bulgarian company has been issued such a certificate. The planned construction, for instance, includes construction "revolutionary" for Bulgaria, such as "passive buildings" or buildings that are heated and cooled by themselves. They will be powered by "green infrastructure" or the production of electricity will come from recycled resources, advanced system for waste management and a "thorough conceptualisation for integrated tourism" director of Ecoest Georgi Krumov said, as quoted by Dnevnik daily. Super Borovets will cost about 750 million euro.

According to the investors, the decision for the new development for the ski resort will make it a very popular destination and it will increase its value drastically. Additionally, every existing hotel is going to be upgraded so that it receives "Eco marking". This label is in accordance to strict criteria mainly in regard to heat and water management, among other factors.

"We hope to create a positive image for Super Borovets so that all eco activists will be assured that we will develop the tourist facilities and services in such ways that the environment will not be harmed," said Julia Arabadzhieva, the director of the project.

There were many protests against the planned mega construction in the Rila Mountain and the subsequent clearance of a large section of the ancient forest where the hotels will stand. Because of Super Borovets, the zone Rila-Buffer has been left out of the Natura 2000 eco-network. The activists, however, say that they will continue their protests against the planned "disembowelment" of the mountain. They claim that regardless of what "labels" the construction firms acquire from Europe - be it Eco marking or EMAS - eventually the rules will be broken gradually and that pollution and destruction of the environment is all but inevitable.

298. 30M euro open-air mall planned for Bourgas

Wise Property: 2008-11-13

Developer ZBS plans to begin construction on the first open-air mall in Bulgaria in March 2009, website investor.bg reported on November 10. The investment in the new shopping centre is estimated at 30 million euro.

The Strand mall would be built on a six ha plot near the highway to Sofia, next to a Baumax hypermarket, currently under construction. The open-areas will be built like pedestrian streets and will be covered in bad weather.

Initially planned to open in the summer of 2009, according to ZBS' website, the mall is now scheduled to begin operations in 2010, investor.bg reported.

Designed by British architecture and interior design firm GMW, The Strand's retail areas will total 30 000 sq m, with another 8000 sq m of pedestrian walkways and 26 000 sq m of parking space.

ZBS expects to attract at least 50 international retail chains and has said that it has already drawn interest from companies in leasing retail space. King Sturge was hired to handle all leasing operations.

Open-air malls have returned to fashion after decades of neglect in the 1990s. With lower construction and maintenance costs, it made sense to build such a structure for business reasons, but also because Bulgaria's climate was mild, ZBS investment director Mariella Ostend said, as quoted by investor.bg.

ZBS plans to build open-air malls in Haskovo and Pazardjik as well.

297. A British Council English language-resource for parents

Sofia Echo: 2008-11-12

The British Council introduced in early November 2008 a new resource for parents to help their child learn English. Through the online portal LearnEnglish Parents, parents of children who are learning English as a foreign or second language can ask questions, browse topics, learn techniques and download help materials.

The British Council has been present in Bulgaria since the 1980s, opening its first official office in the country in 1991.

Services offered include practising English online, help one's child learn English and finding a course for one's child. There is also a section called Parents Talk, where adults pose questions like Is it ok to teach English to two year olds? and How do I teach grammar to my children?. Other parents can then respond, sharing their personal experiences and advice.

Downloads like Pron Pal, a pronunciation aid; Song, where children's songs take centre stage; and Flashcards offer various ways to bringing English into daily life.

And so parents have an idea of what they're undertaking, there are also numerous articles on topics like what affects children's learning, how young children learn English as another language, using books in English with younger and older children, and computers and the internet safely.

296. Bulgarian citizens to get informed on their EU rights

News BG: 2008-11-11

The Representation of the European commission in Bulgaria will present an information campaign of the European union entitled European citizenship...not only words but specific rights!

A traveling counter will tour 20 towns in Bulgaria, said the organizers. The campaign will continue from 12 to 22 November. The counter in Sofia will be on St. Nedelya square.

The traveling campaign aims at giving information to the Bulgarians about their rights as citizens of the European union, defined in the EU Charter of the main rights.

This year the campaign has already been organized in Romania and Germany. There were similar initiatives in Ireland, Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia.

The aims of the campaign will be presented by the leader of the EC representation Zinaida Zlatanova, Karl-Henrich Hamrin chair of the Communication department at DG Justice, freedom and security of EC in Brussels and Toon Streple director of the Information office of the European parliament in Sofia.

295. Bulgaria and Greece to build an electric transmission network

News BG: 2008-11-10

The construction of an intersystem electric transmission network "Maritza Iztok - Nea Sanda" was discussed during the meeting of the Economy Minister and the Greek Minister of development Hristos Folias.

The project can start by the end of 2008 and end by 2011.

The two ministers signed a declaration on intentions, which calls for an intensification of the cooperation in the field of power engineering.

These agreements increase our mutual energy security and the general development of new and clear sources of energy, the Greek Minister of Development Hristos Folias said.

Greek investment in Bulgaria has increased two times in the first six months of 2008. This was announced during the meeting.

The Economy Minister Petar Dimitrov informed his Greek colleague that the electric transmission network "Chervena mogila - Shtip" will be officially opened on December 15 2008.

294. Should Kids Be Able to Graduate After 10th Grade?

Yahoo News: 2008-11-08

High school sophomores should be ready for college by age 16. That's the message from New Hampshire education officials, who announced plans Oct. 30 for a new rigorous state board of exams to be given to 10th graders. Students who pass will be prepared to move on to the state's community or technical colleges, skipping the last two years of high school.

Once implemented, the new battery of tests is expected to guarantee higher competency in core school subjects, lower dropout rates and free up millions of education dollars. Students may take the exams - which are modeled on existing AP or International Baccalaureate tests - as many times as they need to pass. Or those who want to go to a prestigious university may stay and finish the final two years, taking a second, more difficult set of exams senior year. "We want students who are ready to be able to move on to their higher education," says Lyonel Tracy, New Hampshire's Commissioner for Education. "And then we can focus even more attention on those kids who need more help to get there."

But can less schooling really lead to better-prepared students at an earlier age? Outside of the U.S., it's actually a far less radical notion than it sounds. Dozens of industrialized countries expect students to be college-ready by age 16, and those teenagers consistently outperform their American peers on international standardized tests.

293. Kinomania 2008 International Film Festival starts on November 7

Sofia Echo: 2008-11-07

Kinomania 2008 has arrived. Drawing in spectators with an opening ceremony screening of Shine a Light, Martin Scorsese's 2008 docu about the Rolling Stones, at Sofia's NDK (National Palace of Culture) on November 7, the film festival's entire programme promises to enthral.

Featured in the 22nd year of the festival will be the cinema of countries like France, Great Britain, Italy, the United States and Russia (as part of the Year of Russia in Bulgaria). There will also be special programmes dedicated to Asian, documentary, animation and tango films.

The festival, which continues until December 3, is being held in the Sofia movie halls Lumière, Dom na Kinoto, Odeon, Euro-Bulgarian Cinema and hall 1 of NDK, and in Plovdiv at Lucky Cinema. All films have Bulgarian and English subtitles.

From the United Kingdom, films to be shown include Incendiary by Sharon Maguire, which looks at how a woman continues her life after her husband and son are killed in a terrorist attack 9November 16, 7.30pm, Euro Cinema; November 20, 9pm, Lumière; November 23, 5pm, Dom na Kinoto); Becoming Jane, a biographical portrait of Miss Austen before fame hit, directed by Julian Jarrold (November 8, 7.30pm, Odeon; November 16, 6.30pm, Dom na Kinoto; November 18, NDK hall 1, 6.30pm); This is England, Shane Meadows' drama of a young boy who befriends skinheads (November 21, 9pm, Dom na Kinoto; November 26, 9pm, Lumière; December 2, 7.30pm, Euro Cinema); and David Lean's 1955 classic, Summertime, in which a solitary American lady finds... love in Venice (November 8, 2pm, Dom na Kinoto; November 9, 2.30pm, Lumière; November 13, 7.30pm, Odeon).

Also worth checking out are the Coen Brothers' film Burn After Reading (2008), which looks at the fate of a CIA disk after two fitness instructors find it (November 8, 9.15pm, Dom na Kinoto; November 15, NDK hall 1, 8.30pm); Lubov morkov/??????-???????, which means love carrot in Russian, is a comedy by Aleksandr Strizhenov (2007) that addresses a couple's lack of love and their treatment by a famous doctor; and El Ultimo aplauso, German Kral's 2008 documentary about a group of tango singers' final performance (November 15, 6pm, Odeon; November 16, 5pm, Lumière; November 20, 7pm, Dom na Kinoto).

There are many more films, of course, that deserve attention; watch The Sofia Echo for more details.

Cinemas in Sofia

NDK hall 1: 1 Bulgaria Sq, tel: 02/ 916 63 69

Lumière: 1 Bulgaria Sq (behind NDK), tel: 02/ 916 63 69

Dom na Kinoto: 37 Ekzarh Yosif Str, tel: 02/ 980 78 38

Odeon: 1 Patriarh Evtimii Blvd, tel: 02/ 989 24 68

Euro Cinema: 17 Alexander Stamboliiski Blvd, tel: 02/ 980 41 61, 988 00 84

292. Bulgarian tourism: many questions, good wishes for the future and no answers

Sofia Echo: 2008-11-06

Would the Bulgarian tourist industry survive the global financial crisis? What precautions need to be taken so the influx of foreign tourists remained steady? Is the country ready for the imminent ski season? Those were only some of the questions raised at a news conference that attracted members of the tourist guild to discuss the future of the industry on November 4 2008.

Recently the UN World Tourist Organisation (UNWTO) issued a warning that local and regional authorities should allocate at least two per cent out of their budget to market tourist products.

It is a well-known fact that the Bulgarian State Tourist Agency receives an annual budget of six million leva, which is not nearly enough to advertise what the country has to offer on the international market. At the news conference, professionals requested the budget for 2009 to be increased to 20 million leva.

Vetko Arabadjiev from the Union of Investors in Tourism said that the industry should focus on how to win back through special offers the thousands of Bulgarian tourists who prefer to holiday in Turkey and Greece. He believed that the financial crisis would not affect the type of tourists that come to Bulgaria usually families or individuals who would only have funds for one holiday a year.

Arabadjiev suggested that Bulgaria should be promoted more aggressively abroad as a cheap destination with a good quality of service. The state needs to secure preferential airplane tickets on charters servicing Varna and Bourgas airports. Arabadjiev wished that the Government would create favourable conditions for the development of infrastructural projects.

I think we should concentrate on the law for tourism that so far has undergone 16 amendments and there is another one on the way, said Irina Naidenova of the Association of Bulgarian Tour Operators and Travel Agents (ABTTA). Most of the clauses are contradictory and do not regulate the relations among all players on the tourism market. In addition, Naidenova pointed out that the law did not ensure a unified system for categorising tourist facilities.

Petya Slavova from the Union of Bulgarian Tourism Industry (UBTI) said that her organisation is initiating several anti-crisis moves. We will meet members of political parties that are capable of ruling the country, and I do not think that we should try to convince them that culture and tourism will make us rich.

Slavova also said that UBTI intends to meet archaeologists, historians, musicians and diplomats to probe their personal experience of how best to enhance Bulgaria's image abroad. In the row of planned meetings, Slavova also mentioned future talks with Italian, Turkish or Croatian ministers who could provide lessons on how to develop a successful tourist industry.

Bulgaria could very well count on its spa and wellness tourism, Stefan Sharlopov, a hotel owner and a large-scale investor, said. However, hotels that offer spa tourism should be certified by the European Spa Association. Otherwise, we could push tourists away by advertising spas in every hotel, where at some places there is just a jacuzzi and a single couch for massages, conducted by random people, Sharlopov said. Certification is a very expensive procedure, he said, and so far there are only two certified spa hotels. One is in the process of getting a certificate and five have applied for one.

Asked whether Bulgaria was prepared for the pending ski season, participants replied that the winter resort of Pamporovo may suffer because the nearest airport in Plovdiv is not equipped for bad-weather landing. So potential tourists need to be directed to Sofia and travel from there to Pamporovo. Compared to the number of visitors in the season 2006/07, tourist numbers this winter are expected to record a 30 per cent decrease.

No mention was made as to whether other resorts such as Bansko and Borovets were ready to greet tourists for the season.

291. US presidential election: Barack Obama wins

Sofia Echo: 2008-11-05

Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, New Hampshire, Virginia; as battleground states became landmark states in a historic victory, it became clear that Barack Obama would be the 44th president of the United States.

As Obama supporters revelled in victory at a rally in his home state of Illinois, joined by their fellows across the nation and across the world, where the story of the first African-American to become president-elect, and at that on a promise of a changed and renewed America, had captured imaginations.

Victory was more than decisive - Obama beating McCain by 338 to 155 electoral votes, CNN reported.

In a concession speech, John McCain urged all Americans to join him in supporting Obama - "whatever our differences, we are all Americans" - in facing the challenges ahead. A visibly emotional McCain called for calm as jeers rose from his supporters at references to Obama.

Incumbent president George Bush, whose term ends when Obama is sworn in as president on January 20 2009, reportedly congratulated his successor soon after networks reported the Obama triumph. The very fact of Bush's unpopularity in office and his grave missteps abroad and at home are seen as contributing to the electorate having opted for change in the form of Obama, and a significant strengthening of Democrats in both houses of congress.

After a prolonged, expensive and bitter battle, the final act went relatively smoothly and quickly. At the outset, McCain had, so networks said, two of his four initial must-win states, South Carolina and Georgia, but initially clarity on Virginia and Indiana was still awaited, until networks said that Obama would take Virginia. CNN then projected West Virginia would go to McCain.

Obama was soon more than a third of the way to the 270 electoral college votes needed to win the presidency. Most major networks accorded Obama victories in a list of states that had been expected to be bagged by the Illinois senator, including New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Delaware, his home state of Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey. To this list was added, not long after initial reports, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York and Michigan, and after some time, New Mexico. Iowa's seven votes put Obama over the 200 mark.

McCain won Kentucky, South Carolina, Alabama, Oklahoma and Tennessee, but it remained too early to say whether he would pull off further must-win victories in Ohio and Florida. Defeat in Pennsylvania represents a significant setback for McCain if confirmed by further reverses. An announcement some time thereafter that the Republican candidate had won Louisana and Utah was unlikely to have revived hopes in the McCain camp.

As several commentators pointed out, no Republican candidate has won the White House without first getting Ohio. After Pennsylvania, it was a major body blow. In the next few hours, other results and consequent projections made it clear that the blow was fatal.

Obama, however, going by the projected results, did not achieve the landslide on the scale of the "Reagan revolution" results that some had forecast. While Ronald Reagan won the presidency in 1984 with 525 votes to his opponent's 13, bettering his first-term victory of 489 to 49, the Obama-Joe Biden's ticket's defeat of McCain-Sarah Palin is relatively closer to the margins of the Bill Clinton victories of 1992 and 1996.

Networks universally reported long queues, while reporters and callers spoke of queues of lengths extraordinary in US elections for decades. In the competition for ratings, CNN had a rabbit to pull out of the hat, as it made television history by projecting one of its reporters into its New York election centre as a holographic image, live from Chicago, thanks to technology reliant on 35 high-definition cameras used to relay a full-length body image.

Exit polls indicated that nationally, the economy was the key issue for the majority of voters, trailed by Iraq and terrorism at a distant second and third, respectively. The economic woes that reached crisis point some weeks ago have been seen as decisive in winning the election for Obama, to whom Americans are turning for solutions to this crisis, along with solutions to other domestic and foreign policy priorities.

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