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275. Bulgarian Government mulls 6.5B leva cash injection in state railways

Sofia Echo: 2008-10-18

Bulgaria would inject 6.5 billion leva in upgrading the country's railways by 2013 if the plan put forth by Transport Minister Petar Moutafchiev and the chairperson of Parliament's transport committee Yordan Mirchev is adopted by the Cabinet, Dnevnik daily reported.

Moutafchiev presented the plan on October 17 and said that the figure was based on "detailed calculations" of how many new train engines, coaches and wagons needed to be bought, as well as the exact cost of repairing or replacing existing railway infrastructure.

Unless an "aggressive investment strategy" was pursued, the two loss-making state-run companies would have to cut down on the services they offer, Moutafchiev was quoted as saying by website mediapool.bg.

The plan envisages the allocation of 3.94 billion leva to operator Bulgarian State Railways (BDZ) and a further 2.56 billion leva for National Railways Infrastructure Company. The bulk of the funds would come from the state budget, but 1.4 billion leva in European Union funds were pencilled in as well, while 360 million leva are expected to come from a World Bank loan.

The plan has been submitted to Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev and is expected to be discussed by the leaders of the three parties in Bulgaria's ruling coalition when they next meet later this month or in November. There was no guarantee that the plan would be adopted, but the ministry would ask that its funds allocation in the 2009 Budget is increased by 70 per cent, Moutafchiev said, as quoted by Dnevnik.

The number of people served by BDZ has dropped to about 35 million a year from more than 110 million in the early 1990s, mainly due to declining quality, Reuters reported.

274. Sozopol sets sights for the rich and famous

Wise Property: 2008-10-17

The municipality of Sozopol, a Bulgarian Black Sea resort town, has implemented a construction plan, which aims to attract the rich and famous. Affluent tourists will be teased with the creation of a small airport for private aircraft, with a runway spanning 1.8km between the Ravna Gora and Izvor villages, Bulgarian construction news website stroitelstvo.bg reported. Sozopol chief architect Roumen Alexandrov and the mayor of the town Panayot Reizi have unveiled the plans which also include a 30ha recreational park near Gradina Camping.

In addition, a new port and three golf courses will be built. The municipality owns the land that one of the golf courses will be built on, and the other courses will be on land currently used for farming.

The local authorities want to create a new image for the resort and provide sleek, chic and modern tourism for the affluent from Bulgaria and abroad. The tourist industry will have several targets, categorised according to the different types of tourist.

Sozopol boasts a very rich history with many archaeological sites and ruins which enhance the areas interest for tourism. The nearby island of St Nikola will be developed as a "tourist super centre", the website reported.

The infrastructure surrounding the airport, the villages Ravna Gora and Izvor and other villages close to Sozopol will take two years to complete. Within 18 months, the waste water treatment station in Sozopol will be operational and would service the municipal centre, the villages Ravadinovo, Chernomorets, Atiya, Dyuni and Alepou.

273. Kibela Royal holiday village to rise near Balchik

Sofia Echo: 2008-10-15

A new holiday village, conveniently located close to the golf course that is being built near the Black Sea town of Balchik, will rise on about 27 000 sq m land plot, weekly Stroitelstvo Gradut reported. Investor of the project is Britannia-Balchik Inc., a partnership with British shareholders, while the design is done by architects Svetoslav Stanislavov and Delyan Zhechev from the Varna-based Disarch studio.

Kibela Royal will be situated in the Tabiyata area and will feature one- and two-family buildings winding in a spiral-like shape, surrounding a middle ground with entertainment and recreation zones, and several outdoor swimming pools.

The buildings bend in a shape of a crescent and a single driveway entrance from the south side will lead into the complex. Every building has an adjoining parking lot, and according to the plan, there are 195 parking spaces.

There are 58 one-family houses with a total built-up area of 8328 sq m. The building's entrance faces the outer street and each one has a small backyard. On the roof there will be a large balcony, which has the potential to be transformed into a living area.

Ten of the one-family houses are connected, according to the plan, and form a different type of three-level buildings with a total built-up area of 1809 sq m. Two small blocks feature buildings with 200 one- two- and three-bedroom flats. Their total built-up comes to 16 000 sq m.

According to the plan, there will be a communal building facing the pools, which will include spa centre, a fitness hall, outdoor bar area, café on the balcony and administrative offices.

Designers have paid special attention to the village's landscaping and every building is envisioned with flower stands of its façade.

272. Bulgarian town of Belogradchik voted an excellent tourist destination

Sofia Echo: 2008-10-14

Bulgarian north-western town of Belogradchik found a place in the list of 20 tourist European Destinations of Excellence (EDEN), which is an initiative launched by the European Commission in 2006, weekly Stroitelstvo Gradut reported.

The places that end up in that ranking are representative of European intangible cultural heritage. Belogradchik has impressed the selectors with its exciting traditions and a collection of Thracian legends and myths that have been featured within the international competition An Excellent Bulgarian Tourist Destination The Spirit of the Thracian people.

EDEN generally draws the attention to less known destinations as it tries to promote their tourist value in its social, cultural and environmental aspects.

Stroitelstvo Gradut reported that the region of Belogradchik has had a successful tourist season, welcoming more than 72 000 tourists since January 2008, with the expectation the number to reach 90 000 by the end of the year. For 2007, the figure was close to 57 000 visitors.

Tourists are most interested to see the Belogradchik rocks within the city's vicinity as well as the famous Magoura cave, where pre-historic drawings have been discovered. For the cultivation of the cave some 400 000 euro will be spend, primarily for making it more accessible. The money would support further archaeological research and restoration of the drawings.

Local authorities expect the tourist industry in the region to get a boost with the building of the first four-star hotel in the north-west Bulgaria called Skalite (The Rocks). Located in the Belogradchik's centre, the hotel offers eight entertainment facilities, a bar with a panoramic view, a spa centre and fitness halls.

For the accommodation of the increasing number of tourists, the building of three more hotels is under way.

271. German firm Degi buys Mall of Sofia

Sofia Echo: 2008-10-13

German company Degi has acquired the Mall of Sofia shopping centre, said the anti-trust authority, which should rule on the deal. Sources told Dnevnik daily that Degi Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Immobilienfonds was also a bidder for the capitals City Center Sofia but lost to US company Heitman, which offered 101 million euro.

Degis marketing director and press spokesman Dietmar Mueller declined to comment until the deal was wrapped up.

No financial details or yield about the new sale are available. City Center Sofia was sold at a 7.1 per cent yield.

In 2006, Mall of Sofia went to Irish investment fund Quinlan Private and GE Real Estate. It was previously owned by Israeli companies Ocif and Aviv, each with a stake of 25 per cent, and IT International Theatres with a 50 per cent stake.

Mall of Sofia was unveiled in May 2006 in downtown Sofia and has a built up area of 73 000 sq m. All 130 shops have been rented out to major global brands for 30-60 euro a sq m a month. The complex boasts Bulgarias first 3D cinema and 12 other cinema halls.

270. Bulgaria offers Russian property investors safe haven -officials

Sofia Echo: 2008-10-11

Bulgaria will continue to be a safe haven for Russian property investors despite the global financial crunch, a panel of Bulgarian officials have said during Sofia-Moscow video conference that is part of a series on the prospects of Russian-Bulgarian cooperation in the field of tourism, organised by Russian news agency RIA Novosti organized at the Hilton hotel in Sofia.

The panel included Deputy Foreign Minister Milen Keremedchiev, the chairperson of the national association for real estate Luchezar Iskrov, the managing partner of Address real estate agency Katya Tsenova and the editor-in-chief of Index Imoti magazine Deyan Todorov.

The bulk of Russian investors are 25 to 45 years old second-home owners along the Black Sea coast, who may or may not open businesses in Bulgaria, the panel participants said. Climate conditions, short distance from permanent residence and agreeable prices in comparison to other EU destinations compel them to build on their coastal activities and seek opportunities in the mainland.

The critical mass buys a vacation house for 100 000 to 200 000 euro. Still more Russian investors buy complete apartments and houses in small and mid-size Bulgarian towns to develop businesses at ski- and medical therapy resorts.

Total foreign investments in Bulgaria in 2007 amounted to 5.7 billion euro, of which 36 percent come from property investment. Russian investments made up for 39 percent of the grand total and 45 percent of the property acquisitions in particular. Statistics for 2008 are as yet unavailable.

Keremedchiev briefed Russian officials on the e-Visa application system, effective March 2008, which enables foreign citizens to apply for Bulgarian visas online.

The most beneficial way to invest in Bulgarian property for a Russian citizen is to enter the country on a one-year business visa, register a firm and acquire property as a legal juridical unit. A three-year business visa follows at the end of the first year, allowing the Russian investor to spend more time developing businesses in Bulgaria as well as the rest the EU.

269. Two Street Fests in Sofia during the Weekend

News BG: 2008-10-10

Autumn is already knocking on our doors, so let's enjoy the last chances for outdoor activities.

Sofia municipality and a variety of sponsors give Sofia citizens such a chance, even two - street fests in front of the National Palace of Culture and in the Zaimov Park, reports programata.bg

The fest in front of NDK is called Dynamix Urbanize Street Art Festival and starts on Friday. All kinds of artists, specialists at street art, break dance, skating, BMX, etc will gather together to perform at one stage. There will be workshops, lead by various foreign guests. Stand Up Comedians, Leepra Deluxe and Panican Whyasker will be some of the bands that will take care for the music side of the fest as well as several DJs. The gift for everybody, living in Sofia, is that the products of the workshops will remain untouched for one week.

The fest in the Zaimov Park is called SofiaCityFest and will be something like a vacation in urban environment. Its domains will be arts, sports and ecology. A music stage, artists' corner, theatre performances, backgammon and chess tournaments, break dances, circus, parkour, martial arts and tennis are only part of the activities, expected to take place.

Miniatures of architecture projects for Sofia's development will also be exhibited.

The festival will urge its guests to take part in the initiative "Give a tree as a gift" and to donate books to the Sofia Library. One of the festival's main attractions will be the chess tournament, whose winner will have to face Berbatov at the final - not Bulgaria's top star in football, but his little cousin Kipriyan. The boy is only 12 but is already an European champion.

268. Stones on Mount Vitosha demolished to make it safe Vitosha Ski

Sofia Echo: 2008-10-09

Vitosha Ski, the company that holds the concession on the ski facilities at Aleko winter resort on Mount Vitosha above Sofia, has said that it did not use blasts to clear out rocks on the slopes of the mountain, as claimed by Bulgarian media outlets and To Sustain The Nature in Bulgaria coalition earlier in October.

The press conference came just two days after the Environment Ministry said that blasts have damaged special types of moraines and Alpine plant species. The ministry assessed the construction of a new ski road as illegal, as state or park authorities had not given their approval for it. The ministry said it had instructed the Sofia Regional Inspectorate of Environment and Waters (RIEW) to lodge a formal complaint with the Prosecutors Office.

Georgi Bobev, chairperson of Vitosha Ski managing board confirmed the statement of Vitosha Park management, which said the company was only allowed to destroy stones, which were protruding over the existing ski route but without using blasting methods.

Bobev quoted an extract from the Vitosha Park management plan for 2005/14, articles 64 and 66, saying that based on the plan the company had sent letters to RIEW and the parks directorate to co-ordinate the activities on clearing rocks under the mountain peak Maluk Vezhen, where the problem started.

Vitosha Ski executive director Kostadin Kostadinov said that since the company has been operating in the nature park, it had sent 110 letters to various institutions and received positive answers to only two or three of them. He said that the company did not destroy moraines but volcanic rocks, which time and weather had rubbled into pieces of 15 to 50 tons.

The company's managers argued that the ultimate goal was the safety of tourists skiing on Mount Vitosha. Bobev said that the company did not plan further demolitions.

267. Bulgaria Received Two awards at a Science Conference in Prague

News BG: 2008-10-08

Bulgaria was awarded at the international science conference titled "The Role of the Czech Intellectuals in Bulgaria's Public Life after the Liberation".

The conference was held in Prague.

Lectures were given by 20 scientists from Bulgaria and the Czech Republic. In the gallery of Bulgaria Culture Centre were opened two exhibitions - of old maps and of the history of archaeology in Bulgaria.

One of the conference's main goals was to pay a tribute to the significant group of Czech intellectuals who came to Bulgaria after its liberation to aid the creation of new state administration and domestic industry, explained the director of Bulgarian Culture Centre in Prague Boyan Panchev.

One of Bulgaria's first ministers of culture was prof. Konstantin Irechek, the creators of archaeology were the brother Vatslav and Hermengild Shkorpil, the founders of the modern brewery industry- the brothers Proshek, the founder of the Art Academy - Ivan Markvichka, etc.

All these people found their second home in Bulgaria.

Awards were given to Vatio Rakovski post-mortem for his contribution to the good name of the Czech Republic in Bulgaria and the tenth anniversary award at the name of Vatslav Havel was given to a woman for the first time - the lector in France Julia Krasteva.

266. EU Funding For The Development of Strandja

News BG: 2008-10-07

The preparation of a pilot project for local development of Strandja natural park gathered in Tsarevo municipality, Bulgaria the expert mission of foreign and local representatives, informs Expert.bg.

Tatjana Rener from Slovenia, Terry O'Reagon from Ireland, experts from the Council of Europe and Peter Miladinov head of unit in the Ministry of culture are visiting in order to work on a long-term strategy for the development of Strandja including the development of the culture of the reason.

The project is under the regional program of the Council of Europe for cultural and natural heritage of Southeast Europe and will be funded by the European funds. Three Bulgarian municipalities are included in the project Tsarevo, Malko Tarnovo and Sredetz. They are expected to sign a memorandum of understanding.

Our aim is to look at documents, plans, strategies, to talk with the people from different fields and with the lay people. In the conversations which will be under the form of interviews, we will be interested in the vision of the people for the future of their territory. The idea of the project, which we currently work on, is to unite the three territories. The project is very important because the Council of Europe is behind it, claimed Peter Miladinov who is also coordinator of the project.

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