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255. 66,5 Million for Small and Medium Business

News BG: 2008-09-24

Gratuitous financial aid for the amount of 65 million levs will be given to small and medium business, the Economy Ministry announced.

The first contracts with beneficiaries of this aid were signed today.

Up to now 115 contracts for the amount of 40 315 129 levs have been signed according to the procedure "Technological modernization in companies".

177 contracts have been signed on the procedure "Covering of internationally accepted standards" for gratuitous financial aid for a total of 8 068 994 levs.

By the end of the month the ministry will add 4 new procedures for gratuitous financial aid on Operative programme "Development of the competitiveness of Bulgarian standards" 2007-2013.

254. Diamond found in Lesotho among largest ever: company

Sofia Echo: 2008-09-23

LONDON (AFP) - Gem Diamonds, a London-listed mining firm, said on Sunday it had recovered a 478 carat diamond from its mine in Lesotho: the 20th-largest rough diamond ever found.

The discovery of the gem, which the company said had the potential to become one of the largest round-cut diamonds in the world, was made on September 8 at the Letseng mine in Lesotho.

"Preliminary examination of this remarkable diamond indicates that it will yield a record-breaking polished stone of the very best colour and clarity," the company's Chief Executive Clifford Elphick said in a statement.

The diamond, which has not yet been named, has the potential to yield a 150 carat polished stone, a company spokesman said.

That would be far bigger than the 105 carat round-cut Koh-i-Noor diamond seized by Britain from India in the 19th century and now part of the Crown Jewels.

It would still only be a fraction of the size, however, of the Cullinan diamond discovered in 1905, which was 3,106 carats when recovered and yielded a teardrop shaped diamond of 530 carats: the Great Star of Africa.

The Letseng mine is owned by a mining company that is 70 percent owned by Gem Diamonds, with the remaining 30 percent held by the Lesotho government.

Gem Diamonds's share price on the London Stock Exchange was 741.50 pence at the close of trading on Friday.

253. 100 Years Independence of Bulgaria

News BG: 2008-09-22

The war of Liberation of 1877-1878 ended with the Peace Treaty of San Stefano, signed on 3 March 1878, which restored the Bulgarian state to her 14c territories. That however was followed by the Berlin Treaty of 1878, which truncated the country, dividing it into the Principality of Bulgaria, vassal of the Ottoman Empire, and Eastern Roumelia (Southern Bulgaria) which was granted administrative autonomy but remained under the political and military authority of the Sultan. The arrangement impeded the economic development of the country and eliminated its place in the family of European nations. Moreover, the Treaty of Berlin made it compulsory for the Principality of Bulgaria to comply with the Capitulations enforced on the Ottoman Empire by the Great Powers, notably the preferential import of European industrial production, thus inflicting damages on the production of Bulgarian goods. That was but one of the causes for the efforts of the entire political elite of Bulgaria after the Unification of Eastern Roumelia with the Principality of Bulgaria in 1886, towards the formal recognition of Bulgarian independence. The first years of the 20c created conducive conditions: the Big Powers were concentrating on the decision, by Austro-Hungary, to annex Bosnia and Herzegovina in violation of the clauses of the Berlin Treaty; France and Germany disputed their protectorate over Morocco. In Turkey itself, the Young Turks performed their own coup detat in 1908.

It was precisely in the same year that on 22 September the historic Declaration of Bulgarian Independence was read in the Church of the 40 Martyrs in the old Bulgarian capital of Veliko Turnovo and Prince Ferdinand was bestowed the title of Tzar of the Bulgarians. The act formally restored the connection between the resurrected Bulgarian state and the Second Bulgarian Kingdom of 1393-96. The Declaration was then read again, by Prime Minister Alexander Malinov, to the thousands of Bulgarians who had gathered on the historic hills of Tzarevetz.

Now the efforts focused on the diplomatic recognition of the Bulgarian independence. With the mediation of, and the financial encouragement by Russia, Turkey renounced its claims on Bulgaria and recognised the independent Bulgarian state. This was followed by formal recognition by the Great Powers in April 1909. Independent Bulgaria was a fact.

The Independence was extremely beneficial for the future of the Bulgarian state. It put Bulgaria on an equal footing with the other states in Europe, created favourable conditions for its bilateral and multilateral links and, last but not least, set up the foundations of the fruitful economic development of the country.

252. Bulgarian bourse ends week on positive note

Sofia Echo: 2008-09-20

Bulgarian stock indices bounced up after seven straight days of decline on September 19, buoyed by positive developments on international markets, recovering a fraction of the losses suffered over the preceeding week.

Lehman Brothers' bankruptcy filing and the AIG turmoil sunk the main indices of the Bulgarian Stock Exchange (BSE) through the week, but the Federal Reserve's plans to shore up the aching financial sectors brought relief for the markets, BSE making no exception.

The bourse's Sofix blue-chip index, which tracks the performance of the 19 most liquid stocks on BSE, finished 1.7 per cent higher on the day, but still ended the week 11 per cent down, at 853.75 points. The wider BG40 index closed at 206.86 points, up 2.2 per cent for the day and 11.7 down for the week on September 19.

Most blue chips finished the week even worse, with the stock price of insurer Euro Ins losing 23.5 per cent for the week and drug maker Sopharma closing 20 per cent down. Only one of the companies in the BG40 index, pharmaceutical firm Bulgarska Roz Sevtopolis, finished the week higher, adding 6.4 per cent.

"Quite a few factors added to the selling. Because of the drop in stock prices, some repo deals made at the start of this year or end of last year went through," broker Ivan Ovcharov from Elana Trading brokerage told investor.bg. "Foreign investors also played a role, selling stock actively, worried by developments on their own markets."

In related news, the chairperson of Bulgaria's securities regulator Apostol Apostolov said on September 19 that he did not expect the global financial turmoil to have a direct impact on the Bulgarian market.

A stable macro-economic framework and favourable tax environment give reason to believe that the global crisis will only have an indirect impact on Bulgaria, he told Bulgarian news agency BTA.

Apostolov, who said earlier this week that "what does not killl us, makes us stronger", believes that the BSE is working efficiently and a recovery of the global markets would make the Bulgarian stock exchange attractive to investors again.

251. The Bulgarian Bank System is Stable

News BG: 2008-09-19

Over 81% of Bulgarian banks are a property of stable European treasuries, who have no direct investments in the mortgage market in the USA and have not incurred losses.

This was announced by the manager of Bulgarian National Bank Ivan Iskrov.

According to him the mother-banks have continued to give financial resources to their Bulgarian branches. The Bulgarian banks have high credit standards, Iskrov

250. Willbrook to pour 40M euro in Bulgarias first green project

Wise Property: 2008-09-18

Real estate company Willbrook Management International will build a 40 million euro housing complex in Varna, said the companys executive director Daiana Voicu.

Willbrook Diamond Residences will comprise 11 home buildings, recreation and entertainment facilities and a spa centre. It is expected to be finished by the end of 2009.

The complex would be designed, built and used in line with strict environmental standards and would be Bulgarias first green project, Voicu said. It will use energy-saving light and air conditioning sources. Water-saving aerators will be mounted in the bathrooms to save water. Local green producers will be picked to supply the construction materials.

A survey by consultancy firm Colliers International showed eco-construction was just two per cent more expensive than conventional methods. Investors pay an average of $40 more per sq m while their direct financial benefits may exceed initial costs ten times.

Willbrook Management International has earmarked a total of 250 million euro to develop other projects in the Bulgarian capital, Voicu said, without identifying particular locations.

249. Champions League sees flying start for English sides

Sofia Echo: 2008-09-17

After Chelsea cruised to a seemingly effortless 4-0 victory over French side Bordeaux, and Liverpool having stamped their traditional domination over French sides over the years with yet another defeat of Marseilles, three more British teams will today face European challenges across the continent.

Chelseas form this season under new boss Scolari has been stupendous. Even more frightening for opponents was that in the immediate post-match interview Scolari said that he was rather unhappy with the poor performance of his men. Surely this will send alarm bells ringing in Sir Alex Fergusons men who will face none other than Chelsea in a mouth-watering Premiership derby this weekend.

Before that, however, Man United will have to concentrate on Spanish side Villareal, while Arsenal will wrestle it out with old nemesis Dynamo Kiev and Celtic will take on Danish minnows Aalborg.

The latest updates before tonights clash are that United will likely be without Ronaldo. Furthermore, Michael Carrick with a broken foot is out for at least a month, which means he will also miss Englands World Cup qualifiers against Belarus and Kazakhstan. Bulgarian hit-man Berbatov with a knee injury is doubtful as well. If Berbatov is sidelined, and he most certainly will be, United will bank their hopes on Angolan striker Manucho.

Villarreal will be without Nihat Kahveci, and Giuseppe Rossi, both suffering from thigh injuries.

Arsenal are definitely not going to have the services of Samir Nasi and Mikael Silvestre for tonights opener with Kiev. Dynamo Kiev, on the other hand, will be without Kaddouri who is suspended.

In their last five visits to the ex-Soviet Union, Arsenal have lost three times to Ukrainian teams: Dynamo Kiev twice, and Donetsk once, as well as conceding a defeat against CSKA Moscow in 2006 and Spartak Moscow and 2001. Not one of their favourite places to visit in Europe by far, which partially explains why Arsene Wenger has claimed that a draw in Ukraine would be a success.

Celtic appear to have the easiest task, although the Champions League so far has been full of shocking defeats incurred by outright outsiders, CFR Cluj beating Roma 2-1 away from home, and Basel losing at home to Donesk, again 2-1. Celtic cannot afford to be complacent and they certainly cant take anything for granted if they are to avoid an opening spoiler.

Paul Hartley has recovered from a neck injury and he will be available for Celtic. Mark Wilson has overcome his knee knock and is also available in defence, and striker Hesselink is also up to notch.

One of Aalborgs staunchest defenders Kasper Bogelung has been definitely ruled out before the match with a deteriorating hamstring injury.

The rest of the games today are Porto v Fenerbahce; Lyon v Fiorentina; Steaua Bucharest v Bayern Munich; Real Madrid v BATE Borissov; and finally Juventus, v Uefa Cup holders Zenit St Petersburg.

248. Seven thousand first-graders fewer start new school year

Sofia Echo: 2008-09-15

A total of 60 786 first-graders entered classrooms on the first day of the new school year on September 15 2008, seven thousand fewer than in 2007.

More than 3000 schools around the country welcomed a little more than 820 000 pupils and parents at 9am with the national flag raised and the national anthem played at official ceremonies. It also featured a welcoming statement from Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev.

This year, fourth, fifth and sixth-graders will have to take exit level exams at the end of the school year in May 2009. Pupils in higher grades will have to take high school matriculation exams on May 17 and May 19 2009.

Matriculation exams were introduced in the last school year by the Education Ministry, which was a subject of protests by both pupils and parents, who claimed they did not have enough time to prepare. Parental organisations even threatened to take the issue to court, claiming that matriculation exams were a form of discrimination against their children.

The first of the long debated high school matriculation exams took place on June 1 2008 in all schools in Bulgaria with close to 76 000 high school students taking an exam on Bulgarian literature and grammar. Students who spoke before TV cameras after the exam, said they were surprised by the fact that the exam was not difficult at all.

The ministry's idea was for matriculation exams to serve as entrance exams to universities in Bulgaria because currently every university organises its own entrance exams based on its own criteria.

Universities, however, claimed that school education in Bulgaria varied around the country and that the matriculation exams would not serve as acceptable entrance criteria.

In other news the first school break pupils will have in the new school year will be on November 6-9 2008. The Christmas break will be on December 24-January 4. The first term of the year will end on January 28 2009 and the second term will start on February 1. The spring break is scheduled for April 1-12 2009. Other holiday days include November 1 2008 and May 24-25 2009.

247. Israeli-Bulgarian group to invest 250 million in eco project near Razlog

Wise Property: 2008-09-14

Israeli investors Tidhar Group and Asim Real Estate Ltd. and Bulgarian Investment Group will invest 250 million euro in a mutual eco project called Razlog Village All Seasons Nature ResortIsraeli investors Tidhar Group and Asim Real Estate Ltd., in partnership with Bulgarian Investment Group announced plans to collaborate on a mutual eco project called Razlog Village All Seasons Nature Resort.

The investment was worth 250 million euro and envisions eight hotels spread over 150 000 sq m. All facilities will have the capacity of 1500 rooms, which could house up to eight thousand people a day, the companies said in a media statement.

The main concept underlying this grand endeavor was the aim to inspire year-round tourism activities, investor said.

Construction will begin in 2009, and the whole central part together with the internal infrastructure will be completed by 2011. The first guests are expected to arrive in 2012.

Razlog Village will stretch on two hills connected with a pedestrian area, flanked by boutiques and mimicking the traditional Bulgarian mid-19 century architectural style. The area will feature two and three-storey buildings with retail and entertainment facilities.

The investors said all eight hotels would be different in style and function, so they match the needs and taste of various clients. A luxury five-star hotel with casino and business centre was one of the hotels, followed by a compact family hotel and a gated community-type complex offering five-star luxury. A spa hotel and a sport hotel were meant to attract a younger crowd who would enjoy an Olympic-size swimming pool and various playgrounds which were part of the plan.

Within the complex compound an aparthotel and an eco hotel with rooms hewn in cave-like compartments. Developers said they plan to invest in natural pine woodland, which would surround the complex.

Designers of the project are architects Israel Barlev and Stella Magrisso-Nanova, the construction work will be done by the two investing groups.

246. Dance in a cave to save the Earth

Sofia Echo: 2008-09-12

Earthdance is back in Bulgaria, and the new location for 2008 looks to be as hot as ever. On September 12 to 14, the country joins in the worldwide music event that gets more than 350 cities in 50 countries dancing and chilling all for the good of nature.

This year, the fifth time that it is taking place in the country, Earthdance will be held at Prohodna Cave, near the village of Karlukovo in Loukovit municipality. The 250m-long and 40m-high cave is known as Oknata, which roughly means the eyes of God in Bulgarian, due to the two eye-like symmetrical openings in its roof.

Three areas will be dedicated to different styles of music and interests. The main stage, in front of the cave, will feature the Macedonian guru of electronic sound Kiril Dzajkovski. Other names to play a the festival include Pistamashina, Pumpkin Temp, Skiller, 1000 Names, Quantone, Microwave, Kliment and Dickie, and the DJs KiNK, Zenk, Laylla Dane, Error Beauty, Passcoff, Acidtrip, Stoyan, Phoenix, SoulSlept, Joro Paskalev, Solaris, Pierre, Timetourist, Milan, VoV, Stenly, Cinnamint, ZawHer, Oxydant, Tokkah and Daft Dub.

In the 1980s, Dzajkovski came together with the director Milcho Manchevski to form one of the first electronic bands in Macedonia. Moving to Australia in the 1990s, he continued his musical career, and now, in addition to mixing tracks, writes music for film (Dust, Balcancan, The Great Water, Shadows), television and theatre.

At the second area, inside Oknata itself, the focus will be on relaxation and alternative culture, with acoustic and chill-out music, performances, theatre and film screenings.

The third area leans towards the necessaries, on a meadow in front of the south entrance to the cave, and will be home to a medical station, shaded areas, food and drink, and a camping ground.

Also at Earthdance will be options for climbing and bungee jumping.

Such a gathering could not take place in a concrete jungle, and Earthdance takes this into account. One of the aspects of the event is environmental preservation. Organisers said that strict measures will be observed for maintaining the cave clean and intact, along with overall cleaning of the entire area. There will also be discussions related to environmental issues. Profit from the event will go towards environmental preservation initiatives and building of a green infrastructure around Prohodna Cave.

Given its stated importance of responsibility towards nature, tickets (20 leva pre-sale, or 25 leva at the event) to Earthdance are limited to 1000.

How to get there: From Sofia, take the Hemus Highway towards Varna for 80km. The total distance is about 100km. Or, use the train there is a stop at Karlukovo, which is only two km from the festival.

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