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Bulgarian Forestry Agency chief resigns over Romanian border fence ‘conflict of interest’

Bulgaria's Agriculture Ministry made much of the fence put up at the land border with Romania to try to prevent African Swine Flu entering the country – boasting how rapidly it was completed, in just four weeks. But now the fence has led to the resignation of the Forestry Agency chief.

The resignation of Grigor Gogov as head of the Forestry Agency was announced by the Agriculture Ministry on September 14, following allegations that members of his family had been involved in a public procurement contract to supply stakes for the fence.

The ministry said that its inspectorate had looked into the matter and found no irregularities, but complaints also had been made to the recently-founded anti-corruption commission.

The announcement of Gogov's resignation came on the same day that the National Epizootic Council held a meeting, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav, to discuss measures against the spread of African Swine Fever and small ruminant plague.

The risk of African Swine Fever spreading in Bulgaria is seen as high. In Bulgaria's northern neighbour Romania, there have been numerous cases, including close to the Bulgarian border, and 12 areas in Romania are under quarantine.

Bulgaria has set up a 20km sanitary cordon around industrial pig farms to try to prevent the spread of African Swine Fever.

The Bulgarian authorities have issued an appeal to all pig farmers in those areas to voluntarily exterminate their animals, for which they will be compensated by the state. If farmers refuse to kill their animals, state veterinary services will do so and no compensation will be paid.

Agriculture Minister Roumen Porozhanov said that corridors for transport animals to the slaughterhouse would be set up./IBNA

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The “decision” of the EWG and the next day

Without any "objections" on the part of the technocrats was concluded the debate on Greece and the issue of pensions at today's EwG meeting. Following this development, the way is paved for a decision on the matter at the Eurogroup on December, when the Commission's report on the European Semester (November 21) will be released. On the same day, the Greek side will table the budget for 2019 in Parliament, given the non-cuts in pensions, but also the implementation of positive measures that will exceed 900 million euros.

As far as Germany is concerned, what Olaf Scholz has asked from the Greek side is a "convincing mix of measures" so that he can pass the issue from the German Parliament. The same information report that there is satisfaction within the Eurogroup that the Greek side did not move unilaterally but in cooperation with the institutions on the issue of the pensions.

The Greek side

According to a senior government official, there was no objection to Greece's suggestion and to the positive recommendation of the Commission. The EwG, after considering the Greek side's suggestion and the positive evaluation of the Commission, did not raise any objection to the draft budget for 2019, sources from the Ministry of Finance said, referring to the Greek side's proposal to cancel the pre-approved measure of the reduction of pensions. Regarding the amount of positive measures, the same sources pointed to the recent Prime Minister's statements for a EUR 900 million package.

It is recalled that Germany's Finance Minister, who met with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras earlier today, has rushed to say that "everything was done well, very wisely, and were prepared very seriously and through a dialogue with the European Union. We are just before these talks are completed, but we have not yet reached there (at the end)"./IBNA

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Turkey “votes”… electric locomotion

The World Bank supports Turkey with USD 200 million, with the aim of protecting the environment through the upgrading of public buildings and support for electric locomotion.

According to Fatih Dönmez, Turkey's Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, the municipalities and public institutions will use the long-term low interest rate financing offered by the IBANK banking group.

The aim is to limit the need to import hydrocarbons, necessary for the smooth operation of the domestic market and industry, in order to boost the country's economy, which has been under considerable pressure.

"In 2017 we saved USD 122 million through energy upgrade investments, which prevented gas imports worth USD 500 million", the Turkish official pointed out during his speech at the General Assembly of the Union of Energy Efficiency, which was held in Istanbul.

Turkey plans to make investments worth USD 11 billion to complete improved energy efficiency projects in all relevant sectors by 2023, in order to save, through a range of interventions, USD 30 billion by 2033, as is reflected in the national action plan to save energy, which was announced earlier this year.

"During Turkey's endeavor to embrace its energy efficiency targets, imported resources will be gradually reduced", said Fatih Dönmez, adding that "in this way money that we would have to pay to other countries will remain in their pockets our citizens".

Turkey seeks to "become a pioneer in the use of electric motors and hybrid cars", said the Turkish Energy Minister, "as the electrification solution is showing an upward trend."

Turkey is not considered a "rich" country with regard to the existence of energy resources in its territory, and any new energy imports burden the Turkish economy directly, and as Fatih Dönmez said, for this reason "we are targeting long-term solutions."

Turkey will have saved energy equal to USD 24 million tons of oil by 2023 thanks to its new energy planning./IBNA

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Opposition in Kosovo demands fresh parliamentary elections

The largest opposition party in Kosovo, LDK continues to request the holding of fresh parliamentary elections.

LDK’s whip, Avdullah Hoti declared today that the elections are unavoidable because it’s been a while now that parliament of Kosovo has not been functional.

“It’s been six months that the parliament of Kosovo has not been functional. The governing coalition no longer has a majority and the government does not have a democratic legitimacy. The country must head to elections in order to restore democratic order”, Hoti said.

Hoti also stressed that the country is suffering serious consequences from this government which, according to him, does not have any legitimacy.

“The main processes in the country have come to a halt. Dialogue is in the hands of a person who is acting outside his constitutional powers. The government and the other institutions are serving the interests of the parties in power”, Hoti said.

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Cash still has a future, financial experts say

On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the introduction of the Convertible Mark (BAM) as the legal tender in Bosnia and Herzegovina the Central Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina (CBBH), in cooperation with the USAID, organized the international conference “The future of cash”, on Thursday in Sarajevo.

Recognized experts from Austria, Albania, Bulgaria, FYROMacedonia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina participated in the conference, to discuss cash and non-cash payments, digitisation and fintech. The fact that was pointed out is that, despite a significant technological progress achieved in financial mediation, the trend of a continuous increase of cash in circulation has been present since 2007, which is considered a direct effect of the global financial crisis.

Addressing the participants, Governor Softić emphasized that the convertible mark fully justified its introduction after 20 years of existence and that since then Bosnia and Herzegovina has recorded an exceptional financial stability and low inflation.

"We have done part of the work, established a reliable and solid framework, now all of us, not only the CBBH but also the executive authorities, need to implement structural reforms in order to accelerate economic growth, to reduce unemployment and to increase the standard of citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina", Softić said.

Deputy Director of the IMF for Europe, Jörg Decressin, said that the issue of digital payments has already matured, and they offer a variety of alternatives to cash.

“Yet, the cashless or less-cash society, as appealing as it may sound, has so far remained elusive. But, the tide could turn. Fintech innovations could provide ever more opportunities that favor digital payments”, said Decressin and added that the central banks should face the challenges brought about by private digital currencies and crypto-assets.

Belma Čolaković, the Chief Economist of the CBBH, emphasized that reliance solely on the level of registered and legal economic activity in the country can result in inadequately formulated economic policies. She added that, with the growth of the importance of fintech, the assessment of real demand for money is additionally complicated and consequently the measuring of economic activities in the country.

Director of the USAID Mission to BiH, Peter Duffy, said that USAID is very proud to support the Currency board and the Central Bank of BiH for the past 20 years, since the introduction of BAM, emphasizing that this support resulted in financial stability in BiH.

"This was possible to achieve to a large extent because the Currency board and the Central Bank of BiH were independent. Political calls to abolish the currency board do not take into account the current situation, or what might happen", Duffy told journalists at the conference.

When it comes to the age of digitisation in the financial sector, a strong impact of digital technologies on banking is something that is already happening, with great potential for further growth. Some of the participants of the conference forecast that in the developed countries, banking with citizens will be almost completely automated by 2020, and that automation will help banks to reduce their operating costs in some sectors by 30-40%.

In the conclusion of the conference, it was assessed that regulators will have to change their approach, to adjust the framework in which they operate, in order to follow along with market developments. Regarding the cryptocurrencies, it was mentioned that those are high-risk assets and investments, and not money in the standard sense, which include some underlying liabilities./IBNA

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Where did Gruevski pass through on his way to Hungary? 

The escape of former FYROM Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski to Hungary continues to be a mystery, while various scenarios are being voiced in Serbia as to how he reached Budapest.

Gruevski did not have a passport because it had been seized by authorities; the only way was to illegally cross the border (from an unguarded point) or use a forged travel document. Belgrade's Politika newspaper reveals that Gruevski crossed the FYROM – Albania border with a fake passport on Sunday night to reach Tirana. From there he found refuge at the Hungarian embassy and the following day he was led to the airport to board a Malev flight – Politika claims – to Budapest.

The Serbian newspaper even mentions that Gruevski was disguised, wearing sunglasses and a hat so that he would not be recognized by passengers or airline staff. The report, which is presented as an exclusive, does not site sources nor is it signed by an editor, thus raising many questions about its validity.

Malev – the airline Gruevski allegedly used – has not been in operation since 2012. A low-cost airline offers the Tirana – Budapest flight, at night, not in the morning as the Serbian newspaper reported. On the other hand, it would be absurd to try to escape through Albania, given that Gruevski did not have good political relations with Edi Rama, who he previously accused of interfering in FYROM politics.

Another version of Gruevski's escape is presented by the Serbian opposition, which is accusing Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic of helping his friend, the former FYROM premier, reach Hungary. According to this scenario, men from the Serbian Security and Intelligence Service (BIA) waited for Gruevski at some point on the border with FYROM and led him to the Hungarian border where he was handed over to Orban’s people.

An announcement by the PSG political group addresses the following questions to Serbia's Aleksandar Vucic: How is Belgrade involved in the escape of Gruevski? Did he, in violation of the law, order the BIA to help Gruevski pass through Serbia?

This scenario is not based on any evidence and is characterized by a strong partisan element. It is based primarily on the fact that Vucic has good political and personal relations with Gruevski and Orban, and therefore his involvement in the case is seen as reasonable./IBNA

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