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(DF) Sofia Zoo Aims to Constantly Improve Conditions for Animals, Get Increasingly Involved with Conservation - Director

Bulgarien Aktuelle Nachrichten - Sa, 07/20/2019 - 17:31
July 20 (BTA) - Sofia Zoos aims to constantly improve the conditions for animals and get increasingly involved with conservation work, Zoo director Dobromir Borislavov said in a BTA interview. It is in a process of constantly expanding and merging the animals' enclosures. Currently, the zoo is home to over 2,000 animals from more than 280 species. For instance, two years ago the outside enclosure of the tigress Shelly had an area of around 50 sq.m, while it now covers 2,000 sq. m. "At this stage we can't afford to set aside such large areas for all species. However we should constantly expand their living areas in order to help them feel comfortable." According to him, this task requires substantial financial resources. The plan for the reconstruction of the Zoo involves the development of biogeographic areas for animals. Animals will no longer be divided into displays for mammals, predators, giants, primates, small predators and birds but according to biogeographic areas such as America, South America, Eurasia, Australia and Africa. It is unclear when the project will be implemented as this is an expensive endeavour. "We would like the Sofia Zoo to look like the other big zoos in a few years' time where animals are displayed by biogeographic areas," said Borislavov. The Sofia Zoo also aims to foster rare and disappearing species with dwindling populations. "This is a global trend among zoo," he said. He was adamant that the Zoo should take in animals whose care has an aim and a cause. They may not be as interesting to visitors but they are very valuable for breeding and conservation efforts. An increasing number of zoos around the world get involved in breeding and reintroduction programmes. The Sofia Zoo is already part of the European Endangered Species Programme whose aim is to breed rare and endangered species in zoos. Among the rare species in the Sofia Zoo are sloth bears, hornbills and antelopes. The sloth bears and the hornbills are among the recent additions to the zoo. The hornbills came from the Attica zoo in Greece and have already settled in. However, wintering will be a challenge as these birds love the warm climate and they should have the right conditions, said Borislavov adding that Sofia will make sure they have what they need. Next week visitors at the zoo will be able to see two rare antelopes for the first time as the two animals are still settling in. One has come from Poland and the other one from the Czech Republic. The Sofia Zoo is focusing its efforts on creating breeding pairs and exchange with other zoos, the director says. Very recently a male and a female small-clawed otters paired and will have babies very soon. An addax, which has been in the Sofia Zoo for long years, had a calf recently. It is a critically endangered species with no more than 300 individuals across the world - and three of them in Sofia under the European Endangered Species Programme. Borislavov says that under this programme the Sofia Zoo is working with a coordinator who helps with the care and monitors the breeding cooperation process. The addax calf will go to another zoo which is also part of the programme and has males, and will hopefully has its own offspring. Sofia does not have conditions for an entire herd of this species, Borislavov says. He says that it is vital that each species in the Zoo has a large enough enclosure and adequate landscaping that meet the latest international standards. Among the most valuable animals in the Sofia Zoo is a couple of Egyptian vultures. They have bred successfully for five straight years. Last year they had two chicks and this year one. "The aim is to think of reintroducing the next generations into the wild," says Borislavov. He explains that bringing animals back to their natural habitat is a key mission of zoos. "Reintroducing animals is a difficult and long process, and it does not always have a happy ending. It takes a tough and meticulous preparation before, during and after the animals breed," he says. Also, it requires highly qualified experts and working cooperation with specialized organizations. The Sofia Zoo gets support for its efforts in this direction from two environment protection organizations: Green Balkans and the Bulgarian Society for Bird Protection. "We are beginning to develop in this area only now," says Borislavov. He says that he could not overestimate the importance of teaching love and care for animals to children. "If we donТt teach them, years from now these animals will only be seen in books and encyclopaedias. Unfortunately, animal species continue to vanish as we speak, the number of valuable species is dwindling by the day and zoos remain the only option for their conservation," says Borislavov. LN/PP/

(DF) Bulgaria Will Back Laura Kovesi for European Chief Prosecutor

Bulgarien Aktuelle Nachrichten - Sa, 07/20/2019 - 15:23
July 20 (BTA) - Bulgaria will support Romania's Laura Kovesi in her bid to become European Chief Prosecutor, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov told "24 Chassa". Borissov said: "Kovesi has our support but it was unnecessary to declare it in advance as the opposition does." Bulgaria has waited for EPP's decision on a common candidate to back, which is why it did not announce formally its favourite. Kovesi is the favourite for the post despite the opposition on behalf of Romania. The other contender is France's Jean Francois Bonhert. Neither succeeded in winning a decisive majority in the current European Parliament and the choice will be up to the new MPs The European Public Prosecutor's Office should be launched in 2020. LN/PP

(PE) Press - Review

Bulgarien Aktuelle Nachrichten - Sa, 07/20/2019 - 11:00
Sofia, July 20 (BTA)

(DF) State Fund Agriculture Has New Management

Bulgarien Aktuelle Nachrichten - Fr, 07/19/2019 - 16:41
July 19 (BTA) - The Governing Board of the State Fund Agriculture (SFA) elected a new management of the Fund at a meeting on Friday, SAF said in a press release. Vassil Groudev was elected Executive Director, replacing Zhivko Zhivkov who resigned. Ivan Kapitanov was elected SFA Deputy Executive Director.

(DF) Bulgarian Parliament Ratifies F-16 Deal

Bulgarien Aktuelle Nachrichten - Fr, 07/19/2019 - 16:34
July 19 (BTA) - On first and second reading on Thursday, the Bulgarian National Assembly ratified 2.1 billion leva worth of contracts on the purchase of eight F-16 Block 70 fighter aircraft from the United States for the Bulgarian Air Force and the provision of related equipment and technical support. On second reading, 123 MPs voted in favour of the ratification bill, 78 were against it, and 2 abstained from voting. The ratification was supported by GERB, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), and VMRO, and opposed by BSP for Bulgaria, Volya, the National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria (NFSB), and Ataka. (VMRO, NFSB and Ataka are the members of the United Patriots coalition, which is the junior partner in the larger ruling coalition dominated by GERB. BSP for Bulgaria is the main opposition force.) Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Krassimir Karakachanov described the ratification as "a crucial step forward in upgrading the Bulgarian Armed Forces, which has been discussed for more than 12 years now." "It was about time we stopped prevaricating," Karakachanov said. He noted that the US Congress may cover 60 million dollars of the price but the decision is still pending. This is the best deal from the point of view of the technical parameters of the aircraft and the potential of the Bulgarian state, he said. Air Force Commander Gen. Tsanko Stoikov said practical steps are yet to be made towards mastering the F-16s: Bulgarian pilots, engineers and mechanics will be trained to ensure full use of the aircraft's potential. Economy Minister Emil Karanikolov said: "We in the Economy Ministry do not know much about aircraft but we have complete confidence in the experts who have been working on the project. If I were to make the proposal today, it would be the same." Earlier in the day, Yulian Angelov (United Patriots/VMRO) asked the Ataka party why they would not support a deal proposed by their Economy Minister. During more than three hours of parliamentary debate before the final vote, Defence Committee Chair Konstantin Popov (GERB) said the people have been waiting for too long to see the Air Force upgraded, and the waiting is coming to an end. "If we ratify the contracts, we will buy cutting-edge aircraft with superb combat capabilities, and we should be proud of it," Popov said. The supporters of the deal stressed the technical advantages of the chosen type of fighters, while their opponents disapproved of the price of the deal and the lack of compensation clauses for potential non-compliance of the US side. Those who spoke in favour of the project said that the US offer met the Bulgarian requirements to a maximum degree, would make it possible for Bulgaria to achieve full interoperability in the air and on the ground with its allies, and would open up new prospects for strategic partnership and military-technical cooperation with the United States. Vladimir Toshev (GERB) noted that the price of the package includes the cost of maintenance until 2045. His fellow party member Valentin Radev said: "The expenditure has many dimensions to it. We are buying what our military has told us to." Milen Mihov (VMRO) noted that the purchase of this high-tech aircraft is the first step forward in Bulgaria's re-armament in 30 years. Mustafa Karadayi declared the full support of his MRF for the contracts, noting the party's consistent Euro-Atlantic policies. "This is a strategic decision for our national security, but it is just one step," the MRF leader said. Volya leader Vesselin Mareshki reacted to Karadayi's words by saying that this is "the most extortionate" deal which is "most dangerous" for Bulgaria's national security. He reiterated his view that this much money had better be spent on healthcare, on boosting pensions and funding sports. Nikolai Tsonkov (BSP for Bulgaria) argued that Armed Forces modernization should go simultaneously in all three armed services: the Ground Forces, the Air Force and the Navy. According to Tsonkov, the conditions of the F-16 deal will wreck the Armed Forces. The National Assembly voted 91-120, with 1 abstention, to turn down a proposal by BSP for Bulgaria to postpone the F-16 deal by six months. The proposal was put forward by BSP's Nikolai Tsonkov after Volya, too, expressed a similar view. Defence Minister Karakachanov said a six-month postponement will not make the price of the deal any lower. The US offers for the four contracts are valid until September 3, 4 and 5, after which the price cannot be reduced, he said. The Defence Minister noted that the expenses which have to be incurred for the F-16 project will not delay other projects for upgrading the Armed Forces. "The other projects are going on, too. Offers have already been submitted for the ships. The armoured vehicles project was launched by the Defence Council on Wednesday," Karakachanov said. Critics in the debating chamber said the price of the deal is too high; disapproved of the arrangement to pay it in a lump sum; noted that it will push Bulgaria's defence-spending-to-GDP ratio above the 2 per cent mark; and warned that the F-16 package has been scaled down, which implies limited capabilities of the aircraft. "The F-16 Block 70 aircraft is not yet available in the US, it is still being designed, and it will not be bought even for the US Air Force," Roumen Gechev (BSP for Bulgaria) said. Moreover, the supplier will not bear responsibility in case of failure to fulfill any of the contract clauses, he warned. According to Gechev, the actual price of the deal will exceed 3 billion leva because the jets will not be delivered in full package. Tasko Ermenkov (BSP for Bulgaria) said that if Bulgaria ratifies the F-16 deal, it will join a small group of seven NATO countries, including the US, which meet the requirement for public spending on defence to be at least 2 per cent of GDP. "But look at those countries, their economies, their welfare systems," Ermenkov said. NFSB is opposed to the deal, above all because it finds the price exorbitant, the party leader, Valeri Simeonov, said. He offered his "condolences" to Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov over the "unforeseen expenses" he has to take care of. "Rather than focusing on the technical parameters, the MPs should think about how the National Assembly will look after approving a deal under dictation," Simeonov said. According to him, it is ridiculous to suggest that Bulgaria's air policing capabilities can be bolstered by eight airplanes which are to be delivered in four years. Dessislav Choukolov (Ataka), too, drew attention to the circumstance that Bulgaria will pay for the purchase in a lump sum now but will not get the first plane until 2023. He reiterated the nationalists' view that the US' use of four military bases in Bulgaria free of charge should have been taken into account during the F-16 negotiations. * * * Volya leader Vesselin Mareshki will send an open letter to US President Donald Trump, questioning the F-16 deal between Bulgaria and the US. Mareshki read the letter addressed to the US President at a news briefing in Parliament on Friday. In the letter he asks President Trump as a last instance to halt "this extortionate deal". "Don't push Bulgaria into this financial abyss, don't condemn to poverty a worthy European people," the letter reads. It also states that if a deal is fair then it should be beneficial for both countries which has not been the case. The letter has been signed by all Volya MPs. Mareshki said he would send the letter already on Friday. IG/VE/PP //

(DF) Trade Unions Reiterate Suggestions for Changes to Tax System

Bulgarien Aktuelle Nachrichten - Fr, 07/19/2019 - 15:09
July 19 (BTA) - Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB) Chair Plamen Dimitrov reiterated on Friday suggestions for nine measures that would change the Bulgarian tax system. He took part in a round table, titled "The Tax System in Bulgaria: Trends, Challenges, Opportunities", organized by the CITUB. CITUB wants the introduction of tax threshold equal to the effective minimum salary. Next, the maximum contributory income should be increased gradually, from the current 3,000 leva to ten times the effective minimum salary. The next proposals are to have a minimum tax threshold for young families, "wealth tax" on second homes, luxury cars and other expensive possessions, and a tax on financial transactions. Still other proposals are for increasing the tax on income from dividends to 10 per cent, from the current 5 per cent, taxation of significant digital presence, corporate tax based on "total consolidate basis of taxation", and incentives through the elements of the direct taxes. According to CITUB calculations, the implementation of the proposed measures will cost the state budget 1.6 billion leva. Vassil Velev, Chairman of the Bulgarian Industrial Capital Association's Governing Board, also took part in the round table, where he told journalists that the proposal for family income taxation should be taken into consideration by the government. Velev noted that having family taxation could be one of the many measures to address what he described as Bulgaria's biggest current problem, the demographic crisis. In his words, this is also a major economic issue of importance for fast economic development. "Tax reforms, if such are necessary, should be discussed two years ahead," Velev noted. He added that in the current government term, it has already been declared that no tax reforms will be made, which is why the business counts on tax stability. IG,RY/TH /TH/

(DF) Prime Minister Borissov: New Fleet Ships Will be Completed within a Few Months

Bulgarien Aktuelle Nachrichten - Fr, 07/19/2019 - 12:43
July 19 (BTA) - Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, who is observing parts of the Bulgarian Navy Exercise Breeze 2018, expressed hope that the new ships ordered for the Bulgarian fleet will be completed within the next three or four months. He noted that nothing has been done for the development of Bulgarian defence for many years and considers that wasted time.

(DF) Finance Minister: LV 2 Bln Leva Is Significant Fiscal Effort for Bulgaria But It Can Afford It

Bulgarien Aktuelle Nachrichten - Fr, 07/19/2019 - 11:17
July 19 (BTA) - Commenting the upcoming purchase of F-16 Block 70 fighter jets for the Bulgarian Air Force, Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov told reporters Friday that the 2 billion leva which is to be paid for the deal is a significant fiscal effort but Bulgaria can afford it without breaking its own legislation or EU regulations.

(PE) Press - Review

Bulgarien Aktuelle Nachrichten - Fr, 07/19/2019 - 11:00
Sofia, July 19 (BTA)

(DF) Interior Minister Marinov Speaks about Importance of Trans-border Cooperation as Factor Guaranteeing Security in Europe

Bulgarien Aktuelle Nachrichten - Do, 07/18/2019 - 16:58
July 18 (BTA) - Bulgarian Interior Minister Mladen Marinov participated in an informal meeting of the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council in Helsinki which discussed the internal security in the EU, Marinov's Ministry said in a press release Thursday.

(NW) Eurostat: Bulgaria with Highest Income Inequality in EU in 2017

Bulgarien Aktuelle Nachrichten - Do, 07/18/2019 - 14:25
Brussels, July 18 (BTA) - Eurostat released its report on income inequality in EU Member States on Thursday, according to which Bulgaria had the highest income inequality in the EU in 2017. The way income and wealth are distributed across society determines the extent to whi...

(NW) Bulgarian Swimmer Sets New Black Sea Marathon Record

Bulgarien Aktuelle Nachrichten - Do, 07/18/2019 - 13:27
Bourgas, June 18 (BTA) - Thirty-one-year-old Tsanko Tsankov swam the 45-km Bourgas Bay on Wednesday becoming the first man to cross the Bay and swim this distance in the Black Sea. Tsankov crosses from Cape Emine to Cape Maslen Nos in 14 hours, 24 minutes and 34 seconds. The ...

(DF) Tourism Ministry to Award Concessions on Seaside Beaches

Bulgarien Aktuelle Nachrichten - Do, 07/18/2019 - 13:09
July 18 (BTA) - Passing amendments to the Concessions Act at second reading on Friday, Parliament resolved that the concessions on seaside beaches will be awarded and overseen under the terms and conditions of the Black Sea Coast Development Act, i.e., by the Tourism Ministry.

(DF) Medical Association Criticizes Proposed Health Insurance Model

Bulgarien Aktuelle Nachrichten - Do, 07/18/2019 - 12:46
July 18 (BTA) - In a statement on Thursday, the Bulgarian Medical Association (BMA) said that a draft health insurance model, which was presented on July 15, lacks actual cost estimations, forecasts, risk and impact assessment.

(DF) World Bank Group Unveils Shared Services Centre in Sofia

Bulgarien Aktuelle Nachrichten - Do, 07/18/2019 - 12:45
July 18 (BTA) - A Shared Services Centre of the World Bank Group was unveiled at the Sofia Tech Park in the Bulgarian capital on Thursday. The grand opening was attended by World Bank Managing Director and World Bank Group Chief Administrative Officer Shaolin Yang, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov and Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandakova. The Centre will provide top quality IT support for the World Bank's activities around the world. It will offer real-time cooperation and assistance for the Bank's operations in more than 160 countries. The facility will ensure uninterrupted provision of internal services in the areas of IT, financial management and human resources management. Yang thanked the Bulgarian government for the partnership in building the Centre, describing it as a new phase in the more general partnership between Bulgaria and the World Bank. Prime Minister Borissov noted that the IT sector in Bulgaria is developing twice or three times as rapidly as in the rest of the EU. He thanked World Bank Group Chief Executive Kristalina Georgieva for showing through her work with the Bank that Bulgarians deserve to be trusted. Borissov thanked the World Bank for providing consultation for selecting the concessionaire of Sofia Airport, which was completed on Wednesday. He described it as one of the most complex and important concessions. He expressed hope that the Bank will also assist the building of the Sofia-Skopje-Tirana corridor, "a geostrategic, extremely important facility which will add much impetus to the region's development." Finance Minister Goranov stressed the fact that Sofia is the second place after Chennai, India where the World Bank Group has set up a shared services centre. The project is being implemented in stages. The centre's staff will reach its full size of over 300 employees in five years. The facility will hire 75 IT experts by the summer of 2020. Their number will increase to 150 in 2021 and 200 in later years. Talking with Managing Director Yang earlier in the day, Prime Minister Borissov expressed his government's support for the World Bank Shared Services Centre in Sofia, the Council of Ministers press office said. He expressed his confidence that the facility will have a positive impact on the Bulgarian economy. It will build upon the country's potential in sectors of high added value and will provide high-tech jobs. Besides, the presence of a prestigious organization like the World Bank in Sofia will boost Bulgaria's reputation as an attractive business and investment destination. Borissov said Bulgaria and the World Bank Group maintain steady, long-lasting partnership which is being developed further. He singled out the country's advantages as an attractive destination for institutions of the World Bank's calibre: a gateway location, a stable political and economic environment, skilled labour and very good infrastructure. LY/VE //

(DF) Foreign Minister Zaharieva, PM Borissov Address Bulgarian Ambassadors at Annual Conference

Bulgarien Aktuelle Nachrichten - Do, 07/18/2019 - 12:25
July 18 (BTA) - Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva opened the annual conference of Bulgaria' ambassadors and permanent representatives at Sofia's Central Military Club on Thursday. Addressing the diplomats, the Deputy PM pointed out that they befittingly represent Bulgaria and support the Bulgarian communities abroad. She noted that the conference is taking place on the date when the Bulgarian Diplomatic Service marks its 140th anniversary. Zaharieva noted the importance of preparations for the joint presidency of the Berlin Process with North Macedonia. She listed transport, digital and people-to-people connectivity, reconciliation through education and the environment as priorities of the presidency which Bulgaria is planning to set. The Foreign Minister stressed the importance of cooperation with the countries of Asia and Africa. She called on the ambassadors to work more for the economy, for increased contacts of Bulgarian business and for invigoration of tourism. In a speech at the conference, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov discussed the F-16 jet fighters purchase, North Macedonia, the Sofia Airport Concession, Brexit, and the Bulgarian Presidency of the EU Council (January-June 2018). Borissov insisted that Bulgaria should pay for the F-16 fighters up front "because I'm sick and tired of paying, on three occasions when we come to power, the debts incurred by previous governments for the aircraft they had contracted". He commented that all new aircraft that this country has procured so far are only capable of "taking the headquarters on board and fly away: only transport aircraft and helicopters, without a single rifle, not to say torpedo, worth hundreds of millions, over a billion, more than the price of the F-16s." The goodneighbourliness treaty with North Macedonia has produced a good result for our neighbours, too, the PM commented. "Without this treaty, North Macedonia could not have possibly stepped on the way to NATO and the EU. It is a harrowing process for a country to change its name and to revise knowledge or a reading of history in which the population has been indoctrinated for decades, which is why we must firmly but also tolerantly work for the final result: [accession to] NATO and the EU," Borissov observed. Regarding the Sofia Airport Concession, the PM said: "We were attacked, we heard monstrous things, but we have learnt to be patient because the truth will ultimately come to light, and the bid of Munich Airport was ranked first yesterday, having scored the most points," referring to the French-German consortium SOF Connect. The head of government described Brexit as "an exceedingly difficult and incomplete process." "I think we managed to protect, under the circumstances, the Bulgarians who study and work there and, respectively, also the British citizens who are in Bulgaria," he said. Borissov further said that the Bulgarian EU Council Presidency was assessed as one of the best, handling some of the toughest subjects, and made a long-lasting impact, especially with its focus on the Western Balkans. "It was not by accident that the [Western Balkans Summit] in Poznan decided to assign to Bulgaria and North Macedonia the joint presidency of the Berlin Process in 2020," he recalled. The PM sees this as appreciation for the diplomats' work during the EU Council Presidency and for the foreign policy of goodneighbourliness pursued by Bulgaria. "Everybody come to Bulgaria precisely because we are peace-oriented," he pointed out. LI/LG //

(PE) Press - Review

Bulgarien Aktuelle Nachrichten - Do, 07/18/2019 - 11:00
Sofia, July 18 (BTA)

(DF) Specialized Prosecution Probes Air Force Supplies

Bulgarien Aktuelle Nachrichten - Do, 07/18/2019 - 09:52
July 18 (BTA) - The specialized prosecution is searching the offices of Balkantel and three private homes over possible trade in influence in contracting supplies for the Bulgarian Air Force. The specialized prosecution has requested documents from the Defence Ministry and the Air Force.

(DF) Military Intelligence Director Resigns

Bulgarien Aktuelle Nachrichten - Mi, 07/17/2019 - 17:42
July 17 (BTA) - The director of the Military Information Service - the military intelligence of Bulgaria, Gen. Plamen Angelov, has asked to step down, Defence Minister Krassimir Karakachanov told the press here Wednesday. He asked to leave "in the interest of the service". The announcment comes about a week after the prosecution service accused the present and the former military intelligence directors of official misconduct. Karakachanov said that Gen. Angelov will remain in military service and will join his team as soon as the President decrees his discharge. Asked whether he expects the military intelligence to be headed by a civilian, Karakachanov said that it is only an option and that the new director will be nominated by the Defence Minister and the appointment will go through the government and include a coordination procedure with the President's office to make sure the appointment will be decreed by the President. Karakachanov said that he has no nominee for the vacated job to put forward at this point. Asked to confirm or deny rumours about plans for a merger of the military and civilian intelligence, and attempts to destabilize the military intelligence and possibly merge it with the civilian intelligence, the Minister said that there has been such ideas but they are not on the agenda any more. "I don't think this is a good idea and there are no such plans," said he. LN/

(DF) French-German Consortium Wins 35-Year Concession for Sofia Airport

Bulgarien Aktuelle Nachrichten - Mi, 07/17/2019 - 17:38
July 17 (BTA) - The French-German consortium SOF Connect has been selected to operate Sofia Airport in the next 35 years. The decision of the concession award commission was announced Wednesday by Transport Minister Rossen Zhelyazkov. He said that all five bidders placed very strong offers. The concession award procedure was opened in July 2018 and has been supported throughout by the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation and the EBRD. SOF Connect with Meridiam Eastern Europe Investments SAS as lead member placed first in the competition with 86.12 points, followed by a consortium between France's Aeroports de Paris and Turkey's TAV Havalimanlari Holding as second, Fraport Bulgaria third, Vitosha Consortium fourth and UBB Consortium Sofia Airport JV coming last. SOF Connect offered a concession fee of 24.5 million euro a year or 32 per cent of the annual revenue. The French-Turkish consortium offered nearly 32.82 million euro, which was the highest annual concession fee. At 26.5 million euro, the second highest offer was that of UBB Consortium Sofia Airport JV. Fraport Bulgaria EAD offered 21 million euro and Vitosha Consortium nearly 20 million euro. All five offers exceed considerably the minimum concession fee of 15 million leva, exclusive of VAT, or 10 per cent of the total revenues from all activities in the relevant year. Three of the five bidders - SOF Connect, Fraport Bulgaria and Vitoshsa Consortium - got the maximum 100 points for their technical proposals. The financial proposal had 55 per cent weight and the technical proposal 45 per cent weight. It took the concession commission 90 days to consider the proposals, ask the bidders additional questions and receive their answers. The concession contract can be signed within 15 days. The decision of the competition commission is appealable within 10 days. In the event of an appeal, the dispute will heard by the competition regulator and then by the Supreme Administrative Court. The court decision will be final and will be made within a month from the decision of the competition regulator, the Transport Minister explained. "Even if the decision is contested, the appeals procedure will be over in the foreseable future," he said adding that he hopes to have an effective concession contract the soonest possible. The concession will be a public-private partnership, said Zhelyazkov. The government will continue to have a role in the public infrastructure and secure the strategic and national interests; will be present at Sofia Aiport in regulating the airport fees, border protection, customs, veterinary and other services, he said. The role of the concessionnaire will be to develop the airport as an asset and improve the services it offers by investing in the infrastructure, which shall remain public state property, he added. During the 35 years of the concession, the operator of the airport will be expected to build a new terminal and a new runway within a ten-year period. LN/IG

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