MEPs eye voting on the new College probably on 22 October
Maria Koleva, Brussels
Late in the even­ing on Mon­day, 20 Octo­ber, it will become clear wheth­er the pro­ce­dure of approv­al of the new Com­mis­sion will catch up and allow Junc­ker's Col­lege to enter into office on 1 Novem­ber as sched­uled. At 7 p.m. the same day, the last two three-hour hear­ings of the com­mis­sion­ers-des­ig­nate in front of the appro­pri­ate EP com­mit­tees have been sched­uled. Pres­i­dent-elect Jean-Claude Junc­ker showed flex­i­bil­i­ty by giv­ing the port­fo­lio of the with­drawn Slo­ve­ni­an nom­i­nee Alen­ka Bra­tusek to one of the best per­form­ers of the out­go­ing Bar­ro­so II Com­mis­sion - Slo­vak Maros Sef­cov­ic, EC vice-pres­i­dent respon­si­ble for inter-insti­tu­tion­al rela­tions and admin­is­tra­tion. He has just a few days to learn his new Ener­gy Union port­fo­lio.
Finance ministers seal an agreement to fight tax evasion
Euro­pe­an finance min­is­ters took a major step towards end­ing bank­ing secre­cy last Tues­day, agree­ing to the auto­mat­ic exchange of bank account infor­ma­tion, news wires report­ed. The deal was sealed aft­er the oppo­si­tion by Lux­em­bourg and Aus­tria to exchange infor­ma­tion with tax author­i­ties in oth­er mem­ber coun­tries was put down. "Bank secre­cy is dead and auto­mat­ic exchange of infor­ma­tion will be applied in its wid­est form," Tax­a­tion Com­mis­sion­er Algir­das Sem­e­ta stressed, add­ing that "this meas­ure prom­is­es full and last­ing tax trans­par­en­cy in Europe."
 
The Stoiber Group presented its final report on what regulations should be improved
Maria Koleva, Brussels
A con­fer­ence titled 'Smart Reg­u­la­tion in the EU - Build­ing on a Strong Foun­da­tion' brought togeth­er over 600 par­tic­i­pants from EU insti­tu­tions, busi­ness sec­tors, experts, civ­il soci­e­ty and media, on 14 Octo­ber in Brus­sels.
 
ASEM summit: debating club
Heads of state and gov­ern­ment from 53 coun­tries in Europe and Asia gath­ered last week in Milan for the reg­u­lar Asia-Europe sum­mit, but cur­rent issues such as the Ukrain­i­an cri­sis, Rus­sia's threats to reduce gas sup­plies to the EU and con­cerns over the spread of Ebo­la cast a shad­ow over the talks. This was the 10th ASEM sum­mit since the organ­i­sa­tion was found­ed in 1996. The theme was Respon­si­ble Part­ner­ship for Growth and Secu­ri­ty. Tak­en as a whole, the ASEM coun­tries are home to 60% of the world's pop­u­la­tion. Half of the world's eco­nom­ic out­put is gen­er­at­ed in Europe and Asia. Ukraine is not a mem­ber of ASEM yet, but the meet­ing between Rus­sia's Pres­i­dent Vlad­im­ir Putin and his Ukrain­i­an coun­ter­part Pet­ro Porosh­en­ko on the side­lines of the sum­mit drew the larg­est media inter­est.
Europe embarks on big data market place
Maria Koleva, Brus­sels
Large amounts of data from var­i­ous sour­ces, wheth­er cli­mate infor­ma­tion, sat­el­lite ima­ges, dig­i­tal pho­tos and vid­e­os, or pur­chase trans­ac­tion rec­ords, GPS sig­nals are a cru­cial asset for the econ­o­my.
Energy costs and subsidies among EU28 unveiled
The way ener­gy mar­kets func­tion and the size and effect of gov­ern­ment inter­ven­tions has been the sub­ject of debate for years. To date, how­e­ver, a con­sol­i­dat­ed data­set for gov­ern­ment inter­ven­tions in the pow­er mar­ket of the EU has been miss­ing.
Migrants without papers to be tracked across Europe
A crack­down by Schen­gen Mem­ber States to track migrants with­out papers or offi­cial doc­u­men­ta­tion got under way last Mon­day amid a surge in ref­u­gees from the Mid­dle East, news wires report­ed.
MPs begin work on 27 October
Pres­i­dent Rosen Plev­ne­liev will con­vene the 43rd Nation­al Assem­bly at 2 p.m. on 27 Octo­ber, the Bul­gar­i­an head of state said on 15 Octo­ber, emerg­ing from a two-hour sit­ting with rep­re­sent­a­tives of the eight polit­i­cal for­ma­tions that will enter the next par­lia­ment. Pres­i­dent Plev­ne­liev reit­er­at­ed the con­sti­tu­tion­al pro­ce­dure and said that he would entrust the man­date to the polit­i­cal pow­er with the larg­est par­lia­men­ta­ry rep­re­sen­ta­tion to form a gov­ern­ment once the Nation­al Assem­bly is struc­tured and the par­lia­men­ta­ry floors are formed.
Bulgaria to build unique cancer treatment hub
Mila Masheva
Bul­gar­i­an sci­en­tists have already draft­ed a project for the con­struc­tion of a unique cen­tre for the treat­ment of can­cer with the use of the rev­o­lu­tion­ary CERN-devel­oped Had­ron-ther­a­py.
Changing EU's central mantra
Sebastian Moffett
Lit­tle noticed in Jean-Claude Junc­ker's mis­sion let­ters to his com­mis­sion­er-can­di­dates is some sur­pris­ing­ly bold lan­guage, which seems to swap fed­er­al­ists' man­tra of "more Europe" for "Europe, when noth­ing else will do". The word­ing is impor­tant because of the recent debate over the EU's pur­suit of 'ev­er-clos­er union'. This phrase has been a fix­ture of Euro­pe­an treat­ies since the 1957 Trea­ty of Rome, and has become a focus for euro­scep­tics.
Where Might means Right
Maria Lipman
Nei­ther Rus­sia nor the West expect­ed such a deep, and for now irrep­a­ra­ble, cri­sis in their rela­tions. The West respond­ed to the annex­a­tion of Cri­mea and to Rus­sia's egre­gious vio­la­tion of Ukraine's sov­er­eign­ty with eco­nom­ic sanc­tions. Putin's abrupt pol­i­cy moves, aggra­vat­ed by the sanc­tions, pre­cip­i­tat­ed Rus­sia's eco­nom­ic and social decline.
US: IS made 'substantial gains'
An Amer­i­can envoy to the US-led coa­li­tion fight­ing the IS ter­ror­ists says the group has advanced great­ly in Iraq in spite of increas­ing air raids. Speak­ing to report­ers on 15 Octo­ber, John Allen, a retired four-star US gen­er­al, said it was obvi­ous that the mil­i­tants have "made sub­stan­tial gains in Iraq". The gen­er­al not­ed that it would take time to form for­ces com­pris­ing local peo­ple who will then fight them both in Iraq and Syr­ia.
Ukraine faces crucial election test amid clashes
The elec­tions for Ukraine's Verk­hov­na Rada, sched­uled for 26 Octo­ber, have been great­ly antic­i­pat­ed as a seri­ous test and an indi­ca­tor of the coun­try's abil­i­ty to return to nor­mal life aft­er Rus­sia's annex­a­tion of the Cri­me­an pen­in­su­la and the sep­a­ra­tist rebel­lions in the east.
Securities regulation further toughened
Glob­al reg­u­la­tors are try­ing to curb unreg­u­lat­ed risks in 'shad­ow bank­ing' by mak­ing it more expen­sive for hedge funds and insur­ance com­pa­nies to raise mon­ey from loan­ing shares, news wires report­ed. Last Mon­day, the Finan­cial Sta­bil­i­ty Board (FSB), which coor­di­nates reg­u­la­tion for the G20 econ­o­mies, pub­lished its new rule for the first glob­al min­i­mum 'hair­cut' on col­lat­er­al used to back secu­ri­ties financ­ing trans­ac­tions, tough­en­ing up its orig­i­nal draft pro­pos­al.
Global gloom pushes crude to record low
Brent crude oil fell below $88 a bar­rel last Mon­day, its low­est lev­el in almost four years, due to signs of weak glob­al growth, news wires report­ed. It was fur­ther push­ed down as key Mid­dle East pro­duc­ers sig­nalled they would keep out­put high even if that meant low­er pri­ces. More­over, Sau­di Ara­bia has pri­vate­ly told oil mar­ket par­tic­i­pants it can accept oil pri­ces between $80 and $90 a bar­rel, Reu­ters report­ed.
Statoil exits Shah Deniz gas project
Nor­way's big­gest ener­gy com­pa­ny Stat­oil announced its exit from Azer­bai­jan's Shah Den­iz gas project by sell­ing its remain­ing 15.5% stake to Malay­sia's Petro­nas for $2.25 bil­lion last Mon­day.
Declassified
Lilyana Karadzhova, Novinar Daily
The Con­tem­po­ra­ry Art Foun­da­tion is proud to present an exhi­bi­tion of the famous Amer­i­can art­ist Bri­an Dailey at the Nation­al Art Gal­lery in Sofia. The project show­cas­es con­tem­po­ra­ry Amer­i­can art in Bul­gar­ia and is a con­tin­u­a­tion of the ini­ti­a­tive that kick­ed off in the spring with Shan­non Plumb's exhi­bi­tion at Aka­de­mia Art Gal­lery. Bri­an Dailey's dis­play under the mot­to Declas­si­fied: Unrav­el­ing a Par­a­dox includes artis­tic pho­to­graphs of the author.
I just know I will not fail
Elena Krasteva
It is an honour to have my lit­er­ary work and tal­ent rec­og­nised in the form of such high praise for my lat­est book. What­ev­er you do for a liv­ing, but even more so if art is your bread and but­ter, you need a pat on the back, some kind of encour­age­ment every once in a while.
Close to ecstasy
Ele­na Kras­teva
The great Bul­gar­i­an sculp­tor Prof. Val­en­tin Starch­ev explores the frin­ges of ecsta­sy in his lat­est exhi­bi­tion, the open­ing of which took place on 14 Octo­ber at the Nuance Art Gal­lery in Sofia.
Under St Petka's protection
Adelina Lozanova
The Che­par­lin­ski Mon­as­tery St Pet­ka is locat­ed on the bank of the Nish­a­va Riv­er, some 2 kil­o­me­tres away from the vil­lage of the same name and 80 kil­o­me­tres west of Sofia.
In Brief
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Gold medal for EU champions
 
The Jean Mon­net Foun­da­tion pre­sent­ed on 17 Octo­ber Her­man Van Rom­puy, Mar­tin Schulz and Jose Man­u­el Bar­ro­so with its gold med­al for their respec­tive con­tri­bu­tions to the Euro­pe­an Union project. Pho­to: EU

EU anti-trafficking strategy presented
 
Euro­pe­an Home Affairs Com­mis­sion­er Cecil­ia Malms­trom gives a press brief­ing on the first eval­u­a­tion report on the EU 2012-2016 strat­e­gy on traf­fick­ing in human beings in Brus­sels, 17 Octo­ber. Pho­to: EPA

Clashes in Turin
 
Tear gas is used by riot police dur­ing clash­es with dem­on­stra­tors in Cas­tel­lo Square, Turin, who were pro­test­ing on the side­lines of a Euro­pe­an jobs sum­mit on 17 Octo­ber. Pho­to: EPA

EU-Singapore investment talks concluded
 
The EU and Sing­a­po­re have con­clud­ed the nego­ti­a­tions of the invest­ment part of the EU-Sing­a­po­re Free Trade Agree­ment, Trade Com­mis­sion­er Kar­el De Gucht announced on 17 Octo­ber. "Now, we have a com­pre­hen­sive agree­ment which is a gate­way to this impor­tant region in Asia. It will help boost eco­nom­ic growth, invest­ment and job cre­a­tion in the EU," he point­ed out. The Invest­ment Pro­tec­tion Chap­ter will now under­go a legal scrub­bing before both sides for­mal­ly fina­lise the nego­ti­a­tions.

Hungary pursued over ownership ban on land
 
The EU launched legal action against Hun­ga­ry last Thurs­day over its ban on for­eign­ers own­ing land in the coun­try. Accord­ing to the Com­mis­sion, "Hun­ga­ri­an leg­is­la­tion has restrict­ed the rights of cross-bor­der invest­ors in a way that may vio­late EU law on free move­ment of cap­i­tal and free­dom of estab­lish­ment." In 2012, Orban's popu­list gov­ern­ment passed a law ban­ning cer­tain types of for­eign own­er­ship of ara­ble land in a move intend­ed to pro­tect Hun­ga­ri­an farms from being snapped up by for­eign­ers.

Catalonia calls off independence vote
 
Cat­a­lo­nia's ref­er­en­dum on inde­pend­ence, planned for 9 Novem­ber, will not hap­pen now. Last week the Cat­a­lan pres­i­dent, Artur Mas, admit­ted that, with the ref­er­en­dum offi­cial­ly sus­pend­ed by Spain's con­sti­tu­tion­al court, it would have to be scrapped. But, he add­ed, some oth­er sort of pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion will still hap­pen on that day - and it will involve bal­lot box­es. The vote would be replaced by a loos­er - and large­ly sym­bol­ic - "con­sul­ta­tion of its cit­i­zens".

An eyeful of pumpkins
 
Pump­kins in all sorts of shapes and col­ours are grown in the sun­ny farm­yards of the vil­lage of Brez­hani, at the foot of the Pir­in Moun­tains, south­west­ern Bul­gar­ia. Nine-year-old Zor­nit­sa Dim­it­ro­va let us see this year's beau­ti­ful autumn crop in her grand­moth­er's gar­den. Pho­to: BTA

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