That speeds up free travel in EU of Georgians, Ukrainians
Maria Koleva, Brussels
After months of contrarieties on how should be applied the visa suspension mechanism that allows in fact re-imposing of visas to third countries’ nationals, on 7 December the trilogue meeting between the Council, the European Parliament and the Commission at last struck a deal. The three parties agreed on the compromise text on a regulation to revise the suspension mechanism which can be applied to visa liberalisation agreements. On the next day the informal deal was approved by 37 votes to 9, with 2 abstentions in the EP Committee on Civil Liberties. The draft regulation still needs to be endorsed by Parliament’s plenary and national governments. Kiev and Tbilisi are prepared to uncork the champagne as they passed through months of strained suspense, since this decision directly affects the granting of visa-free travel in the EU for their citizens.
The implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement makes progress, results in less arrivals
The European app­roach on migration shows progress and positive results, the Commission reported last week. “We can see this in the continued implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement and the dramatic decrease in the number of irregular migrants arriving in Gre­ece,” Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said. “We also see it in the progress made by the Greek authorities in rectifying deficiencies in the country's asylum system, which has allowed us to recommend the gradual resumption of Dublin transfers to Greece as of 15 March 2017."
 
The monthly pace of purchases will be reduced to €60bn
The European Central Bank (ECB) extended its quantitative-easing program until the end of 2017, but reduced the monthly pace of purchases to €60bn from €80bn now, news wires reported. The change will likely start in April. The bank's Governing Council, however, left the door open and stated that it may step up purchases again or prolong them if needed.
 
Special corps will teach solidarity to young people
Maria Koleva, Brussels
Presenting its “Investing in Europe's Youth” package, the Commission launched on 7 December the European Solidarity Corps, which will engage young Europeans in voluntary activities helping vulnerable people throughout the Union and thus will contribute to society.
Milk price recovery steady but fragile
Maria Koleva, Brussels
Productivity in EU agriculture is slowly but steadily growing and farming markets are recovering despite the hardships the sector has passed trough over the last years.
Clampdown on foreign fighters and 'lone wolves' across Europe
Foreign fighters and 'lone wolves' training and preparing terrorist attacks on European soil will be criminalised under new EU-rules to fight terrorism backed last Monday, the EP press service reported.
Italy at crossroads after stormy No vote
Italy’s future is hard to predict after the resounding victory of the No vote in last Sunday's referendum on constitutional reform. Snap elections in February emerge as the most likely scenario, but the big question is with what kind of electoral law.
Last attempt to form government
As expected, the leader of the socialists Kornelia Ninova returned the mandate for forming a government within the 43rd National Assembly, with which President Rosen Plevneliev had presented her on 7 December. The merry-go-round was put into motion a week ago when Plevneliev gave a mandate to outgoing PM Boyko Borisov, who returned it immediately. Following her meeting with the president, Ninova said that her party urged Plevneliev to appoint an interim government as soon as possible so as to prepare for snap elections.
Invest Agency with nearly BGN 300m in projects
As of November 2016, the InvestBulgaria Agency (IBA) has certified 18 projects to the combined tune of BGN 297.4m, which are expected to create 4,044 jobs. By comparison, the projects were half that number at the same time last year, Stamen Yanev, executive director of IBA, told journalists.
Europe has never liked borders
Dariusz Gafijczuk
The history of Europe begins with a crossing over the Mediterranean - and not a voluntary one. It begins, in fact, with kidnapping, rape, forced exile, refuge, and resettlement.
Leading straight into digital age
Carl Bildt
At the moment there is a lot of buzz about the 4th Industrial Revolution. But what we need to address is something that is even bigger - the beginning of the end of the industrial age and our gradual entry into the digital age. The 4th Industrial Revolution is only one part of that much bigger story.
Joint fire on terrorist propaganda
The Internet giants are joining forces to more quickly identify the worst terrorist propaganda and prevent it from spreading online, news wires reported. Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Google's YouTube announced last Monday they will set up a shared database to help them track and remove "violent terrorist imagery or terrorist recruitment videos". The database will contain the digital "fingerprints" of the images and videos, allowing the tech firms to identify potential terrorist content more efficiently, the companies said in a statement.
Trump warns of 35% outsourcing tariff
President-elect Donald Trump threatened companies with a 35% tariff on goods sold back to the United States if they move their operations outside the country.
Three more banks fined for Euribor
The European Commission fined the banks Credit Agricole, HSBC and JPMorgan Chase a total of €485m ($520m) for their part in a cartel to fix the price of financial benchmarks linked to the euro. They were part of a seven-bank cartel that colluded between September 2005 and May 2008 to distort the Euribor benchmark interest rate used to reflect the cost of interbank lending. Credit Agricole was fined €114.7m, HSBC €33.6m and JPMorgan Chase €337.2m. Deutsche Bank, RBS and Societe Generale admitted guilt in December 2013. Barclays avoided a fine because it alerted the Commission.
Global arms business booms, US dominates
Defence firms from the US and Western Europe dominated global arms sales in 2015, but sales by companies in Russia and South Korea were seen on rise, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) report released last Monday.
Volkswagen bets on urban mobility with Moia brand
German carmaker Volkswagen pushed ahead last week with the extension of its mobility services seen by many analysts as the future of the auto industry, news wires reported. The company's new business segment would be united under the brand name Moia. It would be headquartered in Berlin and would initially be run by a team of just 50 people.
Best of Italy cinema
The Italy Today themed series of film screenings featuring some of the best examples of Italian filmmaking released in the past three years will tour four Bulgarian cities. Some of the titles have already been shown in Plovdiv, Varna and Rousse but the official launch of the event is to take place on 12 December at the Home of Cinema theatre in Sofia in the presence of H.E. Stefano Baldi, ambassador of Italy to Sofia. His Excellency will present the screening of director Felice Farina’s Patria starring Francesco Pannofino and Roberto Citran.
Conducting is a mystery
Irina Gigova
Each autumn I focus on the arrangements for the next Buxton Festival edition, which is regularly held in the summer, I prepare operas, I compose and give recitals in addition to my traditional concerts. As a teenager, Sir Neville’s son, Andrew, who is a dear friend of mine, introduced me to his father.
Art transformations at Haus Wittgenstein
Seven of Vienna’s best known contemporary artists have teamed up for a joint exhibition of paintings, installations and sculptures at the Haus Wittgenstein Bulgarian Cultural Institute.
Masterpiece of Thracian painting
Adelina Lozanova
Thracian art can boast ma­ny masterpieces, but dou­b­t­less the frescoes of the Alexandrovo tomb stand out among them. Unearthed in 2001 during excavation works near the village of Alexandrovo, 20 km northeast of the town of Has­kovo, the tomb dates to the 4th century BC, and judging by its impressive size and valuable frescoes, it is very likely that a noble Thracian ruler was buried in it.
In Brief
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Long live Maastricht Treaty!
 
EC President Jean-Claude Juncker last Friday delivered a speech on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Maastricht Treaty and called for more unity and cooperation in the EU. Photo: EPA

Syria, Ukraine to dominate OSCE agenda in Hamburg
 
As Germany ends its year-long presidency of the OSCE, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the group is needed more than ever to bolster dialogue between east and west. Photo: EPA

EU Home Affairs Council
 
Slovak Interior Minister Robert Kalinak rings the bell to start the Home Affairs Council in Brussels, 9 December. The Council discussed the reform of the Common European Asylum System. Photo: EPA

Trilateral talks aim at solving winter gas puzzle
 
The Commission hoped to secure “predictable and stable gas deliveries” through winter when it hosted last Friday trilateral talks with Russia and Ukraine in Brussels. “Given the importance of energy relations between the EU, Russia and Ukraine, continued dialogue is of great importance,” VP Maros Sefcovic said in a statement. Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak and his Ukrainian counterpart Ihor Nasalyk were expected to attend the talks, along with Naftogaz and Gazprom representatives.

Collision in Merkel coalition on dual nationality
 
Chancellor Angela Merkel's party last Wednesday voted to scrap rules that allow the children of immigrants to be dual citizens and called for a partial ban on the Muslim full-face veil. The hardline measures set the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) on a collision course with its junior coalition partner Social Democrats (SPD) ahead of elections next year. Merkel herself voiced her backing for a prohibition against the niqab or burqa, but opposed changing the rules for dual citizenship.

Ombudsman warns EC on tobacco lobbying
 
European Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly heavily criticised last Thursday the Commission for refusing to be more open about its meetings with tobacco lobbyists. “This is a missed opportunity by the Juncker Commission to show global leadership in the vital area of tobacco lobbying,” she said in a statement, adding that it is not enough for the EC to report meetings only of its most senior officials. O'Reilly is pushing the EC to disclose all the minutes of meetings its officials have with tobacco industry representatives.

Dutch MP Wilders convicted of hate speech
 
A Dutch court convicted last Friday populist anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders of insulting Moroccans and inciting discrimination against them, but levied no punishment against him. Presiding Judge Hendrik Steenhuis said the court would not impose a sentence because the conviction was punishment enough for a democratically elected politician. Prosecutors had asked judges to fine him €5,000. Wilders denied the charges and pointed out a problem in society.

Santa Claus race
 
Runners dressed in Santa themed outfits take part in the 4th Santa Claus race in Poznan, Poland, 4 December. About 900 runners participated in the race which was held to raise funds for charities. Photo: EPA

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