Commission defers action on Spain and Portugal deficits
The European Commission has deferred any disciplinary action against Spain and Portugal over their excessive budget deficits until after a Spanish general election on 26 June, a political gift to conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. In its spring package of country-specific recommendations for the next 12 to 18 months, adopted 18 May, the EU executive was supposed to propose to the Council to fine Madrid and Lisbon for their repeated breaches of the EU's deficit limit of 3% of GDP. This would have been the first time such a sanction would have been applied.
Georgia, joined by the US and the UK, teases Russia with three-week long manoeuvres
About 1,500 soldiers from Poland, Spain, Albania, and the UK started last week 10-day military manoeuvres in Poland. The Noble Jump drills are aimed at disciplining NATO's capability of deploying armed forces and armoured equipment to potential threat area, in particular transferring the new Very High Readiness Joint Task Forces (to Poland. According to the Alliance, the exercise is designed to practice planning, coordination and execution of the deployment.
Greece is preparing a major pre-registration to accelerate the identification of all applicants
Migrants' relocation and resettlement has been too slow and unsatisfactory, according to the latest Commission progress report, adopted last Wednesday.
Market benchmark rules finally approved
The European Council on 17 May adopted new rules aimed at ensuring greater accuracy and integrity of benchmarks in financial instruments. The regulation sets out to restore trust in indices used as financial benchmarks, following manipulation scandals in recent years.
Reforming weighty professions statute
Maria Koleva, Brussels
A conference organised by the European Commission in Brussels, titled Reforming regulation of professions, took stock of the work Member States have performed during the last two years with regard to the review of their national regulation and the reform they proposed addressing disproportionate rules, and also outlined the way forward. National authorities, professional organisations and academia were among the participants at the forum.
Cars will 'talk' to each other and make driving safer
Maria Koleva, Brussels
The opportunities of having connected cars on the European roads and the challenges lying ahead with respect to consumers, businesses and public authorities was the central topic of a vibrant conference organised in Brussels on 17 May by Forum Europe.
New tobacco rules become mandatory
Maria Koleva, Brussels
The new 'scaring' layout of cigarette packs offered in the European market, which shows photo and text health warnings covering 65% of the front and the back sides and the top, is obligatory as of 20 May. This is the term when the revised EU Tobacco Products Directive should be transposed in the national legislation of the Member States.
EC supports efforts to reform judicial system
Maria Koleva, Brussels
The progress of Bulgaria’s judicial reform was the focus of discussions during a meeting Vice-PM Rumiana Bachvarova, Minister of Justice Ekaterina Zaharieva and Prosecutor General Sotir Tsatsarov had with Frans Timmermans, first vice-president of the European Commission, and European Commissioner for Justice Vera Jourova in Brussels on 18 May. The visit was part of regular conferences to discuss measures addressing Commission’s recommendations within the framework of the Mechanism for Cooperation and Verification.
New prospects for Bulgaria, Belgium business outlined
Belgian firms, potential new investors in Bulgaria, became acquainted with the opportunities the country is offering during a Bulgarian-Belgian business forum held on 17 May by the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce of Antwerpen-Waasland (VOKA).
Reforming asylum system
Susi Dennison
One thing the EU doesn't need right now in its fragile post-Turkey deal, pre-UK referendum state is another row about handling the refugee crisis. Political leaders are jittery enough about whether the lower numbers of refugee arrivals since the first quarter of 2016 will hold through the warmer summer months, or whether the Adriatic route via Libya will become the next crisis point. The resignation of Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoglu, and the stormy rumblings from key EU capitals and the European Parliament on the visa liberalisation issue have further jeopardised hopes that March's EU-Turkey bargain on returns and resettlement will continue to run smoothly.
Referenda nightmare
Europe seems to be in a referendum frenzy these days. In early May, the Hungarian government confirmed its decision to hold a referendum on the European Commission's plan to distribute asylum seekers among Member States. In April, Dutch citizens voted against the EU Association Agreement with Ukraine. In June, the UK will hold a crucial vote on whether to leave the EU altogether. The three votes have a common denominator: EU citizens are essentially being asked to decide on issues connected to the process of Continental integration.
Macedonia court halts June vote
The Constitutional Court of Macedonia has provisionally suspended all preparations for the snap election due on 5 June in the midst of the dire political crisis in the country. All nine judges ruled the dissolution of parliament unconstitutional, which means that the votes now have to stop, local media report. The step follows the junior ruling party Democratic Union for Integration (DUI)'s move to refer to the top court to contest the legitimacy of a decision to dissolve the country's National Assembly. Parliament speaker Trajko Veljanoski is now expected to call a parliament session to postpone the elections.
UN arms embargo on Libya cracks to counter jihadists
Two international meetings last week in Vienna were dedicated to diplomatic efforts to solve the acute problems of the Libyan and Syrian crises. US Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Monday that the world powers are ready to consider demands from Libya's new unity government for exemptions from a UN arms embargo and to militarily equip it in its fight against the IS and other groups.
TAP kickstarted
A groundbreaking ceremony for the Trans Adriatic Pipe­line (TAP) was held on 17 May in Thessaloniki, Greece, in the presence such high-ranking officials as Vice-President of the European Commission for Energy Union Maros Sefcovic, Greek PM Alexis Tsipras, Azerbaijan's Minister of Energy Natig Aliyev, as well as the representatives of the project shareholder companies. Its shareholders are BP (20%), SOCAR (20%), Snam S.p.A (20%), Fluxys (19%), Enagas (16%) and Axpo (5%).
Oil prices surge over reported supply deficit
Oil prices jumped over 2% last Monday after Goldman Sachs said the market had ended almost two years of oversupply and flipped to a deficit, news wires reported. Growing Nigerian oil output disruptions have accelerated the deficit.
Norway sovereign-wealth fund to sue Volkswagen
Norway oil fund, which is worth $850bn and has stakes in more than 9,000 companies, will file class-action lawsuit against Volkswagen over emissions scandal in the near future, business media reported.
Magic of embroidery
Ana Stefanova
The restoration of the Bulgarian intellectual elite following the national liberation was a long process. Then, what little there was of it was crushed and exiled when the communists took power in 1945. The left fist fell on the country’s leaders, including an exceptional wo­man and scientist, Evdokia Pete­va-Filova, an ethnographer of European rank and the wife of then Prime Minister Bogdan Filov.
I love opening history's curtains
Boris Mutafchiev
The royal treasure had indeed disappeared from the medieval Bulgarian capital of Tarnovo and its whereabouts remain unknown to this day. What we know is that it had been stolen by King Ivan Asen III (grandson of King Ivan Asen II) upon his abdication and had been carried away to Constantinople.
Plethora of stars shines in Norma
A plethora of stars will be featured in the latest master production of the Sofia Opera and Ballet, Norma by Bellini, including tremendous artists from Bulgaria and Italy.
Dancing barefoot on burning embers
Adelina Lozanova
If you happen to visit Bulgaria in summertime, you'd see in many of the seaside resorts a show of young people clad in white robes or traditional costumes, dancing on burning embers.
In Brief
NATO to seek dialogue with Russia
Foreign ministers of NATO members agreed at a meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Brussels held on 20 May to seek another meeting with Russia before the July NATO summit in Warsaw. Photo: EPA

G7 finance ministers meet in Japan
Finance ministers and central banks governors of G7 countries held on 20 May in Japan a traditional sake barrel opening ceremony. Officials met to prepare the G7 summit a week later. Photo: EPA

Stoichkov becomes UNESCO Champion for Sport
UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova (L) proclaimed world-renowned Bulgarian soccer player Hristo Stoichkov UNESCO Champion for Sport on 18 May in Sofia. Photo: BGNES

Common blacklist of tax havens to be compiled
At a meeting on Wednesday, EU finance ministers are expected to agree to start drafting a common "blacklist" of tax havens and sanctions against them. The EU's 28 Member States currently have their own blacklists of tax havens, or "non-cooperative jurisdictions", but these differ and the countries are free to decide which restrictive measures to impose, if any. The EU's move to coordinate and harmonise the lists follows the Panama Papers leaks in April.

Commission plans to boost nuclear sector
The EU must defend its technological dominance in the nuclear sector, according to a draft strategy paper from the Commission, seen by Spiegel Magazine. According to it, Member States should strengthen cooperation on researching, developing, financing and constructing innovative reactors. The draft is set for adoption by the commissioners responsible for the Energy Union next Wednesday. Spiegel also reports that the EU plans to advance the so-called mini-reactors.

Juncker warns Brexit Britain will be outsider
If Britain quits the EU it will have to get used to being considered an outsider, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told Le Monde newspaper last Friday. "If the British were to say 'no' (to staying in the EU), which I am not hoping for, life in the (European) community won't go on as before," he warned. The UK will have to accept being considered a third party, Juncker stressed, noting  that it was not a threat. The latest polls suggest the outcome of the referendum on 23 June is finely balanced.

EU, US encourage doing business with Iran
The US and the EU appealed last Wednesday to European banks and companies to resume doing business with Iran, pledging to provide more assistance to them. In a joint statement after their meeting in Brussels, US Secretary of State John Kerry, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and their counterparts from France, Germany and the UK said they would not stand in the way of international firms' or financial institutions' engagements with Iran, as long as they follow all applicable laws.

Bulgarian mummer marches in Cannes
German director Maren Ade poses with a Bulgarian mummer, who is featured in her film `Toni Erdmann`. The film is presented in the Official Competition of the 69th annual Cannes Film Festival, in Cannes, France. Photo: EPA

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