The Parliament gave the green light for the banking union
Maria Koleva, Brus­sels
Dur­ing the last ses­sion of its man­date, the EP backed three impor­tant leg­is­la­tive pie­ces, those for a bank recov­ery and a res­o­lu­tion direct­ive, and a depos­it guar­an­tee schemes direct­ive. The first two of them deal with the restruc­tur­ing and the wind­ing down of troub­led banks, and the third pro­vides that cred­it insti­tu­tions and not tax­pay­ers will guar­an­tee depos­its under €100,000 in cas­es of bank col­lapse. These meas­ures com­plete the leg­is­la­tive work for the bank­ing union, an idea real­ised in less than two years. All the Euro­zone coun­tries, and oth­ers that would like to join the bank­ing union, will share a bank-financed €55 bil­lion sin­gle res­o­lu­tion fund. From now on, tax­pay­ers will not sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly foot the bill for bank loss­es, under­scored EP Pres­i­dent Mar­tin Schulz.
Few expected Geneva four-party talks to yield a crisis breakthrough
The EU must step up sanc­tions tar­get­ing indi­vid­u­al Rus­sians and be ready to impose eco­nom­ic sanc­tions on Rus­sia imme­di­ate­ly, MEPs said in a non-leg­is­la­tive res­o­lu­tion last Thurs­day. They also called for tar­get­ed meas­ures against Rus­sian firms and their sub­sid­i­ar­ies, espe­cial­ly in the ener­gy sec­tor, and Rus­sia's EU assets. Dur­ing the debate on the Ukraine cri­sis, MEPs expressed their grave con­cern about the fast-dete­ri­o­rat­ing sit­u­a­tion and blood­shed in the east and south of the coun­try. They also urged Rus­sia to imme­di­ate­ly stop sup­port­ing sep­a­ra­tists and armed mili­tias.
 
Public EU-wide blacklist of firms infringing safety standards to be drawn up
Maria Koleva, Brus­sels
At the first read­ing vote, MEPs backed man­da­to­ry "coun­try of ori­gin" label­ling for all non-food pro­ducts sold on the sin­gle mar­ket, wheth­er pro­duced in the EU or import­ed from a third coun­try, to replace today's vol­un­tary sys­tem.
 
EPP takes the lead over Socialists
Aft­er weeks of slow­ly mak­ing up ground on the cen­tre-left Social­ists & Dem­o­crats Group, the cen­tre-right Group of the Euro­pe­an Peo­ple's Par­ty has now surged into the lead, accord­ing to the lat­est Poll­Watch 2014 fore­cast pub­lished on 16 April.
MEPs rein in polluting plastic bag madness
Euro­pe­an coun­tries would have to reduce the use of the most com­mon and most pol­lut­ing plas­tic bags by at least 80% by 2019, under draft rules backed by Par­lia­ment on 16 April.
Can ECI become part of mainstream EU policy
Maria Koleva, Brus­sels
Euro­pe­an Cit­i­zens' Ini­ti­a­tive Day 2014, on 15 April, was ded­i­cat­ed to reck­on­ing the suc­cess­es and the short­com­ings of the work of the new dem­o­crat­ic instru­ment that enti­tles EU cit­i­zens to ini­ti­ate leg­is­la­tive chan­ges and be more direct­ly involved in the polit­i­cal agen­da of Europe.
Strong action triggers steady progress on gender equality
In 2013, the Com­mis­sion con­tin­ued tak­ing action to improve equal­i­ty between wom­en and men, includ­ing steps to close the gen­der gaps in employ­ment, pay and pen­sions dis­crep­an­cies, to com­bat vio­lence and to pro­mote equal­i­ty in deci­sion-mak­ing.
24 formations vie for European Parliament
A total of 24 for­ma­tions will vie for Bul­gar­ia's 17 seats in the Euro­pe­an Par­lia­ment on 25 May, among them 18 par­ties, 6 coa­li­tions and 8 inde­pend­ents, accord­ing to the Cen­tral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion's list of approved can­di­dates for the vote. Since the dead­line for reg­is­ter­ing with the CEC was 9 April, one thing is for sure - the num­ber will not grow. Polit­i­cal par­ties enter­ing the elec­tion bat­tle are almost half the num­ber we saw in last year's gen­er­al elec­tions. The main rea­son for the sig­nif­i­cant­ly dimin­ished inter­est is that elec­tions for the Euro­pe­an Par­lia­ment have no bear­ing on how state sub­si­dies for par­ties are allo­cat­ed.
One space soup please!
Ele­na Ivan­o­va
It costs an aver­age of BGN350 (approx­i­mate­ly 175 euros) to pro­duce 15 kg of space food, or some BGN23 per kil­o­gramme, accord­ing to Prof. Gabri­ela Marin­o­va, direct­or of the Insti­tute of Cry­o­bi­ol­o­gy and Food Tech­nol­o­gy with the Agri­cul­tur­al Acad­e­my. In the 1970s, Bul­gar­ia became the third coun­try aft­er the US and Rus­sia to acquire the tech­nol­o­gy of mak­ing lyo­phi­lised, or freeze-dried, foods.
European insecurity on rise after Crimea
Francisco de Borja Lasheras
The 'ex­press annex­a­tion' of Cri­mea, togeth­er with insta­bil­i­ty across east­ern Ukraine, has raised an issue that West Euro­pe­ans have for­got­ten aft­er dec­ades of com­fort­a­ble secu­ri­ty, but which is vital for the coun­tries of the post-Sovi­et sphere that are knock­ing on our doors: the con­tin­u­ing need for secu­ri­ty guar­an­tees in Europe. The absence or vio­la­tion of secu­ri­ty guar­an­tees is at the root of the main inter-state con­flicts in mod­ern Europe.
Investments in R&D can fuel economic growth in Europe
Ben­at Bil­bao-Osor­io
For more than a dec­ade, there have been grow­ing con­cerns about Europe's place in the glob­al econ­o­my as it strug­gles to cope with the con­se­quen­ces of the worst finan­cial and eco­nom­ic cri­sis of the past 80 years and return to robust eco­nom­ic growth. The cri­sis exposed deep weak­ness­es in Europe's finan­cial sec­tor and vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty in many coun­tries' debt-fuelled growth strat­e­gies. What fol­lowed was the fail­ure, bail­ing out or nation­al­i­sa­tion of many banks, the tight­en­ing of cred­it mar­kets and fears that the Euro­zone may not con­tin­ue as a sin­gle cur­ren­cy bloc. Faced with this insta­bil­i­ty, Europe's lead­ers have spent much of the last dec­ade in cri­sis man­age­ment mode, where urgent mat­ters like keep­ing the euro afloat or nego­ti­at­ing the con­di­tions of nation­al bail-outs have been allowed to over­shad­ow impor­tant long-term ques­tions of how to reig­nite eco­nom­ic growth and job cre­a­tion.
Syria torture photos stun UN
Mem­bers of the UN Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil fell silent last Tues­day aft­er view­ing a series of ghast­ly pho­to­graphs of dead Syr­i­ans, killed in the ongo­ing civ­il war, AP wired. The pic­tures showed peo­ple who were ema­ci­at­ed, with their bones pro­trud­ing, and some bear­ing the marks of stran­gu­la­tion and beat­ings, and the eyes hav­ing been gouged out.
East Ukraine resists gov't anti-terrorist operation
The Ukrain­i­an gov­ern­ment start­ed on 15 April an oper­a­tion, called "anti-ter­ror­ist", to dis­lodge pro-Rus­sian gun­men from local author­i­ty build­ings in the east­ern part of the coun­try, but his for­ces met acute resist­ance.
World trade picture slight­ly improves
The World Trade Organ­i­za­tion slight­ly raised its 2014 fore­cast for growth in glob­al goods trade to 4.7% on 14 April, say­ing it did not expect a return to the his­tor­i­cal trend lev­el of 5.3% until 2015. "If GDP fore­casts hold true, we expect a broad-based but mod­est upturn in the vol­ume of world trade in 2014 and fur­ther con­sol­i­da­tion of this growth in 2015," WTO Direct­or Gen­er­al Rob­er­to Aze­ve­do told a news con­fer­ence in Gene­va.
Glaxo under bribery investigation in Poland
Bri­tain's big­gest drug­mak­er, Glax­o­Smith­Kline (GSK), is fac­ing a crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tion in Poland for alleg­ed­ly brib­ing doc­tors to pro­mote its asth­ma drug Ser­e­tide. Elev­en doc­tors and a GSK region­al man­a­ger have been charged over alleged cor­rup­tion between 2010 and 2012.
Total to invest $16bn in Angola's offshore oil
Total announced last Mon­day it had decid­ed to go ahead with the Kaom­bo oil project off­shore Ango­la aft­er reduc­ing its cost by $4bn to $16bn, news wires report­ed.
Life Sentences gets Objectif d'or
Maria Koleva, Brus­sels
This year's Mil­le­ni­um Film Fes­ti­val, held in Brus­sels, proved to be a great suc­cess giv­ing film lov­ers the oppor­tu­ni­ty to see 47 pro­duc­tions and co-pro­duc­tions from over 38 coun­tries. The pub­lic had the priv­i­lege to meet many film mak­ers from dif­fer­ent cor­ners of the world and also to expe­ri­ence the mag­ic of mak­ing cin­e­ma.
Art is nothing without catharsis
Yordan Yordanov, Novinar Daily
I was invit­ed by actor Teo­dor Pete­lov, artis­tic direct­or of The Whit­eL­ist­ed The­a­tre Com­pa­ny.
Guinness hat-trick
Annie Efre­mo­va
A Guin­ness hat-trick-scor­ing Bul­gar­i­an - upon hear­ing the descrip­tion, mime art­ist Alex­an­der Iliev's face broad­ens into a grin. Used to the tag, he will­ing­ly gives an account of the facts with­out attach­ing unnec­es­sary impor­tance to them.
In Brief
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First Bulgarian constitution celebrated
 
In a spe­cial ses­sion on 16 April, Bul­gar­ia's Par­lia­ment marked the 135th anni­ver­sa­ry of the estab­lish­ment of the first Bul­gar­i­an con­sti­tu­tion. Pho­to: Boris Voyn­ar­ov­ich

Joint Romanian-US military drill
 
Roma­ni­an PM Vic­tor Pon­ta smiles from inside the cock­pit of an F16 jet before tak­ing off for a flight at the end of the joint Roma­ni­an-US mil­i­tary drill Daci­an Viper 2014 at the Cam­pia Tur­zii mil­i­tary air­base. Pho­to: EPA

Brussels from space
 
The EU's new Sen­ti­nel-1a radar sat­el­lite, launched on 3 April, returned its first ima­ges of Earth with Brus­sels as a maid­en pic­ture togeth­er with flood­ing in Nam­ib­ia and the Pine Island Gla­cier in Ant­arc­ti­ca. Pho­to: ESA

MEPs backs new political party funding rules
 
The EU Par­lia­ment has voted to approve plans to reform the fund­ing arrange­ments and legal sta­tus of Euro­pe­an polit­i­cal par­ties and their affil­i­at­ed foun­da­tions. The new rules, inform­al­ly agreed on with the Coun­cil, will make it eas­ier for the par­ties to gen­er­ate their own resour­ces by rais­ing the ceil­ing on dona­tions from €12,000 to €18,000 per donor per year. The leg­is­la­tion states that Par­lia­ment and an inde­pend­ent author­i­ty will be respon­si­ble for assess­ing com­pli­ance with the rules.

Measures to fight fraud and counterfeiting voted
 
The Par­lia­ment ple­na­ry voted last Thurs­day in favour of two ini­ti­a­tives from the Com­mis­sion that will help pro­tect the euro against coun­ter­feit­ing and com­bat fraud against the EU budg­et. The Par­lia­ment backed meas­ures which will strength­en the pro­tec­tion of the euro and oth­er cur­ren­cies against coun­ter­feit­ing through crim­i­nal law meas­ures. It also voted in a first read­ing in favour of a direct­ive to tack­le fraud, which will cre­ate a more har­mo­nised frame­work for pros­e­cut­ing and pun­ish­ing crimes involv­ing the EU budg­et.

Stolen national treasures return eased
 
Par­lia­ment voted last Thurs­day in favour of a new direct­ive to help EU coun­tries organ­ise the return of cul­tur­al objects that were unlaw­ful­ly removed from their state and are cur­rent­ly locat­ed in anoth­er EU coun­try. The new leg­is­la­tion aims at secur­ing the recov­ery by a Mem­ber State of any cul­tur­al item iden­ti­fied as "nation­al treas­ures of artis­tic, his­tor­ic or archae­o­log­i­cal val­ue" ille­gal­ly removed from its ter­ri­to­ry aft­er 1 Jan­u­ary 1993. The pro­pos­al will now be sub­mit­ted to the Coun­cil for its final approv­al.

Pope Francis starts Easter celebration
 
Pope Fran­cis blows inside an ampho­ra con­tain­ing holy oil dur­ing the tra­di­tion­al Maun­dy Thurs­day Chrism Mass in Saint Peter`s Basil­i­ca as the start of the Easter cel­e­bra­tion, Vat­i­can City, 17 April. Pho­to: EPA

Christ Pantocrator
 
Christ Pantocrator, 1607, Nessebar. Tempera on wood, 125x88 cm. National Art Gallery

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