Germany, France put new proposals to tighten EU security
France and Germany last week put on the table proposals to tighten security across Europe, which include giving more powers to governments to monitor frontiers with other EU states, news wires reported. German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere and his French counterpart Bruno Le Roux wrote a joint letter last Monday, urging for a review of the Schengen rules. The letter written in Berlin addresses the First Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans as well as the EU Home Affairs and Security Commissioners Dimitris Avramopoulos and Julian King, respectively. The two ministers particularly proposed to let the EU Member States reinstate border controls for the longer periods than those currently foreseen.
Mr Pence told the European Union leaders his country is determined to continue the partnership
Maria Koleva, Brussels
Undoubtedly, the visit of US Vice-President Mike Pence in Brussels on 19 and 20 February allayed the tensions and showed the EU that between the two allies there are more common goals than differences. President Donald Trump’s stance on Brexit and the EU integrity, his attitude toward free trade deals, and his sharp words about the “obsolete” NATO had caused deep frustration in some European capitals.
 
Commission scolds Member States but does not punish their offenses
Member States are making headway in implementing the individual policy guidance they received last year around the "virtuous triangle" of boosting investment, pursuing structural reforms and ensuring responsible fiscal policies.
 
Greece and creditors break bailout deadlock
The Greek government agreed last Monday to make new reforms to cut up to 2% of GDP in spending in the coming years in order to break the deadlock with creditors over next bailout tranche.
Brexit Bill passed in House of Lords
Theresa May has won the first round in her battle with the Lords to secure authority for triggering the Brexit process by the end of next month as last Tuesday House of Lords gave an unopposed second reading to the EU Notification of Withdrawal Bill after a marathon two-day debate involving more than 180 speakers, news wires reported.
Enforcing protection of customers shopping online
At the first Competitiveness Council under the Maltese Presidency that took place in Brussels on 20 February, industry and research ministers from EU countries agreed on a general approach to strengthen consumer protection cooperation in the internal market.
Energy consumption below its 1990 level
In 2015, gross inland energy consumption, which reflects the energy quantities necessary to satisfy all inland consumption, in the EU amounted to 1626 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe), which is below its 1990 level (-2.5%), although not much, and down by 11.6% compared to its peak of almost 1840 Mtoe in 2006, the Eurostat announced in a special report.
Deporting migrants easily
Germany has called for the EU to scrap human rights safeguards so migrants can be deported to countries currently considered unsafe, according to a leaked government paper cited by news agencies.
Over 110 polling stations to be opened abroad
Over 110 polling stations will be opened abroad in preparation for the upcoming early general elections on 26 March, reveal the Central Election Commission’s interim data on the foreign locations that will be provided with ballot boxes. In compliance with Bulgarian law, voting booths will be set up in all of the country’s embassies and consulates, which for this particular vote means 103 cities in 75 countries. Separately, Bulgarians residing abroad have time to declare their intention to vote in a process aimed at opening additional polling stations where needed.
Fight on CETA not over yet
Maria Koleva, Brussels
A week ago the European Parliament concluded the ratification process at the EU level on CETA, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between the EU and Canada, adopting the accord by 408 votes to 254, with 33 abstentions. CETA will be provisionally put in place immediately after the Canadian parliament ratifies it and the kick off is expected in April.
Mudslinging in race for Elysee
Rumyana Kochanova
The race for the Elysee Palace has become a bitter struggle. The three main contenders for the presidential elections in two months are now embroiled in a vicious exchange of mudslinging. Latest opinion polls show far-right presidential hopeful Marine Le Pen retaining the lead and wining 26% of the vote in the first round on 23 April.
Ukraine's new fragile ceasefire
An agreement to halt fighting and withdraw heavy weapons from the front line in eastern Ukraine came into force last Monday, after it was brokered over the weekend, news wires reported. Over the next days the truce was said to be largely holding, despite the Ukrainian army reporting one soldier being killed and another injured in the past 24 hours. According to separatist commanders, there had been very little fighting.
Iraqi forces retake Mosul airport
Iraqi federal police forces, backed by US air support, last Thursday took control of IS-held Mosul airport. "We have entered the airport and engineering units are clearing the roads," Hisham Abdul Kadhem, commander of the Rapid Response's Scorpion Regiment, told AFP inside the airport. Earlier in the week Iraqi forces, with aerial support from the US-led coalition, pushed back IS fighters.
Uncertainty weighs on trade growth
World Bank's latest report suggests global trade growth is constrained by a number of factors, like policy uncertainty, rising protectionism and threats to unwind trade agreements. The latest annual paper from the bank, “Global Trade Watch: Trade Developments in 2016” points out that all these factors negatively impacted trade in Europe and the United States last year.
Southern Gas Corridor to be completed by 2020
Azerbaijan aims to finalise the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC) by 2020, according to Azerbaijan President ?lham Aliyev. Speaking at “On the Road to Price Stability?
Amazon promises to open 15,000 new jobs in Europe
Amazon announced last week that it plans to increase its European workforce by more than 30% by the end of the year. In a press release, the company said that in 2016 it added 10,000 jobs in Europe.
Europe welcomes Marina Abramovic
The first major retrospective in Europe by Marina Abramovic has already come to fruition at the museum for modern and contemporary art in Stockholm, Moderna Museet, and it will stay open until 21 May 2017.
I want to blaze a trail
Irina Gigova
Ovanes Torosian always finds himself at a loss what to answer when someone calls out to him on the street, “I saw your movie!” The most demanded actor in Bulgarian cinema over the past decade has performed in at least 20 feature films, 15 short films, and a load of student filmmakers’ productions.
World's music elite gather in Rousse
Over 600 musicians from 17 countries from across the world will participate in 44 events at the 57th March Music Days International Festival to be held in Rousse.
Wonders on display
The most interesting finds from the 2016 archaeological fieldwork in Bulgaria have been on display at the National Institute of Archa­e­ology with Museum at the Bul­garian Academy of Sciences in downtown Sofia since 14 Feb­ruary.
In Brief
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Merkel welcomes Tajani
 
President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani (L) is greeted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Chancellery, Berlin, 24 February. Tajani was on a two-day official visit to Germany. Photo: EPA

Macedonia to keep Balkan route closed
 
Macedonian soldiers patrol between the razor wire fence at the border with Greece, as Europe readies new measures to further keep the so-called Balkan migrant route closed. Photo: EPA

Strike paralyses Madrid metro
 
Metro train drivers started on 24 February a strike in the Spanish capital Madrid, demanding recognition of a higher job category. Photo: EPA

Juncker to propose multiple speed EU in White Paper
 
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said last Thursday that the EU should make it easier for some Mem­ber States to deepen their integration in some areas without the whole bloc following suit. "Should it not be that those who want to go forward more rapidly can do so without bothering the others by putting in place a more structured framework that is open to everyone? I will argue for this in the coming days," Juncker said, speeking to Belgian students at Louvain-la-Neuve. "This is no longer a time when we can imagine everyone doing the same thing together," he added. Juncker noted that defence was an area where some Member States were keen to advance faster in cooperation than others. The EU executive announced he will make proposals in a high-profile policy White Paper to be published next week.

Mogherini to tour Western Balkans, urging reforms
 
European Commission VP Federica Mogherini will initiate a tour from 1 to 4 March in the region of Western Balkans, which she says is a key priority for the EU. She will visit Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia and Macedonia. Mogherini stressеd that she is working to see all Western Balkans partners move forward on the reform path, towards the EU, to ensure the process is irreversible.

EP insists on full visa reciprocity with US
 
The European Parliament will adopt a resolution regarding the US visas that citizens of some EU Member States are required to apply for, i.e. lack of full visa reciprocity. MEPs may call on the EC to temporarily bring back visas for US citizens in order to stimulate Washington to remove visas for Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania. Lifting the visa regime remains a priority for the European Union during the new White House administration, said Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos.

NASA discovers new solar system where life is possible
 
A newly discovered solar system, situated at just 39 light years from Earth, may hold life, NASA astro­nomers announced at a news conference last Wednesday. No less than seven roughly Earth-sized planets were detected orbiting a dwarf star in the Trappist system. The planets were detected using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and several ground-based observatories. While all the planets in the system are similar in size to Earth and Venus, density measurements suggest that at least the innermost six planets are rocky. Three of them were said to be particularly promising because they could sustain oceans with liquid water. The planets' orbits are very close to the star, which is dim and it warming them quite gently. NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is already being used to search for atmospheres around the planets. Since 1992 over 3,500 exoplanets were discovered, but less than a dozen of them are thought to be well suited to supporting life.

Carnival season has started
 
A carnival float titled `Rule Britannia!` depicting a Britannia figure in a liveboat gesturing to a departing European ship is presented by the Mainz Carnival Association during a media preview in Mainz, Germany, 21 February.

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