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Commission approves €255 million Bulgarian guarantee scheme to support SMEs in #Coronavirus outbreak

EU Reporter Correspondent

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The European Commission has approved a Bulgarian BGN 500 million (€255 million) public guarantee scheme to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the context of the coronavirus outbreak (Intermediated SME Loan Guarantee Programme).

The scheme was approved under the State aid Temporary framework adopted by the Commission on 19 March 2020, as amended on 3 April 2020. The Bulgarian Development Bank AD will provide public guarantees on investment loans and working capital loans to micro, small and medium-sized companies affected by the coronavirus outbreak in Bulgaria. The scheme aims at limiting the risk associated with issuing loans to those companies that are most severely affected by the economic impact of the current crisis.

It will help businesses cover their immediate working capital or investment needs and ensure that they have sufficient liquidity to continue their activities. The Commission found that the measure is in line with the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. The Commission therefore concluded that the measure is necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a member state, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework.

On this basis, the Commission approved the measures under EU state aid rules. Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “This €255m Bulgarian guarantee scheme will help micro, small and medium-sized companies affected by the coronavirus outbreak to cover their immediate working capital and investment needs. We continue working closely with member states to ensure that national support measures can be put in place in a co-ordinated and effective way, in line with EU rules.”

The full press release is available online.

Bulgaria

Bulgarian general elections: Anti-establishment parties make significant gains

Cristian Gherasim, Bucharest correspondent

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Forming a new government might prove more difficult than expected, following Sunday’s parliamentary election. Though the ruling GERB party came out first, it only got 24.2% of the votes. PM Borisov could be facing quite the challenge in trying to put together a parliamentary majority needed to remain in power.

Anti-establishment political groups recorded significant gains, with the biggest surprise of the election coming from the pro-European, anti-establishment party called "There is Such a People". The party formed barely one year ago and led by a former singer and actor is expected to get 17% of the voted, tied for the 2nd place with the biggest opposition party- the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP).

The new parliament is expected to be very fragment with newcomers gaining seats. With less than half of the total votes counted, the political scene looks something like this:

The new anti-system populist party "There is Such a People" (ITN) led by the TV star and singer Slavi Trifonov came in second with 19%, followed by the Socialists with 14.9%.

Democratic Bulgaria Anti-Corruption Party and Center-Left Alliance “Get up! Down with the Mafia! ” one of the groups behind the massive anti-corruption protests demanding the resignation of Borisov obtained 11% and 5.1%, respectively.

Ethnic Turkish Party - The Rights and Freedoms Movement won 8.7% of the vote, while nationalists from the VMRO, the current coalition partner of the prime minister's conservatives, won just 3.6%, far below the electoral threshold of 4 %, on the verge of being excluded from parliament.

The partial results compelled prime-minister to suggest the creation of a cross-party expert government given that his party did not obtain an absolute majority.

"I propose to make peace - let's install experts to take responsibility and let's do everything we can to get out of the (coronavirus) pandemic by December and start moving forward," Borisov said in the wee hours of Monday morning.

Bulgaria's parliamentary election comes amid anti-corruption protests that have been taking place for over 6 months.

Boiko Borisov, an increasingly controversial politician, has been at the helm of the government in Sofia since 2009, for more than 10 years.

Negotiations for the formation of a new government are expected to take several weeks and the holding of early elections cannot be ruled out, as the unexpected rise of the ITN party further complicates negotiations.

The outcome of talks to form a new government will be hard to predict given the complicated situation.

Although Borisov's victory seems clear, the ruling party (GERB) will need at least two more parties to form a majority. However, all the new parties said that they would not ally themselves with Borisov, and the Socialists ruled out any entry into a coalition with him. But even the increasingly divided opposition does not seem to be able to ally itself against the Conservative prime minister.

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Bulgaria

Bulgaria PM seen losing quarter of seats, no clear path to hold power

EU Reporter Correspondent

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Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boyko Borissov (pictured) lost around a quarter of his seats in parliament, leaving him with no clear path to hold on to power after voters angry at corruption in the EU’s poorest member state flocked to protest parties.

Borissov’s centre-right GERB party will still be the biggest group in parliament after Sunday’s election, and the prime minister proposed overnight that his rivals accept a cabinet of technocrats.

“I offer you peace,” he said in a video streamed on Facebook. “This is my proposal for all, enjoy the results for two, three days and then consider - what is stable and what is not.”

But political analysts say surging anti-establishment and anti-corruption parties committed to toppling Borissov would be unlikely to accept any such offer.

“Forming some kind of national salvation cabinet would be extremely difficult, on the verge of impossible,” said Daniel Smilov, with Sofia-based Centre for Liberal Strategies.

Leading financial newspaper Capital said the 61-year-old three-time prime minister’s fate was sealed: “Borissov won the election, but lost the power.”

Initial results from Sunday’s election showed GERB with just 25.9% of the vote, down from 33.5% four years ago.

TV HOST’S NEW PARTY PLACES SECOND

Second place went to a new anti-establishment party founded by TV host and singer Slavi Trifonov. His There Is Such a People party won 18%, pushing aside the main opposition Socialists whose vote share plunged to just 15% from 27.9% in the last election, according to the partial results.

Trifonov has refused to join any government including either GERB or the Socialists, leaving little scope for him to step in and form a government if Borissov fails.

Two other parties that reject Borissov will also enter parliament: the anti-graft grouping Democratic Bulgaria and protest party Stand Up! Mafia Out!

Both were behind major anti-corruption demonstrations last summer that eroded Borissov’s grip on power.

Socialist leader Kornelia Ninova said her party was ready to join an anti-GERB alliance.

“After this election, GERB cannot rule and Borissov will not be prime minister,” she told reporters.

Borissov, a burly former fireman and bodyguard, has kept public debt low and ensured Bulgaria’s path to the euro zone. But Bulgaria’s reputation for corruption - Transparency International ranks it worst in the EU - has scared away investors and held Bulgaria back from catching up with its richer Western peers.

With long talks to form a government or even another election possible, Bulgaria may have difficulty tapping the EU’s €750 billion ($884bn) coronavirus Recovery Fund and its readiness to adopt the euro currency in 2024 could be affected.

($1 = 1.6628 leva)

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Bulgaria

Bulgarian premier’s party wins general elections: Exit polls

James Drew

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Exit polls in Bulgaria showed that Prime Minister Boyko Borisov’s Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) party won Sunday’s (4 April) general elections, writes Ihvan Radoykov.

According to the Alpha Research exit poll broadcast by the Bulgarian National Television (BNT), seven political parties and coalitions passed the 4% election threshold.

The poll results showed that Borisov’s GERB party received 25.7 % of the votes, while the main opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) became the second party with 17.6% votes.

Led by showman Slavi Trifonov, There Is Such A People (ITN) received 15.5% of the votes, while the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, majority of which are Turks, received 11% votes.

The right-wing Democratic Bulgaria, left-wing coalition of Stand up! Mafia out!, and far-right Bulgarian National Movement (VMRO) led by Krasimir Karakachanov, defense minister of the Borisov government, entered the parliament.

Voters in Bulgaria went to the polls on Sunday for the country’s 11th parliamentary elections since the overthrow of communist dictator Todor Zhivkov in 1989.

Some 6.3 million eligible voters, including around 850,000 Turks and Muslims, voted to elect members of the 240-seat National Assembly, the country’s unicameral parliament, from 22 political parties and eight coalitions.

Sunday’s vote was the first regular parliamentary election since 2009, following repeated snap polls.

The elections hold special significance for Bulgaria’s Muslim and Turkish population, as they served as a chance for the centrist Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) party to regain power.

The party, formed at the start of Bulgaria’s journey toward democracy, has a majority of Turks among its members and has played a key role in the country’s politics for over three decades.

The MRF has been in opposition since the GERB formed a coalition government with the ultra-nationalist United Patriots (OP) alliance in 2017.

Bulgaria’s Turkish and Muslim population has traditionally voted for the MRF.

Borisov’s GERB party also wooed Turks and Muslims in the country, but the OP alliance based its electoral campaign to a great extent on hostility against the minority communities.

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