Russia signs key gas agreement with Bulgaria
Sofia, 17 July 2010 (MIA) - Russia signed a key agreement Saturday with Bulgaria to speed up work on its South Stream gas pipeline project as Sofia vied to secure lower prices for its gas deliveries, AFP reports.
Bulgarian Economy and Energy Minister Traicho Traikov and Russian Energy Minister Sergey Shmatko signed a "road map" for accelerating South Stream in Bulgaria's Black Sea resort of Varna in a ceremony also attended by Bulgarian Premier Boyko Borisov, BTA said, but did not immediately provide any further details.
The document was expected to map out a timetable for preparing the preliminary feasibility study for the project to channel an annual 63 billion cubic metres of Russian gas to Europe under the Black Sea.
It also put February 2011 as the target deadline for receiving the results of the study and setting up the joint company for building the Bulgarian stretch of the 900-kilometre (560-mile) pipeline, Traikov told journalists late Friday on the sidelines of the two-day talks in Varna.
Sofia has always said it was committed to both South Stream and its rival EU-backed Nabucco pipeline but progress on Russia's Gazprom and Italy ENI's project has been stalled over haggling as to how Sofia and Moscow would split ownership of the new pipelines going through Bulgaria.
But Sofia agreed on Saturday to give South Stream a push in a bid to secure cheaper prices for its own gas deliveries from Russia, the contracts for which expire in 2011 and 2012.
Bulgaria is almost 100-percent dependent on Russian gas supplies via Ukraine for its annual consumption of about 3.0 billion cubic metres and also channels 17 billion cubic metres of gas to neighbouring Turkey and Greece.
The small Balkan state, often regarded by analysts as one of Russia's staunchest satellites from the Soviet era, was among the worst hit by Russia's gas spat with Ukraine last January when it practically saw no gas coming down the pipes for days on end. sk/fd/12:25
EU Commission, OLAF publish fraud reports 2009
Sofia, 17 uly 2010 (MIA) - According to the European Commission report on irregularities in absorption of EU funds for 2009, Bulgaria and Romania are the two countries with the biggest number of violations reported.
The report is published on a yearly basis by the EC's anti-fraud office, OLAF, and comes out together with a Commission report on “Protection of the Financial Interests - Fight against Fraud”.
Bulgaria tops the ranking of member-states owing funds to the Union's budged due to irregularities in absorption, with a staggering EUR 45.4 B, against Romania's EUR 22.7 B at the second place.
Two-thirds of cases from Bulgaria are related to agricultural programme SAPARD, followed by the PHARE reconstruction programme, and the ISPA infrastructure programme. 20% of Bulgarian SAPARD projects were unveiled as frauds, reports OLAF.
The signals from Bulgaria have increased with 134% against 2008. Nevertheless, according to the European Commission this “reflects a better understanding of the obligation to ensure sound financial management following the Commission's efforts to improve the reliability of the national systems“. sk/fd/11:46
Turkish police hold 29 for suspected Al-Qaeda links: report
Ankara, 16 July 2010 (MIA) - Turkish police detained 29 people with suspected links to the Al-Qaeda network in a pre-dawn swoop on Friday in three provinces, the Anatolia news agency reported.
Most of the suspects were rounded up in the southern province of Adana, while the others were detained in the country's biggest city Istanbul, Antalya on the Mediterranean coast and the western province of Canakkale, the agency said.
Police were still looking for two other suspects, it added.
The Adana police and local prosecutors were to question the detainees before releasing them or sending them to court to be charged.
Last week, police detained 28 Al-Qaeda suspects in a separate operation.
The Turkish police regularly target suspected Al-Qaeda supporters since two sets of twin suicide bombings hit Istanbul five days apart in November 2003.
A Turkish cell of Al-Qaeda was held responsible for the attacks, in which explosive-laden trucks first targeted two synagogues, and then the British consulate and a British bank, killing a total of 63 people, including the British consul.
Seven men were jailed for life in 2007 for the bombings, among them a Syrian national who masterminded and financed the attacks.