Archive for: Print

Looter describes ‘beginner’s luck’

May 22nd, 2007

Looter describes ‘beginner’s luck’

SOFIA — Naiden Blagnev, a dealer in agricultural products in the central Bulgarian village of Lisichevo, 25 kilometers from Pazardjik, described in an interview how he came upon a set of 12th-century dishes that Bulgaria contends were smuggled out of the country. In late 2000, he said, he and a friend bought an American-made Minelab metal detector for 1,400 levs, or about $800, from Boyko Tsvetanov “to use in our spare time, since we didn’t have much work.”

Bulgarian relics spark an international scuffle

May 22nd, 2007

Bulgarian relics spark an international scuffle

SOFIA — A self-described Bulgarian looter has ignited an international controversy by admitting that he dug up an ancient treasure – a set of rare 12th-century silver dishes – and accusing Christie’s of trying to resell one of the dishes in London for far more than he ever got for it. The case has developed into Bulgaria’s first high-profile effort to recover allegedly plundered antiquities, with prosecutors seeking the return of not just the dish that Christie’s was trying to sell, but also nine dishes that Sofia maintains are from the same set and now in the possession of three Greek museums.

Romania, a Poor Land, Imports Poorer Workers

Apr 11th, 2007

Romania, a Poor Land, Imports Poorer Workers

April 11, 2007 Romania, a Poor Land, Imports Poorer Workers By MATTHEW BRUNWASSER BACAU, Romania — To get around the chronic labor shortages hampering this traditional textile center and in other industries across Romania, Sorin Nicolescu, who runs a clothing factory, came up with an original solution: import 800 workers from China.   “The explanation is very simple,” said Mr. Nicolescu, general manager of a Swiss concern, the Wear Company. “We don’t have any Romanian workers because they have all left to work” in Western and Central Europe. Foreign investors have been attracted to Romania, a poor Balkan country, because of its low wages and, since Jan. 1, its membership in the European Union. At the same time, those low wages and freedom of movement through Europe, which is now easier, have been fueling a wave of emigration that threatens to slow an economic boom in recent years in Romania. “This was happening before we joined the E.U.,” said Ana Murariu, a production manager at Wear. “Now it’s even worse.” Romania, a nation of 21.6 million (and declining 0.2 percent annually), received 9 billion euros, or about $12 billion, in foreign direct investment last year. That helped the economy grow last year as much as 7 percent, with an unemployment rate in January of 5.4 percent — well below the European Union average. But with monthly wages averaging around $375 after taxes, roughly two million people, or [...]

Crusading justice minister is excluded from Romania cabinet

Apr 3rd, 2007

Crusading justice minister is excluded from Romania cabinet

  BUCHAREST — Monica Macovei, the Romanian justice minister who has lost her job in a cabinet shuffle, made fighting corruption her mission and appointed a crew of tough and independent prosecutors to help carry it out.   They did so with spirit, investigating and indicting lawmakers, government ministers and even a former prime minister, as Romania tried to prove to a skeptical European Commission that it had the political will to clean up its judicial system. They made friends in Brussels, but enemies at home.

Newest EU citizens wonder what it will mean

Jan 2nd, 2007

Newest EU citizens wonder what it will mean

BUCHAREST — For the past four years, at a fictional bar called La Europa, Romanian villagers have discussed, argued and wisecracked about their future in the European Union, trying to come to terms with European standards like the length and curvature specifications for cucumbers. Their adventures are broadcast into Romanian living rooms from the Bucharest set of a popular Sunday sitcom, “The Winding Road to Europe.”

A death in Sofia revives memories of a shady past

Nov 20th, 2006

A death in Sofia revives memories of a shady past

SOFIA — In a Cold War-style drama in one of the last places in Europe to tackle its Communist-era legacy, the sudden death of the man in charge of a key Bulgarian secret police archive that was about to be declassified has created a political uproar. The man, Bozhidar Doychev, 61, had served since 1991 as director of the National Intelligence Service archive, which is believed to contain information about the 1981 shooting of Pope John Paul II and the assassination of the Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov, as well as records on current officials who may have worked for the secret police.

In shrinking Bulgaria, where are the people?

Oct 10th, 2006

In shrinking Bulgaria, where are the people?

LUKY, Bulgaria — This socialist mining town of the future was so new when it was founded in 1959 that it had a new, modern maternity ward and no cemetery. Today the population is 4,000, down from 10,000 in 1990. Only two of the five lead-zinc mines still operate, unable to compete on the world market. Eight of the municipality’s nine schools have closed because there are so few children. The maternity ward has long since shut its doors. “We have almost used up the cemetery we have now,” said Todor Todorov, mayor of this town in the Rhodope Mountains of southern Bulgaria. “We’re in a hurry to find terrain for a new one.”

For Europe, a lesson in ABCs (of Cyrillic)

Aug 8th, 2006

For Europe, a lesson in ABCs (of Cyrillic)

SOFIA — When Saints Cyril and Methodius gave the Slavic world its first written script, their mission was to draw the Slavs under the influence of Constantinople and away from Rome. A thousand or so years later, Cyrillic is heading west – this time to a united Europe. With Bulgaria scheduled to enter the European Union along with Romania on Jan. 1, Cyrillic is becoming the bloc’s third official alphabet, after Latin and Greek; by the end of the decade, if Bulgaria succeeds in joining the euro zone, it may even appear on euro banknotes. Although Bulgaria has no commitment to reciprocate by displaying signs in the Latin alphabet, “We are doing it,” says Nikolay Vassilev, minister for state administration and administrative reform. “More slowly than I would like.” With one of the world’s largest translation services, the EU does not expect problems adding Bulgarian and its Cyrillic alphabet to the array of languages it already handles. Still, linguistic diversity comes at a price. For 2005, the total cost of all language services – written translation and spoken interpretation – in the EU’s 20 official languages was €1.1 billion – about 1 percent the total EU budget, or €2.28 per person across the 25-member bloc. With the addition of Bulgarian and Romanian in 2007, along with Irish becoming an operational language, the cost is expected to increase by a total of €30 million, or $38.5 million. [...]

In Bulgaria, a fleeced public is left in cold

Jul 27th, 2006

In Bulgaria, a fleeced public is left in cold

SOFIA — The director of the Sofia central heating company might not have a glamorous job. The company, a Soviet- era behemoth, is more than €50 million in debt and is owed €80 million by customers unable or unwilling to pay their heating bills. The pay for the director is just €500 a month. But Valentin Dimitrov, the director until April, managed to live well: making a splash at high-society parties with Elena Tihomirova, Miss Bulgaria 2003, living in a villa worth €400,000, or $506,000, and driving a customized Lexus sport utility vehicle. After 10 years in the post, through three governments involving all the major political parties, Dimitrov inadvertently provoked the end of his career by seeking in February to raise consumer rates by 12 percent.

Bridge to a new era for Bulgaria and Romania

Jun 14th, 2006

Bridge to a new era for Bulgaria and Romania

VIDIN, Bulgaria — Construction has not yet begun, but a new bridge over the Danube is already lifting hopes among Bulgarians and Romanians on both sides of the river. The bridge, which will span the Danube from this downtrodden city to the dusty Romanian town of Calafat, will not just forge new connections, but is also meant to help one of Europe’s least developed regions. After eight years spent arguing over the location and four years of looking for funding, the €230 million, or $290 million, project is expected finally to enter the construction phase next year thanks to European prodding and finance.