Can you even purchase a helicopter gunship in the US? Bulgaria true land of the free.https://t.co/PzG6Tmb5Xj
— Black Pigeon Speaks (@navyhato) March 22, 2017
H/t reader kevin a.
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3,000 migrants living in a camp in Bulgaria are on lockdown after reports that serious infectious diseases have been recorded among the group.
The camp, known as the Harmanli facility, is located near the Bulgarian border with Turkey and has been in operation for a number of years. Of the 3,000 current residents, most of whom are looking to move on to Western Europe, 128 of them have been diagnosed with serious illnesses from skin diseases to viral infections and even small pox, reports Die Welt. Continue reading »
It is not a secret that under the bailout agreements, Greece’s self-employed are charged with higher taxes and social security contributions each and every year. As KeepTalkingGreece.com details, many, especially from northern Greece, have moved their business basis to neighboring Bulgaria for obvious reasons: 10% tax instead of 29%, low social security contributions, incentives. There is talk that 60,000 businesses have moved in the last seven years of austerity.
No wonder that self-employed and freelancers complain about taxation, contributions and cut pensions, no wonder they are furious about the social security contributions hikes that come with the new year.
As Turkish President Erdogan has threatened Europe with releasing as many as 3 million new migrants, Bulgaria has stepped up its plans of adding a 20-mile-long wall along its border with Greece and Turkey.
Bulgarian authorities have expressed concerns that the closing of Macedonia’s border with Greece might drive migrants to enter the EU en masse through Bulgaria, if Erdogan carries out his threats.
The challenge, said Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, “is not only to keep the channel of communication with Ankara open, but also to ensure that Turkey will not allow the free passage of refugees to Bulgaria.” Continue reading »
Jeff interviews Bulgarian author living in Canada, Philip Lychkov, topics include: Bulgaria under communist rule, the change from socialism to capitalism, state owned businesses, hyperinflation in the west, the situation in Canada, things moving to the East, Canada sells all gold reserves while Eastern countries are buying gold aggressively, a coming economic depression, making preparations for the crisis, pay off your debt! in Bulgaria people thought the government was going to look after them, they were wrong, the end of Europe, the people who prospered during the Bulgarian crisis, precious metals, getting the warning out to others, getting outside the dollar system, what happens after the collapse? Philip Lychkov’s coming book: ‘Surviving Tough Times.’
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Bulgaria’s prime minister firmly ruled out his country’s participation in the proposed NATO fleet in the Black Sea aimed at countering Russian forces in the area: “I don’t need war,” the politician said after Russia promised a response; meanwhile Romania’s president, one of the initiators, has hurriedly backed off.
“I always say that I want the Black Sea to see sailboats, yachts, large boats with tourists and not become an arena of military action… I do not need a war in the Black Sea,” Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said on Thursday referring to the proposal for the NATO fleet in the Black Sea made by Romanian President Klaus Iohannis while visiting Bulgaria on June 15-16.
“Our country will not become part of the Black Sea fleet being prepared against Russia,” Borissov said as quoted by EurActiv.com website. Continue reading »
– War Drums Beating: Bulgaria Blocks Russian Access To Its Airspace For Syria Flights (ZeroHedge, Sep 8, 2015):
On Monday we flagged a notable escalation in the build up to the geopolitical “main event” in Syria where, thanks largely to the West’s ambition to break Gazprom’s leverage over Europe, the US and Russia are one “accidental” run-in away from taking the “proxy” out of the term “proxy war.”
With the Kremlin now ramping up its military presence around the Assad stronghold of Latakia, the US is scrambling to do anything and everything in its power to slow the Russian build up – including putting pressure on Greece to deny Russia the use of its airspace for supply flights to Syria. Continue reading »
– Russia Cuts Off Ukraine Gas Supply To 6 European Countries (ZeroHedge, Jan 14, 2015):
Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian state energy giant Gazprom to cut supplies to and through Ukraine amid accusations, according to The Daily Mail, that its neighbor has been siphoning off and stealing Russian gas. Due to these “transit risks for European consumers in the territory of Ukraine,” Gazprom cut gas exports to Europe by 60%, plunging the continent into an energy crisis “within hours.” Perhaps explaining the explosion higher in NatGas prices (and oil) today, gas companies in Ukraine confirmed that Russia had cut off supply; and six countries reported a complete shut-off of Russian gas. The EU raged that the sudden cut-off to some of its member countries was “completely unacceptable,” but Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller later added that Russia plans to shift all its natural gas flows crossing Ukraine to a route via Turkey; and Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak stated unequivocally, “the decision has been made.” Continue reading »
– Bulgaria – Heavy snowfall leaves 50 villages without power (Ice Age Now, Oct 26, 2014):
Gabrovo and Sevlievo declare emergency because of extremely severe winter conditions. More than fifty villages have no electricity. All roads and passes in the region are blocked.
The main roads in the country are closed, trains are stopped, and thousands of subscribers are without electricity CEZ.
Heavy snow did not stop for ten hours, along with hurricane winds and freezing temperatures. Continue reading »
– Peak Ponzi: Only 13% Of Loans In Bulgaria’s Fourth Largest Bank Had Valid Collateral (ZeroHedge, Oct 22, 2014):
One can debate whether, by virtue of fractional reserve banking, every bank in the world is just a ponzi scheme, and where the stability of the system depends entirely on the level of counterparty faith and general confidence in the system, in other words, a grand con game in which the central bank is tasked with making sure the con works as planned when confidnce gets “a little low.”
One can not debate, however, that a bank had become anything but a pure Ponzi scheme – in this case, a piggybank whose funds were embezzled by its owner as described previously in “Fourth Largest Bulgarian Bank Seized After Bank Run: “Let’s Not Tear Down Our House” Central Banker Begs” – when a token review, only upon its faillure, reveals that 87% of its loans were invalid!
- BULGARIA CENTRAL BANK CORPBANK PRE-JUNE REPORTS ‘MISLEADING’
- BULGARIA CENTRAL BANK SAYS CORPBANK ASSETS ARE 6.7B LEV
- BULGARIA CENTRAL BANK SAYS CORPBANK AUDIT SHOWED ONLY 13 PERCENT OF LOANS HAD VALID COLLATERAL
And more: Continue reading »
– 9 EU countries ready to block economic sanctions against Russia (RT, July 15, 2014):
France, Germany, and Italy are among EU members who don’t want to follow the US lead and impose trade sanctions on Russia. US sanctions are seen as a push to promote its own multibillion free-trade pact with Europe.
“France, Germany, Luxembourg, Austria, Bulgaria, Greece, Cyprus, Slovenia, and EU President Italy see no reason in the current environment for the introduction of sectorial trade and economic sanctions against Russia and at the summit, will block the measure,” a diplomatic source told ITAR-TASS. Continue reading »
– Russia Rushes To Seal Ukraine-Bypassing Gas Pipeline: Lavrov Pays Bulgaria A Visit (ZeroHedge, July 7, 2014):
As we remarked two weeks ago, when observing the recent developments surrounding the suddenly all-important South Stream gas pipeline bypassing Ukraine entirely, and instead traversing the Black Sea before crossing Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and terminating in the Austrian central European gas hub of Baumgarten, we said that all of Europe is suddenly focused on if and how Russia will make headway with a project that may be the most important one for not only Europe’s energy future but the impact Russia will continue to have over Germany et al. And of course, Ukraine. Because should Russia find a way to completely bypass Kiev as a traditional transit hub for Russian gas, it would make the country, and its ongoing civil war, completely irrelevant not only for Russia, but worse, for Europe, the IMF, and Ukraine’s staunch western “supporters and allies” as well.
Showing just how Europe perceives the Russian “South Stream” threat was a comment from a recent NYT article, in which Günther Oettinger, Europe’s top energy official, was quoted as saying that the Ukraine crisis “has slowed down our progress on South Stream considerably… We can’t just give in to the Russians every time.” Alas, since the Russians control the all important gas, Europe has zero choice.
This explains why even as the western media finally remembered over the weekend there was a Ukraine civil war going on following an advance by the Kiev army to retake some rebel strongholds in the Donbas region, with some wondering what if anything Putin would do in retaliation, what Putin, or rather his envoy Sergei Lavrov were actually doing, was completely ignoring the Ukraine situation (where the West has long since conceded the loss of Crimea to the Kremlin) and instead focusing on securing the successful launch of the South Stream (remember: the second South Stream goes online, Ukraine becomes irrelevant). And since Russia already signed another historic agreement with Austria in June, which positioned the AAA-country (with some surprising emerging bank troubles subsequently) squarely against its fellow European peers, it was the turn of the other South Stream countries, namely Bulgaria. Continue reading »
– 18 Signs That The Global Economic Crisis Is Accelerating As We Enter The Last Half Of 2014 (Economic Collapse, June 30, 2014):
A lot of people that I talk to these days want to know “when things are going to start happening”. Well, there are certainly some perilous times on the horizon, but all you have to do is open up your eyes and look to see the global economic crisis unfolding. As you will see below, even central bankers are issuing frightening warnings about “dangerous new asset bubbles” and even the World Bank is declaring that “now is the time to prepare” for the next crisis. Most Americans tend to only care about what is happening in the United States, but the truth is that serious economic trouble is erupting in South America, all across Europe and in Asian powerhouses such as China and Japan. And the endless conflicts in the Middle East could erupt into a major regional war at just about any time. We live in a world that is becoming increasingly unstable, and people need to understand that the period of relative stability that we are enjoying right now is extremely vulnerable and will not last long.
The following are 18 signs that the global economic crisis is accelerating as we enter the last half of 2014… Continue reading »
– Bulgaria Stands Up to EU over Full Ban on GM Crops (Sustainable Pulse, June 3, 2014):
Bulgaria stands categorically against the cultivation of GMO Maize in Europe.
After lengthy debates in the European institutions regarding the cultivation of genetically modified maize (GM Maize) in EU Member States, the case was sent to the EU Court of Justice, which ruled that the prohibition on the use and marketing of genetically modified organisms, such as MON 810 GM Maize, was not supported by EU laws.
– Euro Area Government Debt Rises To New Record High (ZeroHedge, July 22, 2013):
While the European economy may be moving in a straight line from upper left to lower right, the same can not be said for the level of debt in Europe, which has taken on the inverse trajectory. As per the just released quarterly update of Euro area government debt, in Q1 2013, total government debt in Europe as a % of GDP just hit a new all time high of 92.2%. This compares to 90.6% in the previous quarter, and up from 88.2% in Q1 2012.
The proud Q1 debt-to-GDP outliers, where the local economies are expected to continue plunging and thus send the stock markets (if mostly that in the US) surging, are the following: Continue reading »
– By The Numbers: 20 Facts About The Collapse Of Europe That Everyone Should Know (Economic Collapse, Jan 8, 2013):
The economic implosion of Europe is accelerating. Even while the mainstream media continues to proclaim that the financial crisis in Europe has been “averted”, the economic statistics that are coming out of Europe just continue to get worse. Manufacturing activity in Europe has been contracting month after month, the unemployment rate in the eurozone has hit yet another brand new record high, and the official unemployment rates in both Greece and Spain are now much higher than the peak unemployment rate in the United States during the Great Depression of the 1930s. The economic situation in Europe is far worse than it was a year ago, and it is going to continue to get worse as austerity continues to take a huge toll on the economies of the eurozone. It would be hard to understate how bad things have gotten – particularly in southern Europe. The truth is that most of southern Europe is experiencing a full-blown economic depression right now. Sadly, most Americans are paying very little attention to what is going on across the Atlantic. But they should be watching, because this is what happens when nations accumulate too much debt. The United States has the biggest debt burden of all, and eventually what is happening over in Spain, France, Italy, Portugal and Greece is going to happen over here as well.
The following are 20 facts about the collapse of Europe that everyone should know… Continue reading »
– EU’s Poorest Member Country Smacks Down Euro As Bulgaria Refuses To Join Eurozone (ZeroHedge, Sep 3, 2012):
If one needs a shining example of why the days of Europe’s artificial currency are numbered, look no further than the EU’s poorest country which moments ago said “Ne Mersi” to the Eurozone and the European currency. From the WSJ: “Bulgaria, the European Union’s poorest member state and a rare fiscal bright spot for the bloc, has indefinitely frozen long-held plans to adopt the single currency, marking the latest fiscally prudent country to cool its enthusiasm for the embattled currency. Speaking in interviews in Sofia, Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and Finance Minister Simeon Djankov said that the decision to shelve plans to join the currency area, a longtime strategic aim of successive governments in the former communist state, came in response to deteriorating economic conditions and rising uncertainty over the prospects of the bloc, alongside a decisive shift of public opinion in Bulgaria, which is entering its third year of an austerity program. “The momentum has shifted in our thinking and among the public…Right now, I don’t see any benefits of entering the euro zone, only costs,” Mr. Djankov said. “The public rightly wants to know who would we have to bailout when we join? It’s too risky for us and it’s also not certain what the rules are and what are they likely to be in one year or two.“
When a parasitic technocrat asks to shake your hand, you refuse:
Of course, Bulgaria is right: at this point the only “upside” to new EMU entrants is for the unelected Brussels technocrats, who are now the butt of every possible joke, to demand said countries hand over their middle class’ wealth in order to bailout Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Spain, Italy and all the rest of the “wealthy and developed.” And since. in trader jargon, by not being “long” the euro, Bulgaria is effectively “short” it, expect to hear some rather disparaging statements emanating out of Europe’s insolvent core vis-a-vis the poor nation shortly.
From the WSJ:
Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said concerns had been heightened by growing disputes between policy makers, some of whom back Germany’s call to give priority to fiscal discipline over growth, while others want a more expansionary policy.
Helen Caldicott on the Chernobyl cover-up and Fukushima:
– Dr. Helen Caldicott (Co-Founder Of Physicians For Social Responsibility): What We Learned From Fukushima (Video – April 2, 2012)
The Japanese children are ‘dying’ even faster than the Chernobyl children!
Here is Dr. Dörte Siedentopf another member of Physicians For Social Responsibility who visited Belarus 40 times:
– (Complete English Translation) Dr. Dörte Siedentopf, MD: ‘The Worst Thing Is That Authorities Haven’t Learned Anything From Chernobyl’ – ‘I Am Speechless About The Handling Of The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster’ – ‘The People Have Been Systematically Lied To’ – ‘One Can Only Feel Helpless Rage’
Does that mean that NOW 25 years after Chernobyl those people are getting seriously ill who were back then exposed to low-level radiation?
Yes, indeed. Those who have been adults back then survived 25 years and are NOW getting sick. We call it the silent death. Those who have been children back then got sick a lot earlier – often times with fatal consequences.
How do I have to imagine life in those contaminated areas?
Life? Above all there is death, silent death, mainly cancer. People die of all sorts of diseases related to Strontium, affecting for example the heart muscle, whose energy becomes dysfunctional. We have studies from Belarus documenting that already 2-year-old to 4-year-old children die of acute heart failure. It does not have to be cancer. The people die of kidney and liver failure and all kinds of blood diseases, also known as ‘Chernobyl AIDS’.
What does Fukushima, the biggest cover-up in world history, mean for Japan?
– Chernobyl disaster gave football star Stiliyan Petrov cancer, claims Bulgarian doctor (Daily Mail, April 8, 2012):
- Petrov grew up 650 miles from doomed power station
- Toxic cloud passed over his hometown
- Communist leaders in Bulgaria ‘hid threat to kids’
Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov’s cancer was caused by radiation from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster more than 25 years ago, according to his national team’s doctor.
The 32-year-old was diagnosed with acute leukaemia last month.
Dr Mihail Iliev, who has treated Petrov for 14 years in his capacity as Bulgarian national team medic, is blaming a toxic radiation cloud the star was exposed to when he was just six years old.
On April 26, 1986 a power surge in reactor number four caused an explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station in Ukraine, sending a huge plume of radioactive material into the sky.
At the time Stiliyan Petrov was growing up in Montana, Bulgaria, 650 miles away from Chernobyl.
But the cloud of contaminated matter is believed to have passed over the city in the weeks following the disaster.
Dr Iliev, 61, claimed radiation levels in the north of Bulgaria were 1,000 to 1,300 times normal levels in late April, early May 1986.
He said a number of youngsters at the time, or born in the aftermath of the disaster, developed cancer – because Bulgaria’s communist regime failed to tell people about the threat.
Dr. Iliev told The Sun ‘It was in the late spring, the population was eating fresh radioactive vegetables and other foods. Many people who were kids back then suffered cancer because of this.
‘We called them The Chernobyl Kids. Most were born in the same region as Stiliyan.’
Radiation from Chernobyl is known to have caused widespread birth defects across the former Soviet Union, but its effect on the inhabitants of neighboring countries is hard to measure
– Death toll rises as big cold freezes Europe (DPA/Sydney Morning Herald – Feb 11, 2012):
Freezing temperatures left thousands of people stranded without power in the Balkans and elsewhere in Europe on Saturday, as the death toll from one of the coldest winters in years continued to rise.
In Montenegro, the government declared a state of emergency 24 hours into a blizzard that dumped another two metres of snow across the country and cut off access to northern regions. The death toll was expected to rise from three when rescuers reach isolated areas.
In Serbia, the authorities reported three new deaths, raising the overall death toll for the country to 19. An estimated 50,000 people remain isolated in remote villages. The energy situation has become critical, prompting the government to extend a two-day holiday next week to five days, keeping schools closed and cut the power supply to non-essential factories.
In Croatia, an average of 50 centimetres of snow were expected to fall during the weekend, while powerful winds blowing from the sea forced local road authorities to close some sections of the Adriatic highway.
Many villages in mountainous regions in Bosnia have been cut off since the start of the cold spell, nearly two weeks ago.
Temperatures dropped to as low as -32C in Poland’s southern Bieszczady Mountains, while eight people died in house fires, police said.
A further eight people died in Romania, the health ministry said, raising the overall death toll to 65. Tens of thousands of people remained isolated in the south, where the army, police and firefighters were trying to clear access routes and distribute food and water.
Heavy snowfall also hit many parts of Italy – especially its central and southern regions – where six recent deaths have been linked to the cold weather. Several remote villages in the central Marche and Umbria regions remained cut off as a result of unusually high snow levels.
In north-eastern Trieste, at least 10 people were injured when winds with speeds of more than 130 km/h lashed the Adriatic port city. The poor weather forced the cancellation of flights and Serie A football matches.
In northern Bulgaria, trains could not make their way through the deep snow, which the wind has blown on the railways, state radio reported.
The Bulgarian section of the Danube was completely frozen on Saturday, the national Agency for Maintenance of the Danube River said. The Bulgarian Maritime Administration has banned all navigation in the Bulgaria section, including ferries to Romania.
– europe snow blocks in tens of thousands (AFP/Pakistan Daily Times – Feb 11, 2012):
* Death toll from Europe’s big freeze rises past 550
BELGRADE: Snow drifts reaching up to rooftops kept tens of thousands of villagers prisoners in their own homes Saturday as the death toll from Europe’s big freeze rose past 550.
– Europe’s Danube freezes over, cold snap toll at 460 (ZEENEWS, Feb. 11, 2012):
Belgrade: Thick ice closed vast swathes of the Danube on Thursday, crippling shipping on Europe’s busiest waterway, as the death toll from bitter cold across the continent rose to at least 460.
As it has every day for nearly two weeks, the brutal cold claimed lives in several countries and killed dozens more in weather-related accidents.
The 2,860-kilometre Danube, which flows through 10 countries and is vital for transport, power, irrigation, industry and fishing, was wholly or partially blocked from Austria to its mouth on the Black Sea.
– Deadly freeze moves west across Europe (Al Jazeera, Feb. 5, 2012)
More than 250 people have been killed across Europe as a potentially worsening week-long cold snap shifts west, blanketing large parts of the continent with snow.
Forecasters on Sunday predicted the deep freeze, which has already forced Bosnia to declare a state of emergency and airports to close, will continue.
The death toll included hundreds of homeless people who have frozen to death in what has become the harshest European winter in decades.
Russian gas exporter Gazprom, which supplies fuel to much of Europe, said it would be unable to meet increased European demands and had reduced supplies “for a few days” to ease the crisis in Russia.
Snow fell on Rome’s Colosseum for the first time in three decades, disrupting air and rail travel, and Venice’s famous canals have frozen over.
About 160,000 people in central and southern Italy were without electricity, and power company Enel said 1,000 workers were trying to fix damaged power lines.
Bodies on the streets
In Ukraine, where at least 122 people have died, the most in Europe, 78 bodies have been found on the streets. Night- time temperatures there have dropped to -33C.
Metro stations in the capital, Kiev, have become sanctuaries of warmth for the homeless.
–163 dead as cold snap grips Europe (AFP, Feb. 2, 2012):
WARSAW — A cold snap kept Europe in its icy grip Thursday, pushing the death toll to 163 as countries from Ukraine to Italy struggled with temperatures that plunged to record lows in some places.
Entire villages were cut off in parts of eastern Europe, trapping thousands, while road, air and rail links were severed and gas consumption shot up during what has been the severest winter in decades in some regions.
In Ukraine, tens of thousands headed to shelters to escape the freeze that emergencies services said has killed 63 people — most of them frozen to death in the streets, some succumbing to the hypothermia later in hospitals.
– Code Red declared in Bulgaria under Road Traffic Act: minister (Focus News, Jan 26, 2012):
Sofia. “I declare Code Red for the entire country under the Road Traffic Act,” Bulgarian Minister of Regional Development and Public Works Lilyana Pavlova announced at a press conference, FOCUS News Agency reporter informs.
The traffic of freight vehicles of more than 10 tons is suspended throughout the entire country. No heavy-freight vehicles will be allowed to cross the Bulgarian border.
The ban is valid only for heavy-freight vehicles of more than 10 tons and not for buses and cars.
“In some places the snow-cover reaches 2 meters,” the minister remarked.
– Road closures, power cuts as Bulgaria buckles under weight of snow (Sofia Echo, Jan. 27 2012):
Weighed down by heavy snow, Bulgaria woke up on January 27 2012 to closed roads, snow drifts of up to two metres and 121 villages without electricity.
The situation in Rousse remained severe, Bulgarian National Television said.
Efforts were being made to restore traffic access for lorries bound for Romania while at border crossings with Greece and Turkey, lorries were being held at parking bays.
States of emergency had been declared on January 26 in Svoge, Lovech, Ivanovo, Lisichevo, Batak, Velingrad and Popovo.
– Romanian-Bulgarian border closed due to heavy snow (Romania Business Insider, Jan. 26, 2012):
The border between Romania and Bulgaria was closed due to the bad weather conditions, according to the Bulgarian Regional Development Minister Lilyana Pavlova, quoted by Novinite.com.
The Giugiu-Bucharest border crossing is closed for all vehicles due to the heavy snow. All transit traffic from Greece and Turkey via Bulgaria to Romania has also been stopped, Lilyana Pavlova added.
– Sudden winter weather causes Bulgarian mayhem (Terra Daily/AFP, Oct. 18, 2011):
A sudden onset of harsh winter conditions caused transport chaos in Bulgaria on Tuesday, with one man freezing to death, eight people missing in mountains, 600 villages without power and schools closed.
A 73-year-old man chopping wood in southeastern Bulgaria died on the way to hospital after being snowbound overnight along with 15 other Roma, including eight children, authorities said.
Six hikers including two children plus two rescue workers were missing in the Balkan mountain range near the eastern city of Sliven, where a tempest blew over trees and fences, even lifting roofs off buildings.
Hundreds of vehicles including lorries without winter tyres were stranded along mountain roads, while two trains carrying 100 people were stuck in snowdrifts 10 hours after setting off.
– Radioactive mushrooms contaminated in Chernobyl disaster seized at British port (Daily Mail, June 11 2011):
A ton of mushrooms containing ten times the safe level of a radioactive metal has been seized and destroyed by health chiefs.
The Bulgarian consignment of dried wild mushrooms is thought to have been irradiated by caesium 137 from the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine 25 years ago.
It was found by a UK Border Agency team looking for illegal immigrants and impounded before it reached the shops.
Levels of radiation are measured in becquerels. The EU sets a maximum limit for caesium 137 in food of 600 becquerels per kilogram – double the level in Japan.
But the amount of radioactivity found in the mushrooms destined for British families was more than 6,000 becquerels.
Caesium 137 causes genetic mutations in humans and animals. Eating food contaminated with the radioactive metal can lead to cancer or cause deformities in developing babies.
“They want your f€€€ing retirement money!” – George Carlin (2005)
Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Ireland and France take over citizens’ pension money to make up government budget shortfalls.
People’s retirement savings are a convenient source of revenue for governments that don’t want to reduce spending or make privatizations. As most pension schemes in Europe are organised by the state, European ministers of finance have a facilitated access to the savings accumulated there, and it is only logical that they try to get a hold of this money for their own ends. In recent weeks I have noted five such attempts: Three situations concern private personal savings; two others refer to national funds.
The most striking example is Hungary, where last month the government made the citizens an offer they could not refuse. They could either remit their individual retirement savings to the state, or lose the right to the basic state pension (but still have an obligation to pay contributions for it). In this extortionate way, the government wants to gain control over $14bn of individual retirement savings.
The Bulgarian government has come up with a similar idea. $300m of private early retirement savings was supposed to be transferred to the state pension scheme. The government gave way after trade unions protested and finally only about 20% of the original plans were implemented.
A slightly less drastic situation is developing in Poland. The government wants to transfer of 1/3 of future contributions from individual retirement accounts to the state-run social security system. Since this system does not back its liabilities with stocks or even bonds, the money taken away from the savers will go directly to the state treasury and savers will lose about $2.3bn a year. The Polish government is more generous than the Hungarian one, but only because it wants to seize just 1/3 of the future savings and also allows the citizens to keep the money accumulated so far.
The fourth example is Ireland. In 2001, the National Pension Reserve Fund was brought into existence for the purpose of supporting pensions of the Irish people in the years 2025-2050. The scheme was also supposed to provide for the pensions of some public sector employees (mainly university staff). However, in March 2009, the Irish government earmarked €4bn from this fund for rescuing banks. In November 2010, the remaining savings of €2.5bn was seized to support the bailout of the rest of the country.
The final example is France. In November, the French parliament decided to earmark €33bn from the national reserve pension fund FRR to reduce the short-term pension scheme deficit. In this way, the retirement savings intended for the years 2020-2040 will be used earlier, that is in the years 2011-2024, and the government will spend the saved up resources on other purposes.
SOFIA (Reuters) – There were some embarrassed faces at Bulgaria’s tax office on Thursday after an investigation found more than 400 tax inspectors had failed to pay their traffic fines.
The Balkan nation has launched a crackdown on civil servants who don’t pay what they owe, as part of plans to stamp out rampant fraud and raise revenues during the recession, the national revenue agency said.
Those tax officials caught will have money deducted from their February salaries to pay the fines.
More than 50,000 civil servants also face being checked for unpaid taxes and fines in March, a sign of the pressure Sofia is under at home and abroad to demonstrate results in its fight against graft and crime.
In July the European Union is due assess the government’s record and failure to show progress could threaten access to more EU aid after in 2008 Brussels froze millions in aid over fraud. Continue reading »
Our third global political column explores the start of an age of rebellion over the financial crisis – beginning in Iceland
Icelanders vented their fury at the political class’s handling of the financial crisis by staging angry protests in Reykjavik (Halldor Kolbeins/AFP/Getty Images)
Icelanders all but stormed their Parliament last night. It was the first session of the chamber after what might appear to be an unusually long Christmas break.
Ordinary islanders were determined to vent their fury at the way that the political class had allowed the country to slip towards bankruptcy. The building was splattered with paint and yoghurt, the crowd yelled and banged pans, fired rockets at the windows and lit a bonfire in front of the main door. Riot police moved in.
Related article: Icelanders held over angry demo (BBC News)
Now in the grand sweep of the current crisis, a riot on a piece of volcanic rock in the north Atlantic may not seem to add up to much. But it is a sign of things to come: a new age of rebellion.
The financial meltdown has become part of the real economy and is now beginning to shape real politics. More and more citizens on the edge of the global crisis are taking to the streets. Bulgaria has been gripped this month by its worst riots since 1997 when street power helped to topple a Socialist government. Now Socialists are at the helm again and are having to fend off popular protests about government incompetence and corruption.
In Latvia – where growth has been in double-digit figures for years – anger is bubbling over at official mismanagement. GDP is expected to contract by 5 per cent this year; salaries will be cut; unemployment will rise. Last week, in a country where demonstrators usually just sing and then go home, 10,000 people besieged parliament.
Iceland, Bulgaria, Latvia: these are not natural protest cultures. Something is going amiss.
The LSE economist Robert Wade – addressing a protest meeting in Reykjavik’s cinema – recently warned that the world was approaching a new tipping point. Starting from March-May 2009, we can expect large-scale civil unrest, he said. “It will be caused by the rise of general awareness throughout Europe, America and Asia that hundreds of millions of people in rich and poor countries are experiencing rapidly falling consumption standards; that the crisis is getting worse not better; and that it has escaped the control of public authorities, national and international.”
MOSCOW – Riots broke out once again in the Baltic states on Friday, this time in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, where a group of 7,000 gathered to protest planned economic austerity measures. A smaller group began throwing eggs and stones through the windows of government buildings until the police moved in, using tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd.
The episode was nearly identical to one on Tuesday in Latvia, when a peaceful protest of 10,000 people erupted into violence. And on Wednesday, a gathering of 2,000 in Sofia, the Bulgarian capital, began throwing stones and snowballs at the Parliament building, calling for the nation’s leaders to resign.
In all three countries, years of steady economic growth have come to a jarring halt, and citizens are facing layoffs and cuts in wages. In each case, the authorities were left wondering whether they were facing organized activism or just the anger of people whose expectations have been disappointed. “I think this is just the beginning,” said Anders Aslund, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. “We should expect this to happen in many places.”
– Latvia Is Shaken by Riots Over Its Weak Economy (New York Times)
– Recession sparks riots in Sofia and Riga (Irish Times)
– Protests spread in Europe amid economic crisis (Los Angeles Times)
Like its neighbor, Latvia, Lithuania has enjoyed a reputation as a “Baltic Tiger,” buoyed by foreign investment, a housing boom and annual growth rates of around 8 percent. Although Lithuania is not facing as dire an outlook as Latvia, economists predict a 5 percent drop in gross domestic product there next year, and the newly elected Parliament has announced tough austerity measures: workers in the public sector will see pay cuts of up to 15 percent, pensions will fall and an array of taxes will rise.
Ukraine, Hungary, and Serbia are all in emergency talks with the International Monetary Fund, raising fears that an exodus of foreign investors will set off a systemic crisis across Eastern Europe.
A team of IMF trouble-shooters rushed to Kiev on Wednesay to draw up a possible standby loan to help Ukraine stabilize its bank after a panic run on deposits this month. Continue reading »
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