FORUM

BUBBLE TROUBLE

An intriguing fact appeared in The Guinness Book of Records 2004. Bulgaria featured as the country with the fastest rising real estate prices in the world, with an annual rate of increase of 47 percent. Some believed that it was just a one-day wonder, a bubble which would burst very soon. Others, who knew better, rushed to buy real estate properties in Bulgaria. In 2006 "the bubble" is growing bigger and bigger. Some Western European experts have even compared the developments in the Bulgarian market to the early days of the Spanish property boom in the 1980s.

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SETTING UP A COMPANY

But while this may sound horribly complicated at first, armed with the relevant information and documents, you should find the whole process relatively quick and painless.

Taxation and company matters can be confusing enough in your own country, but when you're abroad and trying to adhere to, and understand, a completely different set of rules, it can be a huge headache. Bulgaria's penchant for applying rules differently in various regions of the countrycan also complicate matters. Engaging a local lawyer should be the quickest way to get your business up and running.

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RAMADAN 2006

The Muslim month of fasting called Ramadan, or Ramazan in Turkish, began on 24 September. Muslims believe that on one of the days toward the end of the month - the 25, 27 or 29, it is not known exactly which - the Prophet Muhammad received the first revelations of the Qur'an from Allah.

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STASI LEGACY TOPPLES MINISTERS IN GERMANY

When Marianne Birthler, a well-known former member of East Germany's dissident movement, appears in public she is inevitably the focus of attention and captivates the audience. The present-day head of the STASI Records Office has what is called "strong stage presence". However, the recent increase of interest in her institution's work is not due to this quality alone. Seventeen years after the STASI headquarters in Berlin were stormed, the archives of Erich Mielke, then the German Democratic Republic's Minister of State Security, still trouble the mind of unified Germany.

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HORO-ING FOR THE PRESIDENCY

To make the ideal Bulgarian president, take one liberal helping of wild masculine beauty, preferably Marlon Brando style, and stir in generous amounts of energy and wealth until smooth. Add an Oxford diploma, a sprinkling of easily-invoked nostalgia and a large pinch of dedication to family and children. Mix thoroughly. Subtract 20 years from the usual age of a president, and add the mien of a Man Booker Prize winner - that of having important things to convey, but saying little.

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THE GREAT BORDER DEBATE

British journalist and Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee recently cautioned the public against confusing the British government's overall policy on immigration with the issue of work permits.

Diagnosed politically as "enlargement fatigue", Britain's decidedly negative attitude towards the next two EU-bound countries, Bulgaria and Romania, appears to be the result of the British public's discontent with government policy on a range of border-based issues, rather than an actual aversion to Polish plumbers.

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ALMOST, BUT NOT QUITE

Sitting here with my purple foot resting gingerly on the terrace chair, I look back on my first month or so in Sofia. While reflecting on my experiences here in my attempt to get my head round the place, I find that the more I try to come up with a word to sum up the city, the more I can only come up with "almost, but not quite". OK, that's a phrase, but it kind of works. Sofia is a well-cut Kenzo suit... with white socks. It's a land of contrasts.

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TSAR HRISTO VERSUS SAN MARCO

As a preliminary test of my Orange nationalism I went to watch Lokomotiv Sofia play against Feyenoord Rotterdam. I was pleasantly surprised that I felt very good about the goals scored by the Bulgarians, although my local teams in Holland and Bulgaria are Ajax and Levski.

But what about THE BIG GAME? The question remained: should I back the Dutch favourites or dress in red, white and green and cheer for my new brethren?

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LORD OF THE RUBBISH

Recently, some Internet jokers posted a list of little known facts about the mayor of Sofia, Boyko Borisov. Among these were that he never wears a watch because he decides what time it is, that he is the only man to have won a tennis match against a brick wall, and that he never sleeps, but waits.

It is fair to say that our mayor has something of a reputation as a hardman. A brief look at his résumé shows why.

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FIRST IMPRESSIONS DON'T LAST!

My first brush with Bulgarian bureaucracy was at the Bulgarian consulate in Greece. My partner and I happened to see different consuls and were each told we needed a different set of paperwork for our Bulgarian visas. What! Surely there must be one set of criteria that everyone must follow?

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