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Bulgarian agriculture minister resigns amid guest houses probe

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Bulgarian Agriculture Minister Rumen Porozhanov has resigned, the latest senior official to step down amid scandals involving purchases of luxury properties and the building of guest houses with EU aid for private use.

Several senior officials have resigned amid scandals about the purchase of upscale apartments at below-market prices and the construction with EU funds of guest houses for private use.

The Bulgarian government said the country’s agriculture minister has resigned amid allegations about the misuse of European Union funds. A government statement Wednesday says that while Rumen Porozhanov denies wrongdoing, he has stepped down to avoid attacks against him affecting the government’s work.

Porozhanov resigned two weeks after prosecutors launched a large-scale probe into possible fraud with EU rural development aid at over 700 guest houses.

Local media reported that Porozhanov bought a spacious apartment in 2004 at well-below market price. Other reports said he had failed to properly declare real estate deals carried out by his wife in 2017.

Porozhanov has denied any wrongdoing and told Prime Minister Boyko Borissov he did not want the attacks against him to influence the work of the center-right government, the government press office said in a statement

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Skiathos island authorities charging up to EUR1.000 fine for taking rare beach pebbles

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Tourists could be fined up to 1.000 euros for taking pebbles as souvenirs from a Greek beach.

Lalaria Beach on the island of Skiathos, accessible only by boat, is extremely popular with holidaymakers, who have been known to fill their pockets with unique pebbles as free souvenirs.

But officials on the Greek island are worried that too many of the stones have been taken leading to a dramatic change in the landscape of the shoreline in the past 10 years.

And now the port authorities have introduced fines of between EUR400 and EUR1.000 for people who take pebbles without permission.

Signs have been placed around the Lalaria beach telling tourists: ‘Take pictures, not pebbles.’ Posters have also been given to boat operators and fishermen in the area so the message can be spread across Greece.

In cooperation with the port authorities, the Cultural Association of Skiathos launched a campaign entitled:  “Take a Picture, not a Pebble – Save Lalaria Beach!”

“The alteration of the landscape has been noticeable in the last ten years and is up to a certain degree irreversible,” the cultural association says on its website. The protection of the beach is necessary to maintain at least the present condition without further deterioration, the association said.

The beach in the north-east of Skiathos is accessible only by boat.

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Panagiotopoulos: Honoring Prespa accord will bring better future

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Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos said on Wednesday the mutual respect for the Prespa Agreement without concessions would yield positive result and contribute to a better future.

Earlier in the day, Panagiotopoulos told the Economist Conference in Athens that he does not challenge the intent of the agreement. We are all aware of the concept of good faith, the purpose of the agreement is to strengthen the stability in the region and geopolitical foundations.

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Greek Foreign Minister meets U.S. State Secretary

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Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias will meet with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington July 17. The two will discuss topics of bilateral, regional and international interest.

During his two-day stay in Washington, Dendias will meet with White House national security advisor John Bolton, Senator Bob Menendez, and will participate in ministerial meeting on religious freedom.

Secretary Pompeo will host the second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, in Washington on July 16-18. The Ministerial will reaffirm international commitments to promote religious freedom for all and focus on concrete outcomes that produce durable, positive change. A broad range of stakeholders, including senior government representatives, international organization representatives, religious leaders, and civil society activists will convene to discuss challenges, identify concrete ways to combat religious persecution and discrimination, and ensure greater respect for freedom of religion or belief.

This year’s Ministerial seeks to further conversations from last year’s event and recent regional conferences. Representatives of up to 1000 civil society and religious community from every corner of the world are exected to participate.

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