tive, then inching up to 1.3 percent in 2018 and 1.5 percent in 2019, the ECB said in its quarterly Survey of Professional Forecasters. “There are no signs yet of a convincing upward trend in underlying inflation,” Draghi told a press conference on Thursday after reviewing the survey’s results. “Measures of underlying inflation are expected to rise more gradually over the medium term.” Inflation has been far below the ECB’s target for years with at least Ireland still in deflation, and Cyprus, Greece and Italy recording close to zero price growth, illustrating that the bloc is far from fully recovering from one of the worst financial crises for decades.
Bulgaria and Serbia on Thursday signed a memorandum of understanding to work together for the construction of a natural gas pipeline to link the Balkan neighbors to boost security of supplies and reduce their strong reliance on Russian gas. “This is a very important day for Serbia and Bulgaria,” Serbian Energy Minister Aleksandar Antic said after signing the memorandum with his Bulgarian counterpart Temenuzhka Petkova. The two countries plan to begin the construction of the 150-kilometer gas interconnector link by May 2019 and have it operational by the end of 2020. Bulgaria has already drafted a technical plan for the 61 km of the pipeline that will link Sofia with the Serbian city of Nis. Serbia, which hopes to wrap up its EU membership talks by 2019, is under pressure from Brussels to reduce its dependence on Russian gas, which accounts for more than 80 percent of its needs, to join the bloc. Bulgaria, which still gets more than 95 percent of its gas from Russia’s Gazprom, has opened a gas link with neighboring Romania and is working to connect its gas network with neighboring Greece and Turkey to diversify its suppliers.