Yesterday President Zhelyu Zhelev signed a decree imposing his suspensory veto on the amendments to the Agricultural Land Tenure Act, also known as the Land Act, for the second time. The amendments were passed by the parliamentary majority of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) on April 14, 1995. The opposition walked out of Parliament and insisted that the President exercise his constitutional right to a suspensory veto. Under the Constitution, Parliament cannot refuse to reconsider vetoed legislation and may adopt it again, but by a majority of 50 percent of the votes of all the MPs. The ruling BSP has 125 MPs in the 240-seat Parliament and it is expected that the Land Act amendments will be adopted again. The President motivated his decision to veto the Land Act amendments in a written objection of eight pages. In his opinion, the amendments will actually halt agrarian reform, they will render all that has been achieved so far meaningless and cause uncertainty in Bulgaria's economic life. According to the President, certain texts of the amendments arbitrarily deprive people of their property rights in violation of the Constitution. He points out that the amendments will hinder the establishment of a free land market, they will curtail the freedom of the disposal of property and the freedom of association. There are conflicting passages and inaccurately worded texts which will impede the application of the Amendment Act.
The National Bank of Bulgaria (BNB) reduced the base interest rate twice within a month. From the record-high 72% set in September 1994, it dropped by 7 points down to 65% as of April 10 and further down to 60% as of April 25. The reduction was preconditioned by the drop of inflation in the first three months of 1995 and the expectations for this trend to persist. Inflation dropped to 3.4% in March - down from 3.9% in January and 3.8% in February, and in April it is expected to be under 3%. Mladenov believes the policy of reduction of the base interest rate (BIR) will turn into a long-term strategy if inflation remains at sustainable low levels. The new BIR will keep interests on deposits positive, i.e. inflation will not eat away deposits of members of the public, as was the case in 1994. With an inflation of 11.43% in January - March, the real interest rate (nominal interest rate minus inflation rate) payable on short-term deposits was 2.86% and that on short-term loans 9.23%. For the whole 1994 the real interest rate on deposits was minus 25.67%, and on loans minus 8.87%, Mileti Mladenov went on to say. He believes leva deposits will not become less attractive for members of the public even though commercial banks are sure to reduce interest rates on them by 5 to 8 points. The 1995 national budget should set the annual BIR at 51%. Bulgaria's economy has entered a period of dropping interest rates and inflation, stabilizing national currency, relative growth of production, export and Gross Domestic Product. Bank experts say BNB's restrictive policy in 1994 was one of the major causes for having today these trends. A further factor was the hiking US dollar in 1994 - from 31.755 leva on January 3 to 66.014 leva on December 30 - that boosted exports, which in turn pushed up production and increased producers' revenues.
CALLS - Sofia, April 27 (BTA) - Bulgaria's non-nuclear status should underlie the Bulgarian laws and its official national security doctrine said Hristo Smolyanov, parliamentary secretary of the Ministry of Defense at a briefing today. He is member of the commission working on the national security doctrine. Smolyanov is known as one of the founders of environmental movements in the late 80s, including of Ecoglasnost. The idea for Bulgaria's non-nuclear status was launched for the first time by Smolyanov at a briefing two weeks ago. This status envisages rejection of nuclear weapons deployment and transportation across the territory of this country. In this connection the parliamentary secretary of the Ministry of Defense stressed the danger of Bulgaria's commitment to an "unconditional" wish for NATO membership (as formulated in a draft resolution moved in parliament by representatives of the opposition). Smolyanov called on the public for "open-mindedness" on national security issues so that legislative measures are taken guaranteeing their immunity to political conjuncture and to the ambitions of individual personalities. The idea of overlapping security guarantees which emerged independently in several East European states, including Bulgaria, is coming to be viewed as one of the possible ways for guaranteeing European and later on global security. That was how Smolyanov commented in reports in the press that at yesterday's meeting with National Assembly Chairman Blagovest Sendov in Moscow, Vyacheslav Nikonov, chairman of the subcommittee on international security, said that Russia may give unilateral military security guarantees and the chairman of the Foreign Policy Committee of the State Duma said that a general security system may be efficient only in the presence of overlapping guarantees.
Sofia, April 27 (BTA) - At today's closed meeting the Government considered a package of measures to fight crime, Minister of Justice Mladen Chervenyakov told reporters at the Government Press Office. The Cabinet assigned the Minister of Justice and the Minister of the Interior to submit reports about the actions taken by their ministries and a program for their future actions aimed to combat crime by the beginning of May 1995. According to Minister Chervenyakov, vesting the police with investigative powers is the most urgent measure for fighting crime. This will make it necessary to amend Article 128 of the Constitution, which stipulates that preliminary investigations are conducted by the judicial authorities. He said the political forces had reached a consensus on the matter. "The bill amending the State Insurance Institute Act is nearing completion, " the Minister of Justice said. In his view, when the bill is adopted, the insurance companies will have to re-register themselves, which will throw light on their activities. He added that a bill preventing money laundering was also being drafted. Minister Chervenyakov believes that a number of chances to crack down on organized crime have been missed. "Now the Government has got to cope with a criminal underworld that is organized to a high degree, " the Minister said, though he did not used the word "mafia".
At a regular meeting today the Council of Ministers entitled Bulgaria's permanent representative to the Council of Europe to sign the Convention to prevent spectator violence at sports events, adopted in Strasbourg on August 19, 1985.
Health Minister Mimi Vitkova will lead the Bulgarian delegation to the 48th session of the General Assembly of the World Health Organization on May 1-12 in Geneva. The Cabinet approved the position of the delegation.
The third conference within the process "Environment for Europe" to be held in Sofia on October 23-25 will be organized by a national preparatory committee under the auspices of Prime Minister Zhan Videnov. The ministers did not vote a decision on whether the conference will be financed from the national budget or from the national fund for environment protection. The Finance Ministry objected the estimates, presented by the Environment Ministry, according to which the event needed financing of 15 million leva.
The Cabinet discussed a project for 1994-1995 PHARE program. PHARE has proposed to grant ECU 12 million for a program for the promotion of transport, ECU 4.2 million for environment, ECU 3 million for mass privatization, ECU 5 million for nuclear safety, ECU 3 million for telecommunications, ECU 3.4 million for conventional power engineering and ECU 1.2 million for a program for the development of the civil society.
The Council of Ministers will propose to President Zhelev to award the Russian academician Dmitrii Sergeevich Lihachev with the Madara Horseman order in connection with May 24, the day of Bulgarian education, culture, and the Slavonic script. The proposal is motivated with the academician's indisputable contributions to the development of Bulgarian studies and the promotion of Cyril and Methodius' cause around the world.
The Council of Ministers will propose to the President to issue a decree appointing colonel Ivan Dimov (Ret.) Director of the National Police to replace the resigned colonel Hristo Gatsov.
At its regular meeting today, the Council of Ministers adopted in principle a new ordinance on doping control in sports competitions and training in Bulgaria. Under the Ordinance, a national will be in charge of the direction and conduct of doping control. In the event of detected use of banned substances or refusal to take a dope test or an attempt to mislead the Commission in giving a sample for analysis, the National Commission will recommend to the governing bodies of the federations, unions or organizations concerned to cancel the disputed result and suspend the competitor for two years. The following penalties will be imposed for proven oral use for therapeutic purposes of ephedrine, phenylpropanolamine, pseudoephedrine and codeine in combination with styptics and antihistamines: up to three months suspension for a first offense, two years for a second offense and sine die for a third offense. The penalties will be imposed by a decision of the governing bodies of the sports federations, unions, organizations and clubs within one month after the date of detection of the violation..
"The national human development report is intended to draw a completely objective and free of any political affiliations outline of the current state of the human development in Bulgaria, " the report's national coordinator Prof. Dr. Nikolai Genov told a news conference presenting the document. The Bulgaria 1995 human development report is a continuation of the world reports on that issue, published on an annual basis by the 1991 United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The report presents a calculated national index of generalized data about the Gross Domestic Product, education level and life expectancy. Detailed analysis and calculations draw a highly unfavorable picture of human development in the country and the index shows also a negative tendency, Mr. Genov said. In 1991 world report Bulgaria ranks 33rd in terms of human development among the countries in the world (according to figures of the 1980s). According to the development index in the national report, Bulgaria has receded to 56-60 position, closer to the developing, rather than to the developed countries, Prof. Genov believes. The tendency is manifested in all spheres of human activity, which directly concern human development. The economic situation in the country has worsened considerably. In 1994 the Gross Domestic Product was two- thirds of its 1990 levels. Industrial production dropped nearly 50 per cent. The population is undergoing economic stratification and is getting poorer. This has chiefly resulted from the collapse of the structural reform and most of all from the delay in the lawful denationalization of property. The richest 10 per cent of the population receive 24 per cent of the total amount of incomes, while the poorest 10 per cent get 3.2 per cent. The fast enrichment of a small part of the society was realized by transferring the economic burden of the transition onto the retired, the unemployed, the people with low qualification, the employed in the state-financed sector and certain ethnic groups. Unemployment is high and will keep this trend. Half a million unemployed were registered at the end of 1994. With 9.54 school grades completed on the average by persons over 25 years of age, Bulgaria stands good positions in the world charts in terms of education. The funds allocated for education are practically diminishing. In the same period the number of schoolchildren dropped 16.7 per cent because of low birth rate and early drop out. According to the report, the number of illiterate is expected to grow. Students have gone up, however those paying tuition fee account for the larger number. The quality of education is also a grave problem. The illnesses of the poor returned to Bulgaria, sick rate and death rate have grown. The 5.4 per cent proportion of health allocations of the GDP places Bulgaria far behind the developed states and even from the average world rate of 8.6 per cent, the report says. A paradoxical consequence from the economic crisis is the relative improvement of the ecological conditions. This is due to the reduced industrial and agricultural production. Bulgaria has been experiencing an outburst of crime which, in the conditions of unemployment and crisis is a national disaster. With an average of 50, 000 crimes per year in the previous decade, in 1994 were registered nearly 223, 000 crimes. Every second crime was uncovered in 1980s, while in 1994 the number is one in 39. The reasons for the current state of human development in Bulgaria is to be sought with the spontaneous, disorganized and on certain occasions irresponsible way of realizing the changes in the country, the report says. Strasbourg. April 27 - This afternoon the Bulgarian delegation to the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly gave a news conference for the Bulgarian journalists covering the parliamentary session. Filip Bokov, head of the delegation, said that Prime Minister Zhan Videnov's speech, delivered earlier this week at the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly, had made a positive impression. The MPs explained their vote on yesterday's recommendation to the Committee of Ministers concerning Turkey's military operation in Northern Iraq and the fulfillment of the commitments for constitutional and legislative reform. It can be seen from the minutes of the roll-call vote, circulated today, that five of the six Bulgarian MPs - Filip Bokov, Ivan Genov and Elena Poptodorova (of the Bulgarian Socialist Party), Yasho Minkov (of the Bulgarian Business Bloc) and Yunal Lyutfi (of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms) voted for the recommendation, while Vassil Gotsev (of the Union of Democratic Forces) abstained. Yunal Lyutfi said he would ask to make a correction in the minutes because in fact he had abstained from voting. The cause for this misunderstanding was his belated entry in the hall. He explained his abstention by saying it was difficult to make an unambiguous decision in such a complicated situation. In Lyutfi's opinion, the Parliamentary Assembly Council of Europe should send a commission to Northern Iraq. "This is the third or fourth entry of Turkish troops in Iraq to destroy PKK camps in the last ten years, but this has been done with Saddam Husein's consent before, " Yunal Lyutfi said. Filip Bokov stated that the recommendation was designed to "help those forces in Turkey that stand for democracy and constitutional reform and oppose the aggression of Northern Iraq". "Turkey has been promising for a long time to amend its Constitution and the Penal Code under which the Kurdish MPs were convicted, " he recalled. "The discussion revolved around the problem if it is acceptable to fight against terrorism in this way. Entering the territory of another state should be done only with the consent of the United Nations Security Council, " Bokov added. MP Yasho Minkov of the Bulgarian Business Bloc said that the way of voting cannot depend on one's party affiliation, it is an expression of one's moral position.
All dailies are unanimous that only a miracle could stand in Bulgaria's way to the 1996 European Football Championship in Britain. On Wednesday the Bulgarians knocked out Moldova in Chisinau 3-0 in a Group 7 qualifier. This was the Bulgarians' fifth victory in a row in this group which they now top with 15 points and a 15:2 goal difference after the Germans drew at home against Wales. Yordan Lechkov, who is playing for the German Hamburg SV, said after the match that he is certain he will play on Wembley next year. "I think this team has the potential of snatching the European title, " said Lechkov who is as a rule extremely cautious in making prognostications. "The Football Lion Roared Once Again, This Time in Moldova, Startling Europe Out of Its Sleep", runs an emotional headline in "Zemya" capping a report of the latest Bulgarian football triumph. Senior coach Dimiter Penev said that the Moldovan team played well, that it has good players and that it was a team with a future. Penev was more moderate in his prognostications and unlike the footballers spoke of an 80% chance for qualifying for the European finals. Moldovan coach Ion Karas, cited by "Douma", admitted that the Bulgarians' victory was well-deserved and said that it is difficult to play against a well greased machine. The two goals scored by European Footballer of the Year Hristo Stoichkov are described here as brilliant. "Standart News" calls his second goal from close range "a masterpiece". Bulgaria's victory in Chisinau meant one more happy night for long-suffering Bulgaria, the opposition "Demokratsiya" daily writes. Socialist Prime Minister Zhan Videnov cabled his congratulations on board the plane on which the Bulgarians returned late on Wednesday evening. The Prime Minister said that Bulgaria was proud of its boys and wished them many victories.
Projections set the 1995 commercial exchange between Bulgaria and Russia at $ 2, 000 million - 2, 500 million, "Douma" says. The 1994 trade between the two countries amounted to $ 1, 600 million. Bulgaria imported from Russia goods and services worth $ 1, 200 million, while Bulgarian exports to that country amounted to $ 4 million. For third year in a row, Bulgaria posts a deficit in its trade with Russia.
Nearly half of the private companies registered in Bulgaria are letter-box companies. Of a total of 415, 000 registered small and medium-sized private firms, only 170, 000 - 200, 000 are actually operating on the Bulgarian market, "Standart News" says quoting Plamen Puchev, consultant at the National Bank of Bulgaria (BNB). According to him, private entrepreneurs receive 100, 000 to 400, 000 leva in bank loans. The loans are extended for a period of several days to three months at the most, and go mostly for current assets. 36% of the small and medium-sized companies operate in the sphere of services, 20% trade and only 10% produce. A recent poll showed that 59% of Bulgarians are reluctant to start their own business because of irregularities in settlements and unacceptable lending terms. About 70% of the respondents describe the lending terms as unfavorable. In 1994 private businesses reported a turnover of 38, 000 million leva, or 56.7% of Bulgaria's overall turnover for 1994. According to cabinet data, this figure is 30%, but Puchev claims this is an underestimate, "Standart News" says.