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News from Bulgaria / Jan 24, 96

From: bulgaria@access1.digex.net (Embassy of Bulgaria)

Bulgarian Telegraph Agency Directory

EMBASSY OF BULGARIA - WASHINGTON D.C.

BTA - BULGARIAN TELEGRAPH AGENCY

BULLETIN OF NEWS FROM BULGARIA


CONTENTS

  • [01] PARLIAMENT ELECTED NEW TRADE AND AGRICULTURE MINISTERS

  • [02] CONSTITUTIONAL COURT TO HEAR LOCAL TAXES CASE

  • [03] GERMAN MP ERLER IN SOFIA

  • [04] PM VIDENOV, OPPOSITION LEADER KOSTOV ON YESTERDAY'S

  • [05] BULGARIAN TRADE UNIONIST ON SIMEON II'S VISIT TO

  • [06] MRF: BULGARIAN OPPOSITION TO MEET

  • [07] WORLD BANK MISSION HOLDS TALKS IN SOFIA

  • [08] COUNCIL OF EUROPE PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY: MINORITY RIGHTS

  • [09] MASS PRIVATIZATION NEARLY 150,000 VOUCHER BOOKS BOUGHT IN TWO WEEKS SINCE MASS PRIVATIZATION START

  • [10] BULGARIA TO IMPORT RUSSIAN TIMBER


  • [01] PARLIAMENT ELECTED NEW TRADE AND AGRICULTURE MINISTERS

    Sofia, January 23 (BTA) - The 240-seat National Assembly approved by 122 votes the personnel changes in the Cabinet proposed by Prime Minister Zhan Videnov. The parliamentary opposition stood away from the voting.

    PM Videnov moved for relieving Kiril Tsochev of his responsibilities as Deputy Minister and Minister of Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation and Vassil Chichibaba of his responsibilities as Minister of Agriculture and Food Processing. The MPs voted their replacements en bloc, by secret ballot. Deputy Prime Minister Svetoslav Shivarov takes over the Agriculture Ministry too, and Atanas Paparizov, MP of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), heads the Trade Ministry.

    Tsochev and Chichibaba tendered their resignations early this month. As Videnov told a news conference last week, one of the reasons for their resignation was they were not given enough support from the parliamentary group of the BSP and its coalition partners.

    In the last few months opposition activists wrote in the press demanding the resignation of several ministers, including Tsochev and Chichibaba. On January 10 the Government survived a no confidence vote which the parliamentary opposition had moved over the grain crisis.

    Svetoslav Shivarov, 51, is leader of the Alexander Stamboliiski Bulgarian Agrarian National Union which is in the ruling Democratic Left coalition with the BSP and the Eco-Glasnost Political Club. Shivarov is a qualified lawyer and public administration expert. His areas of responsibility as Deputy Prime Minister included agriculture. Shivarov is married and has two children.

    Atanas Paparizov is an economist and expert in international economic relations. Before the collapse of the totalitarian regime in 1989 he worked for 14 years in the foreign trade system. He was minister of trade in Andrei Loukanov's second cabinet and in Dimiter Popov's one (1990-1991). As a member of the incumbent Parliament he was chairman of the Parliamentary Economic Committee and member of the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Policy. Paparizov is married and has one child.

    The majority voted down the opposition's motion for debate on the ministerial nominations and for taking separate votes on each of the two resignations and the respective replacements. After a nearly one-hour discussion on issues of procedure the parliamentary groups of the opposition Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), the Popular Union (a coalition of the Democratic Party and Anastasia Moser's Bulgarian Agrarian National Union), the ethnic Turks' Movement for Rights and Freedoms, the MPs of the New Democracy party (established by breakaways from the Bulgarian Business Bloc) and some independent MPs said they would stand away from the voting.

    Speaking to journalists today, UDF floor leader Yordan Sokolov said the rules which the ruling parliamentary majority imposed in the election of the new cabinet ministers infringed on the constitutional right of MPs to express their opinion through voting. Sokolov further said there is a possibility of challenging the constitutionality of the en-bloc voting of the resignations of Chichibaba and Tsochev and appointment of Paparizov and Shivarov.

    According to UDF deputy leader Alexander Bozhkov, the Democratic Left opted for this principle of voting to make sure that Shivarov is appointed to the office of agriculture minister and that the resignation of Tsochev is accepted. UDF leader Ivan Kostov said "the unsuitable candidacy of Deputy Prime Minister Shivarov was pushed through together with that of Atanas Paparizov."

    The UDF leaders stressed that in his capacity as deputy prime minister and minister of trade and foreign economic cooperation, Kiril Tsochev recently distinguished himself from the policy and behavior of the government. The UDF also believe that the appointment of Svetoslav Shivarov was a compromise between the BSP and its coalition partner, the Alexander Stamboliiski Agrarians.

    Addressing the MPs after the vote Prime Minister Zhan Videnov described the election of the new ministers as an expression of "statesmanlike wisdom, political responsibility and true parliamentarianism". "The resolution is a manifestation of the support Parliament gives to the new ministers in the effort to achieve greater successes in their extremely important areas of responsibility," Videnov stated.

    The Prime Minister criticized the behaviour of the opposition at today's parliamentary sitting and yesterday's statement of President Zhelyu Zhelev who said that if the parliamentary crisis was exacerbated, he would act together with the opposition within his constitutional powers. "It is not they [Zhelev and the opposition] that will determine the direction of Bulgaria's development, its emerging from the crisis and its renovation in compliance with the 21st-century world and European standards," Videnov stated.

    [02] CONSTITUTIONAL COURT TO HEAR LOCAL TAXES CASE

    The Constitutional Court unanimously ruled there are grounds for the legal action launched by 54 opposition MPs challenging a provision in the Local Taxes and Rates Act, Justice Georgi Markov, who reports on the case, said here today.

    The MPs contend the provision in question violates a constitutional text saying taxes can only be imposed by legislators and not by the executive. The opposition MPs argue the unconstitutional provision in the law enabled the government to pass a decree raising building rates.

    The court gave the parties (the National Assembly, the Council of Ministers, the Minister of Finance and the National Accounting Office) seven days to express their stands on the dispute.

    [03] GERMAN MP ERLER IN SOFIA

    German MP Gernot Erler advised strengthening the Bulgarian lobby in Germany at a meeting with Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski here today. According to the guest, German-Bulgarian relations may intensify this year, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Pantelei Karasimeonov said after the meeting. The sides emphasized the role of German President Roman Herzog's official visit to Sofia scheduled for March 20-22.

    Erler informed Pirinski of his initiative to set up a German- Bulgarian forum uniting individuals and institutions as a non-partisan organization financed from membership dues. Soundings show that the initiative has met with keen interest. Erler asked Pirinski to attend the forum's constituent assembly in Bonn after President Herzog's visit to Sofia.

    Another subject for discussion was the post-war reconstruction of former Yugoslavia. Foreign Minister Pirinski expressed Bulgaria's desire for closer cooperation with Germany in the process of economic reconstruction of Bosnia-Hercegovina. Pirinski voiced Bulgaria's readiness to take part in tripartite plans in connection with the Paris forum opening on January 25, which will focus on the financing of five priority projects for former Yugoslavia.

    Pirinski said Bulgaria wants to direct its efforts to immigration policy to pave the way for its exclusion from the EU blacklist of countries subject to a visa requirement.

    [04] PM VIDENOV, OPPOSITION LEADER KOSTOV ON YESTERDAY'S

    The only way for the President to succeed in his bid for reelection is by making the government its opponent and target, Prime Minister Zhan Videnov today said on the sidelines in Parliament, responding to a statement by President Zhelev made after a meeting with the leader of the opposition Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) Ivan Kostov yesterday.

    President Zhelev told journalists yesterday he expressed concern over the halt of the land reform, the possibility of mass privatization degenerating into privatization for the nomenklatura and mafia, the shift of priorities in Balkan policy, and the practical refusal of the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party to categorically declare Bulgaria's wish to join NATO, which he sees as diminishing Bulgaria's chances to integrate into the European Union. Tension between the presidential institution and the Government on these issues, especially NATO, are longstanding. "If things remain the way they are, a parliamentary crisis looks inevitable. If the crisis gets aggravated, it is very likely for us to act together, within a constitutional framework," the head of state also said.

    The Government will not yield to such provocations and will not allow the issue of the year - the presidential elections - to get overshadowed by partisan wrangling, Prime Minister Videnov said. According to him, Zhelev has no chance against his rival, as he will have to answer for his performance as head of state in the last few years. It has been bad, and he would not succeed, Videnov said.

    The media created the totally incorrect impression that the President intends to participate in the ouster of the Government, UDF leader Ivan Kostov told journalists today. The presidency is not the institution to topple the government, he stressed, adding the opposition had not asked presidential support to do that. Yesterday's meeting between the present UDF leader and President Zhelev, a co-founder of the coalition, was the first after a long period of tension. It indicated the ice age was over, the press commented today.

    Zhelev and Kostov denied they discussed the forthcoming presidential elections and possible UDF support for Zhelev.

    [05] BULGARIAN TRADE UNIONIST ON SIMEON II'S VISIT TO

    "His Majesty King Simeon II does not want anybody to commit themselves to his visit to Bulgaria," Konstantin Trenchev, President of the Podkrepa Labour Confederation (one of this country's most influential trade amalgamations), told a news conference here today. Trenchev said Simeon II's trip to Bulgaria is occasioned by the 50th anniversary of his exile and "reflects his wish to visit his homeland without his visit being institutionalized." Trenchev met with the exiled Bulgarian monarch on January 18 during his visit to Spain.

    The schedule of Simeon II's visit here is yet to be finalized, Trenchev said. The exiled monarch reportedly disapproves of the establishment of committees on his visit. All proposals and invitations are to be addressed to Assen Oshanov, the coordinator of the visit, to be later sent to Simeon II's office in Madrid, Trenchev said.

    The press recently wrote that Simeon II is likely to make a trip to Sofia in May, accompanied only by Queen Margarita. Last November, 101 Bulgarian intellectuals wrote a letter to Simeon II inviting him to visit Bulgaria. It was arranged that the visit will not be scheduled in October 1996 to avoid its coinciding with the presidential election campaign. Trenchev said there will be official guards, and private ones as well, taking care of Simeon II's security.

    Simeon II is expected to meet Bulgarian Patriarch Maksim and representatives of all major Bulgarian state institutions. National Assembly Chairman Blagovest Sendov recently expressed his wish to meet with the exiled monarch.

    [06] MRF: BULGARIAN OPPOSITION TO MEET

    The Central Operative Bureau of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF, of the Bulgarian ethnic Turks) discussed today possible new meetings between parliamentary opposition leaders.

    Next week representatives of the three opposition parliamentary formations - the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), the Popular Union and the MRF will meet separately and then probably hold a "trilateral" meeting, MRF Organizational Secretary Osman Oktai said today. Recently leaders of the UDF, MRF and the Popular Union met to coordinate their actions on the no confidence in the Socialist cabinet motion in connection with the grain crisis.

    Today MRF leaders discussed their stand on problems concerning the government of the BSP with which it will acquaint the UDF and the Popular Union. Proposals for "facilitating" a cabinet crisis will also be made by the other opposition forces. For the time being, however, these proposals are being kept secret.

    Next week the MRF leadership will meet the co-chairmen of the Popular Union - Ms Anastasia Moser and Mr Stefan Savov, Oktai said. The MRF believes the Popular Union to be more willing to discuss another topic of importance for the opposition - the forthcoming presidential elections and the possible nomination of a single opposition candidate. The MRF has not decided which candidate to support in the presidential elections and does not have a candidate of its own but the general sentiments in the Movement are in favour of incumbent President Zhelyu Zhelev, Oktai also said.

    [07] WORLD BANK MISSION HOLDS TALKS IN SOFIA

    Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Regional Development and Construction Doncho Konakchiev today received a World Bank Mission led by Kennet Lay, the Bank's first division director for Europe, said the government press office.

    The World Bank officials held talks here on Monday. Konakchiev and the Mission agreed today that there are sign of economic stabilization in Bulgaria. They discussed aspects of the restructuring of infrastructure, telecommunications and water supply, laying special emphasis on projects financed by the World Bank.

    Konakchiev assured the World Bank officials of the Government's conviction that collaboration with the World Bank is useful. He stressed that Bulgaria and its Government value highly the peace accords on former Yugoslavia. In line with its balanced Balkan policy Bulgaria has every reason to want to take part in the reconstruction of the economy and infrastructure of former Yugoslavia, Konakchiev said.

    [08] COUNCIL OF EUROPE PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY: MINORITY RIGHTS

    Strasbourg, January 23 (BTA special correspondent Atanas Matev)- Minority rights in the Council of Europe member countries was one of the topics discussed on the second day of the winter session of the Council's Parliamentary Assembly.

    The discussion centred around a report by German Social Democrat Rudolph Bindig. The document stressed member countries' unwillingness to ratify two Council of Europe documents, the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, and the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. The Charter has been ratified by only three member states, and the Convention by four. The former needs five ratifications to take force, and the latter twelve.

    The Parliamentary Assembly heard an address by the member of the Bulgarian delegation Yunal Lyutfi, MP of the ethnic Turks' Movement for Rights and Freedoms. According to him, the delay in ratifying the two Council of Europe documents "creates legal prerequisites for violating the rights of minorities in some of the newly-admitted member countries." He cited as a Bulgarian example "the bills on the use and protection of the Bulgarian language and on radio, television and the Bulgarian News Agency, drafted by MPs of the parliamentary faction of the Democratic Left."

    The bills constitute an attempt to seriously curtail human rights stated in the Bulgarian Constitution and international agreements, he claimed. According to him, the real purpose of the bill on the use and protection of the Bulgarian language is "to impose restrictions on the languages, religious faiths and culture of minorities in the Republic of Bulgaria."

    It was announced here that the leader of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms and floor leader of its parliamentary faction Ahmed Dogan sent letters to the President of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly Leni Fischer and the leaders of political groups in the Assembly. The letters warned of the "dangerous consequences of a possible passage of the two bills" by the Bulgarian Parliament.

    Bulgaria has proved it respects minority rights, Bulgarian deputy Elena Poptodorova (Bulgarian Socialist Party) told the Assembly. A thorough look into these issues shows how difficult it is to seek unity and harmony for implementation of the Council of Europe documents on minority rights, she also said.

    The four documents in this field adopted by the Council of Europe should provide sufficient safeguards for minority rights. Yet the Parliamentary Assembly and the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe have differences on the matter. These differences should be resolved, Poptodorova said. Some member states have not signed or ratified the agreements, despite their changing Governments, she went on to say. In other words, this is not a question of partisan politics. For this reason, I strongly support Bindig's idea to set up a consultative committee, linking the Parliamentary Assembly, the Committee of Ministers and the Governments of member countries on minority problems. If something is missing in the Council of Europe, it is the close link between the organization and Governments, especially in the field of minorities, she emphasized.

    Poptodorova objected to attempts to present as "national legislation" bills sponsored by separate MPs in the Bulgarian National Assembly.

    She called on the Parliamentary Assembly to focus on effective laws in the member countries, rather than proposals and intentions of separate MPs in national parliaments.

    Elena Poptodorova announced Bulgarian National Assembly Chairman Blagovest Sendov had sent a letter requesting expert assistance from the Council of Europe for drafting a law on electronic media in Bulgaria.

    [09] MASS PRIVATIZATION NEARLY 150,000 VOUCHER BOOKS BOUGHT IN TWO WEEKS SINCE MASS PRIVATIZATION START

    Bulgarians in big cities bought 148,514 voucher books in the two weeks since the start of mass privatization, officials from the Mass Privatization Centre said today. The figures are interim, with information from small cities and rural areas coming in more slowly. 122,944 books were bought at a discount, by retirees, soldiers or students.

    The number of books bought was almost same in the first and second week, slightly rising in the second, to 75,701 from 72,813, which experts see as insufficient.

    [10] BULGARIA TO IMPORT RUSSIAN TIMBER

    Sofia, January 23 (Ekaterina Kazassova of BTA) Bulgaria is facing an acute shortage of timber, with output standing at 3.9 million cubic metres in 1995 instead of 4.6 million cu m as projected, the Forestry Committee said. Output cannot be increased, given the limited regeneration potential of Bulgarian forests. The problem is that the small amount of timber available has to meet the needs of both large state- owned enterprises and mushrooming private operations, said Committee Deputy Chairman Georgi Stenin. The ratio of timber processed by state- owned and private companies is 70 to 30, the Forestry Committee said.

    Press allegations that the shortage is due to excessive exports are not true, said Stenin. In 1995 Bulgaria exported 67,000 cu m of timber, 1.7 per cent of the total output. This country exports mostly technological timber for which there is no local demand. The Committee claims that local requirements will be given a priority and only unsaleable or superfluous products will be exported, Stenin said.

    Until 1994 the timber shortage was offset by imports from the Komi Republic where a Bulgarian-Soviet joint venture operated for over 25 years. Overall, it employed 140,000 Bulgarian loggers. The Komi lumbering operation provided between one and three million cubic metres of coniferous wood to Bulgaria. This country's wood-working facilities were projected to process this amount. In 1994 the Komi operation was closed down on grounds of "economic inefficiency" as it turned out that transportation costs alone exceeded the market price and that maintenance costs ran up to millions of leva a year.

    The Forestry Committee has been negotiating to import timber from Russia for several months now. Joint ventures will be set up to cut the price of imported timber. Part of it will be exported. In February the two governments are expected to sign an agreement on the import of 200- 300,000 cu m of timber a year from Russia in 1997-98.

    A Bulgarian-Russian draft agreement on cooperation in lumbering was drawn up in 1994 but its signing was postponed several times. It envisages cooperation in forestry, lumbering and wood-working, as well as joint export to third countries. Russia suggests that joint ventures be concentrated in the Arkhangelsk, Perm and Kirov regions so as to cut down transportation costs. It shows interest in furniture made in Bulgaria out of Russian wood. Bulgarian wood-working plants would benefit from such an arrangement since they have difficulties marketing their products, having lost ground in the Russian market.

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