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News from Bulgaria / Apr 3, 96

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

Bulgarian Telegraph Agency Directory

EMBASSY OF BULGARIA - WASHINGTON D.C.

BTA - BULGARIAN TELEGRAPH AGENCY

3 April, 1996


CONTENTS

  • [01] PRESIDENT ZHELEV BELIEVES IT WAS HIS DUTY TO REACT

  • [02] FOREIGN MINISTER PIRINSKI ON PRESIDENT YELTSIN'S REMARKS

  • [03] POLITICAL FORCES in PARLIAMENT ON YELTSIN'S STATEMENT

  • [04] PRESIDENT ZHELEV MEETS TRADE UNION LEADERS

  • [05] DECISIONS OF GOVERNMENT COMMITTEE ON EUROPEAN INTEGRATION

  • [06] PARLIAMENT AMENDS NATIONAL BANK ACT

  • [07] PRESS REVIEW BALKAN DEFENCE MINISTERS CONFERENCE PLANNED

  • [08] COMMODITIES APPRECIATE, INFLATION GROWS

  • [09] REACTIONS TO PRESIDENT YELTSIN'S STATEMENT ABOUT NEW UNION


  • [01] PRESIDENT ZHELEV BELIEVES IT WAS HIS DUTY TO REACT

    Sofia, April 2 (BTA) - "I believe it was my duty as President of Bulgaria to give a reply to the words that came from the outside as an insult for the Bulgarian sovereignty and national dignity," Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev said today following reactions to a statement Russian President Boris Yeltsin made inviting Bulgaria to join an alliance including Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. Zhelev believes that the latest events were an ordeal for government institutions, party formations and all citizens of Bulgaria, "making them not only talk but show how they protect national interests".

    Zhelev dismissed accusations that his statement Saturday on Yeltsin's initiative was part of his re-election efforts. "To those [who accuse me] I can only say that while I am President I will continue to work in compliance with the Constitution - and as much as my powers allow me - for the interests and dignity of Bulgaria," said the President. "From all my heart I wish them to do the same; to be firm and consistent when they protect the present and future of the state and the nation. It is patriotism, not populism, to defend your country when it has been insulted," Dr. Zhelev went on to say.

    The President further hailed the reaction of the opposition Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), Popular Union and Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), describing it as "patriotic". "Being a Bulgarian, I am proud that the UDF, the Popular Union and other democratic parties demonstrated political will and stood up for the national dignity," said Dr. Zhelev. He believes that the unanimity the opposition forces demonstrated without prior arrangements is yet another proof that the agreement for a single presidential candidate of the opposition rests on a solid ground. "It offers Bulgaria a chance to be the first country in Eastern Europe starting the presidential race with its opposition united," he also said. He voiced his firm belief that the democratic forces in Bulgaria will have a single presidential candidate - though some might be unhappy with it and this candidate will win a clear victory. "And if this is seen as campaigning, I would hail each presidential nominee, including that of the [ruling] Socialist party, who stands up publicly for the interests of Bulgaria during the elections campaign," Dr. Zhelev said in conclusion.

    [02] FOREIGN MINISTER PIRINSKI ON PRESIDENT YELTSIN'S REMARKS

    Sofia, April 2 (BTA) - The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry will familiarize the Russian representatives in Sofia with the reaction and the stance of the Bulgarian Government and other official state institutions on the statement by Russian President Boris Yeltsin, said Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski in the Repercussions talk show on national television today. Asked if a note would be presented to the Russian Embassy following President Yeltsin's statement on Friday that Bulgaria could join the quadrilateral agreement among Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, Pirinski said: "It is possible that a document will be presented to express concern over the consequences of such a statement."

    President Yeltsin's statement that Bulgaria too could join the new union "is not an invitation but an assumption for which there are no objective grounds whatsoever", Pirinski said. He said the statement was a cause for concern because Bulgaria and its Government are pursuing a policy aimed to intensify bilateral relations with Russia in all spheres, on the basis of equality; cooperation on a multilateral basis has never been a subject for discussion.

    Pirinski reiterated the Government's statement on Sunday that at no stage and on no level have there been backstage talks with Russia.

    [03] POLITICAL FORCES in PARLIAMENT ON YELTSIN'S STATEMENT

    Sofia, April 2 (BTA) - Participants in a rally chanted "Resignation" and "Traitors" in front of the building of the Council of Ministers today. The rally was called by the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) to protest against the Government's hesitant and unclear, according to the UDF, stand on Russian President Yeltsin's statement about Bulgaria's possible accession to a new union of the former Soviet republics.

    At the opening of today's extraordinary sitting of Parliament, the political forces sitting in it voiced their alarm over a proposal of Russian President Boris Yeltsin that Bulgarian join a neo-Soviet Union.

    The statement of Russian President Boris Yeltsin saying Bulgaria may join the treaty on the setting up of a commonwealth of integrated states signed by Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, can be interpreted only as a personal view which is unacceptable for Bulgaria, Krassimir Premyanov, floor leader of the Socialists-led parliamentary group of the Democratic Left, said in the plenary chamber. Premyanov also said joining such a community has never been an option for the Democratic Left or the government appointed by it and it will not be on their agenda in the future.

    The parliamentary group of the Democratic Left and the government will pursue consistently a foreign policy course based on the principles of sovereignty and independence of Bulgaria, with its major task being to guarantee the national security and protect the interests of the Bulgarian nation, Premyanov said. He went on to say this foreign-policy course underlies Bulgarian-Russian relations as well.

    According to the socialists' floor leader, Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev and the opposition Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), Popular Union and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) are fanning up non-existent problems, undermining the international prestige of Bulgaria and its relations with other countries. Premyanov believes the behavior of the Bulgarian Head of State can be attributed only to the failures on his international activity and the desire to make dividends for the upcoming presidential race.

    Speaking on behalf of the UDF, floor leader Yordan Sokolov said the behavior of the government and the parliamentary majority jeopardize Bulgaria's national interests. He said the coalition will never back the joining of the new bloc, whose ultimate end is restoration of the Soviet Union.

    Sokolov said the statements representatives of the parliamentary majority and the government has made to date on the matter sound unconvincing with the Prime Minister failing to declare himself clearly against the invitation for joining the new bloc. The statement of President Yeltsin has been prompted by the behavior of the Bulgarian government and its foreign policy dominated by curtsies to Russia, said the UDF floor leader. The UDF are convinced that the Russian President would not have made such a statement without having solid grounds for it.

    Popular Union co-chairman Stefan Savov voiced his alarm over the motives President Yeltsin had for choosing Bulgaria of all former Soviet Union satellites. If the Prime Minister and the National Assembly Chairman fail to state clearly they have not provided a cause for this invitation, we will have grounds to accuse them of high treason, said he.

    Yuzhel Atila of the ethnic Turks' MRF voiced his concern over Boris Yeltsin's statement. He believes precedents are reoccurring and Bulgaria is again showing hesitation. The speaker called upon the parliamentary majority to give Bulgarians the pride they need to continue the way to European democracy and culture.

    In 1963 Todor Zhivkov offered to make Bulgaria a 16th republic of the Soviet Union. Today a new offer was made to the Videnov cabinet and it remained silent, UDF deputy leader Nadezhda Mihailova told the opposition rally today. It was also attended by representatives of the Popular Union, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms and the New Democracy party.

    The Russian President's words were not fortuitous and were no mistake, UDF leader Ivan Kostov said. In order to prove that they were a mistake, the Prime Minister will have to unequivocally decline the proposal for Bulgaria to join USSR-2 and to stress that it is humiliating to this country, Kostov said. The rally received Kostov's statement that only the UDF is capable of guaranteeing a foreign political course towards integration into European and Euro-Atlantic structures chanting "NATO", "UDF" and "Victory".

    [04] PRESIDENT ZHELEV MEETS TRADE UNION LEADERS

    Sofia, April 2 (BTA) - President Zhelyu Zhelev received consecutively today the leaders of Bulgaria's two major trade union amalgamations - the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB) and the Podkrepa Labour Confederation.

    "We discussed principal tax legislation and social policy issues," CITUB leader Prof. Krustyo Petkov said after his meeting with the President. According to Prof. Petkov, the President will probably avail himself of his right to veto the amendments to the Aggregate Income Tax Act and Local Taxes and Rates Act and return them to Parliament for further consideration. The CITUB claims these amendments will shift the burden of the transition to the population. It is very important that the President exercise his right to suspend the enforcement of these amendments in protest against this illogical encroachment on living standards, Prof. Petkov said.

    The CITUB has several arguments in favour of the exercising of a suspensive veto by the President, the CITUB leader said. According to him, the amendments impose a crushing tax burden on the population, constitute an encroachment on the population's social acquisitions and stifle all initiative by denying the right to open new jobs. "We told Dr Zhelev that the population has suffered two blows over the past six months - through taxes and through prices.

    "The Government's tax policy combined with its extreme monetary approach to incomes is resulting in a dramatic contraction of home demand and draining of the savings of the population, Podkrepa leader Konstantin Trenchev said after his meeting with the President. If the two bills are passed in their present form, Podkrepa and the CITUB will resort to joint protest actions, Dr Trenchev said.

    President Zhelev is grateful for the stands set forth by the two trade union leaders, presidential social welfare adviser Yordan Hristoskov said. Tomorrow Dr Zhelev will continue his consultations with representatives of all political forces and business representatives and will then adopt a final decision on a possible partial or full return of the tax legislation amendments to Parliament, Hristoskov said.

    [05] DECISIONS OF GOVERNMENT COMMITTEE ON EUROPEAN INTEGRATION

    Sofia, April 2 (BTA) - Yesterday Prime Minister Zhan Videnov chaired a session of the Government Committee on European Integration (GCEI), reads a Council of Ministers press release.

    Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski and Transport Minister Stamen Stamenov delivered a report on building up a cross-border centre of information and contacts on infrastructure projects in Sofia. The project's principal goal is the harmonization of national and regional infrastructure development with that of trans-European infrastructure networks and with global commercial and economic processes. This goal is to be complied with the setting up of mutually beneficial relations with international financial institutions and the attracting of investments for the implementation of important infrastructure projects.

    The centre's main functions will be: to collect, process and exchange information with the other countries in the region, EU member-countries, Central European Initiative, Black Sea Economic Cooperation, international financial institutions and major financial investors, as the United States, Russia and Japan; to draw up regional conceptions and plans for the realization of international infrastructure projects; to coordinate the implementation of the most important international infrastructure projects.

    Foreign Minister Pirinski, Interior Minister Lyubomir Nachev and Defence Minister Dimiter Pavlov reported on the setting up of a mechanism for application and control of the regulations for classified information exchange with NATO and the Western European Union (WEU) and its safeguarding. The Government Committee on European Integration decided on the establishment of a working group for information safeguarding within the framework of the cooperation with NATO and WEU. The working group should monitor the operation of the competent ministries and departments with regard to the implementation of the agreements on security issues with NATO and WEU.

    The working group's major tasks include: creation of a common national system, uniting the secret departments, which keep the exchanged documents and control of the system's operation; control of the implementation of the regulations for handling classified materials; investigation of cases of detected, unauthorized access to classified information, concerning the North Atlantic Cooperation Council and Partnership for Peace, or cases of unauthorized exposure of exchanged classified information.

    Justice Minister Mladen Chervenyakov and Interior Minister Nachev briefed the participants in the session with the results of the March 19-20 joint meeting in Brussels between the EU Justice/Internal Affairs Council and the justice and interior ministers of the associated countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Given the measures, mapped out by GCEI, the Committee tasked the interior and foreign ministries to make concrete proposals for resolving the problems of illegal border crossing and strengthening border control.

    The Government Committee was also familiarized with the results of the meeting of the education ministers of the EU member and associated countries of Central and Eastern Europe and with the second regional program on posts and telecommunications.

    [06] PARLIAMENT AMENDS NATIONAL BANK ACT

    Sofia, April 2 (BTA) - The governor and the three under governors of the central bank will be elected and dismissed by Parliament. The rest of the bank's Governing Board will be appointed and dismissed by the Bulgarian President on the proposal of the central bank Governor which means that five of the nine members of the National Bank of Bulgaria (BNB) Governing Board will be appointed by the President. Provisions to that effect passed at second reading at Parliament today amending a National Bank of Bulgaria Act that has been in effect for five years already.

    The BNB governor, under governors and Governing Board members can be relieved of office before the expiry of their terms in cases of resignation, death, effective sentence or practical incapacity to carry out their obligations for over an year.

    A motion envisaging that the support of three-fifths of MPs (144 of the 240 MPs sitting in Parliament) is sufficient to suspend the term of the BNB governor and under governors, stirred up heated debates. MPs of different parties insisted that this provision drop from the law. They claimed it is non-constitutional as the Constitution does not provide for a qualified majority.

    Addressing Parliament, BNB Governor Lyubomir Filipov said the MPs should not infringe on the central bankers' mandate in this way. "Reduce the mandate if you want, reduce the period for suspension due to incapability to carry out the obligations, but don't do this," said the central bank Governor. The provision passed in spite of the strong opposition it met.

    The governor, under governors and the rest of the Governing Board members will be appointed for individual five-year terms. In cases of early termination of the mandate, a replacement will be appointed for another five years.

    The MPs agreed that the above provisions shall not apply to the governor, under governors and other Governing Board members appointed prior to the passage of the amendments. The terms of the incumbent governor and under governors expire on June 29, 1996, five years after the entry into force of the National Bank of Bulgaria Act. This means that the sitting governor, appointed in January 1996, will stay in office for six months only.

    The BNB Governor is not going to propose the five new Governing Board members by the end of April, as the President has required. This emerged from a statement BNB Governor Filipov made before journalists today after parliament amended the BNB Act.

    Filipov said tomorrow he will send a message to the President explaining that his demand to have the candidates for the BNB offices named by the end of April, cannot be met. Filipov believes it is morally wrong to name five people to be appointed by the President and have them then working with the next BNB governor. He said yet another reason for taking such a decision is the fact that the five can be replaced in compliance with the amended BNB Act immediately after the new governor takes office.

    [07] PRESS REVIEW BALKAN DEFENCE MINISTERS CONFERENCE PLANNED

    "Dimiter Pavlov [Bulgaria's Defence Minister] Suggests Balkan Forum in Sofia," ("Pari"), "US To Attend Balkan Security Forum in Sofia," ("Continent"), "US Want Russia to Come to Sofia Too," ("Douma"). Under these headlines today's central dailies provide coverage of the defence ministers conference which started yesterday in Tirana. The forum is attended by Albania, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Turkey as well as the U.S., Italy which holds the EU presidency and Switzerland which chairs the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

    All Balkan states have already backed Bulgaria's initiative for a meeting of defence ministers in Sofia, the edition of the Defence Ministry "Bulgarska Armiya" quotes Minister Pavlov as telling reporters in Tirana yesterday. Before that, however, most probably in July, the meeting of foreign ministers from South-eastern Europe (which was also initiated by Bulgaria) is to take place, "Douma", the daily of the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) says.

    US Defence Secretary William Perry reportedly praised Sofia for the model multi-national military exercises "Briz" it held in the Black Sea and cited as an example for the participants the demilitarization of the border area between Bulgaria and Turkey, the special correspondents of "Standart News" and "Troud" write. Mr Perry however did not mention the fact that the same was done at the border with Greece. "Perry and the other ministers kept silent about Athens, because it boycotted the forum," "Troud" also says.

    "The appearance of the Defence Minister in Tirana is... a result of the immature and outright foolish Bulgarian policy," says an extensive commentary in "24 Chassa". Mr Pavlov took to Tirana his press-circulated reservations about the meeting over the fact that Serbia and Romania were not invited, the author says. "The neglected countries will undoubtedly come to suspect that something is up behind their back. And they will be right," the author says. Bosnia, Herzegovina and Croatia were not invited to the meeting either, says "Pari" in its report on the conference.

    "Our Defence Minister gambled well in Tirana... The question remains whether we are really wise guys or we just believe we are," says a signed commentary in "Novinar".

    "America buys itself influence in the Balkans with grand phrases and gestures. The Balkan people however will continue to be mistrustful until they see behind the rhetoric any real indications for a better life," a "Continent" contributor writes about the US participation in the forum.

    [08] COMMODITIES APPRECIATE, INFLATION GROWS

    The National Pricing Committee has suggested that electricity prices for household use be raised 25 per cent before VAT, which is introduced for electricity as of today, and 47.7 per cent after VAT, reads the leading story in "24 Chassa". This is some 6 per cent more than the mark-up, suggested by the Energy Committee, the report says. The project of the Pricing Committee, however, envisages a nearly 6 per cent lower appreciation for the industry than the project of the Energy Committee, "24 Chassa" says.

    According to the National Statistical Institute the April mark-up of fuels, electricity and heat power and the introduction of excise revenue stamps for alcoholic beverages will result in another 2 per cent growth of inflation in April, the financial daily "Pari" and "24 Chassa" say. According to "24 Chassa" life may appreciate even by 7 per cent if the US dollar exchange rate goes up. Chairman of the Pricing Committee is not to be trusted because he is speaking against the appreciation of fuels and electricity and at the same time "is grinding the axe", a signed commentary in "24 Chassa" says.

    The Ministry of Social Affairs suggests monthly grants of 340 leva for the retired and the unemployed in compensations for the electricity and heat power mark-up, "Novinar" says. The retired now receive 140 leva every month in targeted allowances and the socially disadvantaged receive money for coals, the daily recalls (1 USD equals 78.957 leva at current exchange rate).

    "Rakiya Appreciates Uncontrollably," reads the leading headline in "Troud". Prices of some alcoholic drinks have even doubled despite the assurances that the appreciation will be in the range of one lev," the author says. "Any statesman who tries to encroach on the sacrosanct is doomed," reads a commentary in the same daily. The excise revenue stamps prove that excise duties have been paid but are no guarantee about the quality and the origination of the alcoholic drinks, some editions warn.

    President Zhelev is going to veto last week's acts of Parliament which envisage advance payment of aggregate income tax and increased inhabited house duties, "Standart News" says. The daily quotes an MP of the largest opposition Union of Democratic Forces Evgeni Ekov as hinting after a meeting with President Zhelev yesterday.

    The fare for overcrowded railway lines will be increased 20 per cent, "Continent" says. The measure will ensure better distribution of the passenger traffic, Director General of the Bulgarian State Railways (BDZ) Angel Dimitrov is quoted as saying. With the introduction of the summer timetable, express train reserved seats will also mark-up. The daily recalls that as of February 1 the fare for passenger trains is 20 per cent higher.

    [09] REACTIONS TO PRESIDENT YELTSIN'S STATEMENT ABOUT NEW UNION

    There is no official decision for Bulgaria to protest against the suggestion of Russian President Boris Yeltsin that this country might join the new union among Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, "Douma" says, quoting yesterday's statement of Foreign Ministry's Spokesman Pantelei Karasimeonov. No political force would allow itself to cast even the slightest suspicions over the fact that Bulgaria is and will develop as a sovereign state, the daily quotes BSP's floor leader Krassimir Premyanov as saying. National Assembly Chairman Blagovest Sendov voiced at a news briefing yesterday his deep puzzlement and surprise at Russian President's statement, "Douma" says.

    "The boil of the hysterical Bulgarian-Soviet abscess finally burst...Of course, this was due to the obedience of the next treacherous clique of Communists," "Demokratsiya" comments on Yeltsin's statement. Under the headline "Silence, which Betrays Treachery," the daily runs yesterday's declaration of the Union of Democratic Forces which calls for a protest rally to be organized today before the Government's building. So far Prime Minister Zhan Videnov has not clearly differentiated himself from the offer for Bulgaria to join "USSR-2", the declaration says.

    Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the Russian Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is enthusiastic about the idea of Bulgaria's joining USSR- 2. "The Bulgarians are our blood brothers and they are welcome with us," LDP Spokesman Viktor Silatov said exclusively for "Standart News". The daily runs critical statements on Yeltsin's suggestion by leaders of opposition parties in Bulgaria.

    "The behaviour of Videnov's cabinet may be the result of "stress" or it may be simply incompetence. It is clear, however, that this is a game of hide-and-seek to the detriment of the national interests," says "Standart News" in an extensive selection of reports on the Bulgarian- Russian relations. Despite President Zhelev's request, the Cabinet will not respond to Yeltsin's statement, because it has not received through diplomatic channels official information about its exact wording, the same daily quotes Deputy Prime Minister Doncho Konaktchiev as saying.

    27-year old Pavel Petlev who shot dead two men in Sofia in broad daylight on Saturday is probably hiding in a monastery in North- western Bulgaria, "Standart News" says on its front page. The list of particularly dangerous criminals, which Interior Minister Lyubomir Nachev recently made public did not stop the criminals but just endangered their lives, reads an extensive selection of materials on crime in the daily. The daily refers to the possibility that at least one of those who were murdered on Saturday had a criminal record, as well as to the recent murders of well-known criminals who were on the mentioned list. "Troud" says that yesterday morning the wanted Petlev dropped in at his estate.

    The UDF will demand a vote of no confidence in Zhan Videnov's Government over its social policy, "Standart News" quotes yesterday's projection of the leader of the influential Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB) Krustyo Petkov, which the daily says was confirmed by an anonymous UDF MP. It is possible that President Zhelev, who will receive today trade union leaders, to get interested in the plans of CITUB and its partner, the Podkrepa trade union amalgamation to launch an attack against Videnov, the authors of the report believe.

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