NATO membership, crime and the need to adopt a special program to combat it, and the foreign political activities of the Socialist Zhan Videnov's cabinet were the main topics of an interview given by President Zhelyu Zhelev on national radio. Regular membership in NATO would first of all provide guarantees for this country's national security, President Zhelev said. "For us this problem is of paramount importance because of this country's location in the Balkans and the armed conflicts in the region which may flare up into a major military conflagration immediately threatening Bulgaria. Bulgaria needs guarantees here and now and not in the indefinite future. I am left with the impression that the BSP actually does not wish NATO membership but fears to state this categorically. That is why it is claimed that Bulgaria cannot enter NATO unconditionally and different conditions are being invented, the President believes. No one has raised before Bulgaria the issue of a deployment of nuclear weapons or of the setting up of permanent military bases. These issues are being brought to the fore to intimidate the public and to present NATO membership more as a threat than as a national security guarantee, Zhelev added. President Zhelev believes that the recently heightened foreign political activity of the Government was sparked by the isolation the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) found itself in over the past two or three weeks on the amendments to the Land Act (which President Zhelev returned to Parliament) and the NATO membership issue. There is nothing bad in a Government demonstrating foreign political activity and showing that it is well-received and respected in the two capitals of united Europe. But the haste with which the Government rushed into this marathon has rendered all this a somewhat comical shade, according to Zhelev. President Zhelev said that at the consultations he held on the amendments to the Land Act, all major democratic parliamentary and extra-parliamentary forces described these as restoration and neo-communist and insisted that they be returned to Parliament for revoting. Parallel consultations on NATO membership showed that all are for regular NATO membership with the exception of the BSP which is still beating about the bush despite its claims of the priority it attaches to integration into the Euro-Atlantic structures. But one way or another, the BSP will have to clearly determine its stand on NATO. It will be forced to do so by the public, the parliamentary forces and the presidential institution, Zhelev added. According to him, the Government should adopt a clear stand and not hide behind general declaration and ambiguous statements. Since 1989 Bulgaria has pursued an independent foreign policy and any attempts of the Government to bind its policy to that of another state would be tantamount to treason. Bulgaria will determine its foreign policy and its goals and priorities by itself, the President said. Zhelev said that there is a circle of issues necessitating cooperation between the state institutions, despite their leaning on different political forces. The President said he has always tried to maintain such cooperation. He reproached the Government for not paying like for like. As regards the growing crime rate, the President recalled that he addressed Parliament and the nation on this issue on three occasions. It was not fortuitous that the caretaker's cabinet first priority was to crack down on crime through banning security firms and removing all corrupt personalities from the state apparatus, he said. Unfortunately the caretaker cabinet could not do much in this respect because of its restricted mandate the President said. He said that there is no program for combating crime and that Parliament has delayed the passing of the amendments to the Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure which are of paramount importance in cracking down on organized crime. The executive is doing nothing to combat mafia structures and organized crime, the judiciary and the Ministry of the Interior are constantly shifting the blame on each other instead of enhancing the efficiency of their work and no measures are being taken to eradicate corruption inside the state institutions as well as against shady security and insurance companies, the President said. He stressed that he is not making a final assessment of the work of the Cabinet but said he doubted that a real struggle would be launched against organized crime. President Zhelev accused the media of being instrumental to the creation of myths and the glorification of gangsters. "If we do not condemn such things categorically and immediately, the public will naturally grow used to them," the President said.
Sofia, April 29 (BTA) "Zhelev again tries to pick a quarrel with BSP and 'Douma'" runs the headline of a front-page story in the Socialist "Douma" daily commenting on President Zhelev's interview on national radio on Friday. Zhelev spoke in favor of Bulgaria's seeking full membership in NATO, saying that he was under the impression "that the BSP actually does not want membership in NATO and is afraid to say so". "It is time the President faced certain facts such as the election results, the [division into] minority and majority, the separation of powers and the powers of the institutions," Prime Minister Zhan Videnov told "Douma". In his view, the President is concealing the truth about NATO's enlargement eastwards. It is not true that it will be done on the basis negotiated conditions; it will be a case of enlargement without limitations, which means that all types of weapons, nuclear weapons included, could be deployed on the territories of the new member states, "Douma" quotes Videnov as saying. A signed article in "Douma", headlined "Democracy cannot drive a tank", focuses on the similarities and differences between the views held by Zhelev and Videnov on Bulgaria's membership in NATO. "Referendum on NATO will end rows" runs the headline of an editorial comment in "24 Chassa". It suggests that "the Prime Minister and the President better ask the electorate if it wants NATO membership". "Zhelev Says BSP Fears to Ask for NATO Membership" ("Continent"), "Zhelev to Make BSP Take a Stand on NATO" ("Standart News"), "Zhelev Suspects Videnov of Treachery" ("24 Chassa") are some of the headlines of stories about Zhelev's interview. The dailies report that Bulgaria's membership in NATO was discussed during the visit to Moscow by a parliamentary delegation headed by Parliamentary Chairman Blagovest Sendov, which ended on Friday. In Moscow Sendov raised the issue of the NATO membership debate now being conducted in Bulgaria. The Russian officials, however, said this was an internal issue and Russia would keep out of it, but expressed a negative view, Stoyan Denchev MP of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms told "24 Chassa" on his return from Moscow. "Douma", "Continent" and "Demokratsiya" publish similar reports.
Prime Minister Zhan Videnov discussed the building of a social market economy in Bulgaria, the damage caused by the sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro, the new architecture of European security and the relationship between the President and the Prime Minister in an interview aired by Euronews on Saturday night. Videnov gave the interview during his visit to the Council of Europe early this week. Videnov recalled that a social market economy is a fundamental principle of the new Constitution, along with the building of a democratic society. He said the cabinet should be aware of the high social price of transition, and at the same time stick to the market economy principles and effect fast privatization. Bulgaria will have to attract the attention of more potential investors, Videnov said, adding that financial instability is Bulgaria's worst problem now. Asked about the losses Bulgaria sustains due to the international sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro, Videnov stressed that this country should be active in the international effort to solve this problem. The overriding challenge to united Europe in the future will be Russia's integration into the European and Euro-Atlantic structures, Videnov said. Asked which is Bulgaria's higher priority, its full integration into the European Union or full NATO membership, Videnov said the two are interrelated. Bulgaria's top priority is its integration into the European and Euro-Atlantic structures, including the security structures, but it will also seek economic, political and cultural integration, the prime minister said. Setting forth the views of the Socialist Party on Bulgaria's entry into NATO in the light of Russia's opposition to NATO's enlargement eastwards, Videnov said that Bulgaria does not pose a security threat to any state. There must be dialogue with Russia on this issue, which will influence Bulgaria's dialogue with the European and Euro-Atlantic structures, but the principal decision is taken in Sofia, Videnov said. Asked about his relations with President Zhelyu Zhelev, Videnov said they differ on ideological matters as well as on some important issues of contemporary politics. At the same time, he said, the separation of powers is extremely strict under the Constitution which "helps us resolve all differences without turning them into a conflict between the institutions".
DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS Bulgaria will seek security and equality in the European and Euro-Atlantic structures but its integration into them will not be unconditional, Defense Minister Dimiter Pavlov told journalists upon his return from a three-day official visit to Spain. "The Bulgarian society would not like us to violate this country's status of a non-nuclear state, Bulgarian soldiers to be placed under the command of foreign generals and officers and foreign bases to be set up on Bulgarian territory which would turn this country into a target of attack," the Defense Minister said. The Defense Minister said that this issue should be solved by legislative means and that the competent institutions should estimate the financial and material costs of integration in advance. This process would require certain public effort for leveling standards. Spain's experience is important for this country, as well as its support in the European structures. The Bulgarian Defense Minister said that in Spain he was assured that Bulgaria would be rendered assistance in becoming a full member of the European Union, the Western European Union and NATO. The talks between Dimiter Pavlov and Spanish Defense Minister Julian Garcia Vargas will continue at the WEU meeting on May 15 and 16 in Lisbon to be attended by the defense and foreign ministers of 27 countries. Defense Minister Pavlov invited his Spanish counterpart to visit Bulgaria. In Spain Pavlov and Vargas signed a protocol on cooperation between the two defense ministries.
Sofia, April 29 (BTA) - It is possible and necessary to have unity of purpose in Bulgaria's foreign policy. This goal is attainable because foreign policy objectives are indisputable, Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski said in an interview on Panorama, a weekly news and views TV magazine, on Saturday night. There is a broadly based consensus on the key component of this policy, which could be put briefly as "security through integration". There are undeniable lines of activity for the achievement of these goals. These lines are European integration, integration into the Euro-Atlantic security structures and regional cooperation, Pirinski said. Some of the steps taken in pursuit of these objectives are the upcoming visits to Sofia by the British Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Douglas Hogg, EU Commissioner Hans van den Broek, and deputies of the German Bundestag. In late May the Council on Bulgaria's association with the European Union will hold its first meeting, Pirinski said. Commenting on Friday's statement by President Zhelyu Zhelev that the socialist government was in international isolation, Pirinski said that such formulations were a cause for concern. "Unfortunately, instead of seeking unifying subjects on which different institutions could work together, we are witnessing a tendency which manifested itself in the President's statement yesterday, namely, to turn the differences on individual aspects of foreign policy into problems, leading to critical situations in the relations between the institutions," Pirinski said. Foreign Minister Pirinski expressed concern over a tendency to draw a distinction between the so-called "democratic" political forces and the Bulgarian Socialist Party, a tendency which, in his view, also showed in President Zhelev's statement on Friday.
The first section of Sofia's underground will be put into operation this autumn, "24 Chassa" says on its front page quoting Prof. Voidan Chernodrinski, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Metropoliten. The first trains will make trial runs in July.
Bulgaria is not on the list of countries accused of violating US intellectual property rights, says "24 Chassa" quoting Reuters. During President Zhelev's visit to the US a Bulgarian plant for disk memory storage devices was accused of pirating compact discs. Washington says Bulgaria has cracked down on illegal trade in music and videos, "24 Chassa" says.
A two-day national conference of Bulgaria's biggest opposition force, the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), ended here today with 14 brief, pragmatic decisions. Their subjects are the strengthening of the Union's structures, preparations for the local elections this autumn, cooperation with the other non-communist formations, and opposition to the rule of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP). The delegates reiterated that the Union is in favor of Bulgaria's full membership in NATO. Economist Ivan Kostov (45) was reelected leader. He took the leadership after the crushing defeat of the UDF in the December 1994 parliamentary elections. This is the first time the UDF leader and his deputies have been elected at a national conference and not by the top leadership, the National Coordinating Council (NCC). So far the NCC consisted of one representative of each of the 15 parties and organizations in the coalition. Today it was enlarged and will include the 69 MPs of the UDF, representatives of 28 regional organizations and the seven members of the National Executive Board. The latter is a new operative body consisting of the UDF chairman and his four deputies, the chief secretary and the floor leader. This brings the number of NCC members to 140. The delegates decided that the NCC should work out a mechanism ensuring that proceeds from membership dues come from the parties and organizations and through the local clubs. The main task in the coming months is to achieve success in the local elections this autumn, the delegates decided. The Union called for a tolerant political atmosphere. It urged the non- communist political parties and coalitions to stop attacking one another in the name of a strong showing at the local elections. In a special statement on the one hundred days of the Socialist cabinet headed by Zhan Videnov, the Union described the BSP's policy as a policy of confrontation and restoration. All UDF structures must take political actions to resist the BSP's attempts to stop the return of the land to its former owners, to block privatization, restitution and the development of private business, the delegates decided. Other targets of the Union's actions will be politically motivated dismissals and the curtailing of the freedom of speech and the press and of other democratic achievements by the BSP.
Health Minister Mimi Vitkova left for Geneva to attend the 48th Assembly of the World Health Organization (WHO). "Against the backdrop of the issue of reducing differences and giving equal rights to medical care, I will raise the issue of the state of health care in Eastern Europe," Dr. Vitkova told BTA. Vitkova said the East European countries have the facilities and health experts needed for their joining the developed countries, but currently they are faced with economic difficulties. WHO experts could do much more to help preserve the achievements of the health care services. In Geneva Minister Vitkova will stress that Bulgaria's losses arising from the enforcement of international sanctions almost equal budget appropriations. This is an absurdity, Dr. Vitkova said, and the UN should find other forms of exerting pressure on hotbeds of war because sanctions inflict intense suffering on civilians in regions adjacent to the conflict zones. Bulgaria is one of the WHO founders. The organization sees Bulgaria as a reliable partner. This is confirmed by the fact that Bulgarians have been appointed as AIDS experts and experts on the medicines policy of the transition countries. For the second time within three years Bulgaria is a member of the WHO Executive Board and this year it became a member of the Steering Committee on the Global Program on AIDS.
Waving red flags, supporters of the ruling Socialist Party crossed Sofia in four streams this morning to celebrate May Day in the city center. They staged a rally under the motto "Day of Labor and Hope" along with their coalition partners, environmentalists and left-wing Agrarians. "May 1 is a genuine global holiday and those who try to debase, defame or disparage it join the ranks of reaction and exploitation," said Prime Minister Videnov. For him labor solidarity, the solidarity of all left-wing forces in Bulgaria and worldwide is not an abstract phrase but a vital need. "The generations that built modern Bulgaria and younger people are seeking a better way to modernize the country, to guarantee its democratic development, as well as more civilized, tolerant, just relationships in Bulgarian society," Videnov also said.
On his arrival in Sofia, the British Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Douglas Hogg said he had not been to this country for four years and wanted to discuss the new government's policy, Bulgaria's relations with the European Union and NATO, and the situation in the former Yugoslavia. Mr. Hogg said Bulgaria plays an important role in sanctions enforcement against Serbia and Montenegro. He added that these issues would be discussed with government officials, but stressed that no decisions can be reached. The guest hopes to analyze bilateral trade and economic relations because trade between Britain and Bulgaria did not increase last year as expected. During his three-day visit, Mr. Hogg will hold talks with Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski and his deputy, Konstantin Glavanakov. Douglas Hogg will be received by President Zhelev and Prime Minister Videnov.
Interest rate cuts, a gradual depreciation of the lev, lower inflation and a tighter incomes policy are the conditions set by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to Bulgaria, says "Pari" quoting a reliable Washington source. The paper also quotes Finance Minister Dimiter Kostov as saying that he had a consultative meeting with the IMF Mission Leader for Bulgaria, Russel Kincaid, in Washington on April 25. The Bulgarian government wants first to analyze the steps it has to undertake, Kostov added. Kincaid said that the IMF was alarmed by the slow pace of reform and that the budget did not take into account the debt problem, the paper reports.
A British electronics company applied for purchasing the Magnitni Glavi (Magnetic Heads) plant in Razlog, "Standart News" writes. The British company is currently making laboratory tests of electronic samples of the Bulgarian plant. More than a year ago the US Design Review International Company bought Magnitni Glavi for one US dollar, undertaking to pay its enormous debts. The company did not meet its obligations and the deal was frustrated late last year. The plant is currently producing tape heads for France.
The Interbrew Belgian Company bought yesterday 67 percent of Bourgasko Pivo Ltd. for 5,025,000 US dollars. Thus it became a shareholder in Bulgaria's second largest brewery. Brewinvest also holds shares in the Kamenitsa brewery, "Standart News" writes. Brewinvest will invest 19,700,000 US dollars in seven years. Under the purchase contract, the company will keep the Bourgasko Pivo trade mark and create 37 new jobs in five years.
Samsung started the construction of a pilot unit in the region of Berkovitsa (Northwestern Bulgaria) under the technology of the company, "Douma" writes. This South Korean company is expecting detailed projects for the construction of a data transmission network for Bulgarian Posts which will connect Bulgaria to the world network. The two countries have also agreed on a project for joint telephone production.
The 15th Plovdiv International Spring Fair opened on May 1. Until May 6, 1,160 companies from 36 countries are displaying consumer goods, machines and technologies. Some of the major exhibits are packaging and packing equipment, textiles and canning equipment. Italy tops the list of foreign participants with 79 companies occupying 18% of the grounds, while in past editions Greece and Germany had the biggest number of entrants.
Balkantourist CEO Alexander Spassov reported a debit balance of 38 million leva for 1994. The company has no liabilities. Its assets are a modern building in central Sofia, 30 coaches and minibuses and the trademark of Balkantourist, the formerly state-run tour operator. Last week 80% of the company went private.
During the past winter season Balkan Holidays was recognized as the most prestigious travel agency by Bulgarian tourists, said Director Krassimir Kunev. More than 1,000 people booked a skiing holiday through it. Balkan Holidays has an average annual turnover of 50 million dollars and a staff of 130. It provides services for 140,000 tourists a year in this country and abroad.
Representatives of 32 companies based in Plovdiv and the Plovdiv region have signed contracts worth 200 million leva with companies in Djambul, a regional center in Kazakhstan during a three-day exposition there.
A Bulgarian-Russian economic forum will be held in the Black Sea city of Varna in late May. It is organized by the chamber of commerce and industry in Varna, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations and the Russian trade representation in Sofia. The participants will include companies working in agriculture, the chemical industry, transport, tourism and banking, car makers and lumbering operations. Some 200 Russian businessmen are expected in Varna.
British consultants will be working in Razgrad (Northeastern Bulgaria) for a year starting in June. They will help agricultural and chemical companies under the three-year REMDEP program financed by the British Know-How Fund. Its implementation started a year ago.
Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev today met World Bank Director in charge of human resources Ralph Harbison to discuss projects on health care, education and social welfare. Mr. Harbison said after the meeting the World Bank would readily back the reforms in health and social security in Bulgaria. He further described as successful the negotiations with the Bulgarian Ministry of Health Care on the financing of the first joint project. The World Bank official believes Health Minister Vitkova would okay additional investments in this sphere. Mr. Harbison is also happy with the results of his talks with Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Koralski on the reform in social insurance and welfare. In education, the World Bank can finance a system for production and delivery of books for primary and secondary schools in Bulgaria.
Deputy Prime Minister Roumen Gechev today received World Bank Resident Representative here John Wilton. The two considered the future work on projects co-developed by this international financial institution and the Bulgarian government. The coordination of activity and programs in the social sphere, education and health care was high on the meeting's agenda.