Douglas Hogg, British Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, who is on a working visit to Bulgaria, had talks on the development of Bulgarian-British relations in Sofia. Minister Hogg discussed the state of Bulgarian-British political, trade and economic relations with Kiril Tsochev, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trade and Foreign Economic Relations, and with Konstantin Glavanakov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. "Stress was laid on the need to activate the political dialogue at different levels," BTA was told by Mr. Glavanakov. At his talks with Kiril Tsochev Mr. Hogg showed interest in what had been done in the area of economy during the Socialist Government's three months in office. According to Minister Tsochev, he was mainly interested in the Government's intentions about economic reform, structural changes, privatization, the proportion between the public and the private sectors and the agrarian reform. Mr. Hogg was particularly interested in privatization and the Government's intentions until 2000. The sides discussed the exchange of business delegations and the steps Bulgaria should take to use more efficiently the British Know-how Fund. "British investment and British trade will increase. One can see a really substantial progress in terms of creating a market economy. Trade will increase in any event, of course, and has increased over the last five years. But if you want to see a really substantial investment in Bulgaria, that will come from confidence in what has been achieved as market economy," Mr. Hogg said. Later this afternoon Mr. Hogg met with Prime Minister Zhan Videnov. "The conversation focused on the forthcoming economic changes in Bulgaria, its relations with the international finance institutions and aspects of national security," said a government press release. Prime Minister Videnov stressed that the government attributes great importance to privatization in industry as a major factor of restructuring. He said the cabinet aims to privatize at least 20 per cent of the assets of industrial enterprises. "The main tasks this year are the return of agricultural land to economic turnover, the approximation of Bulgarian and EU legislation, mainly in the areas of company law, banking and competition, and the tightening of financial discipline," the press release said. After his meeting with President Zhelyu Zhelev, Mr. Hogg said they had discussed Bulgaria's relations with the EU, Russia and NATO, and prospects for its admission to NATO. Asked whether Britain would support Bulgaria's candidacy for NATO, Mr. Hogg said it was premature to say that. "We strongly support the Partnership for Peace and the arrangement that has been devised between Bulgaria and NATO; we regard that as extremely valuable. But I don't think that any of us within NATO have defined absolutely when enlargement should take place, though we have decided in principle that enlargement should take place," Mr. Hogg said. Talking about NATO, President Zhelev stated firmly that Bulgaria is a sovereign state following an independent foreign policy and will not allow to be influenced by any state - near or far, big or small - when making decisions related to its sovereignty, the President's spokesman said answering a question. At his meeting with President Zhelev Mr. Hogg showed interest in Bulgaria's foreign policy, the spokesman said. The President assured him it had remained stable and unchanged for five years now, with clear-cut priorities: integration into the European structures and a balanced Balkan policy. During the conversation it was mentioned that President Zhelev would go to London for the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II and would meet the British Foreign Secretary. Douglas Hogg said Britain was looking forward to President Zhelev's visit to London where he would be one of 43 heads of state and government taking part in the ceremonies. President Zhelev said he would be delighted to attend the VE Day ceremonies and spoke about Britain's contribution to the victory over Hitler's Germany. Later on the British diplomat met with Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski. Mr. Hogg showed interest in the government's privatization strategy and this country's position on the European and Euro-Atlantic security strategy, Minister Pirinski said after the meeting. Bilateral matters relating to trade relations and investment were also on the agenda. Pirinski set forth his views on the importance of the regional infrastructure. "I believe that Mr. Hogg got a balanced perspective on Bulgaria's stance, in the sense that the privatization strategy is not some cosmetic measure but a real priority for the government," said Minister Pirinski. He said that on the subject of security structures Mr. Hogg shared the view that there are grounds to consider movement towards WEU and NATO as a process of integration into them.
Economic stabilization and growth, security and combating crime and Bulgaria's Europeanization will be the three mainstays on which the Government will build its program till the end of its mandate, Deputy Prime Minister Doncho Konakchiev told journalists today. The program was the only item on the agenda of today's extraordinary session of the Council of Ministers. According to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Development Roumen Gechev, one of the main tasks of the Government will be to strengthen the tendency of economic stabilization. This could be achieved in the presence of a 2.5-3% GDP growth. Combating crime and guaranteeing national security will be the Government's second priority. The Government will also prioritize on fulfilling all preconditions for Bulgaria's integration into the European structures legislation, statutory instruments, economic actions and environment, according to Deputy Prime Minister Konakchiev. The Government's 200-page long program is structured into several parts covering the macroeconomic policies of the Government in the public sector and the programs of the separate ministries and departments. This will be accompanied by a long-term program of legislative initiatives, worked out jointly with the parliamentary group of the BSP and coalition. Some 130 bills have been submitted in Parliament so far but priority will be given to a package of economic bills to back the continuation of the reform in this country, according to BSP and coalition floor leader Krassimir Premyanov. The social policy of the Cabinet till the end of 1995 is restricted by the draft budget and that is why the cabinet cannot address problems related to an abrupt improvement of the living standards of the population or ambitious investment projects. But according to him, "the conditions for enhancing the social aspects of the actions of the Government and the investment policy" will improve towards the end of 1995 and the beginning of 1996.
Over the past four years the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) became a member of all major international organizations of this kind, including the Paris- based International Chamber of Commerce, the European Chamber of Commerce and the Balkan Chamber of Commerce. It is working on joint programs with more than 180 chambers worldwide, BCCI Chairman Alexander Bozhinov told a news conference prompted by the BCCI centenary. The news conference took place in Plovdiv (Southern Bulgaria) where the spring edition of the International Plovdiv Fair is under way.
At the spring session Bulgaria asked that the procedure of Macedonia's admission to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe be clarified, Filip Bokov, head of the Bulgarian delegation, told a news conference today. He said the matter would be discussed in September. In late June Moldova and Croatia will be admitted to the Parliamentary Assembly. Prime Minister Zhan Videnov's speech and answers to questions were very well received and aroused the interest of the Assembly, the members of the delegation said.
In compliance with the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty an eight-member multinational inspection group, including one German and one Romanian representative and led by Greece, will inspect military installations in Bulgaria from May 3 to 6.
The Interdepartmental Council for the Military- Industrial Complex and National Mobilization Readiness reviewed and licensed special property import and export deals in accordance with the law and in compliance with Bulgaria's commitments to the international community.
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) holds interest in six Bulgarian banks and companies, "Troud" writes. The paper says that in 1994 the EBRD invested ECU 20.26 million under projects signed by Bulgaria, acquiring shares in return. Thus it finances part of the projects aimed to promote the Bulgarian private sector. The 1994 investments account for 16 percent of the total amount of the projects, "Troud" says.
The largest commercial gold deposit in Bulgaria was discovered near the village of Gougoutka, the Ivailovgrad municipality (Southern Bulgaria), a front-page story in "24 Chassa" says. Two Bulgarian geologists found more than 150 kg of gold. The gold vein is 300 meters long, 3 meters wide and 2 meters thick, with five branches. There is another vein under the first one; it is 65 meters wide on the surface, its depth is not determined yet, the paper writes.
Retail prices fell 0.6 percent in April, and the prices of goods monitored by the Government dropped 1.01 percent, "24 Chassa" reports citing data released by the Pricing Commission.
In January-April 1995 Bulgartabac increased its export of cigarettes by 3,000 tons compared to the like period of 1994, "Continent" says. Bulgartabac chief Angel Shterev told the paper that the company sold a total of 16,300 tons of cigarettes in January-April 1995 as against 13,531 tons in the like period of 1994. The Commonwealth of Independent States, the Arab countries and Romania account for most exports.