Today President Zhelyu Zhelev had a meeting with leaders of the Democratic Left parliamentary group (comprising MPs of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, the Eco-Glasnost Political Club and the Bulgarian Agrarian National Union) in connection with the amendments to the Agricultural Land Tenure Act. The President called for finding some compromise, President's Spokesman Valentin Stoyanov told journalists later. On April 14, 1995 the parliamentary majority of the BSP passed the amendments to the Agricultural Land Tenure Act, also known as the Land Act. On April 27 the President referred the amendments back to Parliament for reconsideration. He motivated his decision in a written objection of eight pages, saying that the amendments will actually halt agrarian reform. "The Democratic Left does not accept the President's arguments because they are unprofessional," BSP MP Todor Todorov, Chairman of the parliamentary Committee on Agriculture and Forests, said after today's meting with President Zhelev. He accused the President's advisors of having done a formal job when motivating the amendments' suspension. Mr. Stoyanov said that Zhelev had invited the Socialists to a meeting to ask them for "a serious consideration" of his arguments. According to the President, certain texts of the amendments arbitrarily deprive people of their property rights in violation of the Constitution. Today Todorov told journalists this was not true, saying that none of the President's advisors could specify the constitutional texts violated by the amendments. The President promised to challenge the constitutionality of the Land Act amendments before the Constitutional Court if his veto is overridden. One of the President's advisors called upon people to oppose the anti- constitutional act if it enters into force before the Constitutional Court takes a decision. "24 Chassa" cited BSP Spokesperson Klara Marinova as saying that the MPs of the Democratic Left were yet undecided whether to revote the amendments without any changes or to agree to some compromise. The most heated arguments flared up over the return of land nationalized by the communists in the late 1940s to its rightful owners and their heirs, who do not want to join the new farmer cooperatives. Under the amended Land Act, owners will not get their land in physical boundaries which means, according to the opposition and the President, that they will have to give up their actual land in exchange for other plots of possibly lower grade outside the consolidated plots of farmer cooperatives. The other debatable texts concern the land market as they provide privileges for neighbors, relatives and municipalities when a plot of land is put up for sale. Before suspending the Land Act amendments, President Zhelev had consultations with the parliamentary opposition and some extra-parliamentary formations. So far President Zhelev has vetoed three acts passed by the Socialist- dominated Parliament. The BSP and the President have also differences over Bulgaria's integration with NATO. According to the President, the Socialist Cabinet of Zhan Videnov's Government has not expressed categorically enough Bulgaria's desire for full membership in NATO.
Prime Minister Zhan Videnov received here today Mr. Otto Wolf Von Amerongen, President of the Eastern Committee of the German Economy in the Federation of German Industry, the Government's press center said. The talks focused on the restructuring of Bulgarian economy and on this country's integration with the European Union. Mr. Amerongen emphasized that the promotion of Bulgaria's relations with the European Union requires the joined efforts of both sides. He showed understanding for the difficulties, which the Bulgarian Government is facing in the implementation of reforms. Mr. Amerongen expressed the readiness of Germany to promote its traditional friendly relations with Bulgaria. The Bulgarian Prime Minister emphasized the importance of the projects in infrastructure for the integration of Bulgaria in the European structures. He singled out as an important task for the Bulgarian Government the promotion of trade relations with the European Union and its other traditional partners. Mr. Videnov brought forward the importance that Bulgaria renders to the promotion of economic relations with Germany as the largest investor here. Mr. Amerongen was also received by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Development Roumen Gechev.
Today Bulgarian Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski expressed concern over the latest developments in Croatia. "The escalation of the conflict is extremely harmful and tragic for peoples' lives there, for the solution of the conflict and for the whole region, including Bulgaria," Minister Pirinski said. He stressed that Bulgaria cannot but worry at such a moment. "Though in advance, I express the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry's great concern about the latest developments in Croatia," Bulgaria's chief diplomat said. Bulgarian Ambassador in Zagreb, Lyubcho Trohanov, is authorized to take measures in his judgment in order to protect the lives of the Embassy's employees and their families, including their repatriation if necessary.
"At the UN crime conference in Cairo, which discussed international cooperation in fighting organized and transnational crime, the Bulgarian delegation laid stress on four major points," Minister of Justice Mladen Chervenyakov said at his return from Cairo. First, the United Nations and the European Union should adopt a new policy to pursue in regard to the financial, informational and organizational assistance that should be provided to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. "If such assistance is not offered, the EU would incur the risk of these countries, Bulgaria included, turning into a base of criminal groups and an ideal place for money laundering," Minister Chervenyakov said. The second major problem is that the Yugoemabrgo breeds crime and embargo-busting proved to be a lucrative business for many a rings. "In this context we proposed that the crime-breeding effect of the UN sanctions be analyzed when resolving the problem of the Yugoembargo and consider their possible lifting," Minister Chervenyakov said. The third problem, which the Bulgarian delegation drew attention to, concerns the adoption of a regional Balkan policy for fighting crime. It is imperative to establish such a policy because the Balkan countries are on the route of drug trafficking and a cross-roads of other criminal activities. "Obviously, it is necessary to formulate a regional policy for crime control in the Balkans within the existing structures of the UN," the Bulgarian Minister of Justice stated. "The fourth important point is that the UN should provide greater informational assistance and include Bulgaria in its crime control data base," Chervenyakov said further on.
"The delegates of Romania and Macedonia showed interest in Bulgaria's idea to formulate a Balkan policy on crime control," the Minister said. "We had bilateral meetings to discuss it in more detail," he said and expressed his hope that part of the Bulgarian proposals would appear in the final report and possibly in some of the resolutions passed by the conference. The resolutions of the forum are not binding but Minister Chervenyakov believes that they can be included in a number of practical programs implemented by the UN member- states. "I hope that eventually this would lead to concrete actions and that Bulgaria will get more substantial assistance in fighting crime," he said.
Hans van den Broek, European Commission member in charge of external relations with the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and common foreign and security policy, is arriving on a two-day visit in Sofia on Thursday. The visit is paid at the invitation of Bulgarian Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski. Commissioner van den Broek will meet President Zhelyu Zhelev, Prime Minister Zhan Videnov, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Kiril Tsochev, National Assembly Chairman Blagovest Sendov, the members of the parliamentary committees on economy and on foreign policy, and the Council of Ministers Committee on European Integration. He will have talks at the Ministry of Transport to discuss infrastructural projects implemented under the PHARE program. All questions arising in connection with the process of European integration in general and Bulgaria's integration in the European Union in particular will be considered during Van den Broek's visit. Bulgaria's strategy for the attainment of this goal will be considered in detail. The other topics will be the preparation for the inaugural meeting of the EU Association Council to be held in Brussels on May 29, 1995, facilitating the access of Bulgarian goods to the EU markets, the necessity of the EU committing itself more tangibly to the Bulgarian infrastructural projects and issues related to the PHARE program, journalists were told by Krasimir Kostov, Deputy Head of the European Integration Department with the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Economic Cooperation Kiril Tsochev and Ambassador Thomas O'Sullivan of the European Union (EU) mission here, today signed financial memorandums on assistance to Bulgaria under operation PHARE. The documents envisage that Bulgaria receive ECU 60 million. The memorandums were signed under an indicative program of late August 1994 under PHARE, which set priorities for the cabinet's work over a certain period of time, Chief Advisor in the cabinet's European Integration Commission Emil Goranov told the BTA. The 1994 indicative program provided for ECU 85 million EU fund to Bulgaria: ECU 25 million under the EU INTEREG program for trans- border cooperation that are already being used and ECU 60 million to be extended under today's memorandums. Bulgaria this year embarks on a new stage of relations with the European structures, an element in which will be the drawing up of a long-term program with an emphasis on investment projects, Deputy Prime Minister Tsochev told journalists after the signing of the documents. He said a failure to come to a common understanding on how EU funds should be utilized is the reason why the funds were not used up. "These funds are extended by the EU as financial aid and the cabinet's desire now is to use them 100%, which is also the task of the European Integration Commission operating with the cabinet," Tsochev also said. Goranov said that of part of the ECU 60 million have already been distributed. 12 million will go for the transport infrastructure, 3 million for mass privatization, 15 million for power production and particularly the Maritsa-Iztok power plant, 1.2 million for non-government organizations, 5 million for nuclear safety, 4.2 million for environment, 1.2 million for information on European integration, 3 million to the Committee of Posts and Telecommunications and 3.4 million for conventional power production. EU financial aid to Bulgaria over the 1990-94 period totaled ECU 342.5 million (exclusive of the new ECU 60 million). In 1990 the EU funds were 25 million, in 1991-92 160 million, in 1993 90 million and in 1994 85 million. Some 85 million are expected to come this year, for which an indicative program will probably be signed in about two months' time. Of the total of ECU 342.4 million that came from the EU, only some 53% have been used (180.9 million). Of the funds it has received, education utilized 97.6%, nuclear safety 72.8%, agriculture 64.2%, health care 78.8%, the finance sector 11.8%, small and medium-sized enterprises 5.6%, and the social sector 27.5%, said Goranov.
British Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Mr. Douglas Hogg ended his official visit here. Mr. Hogg described his three-day visit in Bulgaria as "investigative" and assessed in positive terms the Government's intentions stated in its program for economic reform. Mr. Hogg met with President Zhelyu Zhelev, Prime Minister Zhan Videnov, Deputy Prime Minister Kiril Tsochev and Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski.
Asked about the position of the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry on the Turkish invasion in Northern Iraq, the head of the department for South Eastern Europe Konstantin Andreev voiced regret that problems of that kind could not be settled through dialogue, within the law and observing human rights, but need resorting to the use of arms. He said that the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry stands up for Iraq's territorial unity and sovereignty.
Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev and Hungarian President Arpad Goncz need to meet again after President Zhelev's visit to Hungary in 1991, Hungarian Ambassador here Sandor Szabo told reporters today. According to Mr. Szabo, Hungary and Bulgaria should sign a new cooperation agreement. He believes that Hungary will support Bulgaria in October in its attempts to gain full membership in the Central European Initiative, where Bulgaria has been an associated member since 1994.
U.S. Ambassador here William Montgomery visited the Agency for Expatriate Bulgarians. Agency head Ginyo Ganev asked the ambassador's assistance in sending their representatives to the United States with a mission to establish relations between the organizations of Bulgarians there and study the American experience in handling minority problems.