Sofia, May 10 (BTA) - Bulgarian Deputy Foreign Minister Ivan Hristov paid a working visit to Greece, Albania and Macedonia between May 4 and 9.
The talks focused on propelling the joint initiative for settling the specific economic problems of the states, that have suffered from the effects of the embargo against former Yugoslavia, Kosta Andreeev, head of North-Western Europe Department with the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry said. As a result of the talks, Greece and Macedonia have agreed to join the collective demarche on that problem. Albania's answer on the issue is also expected in the nearest future.
The Bulgarian diplomat emphasized that the collective initiative and demarche will seek to find a solution fo the specifiic economic problems, rather than demand lifting of the Yugosanctions. Bulgaria stands for finding a peaceful, just and lasting political solution to the conflict in former Yugoslavia, in parallel to lifting the sanctions, "nothing more than what the Contact Group has proposed," Mr Andreev said.
During Mr Hristov's visits, in each of the three countries on the agenda were the bilateral relations, the situation in the region, the realization of infrastructure transport projects and in the talks with Greece, the integration into the European structures.
Sofia, May 10 (BTA) - "The event, marked in London, Paris and Moscow, proved to be of world importance," President Zhelev told journalists today after his return from the observances of the 50th anniversary of V-E Day in the three European capitals.
He said that reconciliation deserves special attention because "it is easier to achieve reconciliation between separate nations, even between belligerents, victors and vanquished, than within some and even most of the East European countries, where it seems the processes, the impact and the legacy of World War II are still very much alive; that is why these problems remain rather complicated and difficult." President Zhelev announced his intention to discuss this issue with journalists in the coming days.
At Sofia Airport, Bulgaria's head of state was welcomed by the ambassadors of Britain, France and Russia to Bulgaria. No government official was present at the airport.
Sofia, May 10 (BTA) - Viktor Chernomyrdin's visit and Bulgaria's readiness for it were high on the agenda of the talks between Bulgarian Prime Minister Zhan Videnov and his Russian counterpart Chernomyrdin. The meeting was held in the intervals between the events marking the 50th anniversary of the end of World War Two.
Returning from Moscow early this morning, the Bulgarian Prime Minister said he found time to discuss with Romanian President Ion Iliescu the construction of a second Danubian bridge. Videnov further voices his hope that the sides will come to a common understanding on this matter. The celebrations in Moscow proved that we should built a new home in Europe, the Prime Minister said adding that we should have the groundwork for it laid by the time we enter the 21st century. Prime Minister Videnov and Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev yesterday attended the march past of World War Two veterans at the Red Square and the inauguration of a memorial complex on the Hill of Tributes. Later in the day they attended a Kremlin meeting of state leaders and an official dinner given by Russian President Boris Yeltsin.
Sofia, May 10 (BTA) - Bulgarian Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski today left for Strasbourg to attend the 96th session of the Council of Europe (CE) Committee of Ministers tomorrow.
"We are mostly interested in the assessment of the Council's work for the promotion of democratic processes in countries in transition," Foreign Minister Pirinski said upon his departure.
His Strasbourg agenda also includes bilateral meetings, said Lyubomir Ivanov of the newly-set up Foreign Ministry Department on Human Rights, Humanitarian and Social Cooperation.
Sofia, May 10 (BTA) - Bulgarian Foreign Ministers Georgi Pirinski and Defence Minister Dimiter Pavlov will attend a May 15 meeting of the Western European Union (WEU) in Lisbon. Bulgaria in May 1994 was granted an associated partner status that took effect this March.
The forum will focus on the development of the WEU, its initiatives and performance, and the situation in former Yugoslavia. The participants are expected to adopt a declaration. Foreign Minister Pirinski will make a brief address on behalf of the Bulgarian delegation, journalists learned from Emil Vulev, deputy chief of Foreign Ministry International Organizations Department. He said a positive trend for expanding the implications of the associated partner status, which Bulgaria has, has been observable recently. He further assessed in positive terms the ties between Bulgaria and the WEU, citing the Brussels meetings of Foreign Minister Pirinski and Prime Minister Zhan Videnov's meeting with WEU Secretary General Jose Cutileiro. Mr Cutileiro was invited by the Bulgarian Foreign Minister to visit Bulgaria and is expected here this September.
Sofia, May 10 (BTA) - Stringent financial discipline and 2.5% economic growth this year are the two major tasks in the economic part of the cabinet's programme, deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Development Roumen Gechev told a news conference here today. The cabinet's projections for its whole term are that the Gross Domestic Product grow by an average of 4.5% annually. The Deputy Prime Minister believes that this year will see the major preconditions for a further growth of the economic parameters. According to him, there are conditions for stepping up privatization, particularly of industrial enterprises, using all instruments of denationalization. The cabinet expects that all this will result in a tangible growth of the real incomes of the public in 1997.
The cabinet plans to transform the State Fund for Reconstruction and Development into a banking institution. Its intentions are to have two or three powerful state-run banks. The funds for the privatization will be distributed by commercial banks. Roumen Gechev believes that the cabinet will manage to denationalize around 70% of the enterprises in this country by the end of its term. Attracting foreign investments will be another major priority. At the same time Bulgaria will seek to expand its positions on the markets of the European Union and the CIS, as well as of the countries in the Middle East and Latin America, said Gechev.
Sofia, May 10 (BTA) - At a sitting today the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) decided unanimously to ask President Zhelyu Zhelev to veto the section of the Budget Act concerning the judiciary, SJC Spokesman Vladislav Slavov said. The Council does not figure in the appropriations for the judiciary.
Slavov quoted a constitutional provision saying the judiciary has an independent budget. Interpreting this provision, the Constitutional Court ruled that the drawing up and utilization of the judiciary budget are beyond the competence of the executive, said Slavov. He quoted another Constitutional Court ruling, stating that the SJC is a supreme administrative body providing guidance for the units of the judiciary.
Commenting on the fact that no funds have been appropriated for the SJC, Slavov said that "this is a serious attempt to interfere in the judiciary's affairs, or rather to bring it to its knees". He recalled that the SJC was always expressly mentioned in the Budget Act in the past three years.
The Supreme Judicial Council and Minister of Justice Mladen Chervenyakov do not differ on this point, said Slavov. Chervenyakov held that the SJC budget should be incorporated into the Justice Ministry's budget.
Speaking at a news conference yesterday, Justice Minister Chervenyakov said the budget appropriations for the judiciary are realistic and largely meet its requirements. He disagreed with the SJC claim for an independent budget, arguing that it is not a juristic person and its administrative affairs are run by the Justice Ministry.
Sofia, May 10 (BTA) - "Surely, I will protest against certain measures for fighting crime because citizens' rights cannot be violated," Prosecutor General Ivan Tatarchev told journalists. His statement was prompted by reports that extraordinary measures, including tapping of telephones, surveillance and checking of bank accounts, are being discussed as part of the efforts to combat crime. However, Ivan Tatarchev accepts the introduction of police investigation and believes without it investigations are sluggish.
Justice Minister Mladen Chervenyakov last week said that the public was ready to accept certain curtailing of its rights, including tapping of telephones and similar measures, for the sake of greater safety. The opposition leader Ivan Kostov firmly opposed all measures threatening to turn Bulgaria into a police state. Another opposition leader, Vassil Gotsev, said the opposition Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) is against the introduction of police investigation, though Justice Minister Chervenyakov claims the political forces have reached a consensus on this matter.
Sofia, May 10 (BTA) - The private sector will be generating 70 to 75 per cent of Bulgaria's GDP by the end of the Socialist Party's four-year term of office, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Development Roumen Gechev said at an international conference "Doing Business in Bulgaria", which opened here today. In his view, mass privatization will be carried out in two stages: privatization proper, starting in January 1996, and a second stage ending in late 1997.
At the end of 1994 the private sector generated 30 per cent of GDP; its share is projected to reach 55 to 60 per cent by the end of 1996, Gechev said. Some 150 enterprises, most of them of the industrial sector, the tourist industry included, will be selected for mass privatization, said Deputy Prime Minister Gechev. Under a government decree, 50 per cent of their assets will be sold for cash and the rest for vouchers, Brady and ZUNK bonds.
Some enterprises will not be privatized. What is known as the "negative list" contains 20 enterprises which will not be subject to privatization, including the Kozlodoui nuclear power plant, the military-industrial complex, the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company and the Bulgarian Posts, Gechev said. One or two banks will remain state- owned so that the government could conduct transactions in the financial markets and influence interest rates, the lending and investment policy. In addition to privatization, economic restructuring requires investment, which is now concentrated in the State Fund for Reconstruction and Development (SFRD), Gechev said. The SFRD holds some 450 million dollars and over 1,000 million leva in an account in the National Bank of Bulgaria. The Fund will shortly be transformed into a bank (not a commercial bank), which will invest in different commercial banks.
Mass privatization will be another source of funds. Seventy per cent of the cash receipts will be allocated to the SFRD. Bulgaria is emerging from the recession of the past few years, and now the cabinet will pursue a policy of lower interest rates and a changed commodity composition of trade. So far Bulgaria exported mostly semi-finished products, which will have to be replaced with finished industrial products and services. On the imports list, consumer goods and technological products will have to be replaced with imported technologies, said Gechev.
The international conference "Doing Business in Bulgaria", which will end on May 12, is organized by the international weekly newspaper "Balkan News and East European Report, and the Bulgarian Privatization Agency and Foreign Investment Agency. The organizers seek to familiarize foreign investors with the cabinet's economic and privatization programme, as well as with investment opportunities.
Sofia, May 10 (Kiril Vulchev of BTA) - Bulgaria's Socialists-dominated Parliament today passed for a second time the amendments to the Arable Land Tenure Act, widely known as the Land Act. President Zhelyu Zhelev, who on April 27 vetoed the amendments saying they were anti- constitutional, said earlier he would approach the Constitutional Court (CC) if the amendments pass again.
The second passage of the amendments followed heated debates involving the ruling Socialists, their coalition partners, and the Bulgarian Business Bloc supporting them, on the one hand, and the opposition on the other. The opposition, including the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), the Popular Union and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), took the President's side and voted against the second passage of the amendments refusing to make compromises.
Dr. Zhelev opposed the amendments item by item and as a whole, saying with them the land reform will grind to a halt.
Vladislav Kostov of the UDF said most of the amendments were aimed against the restoration of ownership in land. Dragomir Shopov of the Agrarians within the Socialists-led coalition, said for his part the amendments sought to restore land ownership as quickly as possible. Land in Bulgaria has belonged to Soviet-style cooperative farms ever since the Communists took power after the end of World War Two. In 1991 Parliament passed the Land Act providing for the restitution of land ownership. The law was first amended in 1992 when the UDF had parliamentary majority. The Socialists approached the CC but their request was rejected. In 1993 they managed to get through their amendments with the support of the MRF and UDF expellees, but the CC ruled the amendments violated the Constitution.
The disputes around the latest amendments to the Land Act have been going on for three months now. The most controversial texts refer to the preferences given in land restitution to those wishing to form farm cooperatives and the establishment of privileged categories of land buyers neighbours, relatives and the municipality.
The Land Act is the fourth act of the Socialist dominated Parliament on which President Zhelev has imposed a suspensive veto. The President suspended the amendments to the restitution act, to an act cancelling, according to its authors, decommunization in science and higher education and amendments to the Environment Protection Act. Despite the assistance put up by the opposition, Parliament revoted the suspended three acts. The UDF referred the amendments to the Restitution Act to the Constitutional Court but it has not ruled on it yet and the act is in force.
President Zhelev said he would return to Parliament all recommunization acts. An MP of the BSP accused him of suspending acts passed by the BSP majority, annoyed by their victory in the elections. Zhelev was one of the first leaders of the UDF and was elected President in 1992 on the UDF ticket.
Sofia, May 10 (BTA) - The rights of the Bulgarian minority in Yugoslavia will be discussed during a visit to Sofia by Yugoslav Minister for Human Rights Margit Savovic, Nikolai Kamov, head of the Parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee, told a briefing today. A Bulgarian parliamentary delegation visiting Belgrade from May 7 to 9 prepared this visit.
The rights of the Bulgarian minority in the eastern part of Yugoslavia were high on the agenda of all meetings held by the Bulgarian delegation: with the chairmen of the two chambers of the Yugoslav parliament, with Prime Minister Radoe Kontic, MPs and representatives of different political forces. (The region in question, known in Bulgaria as the Western Outlands, was lost to Serbia under the 1919 Treaty of Neuilly as a result of Bulgaria's defeat in World War I.) Raising the issue, the Bulgarian side did not intend to provoke confrontation or to make territorial claims; it was raised as an issue that deserves attention and that should be addressed by the two countries, said Kamov MP of the Bulgarian Socialist Party. He said the hosts expressed willingness to review human rights violations against the Bulgarian minority on a case-by-case basis.
Two opposition MPs of the delegation, Vesselin Metodiev of the Popular Union and Stoyan Denchev of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, said the results of the visit were "modest". They did not conceal their disappointment over the stance of the official Yugoslav authorities. Metodiev and Denchev said the meetings with opposition leaders were more productive as they committed themselves to see that Bulgarian minority rights are safeguarded.
The Serb side categorically distanced itself from the claim by its representative to the UN Commission on Human Rights that there are Serb minorities in Bulgaria, the MPs said. These claims are considered politically irresponsible by the official Yugoslav authorities.
The sides agreed that bilateral relations should intensify, especially in sectors which do not come under the embargo, the head of the Bulgarian delegation said. The visit to Belgrade is only one of a series of meetings with MPs of the Balkan countries held by the Parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee, Kamov stressed. In March Bulgarian MPs visited Greece. A meeting with Romanian deputies is scheduled for June. Turkish MPs will shortly be invited to Bulgaria.