Sofia, May 12 At a special news conference today President Zhelev called for accord between the state institutions. The topic of the news conference, as announced by the President himself, was "Speculations on the Celebrations of the 50th Anniversary of V-E Day", but the journalists were interested mainly in the relations between the President, on the one hand, and the Bulgarian Socialist Party-dominated Parliament and Cabinet, on the other. The news conference was attended by some 200 journalists.
The expectations that Zhelev would attack the Cabinet were not justified. Zhelev said that next Tuesday he would meet Prime Minister Zhan Videnov, providing no further details. Asked to assess the first 100 days of Videnov's Cabinet, Zhelev declined, saying that the Government was elected by Parliament and therefore its work should be assessed by Parliament. However, in response to another question, Zhelev said that the threat of recommunization was real.
"Obviously Bulgarian society has not matured for reconciliation and will not mature before being cured of the virus of totalitarianism - because communism has always relied on dividing and opposing people - and before the implementation of just, democratic and fair economic, social and political reforms. That is, before the land is returned to its rightful owners, before restitution and privatization and before the setting up of social security and insurance funds. Therefore reconciliation will be a long process. But what can and should be done in order to prevent a distortion of public and state affairs, is to seek accord and understanding on specific, topical issues. This refers above all to the state institutions dominated by different political forces. It is their duty to overcome their ideological differences through compromise and mutual concessions, no matter how deep they may be, as well as their political conflicts, no matter how acute they may be. The state interest dictates this", President Zhelev said in his opening remarks. Answering questions put to him, he repeatedly returned to the issue of the relations between institutions in the period of transition. According to Zhelev this is "a burning and very sensitive issue" in the present configuration. President Zhelev is former leader of the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) - the main opposition force in the incumbent Socialist- dominated Parliament.
After repeated questions on his attitude to the Government, the President admitted having "persistently evaded" the issue. "I will probably have to call a conference similar to this one or give an extensive interview analyzing the relations and cooperation between the institutions on the basis of concrete material," Zhelev said.
Asked by BTA to comment on a statement of the BSP that by vetoing acts passed by Parliament, the President is actually showing disrespect for the people's vote for the Socialists in the parliamentary elections, Zhelev said that he is surprised by the fact that such logic is applied to "constitutional powers, such as the President's power to suspend acts he deems inappropriate and harmful." "I could ask the BSP the same question - why it is not respecting the vote of the people who elected me? The people who voted for me exceed those who voted for the BSP and its Government by 600,000," the President said.
Zhelev accused the Socialist papers, mentioning "Douma" and "Zemya", of waging a constant warfare against the presidential institution. "This warfare was soon followed by a war between the institutions, by attempts to present the implementation of constitutional rights as a war between the institutions," Zhelev said and reiterated his readiness for dialogue and political compromise in the name of state interests.
Asked about the measures launched by the Government to combat crime and about BSP intentions to amend the Constitution, the President said he was against the curtailing of any of the citizens' constitutional rights under the pretext of combatting crime. "I believe the Constitution provides ample opportunities for combatting crime as long as there is an actual will to do so and the roots of crime are sought where they actually are, the President said.
He answered in the affirmative when asked whether there was censorship in the national media. There is censorship and it is obvious from the way some people are removed and the news are edited and arranged, the President said.
"I have invariable perceived the UDF as a democratic alternative for this country. My attitude to the UDF has not changed fundamentally, though there were periods when I disagreed with some of its actions and some of its leaders ," Zhelev said in response to a question on his attitude to the largest opposition formation in Parliament.
Asked about Bulgaria's foreign policy, Zhelev stressed its independence and sovereignty. Asked to describe how he sees future relations between Bulgaria and Russia, Zhelev said that this depends on both countries. "We are an independent and sovereign state and naturally it is up to us to decide how are relations with Moscow are to develop. If the Government is sincere in its statements that integration into European and Euro-Atlantic structures - the European Union in particular, is a first priority, this should also determine our relations with Moscow," the President said, adding that according to him, there are no contradictions on this issue between the institutions.
Asked about Bulgaria's relations with NATO, Zhelev said that Bulgaria's stand should be determined by its own independent policy and "not by agreements reached between Russia and the US and Russia and NATO, because this smacks of Yalta." "We should not dramatize Russia's stand because being a great power it can to a great extent guarantee its national security, it does not need the help and support of other nations and therefore we should not bind things so closely with the opinion of one Russian leader or another," the Bulgarian President believes.
Sofia, May 12 (BTA) - President Zhelyu Zhelev received today Mr. Cornelio Sammaruga, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and Mr Karl Kenel, Vice-President of the League of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, who are visiting here in connection with tomorrow's supreme forum of the Bulgarian Red Cross (the General Assembly of the BRC).
The Bulgarian head of state praised the work of the BRC and expressed the readiness of the presidential institution to assist it in the implementation of its highly noble mission. President Zhelev expressed his wish for cooperation with the two international Red Cross organizations.
Dr Zhelev supported the idea for opening a regional bureau of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Bulgaria.
The guests expressed satisfaction with the work of the Bulgarian Red Cross and described it as the most efficient not only in Eastern Europe but also in the world as well. In his capacity as President of the Swiss Red Cross, Mr Kenel confirmed the wish of his organization and of the Swiss Government to assist the humanitarian programmes of the BRC and of the Bulgarian Government.
The two Red Cross leaders were also received today by National Assembly Chairman Blagovest Sendov.
Sofia, May 13 (BTA) - President Zhelyu Zhelev is planning to petition the Constitutional Court about the amendments to the Agricultural Land Tenure Act, after Parliament overrode the presidential veto on the bill two days ago. Speaking at the inaugural congress of the Dobroudja Farmers Union in Silistra (on the Danube) today, the President said he will probably refer the law to the Constitutional Court, requesting suspension of some key clauses which "essentially revise the philosophy of the previous version of the Land Act - that land should revert to its owners." Dr Zhelev expressed regret that Parliament re- voted the bill without any alterations. "To me, what matters most is ownership, the real restitution of land," he said, addressing the founding members of the Union.
The head of state expressed the hope that the Dobroudja Farmers Union will prove a promising organization of private agricultural producers. The union, which was initiated by the opposition Union of Democratic Forces as a voluntary association of local private farmers, will represent their interests in dealings with the official institutions.
National Assembly Chairman Blagovest Sendov and Deputy Prime Minister Roumen Gechev, MPs and government ministers attended the opening of a major pig breeding unit in the village of Fakia near Bourgas (Southeastern Bulgaria). The unit will be producing 10,000 fattened pigs for slaughter annually to meet demand in the Bourgas area. The unit is owned by the Mit 79 Company (President; Academician Ivan Tagalov). "We were left with the impression that the amendments to the Land Act meet with approval and that they will alow Bulgarian agriculture to make faster progress," Mr Sendov said after the visit.
Sofia, May 12 - Parliament passed the Defence and Armed Forces Bill on first reading by a large majority at an extraordinary sitting today. The Bill was introduced by the cabinet in March. The previous National Assembly passed on first reading and debated many provisions of a bill drafted by the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) in 1992 and repeatedly revised later on. It was not enacted, however, though the debates in the parliamentary committees and the plenary chamber took place under three governments and four defence ministers. The law which is in force now dates back to 1958.
The underlying principles of the Bill are: civilian leadership and parliamentary control over the armed forces; a ban on the army's involvement in the solving of internal political problems; legally established powers of the state organizations working in the defence sphere. The Bill opens up the opportunity for military service under contract. This does not mean that Bulgaria will have a professional army, which the state cannot afford, Defence Minister Dimiter Pavlov told the press in March.
Servicemen will be immune while performing their duty. There will be a separate law on alternative military service. The armed forces will be restructured.
During today's debates MPs of the ethnic Turks' Movement for Rights and Freedoms opposed the disbanding of the construction troops, 60 per cent of whose personnel, they claimed, are members of the minorities. They insisted that the formulation on the "mandatory use" of Bulgarian in the performance of military duties should be replaced with "official use", safeguarding the right to use one's mother tongue in one's personal contacts.
The Popular Union spoke in favour of the construction troops as an alternative to military service. The coalition moved for restoring the former practice of replacing military service for university students with courses. Sashka Karakasheva MP of the Socialist-led Democratic Left spoke about the need of provisions on alternative service.
In an extensive speech Vassil Mihailov of the UDF said the law now making its way through Parliament will have to be amended shortly, once a defence doctrine and a national security doctrine are adopted. The UDF opposes the proposed inclusion in the armed forces of the National Security Service and the National Intelligence Service, now subordinated to the Ministry of the Interior and the President, respectively. The Bill actually entrusts the Chief of the General Staff with the armed forces' leadership. It does not regulate his relationships with the civilian defence minister, Mihailov warned, listing omissions in the Bill. The Democratic Left expects the law to be enacted by the end of the summer session.
Sofia, May 12 (BTA) - The STAT Greek company At&T is negotiating with the Bulgarian Government the establishment of a Balkan telecommunication network, "Standart News" writes. The network will provide a 25 times faster transfer of information between the countries in the region. The two sides signed a preliminary contract for the production of telecommunication products in Bulgaria, the paper says. The issue is covered in most of the dailies.
Greek militaries will purchase from Bulgaria three flying targets Yastreb at 25,600 US dolars each under a contract, signed with the Aviotechnika Plant in Plovdiv (Southern Bulgaria), "Continent" says. The transaction should be carried out by the end of May. Russian and Turkish militaries have also shown interest in the products of Aviotechnika. The plant authorities have planned to launch a joint production with Russia of five-seated Il-103 businesclass aircraft.
Greece tops the list of foreign investors in Bulgaria, Minko Gerdjikov of the Ministry of Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation is quoted in "Troud" as saying. Trade between Bulgaria and Greece totalled 500 million US dollars in 1994. The volume of commodities and services grew 90 percent against the like period in 1993. Bulgarian exports to Greece have gone up 24 percent, the paper says.
2,500 kg of rose oil of the 1994 crops have not been sold so far, "24 Chassa" cites experts of the Ministry of Agriculture and of the Food-Processing Industry as saying. The reason is that this Bulgarian commodity cannot find foreign markets and the perfumery enterprises in the country need but small quantities of it, the paper writes. 900 ha of land will be put under oil-bearing roses in 1995, which is half last year's figures. Bulgaria's annual sales of rose oil amount to 700 kg, "24 Chassa" says.
"Sofia '95," a specialized international exhibition, was organized here between May 9 and 12 by the Bulgarreklama Agency and the German company IEG of Solingen. More than 600 manufacturers and traders displayed human and veterinary medicine equipment, computer systems, supplies and medicines.
The exhibition was divided between three major halls in the capital city. Medical, pharmacological and optic products of 364 companies from 22 countries could be seen at the Festivalna Hall. Dental equipment, instruments and consumables were exhibited by 84 companies from 14 countries at the Universiade Hall. The Winter Sports Palance hosted specialized quality control equipment, computers, data processing, heating and air conditioning hardware, demonstrated by 197 companies of 17 countries.
A total of 162 Bulgarian companies took part. The largest foreign exhibitor, Germany, was represented by 166 companies.
Two joint ventures in food-processing with Italian and Swiss partners investing a total of 10 million dollars will be formed shortly by ELTEX Holding, its President Pavel Alexiev told reporters. The company is one of the first to have utilized its quota for meat export to the European Union this year. In July ELTEX Holding will open a state- of-the-art cattle breeding unit near Pazardjik (South Central Bulgaria), for which 300 stocker cows and 600 calves will be imported from Austria.
The footwear plant of Kyustendil (Southwestern Bulgaria) is preparing for the next winter season. Having shipped its spring and summer collection to Italy, the manufacturer is working on a new winter collection, consisting of 180,000 pairs of boots. The enterprise works jointly with the Italian company Romanini, which sells its output on the European market. The plant has exported over 380,000 pairs of footwear since the start of the year. Annually, it designs more than 300 models of shoes and starts making some 120 of them.
A one-day marketing workshop was organized in Vidin (on the Danube, Northwestern Bulgaria) by the Bulgarian American Enterprise Fund. Faculty members of the University of Delaware delivered lectures to local young businessmen.
The Chamber of Commerce and Industy of Rousse (on the Danube, North Central Bulgaria) is already represented in Duisburg, said the Chamber's President Ivan Cherkezov. The Chamber's agent there will be the Technicon engineering office, which will familiarize German industrialists with opportunities for pursuit of industrial and commercial cooperation with Rousse and the Rousse area.
The World Bank will double its financial assistance for Brist, a manufacturer of refrigerating equipment of Breznik (Southwestern Bulgariap), the management said. The enterprise will receive a total of 150,000 US dollars from the international financial institution to develop and introduce ozone-friendly technologies in its production.
Sofia, May 12 - The Chaira pumped-storage power station (PSPS), the only one in Bulgaria, was brought on stream 21 years after its construction began. Its designed capacity is 788 to 864 MW. It will draw water from the upper parts of the Rila and Rhodope Mountains in Southern Bulgaria. The power station was inaugurated by Prime Minister Zhan Videnov today.
The Chaira power station is the largest put into operation in the 90s. The other major facility, the Kozlodoui nuclear power plant on the Danube River, was brought on stream in 1974.
Advocates of the two sources of electricity are still arguing how to cope with the electricity shortage which has lasted for decades.
The PSPS camp seems to have an edge over the nuclear power lobby after the construction of the Belene plant, the second one on the Danube, was suspended. It began in 1985 and stopped in 1992 under strong public pressure. Three months ago Nikita Shervashidze, head of the Power Engineering Committee, said construction should be resumed.
It is argued that unlike nuclear power plants, pumped-storage power stations can store electricity to feed it into the national grid at peak hours, in the morning and in the evening. Nuclear power station operate at full capacity regardless of the actual demand at the moment.
The disputes have been going on for two years now. The building of the Belmeken-Sestrimo cascade, the first stage of the Chaira PSPS, started in 1974, when the Kozlodoui nuclear power plant was put into operation. The building of the underground Chaira facilities started in 1979. At that time the press described it as the largest power station of its kind in Europe and the only one in the Balkans. In 1980 a contract was signed with Toshiba of Japan for the supply of machines, some of which were made in Bulgarian enterprises. Initially, it was planned to finish construction in 1988. But in 1985, when the Belene nuclear power project was launched, the Chaira project was already behind schedule. Builders did not keep their promise to complete it by September 9, 1989, when the 45th anniversary of the socialist revolution in Bulgaria was marked.
November 1989 saw the beginning of the end of the communist regime; in 1990 the first free elections were held and the Chaira PSPS sank into oblivion. During the five years of democratic reform, the press reported occasionally that its start-up was forthcoming but it did not materialize. The World Bank provided financing for the project. The trial start took place in August 1993. Experts say the Chaira PSPS will enhance the efficiency and the safety of the national grid as a whole.
Bulgarian and foreign companies have submitted tenders for the completion of units three and four. At an international competition Harsa of the United States was awarded a contract to be the official consultant on the project.
Sofia, May 13 (BTA) - A tonne and a half of narcotic drugs: heroin, opium, hashish and psychotropic substances, were incinerated today, the Interior Ministry said in a press release.
The druges have been seized by the customs and Interior Ministry authorities mainly in 1993 - 1995, and effective sentences have been passed on the couriers.
The destruction procedure was monitored and controlled by a seven-member commission including experts of the Ministry of Health, Ministry of the Interior, the General Customs Directorate with the Ministry of Finance and the National Investigative Service.
Sofia, May 13 (BTA) - An earthquake was registered at 11:47 hrs local time today, epicentred some 400 km to the southwest of Sofia, outside Bulgaria, the Seismological Situation Centre at the Institute of Geophysics with the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences reported, quoted by the Civil Defence. The estimated epicentre magnitude of the quake was 6 on the Richter scale and it was felt in most of Southern Bulgaria.
The intensity of the tremor was 4 on the MSK scale in Southwestern Bulgaria and 3 in the areas of Plovdiv, Kurdjali and Dimitrovgrad. There are no reports of casualties or damage to property.