"All previous governments and the National Assembly are indebted to the Bulgarian family," said President Zhelyu Zhelev in his address in connection with the international family day, celebrated at the initiative of the UN under the motto "Tolerance Begins in the Family". The President backed his claim with the fact that no legislation to protect the family and the children has been adopted in Bulgaria so far. "Impoverishment of a large part of the population had an adverse effect on the family, the number of marriages is on the decline, family relations have been tensioned by the poverty and the lack of hope for going out of the crisis," the President said. He emphasized that support for the family is not only a humane action on part of the state, but is in itself a long-term investment policy. "Tolerance has always been one of the most treasured qualities of the Bulgarians, particularly with view to the manifestations of anti-semitism and xenophobia today. Let us keep this property and its source, the family," the President said in conclusion.
The international family day was marked today by representatives of women's organisations and MPs with a round table on the topic "Tolerance Begins in the Family". The participants were greeted by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Territorial Administration and Construction Doncho Konaktchiev, who said that the political and economic insecurity in the period of the transition have strained the relations in the society and in the family.
The Socialist cabinet of Prime Minister Zhan Videnov, that stepped in office in January 1995, today publicized its 1995-1998 tenure programme. On nearly 100 pages, the cabinet pledges to take specific steps to improve the situation in Bulgaria during its term. The programme has seven chapters setting forth the major tasks in Bulgaria's development, the structural and macroeconomic policy, the development of the basic economic sectors and activities, transport and telecommunications, social policy, foreign policy, national security and stabilization of statehood, the legal system and rule of law. The cabinet vows to further the process of Bulgaria's integration into united Europe, to strengthen statehood, halt the impoverishment of the public and curb the growth of unemployment. The implementation of the above tasks will take much longer than the cabinet's term, the document says. It further stresses that positive reversal of the current situation should not be expected immediately because of the burdensome legacy the cabinet was left and the sluggish processes in the Bulgarian society. The programme will be implemented and the progress analyzed on a stage-by-stage basis. The major goal the programme pursues is to establish Bulgaria as a parliamentary republic with a democratic civil society and modern socially-oriented market economy. This policy matches the principles of Bulgaria's integration into modern Europe and the agreement on this country's association with the European Union, the document reads. The Bulgarian economy will prepare for joining the European market through structural and technological optimization of production, improvement of productivity and effectiveness of the economic activity, higher competitiveness of Bulgarian exports and optimized composition of trade, the programme further goes. The cabinets takes specific commitments in the very first chapter on the major tasks for Bulgaria's development. The real incomes of the members of the public in 1994 were down by 55.5% from the 1990 levels, with the late 1994 figures being 7.7 percentage points lower than in early 1994, says the cabinet's programme. The cabinet sets itself the task to curb impoverishment to 4 - 5 percentage points in 1995, completely eliminate it by early 1996, reach a 2 - 3 percentage points growth in 1997, and 4 - 5 points growth in 1998. The cabinet will also take action to stop the drop in real-term wages and pensions, and reverse the downward trend after 1996. The cabinet will seek to prevent the incomes and property stratification from turning into a precondition for social polarization. The cabinet will try to cut unemployment from 20.5% in December 1994 to 12% - 14% in 1998. It also pledges to create conditions for sustained growth of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), to reach 5% in 1998. The cabinet's projections are that the private sector in 1998 account for 60% - 65% of the GDP. Curbing inflation to 15% in 1998, moderately positive real interest, comparatively stable real leva/dollar exchange rate to encourage exporters, and economic revival are also among the cabinet's key objectives. However, these are only target figures to guide the government in its work, says the programme. Further key tasks facing the cabinet are strengthening statehood, providing guarantees for individual security, civil rights and freedoms, protecting the private, state and public property, cracking down on organized crime, as well as ensuring Bulgaria's national security. The programme also says the national traditions will be taken into consideration in the reform of education, science and culture.
In 1995-1998 Zhan Videnov's Cabinet is going to draft 160 bills - 137 new laws and 23 amendments to already operating acts. They are listed in the Government's lawmaking programme released today. The Government has given priority to four groups of bills that Parliament should consider and adopt during its summer session; they concern the preparation for and the holding of local elections this autumn, privatization, crime control and the the national budget revenue collection. The Cabinet's lawmaking programme is composed of eight sections. The first section, entitled "Criminal Law, National Security and Public Peace", lists 22 new bills, including a penal code, a code of criminal procedure and an execution of punishment bill. Most numerous are the bills mentioned in the second section of the programme, "Economic and Financial Laws", including amendments to the Transformation and Privatization of State- and Municipal-Owned Act, the Banks and Lending Act and the National Bank of Bulgaria Act, and new laws providing for the establishment of privatization investment funds, mass privatization, tax administration and tax police, taxation procedure and financial control. The Cabinet will introduce 23 bills concerning ownership and the land reform. It plans to draft 21 bills related to the social sphere, one of which is a social security bill. The section "Central Government, Local Self- government and Legal Framework" lists 18 bills, including a doctrine about Bulgaria's foreign policy.
A key priority of the Government will be the country's integration into the European economic, political and military organisations, says the Socialist Government's tenure programme for the period 1995-1998. The Cabinet expects that the EU intergovernmental conference of will open prospects for negotiating Bulgaria's full membership in this organisation. The Government's committee on European integration will adopt a special programme to set concrete steps in key areas until 1996 and outline the immediate and the medium-term diplomatic tasks and steps towards realization of rights and obligations by force of Bulgaria's association agreement with the EU, improvement of investment conditions, approximation of the Bulgarian legislation with those of the EU states, acquiring better access to the EU markets, intensification of cooperation with the EU-associated states, modernization and development of infrastructure and its inclusion into infrastructure networks which are being established in Europe, relieving the travel, state and residence requirements for Bulgarian citizens in the EU states in the light of the enforced Schengen agreement. In 1996 the Government will follow closely the discussion in NATO on the future of this organisation and on its eastward expansion. "By the end of the year the current problems will most probably find a mutually beneficial solution, which will place on a practical basis the issue of Central and Eastern European states' association," says the programme. The programme also declares Bulgaria's intention to develop the practical cooperation with NATO on a bilateral and multilateral basis within the Partnership for Peace. The Government intends to seek more actively the best possible forms of preventive diplomacy before and in the process of settling the conflicts in the area covered by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and in the discussion on the future model of security, initiated by the organisation. "The expansion of the European integration processes over South-Eastern Europe is the only way of avoiding future conflicts in that part of the continent," reads the programme. Regional stability, cooperation and development are described as key directions of Bulgaria's foreign policy in the region. Bulgaria will do its best to assist NATO and the Contact Group in their efforts to find a peaceful, balanced and lasting solution to the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including prospects for mutual recognition of the warring states. The Government will seek support and cooperation from other states not involved in the conflict. According to the programme, the achievement of concrete agreements on such a decision should be parallelled with the suspension of the sanctions, imposed by the UN Security Council. The Government declares it will promote balanced relations with Turkey, Greece, Romania, Albania and with the states of former Yugoslavia, activating its efforts to the settlement of unresolved issues of bilateral interest: delimitation of Black Sea territories and of the river border along the Danube, environment protection, property- related, financial, humanitarian, visa issues and transport problems. According to the Government, the preparations for normalization of the region after the settlement of the conflict should start already at this stage. The Government will move fresh ideas and initiatives in the field of arms control and confidence building measures. An immediate task is the coordination and realization of measures to encourage economic development and cooperation. Bulgaria will actively participate in joint projects and within its capacities will coordinate specific regional investment projects in transport, communications and environment protection on a multilateral basis, including the Black Sea Economic Cooperation, the Danube Cooperation and the Central European Initiative. The programme recalls that the Government initiated concrete steps to overcome the negative effect of the sanctions against Yugoslavia on third countries. The Government declares that it will do its best to achieve broader political understanding of the problem in the UN, in its specialized organisations, in the OSCE and other international forums and organisations. In the field of the national security, the Government lays primary importance on the drafting of a comprehensive concept for national security, outlining the long-term parameters of the national interests. Such a concept is already under develpment.
"Containing the dangerous tendencies in the development of crime, consolidating legality and public order are key priorities," emphasizes the Government's tenure programme which was officially released here today. The Government will step up the drive against serious crime and violence against the person, will guarantee citizens' rights and liberties, will curb trespasses to property, economic and organized crime, corruption, profiteering and smuggling. The Cabinet will take more efficient measures for crime prevention and a higher clearance rate. Attainment of these objectives requires concerted efforts from police, regulators and law enforcement authorities, from the legislature and the mass media, from the political formations and the general public. Preventive measures, intended to limit criminogenic factors and the breeding grounds of crime: gambling, drug abuse, prostitution etc., form an important part of the crime control programme. The Government will work out and propose for adoption a programme for reform of criminal law and will initiate a streamlining of the procedure with a view to expediting and raising the efficiency of the judicial process. The Government will draft and submit for passage a number of laws to improve crime control. To be successful, organized crime control calls for the confiscation of the funds illicitly acquired by natural and juristic persons and the profits derived from such funds. This will be regulated in an express law against money laundering. A gambling bill will also be proposed, along with amendments to the laws on profiteering, firearms, explosives and narcotic drugs, a new law on the anti-social behaviour of juveniles, a new legal framework and rules for the residence of aliens within Bulgarian territory etc. The Government will take measures to upgrade the public prestige of the police. Police actions should have evidential force after investigating powers are restored to the Interior Ministry authorities. The police will operate strictly within the law and with due respect for personal rights, the programme says. The law enforcement system can only be efficient if it employs people of high professionalism and integrity. The Government will ensure adequate working conditions to investigating magistrates and police officers. Members of the services will no longer be forced to quit without justification, only in the ad hoc interests of political parties.
At its meeting today the Government approved the texts of the 12 million US dollars loan agreement with the EBRD for restructuing and rehabilitation of the Bulgarian State Railways.
The Council of Ministers reduced the factors used in the calculation of the three-month inflationary adjustments to wages in the material sphere. In the first quarter of the year the actual inflation was lower than the projected figures for the period, says Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Mincho Koralski, explaining the Cabinet's decision. In his view there is a tendency for sustained drop of inflation rates.
The Government decided to set the ceiling prices of liquid fuels, liquefied hydrocarbon gas and natural gas on a three-month basis. So far the ceiling prices were set for the period between the 1st and the 25th day of the month. The Government raised the ceiling prices of petrols for the period between May 16 and June 1. As of tomorrow, a litre of A-98 petrol will cost 28.50 leva; A-96 - 28 leva, A-93 - 22.50 leva, A-91 - 22 leva, A-86 - 21 leva, unleaded A-93 - 21 leva, diesel fuel - 16.50 leva, gasoil for industrial and househols uses 14.45 leva.
Lisbon - "Bulgaria's gradual integration for the purpose of joining the European and Euro-Atlantic structures as a full member is the clearly stated major priority of its foreign and security policies," the Bulgarian delegation said at the meeting of the council of foreign and defence ministers of the Western European Union in Lisbon today. This afternoon's sitting was attended by Bulgarian Defence Minister Dimiter Pavlov and Deputy Foreign Minister Stanimir Alexandrov. "Bulgaria is resolved to promote its political relations and practical cooperation with the WEU and it hails the new decisions that make it possible for the associated partners to take part in the work of the WEU bodies," it is said in the statement Deputy Foreign Minister Stanimir Alexandrov read. "Bulgaria intends to use all new opportunities and expand its cooperation with the WEU," Alexandrov said specifying that Bulgaria's participation in the Open Sky task group and the task group of experts inspecting confidence building and the strengthening of security is of particular interest. The Bulgarian delegation stressed once more "Bulgaria's readiness to consider its specific participation in future humanitarian and peacekeeping missions under the auspicies of the WEU". "The Bulgarian units have already been gaining experience at the exercises held within the framework of NATO's Partnership for Peace plan," the delegation said. In connection with the joint deliberation of the 27 states granted different status at the WEU on the new conditions for security in Europe, the Bulgarian delegation said Bulgaria is much interested in responding adequately to the problems of security. "Before replacing the outdated discriminate thinking that looks upon the Balkans as a periphery of Europe it will be difficult to make plans for greater stability and security in Southeastern Europe," the Bulgarian delegates specified. Recalling Bulgaria's desire to join the WEU, the European Union and NATO, they pointed out that the country's membership in one of these organizations should not be considered a precondition for its accession to the other ones.
"Interest Rates May Go Further Down" runs the headline of an interview in "24 Chassa" with Mileti Mladenov, Vice Governor of the National Bank of Bulgaria. In April and May the central bank made three cuts in the base rate, reducing it from 72 per cent to 54 per cent. "We are following closely the country's economic development; given that inflation totalled 12.4 per cent in January-April, interest rates still are high, which is good for savers and bad for borrowers. Therefore interest rates may be reduced further," says Mladenov. Depositors may lose 5 to 10 per cent of their savings due to inflation this year, says "24 Chassa" quoting experts. The forecast is based on the fact that the National Statistical Institute projects inflation at 55- 65 per cent, and the annual interest rate is set in the budget at 50 per cent.
Petrol prices may be changed quarterly instead of monthly, says a front-page story in "24 Chassa", quoting Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Development Roumen Gechev. The daily says a drastic rise in petrol prices may be expected in August. Currently a litre of petrol costs between 20 and 30 leva. (The exchange rate of the dollar is 66 leva.)
The dailies comment on the replacement of the management of the Bank Consolidation Company (BCC) last week. "Standart News" recalls this is the third replacement in three years. It runs interviews with former boss Krassimir Angarski and his replacement Valentin Tsvetanov. Angarski says the new management represents the United Bulgarian Bank and its supporters, which means that the banks that proved their managerial incompetence in the past few years have gained the upper hand. The new boss, Valentin Tsvetanov, says he will try not to show preference for any bank. He promises radical steps, including the dismissal of directors of state-owned banks if necessary. In an interview in "Troud" Tsvetanov says debt- ridden state-owned banks will be sold, instead of forcing them to merge. "The new bank holding management is making new promises," "Standart News" comments.