Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev cabled his congratulations on the stepping into office of France' new President Jacques Chirac, wishing him success. Dr. Zhelev further voices his hope that Bulgaria and France will preserve the excellent relations they have and further the long-standing friendship between the two nations.
An international conference on society and politics in Southeastern Europe opened in Sofia. Thirty Bulgarian scientists and 25 participants from Albania, Germany, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, the U.S., Slovenia, France, Croatia, Yugoslavia, and UNESCO are attending the forum. The conference is financed by UNESCO and is held under the auspices of Bulgarian Prime Minister Zhan Videnov. This is the third regional conference on social sciences in Southeastern Europe. It will end on May 25. Prime Minister Videnov addressed the conference this morning. The Bulgarian government will seek the scientists' help when taking political decisions on complicated issues, Videnov said. He stressed that many current problems of Southeastern Europe are the result of earlier foreign policy decisions and historical controversies in the region. The Bulgarian government relies on cooperation and mutual understanding among the countries of Southeastern Europe, Videnov said.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Zhan Videnov said he was pleased with the results achieved by the Bulgarian-Russian committee on economic and scientific and technical cooperation, summing up today's talks with a Russian delegation headed by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. The delegation arrived for a two-day official visit here today. Prime Minister Chernomyrdin concurred with this view after a meeting of the Bulgarian and Russian delegations. Earlier today the two prime ministers had a private conversation and a working lunch. "We see this visit as a continuation of the state-to-state dialogue," Chernomyrdin said on board the airplane to Sofia. In his view, Russia and Bulgaria have managed to reverse the downturn in political, economic and cultural relations. The important things is that there are no serious differences on political matters between the two countries. In Sofia Chernomyrdin was met with military honors under a driving rain. He said it was a good omen and expressed a hope that the visit would give impetus to bilateral relations, which have been gaining speed recently. Some 15 agreements between the two governments and individual ministries have been prepared to be signed tomorrow, Prime Minister Videnov said after the talks. "There are no unresolved problems at this stage. Time limits have been set for everything that needs discussing," he said. Chernomyrdin said he was pleased with the talks on some of the most important issues for Russia and Bulgaria. In addition to the eleven agreements approved by the intergovernmental committee, the sides are expected to sign two transport agreements and a memorandum on cooperation in oil and gas processing, which is still under preparation. Bulgaria and Russia have no alternative but to set up a joint venture in gas and oil processing, Russian Minister of Fuels and Power Engineering Yuri Shafranik told the press. He said, however, that Bulgaria and Russia have not ironed out their differences after five months of talks. He expressed a hope that the problem would be solved by the two prime ministers. There is little likelihood that the agreement will be signed, judging from the uncompromising position of both Shafranik and Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister Kiril Tsochev. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Krylov says there are no controversies or open problems between Bulgaria and Russia, but only nuances in their views on certain issues, including the Danubian cooperation and the Black Sea Economic Cooperation. He further described as very close the two countries' stands on the cooperation with the Council of Europe. Asked how Russia sees Bulgaria's aspirations for NATO membership, Krylov said it is Bulgaria's sovereign right and is a question that should be addressed only by Bulgaria and NATO. The sides are drafting two documents in power production, Russian Minister of Atomic Energy Viktor Mihailov told journalists. One is an agreement on cooperation in the peaceful uses of atomic energy and the other is on cooperation in nuclear power generation. Today the Prime Ministers of Bulgaria and Russia will sign the intergovernmental accords and give a joint news conference to sum up the results of Viktor Chernomyrdin's two-day visit.
The opposition Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) today approached the Constitutional Court asking it to rule on the constitutionality of the Land Act amendments passed recently by the Socialist parliamentary majority. This step came a day after President Zhelyu Zhelev did the same. The UDF petition to the Constitutional Court (CC) was backed by the signatures of 58 MPs of the Union, said UDF deputy floor leader Peter Stoyanov. 48 signatures are enough to approach the CC. The law is aimed against land restitution, reads the petition filed at the CC. It displays somebody's personal interest to favor the state, municipalities and cooperative farms at the expense of private owners. The MPs of the UDF claim all provisions of the amended law are designed to serve recommunization and constitute a gross violation of the Bulgarian Constitution. According to President Zhelev, the amendments infringe on the inviolability of private property and deprive Bulgarians of their ownership on farm land in violation of the Constitution.
A delegation of the Federal Foreign Ministry and the Federal Ministry of the Interior of Germany, including experts of the Federal Crime Service, paid a four-day visit to Bulgaria, Major General Georgi Lambov, Chief Secretary of the Ministry of the Interior, said at a news conference today. The visit was at the invitation of the Ministry of the Interior. The two sides discussed cooperation against transborder crime as well as technical and material aid, exchange of information and cooperation in combating international organized crime. In Germany there is Bulgarian criminal involvement in car thefts and smuggling and in illegal trade in people and drugs, said the leader of the German delegation, Friedrich-Wilhelm Mock, Ministerial Adviser at the Federal Ministry of the Interior. According to him the two countries could also cooperate in combating money laundering and white collar crime.
Parliament passed on second reading today amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure moved by the Government, harmonizing the Code of Criminal Procedure to the amendments to the Penal Code passed yesterday. The amendments provide for extending the term of preliminary investigation to up to nine months in exceptional cases. So far the term was six months. The testimony of the accused during the investigation can no longer be used as evidence before the court. The investigator, however, is obliged to warn the accused that his words may be used against him in court. The police officers will once again be investigated and tried by armed forces investigators and judges, as was the case at the beginning of 1994, Parliament decided. The Code of Criminal Procedure includes a new section regulating the substitution of death sentences for life sentences.
Bulgarian Parliament ratified tonight the Treaty for Friendly Relations and Cooperation between Bulgaria and the Kirgiz Republic, signed in Sofia in November 1994. Parliament also ratified the Treaty for Friendly Relations and Cooperation between Bulgaria and Georgia, signed in January 1995 in Sofia, as well as a Bulgarian-Georgian agreement on air transport, also signed in January 1995 in Sofia.
Parliament today passed at first reading two bills on securities, stock exchanges and investment companies, introduced separately by the cabinet and Valentin Stoev MP of the Bulgarian Business Bloc. Speakers stressed during the debates that it is essential for Bulgaria to have legal groundwork for protecting the interests of investors and regulating the investment market. Several "pyramids" have already collapsed in this country. Speakers were unanimous that their purpose is to protect the Bulgarian investor from illegal practices. Both bills attach particular importance to the State Commission on Securities and Stock Exchanges. Divergences came mostly on provisions on stock exchanges, investment brokers and transactions with securities. A Bill on the Central Service for Organized Crime Control (CSOCC) also passed on first reading today by a vote of 154 to 5, with 29 abstentions. In 1991 a law on the Interior Ministry's structure was enacted, which marked the beginning of a specialized service combating organized crime. The Bill is one of the priorities of the Socialists, who command a majority in Parliament. The cabinet- sponsored Bill contains provisions on the structure, management, bodies and powers of the CSOCC, as well as its relationships with state bodies, organizations and members of the public. There is a provision guaranteeing the protection of the Service's officers. During the debates MPs of different parliamentary groups spoke about the need of a law on the CSOCC, arguing that organized crime is on the rise and that socio-economic and political conditions have changed. "The law on the CSOCC is not a panacea, and yet it is an important step to a crackdown on crime," Interior Minister Lyubomir Nachev said in Parliament. Parliament passed slight amendments to the Local Self-Government and Urban Development Act. Members of the Bulgarian Students' Confederation and the Federation of Independent Students' Societies protested before the Parliament this afternoon. Their protests were prompted by the passage at first reading of the Higher Education Bill which, they believe, does away with the academic autonomy of higher schools and placed obstacles for most students to continue their education. In the meantime the leaders of two major opposition forces, the Popular Union (of Democrats and Agrarians), and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) of the ethnic Turks, agreed to cooperate in the local elections this autumn. Popular Union co-Chairperson Anastasia Moser said they have agreed with the MRF to nominate common candidates for the local elections, just as they have agreed with UDF last week. An agreement on cooperation in the local elections was also reached today between the Bulgarian Agrarian Union and the Radical Democratic Party that over a month ago walked out of the UDF.
Bulgaria's foreign trade turnover in January-March totaled 113,000 million leva at current prices, National Statistical Institute (NSI) Spokesman Dimiter Fratev told a news conference today. During the first quarter, Bulgarian exports totaled 59,000 million leva, while imports amounted to 54,000 million leva. The trade surplus is the result of a drop in imports, and not of an increase in exports, a trend observed in 1994, Fratev said. According to NSI data, first-quarter imports were 17 per cent down on the same period of 1994, while exports decreased by 14.5 per cent. Bulgaria's most active trading partners were the members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which account for 50 per cent of Bulgarian exports and 53 per cent of imports. The European Union member states are Bulgaria's second biggest trading partner, accounting for 37 per cent of exports and 43 per cent of imports. The trend towards a gradual recovery of production remains, the NSI spokesman said. In January-April industry reported a 2 per cent increase in output compared to the same period in 1994. In April 1995 industrial output was 4.4 per cent higher than in April 1994. The increase was largest in ferrous metallurgy (50 per cent), and the chemical and oil- processing industry (9 per cent). An upsurge was also observed in electricity and heat generation, coal-mining, mechanical engineering and metal-working, the pulp and paper industry, glass and ceramics, textiles, printing and publishing. In April the NSI observed a downturn in food-processing, non-ferrous metallurgy, electrical and electronic engineering, building materials, lumbering and the timber industry, the leather and fur, and shoe industries.
The debt settlement negotiations with Germany will be resumed this summer, "Standart News" writes citing Todor Vulchev, Governor of the National Bank of Bulgaria (BNB). Yesterday T. Vulchev and Finance Minister Dimiter Kostov returned from a visit to Germany. The Bulgarian side estimates the debt at DM 500 millions debt, according to the German side it is DM 1,200 million. The BNB Governor said that German experts would come to Bulgaria in a few months' time to specify the amount of the Bulgarian debt and the way of its settlement with Bulgarian experts. "Douma" and "Troud" carry similar reports. "Besides the usual banking services, the Ionian Bank will grant credits to foreign companies resolved to invest in Bulgaria," Charalambos Tsarouhas, Director of the Bank's Bulgarian branch, told "Continent". He said that special workshops for training Bulgarian bankers would be organized in Athens. "The Bank will start operating within a month," Xavier de Bosse, Director General of BNP Dresdner Bank (Bulgaria), told "Pari". He specified that the Bank would get a license from the BNB in a few weeks. The German Dresdner Bank holds 40 percent of BNP Dresdner Bank, the French Banque nationale de Paris 40 percent and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development 20 percent.