Sofia, May 26 - Today the parliamentary majority of the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) postponed plenary debates on a draft resolution on NATO membership. The NATO issue united the opposition: for the first time, at a joint news conference, representatives of the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), the Popular Union, the ethnic Turks' Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) and the Bulgarian Business Bloc (BBB) came out with a common stand in support of adopting a resolution on NATO. The opposition accused the Socialists and their cabinet of destroying the consensus between the political forces and institutions on the priority of Bulgaria's integration into European and Euro-Atlantic structures. BSP MPs argued that the adoption of a resolution has only been postponed and Bulgaria's stand so far is not being revised. Yesterday, a working group of representatives of the parliamentary committees for foreign policy and national security, and of the two major political forces - the BSP and the UDF, drafted a resolution which was expected to be voted today, on the eve of the session of the Parliamentary Assembly of NATO. The draft resolution read: "The Bulgarian Government is assigned to undertake the necessary political and diplomatic steps for this country's accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in compliance with the national interests and following the presentation of the criteria and conditions for extending NATO and depending on these and in compliance with a realistic and balanced policy, combining all aspects of this country's security, with the ultimate goal of building an all-European security structure." According to Assen Agov of the UDF, two-thirds of this text was proposed by the BSP. After a meeting this morning of the parliamentary group of the Democratic Left (the BSP and coalition), the draft resolution on NATO membership did not enter the debating chamber. "Following discussions, the parliamentary group of the Democratic Left adopted delaying tactics as the opinion prevailed that both Parliament and the Government need more information on the conditions and criteria of possible NATO expansion so as to establish whether these correspond to Bulgaria's national interests, " Ivan Gaitandjiev of the BSP told BTA. According to him, it is necessary to clarify the processes of NATO's evolution and transformation from a defence structure into a security structure. The draft resolution has not been categorically rejected, Gaitandjiev added. In response to a question, Gaitandjiev, who is leader of the Bulgarian delegation in the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, said that it would not have been bad for the delegation to go to Budapest with an adopted decision but "the fact that no decision has been adopted is neither a failure nor an embarrassment for Bulgaria." The opposition believes that the BSP stand on NATO has been influenced by Russia's stand and that there are contradictions on this issue among the Socialists themselves. Popular Union co-chairman Anastasia Moser described today's decision of the BSP parliamentary group as a victory of the hardliners. UDF Deputy Chairman in charge of foreign policy issues, Vassil Gotsev, asked at today's news conference whether the controversy in the BSP is not a direct reflection of the controversy between the Russian institutions on this issue. BBB floor leader Ivo Traikov was the most categorical. "Russian influence is setting in once again... In my personal view, Chernomyrdin's visit was aptly timed, " Traikov said referring the Russian Premier's visit here last week. The representatives of the opposition believe that Bulgaria's accession to NATO should not be opposed to cooperation with Russia. According to Assen Agov of the UDF, possible Bulgarian membership in NATO would even guarantee the route of Russian raw materials to Western markets. "The democratic opposition is alarmed by the firm refusal of the BSP-led parliamentary majority to back Bulgaria's membership in NATO, " the UDF, MRF, Popular Union and BBB said in a joint declaration broadcast by the National Television after the evening newscast. In this alarming political situation in the Balkans, Bulgaria's national interests and security could only be guaranteed through accession to a powerful defence organization as NATO, the opposition says. "Once again, the BSP proved it places partisan dogmatism higher than the national interests [...] The democratic opposition in Bulgaria declares before the international community that it will fight all attempts of the ruling pro-communist majority to link this country's stand with another country's interests, " the declaration went on to say.
Sofia, May 26 (BTA) - The Russian Federation is for cooperation with NATO but firmly against the global expansion of the Organization, Russian Ambassador to Bulgaria, Alexander Avdeev, said here today. He informed National Assembly Chairman Blagovest Sendov that the allegations which have appeared in the foreign press and Bulgarian press about a change in Russia's stand following the meeting between Yeltsin and Clinton do not correspond to the truth. Ambassador Avdeev visited National Assembly Chairman Sendov with a delegation of Russian MPs, visiting Bulgaria to take part in a round table on the prospects of Bulgarian-Russian relations. The two sides also discussed possibilities for promoting contacts between the Parliaments of the two countries. Sendov raised the issue of the delivery and circulation in Bulgaria of Russian scientific, technical and other literature, including textbooks and periodicals. A round table on "Prospects of Bulgarian-Russian Relations and Cooperation" opened here today. It is organized by the Federation for Friendship with the Peoples of Russia and the CIS (FFPRCIS), the Slavyani Foundation and the Russian Culture and Information Centre. Politicians, MPs, scholars, public figures and businessmen of the two countries will discuss bilateral relations in different spheres, according to FFPRCIS chairman Zahari Zahariev.
Budapest, May 28 The participants in the spring session of the North Atlantic Assembly in Budapest are discussing NATO's adjustment to the new realities and its relations with Russia. Karsten Voigt, President of NATO's parliamentary wing, presented a tentative scheme for the admission of new members; the enlargement of NATO could be ratified at the end of 1998 or the beginning of 1999 at the latest. The head of the Bulgarian delegation, Ivan Gaitandjiev (MP for the Bulgarian Socialist Party) was a bit skeptical about the scheme. He said in his speech at the defence and security committee that Bulgaria's integration with the European and the Euro-Atlantic structures was on the list of priorities of the new Bulgarian Government. "The problems of national security and foreign policy should be resolved on the basis of consensus, " Gaitandjiev said. "Bulgaria follows closely and supports the evolutionary tendencies in NATO; after a careful study of the criteria and conditions proposed, we will take steps accommodating the country's national interests, " he added. "First of all we should know whether NATO will want to set up military bases and deploy nuclear weapons in the territory of Bulgaria - this would be an unacceptable condition because there have never been any military bases in Bulgaria, even at the time the country was a member of the Warsaw Treaty Organization. We hope that the decisions adopted by NATO will regulate its relations with Russia and will not lead to a new division of Europe, " Gaitandjiev stated. North Atlantic Assembly President Karsten Voigt will visit Bulgaria and will take part in the conference of NATO's parliamentary wing to be held in Sofia. The Assembly is working on a special programme for a series of seminars, designed to promote the development of parliamentary democracy in Central and Eastern Europe. Assen Agov (MP for the Union of Democratic Forces) made a statement on the report of the Assembly's political committee. He proposed to expand contacts among parliamentarians setting up a special working group for this purpose; the group would report the results at the next session of the North Atlantic Assembly in Turin. "Whole groups of aspects of NATO's enlargement, for example the economic ones which are of strategic importance for the organization's future defence structure, appear to have been left in the periphery, " Agov said. Commenting on future relations with Russia, Agov dwelt on the situation in the southern part of Central Europe and Bulgaria in particular. He said "yes" to the passage of Russian oil and gas via Bulgaria, pointing out that this should not be considered binding in any other way. He stated that only a North Atlantic agreement could guarantee the supply of those resources via the south of Central Europe to the other parts of the continent. "If my proposal is accepted, I'm going to bring up the question at the working group, " Agov said. The idea is supported by the defence ministers of Britain and Germany. Assen Agov stressed the role of NATO's southern flank - Greece and Turkey; the inclusion of Bulgaria and Romania would strengthen it; besides, the resulting stable security group could help isolate the conflict in Bosnia.
Sofia, May 27 (BTA) "We will recommend to President Zhelyu Zhelev to take the initiative and do something about the development of the area, " three of the President's advisers - Mihail Ivanov, Boyan Slavenkov and Plamen Bogoev, said at a meeting with journalists in the town of Kurdjali (Southern Bulgaria). For three days they toured different municipalities in the Kurdjali region; there is a predominance of Bulgarian ethnic Turks in this mixed-population area. At their meetings with municipal authorities and local people, the presidential advisers were familiarized with the economic and social problems of the population in the eastern parts of the Rhodope Mountains. Municipalities such as Kirkov, Kroumovgrad and Ardino are among the poorest and most backward in the country, the advisers established. According to Plamen Bogoev, it is necessary to draw up a specific governmental programme for the development of the region. A publication in today's "Standart News" says that President Zhelev wants to collect information to be able to take a stand on the situation in the Eastern Rhodopes. The migration of local ethnic Turks to Turkey continues because of the economic decline of the region, municipal mayors stated. According to the presidential team, it was a coincidence that they went to study the situation in that mixed- population region just before the visit by Turkish President Suleyman Demirel to Bulgaria, says an article in "Standart News"; it is headlined "Zhelev Studies Situation in the Rhodopes in Anticipation of Demirel's Visit". The President's advisers stated it was not their purpose to study inter-ethnic relations, but participants in the meetings said the issue was among the topics discussed, "Douma" writes.
Sofia, May 26 (BTA) - Parliament opened the debate on the Government's privatization programme for 1995. The debate is expected to continue next week. The parliamentary opposition contested the debate on the programme today as it had not been included in the agenda and had not been handed to the MPs. "The Government attaches paramount importance to its privatization programme; it is one of the major priorities in its policy, " Roumen Gechev, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Development, said. Vesselin Blagoev, Chairman of the Privatization Agency, also addressed the MPs. "The programme protects the interests of all the political forces in parliament and all the voters, " he said. "A 2.5-fold acceleration of cash privatization has been achieved since the beginning of 1995, " Blagoev stated citing data. The parliamentary Economic Committee is concerned about the fact that the consideration and adoption of the cash privatization programme got far ahead of the working out and adoption of the mass privatization programme. An opinion was expressed at the Economic Committee that the way of privatizing tourist facilities would have to be specified additionally. The Government's programme for 1995 gives priority to the privatization of units in tourism, the food processing industry, agriculture, mechanical engineering and transport. It is planned to sell about 600 enterprises and open procedures for the privatization of another 450-480 units this year. more
Sofia, May 26 (BTA) - The Ministry of Culture has included 15 companies in its 1995 privatization programme, Krassimir Vlaev of the Culture Ministry told an international meeting on "Financing and Privatization in Culture" that opened here today. The forum is co- organized by the Bulgarian Culture Ministry and the National UNESCO committee under The Blue Danube project of UNESCO. Bulgaria is organizer and coordinator of this project. Attending the meeting are representatives of Romania, Poland, Germany, Hungary and Bulgaria, lecturers of Britain and the Netherlands and a UNESCO consultant. Only two privatization deals were closed in January-March 1995, said Vlaev, who heads the Investments and Privatization Department with the Culture Ministry. He believes that the major obstacles for denationalization in this sector are the absence of bidders, free capital and foreign investors, of a law on securities and stock exchanges, the high inflation rate and the restrictive policy of the central bank. Privatization in culture should progress stage by stage, following the emergence of private funds to finance art and passage of laws to grant tax concessions to sponsors. The major task facing the Culture Ministry now is to preserve the historical and cultural heritage and keep up the high standard of Bulgarian art schools, Vlaev said. He further stressed that the state should keep its stake in many companies in this sector, including the film and recording industries. Cinemas should be left out of privatization lists because those already returned to their former owners have been turned into cafes and gambling houses.
Sofia, May 26 (BTA) - Bulgaria prepares for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the United Nations Organization it has been a member of since December 14, 1955. A special National Committee, set up last year by government decision, organizes the events that will mark the anniversary. Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski addressed the committee at its latest meeting. The main days of the celebrations are June 26, the date on which the UN Charter was signed in 1945, and October 24, 1945 when it was finally ratified by all the signatories. On June 26 the Bulgarian National Assembly is expected to have a special meeting at which its Chairman Blagovest Sendov will deliver a speech. There will be a ceremonious meeting and a concert on October 24. A Bulgarian official delegation will take part in the jubilee session of the UN General Assembly that is to mark the 50th anniversary of the UN in New York. An exhibition of photos, mottoed "The United Nations and its specialized organizations: Bulgaria's role and contribution", will be staged under the patronage of Prime Minister Zhan Videnov. There will be a jubilee scientific conference on "50th Anniversary of UN: Its Role in a Changing World" and a scientific symposium on Bulgaria's activity in the UN marking the 40th anniversary of its admission to the organization. Secondary school students will take part in a contest writing papers on "What do I expect from the UN about our common future"; the National Committee will give the best paper an award: a visit to the UN headquarters in new York. A jubilee coin commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) will be minted. The basic documents of the UN will be available free of charge.
Sofia, May 26 (BTA) - Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Development Roumen Gechev received today Mr Antonio Maria Costa, Secretary General of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and Mr Nigel Carter, EBRD Deputy Secretary General, the Government press office said. The talks focused on Bulgaria's preparation for the holding of the annual meeting of the EBRD in April 1996 in Sofia. The EBRD representatives showed interest in the economic and political situation in this country and in the possibilities for the participation of foreign investors in privatization. The holding of the annual meeting of the EBRD in Bulgaria should be used for acquainting foreign bankers, businessmen and potential investors with the conditions offered by this country for independent business and participation in joint ventures, the guests recommended. Gechev assured the representatives of the EBRD that economic stabilization is already a fact in Bulgaria. According to him, this will attract foreign investors and the annual meeting of the EBRD will in a way be a presentation of Bulgaria to the European business circles.
Sofia, May 27 (BTA) - Bulgaria should adopt a new long-term cultural policy, it should invest in education and build up a good data base, UNESCO consultant Stuart Gibson said at a two-day international meeting on the financing and privatization of culture. The meeting was organized by the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture and the UNESCO National Committee as part of the Blue Danube project implemented under the UNESCO programme World Decade of Cultural development. Bulgaria is an organizer and coordinator of the Blue Danube project. There is no prescription, no ready model to follow - each country should determine the priorities of its own cultural policy and present them to the respective institutions and the public. This is the shared opinion of the delegates from Romania, Poland, Hungary, Germany, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Croatia. British and Dutch lecturers recommended to carry out privatization by reckoning with the objectives of the national cultural policy. Its priorities should be quality, diversity, broad participation and internationalization, the guests said. They pointed out the necessity to popularize the recouping of investments in the intellectual sphere and the economic effect of cultural activities - providing jobs for artists and other people, collecting revenues from cultural tourism, etc.
Sofia, May 26 (BTA) - The press informs about the insurance bill approved by the Cabinet yesterday. This is the second insurance bill drafted in the last three years, "Continent" recalls and says that the first one was adopted at first reading and then shelved. After the murder of Vasil Iliev, the boss of the VIS-2 insurance company, at the end of April this year, Parliament should by all means adopt an insurance act, the author of the "Continent" article says. The advance collection of a 10-percent tax from free-lancers is to be re- introduced as of July 1, 1995, the papers report citing Deputy Minister of Finance Bisser Slavkov. The decision on collecting this income tax in advance was made by Reneta Indjova's caretaker cabinet and later revoked by the incumbent Government. The non-taxable income is set at 30, 000 leva. The tax on the amount exceeding the minimum will be collected on a monthly basis. Trade between Bulgaria and Germany grew 22.8 percent in 1994, "Continent" reports citing a statement by Kiril Tsochev, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Economic Cooperation, made at his return from Germany yesterday. Last year the two countries' trade added up to DM 1, 800 million; Bulgaria's export to Germany increased 32 percent. The budget deficit has gone up by 5, 000 million leva since the beginning of May, "Standart News" writes referring to Ministry of Finance experts. The Treasury reported a deficit of 24, 618 million leva, which exceeds the projected figure by more than 50 percent. The collected revenue amounts to 63, 000 million leva or 29 percent of the amount projected in the budget; expenditures total 87, 700 million leva.
The press informs about the Cabinet's decision to transform 52, 000 million leva of the debts of the Economic Bank and the Mineral Bank to the National Bank of Bulgaria and the State Savings Bank into a public debt. The reason for the two banks' troubles is that they are burdened by low-yield securities issued to offset bad debts. The securities will be replaced by 7-year bonds. The bonds will replace not only the securities issued under the Act to Settle Non-Performing Loans Contracted by 31 December 1990, but also those issued under two governmental decrees on the settlement of loans extended to help along agriculture. The new securities will have a four-year grace period; the interest, equal to the base interest rate, will be paid at every six months.
Sofia, May 28 (BTA) - First Bulgarian Stock Exchange is one of the founders of the Federation of Euro-Asian Stock Exchanges, set up in Istanbul in May 1995, Victor Papazov, Executive Director of First Bulgarian Stock Exchange said. The Federation will promote economic cooperation in the Euro-Asian region.
Dimiter Alexiev, Manager of Port Bourgas, and a Spanish delegation headed by Julio Garcia, President of the National Trade Union of Stevedores, discussed a joint project for restructuring thew work in Port Bourgas. The port of Barcelona will serve as a model of the reorganization, the local correspondent of BTA said.
Vassil Velev, acting Chairman of the Committee of Tourism, and Ahim Kestermann, Vice President of Sheraton and Director for Cooperation with Europe, Africa and the Middle east, discussed privatization in tourism and cooperation within the Sheraton hotel chain.
According to Bulgartabac's projections, 25, 500 tons of oriental tobacco will be purchased in 1995; 29 years ago this was an amount produced by the Kurdjali region in southeastern Bulgaria alone. The main reasons for the drastic drop in tobacco growing are the pricing policy and the loss of markets in Russia. A new private hosiery factory was opened in the village of Borovo, Rousse district, northeastern Bulgaria, the local correspondent of BTA reported. In three years' time the village became a hosiery centre with its five small private enterprises. The automated lines produce men's ladies' and children's hosiery using cotton and a mixture of synthetic and natural fibres. Since last year the enterprises' production has been selling on the markets in the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Balkan countries.
The first agribusiness centre in the country was opened in Lovech, north-central Bulgaria. It will organize courses for agricultural specialists and farmers. With the assistance of PHARE, the centre will set up a loan society.
Germany will extend DM 80 million for the development of Bulgaria's sugar production, Ivan Lilov, Deputy Minister of Agriculture, said. The loan will be used to buy beet-processing machines, agrochemical services equipment and the import of seeds. Ten thousand of hectares will be put under sugar beet grown jointly with Germany; it is planned to increase the fields under crop to 40, 000 hectares.
There is a project for the setting up of Bulgarian-German enterprises for the production of sausages and paste products. Their establishment will be financed by the German side; a loan of DM 20 million should be utilized by the end of 1995.
Sofia, May 26 (BTA) - "Bulgaria's almost 86 million transferable roubles debt to Hungary should not hinder the development of bilateral relations in various spheres, " Bulgarian National Assembly Chairman Blagovest Sendov said at a meeting with Laszlo Puh, chairman of the economic committee in the Hungarian Parliament. Puh is a member of a Hungarian economic delegation visiting Bulgaria. The past few months witnessed signs of activation of bilateral economic relations which, however, are still below the traditionally good Bulgarian- Hungarian ties, participants in the talks said. According to members of the Hungarian delegation, bilateral economic cooperation could expand in the field of banking, the pharmaceutical industry and the joint presence on third countries' markets. The talks also discussed prospects for promoting ties between the two Parliaments. A number of meetings between representatives of Bulgarian and Hungarian parliamentary committees, and a visit to Hungary by a Bulgarian parliamentary delegation are expected to take place by the end of 1995.
Pleven, May 27 (BTA correspondent) - The 6th national rally commemorating the victims of the totalitarian regime took place on the Danubian Island of Persin today. It was organized by the Union of Persons Repressed after September 9 1944. "Belene is one of the 60 concentration camps in totalitarian Bulgaria and 186, 000 of our compatriots who dared defend freedom passed through it. Belene, Lovech, Skravena, Bobov Dol are the sore wounds of our past, " it was said in President Zhelyu Zhelev's message which President's adviser Georgi Spassov read to the participants in the rally. "The two horrible evils that have befallen mankind fascism and communism and the violence involved make progress impossible, " President Zhelev's message said. Addressing the rally, Ivan Nevrokopski, Chairman of the Union of Persons Repressed after September 9 1944, said that the parliamentary and the extraparliamentary forces must unite and act together to prevent the danger of recommunization. "We are here to commemorate the victims of a sinister dictatorship. Their killers are free and are now reappointed to jobs at the enforcement ministries, " Nevrokopski said. The participants in the rally approved an address to the Bulgarian people calling on all fighters for democracy to wage an unrelenting struggle against the restoration of totalitarianism. Catholic priests served a mass and wreaths of flowers were thrown in the Danube to commemorate the camp inmates killed.
SOFIA, May 21-23 Marshal Sir John Willis, deputy chief of defence at the British Ministry of Defence, was on a visit to Bulgaria. He was received by Colonel General Tsvetan Totomirov, Chief of the General Staff of the Bulgarian Army.
SOFIA, May 21-23 Turkish Interior Minister Nahit Mentese was on an official visit to Bulgaria. He was received by Prime Minister Zhan Videnov.
BRUSSELS, May 21-23 Roumen Gechev, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Development, took part in the working meeting of the economy and finance ministers of the European Union member-states and of the countries associated to the EU.
ROME, May 21-24 An official Bulgarian delegation, headed by Minister of Culture Georgi Kostov, attended the celebrations of May 24, the Day of Bulgarian Education and Culture and Slav Letters, in Rome. The delegation was received by Pope John Paul II. SOFIA, May 22-23 Carlos Westendorp, Spanish Minister of State for European Integration, had talks with President Zhelyu Zhelev, with Prime Minister Zhan Videnov and with Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski.
BERLIN, May 22-25 Kiril Tsochev, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation, led the Bulgarian delegation to the 2nd session of the Bulgarian-German