Sofia, May 30 (BTA) - The press gives prominence to yesterday's meeting of the Consultative Council on National Security (CCNS) which considered Bulgaria's NATO membership. The dailies inform about President Zhelyu Zhelev's interview on the issue on national radio yesterday under headlines such as "Zhelev Wants Clear Stand on NATO" ("Continent"), "Zhelev: Bulgaria Out of Europe if It Doesn't Join NATO" ("24 Chassa"), "Top Statesmen Disunited About NATO" ("Troud").
"Consultative Council Promised to Think About NATO Again", the daily of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) writes in a headline. "President Zhelev described this country's membership in NATO as a ticket to the European Union," the paper says.
"Zhelev is yet to speak volumes to convince Bulgarians that their NATO membership is a winning 'political ticket', writes the author of a signed commentary in "Douma" and asks why President Zhelev "keeps silent about repeated proposals to hold a referendum on NATO".
"BSP Blackmailing Opposition About NATO", reads a headline on the same topic in "Demokratsiya", the daily of the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF). According to the paper, at the meeting of the Consultative Council on national Security Prime Minister Zhan Videnov repeated "the BSP reservations about Bulgaria's accession to NATO; the powers that be are pleading theirs is a hardline electorate." "Demokratsiya" writes that the BSP leadership would insist on a more non-committal text of Parliament's resolution on Bulgaria's membership in NATO.
A signed commentary in "Demokratsiya" qualifies as "national apostasy and disgrace" the position of the BSP majority, which last week declined the parliamentary debate on a NATO membership draft resolution.
"Continent" carries a signed commentary which notes that after yesterday's meeting of the Consultative Council on National Security PM Videnov and President Zhelev are back to square one on the issue of Bulgaria's admission to NATO. "The BSP will defend the idea of 'indirect' integration with NATO through the European structures. President Zhelev and the opposition will hardly give up their axiomatic conviction that Bulgaria's national security is unthinkable without its flag being hoisted in front of NATO's headquarters in Brussels," the author says.
"Continent" runs a signed article on the same issue in which it is observed that "the behaviour of those who insist on Bulgaria's falling into NATO's embrace without reservations" reminds "the manners of the champions of eternal and indestructible Bulgarian-Soviet friendship".
"The BSP decision not to make a step forward after the declaration of Parliament in 1992 in fact undermines the hitherto prevailing national consensus on Bulgaria's full integration in the European and Euro-Atlantic structures," UDF MP Assen Agov, deputy chairman of the parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee, observed in an interview for "Standart News".
"Troud" carries an interview with Solomon Passi, President of the Atlantic Club in Bulgaria, who says that Bulgaria will certainly become a full member of NATO before the end of the century.
Sofia, May 30 (BTA) - Bulgarian-Russian relations go beyond the framework of bilateral relations and are a powerful stabilization factor in the Balkans, Russian Ambassador to Bulgaria, Alexander Avdeev said here today. At a briefing he described the visit by Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin here from May 18-20 as "quite hopeful". The Russian Prime Minister invited Bulgarian Prime Minister Zhan Videnov to visit Russia, the Russian ambassador said. The invitation was accepted but the date will be specified additionally, Ambassador Avdeev explained.
The Russian ambassador laid stress on the economic aspects of bilateral relations. The absence of liberal customs regulations impedes their development, according to the Russian side. The food processing industry, lumbering and timber processing, pharmaceutics and the perfume and cosmetics industry are the most promising spheres of cooperation, according to the Russian ambassador here. A project for setting up a timber processing joint venture is expected to be ready by July 1 and an agreement on cooperation in this sphere to be signed this autumn, the ambassador said.
The management of the new Bulgarian-Russian gas company was proposed by the Russian Gazprom company, Ambassador Avdeev told the new conference. According to him, it proposed that former Bulgarian prime minister and now Socialist MP Andrei Loukanov be elected president of the company. The Russian diplomat recalled that the joint gas company was set up in strict compliance with the agreement on its constitution signed last October. The agreement provides for the participants to hold equal shares.
Ambassador Avdeev said that in some years Bulgaria may become one of the leading countries in gas power engineering. All the more so that the price of the gas will be fixed by the joint company and not by the world market, he said.
There is no change in Russia's stand on NATO, Avdeev said. According to him the interpretations of a softening of Russia's stand were incorrect. Russia is for cooperation within the framework of the Partnership for Peace programme but against NATO's quick expansion to the East, he stressed. At the same time Avdeev said that Russia has no intentions of interfering in the internal affairs of any state. Bulgaria will itself decide this issue without foreign interference", Avdeev said.
Sofia, May 30 (BTA) - North Atlantic Assembly President Karsten Voigt will be visiting Sofia at the invitation of Parliament Chairman Blagovest Sendov on June 13 and 14, Parliament's press office said. Voigt is scheduled to meet President Zhelyu Zhelev, Prime Minister Zhan Videnov, Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski and the parliamentary committees on foreign policy and national security. Mr Voigt is expected to deliver a speech in Parliament.
Mr Voigt will attend the Roze Rot conference on "Regional Security and Stability: the Bulgarian Stance", which will be held by the North Atlantic Assembly in Bulgaria from June 11 to 13.
Prime Minister Videnov will meet with the participants in the conference. Parliament Chairman Sendov will speak about Parliament's role in security and stability matters. Foreign Minister Pirinski will make a report on regional security and stability issues. Members of the North Atlantic Assembly will also address the forum. General Tsvetan Totomirov, Chief of the Bulgarian General Staff, will speak about the armed forces during the transition period. NAA President Voigt will make the closing speech at the forum.
Sofia, May 30 (BTA) - Prime Minister Zhan Videnov today opened a new international digital telephone exchange in Sofia. The 6,700-line facility can handle one million calls during peak hours. The DM 2.880 million exchange was built by the German Siemens company. It is part of the Digital Operational Network project for modernizing Bulgaria's communications network. The project is financed by loans extended to Bulgaria by the European Investment Bank - 70 million ECU, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development - 32 million ECU, and the World Bank - 30 million dollars. The loans were extended for a period of 15 - 17 years, with a five-year grace period, officials of the Posts and Telecommunications Committee said.
"I hope the [poor] quality of the telephone lines will no longer impede investment in Bulgaria, and will start helping it," Videnov said. He assured Dr Edwin Hart, member of the Siemens Board of Directors, that in Bulgaria telecommunications are an extermely promising industry and that the cabinet will provide assistance for its growth.
Sofia, May 30 (BTA) - The share of the Balkan countries in Bulgaria's foreign trade has been growing at the expense of countries in Central and Eastern Europe, "Standart News" writes referring to statistics released by the Ministry of Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation. In 1994 exports to the Balkan countries accounted for 28.5 percent of the country's total sales abroad, which is nearly 2 percent up from 1992. At the same time the Bulgarian export to Central and Eastern Europe dropped by almost 4 percent.
Massive sales of foreign currency by a large Sofia- based bank weakened the US dollar against the lev: now one US dollar exchanges for less than 66 leva, "Standart News" writes citing dealers. The central bank intervened but could not keep the US dollar exchange rate at more than 66 leva. Dealers expect increased supply of foreign currency these days. The reason is that probably there will be dificulties in settling payments when the new chart of accounts is introduced.
From January 1 to May 29 1995 the National Bank of Bulgaria (BNB) purchased about 410 million US dollars, "Pari" writes citing BNB. The stability of the lev is most often explained by low inflationary expectations, a trade surplus, repatriation of capital from neighbouring countries to Bulgaria and sales of US dollar positions, the paper says.
The ECU 30 million extended to Bulgaria under the PHARE programme have not been utilized yet, Bojidar Danev, President of the Bulgarian Industrial Association, is quoted as saying by "24 Chassa". The reason is that the Bulgarian businessmen do not know how to draw up their projects and how to apply for financing from PHARE.
The dailies cover in detail the protests by shareholders in Varna (on the Black Sea) after four pyramid-scheme companies in that city went bankrupt last week. By order of the prosecuting authorities, yesterday the police sealed the office of one of the companies seizing its documents. Desperate shareholders attacked the policemen and riot police was sent to prevent possible bloodshed, "24 Chassa" writes. According to the paper, some 25,000 investors have lost their savings worth between 4 and 10 million leva. The other 15 companies in the city which offer high yileds for their shares are still paying dividends in cash, "24 Chassa" says. "Douma" reports that gathering for a rally on Sunday, the protestors elected an organizing committee that will send copies of a declaration to all competent institutions. "If the pyramids are unlawful, then why nobody told us," the shareholders ask in their declaration. "Troud" recalls that last year two other pyramid schemes - the Sofia- based East-West International Holding Group and Demos in Gabrovo (Central Bulgaria) crumbled in the same way. more
Sofia, May 30 (BTA) Late last night the EU-Bulgaria Association Council held its first meeting. It was chaired by Michel Barnier, French Minister Delegate for European Affairs and President-in-Office of the EU Association Council. The Bulgarian delegation was headed by Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski, and the European Commission was represented by its Vice President Sir Leon Brittan.
A joint press release described the inaugural meeting of the EU-Bulgaria Association Council as a historical moment in EU-Bulgarian relations. The participants specified the procedures of the annual sessions to be held at the level of ministers and other organizational activities in the so-called structured dialogue for Bulgaria's association with the European communities, national radio correspondent for Western Europe Alexander Vladkov reported today.
According to the official press release, the discussion focused on two major topics: first, Bulgaria's strategy for integration into the EU and second, the development of regional cooperation and security.
The EU is satisfied with the considerable progress of reforms in Bulgaria over the last few years now and stresses the importance of the stability of democracy and its mechanisms, the press release says. Bulgaria's economic development, which Minister Pirinski informed the participants about, is also evaluated in positive terms. The document points out the necessity of speeding up economic reforms and privatization in particular, including reform in the sector of finance. EU hails the adoption of a special government programme for approximating Bulgaria's legislation to Community law.
In its section concerning security and regional cooperation, the press release expresses appreaciation of Bulgaria's stabilizing role in the Balkans and recommends it to be more active in regional structures such as the Black Sea Zone for Economic Cooperation and the Central European Initiative, as well as in the establishment of free trade zones.
In conclusion the press relase expresses the EU satisfaction with Bulgaria's strategy for integration with the EU by implementing the EU recommendations provided at the Essen summit in December 1994, national radio correspondent Alexander Vladkov said.
Sofia, May 30 (BTA) - The leaders of Bulgaria's two largest unions, the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB) and the Podkrepa Labour Confederation, today signed a letter to Labour and Social Affairs Minister Mincho Koralski, declaring their refusal to attend the 82nd International Labour Organization session. Their refusal is a protest against Koralski's unilateral decision to appoint the Community of Free Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CFTUB) as an official delegate of Bulgarian labour to the session. A similar letter was sent to Prime Minister Zhan Videnov. Initially, CITUB and Podkrepa were included in the Bulgarian delegation to the June 7-23 ILO session in Geneva as technical advisers. CFTUB recently became the third trade union on the National Council for Tripartite Cooperation, also including cabinet representatives and employers' organizations.
In a joint appeal to the Secretary General of the 82nd session, CITUB leader Krustyo Petkov and Podkrepa leader Konstantin Trenchev insist that he withdraw the credentials of CFTUB President Ermak Dimov on the grounds that the ILO statutes had been violated by the Bulgarian government.
In early July Emilio Gabaglio, Secretary General of the European Trade Union Confederation, will visit Sofia at his request, Krustyo Petkov told the press. In a telephone conversation Gabaglio told Petkov that the visit was necessitated by the grave situation in Bulgaria. Bill Jordan, Secretary General of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, may be visiting Sofia at the same time, Petkov said. Working groups of the international union organizations that will prepare the visits may witness a protest rally against the cabinet's social policy, which is scheduled for late June, Petkov and Trenchev said.
Sofia, May 30 (BTA) - The Supreme Military Council held a session today which discussed measures for implementing the obligations of the Defence Ministry under the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, the press office of the Ministry of Defence said. Defence Minister Dimiter Pavlov assigned tasks which would guarantee the conditions necessary for meeting Bulgaria's obligations under this Treaty by November 17, 1995.
At its first session today the Regional Policy and Local Authorities Council adopted its rules of procedure, the press office of the Council of Ministers said.
The session was chaired by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Territorial Development and Construction Doncho Konakchiev and set up two working groups. One is to work out the mechanisms for distributing budget allocations for building local water supply facilities in the municipalities and their share in joint construction. The other will be in charge of the repair of country roads. The Council also approved a commission for analyzing the problems of the housing policy and for elaborating a long- term programme for its implementation.
The session was attended by regional governors, deputy ministers and chairmen of committees.
A regular session of delegations of the border troops commands of Bulgaria and Romania was held here today in implementation of the requirements of the conference between the governments of the two countries on ways to study and solve problems on the Bulgarian-Romanian state border and the protocol for interaction signed on June 4, 1993. The delegations are headed by Major General Dumitru Luca, Commander of the National Command of Border Guards with the Romanian Ministry of the Interior, and Colonel Georgi Dimitrov, Commander of the Border Troops National Service with the Bulgarian Ministry of the Interior. The two sides discussed measures to improve interaction in guarding the state border and in combatting illegal trafficking of goods, illegal crossing of the border, etc.
Deputy Healthcare Minister Associate Professor Radka Argirova said at a news conference today that there are reports of cholera in Greece and Turkey though this has not been announced officially in the press.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Construction Doncho Konakchiev, who is also Deputy Chairman of the Supreme Council of the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) said at the Socialists' regular news conference today that Parliament should give priority to a package of bills for holding the local elections. Local elections are expected to be held in mid-October.
An extraordinary session of the National Coordinating Council (the supreme leadership) of the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) adopted the rules for nominating candidates to run in the local elections. The UDF candidates will be nominated from the bottom up, as is the practice of European parties, UDF leaders said.
A private meeting was held today between Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trade Kiril Tsochev and BSP MP Andrei Loukanov, who was elected chief of the Bulgarian-Russian gas company some ten days ago, National Television said tonight. Yesterday Deputy Prime Minister Tsochev questioned the legitimacy of the election of the management of the company, which, he said, happened without his knowledge. "My doubts in the legitimacy of this election remain," Tsochev said after his meeting with Loukanov today.
The participants in a three-day seminar "The Balkans: an Ethnical and Cultural Crossroads; Educational and Cultural Aspects" recommended that emotional terms be removed from history textbooks. The seminar was organized under the aegis of the Council of Europe. The participants also recommended that history books devote more space to the cultural achievements of the Balkan peoples who have much in common in their cultural development.
Socialist MP Gincho Pavlov, who is member of the leadership of the "Bulgaria" Association, said that on Wednesday he would move in Parliament a draft resolution on holding a referendum on whether Bulgaria should proclaim itself a neutral state.
A Greek delegation of military lawyers, led by Brigadier General Constantinos Xiotas, member of the Military Court of Appeal of Greece, arrived on a three-day visit here, said Lieutenant Colonel Evgeni Milkov of the Armed Forces Prosecutor's Office. The guests conferred with the acting Armed Forces Prosecutor Colonel Nikolai Kolev and with jurists of the Prosecutor's Office on mutual assistance in military jurisdiction. The two sides discussed possibilities for concrete cooperation, for easing the procedure in tracing down wanted persons and reducing red tape obstacles to the minimum, Lieutenant Colonel Milkov told BTA.
The Academic Council of the St Kliment Ohridski University in Sofia objects to the idea for opening a Slav University before the passing of an act on higher education. This decision was adopted at a session of the leadership of the Sofia University today. The opening of a university on an ethno-cultural and regional basis does not correspond to the modern tendencies in higher education and creates a dangerous precedent in this country, according to the Academic Council of Sofia University.
Sofia, May 30 (BTA) - A conference on the freedom of information and its legal regulation during the transition to democracy opened here today. The event is co-organized by the Council of Europe and the Bulgarian Committee of Posts and Telecommunications. It is attended by journalists of Bulgarian national radio and television, the Bulgarian News Agency (BTA), newspapers and commercial radio stations.
The Bulgarian Constitution enshrines the right to an opinion and thus acknowledges and safeguards it, Prof. Evgeni Tanchev said in the opening report. According to him, the Constitution meets the world and European standards, as well as the requirements of the European Human Rights Convention.
The keynote of Valeri Naidenov's speech was that state intervention in the mass media should be phased out. Naidenov is Editor-in-Chief of the private "24 Chassa" daily and Chief Secretary of the Bulgarian Information Union. Naidenov declared against all Press Bills proposed so far. According to him, journalists of the print media share the view that any press law is unnecessary. Naidenov talked about the difficulties "24 Chassa" experienced at the outset because distribution still is in the hands of the state. "24 Chassa", which started five years ago, is now the largest- circulation daily in Bulgaria.
BTA Director General Stefan Gospodinov raised the issue of the financing of the national news agency. Under its statutes, BTA is accountable to Parliament; it draws finance from the sale of its products, but is eligible for state subsidies for new equipment. Financing from the budget should not imply that the state is entitled to greater interference in BTA's activities, BTA Director General Gospodinov said.
Tsveta Stefanova, Chief Secretary of Bulgarian national television, said it is important to introduce copyright on news material, which would end the incessant reproaches that TV reporters have quoted an inappropriate extract from a politician's statement. Stefanova suggested that a legal counsel should advise newscasters on whether a news item infringes on anyone's rights.
Prof. Ton A. L. Beers of the Netherlands made a detailed comparative review of European legislation on the freedom of information.