News from Bulgaria / July 3, 95




JULY 3, 1995















    Sofia, June 30 - At the second summit meeting of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation states in Bucharest today Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev said that being one of the organizations founders, Bulgaria attaches great importance to this initiative. Bulgaria already signed bilateral agreements with all participating countries, as well as dozens other bilateral accords in the social and economic spheres, President Zhelev said in his address to the meeting. He stressed on the necessity that the states in the organization work also with the European structures.

    According to Mr. Zhelev, the discussions in the Black Sea Economic Cooperation have so far confirmed the existing potential for various forms of cooperation in connection with the regional infrastructures: communications, power engineering and transport. He believes that the future Black Sea bank for trade and development will also contribute to this end. The Bulgarian President said that the prospects for the construction of a trunk road along the Black Sea coast as part of the trans-European communications network are being studied for the purposes of transport and communications network improvement. Mr. Zhelev confirmed Bulgaria's initiative for holding a meeting in Bulgaria of the organization members with the Central European Initiative on infrastructure projects and trans-border cooperation. Through their cooperation, the member states can also alleviate the effect of the losses they are suffering by the Yugoembargo, President Zhelev believes. Mr. Zhelev expressed hope that the meeting in Bucharest will activate the interest of the member states in economic cooperation.


    Sofia, June 30 - Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev, who is visiting Bucharest to attend the Black Sea Economic Cooperation summit met with Rumanian President Ion Iliescu, Greek President Costis Stephanopoulos and Russian First Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers Oleg Soskovets. Zhelev and Iliescu focused on the construction of bridges across the Danube. The Bulgarian side defended the position that the bridges should be built at Vidin- Calafat or at Lom-Rastul, while the Rumanian side insisted that they should span the Danube in the southeastern parts of Romania.

    Zhelev and Stephanopoulos agreed to exchange visits. They both described Bulgarian-Greek relations as very good.

    "At the talks with Soskovets, President Zhelev raised the pressing issue of high customs duties charged on Bulgarian exports to Russia, " Spokesman Stoyanov said. The Bulgarian President observed that Turkey and Greece were treated more favorably in this respect. Soskovets promised to help resolve the customs duty problem. A new formula may be used, similar to the United States practice to grant countries most favored nation status.


    Sofia, June 30 - The Bulgarian-Greek border commission ended its 57th regular meeting signing a protocol on the talks. It was initialed by Colonel Pavel Stanev, Chief of Staff of the Border Guards, for Bulgaria and by Brigadier General Dimitrios Dzoidos, Chief of Staff of 3rd Army Corps, for Greece. The commission's two co-chairmen told a news conference the meeting had passed in an atmosphere of mutual confidence and understanding. The commission discussed the performance of the border sectors (there are four in Bulgarian territory) and decided to make their work more efficient, installing direct telephone lines and fax machines for the exchange of urgent operative information. The sides expect that this will help prevent the smuggling of goods, people and drugs.

    The commission's analysis shows an increased number of incidents in June 1, 1994 - June 1, 1995 compared with the previous period. The commission established all of them were involuntary and that the border furrow and fences are in good repair. Some border signs along the Maritsa and the Luda Reka river will have to be replaced. Colonel Stanev cited figures about trespassing. Fifty percent of the attempts to cross from Bulgaria into Greece illegally were made after the embargo on Yugoslavia was placed. Eighty percent of the persons involved in trespassing were caught. Twenty percent of offenders who got to Greece were sent back by the Greek authorities. There were 76 cases of trespassing during the period under review; 441 persons were expelled from Greece; 80-85 percent of trespassers came from Asia and Africa. Most Bulgarian trespassers are Gypsies looking for better paid jobs in Greece. Only one Bulgaria has asked for political asylum in Greece in the last two years. Two border officers and two soldiers are under investigation on charges of involvement with a ring smuggling people across the border.


    Sofia, July 1 - "We greatly value the spirit of friendship and good-neighborliness between the two countries which should be maintained. The two nations have good relations and wish to promote them, " Turkish President Suleyman Demirel said in an interview for the "Novini Plus" weekly. President Demirel arrives here on an official visit at the beginning of next week. The Turkish side is satisfied with the visa regulations between Bulgaria and Turkey and with the present visa agreement, Demirel says in the interview. The two countries signed a visa agreement in 1993. Asked whether there are controversial issues between the two countries which might spark tensions, Demirel says that there are no conflicting interests between Bulgaria and Turkey. "I see no problems for which it would be difficult or impossible to find a solution, " he says. According to Demirel, Bulgaria's future membership in NATO would strengthen security and stability in the Balkans and deepen cooperation in many spheres. According to him, democratic principles will strike deeper root in this region with the increase of NATO-member countries. "It is our sincere wish for the Turkish minority in Bulgaria to continue to live in peace in their native land, as loyal citizens of the Bulgarian state. Moreover we hope the Turks in Bulgaria to be an agent of social contacts and to encourage trade and economic ties as well as reciprocal investment between Turkey and Bulgaria, " Demirel says in the interview. An interview with President Demirel was also aired by National TV tonight.

    Demirel told the popular "Panorama" weekly political show that the relations between the two countries are very good and already have their legal basis and that what remains from now on is to broaden and deepen ties in trade, culture and other spheres. "I will tell President Zhelev: Let us forget the borders, let us eliminate them. One day the border will be crossed freely. This is my proposal, " Demirel said. Asked whether Turkey would support Bulgaria in its accession to GATT - the World Trade Organization, Suleyman Demirel said that Bulgaria can always count on support because the relations between the two countries are friendly and Turkey would support Bulgaria "everywhere and in everything which is in its interest."


    Sofia, June 30 - Following brief debates, Parliament today okayed the participation of a 26-strong unit of Bulgaria's special forces in a joint military exercise in Greece by a vote of 120 to 19, 28 abstentions. The Bulgarian military will join the exercise under a program on military cooperation between the Bulgarian and Greek Defense Ministries and General Staffs. The exercise will be held in early July. An exercise of the same type will take place in Bulgaria this October.


    Bourgas, June 30 - Unless the legal procedures against the striking Bulgarian sailors of the Rotalia trawler are suspended, the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) threatens it will block access of Bulgarian ships to foreign ports. The decision was taken after the visit of ITF's representative for Romania and Bulgaria to Bourgas about a fortnight ago, BTA was told. Although the Bulgarian Government officially committed itself to suspend the case and through its ambassador in Great Britain signed a tripartite agreement on the issue, the case has not been suspended. Its hearing was delayed for unknown whereabouts of part of the defendants, BTA's local correspondent in Bourgas said. Three of the defendants sought political and economic asylum in Great Britain. During his visit to Bourgas, ITF's representative said that the organization is conducting its own investigation of the reasons, which had reduced the Bulgarian sailors to a disastrous situation in the Scottish port of Lerwick, where they staged a strike over unpaid wages.


    Sofia, June 30 - "Without humiliating itself, Bulgaria should seek agreements with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, " central bank Governor Todor Vulchev said during today's parliamentary debates on the National Bank reports on the last two years. He stressed that this is imperative for 1996-97 so that Bulgaria could replenish its foreign exchange reserve and eliminate the risk of an uncontrollable weakening of the lev.

    "This applies to 1996 and 1997; there is no risk for 1995, " Prof. Vulchev said. In 1995 Bulgaria could do without an agreement with the IMF and the World Bank according to him. So far foreign debt service payments have totaled 440 million dollars. "A further 560 million dollars must be paid in the second half of the year, which will not deplete the foreign exchange reserve. In late 1994 the central bank's reserve totaled 1, 000 million dollars, as against 1, 500 million dollars now, " Vulchev also said. The Bulgarian gold reserve is held in the Basle-based Bank for International Settlements to be used as security if necessary. "If we have to pledge the gold, we will inform Parliament first, " said the central bank boss.

    "The international financial institutions are becoming less inclined to compromise, " Vulchev said during the debates. Socialist MP Stefan Stoilov denied allegations that the Socialist Party was opposed to Bulgaria's signing agreements with the international financial institutions.

    Speaking about the prospects for 1995-96, Vulchev said the central bank's monetary policy would remain restrictive. The bank will try to maintain lower, positive interest rates. It will exercise control through lending without discarding any instruments for control. During the debates on the bank reports several speakers expressed concern about the state of the lending system, characterized by mounting bad debts and a growing interest rate margin.

    "Hopefully, the lev will depreciate gradually and it will be more profitable to hold leva instead of foreign currency, " Vulchev said. The bank will encourage investment in government securities, the least inflationary instrument for budget financing.

    Vulchev stated that the central bank would tighten control over the commercial banks and would follow a stricter licensing procedure. Many banks were licensed in the past two years in Bulgaria, which now has 44 banks, including 13 state-owned, 24 private, and three "public" banks as Vulchev called them.

    Vulchev hopes that deposit insurance will be introduced by the year's end as recommended by the Economic and Budget Committees and MPs of different groups. Commenting on the difficulties caused by the introduction of the new chart of accounts, Vulchev said that from 1996 settlements would be effected without delay.


    Sofia, June 30 - Bulgarian debt front-loaded interest reduction bonds reached a six-month high of 26.25 cents a dollar yesterday on the world debt instruments market, "24 Chassa" writes, citing Reuters.

    The development of the Bulgarian and Turkish railways was discussed yesterday at a meeting in Istanbul between Angel Dimitrov, Director of the Bulgarian State Railways (BDZ) and his Turkish counterpart Talan Gunsoi, the dailies report. The BDZ is expecting USD 10 million from PHARE by the end of this year for the electrification of the Plovdiv-Svilengrad section (in Southern Bulgaria) Dimitrov said. Turkey is completing its 304-km section from Kapikule (on the Bulgarian Turkish border) to Istanbul. By the end of 1996 Bulgaria is expected to electrify its section and the two sections will be linked.

    All dailies report of the decision of the Bulgarian National bank (BNB, the central bank) to reduce the base interest rate by 4 points to 44%. Since April the BNB reduced the base interest rate five times - from 72 to 44%. One of the reasons is the stable exchange rate, BNB Governor Prof. Todor Vulchev said. The exchange market is expected to remain calm. The BNB is trying to push the dollar up but without success, Prof. Vulchev said. In June alone the central bank bought USD 95 million and since the beginning of the year its purchases have exceeded USD 550 million. At the end of June and the beginning of July Bulgaria has to pay its creditors USD 147 million. This will not threaten the exchange rate and the foreign exchange reserves. The decrease in the base interest rate will alleviate indebted enterprises and above all the national budget which is the greatest debtor, "Douma" writes.


    Sofia, July 2 - A Bulgarian-Greek seminar on agritourism and the setting up of women's agritourist cooperatives was opened in the village of Dobrinishte near Sofia. The seminar will continue till July 5. It is part of a pilot project of the PHARE program.

    An extraordinary congress of the Bulgarian Agricultural Confederation (BAC) has been scheduled for September to transform the BAC into an agricultural chamber. After the model of similar structures in France, Turkey and Austria, producers and buyers of agricultural products will thus isolate at least 70-80% of the middlemen and thus decrease food prices, the initiators believe. The BAC is maintaining contacts with 23 foreign companies in Russia, Greece, Macedonia, Poland and other states.


    Sofia, June 30 - Israeli tourist agencies "Eisenberg", "Klal" and "Federman" have expressed willingness to take part in the privatization of Bulgarian hotels along the Black Sea coast, the President of the Israeli-Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce Moshe Behar said. Mr. Behar is at the head of a delegation of businessmen on a one-week visit here. The Israeli businessmen held meetings with National Assembly Chairman Blagovest Sendov, Prime Minister Zhan Videnov, the managements of the central bank and of several ministries. The delegation was given a list of Bulgarian enterprises and establishments subject to privatization under a government's program. "I believe the Israeli business circles will be interested particularly in tourism and food processing. For our part we provided information about the enterprises in Israel which are to be denationalized, including works of the military-industrial complex, " Jacky Areti, Secretary General of the Chamber said. At meetings with their potential Bulgarian partners, the Israeli businessmen exchanged information not only in the field of trade, but also in manufacture. "We suggest that the two parties cooperate in the development and introduction of new for Bulgaria productions, " Mr. Areti said. He said that Israel is ready to supply high quality farm equipment and invest in seed production. The two sides hope with joined efforts to speed up the procedure for signing intergovernmental agreements in trade, tourism and transport.


    Sofia, June 30 - By an overwhelming majority Parliament passed on second reading the Administrative and Territorial Division Act. The Act is included in a package of four laws regulating the holding of local elections and the country's administrative and territorial division, and amending the Regional and Urban Planning Act. The Act regulates the division of Bulgaria into administrative territorial and territorial units and specifies the procedure for carrying out administrative and territorial changes.

    All the controversial texts were passed in their initial version. The administrative territorial units are regions and municipalities. The subdivisions of a municipality are communities and districts. The territorial units include population centers (towns, cities and villages) and peripheral areas (summer cottage areas, industrial zones, resorts and resort areas). A region consists of one or more neighboring municipalities, and a municipality - of one or more neighboring population centers. Towns with a population of more than 300, 000 are divided into districts. A community unites one or more population centers with a population of more than 100, 000.


    Sofia, July 2 - The Third National Congress of the Bulgarian Democratic Forum (BDF, in the Union of Democratic Forces) ended today. Mr. Dyanko Markov was elected Chairman. The forum voted amendments to the statutes of the BDF. The congress adopted a declaration saying that the BDF will struggle for a society respecting private property, for a society of national solidarity and for a state in service of the people. The BDF will defend the Bulgarian national identity and Bulgaria's interests and at the same time champion this country's integration into European and Euro-Atlantic structures, the declaration says.

    There is only one Radical Democratic Party (RDP) in Bulgaria which has been legally recognized and is taking full part in this country's political life, RDP leader Alexander Yordanov said in an address to the media, voted by the delegates of the second 27th congress of the RDP held this weekend. At the 27th Congress of the RDP in April, this party actually split and part of the delegates decided to leave the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF). "For some time now a group of present and former members of the party have been presenting themselves as RDP outside the UDF, but this group is illegitimate from the legal point of view, " the address says. The delegates voted for an organizational and financial stabilization of the party. The RDP will set up its own information center, analysis and projections group and a financial council. "The political crisis in this country is deepening, the Socialists halted the process of Bulgaria's integration into European structures and are pursuing a policy oriented towards Russia and the countries of the CIS which are at present unreliable partners, " runs the political declaration adopted by the congress. Recommunization is underway in this country both at a personnel and at a legislative level, parliamentary dictate is being exercised over the opposition, the Radical Democrats believe. The congress expressed support for the policy of the UDF.

    The Confederative Council of the Rakovski Bulgarian Officers' Legion expresses concern and disagreement with the attempts of some MPs to do away with some principal social gains of the military, runs a declaration of the Legion, read at a news conference today. The military are protesting against the intentions to change the text regulating the right of the military to association. It was also announced that the Chairman of the Legion, Lieutenant Colonel Assen Furchilkov, is going into the reserve at his request and that the functions of chairman will be taken over by the deputy chairman - Lieutenant Colonel Nikolai Lichev.

    A teacher from Silistra (Northeastern Bulgaria) claims having observed an UFO last night. He is sure the object was not a star because the sky was overcast and the light was much stronger than the light coming from stars.

    A hail storm over the town of Dolni Dubnik (Central Bulgaria) inflicted damages to the tune of about 15 million leva. It damaged 300 hectares of maize fields, 200 hectares of wheat fields and melon fields. The hail killed 22 goats belonging to private farmers.

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