News from Bulgaria / July 5, 95




JULY 5, 1995










    Turkey's President Syuleiman Demirel arrived on a three-day official visit here early this afternoon. He is accompanied by Foreign Minister Erdal Inonu, MPs and a large group of businesmen and journalists. On his arrival at the Sofia airport President Demirel told reporters that he is coming to friendly Bulgaria at the invitation of Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev. "During my visit we shall review our relations, which have been progressing very well," Syuleiman Demirel said. He said that during the visit the two sides will exchange views on issues of bilateral, regional and European importance.


    Turkish President Suleyman Demirel, who arrived on an oficial visit to Bulgaria today, conferred with Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev. The meeting lasted almost an hour, taking 30 minutes more than scheduled. The talks between the official delegations of Bulgaria took place immediately after that. After his meeting with President Demirel, President Zhelyu Zhelev told journalists that they had discussed three areas. According to him, the first one concerns "bilateral relations and political contacts at all levels: presidents, parliaments, governments, military technological cooperation, the general staffs of the two armies". "We arrived at the conclusion that the necessary legal framework for full-fledged bilateral cooperation has already been set," Zhelev said, mentioning the Bulgarian- Turkish Treaty of Friendship, Good Neighbourly Relations, Security and Cooperation, the agreements on the promotion and reciprocal protection of investments, on the avoidance of double taxation and on trade and economic cooperation. "We also established that bilateral trade has grown ten-fold in the last five years, which gives rise to new problems which should be resolved without delay," the Bulgarian President said. The second area concerns the Balkans and the implemetation of infrastructural projects in tranport, telecommunications and power engineering. The third area concerns the attitude of Bulgaria and Turkey towards Europe, the two countries' desire to join the European and the Euro-Atlantic structures and their mutual support and cooperation for achieving these goals. "In this respect we have no diferrences or controversies," Zhelev stated. "I believe the talks we had will give a new impetus to the promotion of bilateral relations," Turkish President Demirel stated. According to him, Bulgaria and Turkey are determined to furthur expand their relations and they have prepared the ground for it.

    "We will expand and strengthen our bilateral relations and I think that efforts for it should be made not only by the two governments but by the representatives of the private sectors in the two countries too," Demirel said. He believes that there are possibilities to promote cooperation in all fields to the benefit of both countries and their peoples. "By no means this cooperation is to the detriment of any third country," the Turkish President stated. "As to Bulgaria's desire to join NATO, Turkey attaches great importance to the issue and will support Bulgaria's candidature," the Turkish President said. Later today President Demirel had a meeting with Bulgarian businessmen. Tomorrow he will confer with Bulgarian Prime Minister Zhan Videnov, National Assembly Deputy Chairman Nora Ananieva and representatives of the Bulgarian ethnic Turks. President Suleyman Demirel is expected to address the Bulgarian Parliament.


    The political forces in Bulgaria are getting ready for the local elections which are to be held in mid-October. Parliament is expected to pass the package of electoral laws shortly. "The parliamentary group of the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) prioritizes these laws," Klara Marinova, BSP MP, told journalists today. The organization of the election campaign of the Democratic Left was discussed at today's regular meeting of the Executive Bureau of the BSP Supreme Council. "This is an election of local self-government bodies, which requires certain decentralization," BSP Deputy Chairman Georgi Purvanov said at a news conference. "At the same time the central bodies of the party coordinate the the election campaign activities," he added. It was stated at the meeting that the Consultative Political Council of the BSP-led coalition will take over a large part of the political functions of the central and regional party bodies. A political expert group will also operate in the pre-election period. The opinion prevailed that during the election campaign Parliament should continue to work rather than taking a recess. "July will be one of the hottest months for the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) because it should nominate its candidates for mayors and municipal councillors during this month," UDF Chief Secretary Hristo Bisserov told a news conference after today's meeting of the UDF National Executive Board. Actually the UDF will have candidates in all the municipalities. The UDF structures in the 24 municipalities of Sofia City will take a vote to elect the mayoral candidate at the beginning of next week. "This is the most direct procedure of choosing the candidate," the UDF leaders said.

    The negotitions with the other opposition forces, with which the UDF reached an agreement on cooperation in the local elections, have been going on. The UDF expects financial support for the local elections from Bulgarian expatriates, UDF leader Ivan Kostov told reporters today at Sofia Airport on his return from visits to Germany and Switzerland. Two other parliamentary forces, the Popular Union and the ethnic Turks' Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), today presented to the press their objections to the local elections bill. Ms Zlatka Rousseva, Deputy Chair of the Democratic Party (which, together with the Bulgarian National Agrarian Union forms the Popular Union), accused the BSP that it is seeking full control of the electoral commissions. Both the Popular Union and the MRF oppose the provision in the bill, according to which numbered white ballot papers would be used in the polls instead of ballot papers coloured in the popular party colours and marked with the names of the parties. The MRF suggests that the ballots feature at least the symbols of the parties because otherwise voters would be confused on polling day, said Gyuner Tahir, MRF Deputy Floor Leader.


    The completion of European integration will be Spain's major priority during its EU presidency mandate and at the sessions of the Western European Union, Jorge Fuentes, Ambassador of Spain, to which the EU presidency rotated for the second half of 1995, told a news conference today. According to the Spanish Ambassador, the number of EU members may add up to 27 within 6-7 years. "We shall do our best to see Bulgaria among these states," he said. "Bulgaria's membership in the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Council is no impediment to this country's integration into the European Union," Ambassador Fuentes said, answering a question. Mr Fuentes believes that Central and Eastern European states, which have stated categorical willingness to join NATO, may be granted full NATO membership by 1977-1998. "NATO membership, however, will hardly help these countries in their efforts to achieve full EU membership," Mr Fuentes said. His personal opinion is that "integration is to be completed in all aspects." Mr Fuentes said that between September 6 and 8, 1995, a delegation of the European Parliament will pay a visit to Bulgaria to familiarize the Bulgarian Government with the ratification of Bulgaria's EU association accords. Spain was the second state after Denmark to ratify Bulgaria's EU association agreement.


    Bulgaria's gross domestic product grew 2 percent in the first quarter of 1995, a news conference was told by Milcho Mladenov of the National Statistical Institute (NSI). According to the NSI, GDP should increase by 1.5 to 3 percent this year. The projection was made in March; the exchange rate of the US dollar is expected to reach 70-75 leva. In 1994 GDP grew 1.4 percent, which was largely due to increased industrial output. Last year the private sector accounted for 33 percent of GDP. According too the NSI projections, this year its share will be 40 percent.


    Bleak forecasts that Bulgaria's coastal resorts were in for a lacklustre summer did not materialize, but nevertheless the number of Bulgarian and foreign holidaymakers dwindled. Facilities in disrepair, poor service and steep prices have deterred foreign tourists. Bookings by Britons and Germans dropped by 40 per cent and 20 per cent, respectively. However, compared to 1994, there are twice as many tourists from the former Soviet Union, who are flocking to the most expensive hotels, demanding a high standard of service. Though most coastal resorts are almost fully booked and the number of holidaymakers is hardly smaller than in 1994, last-minute cancelling of contracts by foreign tour operators is a problem which could hardly be overestimated. Most resorts badly need renovation and better service but lack the funds for this. Foreigners frown at the one- and two-star hotels on Bulgaria's Black Sea coast and opt for Turkish and Spanish resorts which offer much better facilities and service at slightly higher prices, Golden Sands Sales Executive Hristo Atanassov says with concern. "We cannot expect the state to provide financing," says Mr Stanev, Executive Director of Albena, one of the few profitable coastal resorts. State assistance could take the form of concessions to investors, but Stanev is not optimistic about that. He sees the fact that the resorts are state-owned as an obstacle to large foreign investment and renovation, and recommends fast privatization. Against the background of a glutted international tourist market, the delay in the privatization of resorts and the lack of a comprehensive policy in tourism will only deepen the crisis.

    The USD 30 fee introduced by the Bulgarian Transport Ministry at the beginning of the season for every foreigner arriving to this country by flights other than those of Balkan and Aeroflot partially redirected the traffic of tourists to the two air carriers, but also led to the cancelling of reservations even at the popular Golden Sands resort. The number of Bulgarian holidaymakers at the seaside resorts has also decreased compared to previous years. This is due mainly to the prices which are double as high as last year's, while according to National Statistical Institute data, the average working wage in Bulgaria has gone up by about 35%. In May and June an overnight in a double room was around 580 leva in a two-star hotel and almost three-fold higher - 1,500 leva, in a four-star hotel. The ordinary Bulgarian can hardly afford these prices, the average monthly wage being around 7,000 leva. One of the few advantages of Bulgarian resorts are their clean beaches and natural environment, the managers of the resorts claim. According to them, environment parameters are monitored regularly in compliance with the requirements of the European Foundation of Environment Education. The first steps for setting up an environmental police and for the integration of the Bulgarian resorts to the Green Flag international organization have also been made.


    The price of bad debt bonds, denominated in US dollars went up by US$ 3 from US$ 87 to US$ 90 at a par of US$ 100, "Troud" says. The minimum price of bonds denominated in Bulgarian currency at a par of 1,000 leva, issued in accordance with the Act to Settle Non-Performing Loans Contracted by 31 December 1990, was set at 700 leva as of July 1.

    The PHARE programme is ready to extend 60 million ECU to Bulgaria under a number of projects in 1995. The cabinet approved the indicative programme as a basis for conducting negotiations with the European Commission, "Troud" says.

    A total of 23 million ECU are earmarked for education and human resources development, the TEMPUS programme, and science and technology. Another 20 million ECU have been allocated for infrastructure and transport projects. The PHARE programme will extend 15 million ECU for investment co-financing, and 5 million ECU for technical assistance. A total of 12 million ECU are expected for power engineering and nuclear safety; 5 million ECU are earmarked for economic readjustment and another 5 million ECU for agriculture.

    The total value of the projects until 1999 will reach 85 million ECU.

    "Douma" cites data of a survey conducted by the Institute for Social and Trade Union Research with the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria, which says that the prices of staple foods went down by 9.2% in April-June.

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