News from Bulgaria / July 6, 95




JULY 6, 1995










    In a half-hour speech to the Bulgarian Parliament today, President Suleyman Demirel of Turkey, who is on an official visit to Bulgaria, stressed Turkey's willingness to pursue cooperation and friendship with Bulgaria. In his view, Turkish-Bulgarian friendship is important not only for the two countries but for the region and Europe at large. Explaining that one priority of Turkish foreign policy is the establishment of good relations with all its neighbours as well as with the nearer and farther countries in the region, Mr Demirel said that "Turkey earnestly and responsibly declares its resolve for close cooperation and friendship with Bulgaria." "I can see that the Bulgarian side shares the same resolve and conviction. Turkish-Bulgarian friendship should last for ever," the Turkish President said, drawing applause from his audience. He was speaking from prepared remarks.

    Discussing the aspiration of Bulgaria and Turkey towards integration into the European Union, Suleyman Demirel declared himself in favour of elimination of the borders between the two countries. "It is not difficult to imagine that some day borders will no longer divide us," he said and noted that this could be started right now, with an agreement on free trade. "Once the shared will is there, the increasing closeness between the two countries is only up to us," the Turkish head of state said. "I have brought a proposal to the Bulgarian Parliament from the Turkish one: let us lift the borders between Turkey and Bulgaria," Mr Demirel said. He sees it as exceedingly useful to start implement a number of infrastructural projects which, in his words, will help activate bilateral cooperation right now. Among these projects, Mr Demirel mentioned the East- West trunk project (which will increase substantially the movement of goods via Bulgaria and Turkey to the Caucasus, Central Asia and China, reviving the ancient Silk Road), the Istanbul - Kiev rail link, and the construction of new bridges over the River Danube.

    Within regional cooperation, Turkey would like to see action taken against Black Sea pollution. Bulgarian and Turkish building organizations can participate in joint projects in both countries and in third countries. Mr Demirel expressed the opinion that Bulgaria and Turkey could expand their cultural cooperation as well, on the basis of a signing of a cultural agreement. Suleyman Demirel expressed satisfaction that the process of democratization in Bulgaria has given the Turks living in Bulgaria, whom he called "a bridge for friendship and understanding between the two peoples," rights which had been denied to the Turkish minority in the past. "It is our sincere desire that the Turks in Bulgaria take active part in the social life of this country and contribute to its development as their loyal citizens. In this respect, we beg you to believe in Turkey's sincerity," the Turkish President said. Mr Demirel singled out for particular attention the serious problem which Turkey is having with terrorism and the importance of international cooperation in this area. He expressed satisfaction with the cooperation of Bulgaria, which he called a "highly responsible member of the international community." "Actually, we expect such a stance from all our neighbours as well," he said. Mr Demirel expressed the hope for continued cooperation with Bulgaria in counter-terrorism so as to prevent the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) from striking roots here. "Together we must look for ways to turn the Balkans into a zone of peace, stability, cooperation and prosperity," the Turkish head of state stressed, winding up his remarks, and called for efforts to remove all stumbling blocks from the road of this cooperation. Mr Demirel expressly stressed that Turkey opposes the division of the Balkans into ethnic and religious axes.


    Turkish President Suleyman Demirel, who arrived on an official visit here yesterday, today talked with Prime Minister Zhan Videnov for nearly an hour instead of 30 minutes as scheduled. In a statement to the press Videnov said Bulgarian-Turkish economic cooperation had been atop the agenda. He emphasized that Suleyman Demirel had been working to further bilateral relations for decades. "I believe that we hold very close views on the point that the Balkans should be transformed from a zone of conflicts and a zone fraught with impending clashes or aggression into a natural crossroads between three continents, a zone of a very active exchange of goods, capital, people, ideas, information and culture," said Videnov. According to him, "in this respect all Balkan countries uninvolved in conflicts see their best interest in European integration and will promote it as dictated by their views and interests".

    Asked to comment on Demirel's suggestion for the elimination of borders between the two countries, Videnov said that economics-wise, this process is inseparable from the European integration processes and, no doubt, from the prospects for the Balkans, especially in the post-conflict period. Of course, Bulgaria is facing certain difficulties arising from the unfinished talks on membership in GATT, the World Trade Organization, and the forthcoming important trade talks with the European Union, but as free trade zones are to take shape in the short-term future, talks with the Balkan countries, the Central and East European countries should start before long, in a few months, and should make fast progress, Videnov said.

    Earlier today President Demirel made a speech to the Bulgarian Parliament (see separate abstract) and met with Parliament Deputy Chair Nora Ananieva. During the conversation she said the visit to Sofia by the Turkish President was a major stage in the development of bilateral relations and stressed the importance of his visit to Parliament. Ananieva underlined Demirel's personal contribution to the development of bilateral relations. "I have spent my life in politics amid parliamentary struggle; that is why I highly prize my visit to the Bulgarian Parliament," a member of Parliament's press office, who attended the meeting, quoted Demirel as saying. Ananieva and Demirel share the view that the contacts between the two parliaments have made considerable progress in the last five years and have produced results. According to Ananieva, the overall development of contacts between the two parliaments has made it possible to establish contacts between parliamentary groups and parties. "I believe that our parliamentary contacts will gain fresh impetus," President Demirel said. He stressed the importance of the strengthening of Turkish-Bulgarian friendship. "The nations do not choose their neighbours, but when there is a shared desire to develop friendship, all problems become a thing of the past," said Demirel. In his view, in the new time all standards are subject to some change: there is talk of globalization, which means that we should cooperate most actively in the context of this globalization". Later this afternoon President Zhelyu Zhelev and President Demirel are expected to give a joint news conference.

    "We should not fear Turkey's proposal for opening the borders between the two countries," Ahmed Dogan, leader of ethnic Turks' Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) told reporters. Dogan and some dozen representatives of the Turkish community here met this morning with Turkish President Syuleiman Demirel, who yesterday came on an official three-day visit here. In the Boyana residence the Turkish President conferred with MRF MPs and leaders, mayors of mixed population communities and ethnic Turks-intellectuals. "It is out of place to fear that Turkey will invade Bulgaria with its large investments, which we anyway look for. A new emigration wave may be avoided by taking measures to keep the Turkish population in Bulgaria by making investments in the regions where they live," Ahmed Dogan said. "The proposal of Syuleiman Demirel for opening the borders, which he voiced already in Ankara, is in the spirit of the processes of integration with the European culture", MRF leader said. In his view, the introduction of reciprocal visa-free regulations doed not require a bilateral migration agreement. "Border opening on part of Bulgaria may be regulated by a Parliament's decision supported by a qualified majority", Mr Dogan says. "We voiced before the Turkish President our concern about the manipulations with the Chief Mufti's Office and the attempts to divide and confront the Muslims in Bulgaria," MRF leader said. The representatives of the Bulgarian Turks appealed before Syuleiman Demirel for raising students' scholarships in Turkey as a compensation for the about ten thousand university and college graduates, who emigrated to the neighbouring country in 1989-1991. They also raised the issue that the regions with mixed ethnic population need investments to settle their unemployment problems. "We suggested that the loan from Eximbank be transfromed from commodity loan into an investment one at relieved conditions," Ahmed Dogan said. "For our part, we said that the Turkish minority in Bulgaria is a bridge towards the good neighbourly relations and that the defence of individual and collective rights is a guaranee for democracy in the country," Mr Dogan said. He said that the issues concerning the study of the mother tongue and the property of the emigrants were not discussed at the 40- minute meeting with the Turkish President.


    An initiative for a meeting in Sofia late this year or early next year of the presidents of Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Albania, Italy, Romania and Bulgaria on the project of the East-West motorway was launched by President Zhelev today at a joint news conference with Turkish President Suleyman Demirel who is paying an official visit here. "The relations between Turkey and Bulgaria have reached a satisfactory level and are undergoing an upgrade development in all their aspects political, economic and cultural, and we are ready to expand and deepen these relations still further," President Demirel said. According to him, the two countries have experienced difficulties and problems in the past as well as critical moments in their relations but both sides believe that these alre?1;2cady belong to the past. In his statement before journalists, the Bulgarian president said that he admired President Demirel's style in politics: "To implement already made decisions without hesitation and to meet words with deeds" are two things of key importance for the practical cooperation between two neighbouring countries, an expression of confidence between them and of their will to act," Zhelev said. According to him, there is a solid contract and legal basis for developing cooperation between Bulgaria and Turkey - the interstate Treaty for Friendship, Goodneighbourliness, Security and Cooperation, the agreements on reciprocal investment promotion and protection and on avoiding double taxation, a trade and economic agreement and a number of other bilateral documents. There is also a striving to higher forms of economic cooperation - the setting up of joint ventures, the opening of banks, joint presence in the markets of third countries, but these are still the initial steps to this type of cooperation, the Bulgarian President said, adding that in this respect there are many barriers which are yet to be overcome.

    Bulgaria and Turkey have more potential opportunities for economic and business contacts and should utilize them, the Turkish President said stressing the importance of the private sector in the two countries. "The cooperation depends on the confidence existing between the two countries. Turkey and Bulgaria are aware how important peace and stability in the Balkans are, and treat this matter with responsibility. I believe that the two countries will continue to serve peace and stability in the Balkans and the cooperation between them is therefore vital," Demirel said adding that there is nothing standing in the way of bilateral cooperation, now or in the future.

    President Zhelev hailed the initiative of his Turkish counterpart for setting up a Bulgarian-Turkish free trade zone, and said this country is ready to launch negotiations to that end. "I have the feeling that this [the opening of a free trade zone] frightens some people but I see no reasons for fear," Dr. Zhelev said. He recalled that a Bulgarian- Greek free trade zone opened immediately after the entry into effect of this country's Europe Agreement; free trade zone negotiations are under way with countries of the Visegrad group, with Romania and Slovenia. According to the Bulgarian President, having a Bulgarian-Turkish free trade zone does not conflict the spirit of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) or the EU policy. Dr. Zhelev went on to say that the BSEC is very important for Bulgaria as "it both complements bilateral cooperation and is something essentially new with the chances it offers for launching projects in the sphere of transport, telecommunications and the energy industry." The Turkish Head of State said that his country sees the BSEC in the same way. He told journalists that during his visit the sides discussed various aspects of this cooperation. The Bulgarian President further voiced his satisfaction with the unanimity between Suleyman Demirel and himself on Balkan infrastructure projects and said the two agreed to work together, as well as with all other countries involved, on the East-West corridor (Bourgas Sofia-Skopje-Tirana-Bridisi), the North-South corridor and the Black Sea Ring (Istanbul- Bourgas-Varna-Bucharest-Kiev). Dr. Zhelev said that the two countries' Heads of State see the implementation of the above projects as a long-term political strategy for addressing the serious problems in the Balkans. President Demirel said for his part that the launch of the infrastructure projects will play a major role for the development of the two countries and the region.

    Zhelev announced his plans to invite the Heads of State of the countries involved in the project for the East- West corridor - Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Albania, Romania and Italy - in Sofia in late 1995 or early 1996. He said that the Presidents of Italy, Albania, Romania and Turkey have already accepted the invitation in principle, and voiced expectations that his counterparts of Macedonia and Greece will do so as well. Dr. Zhelev explained that the Bulgarian initiative for this meeting was prompted by the declaration US President Clinton and himself signed, in which the US pledged to provide financial and political support for the East-West transport project. "I hope that, to a certain extent, we managed to attract Russia's interest during last month's visit here by Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and we hope that being an interested side, Russia will back the efforts," said the Bulgarian President. He went on to say that the EU support will also be decisive for the project. Suleyman Demirel expressed the opinion that over a brief period of time, about ten years, integration would reach as far as the Caucasus and mid- Asia. He believes that the present movement of goods is indicative of this and that this makes it necessary for Bulgaria, Turkey and all Balkan countries to strengthen their ties and assist this cooperation.

    Zhelev thanked President Demirel for the publicly expressed support for Bulgaria's membership in NATO and expressed the hope that Turkey would support this country's accession to the World Trade Organization. President Demirel declared repeatedly during his visit that Turkey would do everything possible to help Bulgaria join NATO. Bulgaria is seeking to establish a balance in its Balkan policy and to maintain equally good relations with all its neighbours, Zhelev said in response to a question. According to him, Bulgaria's relations with Turkey and Greece are more special because both are NATO member states. "That is why we insist on having equally good relations with Greece and Turkey. Any attempt to disturb the balance of this country's Balkan policy to the detriment of one of these two countries for partisan considerations would be disastrous for Bulgaria's Balkan policy," President Zhelev said. He added that he himself would invariably insist on the pursuing of a balanced policy "which is the only sensible policy in the spirit of our times." President Demirel pointed out that neither Bulgaria's nor Turkey's policy is directed against third countries. In response to a question the Bulgarian President said that there is no reason why good relations with Turkey would impede Bulgaria's integration into the EU. In response to a question on the Bulgarians' prejudice to Turkey because of the almost five-century Turkish domination over Bulgaria, Zhelev said that this prejudice is already being overcome. "Such prejudice exists among the political circles rather than among the ordinary people... Some political circles are trying to fan it up because this is their only chance to remain on the political stage," the Bulgarian President believes. According to Demirel, for almost 500 years the two peoples "lived together and grew closer, they lived well and as friends and neighbours." He added that this is a historical fact which no one can correct today. "Friendship cannot be built on enmity and we cannot constantly return to the past, all we can do is draw a lesson from it," the Turkish President said. Demirel pointed out that he had a meeting with representatives of the Turkish community here. "I heard their opinions, and we believe they should have equal rights with all Bulgarian citizens and we view the Turkish community here as instrumental to the friendship between our two countries," the Turkish President said. Bulgarian journalists asked the two presidents to comment on the threat of Islamic fundamentalism in the Balkans. With a sense of humour the Turkish President pointed out that Islamic fundamentalism is not something standing on the border between Bulgaria and Turkey that would spill over if the border was opened. Turkey is a free, secular and democratic state, Demirel said. Nothing bad can come to Bulgaria from Turkey," he said. According to President Zhelev, Islamic fundamentalism is a real threat, "but that is why we should view Turkey as the first barrier against Islamic fundamentalism," he said. Tomorrow President Demirel will visit the town of Shoumen (Northeastern Bulgaria, a region in which a large group of Bulgarian Turks lives) and then Varna (on the Black Sea) from where he will depart from Bulgaria.


    The fist national meeting on agricultural and food processing industry problems was held here today after a several-year break. Over 3,000 farmers from all parts of the country, government and trade union representatives, agricultural scientific workers and MPs gathered at Sofia's largest hall - the National Palace of Culture. The forum was organized by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Food Processing Industry. This is the first meeting of farm producers at such a level and it will contribute to the revival of agriculture in Bulgaria, Prime Minister Zhan Videnov said in his address. Its main purpose is the setting up of an efficient and competitive agriculture, meeting the needs of this country, winning new market positions and turning into a profitable livelihood for thousands of Bulgarians. He pointed to the Government's decision to render support to farm producers as a step in this direction. The pace of the land reform picked up over the past few months, Agriculture and Food Processing Industry Minister Vassil Chichibaba said in an extensive report on the problems of this branch. Ownership over an average of 100,000 has being restored every month and 43.8% of the land has been returned to its rightful owners. The Agriculture Minister projected that by mid-1996 land ownership will be fully restored. Preferential credits to producers, the use of different economic regulators for the recovery of some agricultural productions, the introduction of protective prices and guarantees for the purchase of the harvest, the granting of long-term credits and leasing for replacing old farm machines and state support for agricultural science are some of the measures which the ministry and the Government intend to take for the recovery of farming in Bulgaria, the Agriculture Minister said.


    An agreement on the setting up of a Bulgarian- Turkish Business Council was signed today by Bozhidar Bozhinov, Chairman of the Bulgarian Chamber of Industry and Commerce, and Farouk Erkoc, Chairman of the Union of Turkish Chambers of Commerce. The fact that of the 5,000 foreign companies registered at the Bulgarian Chamber of Industry and Commerce, 1,125 are Turkish or with Turkish participation is eloquent enough of the level of business contacts between the two countries, Bozhinov said, addressing his Turkish guests. Thirty Turkish businessmen in trade, electronics, electrical engineering, telecommunications, the food processing industry, etc., are accompanying President Demirel on his visit here. The meeting was attended by more than 100 Bulgarian businessmen. "Let us proceed from contacts to contracts," Bozhidar Bozhinov wished the participants in the meeting. Over the past five years Bulgaria has had a surplus in its trade with Turkey. Last year bilateral trade amounted to USD 286 million. Bulgaria exports to Turkey mainly metals, timber, chemicals, synthetic yarns and leather and imports machines and equipment for the food processing industry, transport vehicles, textiles and foods.


    Sofia today saw the signing of a joint declaration on economic cooperation and investments between Bulgaria and Australia. The document was signed by Bulgarian Deputy Minister of Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Ivan Belchev and Assistant Secretary at the Australian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade Jeoffrey Benson. This was the last item on the agenda of the seventh session of the Bulgarian-Australian committee on economic cooperation. The Australian side studied opportunities for investing in the mining industry and telecommunications, said the press office of the Bulgarian Trade Ministry. It further pledged to provide state-of-the-art technologies for Bulgarian agriculture, the leather and food processing industries. The participants in the session were unanimous that the inadequate legislation in the sphere of concessions is the major hurdle putting off Australian investors from this country. The import of raw sugar which is one of Australia's staple products, also offers opportunities for expanding the business contacts between the two countries. The Australian side further voiced a readiness to help upgrade sugar- processing plants in Bulgaria. During their Sofia visit, the Australian delegation held political consultations at the Foreign Ministry. The press office of the Bulgarian Ministry of Trade said that the Australian side asked Bulgaria to back its candidature for nonpermanent member of the UN Security Council for 1997-98.


    Yesterday British Gas ended the oil drilling in the mouth of the Kamchiya River, "24 Chassa" writes quoting Simeon Kalayidjiev, Chairman of the Committee of Geology and Mineral Resources. British Gas decided to discontinue the drilling earlier than scheduled because no oil was found at a depth of of 3,900 metres.

    The steel works Stomana at Pernik and Kremikovtsi at Sofia and the Association of Bulgarian Ferrous and Nonferrous Metallurgy will become associate members of the European association of steel manufacturers (EUROFERE), "Continent" writes referring to its Director General Dietrich von Huelzen. Yesterday he met with Bulgaria's leading steel producers. It is planned to build up a system for the exchange of information. The paper quotes foreign experts as saying that Bulgaria's steel is sold at unreasonably low prices because of the lack of information.

    Vietnam is expected to repay about 52 percent of its debt to Bulgaria by the end of the year, "Troud" writes referring to the Ministry of Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation. The settlement will be in kind: Vietnam will supply rubber, coffee, textiles, bicycles and bamboo products to Bulgaria.

    The US dollar fell to a three-week low and now is exchanged for less than 66 leva, although interest rates were cut last week, "Troud" writes.

    Bulgartabac still owes 850 million leva to tobacco growers for the 1994 harvest, "Troud" says. The company has paid them only 450 million leva so far, according to the paper. Bulgartabc will fail to settle its liabilities in full by the end of July as promised, the paper cites Bulgartabac President Spas Gelemerov as saying.

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