Under the headline "Corrupted State Apparat Is the Rust that Eats All, " the private daily "Standart News" runs a two-page interview with President Zhelyu Zhelev. The President lashes criticism at the Socialist Government of Zhan Videnov for failing to settle the problems of crime and the return of land to their owners. "I am also concerned about some foreign policy moves, which show certain inconsistencies. NATO is but one example, " says President Zhelev. In his view, what Bulgaria needs more than anything else is guarantees for its security. "Some people, however, are trying to view this as a conditioned reflex: at one time Russia was our "big brother" and now it is the United States. This is sheer nonsense. If Bulgaria receives a regular NATO membership which it must gain, we shall for the first time have the unique chance of being backed by all great democracies... It was quite another story when other people decided our fate in Yalta. At the present moment we have the opportunity to make our choice. Nobody is troubling or pressing us, " the President points out.
Asked if he sees any field in which the Government has been successful, President Zhelev says that he has observed certain stabilization in the economic and financial processes. "But this may well be attributed to seasonal reasons. In the summer we do not face electricity and heat power problems. Fruit and vegetables are in supply at relatively lower prices... The Government is probably doing something to this end, but I cannot see it doing anything about the structural adjustments, " the President says.
The President declined to answer whether he will run again in the presidential elections after his term of office expires in January 1997. He also denies reports that he wants the formation of a presidential party. "The fact that individual political figures have been representing their initiatives as a pro-presidential party or coalition is their own business, " the President says. He points out, however, that as a patron of the Liberal International he is obliged to maintain close relations with the liberal formations in Bulgaria. The President emphasizes that he can rightfully have prejudices towards certain political force. "My categorical position is that the democratic opposition should do its best and unite at the local elections, " the President said.
"Standart News" editor-in-chief Valeri Zaprianov starts his interview by asking President Zhelev, who has a degree in philosophy, if he feels lonely. President Zhelev says that he has rather had the feeling of misunderstanding and talking at cross-purposes with certain institutions, political forces and persons.
"President Zhelev Gambles away Another Mandate," reads a headline in the private "24 Chassa", capping a whole-page analysis by historian Dragomir Draganov MP of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP). In his view, it was the BSP which provided Zhelev with two presidential mandates. The first time, when Socialists voted for him in the Grand National Assembly in 1990 and the second time in 1992, when the BSP did not come up with its candidate but backed the hopeless candidature of independent Velko Vulkanov. Draganov finds it surprising that this time Zhelev took the wrong direction and staged a war on the BSP. He predicts that presidential elections will be held as early as possible under the Constitution, three months before Zhelev's term of office expires, on October 20, 1996. Draganov says that Zhelev has no future as a politician.
Sofia, July 19 (BTA) - European integration, and preparation for full membership in the European Union is a priority of the Government, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski told the parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee. At a session open to journalists, which continued for almost three hours, he reviewed the work of the Bulgarian Government on European integration and Bulgaria's Balkan policy and answered questions by MPs.
"The Government has serious intentions to develop the processes of integration and to prepare Bulgaria for full membership in the EU, " Pirinski said. Asked whether Bulgaria would officially apply for EU membership by the end of this year, Pirinski said: "This would depend on the degree of our readiness." Asked by an opposition MP why he had made no mention of NATO, Pirinski said that membership in the EU was not bound to membership in NATO. "We are considering this issue [NATO membership] solely from the point of view of national security, " Pirinski said.
Pirinski spoke of the situation in the Balkans, which he described as critical. In response to a question, Pirinski said that Bulgaria's stand is in support of the efforts of the EU in the implementation of the five points of Cannes.
Pirinski laid special emphasis on Bulgaria's stand - for a peaceful solution of the conflict, this country's non- involvement in military actions, directly or indirectly, support for the contact group and observation of this country's obligations as a member of the international community, including in the enforcement of the Yugosanctions. Pirinski reiterated Bulgaria's stand for a parallel solution of the conflict and alleviation of the sanctions. According to him, this stand is shared neither by the warring sides nor by the supporters of the sanctions. Pirinski pointed to Bulgaria's efforts to maintain dialogue with each of the countries involved in the conflict and its regional initiatives as possibilities for stabilizing the region.
Bulgaria's chief diplomat dwelled in detail on his Balkan tour over the past few weeks - his visits to Zagreb and Belgrade, his visit to Athens and his talks with his Turkish counterpart in Sofia. As regards the allegations that these visits contradicted this country's European integration, Pirinski stressed that according to him, these contacts correspond to Bulgaria's interests of today. In Belgrade the Bulgarian Foreign Minister raised the issue of the rights of the Bulgarians in the Western Outlands (a territory in Southeastern Serbia which Bulgaria lost to that country under the 1919 Treaty of Neuilly as a result of its defeat in WWI). This issue will also be discussed next week during the visit to Sofia of the Minister of Human Freedoms and the Rights of National Minorities Margit Savovic. The issue of a Serbian minority in Bulgaria has not been raised officially, Pirinski said in response to a question. According to him, there is no need to fan up a non-existent problem. If it is raised officially then it will be immediately contested by the Bulgarian side.
Pirinski spoke of the regional cooperation proposals made by Bulgaria. He spoke in particular of Bulgaria's proposal for holding a seminar in Sofia this November on the Role of Trans-European Infrastructure for the Stability and Cooperation in the Black Sea Region.
Sofia, July 19 (BTA) - An overwhelming parliamentary majority today passed a law on organized crime control. It was drawn up and introduced at Parliament by the cabinet and regulates the structure and activity of the Central Service for Organized Crime Control (CSOCC) as a specialized body with the Interior Ministry for combatting organized crime.
The CSOCC emerged in 1991 with the passage of a law on the structure of the Interior Ministry. In the past four years, however, many saw a need for a special law on the CSOCC. Drafting such a law was placed among the priorities of the ruling Socialist-led coalition.
The Central Service for Organized Crime Control Act says that the CSOCC - alone or in cooperation with the other specialized bodies - carries out operative, investigative, tracing, intelligence, organization and other activities countering terrorist acts against government institutions, as well as against representatives and institutions of other countries and international organizations. The tasks of the Service also include the combat against the illegal production of, trade in and trafficking of drugs, illegal deals and trafficking of arms, automobiles, cultural and historical valuables. Blackmailing, kidnapping and taking of hostages are also within the CSOCC competence. A special provision in the law deals with the struggle against corruption in the government administration and organized crime in the economic and financial sectors.
The Act further authorizes the CSOCC to keep under surveillance on the territory of the country people suspected of involvement in criminal activity. The bodies of the Service have the power to demand from traders, banks and government bodies information pertaining to organized crime.
The Act makes provision for cooperation with services of other countries and international organizations on the basis of effective accords.
The CSOCC will be headed by a Director who is a Bulgarian citizens and has worked at the Interior Ministry 10 years and over.
The CSOCC may use the voluntary cooperation of citizens and employ part-time staff whose powers will be specified by the Minister of the Interior.
CSOCC staff and part-time employers, as well as their families, can use a special regime for residence registration and registration of personal cars and telephones. They are also entitled to additional remuneration for high- risk tasks.
Sofia, July 19 (BTA) - Parliament today authorized the Government to conduct negotiations and sign agreements with the World Bank and the Council of Europe's Social Development Fund for loans under the health sector restructuring project. The provisional figures are 31 million US dollars from the World Bank and 12 million dollars from the Council of Europe's Social Development Fund.
Health Minister Mimi Vitkova told Parliament that negotiations for the World Bank loan had been in progress for two years. She familiarized the MPs with the Government's stance on the project for the restructuring of the health sector and on future steps in the negotiations for its financing.
The project has five component: health policy analyses and management of resources, primary medical services and their restructuring, the ambulance service, blood transfusion, and food and diet control. Minister Vitkova said the PHARE programme would provide grant aid for the implementation of the project's first component, which would make its financing by the World Bank unnecessary. Food control, which is not among the government's priorities, will not be discussed either. The loan will go towards the other three components, including the equipment of 270 dispensaries and 42 smaller polyclinics, the further restructuring of the ambulance service and the thorough reorganization of the system for donation, processing and storage of blood and blood products.
Sofia, July 19 (BTA) - I hope that this autumn Bulgarian and Moldovan prime ministers will exchange visits and that the two sides will sign concrete agreements, like for instance a consular agreement and an agreement on reciprocal investment promotion and protection, Chairman of the Moldovan Parliament Petru Lucinschi told journalists here today before his departure from Bulgaria. Lucinschi was at the head of a parliamentary delegation which arrived Monday on a three-day visit to Bulgaria. This was the first visit by Moldovan MPs to Bulgaria after that former Soviet republic proclaimed its independence in 1991.
The delegation met with President Zhelyu Zhelev, National Assembly Chairman Blagovest Sendov, Prime Minister Zhan Videnov, Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski, and with representatives of the five parliamentary groups in the National Assembly. On Tuesday the Moldovan MPs, two of whom are of Bulgarian descent, visited Plovdiv (Southern Bulgaria), this country's second biggest city and the ordnance factories in the town of Sopot, near Plovdiv.
Lucinschi stressed that the concrete bilateral agreements will complement the Treaty for Friendly Relations and Cooperation between Bulgaria and Moldova, signed in September 1992 in Sofia by Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev and Moldovan President Mircea Snegur.
"Ninety percent of the problems which we discussed at a parliamentary level in Sofia are the same in the two countries. This is why we agreed to exchange delegations at the level of parliamentary fractions and committees; I hope that Bulgarian National Assembly Chairman Sendov will visit Moldova, " Lucinschi said.
The issue of the Bulgarian minority of over 90, 000 people in Moldova, was raised at every meeting, Lucinschi said. He stressed that Bulgarians in Moldova enjoy the same rights as the Moldovans.
Asked about the problems Bulgarians living on the two sides of the Moldovan-Ukrainian border have in maintaining contacts with each other, Lucinschi said that these problems stem from customs officers' abuses and affect the Moldovans as well. "The barriers should be lifted once the economic problems are resolved, " Lucinschi said.
Sofia, July 19 (BTA) - Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Development Roumen Gechev left today for the United States at the invitation of the Chicago stock exchange, the Ministry's press centre said.
Minister Gechev will familiarize himself with the operation of the Chicago stock market and will negotiate on the participation of American experts in the building of capital market and stock exchange in Bulgaria.
Roumen Gechev is accompanied by Deputy Ministers of Economic Development Entsislav Harmandjiev and Gancho Ganchev and by the Director of Mass Privatization Centre Yosif Iliev.
Sofia, July 19 (Ekaterina Kazassova of BTA) - Some 20, 000 families, 8, 000 of them in Sofia, have been affected by what is widely known as the Restitution Act, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Construction and Regional Development Doncho Konakchiev told a news conference here today. Early this year Parliament extended by 3 years the moratorium on the restitution of immovable property but the Constitutional Court later ruled the decision conflicted the Constitution. The cabinet now is trying to resolve the problem but a lasting solution is possible only when supply is boosted on the housing market, according to this Deputy Prime Minister.
Figures of the National Statistical Institute show that ownership has to date been restored on 63% of the houses subject to restitution. The major conflict is now between tenants and owners. Three years after the passage of the Restitution Act owners are unable to get their property back and are forced to put up with rents that, even after a parliamentary decision pushed them up, are preposterously low compared to the current market prices. Tenants at the same time face the gloomy possibility of being evicted into the street. The decision Parliament offered as a compromise to increase the rent for houses subject to restitution, and ask tenants capable of paying market rents, to immediately vacate the houses, satisfies neither side. It however offers a chance for solving the problem state-by-stage avoiding social conflicts.
Doncho Konakchiev pledged that the Ministry of Construction and Regional Development by late August will draw up a long-term housing programme. It will give a chance to state-run companies to enter the housing market and help solve the problem with houses subject to restitution and the housing crisis in Bulgaria in general.
Over 30 large towns in Bulgaria suffer housing shortage. A further problem is the condition of Bulgaria's housing stock with 5% of it uninhabitable and 30% way below the standards.
The state will control the housing market but it will have a direct responsibility only for housing the poor, Konakchiev said. He went on to say that making excess profits from construction of housing developments for the socially-disadvantaged will not be allowed. Construction of luxury houses will continue at market prices.
Housing shortage remains the main problem. According to Construction Ministry statistics, a mere 8, 000 apartments were constructed in 1994. Years ago this figure used to be around 75, 000.
Lisbon, July 19 (BTA Spec. Corr. Lyubomir Yordanov) Bulgarian Defence Minister Dimiter Pavlov, who is on a four-day visit to Lisbon, today met with Portuguese Foreign Minister Jose Durao Barroso. The two officials held talks about the current processes in Europe and the two countries' integration into the all-European structures, chief of the Defence Ministry's press office Captain Tsvyatko Donchev said after the meeting. Durao Barroso assured Minister Pavlov that Portugal will provide its support for lifting of the visa requirements for Bulgarian nationals under the Schengen Agreement, once the conditions allow it. The Portuguese Foreign Minister hailed the signing of three documents tomorrow which will provide the legal framework of bilateral cooperation in military matters.
The Bulgarian military delegation today visited the Practical Infantry School and the Marfa King Palace. Minister Pavlov gave a cocktail party at the Bulgarian Embassy in Lisbon in honour of his Portuguese host, Defence Minister Jorge De Figueiredo Lopes.
Sofia, July (BTA) - A mission of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) arrived here today for negotiations on a Ecu 60 million Transit Roads-2 loan.
The parliamentary Economic Committee today recommended that Parliament agree to sign a lending agreement on Ecu 60 million with the European Investment Bank (EIB) to finance the Transit Roads-2 project. The project envisages repair of some 1, 000 km of trunk roads by 1998.
In 1993 the Ministry of Transport signed lending agreements with for Ecu 43 million with the EBRD and for Ecu 21 million with the EIB for the Transit Roads-1 project. The funds will be spent for rehabilitation of 600 km of transit roads and completion of 32 km of the Trakia trunk road.
The Inzhstroy company last year won a tender for repair of four sections of the Hemous trunk road with a total length of 27.4 km and five sections of the Trakia trunk road with a total length of 71.6 km.
A 6.2 km rehabilitated section of the Hemous trunk road tomorrow will be opened to traffic, Deputy Transport Minister Luchezar Lalov said today. The section has an splitmastic asphalt covering that allows for greater adhesion with vehicles' tyres, and absorbs noise. Waterproofing systems up to the European standards prevent the formation of pools on the road, Lalov said. The covering has a service life of 10 years and over.
Sofia, July 19 (BTA) - The debts of food-processing industry amount to 23, 000 million leva (1 US dollar exchanges for 66 Bulgarian levs), Dimcho Shopov, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Food-Processing is quoted as saying in a front-page story in "Zemya". According to Mr. Shopov, food processing enterprizes owe 16, 000 million leva to the banks and 7, 000 million leva to the national budget, suppliers and social security funds. Asked about the number of enterprises considered in dire straits, Shopov quoted three such enterprises in the canning industry, four in meat packing, six in the dairy industry and one in sugar industry. Eighty seven companies will be put up for privatization as a way of their rehabilitation.
Groups of wrestlers (in popular parlance wrestler has acquired the extended meaning of "mobster" after some of the security firms, which started to be set up in early 1990 and which employed mostly former wrestlers and policemen, branched out into racketeering) barred greengrocers from Plovdiv (Southern Bulgaria) from selling their produce on Sofia markets; those who disobeyed got severely beaten in the centre of Sofia, "Douma" writes on its front page, quoting a police source. Recently the vegetable growers voiced their protest by dumping trucks loaded with early cabbage into the Maritsa River, "Douma" writes. According to the paper, not only vegetable but fruit growers received the same treatment from wrestler groups.
Under the headline "Bulgaria Will Take Part in Joint Ventures for Arms Production", "Douma" runs an interview with Ivan Kolev, Deputy Chairman of the Interdepartmental Council for the Military-Industrial Complex and National Mobilization Readiness. Kolev mentions Ukraine, India and the Arab countries among Bulgaria's possible partners in that field. "Unfortunately, no joint ventures have been registered so far, except for two with Russia, which operate only sporadically, " Kolev says. Asked why he mentions only Eastern European partners, Ivan Kolev said he has had a number of talks with representatives of military plants of NATO member-countries about cooperation in this field. "For the time being, however, they are not showing interest. I have directly asked NATO senior officials, why they refrain from cooperating, when they have recognized Bulgaria's high tech manufacture, but I have not received a concrete answer so far, " Kolev says.
The Bulgarian-Russian Investment Bank starts servicing payments in the two countries' national currencies as of August 1995, "Troud" writes, quoting the bank's Executive Director Emil Kulev. "Standart News" writes that the bank will quote on a daily basis the rouble-lev exchange rate.
Sofia, July 19 (BTA) - An earthquake was registered at 02:29 a.m. local time today, epicentred some 400 km to the east of Sofia on Bulgarian territory, the Civil Defence said today, quoting the seismological operative unit of the Institute of Geophysics with the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. According to preliminary data, the quake measured 4 on the Richter scale and was felt in the country's eastern parts. No fatalities or damage to property have been reported.
Another earthquake measuring 3.4 on the Richter scale was registered on Monday. It was epicentred at 220 km to the southeast of Sofia. Seismologists reported about two other light tremors on Monday.