Sofia, July 21 (BTA) - The intensity of the Government's contacts with international financial institutions has been increasing and not decreasing over the past few months, Prime Minister Zhan Videnov said in response to an interpellation by Filip Dimitrov, MP of the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) and former prime minister and UDF leader. Most of the negotiations with these institutions have been successfully completed, Videnov said.
The maintaining and promotion of contacts with the international financial institutions is one of the main aspects of the Government's programme, the prime Minister recalled. The possibilities for financial support from the World Bank are of paramount importance in the structural readjustment of Bulgaria's economy, he stressed.
A joint evaluation of all projects was made this June. The Government approved the agreements with the World Bank and obliged the concrete recipients of the funds to report to it of the implementation of the agreements every two months, Videnov said.
The Water Companies Restructuring and Modernization Loan, known as the "water loan" and amounting to USD 98 million, was signed on June 30 and submitted for ratification in Parliament yesterday, the Prime Minister said. However, its initial draft of 1992 underwent some changes prompted by the arguments of the National Waters Board that this draft does not provide for the most efficient use of the loan, that the ways for settling the credit make it unprofitable for the companies and the water prices provided by it do not take into account the Bulgarians' purchasing power.
By the end of August the World Bank will receive the stand of the Bulgarian Government on the loan for Bulgaria's power engineering. The main problem here is the price of electricity, which according to the obligations undertaken by the Government upon signing the agreement should have reached 3.5 cents per kWh in 1995. This problem is extremely complicated and the Government has adopted no decision on it yet, the Prime Minister said.
There are no problems on the loan for Bulgaria's education, according to Videnov. He recalled that three secondary education items dropped out of the project (the building of a centre of research and training in vocational guidance, the building of a national testing centre and making the system of publishing and circulating textbooks more efficient) because these can be financed from the national budget. The World Bank accepted this stand and an agreement was reached for drafting a new project for higher education, because higher education is in need of greater funds.
The Telecommunications Loan is also under implementation. So far 3 million US dollars of the total of 30 million have been disbursed, Zhan Videnov said.
Zhan Videnov pointed to the talks on a loan for adjusting the health care system as proof of the Government's wish to work with the international financial institutions. A Financial and Enterprise Sector Adjustment Loan (FESAL) has also been discussed with the World Bank mission. The negotiations will continue this autumn along with the negotiations with the International Monetary Fund on a new stand-by agreement, the Prime Minister said.
Sofia, July 21 (BTA) - During question time at parliament today, two MPs of the opposition asked Prime Minister Zhan Videnov and Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski questions on the rights of Bulgarians in Northern Greece and the Western Outlands in Eastern Serbia. The MPs, Evgeni Ekov and Anatoli Velichkov of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization - Union on Macedonian Societies, said the rights of Bulgarians in the two neighbouring countries are being violated and asked the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister for the action they have undertaken in a view of this.
"The serious problems in Bulgarian-Greek relations have practically been solved, " Zhan Videnov said reiterating his statement before an interviewer of the National TV after his June 19-20 visit in Athens, that "at the end of the 20th century, we have no intentions to enter new conflicts on minorities, outlands, borders and historical heritage, with any Balkan country."
Answering a strong-worded question if the Bulgarian cabinet really knows nothing of the existence of a Bulgarian minority in Greece, the Prime Minister said the question was based on the MPs's speculations and not on the official stand of the Bulgarian government, another country's government or international organization, which, according to him, "give no ground for such a formulation of the question". The Prime Minister went on to say that such a community is not recognized by any prestigious law- enforcement organization, the Greek government, any other Balkan government or major European country.
The Prime Minister further recalled the December 1927 bilateral agreement known as the "Mollov - Kafandaris Agreement", envisaging the Bulgaria and Greece exchange citizens who feel themselves to be belong to the other country. Videnov said the Agreement set a framework for interpreting the individual's rights within the context of bilateral relations.
Answering a question related to the Bulgarian minority in Serbia, Foreign Minister Pirinski said that the constitutional rights of Bulgarians in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia were on the agenda of all meetings during his June visit to Belgrade. The Yugoslav side agreed to consider this question and next week's visit here of Mrs Savovic of the Yugoslav cabinet in charge of minority- related matters, goes to prove it. "I believe that my visit in Belgrade had a tangible benefit in that it helped to see what the real problems are, adopt an objective approach to them and seek solutions consistent both with Yugoslavia's law and with the legitimate expectations of Bulgarians living there, " the Foreign Minister said.
Sofia, July 23 (BTA) - Mrs Margit Savovic, minister without portfolio in charge of human rights and the minorities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, arrived on a visit here late this afternoon. On July 24 Mrs Savovic will meet in succession Deputy Prime Minister Svetoslav Shivarov, Minister of Education, Science and Technology Ilcho Dimitrov and Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski. Later on she will meet with Parliament Chairman Blagovest Sendov and MPs of the Parliamentary Committees on Foreign Policy and on Human Rights and Religious Faiths.
On Tuesday Mrs Savovic will be visiting Bourgas, Ravda and Nessebur (on the Black Sea). On Wednesday, after a meeting with Prime Minister Zhan Videnov and final talks with Shivarov, she will give a news conference.
Mrs Savovic is scheduled to meet Patriarch Maksim of Bulgaria; the Chairman of the Agency for Expatriate Bulgarians, Ginyo Ganev, and the leader of the Women's Democratic Union, Emilia Maslarova.
In connection with Mrs Savovic's visit, Yordan Kozhouharov, Deputy Head of the Southeastern Europe Department of Bulgaria's Foreign Ministry, told BTA that "the visit is seen as a sign of the readiness of the Yugoslav side for a constructive dialogue on a wide range of bilateral issues". "We intend to discuss all these issues, as well as questions of regional stability and cooperation. For us, this includes all spheres in which contacts are possible at present, including political, economic and cultural- humanitarian contacts, as well as arrangements for the period after the situation normalizes, " Kozhouharov said.
"Acting in good faith, we will openly and clearly raise the problems which the Bulgarian national minority in the Western Outlands faces in exercising the rights enshrined in the Constitutions of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Republic of Serbia. Our approach to these problems is based on the view that they should not be ignored as if they were non-existent on the one hand, and they should not be dramatized or turned into a cause for confrontation and tension on the other, " Kozhouharov said.
Sofia, July 21 (BTA) - Bulgaria and Italy today exchanged the ratification documents on the bilateral Treaty for Friendship and Cooperation. Deputy Foreign Minister Stanimir Alexandrov signed the protocol of exchange on behalf of Bulgaria, and Italian Ambassador here Stefano Rastrelli on behalf of Italy.
The sides stressed the provisions of the Treaty place bilateral relations on an essentially new basis that creates perfect conditions for the expansion of contacts in the political, economic and humanitarian spheres.
The Treaty will become effecting two months after the exchange of ratification documents. It will help find mechanisms for promoting Bulgarian-Italian ties, as well as the contacts with the European Unions and the other European structures.
The Treaty was signed on January 9, 1992 in Rome by the then foreign ministers of Bulgaria and Italy, Stoyan Ganev and Gianni de Michelis, and was ratified by the Bulgarian parliament on April 1, 1993.
Bulgaria and Italy have also signed an accord on legal assistance in enforcing decisions on civil matters and an agreement on rescheduling this country's foreign debt.
Sofia, July 21 (BTA) - A five-year cooperation agreement between the defence ministries of Bulgaria and Portugal, a programme for cooperation between the two ministries in 1995 and a Protocol on the statute of the joint committee on defence were signed yesterday in Lisbon between Bulgarian Defence Minister Dimiter Pavlov and his Portuguese counterpart Dr Antonio Jorge De Figuieredo Lopes. Minister Pavlov is leading a delegation on a three- day official visit in Portugal.
The three accords provide legal basis for cooperation in military policy, industry and personnel training, exchange of experts and participation in joint military exercises. According to its concluding clauses, the agreement is not endangering other countries' security and territorial integrity.
The two ministers came up with a joint declaration in which they assess in positive terms the performance of the official delegations on the joint activities, outlined in a 1995 plan. The declaration also stresses the two parties' unanimity on all issues they discussed in the talks.
After the signing of the accords, Minister Dimiter Pavlov restated Bulgaria's readiness to contribute to the architecture of a future system for European security. He extended thanks to Portugal and its Ministry of National Defence, and particularly for their assistance and support they offered to Bulgaria in its efforts to join the European structures.
Dr Antonio Jorge De Figuieredo Lopes said that the signed accords manifest the willingness of his government that Central and Eastern European states are allowed to take part in the settlement of major security problems on the European continent.
The signed accords manifest the results of one year's preparatory work by the two countries' defence ministries. The first steps to that end were made with the signing of a Joint Declaration for Promotion of Military Cooperation on July 7, 1994 in Sofia and a Memorandum for boosting relations between the defence ministries from November 18, 1994 in Lisbon.
The Bulgarian military delegation visited yesterday the base of the naval forces in Alfeite at the end of its visit to Portugal from which it returned late last night.
Sofia, July 21 (BTA) - There is an arms imbalance in the Balkans but it is not directed against Bulgaria, Vaso Papandreou, Greek MP and Vice President of the Western European Union Parliamentary Assembly, told a news conference here today. Arms are being cascaded under international accords and within NATO, Mrs Papandreou said adding that the arms imbalance is connected with normalizing Greek-Turkish relations.
The Greek government will back Bulgaria's application for entry into the European and Euro-Atlantic structures but this is a slow process and presupposes changes in society and economy, Mrs Papandreou went on to say.
The guest is paying a three-day visit here at the invitation of the Sofia Council of the Bulgarian Socialist Party. She met with the leaders of the parliamentary committees on economy, national security and foreign policy, and with Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski. She reportedly stressed during the talks that regardless of the border and ethnic problems in the Balkans, the transboundary projects should be implemented because they are in the interest of the whole European community.
Sofia, July 21 (BTA) - Parliament adopted a decision today granting the status of higher educational establishment to 22 existing educational establishments on the basis of their merging, transforming higher educational establishments into academies and universities, and giving higher educational establishment status to various higher institutes.
Thus, a Thracian University is set up, which unites the Higher Institute of Zootechnics and Veterinary Medicine and the Higher Institute of Medicine, both in Stara Zagora.
Parliament transformed the Higher Institute of Theatrical Art in Sofia into a National Academy of Theatrical and Film Art, the Higher Institute of Fine Arts in Sofia into a National Academy of Fine Arts, the Higher Institute of Finance and Economics in Svishtov into an Academy of Economics, the Higher Institute of Sports in Sofia into a National Sports Academy, and the Higher Institute of Musical Pedagogy in Plovdiv into an Academy of Music and Dance Art.
Another 15 higher educational establishments in the field of the humanities and the technical sciences in Sofia and seven other cities were transformed into universities.
The Varna Free University and the Sofia Slavonic University were granted status of higher education establishments.
During the parliamentary debate, the parliamentary groups of the opposition Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) and the Popular Union insisted that the decision be postponed until the passage of a higher education bill. Minister of Education, Science and Technology Ilcho Dimitrov expressed a similar stand on the part of the Ministry, namely, that Parliament has to first approve a higher education bill and then transform the higher education establishments.
UDF MP Georgi Panev took a stand against granting status to the Slavonic University as it would duplicate the functions of the Slavonic Languages and Literature Department of the Sofia University. Panev recalled the categorical objection by the Sofia University Academic Council to granting higher educational establishment status to the Slavonic University.
Sofia, July 22 (BTA) The Armed Forces Prosecutor's Office imposed a 2, 000 leva fine on Socialist MP Andrei Loukanov, former prime minister of two Socialist governments, and ordered him escorted for questioning, the dailies report. This step follows Loukanov's refusal to give evidence in investigative proceedings against officials who allowed him to travel abroad in violation of a ban by the prosecutor's office. Military Prosecutor Emil Karamfilov is quoted as saying that Loukanov's parliamentary immunity is not curtailed by the fact that he is legally compelled to attend because he is not a defendant in the case. By his refusal to attend, Loukanov broke a clause in the Code of Criminal Procedure on the mandatory nature of testifying. "The investigation launched by the Armed Forces Prosecutor's Office is unlawful and anti-constitutional, " says the Socialist "Douma" daily, quoting Loukanov who invoked his parliamentary immunity. He believes that the Interior Ministry would have infringed his immunity if it had stopped him from leaving the country.
Prime Minister Zhan Videnov reportedly told Socialist MPs on Tuesday he was going to bar Loukanov from leaving the country and said he must be informed if Loukanov wanted to do so, "24 Chassa" says.
The ethnic Turks' Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) is going to send some 100 students to Turkey, "Douma" reports on its front page, quoting the MRF mouthpiece "Prava i Svobodi". The candidates, aged between 18 and 21, must be high achievers with a clean bill of health. The MRF has been acting as an intermediary in such schemes for three years now, "Douma" says. Lawyers quoted by "Douma" claim this is done in violation of the Constitution and describe the MRF's actions as using an ethnic community for political purposes. Unidentified MPs and Education Ministry experts say the Movement's actions flagrantly breach a number of Bulgarian laws. According to lawyers, the Constitutional Court, the prosecutor's office, the government and Parliament should go into the matter, "Douma" says.
"Bulgaria will be excluded from the Schengen list as soon as certain conditions are met, " Belgian Ambassador Koenraad Rouvroy says in an interview in "Douma". The number one condition is that Bulgaria should give guarantees against illegal immigration by Bulgarians to the Schengen countries. In his view, the negative effect of the Schengen Agreement has been strongly exaggerated. All Bulgarian businessmen who present an invitation from a Belgian company receive a visa on the same day, Ambassador Rouvroy says. Along with diplomats and senior officials, businessmen will be among the first for whom the barriers will be removed.
So far Belgian companies have invested 70 million dollars in Bulgaria. They are mostly attracted by industrial and agribusiness enterprises subject to privatization, says Ambassador Rouvroy. Two Belgian companies have gained foothold in Bulgaria, one of which is the third biggest in the world.
The problem with the financing of a trans-Balkan oil pipeline linking Bourgas (on the Black Sea) and Alexandroupolis (Greece) has been solved, "Douma" says in a dispatch from Moscow. The daily quotes a statement by Greek Foreign Ministry Secretary General Atanassios Theodorakis in the Russian newspaper "Segodnya", who says that 30 per cent of investment will come in the form of grant aid from the European Union and the rest will be provided by Greek companies of the Trans-Balkan Pipeline consortium.
"Troud" reports on the extradition of a Skopje emissary from Bulgaria. Georgi Popatanasov was extradited on charges of anti-Bulgarian propaganda in Pirin Macedonia (Southwestern Bulgaria), the daily says. He has been banned from visiting Bulgaria for five years.
Sofia, July 21 (BTA) - The Government is considering on the best of four alternative ways of closing the Bank Consolidation Company and possibilities for its future operation, "24 Chassa" says.
The US dollar went up to exchange for 66.35 Bulgarian levs on the interbank market yesterday. The increased foreign currency demand is hardly a result from lowering the amounts of mandatory bank reserves, dealers are quoted by "Standart News" as saying.
There are no legal grounds for providing state compensations to the victims of the Ponzi schemes, is the decision of the Parliamentary ad hoc committee on the pyramid structures, quoted by "Douma"
"We have macroeconomic projections, which show what the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have also predicted: that Bulgaria will mark an economic growth of 2 - 5 per cent in 1995 and 1996, " says Deputy Minister of Economic Development Gancho Ganchev, interviewed for "Troud".
Sofia, July 21 (BTA) - A Government decree, issued at the beginning of July, lifts the two-year ban on the export of wheat as of today. The purpose is to stimulate producers and guarantee the sale of wheat harvest. A tax of 35 US dollars/t is set to regulate exports.
The ban on wheat export was imposed in 1993 to prevent excessive grain exports which might result in shortages on the home market. Later the ban applied to bread wheat only; the export of animal-feed wheat was limited to 300, 000 t with an export tax of 5 US dollars/t. However, according to Todor Pandov, Chairman of the Bulgarian Agricultural Confederation, the ban inflicted great losses on grain producers.
Exporting companaies should present four documents to receive export licence from the Ministry of Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation. These are a certificate for tax and court registration, a copy of the agreement with the foreign partner, a document evidencing the amount of grain designed for export is available, and a quality certificate. The purpose is to ensure efficient control on grain exports, Deputy Minister of Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperatioon Borislav Georgiev said. According to Ministry-provided information, since the beginning of 1995 17 companies have exported a total of 280, 000 t of animal-feed wheat, 40, 000 t of bread grain and 17, 00 t of barley. Preliminary estimates show that Bulgaria will export another 70, 000 t of wheat and 23, 000 t of barley by the end of the year.
Sofia, July 23 (BTA) - The Chimco company of Vratsa (Northwestern Bulgaria) has been nominated for an international award for high quality and use of environment- friendly products, BTA's local correspondent reported. The award will be presented in Geneva in September. This year the chemical plant will invest 500, 000 dollars in the reconstruction of its carbamide unit, a major source of foreign exchange proceeds. Chimco grossed 1, 481 million leva in the first half of the year, reporting a net profit of 700 million leva.
The assembly of equipment for the gasification of the Iztok thermo-electric power station in Rousse (Northeastern Bulgaria) is starting in September. This will allow the plant to eliminate bottlenecks linked to the supply of Russian and Ukrainian coal and to meet environmental protection standards. The project is worth an estimated 250 million leva.
Komco, a Bulgarian private company, has launched a ferry service between the Danubian ports of Rousse and Giurgiu (Romania). So far the Romanian company Muca alone provided ferry service which led to disputes between the two countries. Komco will ferry between 150 and 200 trucks a day, using adjusted 1, 200-tonne military vessels. At 100 Deutsche marks per truck the ferry charges will be lower than charges collected at the Danube Bridge (linking Rousse and Giurgiu) which will be marked up by Romania. About half of the proceeds will be allocated to the budget.
The employees of the Pioner children's clothing factory in Byala Slatina bought a 40 per cent stake in the enterprise, whose privatization will be completed within four months. Pioner exports 95 per cent of its products, mainly to Switzerland, Germany and the United States.
Astica, the brewery based in Haskovo (Southeastern Bulgaria), projects its 1996 output at 100 million litres, most of which will be sold in Bulgaria. Domestic consumption is 500 million litres a year. Daruinvest, which acquired an 80 per cent stake in the company in June, will renovate the brewery and build a waste-treatment facility and warehouses.
Formoplast of Kurdjali (Southern Bulgaria) is the biggest manufacturer of moulds and plastic articles in the Balkans. It makes 30 types of collapsible pallets and cases for Coca-Cola, milk and vegetables. Over 160, 000 collapsible pallets a year are exported to Germany, the US, Belgium and the CIS. In 1996 Formoplast will start exporting moulds to Greece and Turkey.