Bulgaria views with understanding NATO air strikes in Bosnia, at the same time hoping they will pose no obstacle to Friday's meeting in Geneva of the foreign ministers of the three concerned parties, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Radko Vlaikov told a press conference today. Bulgaria expects the parties, including the Bosnian Serbs, to meet their preliminary commitments.
Bulgaria sees NATO strikes as a measure of last resort, caused by a criminal act on August 28, at the same time hoping the strikes will be directed to military targets and pose no threat to civilians, the spokesman told a scheduled briefing. He also pointed out the air raids should in no way obstruct Friday's meeting in Geneva. When NATO launched air strikes a week ago, Bulgaria took the view they would be a measured step to bring the warring parties to the negotiating table, Vlaikov said. He said Bulgaria categorically commended the agreement on the Geneva meeting, expressing a hope it will take place as scheduled, and will not be prevented by the air strikes, "as it is obvious that a peace meeting is hardly possible at a time of hostilities". According to the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry, the prerequisites for a meeting should be in place by Friday, i.e. preliminary conditions, including a Bosnian Serb commitment to withdraw heavy weaponry 20 km away from Sarajevo, should be met.
"A period of vigorous negotiations on a possible FESAL (Financial and Enterprise Sector Adjustment Loan) with the World Bank and on a long-term agreement on balance-of-payments support with the IMF lies ahead. This will be necessary for reliability, predictability and balance of this country's financial system in a period of structural adjustment in industry and mass privatization and for full normalization of Bulgaria's international financial relations," Prime Minister Zhan Videnov said today after conferring with Mr. Johannes A.H. de Beaufort Wijndholds, IMF Executive Director and head of the Netherlands Constituency Group, who is visiting here. "We hope for serious and successful, although hard, negotiations with IMF and the World Bank," Mr. Videnov added. "Our relationship with IMF has gone through all phases, and now we have acquired the necessary experience, wisdom and good will to hold sensible although difficult negotiations with long-term prospects and understanding of mutual benefit," Mr. Videnov believes. He indicated that an agreement with the World Bank is the first problem which should be addressed. Both agreements, with the IMF and the World Bank, have to be finalized before the end of the year. The Prime Minister assessed as "useful" today's discussion on the prospects of Bulgaria's relations with the multilaterals and with the foreign financial partners. At the forthcoming talks, the IMF will focus on the key indicators: monetary policy, budget, and structural adjustment, Mr. de Beaufort Wijndholds said after the meeting. He added that only after the Fund makes thoroughgoing studies in this area will it present its recommendations to Bulgaria. The IMF Executive Director finds there are fine opportunities for holding the talks and that the Fund is favorably disposed to Bulgaria. Conferring with Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski earlier today, Mr. de Beaufort Wijndholds also expressed optimism about Bulgaria's economic development and the future of its relations with the IMF, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Radko Vlaikov told reporters. Mr. Pirinski told his guest that the Bulgarian Government intends to press ahead with the economic reform in Bulgaria. The chief Bulgarian diplomat and the IMF official found that a number of economic areas require further regulation. Mr. Pirinski familiarized Mr. de Beaufort Wijndholds with the Bulgarian stand on the situation in Bosnia- Herzegovina. He said Bulgaria intends to join all initiatives related to the region's post-war economic development. He expressed Bulgaria's aspiration to active cooperation with all countries in the rest of the Balkans. Mr. Pirinski said regional security is one of the prerequisites for promotion and expansion of inter-Balkan economic cooperation.
With the entry into force of the European Agreement on February 1, 1995, Bulgaria acquired an EU associated member status, which made possible a significant activation of this country's cooperation with the European Union in various fields: political dialogue, trade and economic relations and gradual establishment of free trade areas, creating a basis for economic, financial, cultural and social cooperation. Bulgaria's achievements on its European Agreement so far, as well as on the Strategy for the Integration of the Associated Countries in Central and Eastern Europe, adopted by the European Council in Essen in December, 1994, were assessed in positive terms by the EU and its members at the first meeting of the EU-Bulgaria Association Council in Brussels on May 29, 1995. Bulgaria has been taking active part in the political dialogue with the EU both in ministerial level meetings and in the expert groups. The progress of multilateral talks has been going on in parallel with the bilateral cooperation with EU states and associated members. Bulgaria has been actively participating in the forums of the regional cooperation, the Central European Initiative, the Central European Free Trade Area (CEFTA), the Black Sea Economic Cooperation. The EU-Bulgaria Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) held its first unofficial meeting on April 6 and 7 in Strasbourg this year. During the working meeting of the Bulgarian parliamentary delegation in charge of relations with the European Parliament in Strasbourg on July 11-12, 1995, it was specified that the official constituent assembly of the JPC will be held in Sofia between September 6 and 8, 1995. On November 9-10 in Sofia will be established a committee, a working body, to make reviews of the relations between Bulgaria and the European Union, Deputy Foreign Minister Mrs. Irina Bokova told reporters today. The body will be supported by sub-committees for the concrete fields, in which Bulgaria is negotiating with representatives of the European Commission. The Government Committee on European Integration already approved the Government's program for accelerating the harmonization of the Bulgarian legislation with the EU laws. The EU decided to provide the same concessions schedule for Bulgaria and for the other associated members, thus allowing an equal starting for all applicants in their preparations for EU membership. After liberalizing the access of Bulgarian industrial goods to the EU (with the exception of the so-called "sensitive sectors"), at a meeting of the European Association Council on May 29, 1995, Bulgaria asked the EU to ensure equal competition conditions and to plan phased lifting of concessions until the year 2000.
Bulgaria's strategy for EU association should include familiarization of a large circle of state officials, who would be directly involved with the problems of the European integration, with the European Agreement, with the Strategy for the Integration of the Associated Countries in Central and Eastern Europe and with the White Paper. After that, in the shortest possible time the country should form European integration units in all administrative bodies, to establish a mechanism for coordination and broad discussion of the issues in that field with the participation of representatives from the three powers. The current stage of the relations between Bulgaria and the EU requires consideration of the prospects for setting up a special budgetary fund to finance the operations in that field, the Parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee believes.
Bulgaria's domestic and foreign policies are both in compliance with this country's EU associated member status; a key priority is Bulgaria's integration with the European economic, political and military organizations. The projects and the positions, which Bulgaria backs, are intended to strengthen stability, economic cooperation and integration with Europe, to ensure better contact and approximation of the EU with the Black Sea region and the Eastern Mediterranean. A logical continuation of this process, according to the Parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee and the Foreign Ministry, will be Bulgaria's official application for full EU membership, which would manifest the country's political will to take the commitments of a EU member. It would be appropriate if the application is accompanied by a Memorandum, stating the key items of Bulgaria's strategy for EU accession, the Foreign Policy Committee and the Foreign Ministry believe.
"The short time after the Europe Agreement came into force confirms the consensus in favor of the European integration, which prevails in the Bulgarian society in the post-1989 period. The association and accession of Bulgaria to the European Union is invariably a major priority of the country," National Assembly Chairman Blagovest Sendov said at the opening of the constituent meeting of the Bulgaria-EU Joint Parliamentary Committee. Apart from the delegations from the European Parliament and the National Assembly, the ambassadors of the EU member-countries and associated countries, MPs, ministers and presidential advisors were also present at the meeting. "We rely on the European Parliament for the elimination of some difficulties along the way of Bulgaria's integration in the European Union and for acceleration of this process. One of these obstacles is the unequal treatment of Bulgarian citizens in the countries from the Schengen Agreement compared to the other associated countries with respect to the visa regime," Mr. Sendov also said. "We would like to see the Joint Parliamentary Committee recommend that the negotiations on the accession of Bulgaria start as soon as possible after the end of the 1996 Inter-Governmental Conference of the European Union," the National Assembly Chairman stated. "The first meeting of the Bulgaria-EU Joint Parliamentary Committee is a necessary step for your integration into Europe; we, the Europeans may well congratulate one another for the major events, taking place in Sofia," Spanish Ambassador to Bulgaria Jorge Fuentes told journalists after the meeting. At present Spain holds the rotating EU presidency. "Bulgaria should be dropped out of the Schengen list of states, subject to visa requirements for moral and practical reasons," he stated. The MEPs have already moved a draft resolution on the exclusion of Bulgaria and Romania from the Schengen negative lists, Fuentes recalled.
"Asked by some participants in the meeting about Bulgaria's policy in respect with the Yugocrisis, I answered that, firmly enough, this country remains committed to the peace alternative and the durable, just and full settlement of the conflict, which would be accepted by all countries involved and supported by all leading countries of the international community, and by the contact group first of all," Bulgarian Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski told journalists. He expressed the hope that in the present process of readjustment of the EU the necessity of restructuring of countries like Bulgaria with the help of the European funds will be taken into consideration. "A strategy for Bulgaria's integration into EU should be drawn up within few months, given that the EU, unlike in the beginning of the year, shows serious intentions to consider the Central and East European countries' desire for early full EU membership, Pirinski stated.
Bulgaria attaches particular importance to the visit of Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev to Bulgaria, Foreign Ministry's Spokesman Radko Vlaikov told reporters today. Kozyrev will arrive on an official two-day visit to Sofia on Thursday afternoon. His schedule includes meetings with President Zhelyu Zhelev, Prime Minister Zhan Videnov and Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski. A consular convention and a protocol for consultations between the two countries' foreign ministries by the end of 1995 and in 1996 are expected to be signed during the visit. This will be the first visit of a Russian Foreign Minister to Bulgaria since the disintegration of the Soviet Union. The purpose of the visit is to continue the political dialogue between Bulgaria and Russia and their review of bilateral relations and the prospects for their promotion, launched during Russian Prime Minister Chernomyrdin's visit here in May, 1995, the Foreign Ministry's Spokesman commented. He said that consultations at an expert level between representatives of Bulgarian and Russian foreign ministries have been held yesterday and today as part of the preparations for the visit. On the first day the consultations focused on regional problems in the Balkans and in the Black Sea region. The two parties exchanged views on the progress of the conflict in former Yugoslavia and on their stands towards the countries in the region. They also exchanged views on the development of cooperation in the framework of the Black Sea economic cooperation and on the role of infrastructure projects for the region. Certain international issues connected with the forthcoming 50th session of the U.N. General Assembly were also on the agenda. Today's consultations are devoted to bilateral cooperation.