Sofia, September 14 - Bulgaria became the fourteenth nuclear operator to ratify the Nuclear Safety Convention. The convention was signed on September 20 1994 in Vienna, and will take force after being ratified by 22 countries. Seventeen of them have at least one nuclear power plant. Bulgaria is among them, operating a plant in Kozlodoui on the Danube. Each signatory commits to radiation protection, emergency planning and maintenance of safe nuclear facilities. The convention requires each nation to submit compliance reports. It also calls for safety studies for existing nuclear facilities as soon as the convention takes force, and, if necessary, speedy steps to enhance safety.
The manager of Kozlodoui Kozma Kousmanov said in an interview about ten days ago the Bulgarian nuclear power plant was safe. He quoted numerous visiting foreign experts and the conclusions of the Director General of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency Hans Blix who visited the plant a year ago.
Sofia, September 14 - For a third time this year, the Socialist parliamentary majority today amended the Restitution Act. The amendments are again in favor of tenants of property subject to restitution. Under the amendments passed today, tenant-owner contracts for property subject to restitution are annulled only after local administrations provide housing for tenants facing eviction. Before this happens the rent tenants pay is adjusted to inflation on an annual basis. This privilege, however, shall not apply to tenants who have their own houses or income sufficient to pay rent at market rates. The MPs revoked a provision entitling former owners to restoration of their property in cases when the new owners are found to have acquired the property in violation of a law or through abuse of office. Pending cases initiated under this provision will be closed with the entry into effect of the amendments. According to Socialist MP Velko Vulkanov who introduced the draft amendments, in cases when the property is acquired in violation of the law, the provisions of the Contracts and Obligations Act should apply.
The Restitution Act was passed in 1992 by a parliament dominated by the opposition Union of Democratic Forces (UDF). The law initially envisaged a three-year period for tenants to vacate houses that are subject to restitution. During these three years, they had to pay rent at government-set, and not market rates. The law also envisaged that municipalities provide housing for tenants affected by restitution. The three-year period expired this year but municipalities in most cases failed to provide the housing they were expected to under the Restitution Act. According to press reports, restitution in Bulgaria has to date affected some 100,000 people. In Sofia only, there are some 2,000 families who will be kicked out into the street the moment the moratorium on restitution expires, dailies wrote. On January 12 this year - the first working day of a parliament in which the Socialists control an overwhelming majority - needy tenants held a demonstration in front of the Parliament in downtown Sofia. The Socialists committed themselves to protecting tenants' interests. The MPs of the BSP and its coalition partners - Agrarians and Greens - in February extended the moratorium from three to six years. The opposition including the UDF, the ethnic Turks' Movement for Rights and Freedoms and the Popular Union of Democrats and Agrarians voted against. President Zhelev returned the amendments to Parliament for further deliberation saying that extending the moratorium is the easiest thing to be done to avoid the eviction of tenants in late February. He went on to say, however, that this amendment "does not solve the problem but just postpones the solution". "There should be a legislative solution to allow tenants stay in rented houses until they receive municipal ones without the right to refuse moving in, and at the same time protect owners' rights," Dr. Zhelev said motivating his decision to return the amendments. The Socialist MPs, however, passed the amendments for a second time and President Zhelev had to endorse it. In July a Constitutional Court panel, responding to a claim lodged by MPs of the UDF, ruled the amendments as non- constitutional. "From the point of view of the constitutional provision for the inviolability of private property, it is inadmissible to extend temporary restrictions or introduce new ones when ownership on property has already been restored. Once ownership is restored, lawmakers have no right to infringe on the inviolability of private property," said the Constitutional Court. Immediately after the ruling was announced, Velko Vulkanov MP of the BSP and chief of the parliamentary Human Rights Committee, introduced a draft bill offering new amendments to the Restitution Act. According to Vulkanov, the restitution violates tenants' human rights and a constitutional provision reading that Bulgaria is a well- fare state. During today's debates on the amendments, MPs of the opposition again protested that the inviolability of private property is being violated. The UDF said the amendments are anti- constitutional and threatened to approach the Constitutional Court again.
Sofia, September 14 - Parliament today unanimously ratified an agreement on the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of income tax evasion between Bulgaria and Portugal. The accord was signed on June 15, 1995 in Sofia.
Parliament unanimously ratified an agreement on cost-free aid from Japan to the amount of 6.1 million yen for the preparation of the Energy 2 project between Bulgaria and the International bank for Reconstruction and Development (which manages the cost-free aid).
Sofia, September 14 - A concluding protocol on the work of the sixth session of the intergovernmental Bulgarian-Chinese commission for economic, trade and scientific-technical cooperation was signed today by the leaders of the Chinese and of the Bulgarian delegations Mr. She Guanshen, Chinese Deputy Minister of Trade and Ivan Belchev, Bulgarian Deputy Minister of Trade. The two parties believe that bilateral trade and economic relations should be expanded. According to Mr. Guanshen the high quality and the relatively low prices of the Chinese goods have earned them good position on the Bulgarian market. Household electric appliances, clothes and other products of the Chinese light industry have found good reception in Bulgaria, while urea, wheat, metals and articles of the machine building are the Bulgarian goods, attracting the Chinese consumers. The protocol envisages that the economic relations between the two states will be promoted in a variety of forms, including mutual investments and setting up of joint ventures. A joint venture for the manufacture of engine-powered trucks in China is under way, reporters were told. Hraninvest- Haskovo, Bulfet and First Private Bank are the Bulgarian share holders in a joint venture for the manufacture of apple concentrate and juices in Beijing. Bulgaria will hold 49 per cent interest and will invest 4.290 US dollars in the JV. A joint venture for the manufacture of Bulgarian yogurt will be opened in March, 1996 in the Chinese capital with DARU-AV company as principal Bulgarian investor. Each of the parties will invest 1.5 million US dollars in the enterprise. The factory will operate at a capacity of 10 tons of milk a day. The seventh session of the intergovernmental commission will be held in the second half of 1996 in Beijing.
Sofia, September 14 - In tomorrow's issue of the BTA specialized weekly business newsletter "Bulgarian Economic Outlook," Stefan Ouzounov of the Institute of Trade analyzes the state of the Bulgarian economy in the first half of 1995. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Development Roumen Gechev comments on the 5th plenary meeting of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, held in Sofia and off limits to journalists. BEO explores the latest developments of consolidation processes in the Bulgarian capital market. Trade and economic cooperation between Bulgaria and Russia and the results of a visit to Sofia by Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev are covered in the issue, along with the usual variety of up-to-date economic, banking and political news from and about Bulgaria.
Sofia, September 14 - The rise of farm produce prices freed of government control was a major boost to inflation in August, the Chairman of the National Pricing Commission Dimiter Grivekov told a press conference. Another factor was the lev's depreciation against the dollar sparked by sellers' inflation expectations, he said.
The National Pricing Commission ran four checks of retail outlets, finding many violations. Fines collected topped 68 million leva.
A sharp rise in the prices of some goods monitored by the government was registered in the last ten days of August by the National Statistical Institute. Its experts attribute it to the inflation- generating influence of a forthcoming hike of electricity prices. Not committing themselves to specific forecasts, analysts are categorical inflation in September will be higher than the August figure of 0.5%.
Sofia, September 14 - Forty-two per cent of the population would participate in mass privatization, says "Troud", quoting a poll by the National Center for Public Opinion Research. Supporters of mass privatization in cities are twice more than in rural communities. Only 20% of respondents understand what the concept means; 35% understand "more or less", and 45% do not understand or care.
The World Bank may soften some of the terms of the FESAL loan, without which the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would not agree on a fourth standby arrangement with Bulgaria. The press reports IMF Mission Leader for Bulgaria Russel Kincaid predicted Bulgarian inflation next year may fall to 18 per cent. The IMF is more concerned about results of the structural reform and the general economic climate, than about pedantic implementation of the macroeconomic parameters.
According to "24 Chassa", Bulgaria's Finance Minister promised Kincaid the government will discuss the 1996 national budget in October, while the Minister of Economic Development committed to starting the sale of mass privatization vouchers by year-end.
The leaders of the Association of Commercial Banks will ask the Government to inform them of plans for the promotion of the financial sector in the next few years, bankers told "Troud" and "Standart News".
Mass privatization is already causing conflicts; departments have doubled lists for mass and cash privatization, the financial "Pari" daily writes.
Sofia, September 14 - The parliamentary group of the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), the largest opposition formation represented in the National Assembly, today submitted a motion for a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister Zhan Videnov over his failure to have the ministers of the interior and transport to resign.
"The gory reality in the last eight months shows the Government's inability to crack down on crime, which has emerged as the number one problem for this country," the UDF argues in its motion.
A tragic incident, in which 14 Transport Ministry Troops servicemen were killed in a truck crash near Sofia on August 11, is another reason for the motion. UDF claims that the soldiers were used for extrinsic fatigue duty at a time when they should have been in bed.
The motion of no confidence invokes the Constitution, according to which the Government is supposed to maintain public order and security and the Prime Minister assumes responsibility for the Government's overall policy.
Sofia, September 14 - The wages in state-financed organizations will be raised 4.3 per cent from the fourth quarter of the year as of July 1, 1995 under a decree, adopted today by the Council of Ministers. The project, moved by the Minister of Labor and Social Affairs and the Minister of Finance was approved with no amendments. Trade union representatives in the National Council for Tripartite Cooperation did not back the Council of Minister's project yesterday. Next week the specialized commission on incomes, prices and living standard with the Tripartite Council will continue discussions on the proposals of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB, one of the major trade union amalgamations) for a larger adjustment rate, Deputy Prime Minister Doncho Konaktchiev said. The average nominal monthly wage in health care will be 5,462 leva, in education 5,127, in culture 4,904, in social care 5,342. The highest wages will be in the ministries of justice and of economic cooperation, respectively 12,305 leva and 10,051 leva. "We are not deluding ourselves that the suggested wage increases will dramatically change income differences in society, but these are the real potentials," Mr. Konaktchiev said.
Sofia, September 14 - The Council of Ministers today decided to outlay 6.7 million leva to cover the financial expenses of the refugees from Bosnia-Herzegovina accommodated in Velingrad (Southern Bulgaria).
The Cabinet today decided to assign the establishment of registration offices servicing voucher privatization to Bulgarian Mail Ltd. because it has the most ramified branch network nationwide, which is familiar and accessible to the general public. The post offices will cooperate with the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company. The preliminary lists of persons eligible to receive vouchers will be prepared by the Public Registry services of the Ministry of Regional Development and Construction. The Council of Ministers decision is intended to guarantee the start of mass privatization on schedule.
The Council of Ministers will ask the National Assembly's consent to the provision of government guarantees of agreements under which Japan will lend Bulgaria some 8,000 million yen for restructuring of non-ferrous metal works.
The Government decreed reinstatetemnt of state control over the moneys in the Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises Fund with the Bulgarian Industrial Association. The Ministry of Finance is still specifying the amount, which is estimated at dozens of millions of dollars and hundreds of millions of leva. For a fifth year now, the Bulgarian Industrial Association has been defaulting on its obligation to transfer this money to the Small Business Fund with the Ministry of Industry, which compelled the central bank to block the moneys. Small-sized enterprises will have to meet tougher requirements to qualify for preferential treatment: a staff of fewer than 50 and a capital of under 20 million leva.
Bulgaria will commit a bridge and pontoon company to the United Nations peacekeeping operation in Angola UNAVEM III. The Government will propose this to the National Assembly, which is only competent to authorize the commitment of Bulgarian troops abroad.
The Council of Ministers approved a draft agreement between the governments of Bulgaria and Slovakia on the transfer of citizens of each other's country and a protocol on its implementation.
The Council of Ministers mandated Defense Minister Dimiter Pavlov to hold negotiations and sign an agreement on bilateral cooperation between the defense ministries of Bulgaria and the Czech Republic.
The Government approved the principled positions for participation of a Bulgarian delegation in the 5th European Regional Conference of the International Labor Organization, which will be held in Warsaw from September 20 through 27. The delegation will be led by Deputy Labor and Social Affairs Minister Milcho Dimitrov.
The Council of Ministers designated the Committee of Standardization and Metrology a national information center for evaluation of compliance of technical statutory instruments, standards and procedures with Bulgaria's international commitments in the area of standardization.
Sofia, September 14 - The Council of Ministers decreed today that inspection flights over the Nuclear Power Plant in Kozlodui may be performed in an airspace of radius not less than 3,000 m and at minimum height of 2,000 m. The banned airspace over the N-plant so far was with a radius of 25,000 m and minimum height of 5,000 m. The change of the parameters is in connection with Bulgaria's ratification of the Open Sky Treaty, said Defense Minister Dimiter Pavlov who moved the draft decree.
Sofia, September 14 - An Israeli delegation, led by Tel Aviv's Mayor Roni Milo arrived on a visit today. The delegation includes representatives of the municipal administration of the Israeli capital and local businessmen. The visit is at the invitation of greater Sofia municipality and is in connection with the forthcoming day of Sofia, September 17. Mr. Milo's schedule includes meetings with President Zhelev, National Assembly Chairman Blagovest Sendov, Prime Minister Zhan Videnov and Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski.
Sofia, September 14 - "Bulgaria is part of WEU, therefore, there are no problems in the relations between WEU and Bulgaria," the Secretary General of the Western European Union (WEU) Jose Cutileiro said on his arrival at Sofia Airport here today. The contacts between Bulgaria and WEU are internal ties and not ties of the Union with a third country, Mr. Cutileiro told reporters after seeing Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski later today. They considered European affairs, the situation in Europe, NATO and the situation in Yugoslavia, the WEU chief specified. He said he will be having many useful and interesting discussions on European affairs with the Bulgarian Government and President.
In its capacity as WEU associate partner, Bulgaria is involved in a number of its activities: at the theoretical level, as far as concepts and considerations on future European security are concerned, and at the practical level, such as the mission monitoring the application of sanctions on the River Danube, which was also on the agenda, the WEU Secretary General said. "Bulgaria plays a very positive role. We have a very fine cooperation, and your country participates in a number of our meetings. Whether at the political or the practical level, such as the Danube mission, our contacts are very good," Mr. Cutileiro also said.
He is scheduled to confer with President Zhelyu Zhelev, Prime Minister Zhan Videnov and Defense Minister Dimiter Pavlov.
In December 1993 Bulgaria was granted a permanent observer status with the WEU Assembly at the latter's Paris session and was admitted to the WEU Forum of Consultations.
The then President of the WEU Council Jacques Poos (Prime Minister of Luxembourg), the President of the WEU Assembly Sir Dudley Smith and the then secretary general of the Organization Dr. Willem Van Eekelen visited Bulgaria in March - April 1994. To Bulgaria, WEU membership is almost commensurate to NATO membership, Sir Dudley then said, addressing the National Assembly. WEU regards Bulgaria as a leading power in the eastern Balkans, Sir Dudley observed.
Following the meetings in Sofia of the WEU leaders, at the Union's session in Lisbon in May 1994 Bulgaria was granted an "enhanced status of association" with WEU. This qualifies Bulgaria to attend the meetings of the WEU Ministerial Council, to take part in the discussions (only without power to block decisions made by the member states by consensus). It can participate in all WEU planning groups on topical military and political questions except the Group on Aerospace Questions. Associate partners are also entitled to take part in humanitarian and peacekeeping operations, in combat units for crisis settlement and pacification, and in other activities such as personnel training, planning and information support.
Sofia, September 14 - "We must not knock on doors but should be invited and judged on our merits, because we are countries of great importance for Europe," Czech President Vaclav Havel told Bulgarian National Assembly Chairman Blagovest Sendov during the latter's official visit to Prague. Mr. Havel expressed this view in connection with a discussion the two had on the global questions of Europe's future and the integration of the former socialist countries into new Europe, said Mr. Sendov on his arrival at Sofia Airport this evening.
The progress of privatization and the development of agriculture in the two countries was on Mr. Sendov's agenda with Czech parliamentarians. He discussed questions concerning European structures and the European security architecture with Czech Foreign Minister Josef Zieleniec and the Chairman of the Czech Parliament Milan Uhde.