Sofia, September 15 - A possible aid plan for Balkan countries after the end of the Bosnian war, and expectations for Bulgaria to join it, were high on the agenda of a meeting between Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev and the ambassadors of European Union and NATO members countries. Zhelev invited the ambassadors to familiarize them with the Bulgarian stand on the latest developments in the Yugowar. The invitation was accepted by all sixteen ambassadors of these countries. It is well known that Bulgaria supports peacemaking efforts by the UN, NATO and the Contact Group, for a lasting settlement in Yugoslavia, Zhelev told his guests. The progress at the trilateral meeting in Geneva shows coordinated action may start a peace process, he said. Zhelev supported the peace plan for Bosnia, emphasizing aspects of key significance for the future stable development of the region. He called for a "mini-Marshall plan" for all Balkan nations sustaining losses as a result of the war, including Bulgaria. "There is a lot of evidence for this country's sincere desire to contribute to the development of regional infrastructure, which is a good basis for understanding and economic progress in Southeastern Europe," Zhelev stressed. The President expressed satisfaction with Macedonia's forthcoming accession to the Council of Europe, recalling Bulgaria's support for the candidacy. On behalf of the guests, Jorge Fuentes, Ambassador of Spain which currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, commended Bulgaria for its role in maintaining stability in an area neighboring on Yugoslavia, which can help resolve the conflict. No doubt Bulgaria would have a place in a plan for reconstruction of the countries suffering from the war, Fuentes said. This information was received from Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski who was present at the meeting, and from the President's Foreign policy adviser Kamen Velichkov. US Charge d'Affaires Rose Likens briefed Zhelev on the US administration's efforts to allocate funding for reconstruction of the Balkan region after the war. The guests thanked for the opportunity to receive firsthand information about Bulgaria's views. The twelve-item draft, clarifying Bulgaria's position and announced at the meeting, was developed by a presidential team cooperating with Foreign Ministry experts, Foreign Minister Pirinski said.
Sofia, September 16 - In an interview for the private Darik Radio station aired today, President Zhelyu Zhelev said that NATO air strikes in Bosnia cannot provide a lasting solution to the problem. In response to accusations of supporting NATO air strikes against the Bosnian Serbs, Zhelev said that lasting solutions can be achieved only by political and peaceful means. "I am against air strikes which may cause casualties among the civilian population," the Bulgarian head of state said. At the same time he believes that the air strikes forced the warring sides to suspend hostilities. "It seems that these strikes were necessary in order to bring the warring sides to the table of talks - something which is already taking place," Zhelev said. Asked whether the lifting of the Greek embargo against Macedonia would in someway harm Bulgarian interests, the President said that he did not think so. He expressed support for the agreement reached between the two countries neighboring on Bulgaria and said that Serbia and Montenegro should also recognize Macedonia. "From an apple of discord in the past, Macedonia should now become a factor of unity and stability in the Balkans," the Bulgarian head of state said. Asked to comment on the confessions made early this week by Turkish terrorist Ali Agca that Bulgaria was not involved in the attempt on the life of Pope John Paul II in 1981, President Zhelev said that it had always been his aim to clear Bulgaria of these accusations and suspicions. Asked to comment on the "Bailey case", the President declined to take a categorical stand before the final decision of the competent authorities. Archaeologist Douglas Bailey, who is a US national living in the UK, was expelled from Bulgaria in late August. However, the President fears that this incident may harm Bulgarian-US relations. President Zhelev described as absurd reports in the press hinting at his maintaining backstage contacts with politicians of the Bulgarian Socialist Party aimed at destabilizing the Socialist Cabinet.
Sofia, September 15 - "Bulgaria upholds its understanding that a peaceful solution is the only way to a lasting and just settlement of the military conflict in Bosnia-Hercegovina," reads a declaration of the Bulgarian cabinet broadcast today by the national radio. "The Bulgarian government supports the September 13 declaration of the Chair of the UN Security Council in which he calls upon all parties involved in the conflict to abstain from military actions and acts of hostility on the territory of Bosnia- Hercegovina," the declaration says. "This would help further the peace process launched with the Contact Group-brokered meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Bosnia-Hercegovina and Croatia held in Geneva on September 8. "Bulgaria sees the 72-hour cease-fire agreement reached on September 14 as an opportunity for a manifestation of political will and wisdom, as a chance for peace that should not be missed once again," the document reads. Cabinet Spokesman Nikola Baltov, who read the declaration, further said the question of the sanctions is of primary political and economic importance for Bulgaria. As a country that implements strictly the sanctions against Yugoslavia and sustains huge losses as a result of this, Bulgaria believes that the beginning of the peace process means beginning of debates on the suspension of the sanctions, the Spokesman further said. As is known, this is the spirit of the US initiative which Bulgaria supports. On behalf of the Bulgarian government, Baltov called for avoidance of unilateral actions conflicting the decisions of the UN Security Council. He further said Bulgaria hails the agreement between Greece and Macedonia and sees it as a major step toward normalizing the relations between Bulgaria's two neighbors. Bulgaria has expressed readiness to participate in an international plan for regional economic reconstruction and stability after the end of the Yugowar. "We would like to reiterate our conviction the implementation of infrastructure projects and the promotion of economic cooperation in the region will help strengthen security in the Balkans," the Spokesman said.
Sofia, September 15 - An agreement on lifting visa regulations and an agreement on readmitting citizens to their own states are expected to be signed by Bulgarian Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski during his official visit to Slovakia from September 17 to 19, Ognyan Gurkov, chief of the Eastern Europe and CIS Countries Department with the Foreign Ministry, said today. The Chief Secretary of the Ministry Georgi Lambov will sign a protocol on the implementation of the agreement on readmission. The talks will discuss the state and prospects of bilateral political dialogue and the legal framework of bilateral relations which is now being updated, Gurkov said, adding that the issue of making a review of the agreements signed between Bulgaria and the former Czechoslovakia will be raised. The talks will also discuss possibilities for boosting bilateral economic relations and the progress of negotiations on setting up a free trade zone. The two foreign ministers are also expected to exchange information on international issues: European integration, the situation in Europe, the 21st century security model, the Central European Free Trade Association, the Central European Initiative and the situation in the Balkans. Foreign Minister Pirinski's visit will be an important step in activating Bulgaria's relations with the states of the Visegrad group. Slovakia was also recently visited by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Kiril Tsochev and by Defense Minister Dimiter Pavlov, Gurkov said.
Sofia, September 15 - The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank fully accept the concepts of the Bulgarian Government for the methods and the ways of privatization and expect positive results, the Government's press office said. The two financial institutions also show understanding about the complex economic situation, in which the Bulgarian Government is operating, it was made clear today at a meeting between Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Development Roumen Gechev, IMF Mission Leader for Bulgaria Russel Kincaid and World Bank representatives.
With regards to financial discipline in enterprises it was emphasized that the problem is difficult and no matter what the economic growth is, the accumulated debts are a serious impediment to getting long-term credits. Since 1991 no investments have been made in enterprises. It was pointed out that the Government took measures to improve financial discipline and coordinate the contacts between industry and the banking sector, the press office also said.
Sofia, September 15 - European security, the development of the Western European Union in the context of European integration, the European Union Intergovernmental Conference in 1996, and Bulgaria's participation as an associate partner in WEU activities: these were the main topics discussed at today's talks of WEU Secretary General Jose Cutileiro with Bulgarian state leaders. Cutileiro is on a two-day official visit here since yesterday. Prime Minister Zhan Videnov briefed the WEU Secretary General on the progress of privatization and the economic results achieved during the tenure of the Bulgarian Socialist Party which he leads. The Prime Minister confirmed his Government has firm intentions to promote Bulgaria's integration into European and Euroatlantic structures, including the WEU, the Government Press Office announced after the meeting. Videnov reiterated Bulgaria's view on the need to find a peaceful settlement to the Yugowar, and informed that Bulgaria's losses as a result of strict enforcement of the sanctions exceed $2,000 million, not counting indirect losses from unrealized economic relations and investment. The WEU Secretary General and Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski focused on Bulgaria's role as an associate partner in various WEU activities. They discussed Bulgaria's participation in working out a White Paper on European security; its place in various working groups, the WEU planning group, and in future peacekeeping missions and operations on the Danube for enforcement of the Yugosanctions. After meeting with Defense Minister Dimiter Pavlov , Cutileiro expressed satisfaction with bilateral cooperation in sanctions enforcement on the Danube. Pavlov expressed Bulgaria's interest in participation in the Open Skies WEU working group and in an expert group inspecting security and confidence-building measures in prospective member countries of the European Union and the WEU. He reiterated Bulgaria's intention to work for full membership in both organizations. Cutileiro today also met with MPs of the committees on national security and foreign policy. The ruling Socialists and the major opposition coalition Union of Democratic Forces agreed on European integration and associate membership in the WEU. The Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Policy Nikolai Kamov (BSP) said there is no way back for Bulgaria on the path of European integration. Opposition MPs supported categorically Bulgaria's integration into NATO, expressing fears about the progress of political processes and the lack of enough resolution in the Government's integration plans. Asked to comment on the differences in the positions of the ruling and opposition parties on membership in NATO, Cutileiro told his final press conference he saw some nuances, but it is up to Bulgarians to decide on the pace of integration into different European organizations. If I had arrived ten years ago, I would probably not have heard different opinions, he said. Jose Cutileiro today was received by Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev. They discussed Bulgaria's plans for integration into European and Euroatlantic structures, the President's Spokesman said after the meeting. The near future will show if the WEU will assume peacekeeping functions like these of NATO, the guest said.
Sofia, September 15 - Prime Minister Zhan Videnov today opened the school year in one of the oldest schools in Silistra on the Danube. Later in the day he visited industrial plants and answered questions at an impromptu press conference about the environmental problems of the city, Silistra is often gassed by Romanian plants across the Danube. We have an understanding with the Romanian side on the elimination of pollutants, but there are economic and purely technical difficulties, Videnov said. He expressed certainty the problem will be settled in keeping with European standards. Videnov also said the East European nations are enhancing safety at nuclear power plants to conform with the requirements of international institutions. "Bulgaria is strictly complying with their standards and I can safely say its nuclear power plant in Kozlodoui is one of the safest in Europe," the Prime Minister said.
Sofia, September 15 - Parliament passed on second reading a law on the Bulgarian Red Cross. The law replaces a decree of the presidium of the National Assembly of 1953. The law states the Bulgarian Red Cross is a legal person, with a seat in Sofia. It is an autonomous organization seeking to assist the government in the humanitarian field and action during disasters and military conflict. The Bulgarian Red Cross is financed by membership dues, government allocations, donations, wills, income from immovable property and tax-exempt activities. Red Cross shipments are free from customs charges. The organization has an exclusive right to the Red Cross name and emblem, only limited by international agreements. The Bulgarian Red Cross was established in 1878, right after the abolition of Turkish rule. It was recognized by the government on October 10, 1885, with a decree by the first Bulgarian monarch, Prince Alexander Battenberg. Several days later it received recognition from the International Committee of the Red Cross. In 1921 the organization became a member of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. During the communist regime (1944-1989) it was known to the population for its collection of obligatory dues from everybody. According to its present leader Stoyan Saev, in the last few year the organization went through restructuring. "Its work was commended by the International Committee of the Red Cross, which said it set an example for national societies in Eastern Europe," according to Saev. The latest campaign mounted by the Red Cross was for the collection of humanitarian aid for Serb refugees from Krajina. The Bulgarian Red Cross announced it is collecting donations for 116,000 refugees in Croatia today and tomorrow, in response to an appeal by the International Federation.
Sofia, September 15 - At a meeting with National Assembly Chairman Blagovest Sendov today, Tel Aviv Mayor Roni Milo raised the issue of restoration of Jewish property in Sofia. Mr. Milo is heading an Israeli delegation that arrived here yesterday to attend the celebrations of the Day of Sofia - September 17. Tel Aviv and Sofia were twinned in 1992. It was agreed that the Israeli side would submit its stand in written form. National Assembly Chairman Sendov promised to hand it over to the competent institutions. Mr. Milo spoke of Bulgarian presence in Israel, paying special attention to the life of Bulgarian Jews who emigrated to Tel Aviv. The two sides exchanged opinions on the most important international developments, expressing common concern over the continuing war in the former Yugoslavia. At the meeting it was confirmed that a Bulgarian parliamentary delegation would visit Israel early next year and that the dates would be set additionally. Sendov asked Ms Shulamit Aponi, member of the delegation and wife of former Israeli premier Itzhak Shamir, to deliver his most cordial greetings to her husband.
Sofia, September 15 - Technicalities on the repayment of 100 million US dollars of Russia's debt to Bulgaria were specified after a meeting of Deputy Prime Minister Kiril Tsochev with Sofia- based Russian Ambassador Alexander Avdeev two days ago, says "24 Chassa". What has yet to be done is the signing of concrete agreements between companies of the two countries. Bulgaria insists that it be included in a list of 104 countries granted trade concessions by Russia and this issue is expected to be considered during the Moscow visit by Prime Minister Zhan Videnov on September 18, the story says.
For six years now the Bulgarian economy has been unable to answer the question how it would develop in the future and what its priorities will be; nor does it say clearly what experts it needs so that universities take care of their training, Deputy Education Minister Ivan Yordanov tells an interviewer of the financial and business "Pari" daily. Yordanov fears the economy will be unable to provide work for all university graduates and sees a dangerous growing of an army of highly qualified jobless.
The latest three-monthly sitting of the Bulgarian-American Enterprise Fund yesterday announced the results of a competition for young entrepreneurs. The winner is 24-year-old economics student Plamen Ivanov who received an award of 5,000 US dollars he will use for expanding his rabbit farm, the press says.
Nearly 100,000 families in Bulgaria had sizable proceeds from breeding silkworms, according to figures published in "Douma". Following a decline of this business over the past three or four years, the Union of Bulgarian Silkworm Breeders, the Union of Pensioners and other public organizations have launched a campaign to restore this traditional and profitable business. They will seek to involve mostly unemployed, pensioners and low-income strata of the population.
Sofia, September 15 - "In a view of the overall economic policy of the government and the utilization of the national budget so far we cannot say there is a huge inflationary wave coming," Finance Minister Dimiter Kostov told Parliament today. He made his statement during question time at the National Assembly, answering a question by Svetoslav Louchnikov MP of the opposition, on the utilization of the revenue side of the national budget. Louchnikov asked how the insufficient proceeds to the budget is compensated and isn't that part of the surging inflationary wave. Kostov said that according to current reports on the utilization of the budget the deficit on August 31 amounted to 41,900 million leva (along a $ 1/68 leva exchange rate). A total of 118,600 million leva were contributed to the national budget and 160,500 million leva were spent. The deficit was financed 100% through issue of government securities, said the Finance Minister. According to him, with the current utilization of the budget and dynamism of prices the price growth is unlikely to exceed 35% by year's end. "Even with deficit slightly higher than the 1995 target figure, the inflation and price growth will be lower than what we have had in previous periods. In March we set ourselves the task to keep the price growth to 45-50% after prices doubled last year," Kostov said. "This is attributable to the overall policy of the government and to the fact that this year we have not used direct central bank credits to finance the deficit, which means no new money was issued," Kostov said. He, however, admitted that prices are still high and life is hard for poor Bulgarians: pensioners, unemployed, low-income workers, small private entrepreneurs. "Our major task was to prevent a price hike because high prices easily become soaring," the Finance Minister went on to say. He further recalled that prices nearly doubled within eight months last year, while from January to August this year inflation was only 17.5%. According to Louchnikov, however, utilizing the revenue side of the budget through issue of government securities is an inflationary factor. "Because banks buying them secure with them central bank loans which means more broad money; and broad money, just like the issue of new banknotes, is an inflationary factor," said Svetoslav Louchnikov. He further predicted that the shortage of proceeds will persist and the inflationary spiral that has been suppressed will start up immediately after the local elections on October 29.
Sofia, September 17 - The mayors of Sofia and Athens - Alexander Yanchoulev and Dimitris Avramopoulos, signed today a Treaty for Friendship, Cooperation and the Twinning of Sofia and Athens. The document provides for the exchange of information and experience in local administration, culture, education, tourism, sports and science. The two sides will encourage joint initiatives between businessmen and economic organizations of the two capitals. A joint committee will map out the objectives of cooperation and provide for the implementation of the treaty. Mr. Avramopoulos presented his Bulgarian counterpart with a banner featuring the coat-of-arms of the Greek capital. He expressed the wish that the future relations between the citizens of the two cities are guided by the motto: "When the peoples wish, the states can".
Sofia, September 17 - Bulgarian Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski left for Bratislava today. "I expect to coordinate with my Slovak counterpart, Foreign Minister Juraj Schenk, ways to further promoting bilateral relations," Pirinski said upon his departure. According to him, the documents which will be signed will facilitate contacts between the citizens of the two countries. During the visit the two foreign ministers are expected to sign an agreement on visa-free regulations between the two countries and an agreement on readmission of citizens, accompanied by a protocol on its implementation. "It is important to establish how we can interact, both bilaterally and on a regional basis, especially in respect to infrastructure projects of mutual interest," Pirinski said. Yet another objective of the visit is to provide for boosting economic contacts, the level of bilateral trade being unsatisfactory, and for establishing various cultural contacts. The first official contacts between Bulgaria and Slovakia date back to 1991, when Slovakia was legally still within the Czech and Slovak Federation. Towards the end of 1994 Bulgaria cleared the deficit in its trade with the former Czechoslovakia. In the first half of 1995 commercial exchange totaled $ 9.98 million, Bulgarian exports accounting for $ 5.03 million and imports for $ 4.95 million. Bulgarian exports to Slovakia comprise mainly copper ores and concentrates, rubber tapes and belts, zinc, car parts, wine, impregnated fabrics, etc. Bilateral economic relations are regulated by agreements on trade and payments, on reciprocal investment promotion and protection, on economic and technical cooperation, on cooperation between the chambers of commerce of the two countries and a memorandum on the liberalization of bilateral trade relations. European integration, European security architecture and the crisis in the former Yugoslavia will be among the main international issues discussed during the visit. According to Pirinski, Slovakia has expressed readiness to support Bulgaria's application for membership in the Central European Initiative and the Central European Free Trade Association. Bulgarian Foreign Minister Pirinski is expected to be received by Mr. Ivan Gasparovic, Chairman of the Slovak Parliament, and Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar.
Sofia, September 17 - Turkish Central Bank Governor Yaman Toruner arrived here today at the invitation of Bulgarian National Bank (BNB) Governor Prof. Todor Vulchev. The two central bank governors are expected to sign an agreement on cooperation tomorrow. "We will discuss coordination and mutual assistance in personnel training, thus further developing our good contacts with the BNB," Mr. Toruner said upon his arrival. Discussions on opening credit lines for Bulgarian banks are not on the agenda of the talks but are possible, the guest said. Tomorrow he will confer with Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev, Deputy Prime Minister Roumen Gechev and First Deputy Foreign Minister Stefan Staikov.
Sofia, September 17 - The "Menata Bratya Syarovi 1901" wine-growing company of the town of Stara Zagora (Southern Bulgaria) was awarded the "Golden Star" international prize for excellent quality and image. The company is the successor of the Syarovi Bros private winegrowing company established at the turn of the century and now privatized by the heirs of the Syarovi brothers. So far this prestigious award has gone to 109 countries and conferred on companies such as Panasonic, Ford, Coca Cola, Mercedes-Benz, Fiat and Renault.
The Chimco combined works in Vratsa (Southwestern Bulgaria), has proposed the setting up of a joint venture with the German Messer Griesheim company, the local BTA correspondent said. Chimco will hold 49% of the joint venture's interest. The objective is to gain new market positions and to improve the financial state of the company. The final decision will be taken by the Industry Ministry.
Sixteen companies will represent Bulgaria's industry at the 60th International Fair in Thessaloniki, the press office of the Industry Ministry said. Some of these, such as the oil refinery in Bourgas and Rodina - Plovdiv, are traditional participants in the fair. After a three-year break the Vazov Mechanical Engineering Works in Sopot will present its traditional products: bearings, diamond instruments, gas household appliances and bicycles. Deputy Industry Minister Plamen Dimitrov, who will attend the forum will hold talks on joint production of buses and will meet representatives of leading Greek companies.
This year's revenues of Bulgarian resorts will be 15% down from 1994, the Committee of Tourism announced. According to experts, this is due to the low occupancy of hotels inside the country. Albeit the decreased number of tourists at the large resorts, profits there have increased. The tourists are mainly Russians and Bulgarians, the number of German and British tourists having decreased by an average of 10%.
The German Government has proposed projects for cooperation in small- and medium-size business, "Douma" said, citing a statement by German diplomat Klaus Schreimer in the town of Smolyan (Southeastern Bulgaria). Germany will extent a 40 million DM credit for small enterprises. It may extend 17 million DM a year to the development of agriculture and the food processing industry.