Bulgarian Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski returned today from a three-day official visit to Slovakia. During the visit he held talks with his Slovak counterpart Juraj Schenk and was received by Ivan Gasparovic, Chairman of the Slovak Parliament and by Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar. The parties discussed the current state and the prospects for promotion of bilateral relations and economic cooperation. Bulgaria and Slovakia signed an agreement for visa- free travel, which is expected to ease business trips, as well as a readmission agreement. The parties also agreed to further expand and update the legal framework of bilateral relations. An agreement on speeding up the establishment of a free trade area between the two states was reached. Slovakia stated readiness to back Bulgaria in its efforts to join the Central European Free Trade Area (CEFTA). Upon his arrival in Sofia, Minister Pirinski stressed on the significance of Slovakia's support for Bulgaria in seeking CEFTA membership, which was confirmed on Monday at the talks with Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar. "It undoubtedly depends on our organization to lead the negotiations on free trade areas with CEFTA members to a mutually beneficial and acceptable end so that we have grounds to apply for full membership," said the chief Bulgarian diplomat asked if Bulgaria has come closer to the states of Central Europe.
A very useful and timely working meeting, Prime Minister Zhan Videnov said, assessing the results of the working visit to Moscow yesterday of a Bulgarian governmental delegation. The Prime Minister-led Bulgarian delegation returned from Moscow late last night. Prime Minister Videnov said that participants in the talks shared the view that the cooperation in the region after the resolution of the conflict on the Balkans will have a unique all- European meaning. Prime Minister Videnov spoke about the future considerable progress in the military-technical cooperation as a result of the successfully concluded deal on the supply to Bulgaria of Russian military equipment earmarked for reduction. This is how the Russian side will pay its outstanding debt to Bulgaria. The Bulgarian-Russian intergovernmental committee on economic, scientific and technical cooperation will hold talks in November 14 - 17 in Moscow, Prime Minister Videnov said. There may be a brief meeting between the two countries' prime ministers then, but the issue will remain to be specified later, he said. The Bulgarian and Russian delegations expressed satisfaction with the results of the talks, Prime Minister Videnov said. Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin is said to have expressed his positive assessment of the Russian-Bulgarian dialogue.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Zhan Videnov today received Russian Interior Minister General Anatoli Kulikov who is on a four- day official visit to this country. The two discussed problems accompanying the combat against crime under the conditions of transition to a market economy, the changes in legislation and the work with competent institutions under the unstable and dynamic international relations, the cabinet's press office said today. The sides identified a need, and voiced a readiness for cooperation in the combat against crime, including crime rings, illegal gambling, prostitution, racketeering, foreign exchange crimes, organized crime and international crime syndicates, the press office also said.
Delegations of the two countries' Interior Ministry had talks yesterday. This afternoon Gen. Kulikov visited Pleven, Northern Bulgaria, and met the local police administration. "We hold no information on the participation of Russian crime groups in financial pyramids in Bulgaria," Gen. Kulikov told journalists commenting a statement of the Prosecutor General's Office yesterday. He stressed the two countries' police forces will pool efforts in cracking down on drugs trafficking and illegal foreign exchange transactions facilitated by the relaxed transit between Russia, the former Soviet republics and Bulgaria. The sides during this visit are discussing joint action against the underworld that will be launched in the coming months.
The leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), Prime Minister Zhan Videnov today received a visiting delegation of the Progressive Party of the Working People (AKEL) of Cyprus. The delegation is led by the party's Secretary General Demetris Christofias, the BSP press office announced today.
The sides exchanged views about the situation in the Balkans and the Cyprus problem. They considered opportunities for the promotion of cooperation between the two parties and the countries. The delegation later today met with Industry Minister Kliment Vouchev.
The leadership of the parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee today met US Ambassador here William Montgomery at his request. "The events in Bosnia-Hercegovina are developing very fast and Bulgaria's national interests should find a due place in this dynamic diplomatic process," Foreign Policy Committee Chair Nikolai Kamov said after the meeting. He evaluated the meeting with Ambassador Montgomery as most useful. The Bulgarian MPs were briefed on the mission of US envoy Richard Holbrooke, the results of the visit to Moscow by US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and, first of all, on Bulgaria's chances for participation in projects for restoring former Yugoslavia after the war. Committee Deputy Chair and opposition MP Assen Agov said the information received at the meeting was most useful. "It would help all of us and all political forces in Parliament to take a stand and follow Bulgaria's interests in the dynamic development of the conflict in Yugoslavia that seems to be getting closer to its end," said Agov.
The proceeds from privatization in Bulgarian agriculture this year total over 1,000 million leva, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Food Processing Industry Ivan Lilov told a briefing here today. A total of 36 enterprises in the agricultural sector and food processing have gone private since January 1995, with privatization procedures launched for another 70. New owners have taken over liabilities for a total of 435 million leva. Privatization contracts place them under the obligation to invest 956 million leva and open 200 new jobs. The biggest privatization deal was the Vinis wine maker of Yambol, Southern Bulgaria. Its new owners will invest 700 million leva in the promotion of viticulture in the area. The Agriculture Ministry has developed draft amendments to the Privatization Act. They provide for preferential terms for agricultural producers bidding in the privatization and are likely to enter the plenary chamber for debates by mid-October. The Agriculture Ministry today okayed the launch of privatization procedure for another 5 enterprises. Deputy Agriculture Minister Lilov believes the number of denationalized enterprises in this sector is likely to reach 100 by year's end.
The Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), the major opposition force in Bulgaria, today publicized an official statement voicing a concern over Russia's initiative for setting up a new economic community. In this statement, as well as in press commentaries on the initiative, the organization is referred to as COMECON-2. "Once again we are witnessing an attempt for pushing through an initiative in a way that has nothing to do with the international diplomatic practice. Once again there is no information on what has been handed to the Moscow-based ambassadors of the seven former communists countries," says the statement read by UDF deputy leader Nadezhda Mihailova. "We also protest against the information blackout on the part of the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry as to the COMECON-2 initiative," Mihailova went on to say. Yesterday the Foreign Ministry Spokesman Radko Vlaikov said Russia's initiative is being considered and a decision would be taken within two weeks. According to the UDF, it is no chance that the initiative coincided with the Bulgarian visit by a Russian parliamentary delegation. The Russian MPs yesterday asked the Bulgarian Parliament to back a proposal for a humanitarian corridor to Serbia, formulating it with what the UDF describes as "nothing but economic blackmail as regards energy supplies". The UDF believes "the emergence of a new economic community under the aegis of Russia would reduce Bulgaria's chances for accession to the European Union and bring to a halt this country's efforts for entry into NATO". According to the UDF, the threat for reducing energy supplies is a proof of the result of the communist-era policy of limiting the source of strategic supplies to only one. The statement further describes these events "as the most serious threat for Bulgaria's independent foreign policy over the past few years".
The UDF further reiterates its stand that a partial and unilateral suspension of the UN sanctions against rump Yugoslavia is inadmissible and could come only after the signing of a lasting truce followed by mutual recognition of all former Yugoslav republics in compliance with the UN decision to that end. Ms Mihailova voiced a surprise at the request of the Russian parliamentary delegation, recalling President Yeltsin's veto on the decision of the Russian Duma for lifting of the embargo.
"The talks are proceeding satisfactorily," IMF Mission leader Russel Kincaid told "Daily News" tonight, following a day of meetings with cabinet ministers, members of the BNB administration and the Bank Consolidation Company. The IMF mission arrived here early last week for negotiations on the signing of a fourth stand-by agreement. "There is more work to be done, more precision to be given to the numbers, as well as for the Government to make decisions and this will take time. We look forward to having further talks with the Government about how it would develop its plans, Mr. Kincaid said. Today the National Bank of Bulgaria (BNB) held a plenary council attended by the IMF mission. The Bulgarian side was represented by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Development Roumen Gechev, Finance Minister Dimiter Kostov and BNB Governor Todor Vulchev. The council discussed the basic parameters of the macroeconomic framework, problems relating to the budget deficit, the stability of the banking system and privatization. The Bulgarian side spoke of the need for the IMF to specify its requirements in respect to Bulgaria, BNB sources said. Mr. Kincaid expressed the recommendation of the IMF that banks be rehabilitated prior to their consolidation which would stabilize the consolidated financial institutions. Another recommendation of the IMF is to use national budget funds in rehabilitating problem banks. According to Finance Minister Kostov, the banking system should be rehabilitated using "fresh" money from privatization and foreign investment. As regards the main requirement set by the IMF - the terms and the parameters of the budget, Deputy PM Roumen Gechev said that the financial plan for next year will be submitted to Parliament for debates by the end of October. The consultations in Sofia will continue till the end of the week and IMF representatives and World Bank experts are scheduled to meet in October. Then the international financial institutions are expected to coordinate their stands in the negotiations with Bulgaria both on a fourth stand-by agreement with the IMF and on the FESAL from the World Bank.
Wheat exports will be banned as from the beginning of October, "24 Chassa" says, quoting Minister of Agriculture and Food-Processing Vassil Chichibaba as saying on the National Television. The 500,000 t export quota for grain valid until September 15 has been fulfilled. Under a decision of the Council of Ministers of August 9, in case the quota is exceeded, veto will be imposed on grain exports.
Base interest rate will return to lower values by the end of the year, "Standart News" says, quoting Deputy Prime Minister Roumen Gechev as saying yesterday. At 34 per cent, the interest rate is currently at record low levels. According to the Deputy Prime Minister the rates will drop due to expected low inflation by the end of the year. Mr. Gechev projected a monthly inflation of one per cent. According to statisticians, appreciation in September will be between 4 and 5 per cent, "Standart News" says.
The third international hall East-West Euro Intellect for inventions and innovations was opened today near Varna (on the Black Sea), "Troud" says. Scientists from 15 states are presenting 200 projects.