The Council of Ministers considered a draft decree on reducing the customs duty charged on raw and prime materials required by the Bulgarian industry which are not produced in the country and have to be imported from abroad. "It is planned to reduce the customs duty on about 500 items, the list of which, however, will be considered carefully once more," Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trade Kiril Tsochev said. A difficult dialogue is being conducted with the Ministry of Finance which opposes any reduction of the budget revenue coming from customs duties. There are difficulties in the negotiations with the World Trade Organization too. Making sure that the decree does not contradict the European Union standards, the Government will probably approve it next Thursday.
The Government issued a decree amending the ordinance regulating the increase of 1995 wage funds. Wage-funds taxation rates are liberalized. According to Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Mincho Koralski who sponsored the decree, this will result in raising the average wage in the industrial branches whose financial and economic performance is good.
The Government gave the Bulgarian delegation a mandate to hold a third round of talks on the establishment of a free trade area between Bulgaria and the Czech Republic and on another free trade zone between Bulgaria and Slovakia. The talks will be held in Sofia from September 25 through 28, 1995.
The Government mapped out measures for the financial stabilization of municipalities. "The decision was prompted by reports that in many municipalities teachers and physicians are not paid their salaries due to the lack of funds. There is no money to repair schools and perform operations at the local hospitals," a representative of the Government Press Office said. The Council of Ministers has no right to exercise control on local governments. What it can do is accelerating the remittance of budget subsidies to the municipalities and taking control of the budget utilization and the budget priorities. It is not planned to provide additional aid for municipalities in financial straits. The Government insists that the problems be resolved by law to avoid having to cope with them at the end of every year.
The cabinet ministers heard reports about the official visit by a Bulgarian governmental delegation will be paying to India from September 24 through October 1 this year and about the diplomatic conference which is to review and supplement the 1980 Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects.
The Government endorsed several intergational agreements: with Russia on cooperation in atomic energy, signed in Sofia on May 19, 1995; with Slovakia on scientific and technological cooperation, signed in Sofia on May 31, 1995; and with Armenia on air transport.
The ministers heard reports about the approval of a program on cooperation in science, education and culture and of an agreement on cooperation in health care and medical sciences between Bulgaria and Israel.
The Council of Ministers decided to propose to the National Assembly to allow the overflight of twelve aircraft F-16 and six aircrafts F-15 of the US air forces on September 29, 1995. The planes are redeployed from Germany to the US base in Incirlik; they do not carry weapons on board, it is said in the request filed by the Embassy of the United States.
Communism cannot return because of the historically changed circumstances: there already exist a multi-party system, parliamentary opposition, freedom of speech and freedom of the press, as well as foreign political factors making the restoration of the former Warsaw pact and COMECON impossible. This is the key message in President Zhelyu lecture at the conference "Is Socialism Returning" from September 21 through 24 in Berlin. The Conference is organized by Friedrich Naumann Stiftung. Upon his departure for Berlin today, President Zhelev outlined the highlights of his lecture, "Is Communism Returning?".
With the rise of the new left wave in Eastern Europe, history played an ingenious joke on us: it swung former communists back to power to bury their dead, President Zhelev said. "But for sentimental or other reasons they are in no hurry to do so. The corpse is starting to decompose threatening society with a variety of infections. Meanwhile, some of the bereaved availed themselves of the confusion and did not hesitate to rob the deceased of all his earthly belongings, stripping him of his gold ring, watch, shoes and socks and even his gold teeth. Obviously, the communists will not bury communism until they have robbed it of all its possessions," President Zhelev said.
During his visit to Berlin, President Zhelev will meet German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel, German Economics Minister Guenter Rexrodt and representatives of the German Free Democratic Party - Liberal.
At an extraordinary session today the parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee discussed and unanimously approved a stand in support of Bulgaria's participation in the post-war reconstruction of the former Yugoslavia. The session was attended by Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski. None of the aspects of Bulgaria's stand on the Yugoconflict were questioned, Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski said after the session which took place on the request of Ms Nadezhda Mihailova, deputy leader of the opposition Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), and Assen Agov MP of the UDF and deputy chair of the foreign policy committee. At the session Foreign Minister Pirinski raised the issue of the demilitarization of the region. Assen Agov described the meeting as extremely useful from the point of view of the obtained information. According to him, Pirinski set forth interesting stands on the dramatic development and end of the war in the former Yugoslavia. Agov described the foreign minister's stands on Bulgarian-Macedonian relations as quite encouraging from the point of view of Bulgaria's national interests. The opposition approves the Government's decision and Pirinski's opinion against accepting the so-called CMEA-2 proposal, Agov said and added that the meeting revealed good prospects for Bulgaria.
The National Assembly ratified today the bilateral agreement between Bulgaria and Compania Espanola De Seguros a la Exportacion S.A. on rescheduling Bulgaria's foreign debt, which was signed on May 30, 1995 in Madrid. The Agreement is in compliance with the coordinated Protocol on consolidating Bulgaria's foreign debt, signed on April 13, 1994. The accords envisage rescheduling of payments on principal and interests due by March 31, 1994, including the capitalized interests on overdue payments by that date, as well as on the principal and interests, due between April 1, 1994 and April 30, 1995, not including interests on overdue payments.
Payments on the principal will be made in eight equal six- month deposits, starting from March 31, 2001 and ending on September 30, 2004. Interest payments are to be made on March 31 and September 30 every year, starting from September 30, 1995. According to the parliamentary budgetary and finance committee, the conditions are favorable for Bulgaria and will relieve the tension in servicing the country's foreign debt in the period until it starts making payments to Compania Espanola de Seguros a la Exportacion S.A.
Parliament today ratified debt rescheduling agreements between the Republic of Bulgaria and the Export-Import Bank of Japan and other Japanese creditors. The agreements, which were signed on July 10, 1995, concern four projects: Ethylene-Bourgas (on the Black Sea), the Chaira (Southern Bulgaria) pumped storage power station project, the Radomir (Western Bulgaria) project and the project on the reconstruction of the Devnya (on the Black Sea) chemical plant. According to the parliamentary Budgetary and Finance Committee, the agreements' coming into force will considerably ease servicing of this country's official foreign debt in the next seven years.
The National Assembly ratified the agreement between Bulgaria and Turkey on the avoidance of double taxation, which was signed on July 7, 1994 in Ankara. The parliamentary economic and foreign policy committees assessed the agreement in positive terms. In their view the accords will contribute for the promotion of trade and economic cooperation between Bulgaria and Turkey.
Ambassadors of the G-7 countries accredited to Bulgaria visited the Council of Ministers this morning and handed Deputy Prime Minister Kiril Tsochev a demarche for shutting down Generating Unit One of the Kozlodoui N-plant (on the Danube). The construction of the unit began in 1971 and it started operating three years later. The diplomats expressed satisfaction with the Government's policy and namely with the rise in electricity prices which, according to them, will make it possible to increase investment from the international financial institutions, Kiril Tsochev said after the meeting. The group showed interest in Bulgaria's energy strategy subject to approval by Parliament next month. The meeting was occasioned by doubts in the safety of the Kozlodoui N-plant's first generating unit, expressed in a document which the G-7 representatives presented to the Deputy Prime Minister. "We are not a country to allow high risk exploitation of facilities, but we cannot accept arguments lacking scientific proof," Kiril Tsochev said after the meeting. The G-7 data are based on analyses conducted in 1989, he added. The metal casing of the reactor is in a good technical state, according to the latest inspections, Generating Unit One has been refueled and is waiting for the sanction of the Committee for the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy (CPUAE) for starting operation, Tsochev said. CPUAE Chairman Yanko Yanev said that there is sufficient proof of the reliability of the metal casing. Reports of three Bulgarian and one Russian institute and of the general constructor conclude that the generating unit is fit for exploitation in the winter season.
All systems of the plant will be checked on Monday, Yanko Yanev said. Every country bears its own responsibility for nuclear safety, he said and cited a statement by Konstantin Roussinov, Chairman of the Power Engineering Committee, that 24 million ECU would not suffice for Bulgaria to shut down facilities for hundreds of millions. A G-7 decision allowed Bulgaria to use ECU 24 million of the Nuclear Safety Fund, managed by the European bank for Reconstruction and development.
The document presented by the ambassadors insists on the taking of templates (samples) of the metal of the reactor. This would delay its setting into operation by four months, Tsochev said. The exploitation life of Generating Unit One expires in 2004.
Bulgaria is emerging as a Balkan energy center and this does not appeal to competitors, the Deputy PM said, stressing that this was his personal view. Bearing in mind Bulgaria's energy projects, including that for the construction of a second N-plant, it is only normal to expect pressure. All will be well-balanced but not under foreign pressure, Tsochev said.
The energy balance prospects for the winter season seem favorable, Tsochev said, reiterating his assurances that there will be no electricity rationing.
Bulgaria's consistent position on the conflict in former Yugoslavia was highly praised by Spanish Ambassador Jorge Fuentes, who met the leaders of the Parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee today. Ambassador Fuentes assured the Committee that he would ask Madrid for detailed information on the preparations for post-war reconstruction of the region of the conflict and on the prospects for Bulgaria to be involved in the realization of different projects, Committee Chairman Nikolai Kamov said after the meeting. The European Union is expected to provide much of the funds needed for the reconstruction. The Spanish Ambassador pledged to brief the ambassadors of the NATO member states about his conversation at their meeting today. In his view, through its initiatives so far the Parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee has spelled out Bulgaria's position on two points: the strict enforcement of measures designed to influence the situation in former Yugoslavia, and the humanitarian crisis which is a cause for concern and which must be settled. The Committee's meeting with the Ambassador of Spain, which currently holds the EU presidency, is the third this week after meetings with U.S. Ambassador William Montgomery and Russian Charge d'Affaires Georgiy Muradov. It has been proposed to meet Ambassador Thomas O'Sullivan, Head of the Delegation of the European Commission to Bulgaria, who is an important partner in the talks, said the Committee's Deputy Chairman Assen Agov. Stoyan Denchev of the Foreign Policy Committee said the three ambassadors had commended Bulgaria's policy to the crisis in former Yugoslavia and the consensus of all political forces on the issue.
The Committee for Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy intends to launch the idea of debt-for-safety swaps. "A lot of Western countries have stated they are willing to help, then why shouldn't they agree to debt-for-safety swaps, by which the nuclear power plant at Kozlodoui would get enough funds to repair its reactor and render them perfectly safe," Committee Chairman Yanko Yanev said in an interview on national radio. "There is no need to tell us we have problems, we know how to resolve them. The problem is we are short of funds; if there are enough funds, everything will be all right," Yanev said. Yanko Yanev provided information about the meeting on the safe operation of N-plants held in Vienna last week. "The Kozlodoui N-plant's rating is good but our goal is zero nuclear installations events - those are serious problems arising in connection with its operation," Yanev said, adding that at the moment Japan is the sole country with zero nuclear installations events.
The Chairman of the Committee for Peaceful uses of Atomic Energy also said that Bulgaria would participate actively in a project for studying and resolving the problems of suspended construction of nuclear power plants, launched by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Bulgaria suspended the construction of its second N-plant at Belene (on the Danube) in February 1990.