September 23 'In my international contacts I feel a growing interest in Bulgaria and I am anxious that we should benefit from it. A unique historical opportunity is opening up for Bulgaria to become a fulcrum of the global effort for the post-war reconstruction and development of the Balkans due to its unique geostrategic position and stable Balkan policy, as well as to its ability to combine traditional and new partnerships in the context of European integration,' Prime Minister Zhan Videnov said in a televised interview tonight, in which he discussed foreign policy and domestic issues. 'It is no use being an island of stability in the Balkans for years if now, when peace is on the horizon, Bulgaria fails to build the supports of a bridge between three continents on this island,' Videnov said, expressing optimism about this country's success. 'The results may seem impressive for a half-day working visit, but the potential of Bulgarian-Russian relations, especially in the economy, is even more impressive,' Prime Minister Videnov said, referring to his visit to Moscow earlier this week. He said the intergovernmental declaration signed by him and by his Russian counterpart Viktor Chernomyrdin in Sofia in May formed a broader basis for economic cooperation and set more ambitious tasks.
Bulgarian-Russian cooperation will be very important in the European context according to Videnov. 'To Russia, powerful with its energy output, raw materials and production, Bulgaria is an open door to united Europe. Bulgaria should take maximum advantage of this favorable situation and become a hub of energy, transport and telecommunications,' Videnov said. The Prime Minister stressed that during his visit to Moscow the two governments found their exact place in the development of bilateral economic ties. 'Cold peace seems to have ended and a hot spell has started: fraught with problems, sometimes with conflicts, too, but the two governments are convinced that the results will be in the interest of both countries and will not endanger our relationships,' Videnov said, stressing that this does not run counter to Bulgaria's European orientation. Answering a question about the two-week talks between the Bulgarian government and the IMF mission led by Russel Kincaid, which ended yesterday, Videnov said: 'It is essential for Bulgaria to see where it stands and the policy it should follow until the year 2000 with a view to taking a clear stand on its relations with its international financial partners, above all the IMF.' 'Bulgaria should be able to assess the efforts it has made, especially in the past few months, and the actions it could decisively take in the coming years. The IMF will see all this materialize before year's end,' Videnov said.
Speaking about the forthcoming local elections, Prime Minister Videnov said the Bulgarian Socialist Party, which won the December 1994 parliamentary elections, is ready to take the responsibility for local government, too.
Berlin, September 22 - "Communism cannot return in its classical form," Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev said in his lecture today at an international conference in Berlin on the topic "Is Socialism Returning?". But according to him, what threatens Eastern Europe and Bulgaria in particular, is the consolidation of post-communism. According to Zhelev, communism cannot return in its classical form because it is no longer possible to restore concentration camps, to abolish the multi-party system, the opposition, freedom of speech and of the press. It is no longer possible to close a country and to revive the Warsaw Treaty and the CMEA. "Communism seems hopelessly dead even to its staunchest supporters," the Bulgarian President said. "What we are faced with now is a substitution of the democratic idea for multi-party authoritarian chaos, breeding crime, organized crime, mafia structures, corruption and political partisanship, and a substitution of the idea of a free market for non-market capitalism", Zhelev said. According to him, there is a threat of "communism dragging fledgling democracy into its grave". Drawing a parallel between French restoration of the 19th century and consolidating post- communism, Zhelev observed that in Eastern Europe restoration is taking place against the background of apparent reform. "No one is denying the presence of reforms but the policy of reform is covertly substituted for re-establishment of old communist practices," Zhelev said. He spoke of the return of the all-powerful state. "One of the most striking characteristics of the rule of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP, the former communists) is the attempt to concentrate economic and public life around the state. A situation is emerging in which there are two types of ownership the good, public ownership and the bad, private ownership," Zhelev said.
According to him, there are attempts to present the civil society and non-governmental organizations in particular, as destroying statehood. "The State is seeking to dominate the non- government sector," Zhelev said.
There is also a revival of "not quite patriarchal corporativism - substituting real competition of ideas and interests for agreement within the party itself", of the language of the old regime, of its people and of suspicion of the West. "Attempts to reduce democracy to dictate of the majority are also alarming," the President said in his lecture, stressing the importance of the "principled position of the Constitutional Court".
But what is most alarming now is the return of the feeling that "nothing depends on us, on the people". "Political apathy and division into "we" and "they" are once again becoming a reality," the President said.
However communism cannot return. And probably this is the strange fate of the post-communist society - a society in which communism cannot return but is in no hurry to go," President Zhelev said in conclusion.
Berlin, September 22 - Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev met late Thursday night here with German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel. The two officials held talks immediately after the reception Minister Kinkel gave in honor of the participants in the first Berlin meeting of the Friedrich Naumann foundation for liberal politics. President Zhelev arrived in Berlin yesterday to take part in the meeting.
President Zhelev expressed his thanks to Minister Kinkel for the support which Germany lent to Bulgaria for its integration into the European Union (EU) during the German EU presidency. President Zhelev expressed a hope that Germany's support for Bulgaria will continue in the future as well. Minister Kinkel stressed that his country is ready to support Bulgaria, but this will naturally depend on Bulgaria's own readiness for full EU membership.
Being one of the most active participants in the Partnership for Peace initiative (in 1995 alone, Bulgaria participated in eight different NATO exercises), this country insists on Germany's firm support for Bulgaria's full membership in NATO.
The meeting paid special attention to the issue of Bulgaria's participation in the so-called "neo-COCOM" and the "mini- Marshall Plan". Accidentally or not, Bulgaria was left out of the co- founders of the "neo-COCOM", which will deny this country's access to modern technologies and trade in them. Russia, the Visegrad group, and the EU member-states are some of the neo- COCOM co-founders. President Zhelev insisted that Bulgaria be included in the new organization even as a way to compensate its losses as a result of this country's enforcing of the international sanctions against former Yugoslavia.
Minister Kinkel reportedly promised that Germany will help Bulgaria so that the country be stricken off the negative lists of the Schengen agreement.
At the end of the more than half-hour's meeting, President Zhelev thanked Minister Kinkel for the help Germany has been providing to the Bulgarian Army.
Answering the reporter's question, Minister Kinkel said that there are no problems and obstacles for the progress of the cooperation between Bulgaria and Germany.
Bulgaria should take advantage of all the opportunities granted to it by virtue of its being an EU associated country, Minister Kinkel said. This a kind of an "entrance hall", where one should prepare himself before entering the EU "chamber", Minister Kinkel said.
Germany understands Bulgaria's concern to safeguard its national security by becoming a NATO member. In principle, NATO will expand. Russia should be offered a satisfactory explanation so that it realize that the NATO expansion is not directed against it. Moscow cannot impose a veto on NATO's expansion.
Bulgaria has to and will find its place in the European security architecture. In my view, Minister Kinkel said, it is more important for Bulgaria to become a full EU member, than a NATO one.
Berlin, September 22 - This afternoon Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev, who is visiting Germany for the first Berlin meeting of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, met with Eberhard Diepgen, Governing Mayor and Minister-President of the State of Berlin. Commenting on the situation in rump Yugoslavia, President Zhelev expressed his hope that the present negotiations would be successful and would bring about peace in the Balkans at last. Mayor Diepgen stated his view that the vigorous actions that NATO and the United States had taken of late forced the Serbs sit at the table for negotiations, thus proving that NATO and the US could efficiently defend peace.
President Zhelyu Zhelev's talks with Daniel Tarschys, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, focused on Macedonia, maybe because Tarschys arrived in Berlin right after his visit to that country. Zhelev confirmed once again that Bulgaria hails Macedonia's forthcoming accession to the Council of Europe, given the commitments it assumed to satisfy the high standards for human rights and state behavior set by the large and oldest European organization. Zhelev recalled that Bulgaria has always made a consistent stand for granting Macedonia equal international rights and a full-fledged international status, which is a factor for guaranteeing stability in the region.
President Zhelyu Zhelev had a meeting with Slovenia's Foreign Minister Zoran Thaler at his request. The sides were pleased to note that the friendly relations between Bulgaria and Slovenia would be provided with a framework of specific agreements. A document setting the principles of Bulgarian - Slovenian relations is being coordinated at the moment. Special attention was paid to some legal instruments for encouraging investments and to the acceleration of the talks on the establishment of a free trade area. Zhelev and Thaler considered some of the ways in which Bulgaria and Slovenia - countries that are severely hit by the UN sanctions against Yugoslavia - could take active part in the post-war rebuilding of former Yugoslavia.
It was agreed that Foreign Minister Thaler would visit Sofia in the second half of October 1995 to make preparations for the summit between President Zhelyu Zhelev and President Milan Kucan.
Berlin, September 23 - President Zhelyu Zhelev today met with German Minister of Economics Guenter Rexrodt. Zhelev has been visiting Germany since September 21 to attend the first Berlin meeting of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation. President Zhelev and Federal Minister Rexrodt discussed certain aspects of bilateral economic cooperation. The sides agreed that urgent measures are needed to overcome the decrease in German investment in Bulgaria due to insecurity about land ownership, the delay in privatization and the lack of tax concessions which are available in other post- communist countries. The sides discussed infrastructural projects in the region, including the construction of a second bridge over the Danube. All countries of Central and Eastern Europe should be interested in the choosing of the best location for the bridge. Germany's stand will largely depend on the opinion of the European Commission, Rexrodt said. The results of expert studies by the firm Sir Alexander Gibb support the Bulgarian position. Bulgaria insists that its candidacy as a co-founder of the neo-COCOM should meet with a favorable response. Moreover, this would be in the interest of German businessmen and companies planning to invest in Bulgaria. The sides exchanged views on the joint operation in Sofia of Dresdner Bank, Banque Nationale de Paris and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which started recently. There are encouraging signs that Germany will release a loan for the establishment in Bulgaria of a credit bank supporting small and medium-sized business.
President Zhelev stressed that Bulgaria would gain a huge impetus from its possible involvement in the project known as the Mini-Marshall Plan.
Answering a question by BTA, Guenter Rexrodt said: 'We are interested in developing closer cooperation with Bulgaria both on bilateral and on European level, and we will continue to assist in its integration. At the same time, we hope and expect that Bulgaria's reform process will be oriented to free market structures. Private capital should gain a firm foothold in Bulgaria.' He accepted the invitation to visit this country in the spring or summer of 1996.
Shortly before midnight on September 22, President Zhelev met with the prominent German politician Otto Graf Lambsdorff, President of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation. They discussed how Germany could be more helpful to Bulgaria in the process of its integration in the Euro-Atlantic structures, its inclusion in the neo-COCOM, and the overcoming of the negative impact of the Schengen Agreement. The Bulgarian President highly praised Germany's assistance so far.
The sides discussed a possible visit to Bulgaria by Otto Graf Lambsdorff in 1996, as well as the possibility of holding a meeting of the Executive Bureau of the Liberal International in Sofia.
Asked by BTA to comment on current developments in Bulgaria, Dr. Lambsdorff said he could not make a categorical statement, adding: 'The democratic forces were not quite successful at the latest elections. We hope, however, that the present government is aware that economic and social reform is inevitable and will stick to the path of reform.'
President Zhelev received Slavko Perovic, Chairman of the Montenegrin Liberal Alliance, at the latter's request. The sides exchanged views on the situation in the Balkans. President Zhelev stressed that the Bulgarian public would be interested to know more about developments in Montenegro.
President Zhelev left Berlin for Sofia tonight.
Sofia, September 24 - The views expressed in reports at the seminar on 'Is Socialism Coming Back? ' organized by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation in Berlin were quite similar: changes in Central and Eastern Europe are taking place slowly, President Zhelyu Zhelev said late last night on his return from Berlin.
The slow pace of reform poses serious danger because the economic development of the former socialist countries and their integration in the European structures are slowed down, President Zhelev said. The facts presented at the seminar led him to the conclusion that the reform process if fastest in the Czech Republic. During his working meetings in Berlin Zhelev discussed Bulgaria's integration in the European Union and NATO, and possible German investment in Bulgaria. He held particularly substantive talks with the prominent German politician Otto Graf Lambsdorff, Federal Minister of Economics Guenter Rexrodt and Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel.
"The issue is deliberately politicized," Prime Minister Zhan Videnov said on the day of parliamentary control, replying the question posed by Filip Dimitrov, MP of the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) and ex-prime minister, about the expulsion of American archaeologist Douglass Bailey about a month ago. In his reply Videnov stated the facts and the legal grounds on which the actions taken by the competent authorities had been based. He recalled that Baily, who was engaged in archaeological excavations and research of cultural monuments in various parts of Bulgaria with a group of archaeologists from 1993 to 1995, attracted the attention of the respective institutions as a result of the incompetence of the participants in the excavation works. "What aroused concern were the reports by Bulgarian scholars that historical monuments had been damaged through incompetent handling," the Prime Minister said. Conducting checks, the Ministry of the Interior established that the members of the group carrying out the excavations did not represent any official institutions. They did not have a permit to launch an international archaeological expedition as required by the Bulgarian law. Under the law, foreign citizens are not allowed to carry out excavations in the territory of Bulgaria as private persons. The members of the expedition studied the terrain and made maps of places up to 30 km way from the excavation site, sampling rocks, soil and water. They mapped water sources, forests and dirt roads, which has nothing to do with archaeological research. When leaving Bulgaria on August 6, in violation of customs regulations, Bailey did not declare the equipment and documents he was carrying. He was served a statement of customs regulations violation. On August 24, 1995, based on the evidence collected, the Interior Minister issued an order for Bailey's expulsion from Bulgaria; his entry into Bulgaria is temporarily banned in accordance with the Bulgarian law. "The expulsion of the US citizen is an administrative measure, this is not an act of legal prosecution," Videnov said. The official institutions took the necessary steps to prevent any negative effect of the Bailey case on Bulgaria's relations with the United States. "The attitude towards Bailey was humane and tolerant," the Prime Minister said.
The forthcoming signing of intergovernmental agreements on the construction of the Bourgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline, and the availability in this country of a gas pipeline network that will supply gas to other neighboring countries as well, will transform Bulgaria into a key energy dispatching center on the Balkan peninsula, Prime Minister Zhan Videnov said in Parliament today, responding to a question by Vassil Mihailov, MP of the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF). Mihailov expressed his fears that Bulgaria's unilateral energy binding with Russia may violate this country's sovereignty. Bulgaria imports more than 70% of its energy resources (oil, coal, nuclear fuel and gas), with the bulk of these coming from Russia. Eighty per cent of this country's energy equipment is Russian-made, which makes Bulgaria dependent on Russia for providing spare parts and technical assistance for its maintenance and operation, Prime Minister Videnov said. Thanks to the Russian supplies of natural gas, consumption of this type of energy resource in Bulgaria has reached a volume equal to that in the European Union, in terms of a percentage of this country's energy balance, Prime Minister Videnov said. The average price of gas for industrial consumption is considerably lower than its international price in the region. Russia will continue to supply gas to Bulgaria in the future as there are no alternative natural and energy resources of this volume, Prime Minister Videnov said. He agreed that it would be a good thing if Bulgaria has alternative oil supplies, but stressed that this does not depend on this country. As regards the forthcoming signing of the intergovernmental agreements on the construction of the Bourgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline, Prime Minister Videnov said that the investment project includes measures for the management and prevention of major spillages, while the construction of the pipeline itself will be carried out in accordance with the requirements for environmental protection. An assessment of the project's impact on the environment will be made as well. The project envisages the construction of an integrated controlling system which will monitor the entire coastline, as well as of water and air purifying facilities. Prime Minister Videnov described the project as undoubtedly profitable for Bulgaria.
Responding to another question by a UDF MP, Minister of the Environment Georgi Georgiev stressed that the environmental protection authorities will insist on all necessary guarantees for preserving the environmental balance in the region. A special working group discusses various options for the pipeline construction. The group turned down a Greek proposal as it envisaged the construction of a sea port near a tourist area which borders on a protected natural site. The group instead approved an option which poses minimum environmental risks, Minister Georgiev said.
A government delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Development Roumen Gechev left for an official visit to India today. 'There we can find a market larger even than the European market,' Gechev said asked about his expectations from the talks with Prime Minister Narasimha Rao and cabinet ministers. Roumen Gechev said that possibilities for the import of Indian raw materials and the export of Bulgarian machines would be discussed in India.
'Bulgaria is in favor of the fastest and the broadest possible development of its relations with Macedonia. This has been stated repeatedly and Bulgaria has worked for this since Macedonia's recognition,' Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski told a news conference here today. He elaborated key points of the government's position on Bulgarian-Macedonian relations. He set it forth before the Parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee at its extraordinary meeting yesterday, as well as in a conversation with Macedonian Ambassador Georgi Spassov. 'In proof of this desire we confirm our readiness to sign the 23 drafted agreements. To reaffirm this intention two Bulgarian ministers have visited Skopje recently: Interior Minister Lyubomir Nachev and Justice Minister Mladen Chervenyakov,' Pirinski said. Foreign Minister Pirinski said he had met Macedonian Ambassador Georgi Spassov who said bilateral relations should be intensified, to which end the agreements reached a long time ago should be finalized and government officials should exchange visits in the coming months. Ambassador Spassov expressed Macedonia's views on the way the two countries could overcome the existing practical obstacles to the finalizing of the draft treaties and agreements. Bulgaria has already spelled out its views on this issue. 'We believe that this could be done by a text envisaging that treaties are signed in the official languages of the two countries. Should Macedonia deem it necessary, it can present its views on the official language of the republic according to the effective Constitution,' Pirinski said. He stressed that the two countries are facing the task to find a way to develop their relations quickly and in the mutual interest. The Bulgarian Foreign Minister said the formula proposed by this country is neutral and does not bind the two countries 'to a position diverging from views held by either of them on differences related to historical aspects'. 'In this sense Bulgaria has walked its part of the road to a mutually acceptable agreement,' Pirinski said. Another way to solve the problem would be to sign the documents the way they are without expressly stating what languages are used, Pirinski said. He expressed a hope that Macedonia would voice its views on the Bulgarian position at his upcoming meeting with Macedonian Foreign Minister Stevo Crvenkovski during the 50th UN General Assembly session in New York.
Bulgaria hails without reservation Macedonia's forthcoming accession to the Council of Europe and to other international organizations, the lifting of the embargo and the overcoming of the obstacles to Macedonia's unrestricted participation in international economic relations, Pirinski said. Bulgaria confirms its interest in the development of transport and infrastructural links with Macedonia and will step up its efforts for the construction of road and railway links and other infrastructural projects, Pirinski said. 'We expect Macedonia to develop its relations with Bulgaria,' he said. Pirinski emphasized that Bulgaria reiterates its hope that all of Macedonia's neighbors will normalize their relations with Macedonia finally and unequivocally, by establishing interstate diplomatic and other ties. Pirinski said the Bulgarian government is firmly committed to this position. He stressed that it is even more valuable in the wake of yesterday's discussion by the Parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee because it met with unanimous and unqualified approval from all participants in the meeting. -0
At today's meeting with the ambassadors of the European Union countries in Bulgaria, Minister Georgi Pirinski expressed categorically the Bulgarian Government's concern over the intentions to endorse officially the EU list of states subject to visa requirements leaving Bulgaria in it at the forthcoming meeting of EU justice and interior ministers, an announcement of the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry says. Minister Pirinski set out the arguments for Bulgaria's refusal to agree to such an approach, the announcement says. Bulgarian Minister of Justice Mladen Chervenyakov will attend the meeting of justice and interior ministers in Brussels, the Ministry of Justice said today.
Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski left for New York today to attend the 50th UN General Assembly session.
'The session offers an opportunity to meet partners from countries that would be more difficult to include in the program of bilateral relations,' Pirinski told BTA before his departure. At a news conference yesterday he stressed that his bilateral meetings in New York would help him exchange views on different issues and establish new contacts. He described as useful Bulgaria's forthcoming participation in the attempt to forge a shared position on major issues of peace and security, regional problems and foreign policy.
Before his departure Pirinski expressed a hope that the meeting of EU ministers of justice and the interior in Brussels would not adopt a list of countries with visa restrictions. 'Such a decision would turn into empty rhetoric all earlier declarations about the equal start and equal treatment of the associated countries,' he said.
At a meeting with the Ambassadors of the EU member states in Sofia yesterday Foreign Minister Pirinski voiced Bulgaria's position against this country's inclusion in the list.
Sofia, September 22 - The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry is still analyzing Russia's initiative for the establishment of a new economic community, dubbed COMECON-2 in the Bulgarian press. "We have been holding consultations with the other ministries concerned. The Ministry will state its final position by the end of September as scheduled," Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski said at a news conference today. "The way in which the document is presented - simultaneously to a group of countries, and the activities it provides for make - in my view - the project unacceptable," the Bulgarian Foreign Minister said. Pirinski explained that in essence the document presents a system of activities related to commercial, economic, scientific, technological and investment cooperation. On August 24 this year it was submitted by the Russian Foreign Ministry to diplomats of a number Central and East European countries. According to Minister Pirinski, the way in which the project was presented looks like a semi-official feeler-putting to see the reaction of embassies and foreign ministries. This week the Union of Democratic Forces, the largest opposition group in the Bulgarian Parliament, publicly expressed its concern over Russia's COMECON-2 initiative.