A resolution of the Parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee voices Bulgaria's deep dissatisfaction with yesterday's decision of the European Union's Council of Ministers to put Bulgaria, among 100 other countries, on the black list of states subject to visa requirements.
At a closed meeting today the Committee handed the paper to Jorge Fuentes, Ambassador of Spain, which currently presides the E.U. The meeting was attended by Marcel Tremeau, Ambassador of France, former holder of EU presidency and by the Charge d'Affaires of Italy which is the next to take over the rotating presidency of the EU. Committee Chairman Nikolai Kamov said after the meeting that the document states that Bulgaria was surprised by the decision since it had been assured that it will not be subjected to discriminative treatment against other EU-associated states. According to Mr. Kamov, Bulgaria considers the decision of EU's Council of Ministers a political issue. At the same time Kamov expressed hope that the Union will revise its policy in response to this first protest.
"Unfortunately, decisions of that kind will only strengthen the positions of Eurosceptics," Deputy Chairman of the Committee Assen Agov said. Co-Deputy Chairman Stoyan Denchev voiced certainty that by the end of the Spanish presidency the matter will be settled.
The statements also noted that yesterday's decision of the EU stultifies all negotiations and bilateral accords, signed with EU members on easing visa requirements.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Zhan Videnov today left for New York to attend the 50th session of the United Nations General Assembly.
Focal issues in Zhan Videnov's address at the session will be the future of the UN and its revitalization in compliance with the program of Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, as well as the updating of the UN Chart and particularly the sanctions-related provisions and those regulating the post-conflict situation in the Balkans.
"The mini-Marshall Plan is one of the major issues in my address," Zhan Videnov told journalists before his departure today. "I believe that the countries of our region can, and should partake in the process of restoration after the end of the Yugoconflict, and thus provide a basis for Balkan cooperation as an inseparable component of the all-European process," he went on to say. Priority in the mini-Marshall Plan will be given to the countries affected by the conflict but being one of the most stable states in the region and located at the heart of the peninsula, Bulgaria runs great chances to be in the center of attention once the plan is launched, according to Videnov.
He believes the progress of the peace process and mutual recognition of the countries involved in the conflict is a reasonable ground for lifting the economic sanctions, while suspending the arms embargo will take many months more. Besides talks with the Prime Ministers and Ministers of Foreign Affairs of several countries, Zhan Videnov's New York agenda includes meetings with representatives of American business circles and particularly CEOs of investment companies and chambers of commerce with whom the Bulgarian Head of Government will discuss the investment climate in Bulgaria.
Asked by journalists to comment on the Russian initiative for a humanitarian corridor to Yugoslavia via Bulgaria, the Prime Minister said there are no official moves on this matter on the part of the Russian government and this is only an initiative of the Russian Duma. A delegation of the Russian Parliament last week asked the Bulgarian MPs to okay the opening of the corridor, and got a negative reply. Bulgaria was part of the Russian MPs' tour of Balkan countries affected by the Yugoconflict. According to the Bulgarian Prime Minister, Russia is now waiting to see the development of the peace process. He further voiced hope that a practical step will be taken in Geneva today toward a solution to the conflict.
Satovcha - President Zhelyu Zhelev was met by hundreds of people on his arrival this morning in Satovcha, a municipal center in the Southwestern Rhodope Mountains predominantly populated by Bulgarian Muslims. People crowded the community center to pose their socioeconomic problems. They complained of difficulties in their principal livelihood, tobacco growing, and asked Zhelev to help them. Land under tobacco has dwindled from 1,900 ha in 1990 to 600 ha. The projected yield this year is 800 t, down from 4,000 t in the best years. The industrial units stand idle. Out of a work- force of 11,000, as many as 2,400 are officially registered as jobless. Water supply, health care, education and road transport are fraught with problems. The region is free of ethnic tensions, Satovcha Mayor Ahmed Dounchev assured President Zhelev, who pledged to urge the Government and Parliament to solve the most pressing problems of the region. Zhelev said that at his meeting with Greek President Stephanopoulos, who will make an official visit to Bulgaria later this year, he would raise the issue of opening a road between the Bulgarian town of Gotse Delchev and the Greek town of Drama as well as of a new checkpoint on the Bulgarian-Greek border. During his visit to villages in the Rhodope Mountains and the southwestern town of Dospat yesterday, President Zhelev was familiarized with similar problems: the collapse of tobacco growing, an 80 per cent unemployment rate, growing migration and difficulties in the return of land to its rightful owners. 'There is no political will to formulate and carry out a state policy geared to regional problems,' Zhelev said in Dospat yesterday. 'The Government and Parliament ought to adopt a policy to the Rhodope region and pass a law on the development of mountainous and semi-mountainous regions,' Zhelev also said. President Zhelev's two-day tour in the Southwestern Rhodope Mountains ended in the town of Gotse Delchev. 'The analysis of the social and economic situation in the areas hit by severe economic crisis make it absolutely necessary to formulate a state policy for regional development," Zhelev said. He recalled that he had raised this question at the time of his visit to the region of Kurdjali (in the Southeastern Rhodope Mountains) in June 1995, as well as at the subsequent meeting with ministers and mayors of municipalities in the Southeastern Rhodope Mountains held at the Presidency. 'Unfortunately,' the President said, 'today I have got to express once more my concern over the fact that the Government and Parliament lack the political will for the implementation of a policy geared to regional problems.' Zhelev criticized the Government for being sluggish in the implementation of the system of measures to help along tobacco growers as promised this spring. He said that the Government did not keep its promise to work out an alternative employment program for tobacco-growing areas in the grip of crisis. In his opinion, the Government has not used the potential of the structural reform in order to revive regional economy. In President Zhelev's view, the local administration bodies have been making serious efforts to build up the regional infrastructure which was neglected for decades. 'The opening of the Gotse Delchev- Drama road in particular will provide new opportunities for the development of economy both on national and regional level,' he said. Assen Ilchev, executive director of the Bulgartabac subsidiary in Gotse Delchev, said that a painful local problem the delayed payment for purchased tobacco - had been resolved and tobacco growers would receive their money soon. In the evening President Zhelev had a meeting with high-ranking military, the commanders of the army unit deployed in Blagoevgrad and officers of the Gotse Delchev garrison. The meeting was closed for journalists.
Bulgaria's Parliamentary Chairman Blagovest Sendov today visited the Palace of Europe where the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) is holding its autumn session. This morning Sendov was received by PACE President Miguel Martinez, who outlined the prospects for the Council of Europe's enlargement. Filip Bokov, head of the Bulgarian delegation to PACE, said Martinez told Sendov that Macedonia's candidacy for accession met with certain opposition which would be overcome.
The PACE President asked Sendov that Bulgaria should support Russia's accession to the Council of Europe which could be decided in early 1996. Miguel Martinez also suggested that Bulgaria support the application of the United States and Japan for observer status in PACE. Sendov assured Martinez that Bulgaria would back all three candidacies.
'I am delighted that I was able to visit PACE twice this year. I hope that Miguel Martinez will always be remembered in this building,' Sendov wrote in the visitors' book. Blagovest Sendov also met the Council of Europe's Secretary General Daniel Tarschys, who familiarized him with the initiative that PACE should become the Lower Chamber of the European Parliament. Sendov expressed Bulgaria's support for the Council of Europe's effort to become more closely linked with the European Union.
After the two meetings Sendov attended the morning sitting of the Assembly. Presenting him to the plenary, Miguel Martinez praised the democratic reforms carried out in Bulgaria in the last five years, saying that they were a sign of society's political maturity and the politicians' sense of responsibility.
Then Martinez emphasized that Bulgaria has not signed a number of important documents of the Council of Europe, more specifically the framework convention on the protection of minorities and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. The PACE President called on Sendov to expedite the ratification of these documents by Bulgarian Parliament.
'Bulgaria values highly the Council of Europe's support for its efforts to build a modern democratic state. This is the result of cooperation between the Council of Europe and the Bulgarian Government and Parliament,' Parliamentary Chairman Blagovest Sendov said in an address to the plenary sitting. He emphasized the importance of this cooperation for the progress of political, economic, cultural and social reforms in Bulgaria in the last few years. For five years now they have been effected amid peace and democracy and have been inspired by the European values upheld by the Council of Europe.
Political pluralism, free elections, respect for human rights and freedoms, the separation of powers, the supremacy of law and the peaceful settlement of ethnic and religious problems shape political and public life in Bulgaria, safeguarded by the Constitution and national law. The government of the Democratic Left, elected after the 1994 parliamentary elections, is following a consistent policy intended to strengthen democracy and develop a market economy, Sendov stressed. Sendov cited figures to support his statement that Bulgaria had witnessed a certain economic recovery this year, a drop in inflation and an increase in its foreign exchange reserves. He went on to say that these results had encouraged Parliament to stick to the path of reforms. The government commands a stable majority in Parliament which allows it to create the necessary legal framework in conformity with European standards. Sendov further said that Bulgaria considers European integration extremely important and that the top priority of the government's foreign policy is Bulgaria's integration in the European and Euro-Atlantic structures. This priority is in the national interest and receives broadly based support. At present Bulgaria's accession to the European Union, of which it is an associate member, is of the utmost importance, Sendov said.
Bulgaria's adherence to the European standards of international conduct stands out clearly against the background of armed conflicts on the territory of former Yugoslavia, Sendov said. Bulgaria is in favor of noninvolvement in any military operations in former Yugoslavia, it has called on the other Balkan countries to adopt a similar position, and supports as best it can the efforts of the UN and the contact group to reach a lasting peaceful and just settlement of the conflict. Elaborating on the damage caused to Bulgaria by the international sanctions, Sendov said it would be proper that the countries hit by them should receive - directly or indirectly - effective economic, financial and political support. 'To be more specific,' Sendov said, 'the Council of Europe could support this country's efforts to build its transport infrastructure and become part of the trans-European networks. In addition, Bulgaria and other neighbors of the conflict zone could be involved in initiatives for the reconstruction of the region. This would contribute to European security and stability.' Sendov said the Council of Europe should remain a pillar of the European structure of peace, security, cooperation and democracy.
"The time is quite appropriate to establishing a good foundation of the relations between Bulgaria and Serbia on the principles of good-neighborliness and cooperation," Krassimir Premianov, floor leader of the BSP-led coalition told a news briefing yesterday. The parliamentary delegation of the Democratic Left returned yesterday from a visit to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia at the invitation of Deputy Chairman of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) and SPS floor leader Goran Percevic. "The Bulgarian Left had their own stand on the problems in former Yugoslavia even before it came in power, but now it can voice this position at an intergovernmental level," Mr. Premianov said. "The fact that sanctions have been imposed on former Yugoslavia should not prevent the Left from expressing its position," Premianov believes. In his view, the current moment is appropriate for the Left to state its stand, which has always been in favor of a peaceful resolution to the conflict in former Yugoslavia and of cooperation on a regional level. According to Mr. Premianov, what is more important is that Bulgaria clearly states its intentions to take part in the restoration of the region after the settlement of the conflict. "The leaders of rump Yugoslavia believe that with its sensible stand on the conflict Bulgaria has gained the right to be a key partner and active participant in the restoration of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. This is the only way for Bulgaria to offset to a certain extent the losses it sustained from the Yugoembargo," Krassimir Premianov said. The news briefing was told that the delegation of the party in government stated Bulgaria's readiness to finance the construction of a kindergarten in Yugoslavia for children of refugees. During their visit the parliamentary delegation of the Left was received by President Zoran Lilic and by Prime Minister Radoje Kontic.
Kozlodui - Experts of the Committee for the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy, the Ministry of Environment, the Civil Defense and specialized institutes today started a comprehensive checkup of Power Unit One of the Kozlodui Nuclear Power Plant, on the Danube. The group of experts is headed by the deputy chair of the Committee for the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy (CPUAE) Vladimir Hristov. He said the checkup will follow a special schedule designed to make sure that Power Unit One is technically and technologically ready to be restarted after a seven months' overhaul and upgrading of its nuclear and operational safety. The findings of the inspection and particularly of the checkup of the metal casing of the reactor will be decisive for the CPUAE to rule by this weeks' end whether or not to switch on this 440 MW power unit. The chief constructor of the Izhor works in Saint Petersburg [the producer of the generating unit] today is expected to come out with a second stand on the readiness of Kozlodui's Power Unit One for safe operation. "Its [Power Unit One's] capacity is not exhausted and it can run safely for a 18th fuel campaign," Hristov said. Over USD 50 million were invested for upgrading the safety of the four old generating units of the Kozlodui N-power plant within the past four years, said plant manager Kozma Kouzmanov. Answering a question of the Hristo Botev radio program, he said that a project has been launched for upgrading the old power units to bring them in line with the international standards and the requirements of international institutions. Ambassadors of the G-7 countries accredited to Bulgaria on September 21 handed Deputy Prime Minister Kiril Tsochev a demarche on behalf of the governments of their countries on problems related to the state of Bulgarian power engineering and nuclear power engineering in particular. The demarche was occasioned by doubts in the safety of the Kozlodui N-power plant's first generating unit, set forth in a document which the G-7 representatives presented to Deputy Prime Minister Tsochev. "We are not a country to run risky nuclear facilities, but we cannot accept arguments lacking scientific proof," Kiril Tsochev said after the meeting with the Ambassadors. The G-7 data are based on analyses conducted in 1989, he added. Tsochev further promised to provide the ambassadors with the results of the latest inspections regularly conducted by Bulgaria and submitted to the competent international institutions. He assured the diplomats that Bulgaria is well aware of its high responsibility in operating nuclear facilities and would not allow the Kozlodui N-power plant to pose the slightest risk to the population of Bulgaria and elsewhere.
Prompted by reports of some news agencies and the press that if Unit 1 is switched on, Electricite de France will recall its experts from the N-plant at Kozlodoui, the National Electricity Company (NEC) asked the management of the French company to clarify its position; the two companies signed a cooperation agreement in 1993, NEC announced. The agreement provides for improving the management of NEC and for enhancing the safe operation of the Kozlodoui N-plant. The National Electricity Company hopes that cooperation between the two organizations will not be politicized, the announcement says.
According to DPA, German Minister of Environment Protection of Nature Reactor Safety Angela Merkel said that every possible step should be taken to prevent the switch-on of the Kozlodoui N-plant's first reactor before proving its safety.
Three trucks of humanitarian aid collected by the Bulgarian Red Cross will go to refugees of Serb Krajina. The trucks carried clothes, shoes, blankets, syringes, medical consumables and medicines. A second convoy of 7-8 trucks will leave within 15 days to carry the remaining part of the humanitarian aid worth a total of 5,300,000 leva.
Many Bulgarian firms joint the campaign with money donations, said a spokesperson of the Red Cross. The largest sum, 3 million leva, was contributed by the powerful economic conglomerate Multigroup.
The humanitarian aid will be delivered to the Yugoslav Red Cross who will take care for its distribution.
The losses of the Bulgarian power engineering plants are being offset by three ways that absolutely contradict the market economy laws, says a signed commentary on energy problems in "Douma". The first way is through state subsidies from the 1995 budget, the second -providing operating costs through short-term bank loans, and the third - decapitalisation of fixed assets, the article says. If no measures are taken to ensure a stable energy system, Bulgaria will find itself fully dependent on imports and besides its economic sovereignty this country will gradually lose its political one as well, the article says.
The time of traditional tourism has gone; the future of Tourist Information and Reservations Ltd. (TIR, one of the biggest tour operators in Bulgaria) belongs to congress tourism, the profits from which are 7 - 8, up to 100 times bigger than those from traditional tourism, TIR Executive Director Ventseslav Genkov says, interviewed by "Pari". the Bulgarian Hoteliers' Association and the Bulgarian Travel Agencies' Association could jointly use the one and only national electronic system for tourist information and bookings (currently run by TIR), Genkov says.
Banks' data about Bulgaria's trade during January-July 1995 exceed the customs statistics by about 5,000 million leva, says a story in "24 Chassa". (The current central leva/dollar exchange rate is 67,954 leva to the US dollar.) The daily quotes unnamed sources of the central bank who attribute the discrepancy to illicit foreign investments or money laundering.
The World Bank will extend a USD 30 million loan to Bulgaria for the production of environmentally-friendly unleaded petrol suitable for vehicles without catalyzers, "Troud" quotes Deputy Environment Minister Yordan Ouzounov as saying. There are more than 1,500,000 such vehicles made in the former socialist countries in Bulgaria now, the daily recalls.