U.S. Assistant Secretary of State and peace envoy to ex- Yugoslavia Richard Holbrooke met here today in succession with Bulgarian Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski, Prime Minister Zhan Videnov and President Zhelyu Zhelev. Mr. Holbrooke arrived in Sofia last night on his first visit to Bulgaria. "Our purpose of coming here was two-fold: to brief Bulgaria on the negotiations and to gain their views on the situation as an effect of them and to talk with the Bulgarian Government about other matters of bilateral interest including NATO enlargement, economic assistance and other issues of importance," Mr. Holbrooke told a news conference at the end of his visit, adding that the negotiate team which has come to Sofia with him is an interagency one and includes representatives of the White House, the State Department and the Defense Department. "The mission we are on in Bosnia is a difficult one and the road to peace is long. We have made a progress but we have yet much longer road to go," Richard Holbrooke said. In his view, "Bulgaria's wise and courageous policies of staying out of the problems while contributing to their solution has been historically important for the region." Mr. Holbrooke said that the United States are aware of the price that Bulgaria has paid for enforcing and respecting the sanctions regime against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and added that "the United States will be very, very mindful of this as we approach any postwar reconstruction program for this region."
At the joint news conference Bulgarian Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski voiced Bulgaria's satisfaction with Mr. Holbrooke's visit to Sofia. In his view the U.S. envoy arrived to Bulgaria not as if it was a country facing a problem or involved in a conflict but he came to a country which has been a stabilizing factor in the region throughout the development of the conflict. Mr. Pirinski said that this is the first visit of Richard Holbrooke's mission to a state which is a direct neighbor to the war-stricken territories. "This is of particular significance and I view it as an appreciation of Bulgaria's future active role, particularly in the post-war period," Minister Pirinski said.
Mr. Pirinski emphasized that Bulgaria is determined and justified to seek active involvement in all plans for restoration and development of the region and it can provide human and material resources and facilities. In his view, at this stage, when the conflict has yet to be resolved, Bulgaria may more actively assist in the preparations of plans. "In that respect I would like to point out the serious commitment of the American delegation to seek more concrete forms for Bulgaria's participation in studying the potentials of such plans, as well as their understanding that Bulgaria may get involved in these preparations already at this stage," Pirinski said.
According to Mr. Pirinski, Holbrooke's visit not only allowed Bulgaria to get a better idea of the process of seeking ways to stop the war and promote the peace process to the point of holding a peace conference, but also gave a chance for exchanging views on issues of bilateral interest. "We watch with encouragement and hope the continued development of democracy, free enterprise and privatization here in Bulgaria," Mr. Holbrooke said. "America under President Clinton's leadership stands for American engagement in Europe and encouragement to an undivided Europe in which the boundaries of the Cold War have been erased. We believe that the institutions of Europe created in the West during the Cold War should gradually expand eastward so that Europe no longer is divided between East and West," said Mr. Holbrooke and specified that in the notion of Europe they also include Russia and the other republics of the former Soviet Union. In Mr. Holbrooke's view, "the forthcoming visit of NATO officials to Sofia to discuss the enlargement of NATO will be another important milestone in the development of an integrated Europe but it will not mean the automatic or rapid expansion of NATO to other countries; that is going to be a careful, slow and deliberate process". Mr. Holbrooke emphasized "the skillful way in which the Bulgarian government [...] have approached this problem". "And we stress again here in Sofia that NATO enlargement, when it occurs and however it occurs is not directed against any other country; its goal is to promote stability and peace in Central Europe," the U.S. envoy said. Mr. Holbrooke also pointed out that the representatives of the Bulgarian Government familiarized him with their plans to accelerate the pace of privatization and to continue to encourage economic development in Bulgaria. He said that the U.S. support that strongly through their programs for South-Balkan regional development.
Minister Pirinski said that during Mr. Holbrooke's visit a series of consultations between the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry and the U.S. State Department on bilateral and regional issues of mutual interest have been scheduled. Pirinski said that Bulgaria will be the first country to be visited by NATO Secretary general Willy Claes during his tour round Central and Eastern Europe. Mr. Claes is expected in Sofia on October 24-25. "We would stake on bilateral contacts with the U.S. on all these issues both in Washington and in Sofia," Minister Pirinski said. Mr. Pirinski said that ways for promoting bilateral cooperation may be sought by addressing a number of issues in economy, culture and education
President Zhelyu Zhelev briefed journalists about his meeting with Richard Holbrooke. Last night Zhelev gave a dinner to Holbrooke, attended by representatives of Bulgaria's major state institutions. The sides discussed three major issues, which the Bulgarian state institutions and the political forces fully agree on: Bulgaria's participation in postwar reconstruction of the region (the so-called mini Marshall plan) and the forms it would take part in it, the support this country would like to receive from the Unites States in joining neo-COCOM and GATT, and the further development of its economic relations with Macedonia which "came to a standstill through no fault of ours", Zhelev said. At today's talks with Holbrooke, President Zhelev set out the arguments for Bulgaria's NATO membership. The sides considered Balkan infrastructure projects: the East-West and North-South transport corridors. "Bulgaria will stick to its position of non- interference in any Balkan conflicts. It will take part only in postwar rebuilding process," the President said. In reply to the question if the President had changed his mind about Bulgaria's full membership in NATO, Zhelev said that his personal view was unchanged because "a country which wants to be admitted to NATO should accept the respective conditions for membership".
The talks of Prime Minister Zhan Videnov and Richard Holbrooke focused on bilateral relations and regional issues. Holbrooke praised Bulgaria's stabilizing role in the Balkans. He said he was impressed by its realistic policy aimed to find a solution to history-rooted problems in the context of the present times, rather than turning eyes to the past, Government Spokesman Nikola Baltov told journalists after the meeting. According to Baltov, there are no unresolved problems between the two sides. The question of the American University in Blagoevgrad (Southwestern Bulgaria) and of making provisions for its normal operation in future was raised during the meeting. The sides agreed that bilateral relations should involve more active contacts and consultations on different matters of mutual interest, Baltov said.
This morning General Wes Clark, director of strategic plans and policy with the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, and James Pardew, director of the Pentagon Balkan task force, who arrived in Bulgaria with Richard Holbrooke, had an hour-long meeting with Defense Minister Dimiter Pavlov. This was a courtesy call as part of Holbrooke's mission for the purpose of briefing the Bulgarian Defense Minister about the progress of negotiations on the peaceful settlement of the Yugoconflict, journalists were told by General Clark.
Prime Minister Zhan Videnov invited Spanish Ambassador Jorge Fuentes in his capacity as representative of the country currently holding the EU presidency to a meeting at the Council of Ministers today, the government press office said. Videnov raised the issue of Bulgaria's inclusion in a plan for the post-war reconstruction of the former Yugoslavia. He told Ambassador Fuentes this issue had been discussed with US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke. The EU representative was familiarized with Bulgaria's willingness to become actively involved in the post-war reconstruction of the region in view of the key role of the EU as an organizer of the reconstruction plan, the press release said. It was stressed that the plan and steps for its implementation should be developed in greater detail. Ambassador Fuentes pledged himself to inform the Spanish government of Bulgaria's willingness to take part in the reconstruction of the war- stricken regions in the former Yugoslavia. Videnov also raised the issue of the EU decision to leave Bulgaria on its general visa blacklist. He emphasized, among other things, that the Bulgarians are very sensitive about restrictions on their freedom of movement. Ambassador Fuentes elaborated on the steps taken by the Spanish government for Bulgaria's exclusion from the Schengen list, analogous to the general negative list of the EU. He explained the Union's decision-making procedure as a bureaucratic problem inherited from the French presidency of the EU. Ambassador Fuentes voiced Spain's readiness to work for Bulgaria's exclusion from the general blacklist while exercising the EU presidency and said this was a matter of justice, the government press office said.
Bulgaria learned with regret about France's second nuclear test in the South Pacific, the Foreign Ministry's Spokesman Radko Vlaikov said today answering a question by BTA. The French Ambassador in Sofia was informed of Bulgaria's stance after France's first nuclear test on September 5, Vlaikov said. The Foreign Ministry spokesman said Bulgaria strictly complies with the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. He recalled that the decision on its indefinite extension taken with a consensus at the New York conference earlier this year was hailed by this country. The conference called on all nuclear states to refrain from nuclear tests while negotiations were in progress. This is Bulgaria's principled position and its regret stems from it, Vlaikov said.
Satisfaction with the current state of the Bulgarian-Japanese relations was expressed today at a joint news conference of Bulgarian Deputy Foreign Minister Konstantin Glavanakov and Japanese Ambassador here Joshihiro Jibiki. The two officials expressed hope that the two states will further deepen their relations. "Japan has not just been showing understanding but also offered concrete assistance to Bulgaria ever since the beginning of the democratic changes here," said Deputy Foreign Minister Glavanakov, who was ambassador to Tokyo until the end of last year. "We, the Japanese, are willing to cooperate so that Bulgaria overcomes the difficult period of transition," Ambassador Jibiki said. The two states have been maintaining active contacts on parliamentarian and administrative levels and Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev has sent an invitation to the Japanese heir to the crown to visit Bulgaria. The intergovernmental commission restored its regular sessions three years ago and will hold its next session in the spring of 1996. Japan comes second on the list of Bulgaria's creditors, following Germany. According to estimates of Bulgarian experts, Japan's role on rescheduling Bulgaria's debt to the Paris and the London clubs has been particularly constructive. In July, 1993, Bulgaria and Japan signed an agreement under which Bulgaria would receive a 100 million US dollar loan. Japan was also the first state to restore in 1994 its 200 million US dollar credit line which it provided to Bulgaria for a period of two years. Bulgaria relies on Japan's support in the G-24, the Paris and the London clubs as well as in a number of other forums and organizations. Ambassador Jibiki drew the attention to the decision of the Japanese Government to grant a loan in Japanese Yen for two major projects: for environment improvement in Plovdiv (Southern Bulgaria) where there is a lead-and-zinc production plant and for environment activities in Eliseina (Central Bulgaria) where copper is produced. The two Governments have already reached an agreement on the matter and are expected to exchange notes at the end of the month. Bulgaria and Japan have been active partners in the field of technologies. Cooperation in the production of Bulgarian yogurt, which is much popular in Japan, is expected to be expanded in the nearest future. Bulgarian experts, scientists, students and managers have been studying in Japan for a couple of years. Their number recently reached 100 per year. Japanese experts in environment protection and economical use of energy have been coming to Bulgaria. Japan grants 500,000 US dollars to Bulgaria every year for equipment and technical facilities. This year's beneficiary of the sum is expected to be announced soon. Among the nominees are the National Art Gallery, the Gallery of Foreign Art, the National Theater "Ivan Vazov", the State Philharmonic Orchestra, the National Palace of Culture and the Bulgarian National Television.
Berlin, October - Bulgarian Minister of Culture Georgi Kostov arrived here this afternoon on a four-day visit at the invitation of the culture minister of Berlin state. Prof. Kostov is accompanied by the Director of the National Historical Museum Bozhidar Dimitrov. Minister Kostov will take part in the opening ceremony of a unique exhibition of Bulgarian Christian art of 9th- 19th c. "Golden Monastery" which is to take place on October 4 in Berlin-Spandau. Among the more than 160 particularly valuable exhibits are 60 icons, gold and silver church plates, gold-laced shrouds of Christ, manuscripts on parchment etc. Some of the exhibits have not been shown even in Bulgaria. The "Golden Monastery" exhibition was staged this March in the old Bavarian town of Pasau, and was later shown in Miltenberg on Main, and in August-September it was in Leipzig. The citizens of Berlin will be the next to have the chance of seeing this treasure of Bulgarian culture. "Golden Monastery" has been estimated as the most significant Bulgarian cultural event in Germany this year.
Hungarian President Arpad Goncz will pay an official visit to Bulgaria from October 9 through 11 at the invitation of Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev, the press office of the Bulgarian President said. The schedule of the visit includes talks between the two presidents, a speech by President Goncz at the National Assembly and meetings with Bulgarian politicians.
President Zhelyu Zhelev convenes the Consultative Council on National Security on October 3 to coordinate the position of the state institutions on Bulgaria's non-exclusion from the EU visa blacklist, as well as on COCOM's successor, the New Forum organization.
American economist Richard Rahn, the author of a blueprint for Bulgaria's economic growth and transition to a market economy, today met Prof. Ivan Angelov, Head of the Prime Minister's economic team, Industry Minister Kliment Vouchev, and Energy Committee Chairman Konstantin Roussinov. Rahn will also meet bankers, businessmen and financiers. In an interview with Radio Express he said he would keep complaining to the Bulgarian government and the media about this country's inadequate tax policies, corruption and the slow pace of privatization.
A delegation of the Greek Navy headed by Vice Admiral Ioannis Stangas, Chief of the Naval Staff, will be visiting the Black Sea city of Varna from October 2 to 5.
Solomon Pasi, President of the Atlantic Club in Sofia, and political scientist Ivan Krustev today left for Canada to attend a session of the International Association of Atlantic Civilian Structures, the Club's press office said. The Canadian Atlantic Association is hosting the 41st session from October 3 to 10. Krustev will deliver a lecture on Bulgaria's road to NATO.
The mayors of nine Bulgarian municipalities signed a petition for the construction of a second bridge over the Danube River between Vidin (Western Bulgaria) and Calafat (Romania). The mayors of municipalities between the Danube and the Greek border (Vidin, Montana, Belogradchik, Dimovo, Blagoevgrad, Doupnitsa, Petrich, Sandanski, and Sofia) said it would be against the national interests and Bulgaria's integration into the EU to build the bridge between Belene (roughly in the middle of the Bulgarian section of the river) and Cioara, they claimed. Bulgaria and Romania are divided over the choice of a site for the second bridge. The existing bridge connects Rousse and Giurgiu and Romania insists that the second one should also span the lower reaches of the Danube.
Up to 20% of Bulgaria's biggest oil refinery Neftochim will be sold in mass privatization, "24 Chassa" quotes the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Development Roumen Gechev as saying. The paper says the list of companies to be sold will be discussed today and deposited for debates in Parliament Wednesday.
According to Gechev, quoted on the front page of "Douma", Neftochim may be dropped from the list on expert appeals. The draft mass privatization list includes 200 to 250 companies and banks with a total capital of 100,000 million leva, "24 Chassa" writes. According to well-informed sources quoted by the paper, large tourist facilities, such as the Albena and Golden Sands resorts, will also be put on the list.
The Greek Flamingo company collected a $ 600,000 insurance from the German Nordstern Colony Hellas insurance company after successfully staging the theft of a TIR-truck carrying 20 million leva-worth of goods on Bulgarian territory, the "Pari" financial and business news daily writes on its first page. According to this daily, this became known after the closing of the case on the theft several days ago in the town of Sandanski (Southwestern Bulgaria) because of lack of evidence of a perpetrated crime after all witnesses withdrew their previous evidence that the goods were burnt on the night of December 19, 1993.