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News from Bulgaria / Feb 1, 96

From: (Embassy of Bulgaria)

Bulgarian Telegraph Agency Directory



February 1, 1996












    Sofia, January 31 (Evgeniya Droumeva of BTA) - President Zhelyu Zhelev criticized severely the performance of the cabinet of Prime Minister Zhan Videnov at a special news conference he called today. After making a detailed analysis of the cabinet's work, Dr. Zhelev came to the conclusion the "Bulgaria needs new democratic governance, a democratic cabinet to take in its hands the future of this country." The President spoke about "failure of the economic and social policy of the government" and "complete failure" in the counter-crime combat, and accused the cabinet of pursuing an unstable Balkan policy.

    In a 20-minute opening statement Dr. Zhelev said his criticism of the cabinet of Videnov is not meant against the leadership of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) that Prime Minister Videnov chairs, but against the cabinet that is responsible for the governance of this country. At the same time the President accused the BSP of "being unable to rule this country competently and democratically" and that "it is not developing as a Western-type democratic party, making instead a comeback to its totalitarian ideology, communist way of thinking and reflexes". "The government of the BSP is getting dangerous for Bulgaria, for its national security, national interests and future," said Dr. Zhelev.

    The news conference the President called today was long awaited by journalists and press reports started to appear last week predicting the government was sure to come under fire. Newspapers drew a parallel between today's news conference and the one in the summer in 1992 when Dr. Zhelev attacked severely the then government of the opposition Union of Democratic Forces. This was President Zhelev's third news conference focusing on domestic matters since he took office. Dr. Zhelev has earlier analyzed the performance of Videnov's cabinet - again at a news conference held last spring when the Socialist government celebrated 100 days in office - but then journalists heard only guarded criticism.

    Today Dr. Zhelev accused the government of being "a government of narrow group interests, prevented by its nature from pursuing a consistent and nationally responsible economic reform". The President reproached the government for failing to act in the sphere of the structural reform, halting the reform in banking, leaving its relations with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank unsettled, and suppressing private entrepreneurship. According to Dr. Zhelev, the cabinet's biggest failure in the economic field was foreign investment. Instead of the USD 1,200 million the cabinet pledged to attract into this country, a mere USD 120 million entered this country as foreign investment, Dr. Zhelev said adding this makes one consider the possibility of whether it is not a premeditated strategy seeking to isolate this country. The President believes that the situation in no better in agriculture and accuses the government of bringing the land reform to a halt and of allowing the "gravest grain crisis in the Bulgarian history" to happen.

    Reviewing the cabinet's performance in foreign policy, President Zhelev criticized the government for questioning the balanced Balkan policy "adopted and pursued persistently since 1990". "An overt liking for Greece at the expense of Turkey, preference for Serbia at the expense of Croatia, Bosnia and Hercegovina, Macedonia and Albania: all this makes our Balkan policy look quite equivocal," said the President. He believes that in spite of the assurances of the cabinet that it is against all kinds of axes and arches, a conviction is taking shape in the West that the Bulgarian government is working for the establishment of a Athens- Sofia-Belgrade-Moscow Christian Orthodox axis and this might affect adversely Bulgaria's efforts for joining Europe. Asked by a journalist why his statement mentioned no achievement of the government, Dr. Zhelev said the filing of an official application for full European Union membership by Videnov's cabinet was surely an achievement. Dr. Zhelev also reproached the cabinet and the BSP for their stand as regards NATO. With their refusal to apply officially for regular NATO membership, Bulgaria is not only deprived of foreign-policy and military guarantees for its national security, but remains alone among the other former communist countries, that made a successful start in 1990, said the President.

    Answering a question by a journalist, Dr. Zhelev said his statements today are in no way connected with the launch of the presidential campaign late this or early next year. He said the official presidential campaign has not started yet, adding that today's news conference was meant to get journalists, as well as ordinary people, thinking about the government of the Left.

    Dr. Zhelev said he is ready to run in presidential primaries to name the candidate of the opposition. Dr. Zhelev, who was the first leader of the opposition Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) from late 1989 until August 1990, also said the UDF-sponsored procedure for presidential primaries is the most democratic one possible, provided that all parliamentary and extraparliamentary democratic forces are allowed to participate.


    Sofia, January 31 (BTA) - "Our cabinet has numerous and difficult problems to solve in the next few years. We have neither the time nor the wish to allocate resources to Mr Zhelev's presidential campaign," Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Development Roumen Gechev said in a televised statement tonight. The statement came in response to the news conference given by President Zhelev today at which he strongly criticized the performance of Zhan Videnov's Cabinet in the one year since its coming into office. "The President's claims are strange and in conflict with the Constitution, as if he alone determines and formulates Bulgaria's foreign policy. We refuse to perceive Bulgaria as some East- West or West-East corridor. We perceive Bulgaria as our motherland and the Cabinet is doing everything possible to win this country more friends not only in the Balkans, but also in Europe and beyond it," Gechev said, commenting on Zhelev's appraisal of the Cabinet's foreign policy. "Zhelev tried to make out that all achievements of the Left in 1995 were the result of the shock therapy practised by the Union of Democratic Forces in 1991," Gechev said, disagreeing with the President's views on the Cabinet's economic policy. Gechev said that in 1995 inflation was reduced fourfold, 130,000 jobs were created, industry posted 5 per cent growth and agriculture reported 3 to 4 per cent growth. Roumen Gechev called the President's criticisms of the structural reform "strange". "Indeed, it has not been completed yet and should be stepped up," he said. "We cannot accept the President's attempts to stymie the negotiations between the Bulgarian Government and the IMF and the World Bank. It was the IMF and the World Bank, not us, who termed 1995 the year with best economic indicators since the start of economic reform in Bulgaria," Gechev said. "I would not like to think that in what will undoubtedly be difficult talks with these international financial institutions we will have one more problem to deal with - our own President," he added.


    Sofia, January 31 (BTA) - The Parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee today approved a draft resolution obliging the Government to immediately take all necessary steps to file Bulgaria's candidacy for full membership in NATO. The draft resolution was adopted by 14 votes to 12, one abstention. It was introduced before Parliament by the opposition Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) early last October.

    "The Committee's decision is a great victory for Bulgaria because we achieved what most Bulgarians want: to join the community of free European nations," said MP of the UDF Assen Agov, Deputy Chairman of the Foreign Policy Committee.

    "To us, this Bill is unacceptable. It gives serious grounds for confrontation and our colleagues of the UDF are fully aware of this," said Committee Chairman Nikolai Kamov, MP of the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP). He believes that the Bill is far removed from the current phase of Bulgaria's relations with NATO and the offers made to this country.

    Earlier today the Foreign Policy Committee gave a hearing behind close doors to Parliament Chairman Blagovest Sendov who was asked to clarify his statements at a meeting with Russian President Boris Yeltsin in Moscow on Monday. Academician Sendov was there on an unofficial visit in connection with a mathematical congress. Opposition MPs of the Foreign Policy Committee asked Sendov to confirm or deny a report by Russia's Itar-Tass news agency and the press office of the Russian Embassy in Sofia, claiming that Yeltsin and Sendov agreed at the meeting that there was no need for NATO's enlargement eastwards.

    Nikolai Kamov told the press Sendov's statements in Moscow did not contradict Parliament's position expressed in a declaration in 1993 that Bulgaria seeks integration in the European structures. Kamov said: "I consider the matter closed. To my mind, the opposition should act in good faith which rules out reproaching the Parliament Chairmen for a position which contradicts Bulgaria's stance."

    Assen Agov said that Sendov denied the press reports. According to Sendov, Itar-Tass misinterpreted the conversation and had not been authorized to issue a communique on his meeting with Yeltsin. "Still, the gaffe cannot be denied," Agov said. UDF leader Ivan Kostov confirmed that Sendov denied the statements ascribed to him before the Committee. "I don't regret anything," Sendov said immediately after the hearing. Earlier this morning Parliament rejected a motion by the opposition for a closed-door sitting to discuss Sendov's statements in Moscow, as well as recent press reports on Kurdish terrorists based in Bulgaria.

    Before today's sitting Assen Agov posed a question to Prime Minister Zhan Videnov whether he had asked Sendov to convey a message to Boris Yeltsin and if so, whether it expressed the Prime Minister's views against NATO's enlargement eastwards.

    In Parliament the opposition - the UDF, the Popular Union, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms and three independents read a declaration on Sendov's statements in Moscow. They contradict the stance taken by the Grand National Assembly and the 36th National Assembly on Bulgaria's integration in the Euro-Atlantic structures, the opposition said. According to it, Sendov's unauthorized actions in Moscow predetermined the outcome of the substantive debate in Bulgarian society on whether this country should again become Russia's satellite or it should join the community of free European nations. The opposition claimed that Sendov's scandalous actions in Moscow proved him unfit for the second most important position in the country and that he should take full political responsibility for his actions.

    Answering a question at a news conference today President Zhelyu Zhelev said the Parliament Chairman has no right to commit Bulgaria to a certain stance without an express mandate from Parliament. Zhelev declined to comment on Sendov's statements, saying he lacked official information.

    The Parliament Chairman should not make statements on Bulgaria's stance on its integration in NATO before Parliament takes a decision, Fatherland Party of Labour leader Mincho Minchev, a former MP, told a news conference today.

    Late in 1993 Parliament adopted a declaration on Bulgaria-NATO relations, which was in favour of continuing the efforts to tap opportunities for cooperation with NATO and the Western European Union with a view to joining them in their future enlargement, granted full respect for Bulgaria's sovereign policy and national interests. Early in 1994 President Zhelev signed the Partnership for Peace (PfP) plan in Brussels and later that year Bulgaria signed a programme for individual partnership with NATO within the PfP framework.

    "I was informed by Moscow that the brief report by the Itar-Tass news agency on the meeting between President Yeltsin and Parliamentary Chairman Sendov did not fully reflect the nuances of Mr Sendov's position on the future of European security," Russian Ambassador Aleksandr Avdeyev said today.

    Boris Yeltsin voiced Russia's well-known position against NATO's enlargement eastwards. Sendov said the creation of a comprehensive system of European security through NATO's enlargement was not the only solution. Yeltsin and Sendov stressed that Russia's participation was vital to a reliable architecture of pan-European security, Ambassador Avdeyev said.


    Brussels, January 31 (BTA) - Bulgarian Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski met last night with Commissioner Mario Monti, responsible for the EU internal market, the Bulgarian mission here said in a press release. Pirinski summed up Bulgaria's achievements in implementing the major recommendations contained in the White Paper on the approximation of trade legislation, highlighting the drafting of new laws and implementing regulations.

    Pirinski laid emphasis on the visa problem which does not allow Bulgarian citizens to maintain serious business contacts with the EU.

    Monti highly praised the progress of reform in Bulgaria, specifically the macroeconomic indicators for 1995. He was fully understanding of the visa problem and stressed that Bulgaria is taking the right steps for its exclusion from the EU blacklist, the press release said.

    Pirinski also met Erkki Liikanen, Commissioner for budget, personnel and administration. The funds needed for EU enlargement and ways to prepare Bulgarian staff for their future work with the EU institutions in the context of enlargement were high on the agenda.

    Today Pirinski met Pauline Greene, leader of the Socialist MEPs.


    Sofia, January 31 (BTA) - Prime Minister Zhan Videnov today received senior Deutsche Bank official Peter Tils. Tils is visiting Bulgaria at the invitation of the Chairman of the Committee of Posts and Telecommunications Lyubomir Kolarov, the Government Press Office said.

    The Deutsche Bank official familiarized the Bulgarian Prime Minister with his positive assessment of the changes in the Bulgarian economy. They discussed the Government's privatization plans and opportunities for investment in the Bulgarian economy and expanding bilateral economic cooperation.

    Videnov briefed Tils on Bulgaria's readiness to participate in the implementation of large-scale infrastructure projects in the Balkans which would help stabilize the region in the period of postwar reconstruction. Tils was informed of opportunities opening up to market economy in Bulgaria with mass privatization.

    The Deutsche Bank official stressed the interest in the market of Bulgarian Brady (foreign-debt() bonds.

    Tils was also received by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Development Roumen Gechev.

    The two discussed opportunities for attracting German investment in the Bulgarian economy in 1996 and for joint projects in infrastructure and industry, the Government Press Office also said.

    Gechev briefed Tils on some aspects of the Government restructuring policy. The two discussed prospects to cooperation in banking and a project to set up a Bulgarian-German bank.


    Sofia, January 31 (BTA) - Today the National Assembly ratified two free trade agreements: one signed with the Czech Republic on December 15 1995, the other one signed with Slovakia on December 8 1995.

    The agreements provide for the establishment of free trade areas with the respective countries. The only difference between the two agreements is the size of the quotas for certain agricultural products and some industrial products.

    The free trade areas for industrial products will be established within a two-year transitional period. Customs duty on 81.64 percent of Bulgaria's industrial products export to the Czech republic and Slovakia and 66.7 percent of Bulgaria's industrial products import from those countries are abolished with their entry into force as from the beginning of 1996.

    The customs duty on other products will be abolished in three phases by January 1 1998 at the latest. The agreements provide for the lifting of non-tariff bariers to trade in industrial products. In accordance with the international practice, the special regulations for trade in armaments, poisonous and other harmful substances, dual use products, etc. remain in force.

    The parties to the agreements are given considerable preferences in agricultural products trade. They grant each other partial concessions for the sale of a specified number of products in 1996-1998. Additional concessions may be agreed upon in case the countries are willing to.

    The documents are a standard version of the agreements of this kind concluded by the European countries. It is close to the trade provisions contained in the Europe Agreement. The free trade agreements with the Czech Republic and Slovakia are the same signed on the Central European Free Trade Area in view of Bulgaria's accession to those structures, the parliamentary committees stated after analysing the ratification bills.

    Joint committees will follow the implementation of the agreements and will make proposals for further liberalization of trade between Bulgaria and the respective countries.

    Free trade areas will be established with Slovenia and Romania in near future. The talks on free trade with Poland and Hungary have been delayed because of Bulgaria's unsettled trade deficit, the Ministry of Trade said some time ago. Part of Bulgaria's debt to Mongolia and the former GDR is still unsettled too.


    Sofia, January 31 (BTA) - The work on the approximation of the Bulgarian legislation to that of the European Union (EU) has made good progress, Justice Minister Mladen Chervenyakov today told a news conference on the Justice Ministry's performance in 1995. Special rules related to the procedure of drafting bills and subordinate legislation have been approved on a decision by the Government, Chervenyakov said.

    Chervenyakov stressed the work of the Council on Legislation with the Ministry, which emerged as a major body in drafting the necessary bills with priority importance. In 1995 the cabinet introduced 47 bills before Parliament, of which 27 were new bills and 20 ones amending effective acts, Chervenyakov said.

    Measures were taken to improve the training of judges; the authorities made twelve inquiries in courts; the Inspectorate with the Ministry was reinstated, Chervenyakov said. In his view, legal proceedings prove to be the key problem for the judicial system and need streamlining.


    Sofia, January 31 (Ekaterina Kazassova of BTA) - The process of privatization in Bulgaria is keeping normal pace, Julie Sonders, project manager of the Consortium PHARE-European Union for Mass Privatization in Bulgaria project, said here today. Today Sonders and Chief of the Centre for Mass Privatization Kalin Mitrev unveiled before press attaches and foreign correspondents accredited to Bulgaria the programme for mass privatization and the opportunities for foreign participation in it.

    The consortium was selected at an auction by a commission which included representatives of the Centre for Mass Privatization, West European experts and PHARE officials. The consortium includes three institutions: Credit Commercial de France, one of France's biggest banks, Omniul International, a large French agency working in the field of economic and financial information and advertising, and the British Denton Hall legal firm. The consortium was set up in August 1995 and is expected to complete its work by April 30, 1996. It will provide assistance to the process of mass privatization in Bulgaria through consulting the Centre for Mass Privatization on legal issues, organizing the process and other aspects related to it, as well as providing partial funding to the privatization awareness campaign.

    Between four and five per cent of adult Bulgarians registered to take part in mass privatization in almost a month after the start of the process. The figure is considerably smaller than the projected 17 per cent, Sonders said. This is not a cause for alarm as registration for mass privatization in the Czech Republic at the start of the process was as low, she said. A total of 6.7 million adult Bulgarians are entitled to participate in the denationalization of state-run enterprises. It is expected that about 70 per cent of the people will actually take part in the process of mass privatization.

    Upwards 1,000 enterprises, or 34 per cent of the state and municipal property in Bulgaria, are put up for mass privatization. The figure is nearly three times as much as the initial projections made during the establishment of the consortium in August 1995, Sonders said. Loss makers and enterprises with unclear legal status have been struck off the list for mass privatization, she stressed.

    Denationalization in Bulgaria is different from that in the Czech Republic and Russia, where privatization started earlier than in this country. Unlike these two countries, the legal basis for privatization in Bulgaria was drawn up before the start of the process. The number of enterprises put up for privatization is nearly 14 per cent higher than that in the Czech Republic. The value of privatization vouchers is lower than that in the Czech Republic and a little higher than in Russia. Another distinctive feature of Bulgarian privatization is that pensioners, servicemen and university students pay one fifth of the price of voucher books. Orphans get their voucher books free of charge.

    Foreign investors can directly participate in mass privatization in Bulgaria through setting up of privatization funds, Sonders said. At a later stage, they will be able to trade in shares at the stock market and participate in the distribution of the new shares issued by the future owners, she said.


    Sofia, January 31 (BTA) - "I am going to propose at tomorrow's meeting of the Government that Secretary of the Interior Ministry General Mincho Bengalski in charge of the police be dismissed," Interior Minister Lyubomir Nachev said today. He motivated his move with the poor performance of the police which has not been up to the expectations of society. Before today's extended meeting of the collegium of the Interior Ministry, Minister Nachev told reporters that some senior officers at the Sofia Directorate of the Interior will also have to be replaced.

    Head of the Sofia Directorate of the Interior Colonel Kovachev will be replaced by the current head of the Counterterrorism Commando Krassimir Petrov, Mr Nachev said.

    Minister Nachev also took to task the performance of the Central Service for Organized Crime Control where he will also introduce personnel changes. There will be replacements of lower level officials in the Ministry too, the Minister said. Speaking about his resignation, Minister Nachev said that he has it in his pocket but for the time being has no intention of submitting it.

    "What the Ministry managed to do last year was cut the number of committed crimes and increase the number of the cleared ones," the Interior Minister said. Asked how he would grade the performance of his Ministry, Mr Nachev said that he is a lawyer and not a teacher and cannot give marks.

    "Within a fortnight the media will be supplied with a list of the persons whose cases are pending," Minister Nachev said. "Some of these 3,000 persons are already abroad and others have been detained. If certain responsible senior officials at the Prosecutor General's Office want the list in order to detain these persons, then why are at large Karamanski, the Baron etc.," the Minister asked, quoting the names of criminals, who are well known from the press. He gave as an example the case with the Baron, who has nine sentences on his record and is still at liberty.

    Prosecutor General Ivan Tatarchev sent a letter to Minister Nachev prompted by the list of the 3,000 criminals who are at large, Deputy Prosecutor General Vladislav Slavov said later today. In his letter Tatarchev says that he hopes to receive the list and expresses his surprise that, having such data, the Interior Ministry did not inform him about it.

    Asked about the criticisms levelled against his institution, Tatarchev told journalists that they probably are done to carry out a political order. As regards Minister Nachev's list, there was a similar list during caretaker cabinet's term; it, however, included names of deceased persons and convicted criminals, Tatarchev said.

    We do not want to talk with Minister Nachev via the press, Slavov said. If the Interior Minister has problems, he should address them to the Prosecutor General's Office, Slavov said.

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