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News from Bulgaria / Feb 2, 96

From: (Embassy of Bulgaria)

Bulgarian Telegraph Agency Directory



2 February, 1996













    Sofia, February 1 (BTA) - "I consider President Zhelev's assessments of the Cabinet's one year performance incorrect," MP Alexander Lilov of the group of the ruling coalition and head of the Centre for Strategic Studies of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) said in the lobby of the National Assembly. The statement was made in connection with yesterday's news conference given by the head of state in the Boyana residence, at which Mr Zhelev lashed severe criticism at the Government of the Democratic Left coalition (the BSP, the Alexander Stamboliiski Bulgarian Agrarian National Union and the Eco-Glasnost Political Club). "Some of the facts which Dr Zhelev cited are true and I support them, but his estimates are biased and pursue opportunistic goals in connection with the forthcoming presidential elections (at the end of this year or the beginning of 1997)," Mr Lilov specified. He said that he does not believe the news conference will have the effect of the news conference in 1992 and result in the resignation of the Government and of Parliament Chairman Blagovest Sendov. (In August, 1992 at a similar conference President Zhelev took to task the government of the now opposition Union of Democratic Forces which fell from power the same year.) "There is still much to do in the combat against crime and in the Cabinet's economic policy," Alexander Lilov said. In his view general conclusions are not to be drawn from certain failures, because the country needs an efficient, yet stable government. "The President listed facts which the UDF has long found out," UDF Deputy Chairman Peter Stoyanov commented before reporters after Mr Zhelev's news conference at the Boyana residence. In his view this is but a belated response, because the Bulgarian opposition already stirred up the public discontent by calling a vote of no confidence in the Government over the grain crisis. Despite its defeat at the beginning of the month, in his view the motion had a significant political effect. "The key political force, which is struggling with the BSP is not the President but the UDF," UDf floor leader Yordan Sokolov said. "To my mind the statements in the President's speech need some comment, because they cannot be left unanswered. I am going to provide such a comment one of the following days and make it public," Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski commented for BTA. "President Zhelev's statements against the Government produced the opposite effect," Krustyo Petkov, leader of the trade union amalgamation Confederation of Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB) said at a news conference in Pazardjik (Southern Bulgaria), BTA's local correspondent reported. Mr Petkov assessed the President's news conference as poor and declared that 80 per cent of Mr Zhelev's accusations were based on former statements of trade union leaders. In Mr Petkov's view, the opposition will have to introduce a justified motion of no confidence in the Cabinet over its social policy, rather than over the fictitious grain crisis, Mr Petkov.


    Sofia, February 1 (BTA) - Concerting the efforts of the institutions for preventing incidents in the army resulting in loss of life was the key issue discussed at a meeting at the President's Office today. President Zhelyu Zhelev (who is also Supreme Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces), Prosecutor General Ivan Tatarchev, Chief of General Staff of the Bulgarian Army Colonel General Tsvetan Totomirov and the acting Prosecutor of the Armed Forces Colonel Nikolai Kolev took part in the meeting, Chief of the President's Military Office Major General Stefan Dimitrov told reporters. On the agenda were also some other issues, concerning discipline in the army. Colonel General Totomirov said the meeting raised the problem of thefts of weapons, ammunition and other military equipment in the army. "The number of incidents in the Bulgarian Army has gone down from 1995 but discipline in army units is still not up to the requirements," Chief of General Staff said. He voiced hope that the military investigative authorities, the prosecution and the court will do their best and act faster and more efficiently. According to Colonel General Totomirov, this will provide the strongest barrier to abuses and hazing in the army. We shall be more assiduous and diligent in our actions, acting Prosecutor General of the Armed Forces Colonel Nikolai Kolev told reporters. He declined to specify the number of crimes in the army, claiming that this is a state secret. After the meeting Prosecutor General Tatarchev stayed with the President to discuss certain issues not directly connected to the army problems. According to Mr Tatarchev they discussed the grain crisis in Bulgaria, the inquiry which the Prosecutor General's office is to make in connection with it and the measures that will be taken in connection with the Orion group. Press reports linked the Orion group to some aides of Prime Minister Zhan Videnov. At a news briefing at the beginning of the year and during question time in Parliament the Prime Minister denied the claims that the officials, cited by the press, are running private business. "I do not expect that the investigation on the death of the 14 conscripts (on August 11, 1995 in a car accident near Sofia) will have any positive results," Prosecutor General said after his today's meeting with the President. In his view the expertise conclusions on the case and the evidence collected so far suggest that legal proceedings might not be instituted. Mr Tatarchev believes that there was no shooting at the truck in which the conscripts died (which is the conclusion of the expertise, according to the Military Prosecution). He said that to try and establish the truth about the incident is to be looking for a needle in a haystack.


    Sofia, February 1 (BTA) - A residence of the British Embassy in Sofia was officially opened today. The ceremony was attended by Nickolas Bonsor, British Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, who is in charge of the countries of former Yugoslavia, the Commonwealth of Independent States, Eastern Europe, America, the United Nations and international economic relations. The program of Bonsor's two-day official visit envisages meetings with President Zhelyu Zhelev, Prime Minister Zhan Videnov and Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski. Today Bonsor was received by Ivan Kostov, Leader of the Union of Democratic Forces.


    Sofia, February 1 (BTA) - At a closed sitting today the Council of Ministers discussed Bulgarian policy pursuing regional stabilization, regional security and cooperation. The ministers heard reports by Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Regional Development and Construction Doncho Konakchiev. Discussions will continue at a Cabinet's extraordinary sitting tomorrow.

    The Government adopted new minimum purchase prices of tobacco of the 1996 harvest. The prices depend on the type and origin of the tobacco. Purchase price of the Burley type was set at 90 leva/kg and that of the Djebel type, at 247 leva/kg. This compares with 71.50 leva/kg and 214 leva/kg, respectively, in 1995. The Cabinet decided that additional premiums be paid to tobacco growers from the Tobacco fund. At present the fund has about 300 million leva. This year the fund's capital is expected to add up to 1,000 million leva.

    The Cabinet approved an agreement between the Bulgarian and Swiss governments on the debt for environment deal signed in October 1995. The agreement will be submitted to Parliament for ratification. The Government proposed to the MPs to ratify the convention on the establishment of an European Telecommunications Satellite Organization, EUTELSAT, opened for signature in December 1982. The necessary funds for Bulgaria's accession to the organization will be provided by the national budget. The suggestion for the ratification was introduced by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Territorial Development and Construction Doncho Konakchiev who said that Bulgaria's enter into EUTELSAT will promote the process of this country's integration into the European telecommunication structures.

    On the motion of Transport Minister Stamen Stamenov the Government approved a memorandum to the air transport agreement between Bulgaria and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY). Under the memorandum national carriers will have the right to sell air services and maintain representation offices in the other country.

    The Cabinet approved a draft program for cooperation in the field of education and science between Bulgaria and FRY. The program envisages promotion of mutually beneficial relations in art, mass media, sports, etc.

    The Council of Ministers approved a draft agreement on the transfer of sentenced persons between Bulgaria and FRY. Justice Minister Mladen Chervenyakov was authorized to conduct the negotiations and sign the agreement.

    The Government gave its consent for the establishment of an honorary consulate of Australia in Bulgaria and for the appointment of Bulgarian citizen Indiana Trifonova as honorary consul.


    Sofia, February 1 (BTA) - Today the Council of Ministers approved a state bank for investments and development bill. The bill provides the establishment of a new financial institution which will promote small and private business. The Parliament is expected to pass it in March or April and the bank, to start operating in the autumn.

    Under the bill the new bank's principal goal will be to extend soft-term loans to small and medium-size enterprises. The bank will not pay profits tax. The funds from the accumulated profit will be contributed to a special fund which will finance new projects. The bill provides that the loans be not directly extended by the state bank but by commercial banks selected by it.

    The establishment of a state bank for reconstruction and development is necessitated by the fact that there is no specialized lending institution in the country designed to promote private and small business, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Development Roumen Gechev said. The existing State Fund for Reconstruction and Development does not perform these functions as it finances only large industrial enterprises. In drafting the bill experts drew from the experience of similar banks in Germany and a number of Central and East European countries.

    Under the bill the new lending institution should have a start-up capital of 500 million leva which is expected to increase up to 2,000 million leva. The Council of Ministers will hold 70 percent of the bank's shares and the other 30 percent will be offered to Bulgarian juristic persons and foreign investors. The PHARE program will extend a grant aid of the worth of five million Ecu for the state bank's start. The German Kreditantstaltfuer Wiederaufbau and Ausgleichsbank are showing interest towards the future bank.


    Sofia, February 1 (BTA) - An illicit business bill which the Government approved today provides for stiff penalties to merchants which and who come under its terms. "The Profiteering Control Act, adopted in April 1990, failed to help limit speculative economic activity in this country. This necessitated the drafting of a new, more efficient statute meeting present-day requirements," Justice Minister Mladen Chervenyakov said. The bill identifies fifteen forms of illicit business, unlike the effective Profiteering Control Act which only lists four. Carrying on business without due commercial, tax or other registration, carrying on business without due licence, selling excisable goods without excise revenue stamps, investing abroad without permission of the central bank and the Ministry of Finance are among the violations of economic and financial legislation punishable under the bill. It covers the most typical, highly significant and socially dangerous offences. Verification of compliance with the law is to be entrusted to the tax administration and state financial control authorities of the Ministry of Finance, as well as to the National Police Force of the Interior Ministry. Those who engage in illicit business will face fines ranging from 500,000 to 5 million leva, pecuniary penalties, confiscation of the goods involved and two-year suspension of conduct of licensed business.


    Sofia, February 1 (BTA) - At a special news conference, called to sum up the performance of the Ministry of the Interior in 1995, Interior Minister Lyubomir Nachev said today that in 1996 his Ministry will focus on bringing street crime under control so as to overcome public fear and the sense of insecurity and defencelessness in people. Among the priorities in the Ministry's work in 1996, Mr Nachev listed "a crackdown on the economic foundations of organized crime, safeguarding of the national balances and the privatization process, establishment and enhancement of interaction and coordination with the judicial authorities and the other state and public institutions concerned with crime control." According to the Interior Minister, it is just as imperative to work out a national programme and create a state-cum-public system for crime control. In 1995 political confrontation at the institutional level prevented the framing of a national policy of all powers and, hence, of a stable policy of the Interior Ministry, Mr Nachev said. He told reporters that tangible prerequisites are already available for halting the crisis in the Ministry, and this gives grounds to outline the parameters of a U-turn in the efforts to protect the country's national security, efficiently counter crime and maintain public order. An analysis shows that the work done in 1995 started the stabilization in the Interior Ministry and the efficient operation in its various areas of responsibility, the Minister said. He argued that the escalation of mass crime was brought under control last year, and a 7.5 per cent reduction of the crime rate and a 2.4 per cent increase of the clear-up rate from 1994 was achieved. Positive results were also achieved in countering white- collar and organized crime: 5.4 per cent more economic crimes were solved than in 1994, and rings smuggling narcotics, weapons, stolen cars, cultural property, antiques and people were broken. Drug seizures totalled 278 kg, the Minister said. Four Interior Ministry officers were killed and 39 injured in the line of duty in 1995. At the same time, Mr Nachev admitted that negative tendencies have not been entirely contained. "We have inadequately covered the factors, tendencies, manifestations, groups and persons which and who pose a potential and real threat to the country's internal security," the Minister observed. In his words, "the national economy is insufficiently protected against the influx of foreign capital of dubious origin, connected with money laundering, and against attempts to establish control over strategic economic sectors, inadequate control is exercised over the processes of property distribution and privatization - attempts by economic conglomerates and managers have been detected to wilfully depreciate productive assets with a view to bankruptcy and subsequent realization at giveway prices, as well as illegal transfer of capital from state-owned to private companies." Countering organized crime also leaves much to be desired, and inadequate efforts are made to fight corruption at all levels, Mr Nachev said. He put the number of contract murders committed in Bulgaria at 16 and described the solving of one of them by the police as a "success." Answering a reporter's question, the Interior Minister said that Prime Minister Videnov had not misplaced his confidence by choosing him for the job, adding that he is not quite pleased with what he managed to do in 1995. Mr Nachev said that at a private meeting today the Cabinet dismissed Major General Milcho Bengarski as secretary of the Interior Ministry. General Bengarski was in charge of the National Police Force and the Interior Ministry Troops. No efficient measures for improvement of the operation of the two Interior Ministry divisions were adopted under his direction, the Ministers found. No successor to General Bengarski has been appointed.


    Sofia, February 1 (BTA) - "We discussed the possibilities for learning more about each other within the framework of the Partnership for Peace plan and for future cooperation between the Bulgarian engineer battalion and the Dutch contingent in IFOR operating in the former Yugoslavia," Defence Minister Dimiter Pavlov told a news conference at his return from the Hague today. Minister Pavlov led a military delegation on an official visit to the Netherlands from January 30 through February 1. The Dutch Minister of Defence, Joris Voorhoeve, informed his Bulgarian counterpart that he had raised the question of rendering assistance to the Bulgarian engineer battalion for its participation in IFOR before NATO Secretary General Javier Solana. Mr Voorhoeve promised to speak with the defence ministers of Great Britain and the United States as well.

    The Bulgarian and the Dutch defence ministers reached an agreement on sending a Bulgarian officer to the blue helmets training centre in the Netherlands. Later the officer would help set up such a centre in Bulgaria.

    On the last day of his visit to the Netherlands Defence Minister Pavlov had a meeting with Jan Gmelich Meijling, Secretary of State for Defence and members of the defence committee with the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament. The sides exchanged views on the principles in the selection, financing, support and management of peacekeepers. Reforms in the Bulgarian army and the armed forces of the Netherlands were also discussed. The Bulgarian Defence Minister presented Bulgaria's position on integration with the European Union, NATO and the Western European Union. He stated that the casual and unjustified inclusion of Bulgaria in the EU blacklist and the visa requirements obstruct its contacts with the EU Bulgaria had applied for full membership in.


    Sofia, February 1 (BTA) - "In the nearest future the National Assembly should come up with a declaration on Bulgaria's membership in NATO," National Assembly Chairman Blagovest Sendov told a news conference today. He stated that the issue about NATO was not on the agenda of his talks with Prime Minister Zhan Videnov before his visit to Moscow last week. Sendov stressed that he was in Russia on an unofficial visit in connection with a mathematical congress.

    On Tuesday the national dailies quoted reports by Russia's Itar- Tass news agency and the press office of the Russian Embassy in Sofia that at their meeting Yeltsin and Sendov agreed that there was no need for NATO's enlargement eastwards. The parliamentary opposition issued a declaration saying that Sendov's statements in Moscow contradict the stance taken by the Grand National Assembly and the 36th National Assembly on Bulgaria's integration in the Euro-Atlantic structures.

    Yesterday the Parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee gave a hearing behind close doors to Parliament Chairman Blagovest Sendov who was asked to clarify his statements. Opposition MPs of the committee said that Sendov denied the press reports. 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.

    "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 yesterday.

    Sendov said that he had met Boris Yeltsin to coordinate the forthcoming visit of Bulgarian Prime Minister Zhan Videnov to Russia, specifying that besides holding the presidency, Yeltsin heads the executive. He expressed satisfaction with the preparation of Videnov's visit. Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski will soon pay a visit to Russia for the same purpose.

    The Parliament Chairman noted the importance of the forthcoming talks between Videnov and Yeltsin for eliminating the current trade and economic discrimination of Bulgaria. This country is in much more unfavourable position, compared with Romania and Turkey for example, for its goods are charged with high duties and taxes, Sendov stated. This increases the prices of the Bulgarian products offered on the Russian market, he added.

    The expressed views on NATO were nothing more than usual exchange of opinions, Sendov stated. "After the meeting with Yeltsin neither of us made official statements," he elaborated. Sendov said that yesterday's statement of Russian Ambassador Avdeyev makes things clear. Next Tuesday Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski will be heard by the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Policy. Then the opposition Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) will judge whether Sendov made such a statement deliberately, UDF representatives told a news conference today.


    Sofia, February 1 (BTA) - The second-reading debates of the 1996 Budget Bill started today. The Bill topped Parliament's agenda this week on a motion by the Socialist-led parliamentary group, the Democratic Left. Several motions by the opposition Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) for live broadcasts of the debates were rejected. The Parliamentary Budgetary and Finance Committee completed its work on the Bill on Wednesday and it was discussed by the Democratic Left, Prime Minister Zhan Videnov and Finance Minister Dimiter Kostov.

    Committee Chairman Kiril Zhelev today read Article One, Revenues and Expenditure, as well as motions by MPs and the Committee. The latter suggested an increase on both sides by less than one percentage point and an increase in the deficit by 1,500 million leva.

    At its meeting yesterday, the Budgetary and Finance Committee approved a decision that commercial banks with prevailing state interest will service the national budget and municipal budgets, as well as state-financed organizations and transactions of the Social Security Fund. Opposition MPs of the Budgetary and Finance Committee took a stand against separating the banks into state-owned and private ones.

    The Committee allocated funds from the budget to finance the supply of Bulgarian goods and services for the elimination of balance deficits in transferable roubles with member-states of the former COMECON in 1996. The aim of the proposal is to encourage the Bulgarian producers who will receive the funds.

    The 1996 National Budget Bill was approved at a first reading debate late last year after three-day heated discussions in Parliament. For the first time in the past few years, the Bill was submitted to the National Assembly before the start of the new year. The Bill was passed by a vote of 120 to 88; those who voted against were opposition MPs of the UDF, Popular Union, Movement for Rights and Freedoms and four independent MPs.

    The cabinet-sponsored Bill sets GDP growth at 3 per cent on the basis of a 20 per cent markup of consumer goods and decreasing inflation. The Bill envisages an average annual exchange rate of 80 leva to the dollar.

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