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News from Bulgaria / Feb 09, 96

From: (Embassy of Bulgaria)

Bulgarian Telegraph Agency Directory



9 February, 1996










    Sofia, February 8 (BTA) - Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev and Prime Minister Zhan Videnov met today to discuss the invalidation of the local election results in Kurdjali, an area in Southern Bulgaria with ethnically mixed population. The meeting was attended by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Construction and Territorial Development Doncho Konakchiev. The Kurdjali elections were also discussed at a meeting of Dr. Zhelev with the deputy leader of the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), Georgi Purvanov, and Socialist floor leader Krassimir Premyanov.

    Prime Minister Videnov said after the meeting the government will make sure that the new local elections in Kurdjali are organized by the letter of the law, and will avoid the discrediting of this country before the international community. Local elections were scheduled in Kurdjali after the district court on Monday invalidated the results of the vote on October and November last year. The results of the election, won by Rasim Musa of the ethnic Turks' Movement for Rights and Freedoms, were voided because the court found the law has been violated.

    Videnov said the stability of the local government in Kurdjali and the whole country depends on the government, irregardless of the political jolts. He also said he expects wise behavior from the political forces, which, according to him, have no right to torpedo the local government, no matter what the motives are. According to him, the state has to date behaved perfectly, both from domestic and from international point of view. He said further that President and Prime Minister agree fully on these matters.

    At the meeting with the Prime Minister, Dr. Zhelev brought to the fore the question about the normal functioning of the local administration and the financing of state-financed institutions, said Ivailo Trifonov, head of the President's Office. He said guarantees were given on behalf of the government that it will do its best to ensure the timely payment of subsidies to the Kurdjali municipality to avoid additional social tension. Dr. Zhelev reportedly voiced concern over the possibility of the political confrontation and tension in the process of elections to acquire ethnic character.

    Zhelev expressed similar concern at his meeting with the BSP leaders. According to Trifonov, the President stressed that the political forces should perpetuate the pattern of ethnic relationships by which Bulgaria set an example in the Balkans in the last six years - a point on which all participants in the meeting agreed. Zhelev expressed his conviction that the political forces will find the will and wisdom to hold democratic elections in Kurdjali.

    Purvanov and Premyanov put forward an initiative to hold a meeting of the political forces in Kurdjali to discuss the atmosphere of the election campaign, seek a constructive approach and consider the pattern of political administration of the municipality. "The general impression is that the situation in Kurdjali is calm and there are no grounds to expect violations of public order. There is no threat to ethnic peace in Kurdjali," Purvanov said.

    On Monday MRF leader Ahmed Dogan referred to an end to ethnic peace. "Ahmed Dogan's political conduct is secondary in the context of developments in Bulgaria and these ambitions do not seem justified to me," Prime Minister Videnov said, answering a question about Dogan's statement that the MRF would take a hard line towards the Government.

    At a meeting on Wednesday the Movement's top leadership discussed protest actions against the court ruling that voided the mayoral election in Kurdjali. A declaration was adopted, stating that "the MRF will resist the pressure exerted by the Socialist Party on the judiciary and will defend the rule of law by all lawful means". The document says that mayors elected on the MRF list should be ready to resign if the Movement's leaders or an upcoming national conference asks them to do so.

    The mayors, deputy mayors and councillors in Kroumovgrad municipality (Southern Bulgaria), elected on the MRF list, today announced they would call a token strike on February 10. They said they would resign should the MRF leadership deem necessary.

    On Wednesday President Zhelev discussed the invalidation of the election results with MRF leaders including Rasim Musa. The President's press office said that Zhelev, "mindful of the supremacy of the law, voiced concern over the power vacuum in Kurdjali".

    The opposition Union of Democratic Forces and Popular Union have not asked for a meeting with Zhelev and nor will he ask them, Trifonov told BTA. He added that the President will hold such meetings should this be in the interests of peace in Bulgaria.


    Sofia, February 8 (BTA) - In an extensive article contributed to the daily of the ruling Socialist Party "Douma," Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski today rejects the criticism levelled by President Zhelev at the foreign policy of the Cabinet in connection with the completion of its first year in office. Mr Pirinski's article is built on quotations from Dr Zhelev's news conference concerning the foreign policy of the Socialist Government, juxtaposed with facts on achievements and statements and assessments by leaders of world organizations and foreign ministers of other countries and quotations from documents. Mr Pirinski does not agree with the President's observation that the Government is pursuing a deliberate policy of Bulgaria's isolation. The Foreign Minister quotes UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali as saying in a BTA interview in January 1996 that "thanks to the great efforts of your people and the reforms carried out by the Government and the new foreign policy, Bulgaria is assuming a new important role in the international community." Mr Pirinski also cites specific facts about Bulgaria's relations with a number of international organizations. Negotiations on Bulgaria's accession to the World Trade Organization are in an intensive phase, a plan has been coordinated on Bulgaria's removal from the EU "visa blacklist," Bulgaria has enlisted the support of almost all countries for its inclusion into the New Forum (Neo-COCOM). Mr Pirinski does not believe that the President has cause for concern over "the lack of balance in the Cabinet's Balkan policy." He produces as evidence the stand expressed at the second session of the EU-Bulgaria Association Council: "The Association Council appreciated Bulgaria's determination to pursue regional cooperation and good-neighbour relations," noted Bulgaria's constructive role throughout the crisis in the former Yugoslavia, and welcomed its readiness to contribute to the implementation of the Dayton Agreement, including the success of the IFOR mission. Mr Pirinski also disagrees with President Zhelev's assessment that the Cabinet resents the East-West corridor. The Minister emphasizes that Bulgaria is pursuing forms of cooperation with Greece and Romania in conformity with their respective status as full and associate member of the European Union. "As it should be quite clear, this Eurocooperation is not directed against anybody, on the contrary, it is open-eneded and intended to apply the EU practices and modalities to regional cooperation in Southeastern Europe as a whole," the chief Bulgarian diplomat writes. Nor does Mr Pirinski accept the President's opinion that "with its encroachments in foreign policy the Government is tacitly seeking to shift Bulgaria's foreign- policy orientation and priority." The Minister recalls that in May 1995 the Bulgarian Government approved three parallel and equal areas of action for search of external guarantees of Bulgaria's national security according to the "security through integration and cooperation" formula: association and membership of the EU, associate partnership with the WEU, and active involvement in Partnership for Peace, dialogue and cooperation with NATO. Mr Pirinski dismisses as groundless the President's allegation that some Cabinet members are trimming but are actually bound to "fall between two stools" (Dr Zhelev made this observation, answering a question about the East- West corridor and what Russia thinks about it). The Foreign Minister emphasizes that the Government is consistently trying to advance the country's national interests and to apply single and sufficiently clear principles of bilateral relations to all external partners. "At the start of the second year of the Government's four-year term, we have good reason to believe that this approach is being reciprocated and is seen as a sound basis for vigorous promotion of bilateral and multilateral relations." Mr Pirinski writes, citing the opinion of US President Bill Clinton and former Russian foreign minister Andrei Kozyrev. Mr Pirinski also dispels the President's suspicions that BSP has given up the independent foreign policy which Bulgaria has been pursuing since 1990. Wrapping up his article for "Douma," Mr Pirinski stresses that "this is not any way for the President and the Government to conduct a dialogue on foreign policy matters for one simple and incontrovertible reason: such grossly politicizied invectives do direct harm to Bulgaria's international positions and national interests."


    Sofia, February 8 (BTA) - The Cabinet today set the days in 1996 when religions other than Orthodox Christianity celebrate religious festivals, namely, Muslims, Jews, the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church and some other Christian denominations. Under the Labour Code celebrants are entitled to leave of absence. The holidays of the White Brotherhood, followers of world-famous Peter Dunov, are also listed in the Cabinet's decision.

    The Cabinet adopted decrees on international matters. It proposed to Parliament to ratify an Agreement on the establishing of an international institute of development law (training lawyers and economists in international law), signed in Rome last November.

    The ratification of the European Agreement on Applications for Legal Aid is pending. It provides for legal aid to persons who satisfy financial eligibility conditions in any state that has signed the Agreement. The Council of Ministers will propose to Parliament to ratify the Agreement as the next step towards the approximation of Bulgarian and European law, says a Government press release.

    The Cabinet adopted decrees pledging that Bulgaria will meet its obligations under free trade agreements with the Czech Republic and Slovakia, ratified by Parliament last week. The documents set a relaxed customs regime for certain commodity groups.

    The Cabinet approved bilateral draft agreements on the avoidance of double taxation between Bulgaria and Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina. Negotiations are forthcoming. The Cabinet decided in principle to open a Bulgarian Embassy in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo.

    The Cabinet approved a report on the state of the environment in Bulgaria in 1994, based on National Statistical Institute figures published last October. Overall, the environment was in a satisfactory but unstable condition, which may deteriorate in the process of economic recovery and increase in production, Deputy Environment Minister Botyo Zaharinov told the press.

    The Cabinet gave permission for an unofficial call at the Black Sea port of Varna by the Dutch warship Van Amstell with a crew of 180 on March 11-14. The crew will be relaxing. The Government press office said the call will be made under a Bulgarian-Dutch military cooperation agreement signed this year.


    Sofia, February 8 (Vanya Ivanova of BTA) - A financial official failing to inform the Interior Ministry bodies of a shady financial or banking deal will be liable to pay 500,000 to 2 million leva in fines. When a bank or any other institution fails to do so, the fine goes up to 1-5 million leva. These are some of the penalties provided for by the Money Laundering Control Bill the cabinet approved today. The Bill seeks to get involved in the prevention and detecting of money laundering banks, insurers and investment companies, bodies and persons competent on privatization and the arrangement of tenders for awarding state orders.

    The Bill introduces the term "money laundering" for all cases of transferring and funnelling of property known to be of criminal origin; assisting persons involved in the original crime; covering up the criminal origin of such property; and possessing and using property known to have been acquired through, or in connection with a crime.

    Adopting such a law is an international legal obligation for Bulgaria. It stems from this country's accession to the Council of Europe Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime, Justice Minister Mladen Chervenyakov said today. The Convention was ratified by Parliament in April 1993 and took effect in October 1993.

    The Bill will apply to cases in which the original crime is not in Bulgaria's jurisdiction, and the measures it provides for will be obligatory for offices of foreign legal persons registered in Bulgaria.

    The Justice Minister said there is a total of some USD 500,000 million dirty money circulated worldwide for which ways are sought to be laundered. The Bill places the employees of the institutions listed above under the obligation to identify their clients for all transactions worth over 1.5 million leva. They should have the passport data of all natural persons and the memorandum of association and registration data of all legal persons. Traders will be expected to submit a tax return. Records shall be kept for 5 years.

    When money laundering is suspected, the competent bodies of the Interior Ministry should be informed before, or when this is impossible immediately after, the transaction or deal is effected. In such cases the person who has tipped off the competent bodies will not be held liable for damages incurred as a result of the delay or failure of the deal. A special provision in the Bill envisages that chiefs of banks and partnerships to which the Bill applies, launch training programmes so that their employees be able to identify deals used for money laundering.

    The Bill also envisages that a special service be set up with the Interior Ministry to store, analyze and process information collected under the Bill.

    Justice Minister Chervenyakov said he has received a letter from the Association of Commercial Banks stating its approval for the Bill. "It is inadmissible to use the bank confidentiality as an excuse for failing to stand by our commitments under international accords," said Chervenyakov.

    The Bill is accompanied by draft amendments to the Penal Code. They introduce three new articles - 215A, 250 and 294A that incriminate activities impeding the establishment of the origin of property, and the identifying and seizure of property known to be of criminal origin. Involvement in cases of proceeds from narcotics, explosives, arms and ammunitions carries a 2 to 8 years prison service and 10,000 to 50,000 leva fine. A crime involving two or more perpetrators carries 3 to 10 years imprisonment and 30,000 to 200,000 leva fine. The penalty for sizable proceeds is 5 to 15 years prison service and 50,000 to 500,000 leva fine. The preparation of the above crimes carries a 2-year prison service.

    The adoption of the draft law and amendments is consistent with the recommendations of the multilateral task force for the prevention of money laundering, the 1988 Basel declaration setting forth the principles of bank supervision and the European Union directives on this matter, said the Justice Minister.


    Sofia, February 8 (Ekaterina Kazassova of BTA) - Parliament passed the 1996 National Budget Act at an extraordinary session today. By 135 votes "for", 45 "against" and five abstentions the MPs passed the macroeconomic framework of the 1996 budget. The Budget Act sets revenues at 250,149,600,000 leva and expenditures at 308,462,400,000 leva. Parliament voted for a budget deficit of 58,312,800,000. Government securities to the tune of 184,448,700,000 will be issued to finance the budget deficit. Taxes will account for the largest share of budget revenues - a total of 212,236,400,000, 83,000 million of which will be collected as VAT. Revenues from gas imports in exchange for Bulgarian interest in the Yamburg gas field are expected to exceed 8,000 million leva. The budget allocates some 46,500 million leva to defence and security. Expenditures on interest payments are set at 121,800 million leva, the main part of which will be interest on internal debts - 88,600 million. The budget allocates 33,000 million leva to foreign debt interest payments. The budget estimates were made on the basis of an up to 20% growth in consumer prices and an average annual exchange rate of the US dollar around 80%. It provides for a 3% GDP growth from 1995.

    According to economists in Parliament, the main risks for the budget lie in the state of the banking system and possible unplanned expenditures on its stabilization. The national budget is an admissible compromise between the needs of society and the means available for meeting them and reflects the actual state of the economy, members of the parliamentary Budget Committee said. However, it does not satisfy the demands of a single government-financed public system or organization.

    Criticism of the budget is related mainly to the fact that its revenues side is not based on operative laws alone but bound to the passing of new acts. Its revenues side has been reduced, opposition MPs claim. Against a projected inflation of 20%, the revenues side has been increased by only 15% from 1995. This is a way of guaranteeing the implementation of the revenues side of the budget, they explained. Vassil Mihailov of the opposition Union of Democratic Forces described the budget as wishful thinking. According to him, the reduced allocations to the land reform prove that the left-wing does not wish to return the land to its former owners.

    This is the first time in five years that the national budget has been passed at the beginning of the calendar year. According to left- wing MPs the proposed uninflationary model for funding the budget will guarantee real progress of the economy.


    Sofia, February 8 (BTA) - Cooperation in military technology between Bulgaria and France was on the agenda of the talks between Bulgarian Deputy Defence Minister Dimiter Mitkov and Army General Jean-Filippe Douegne, Chief of General Staff of France's Armed Forces in Sofia today. Douegne is on a three-day official visit to Bulgaria at the invitation of Colonel General Tsvetan Totomirov, Chief of General Staff of the Bulgarian Army.

    The start of military cooperation between the two countries dates from 1992 when they signed an agreement on the establishment of a Mixed Military Committee. The goal of the Committee is to work out annually concrete activities for cooperation between the two armies. Since 1992 Bulgarian officers attend French service training establishments every year.

    At today's meeting concrete initiatives were mapped out in the filed of national security and personnel training. The participants decided to exchange visits of land forces units.

    Deputy Minister Mitkov familiarized the guest with Bulgaria's desire to build up a filed hospital in Bosnia and make available the facilities of the Bulgarian Academy of Military Medicine.


    Sofia, February 8 (Ekaterina Kazassova of BTA) - Following three hours of debates, Parliament today rejected a motion for the dismissal of National Assembly Chairman Blagovest Sendov. The 64- year old Sendov, who celebrates his birthday today, kept his office after a secret ballot in which the dismissal motion was defeated by 124 votes to 92.

    The draft decision for Sendov's dismissal was introduced at Parliament yesterday with a sign-in backed by 81 MPs of all opposition forces in Parliament. The procedure was fully in compliance with the parliamentary rules which envisage that the filing of a motion to that effect requires the support of one-third of the 240 MPs sitting in Parliament.

    The motives for the draft decision, introduced by the floor leader of the opposition Union of Democratic Forces Yordan Sokolov, rest on major provisions of the Constitution and the parliamentary rules of procedure. Sendov was accused of committing a gross violation of the Constitution with the statements he made during a meeting with Russian President Boris Yeltsin, and his behavior during a visit in Moscow last month. Sendov was on a private visit to Moscow to attend a conference on mathematics, when he was invited to a meeting with the Russian President.

    In a dispatch on the meeting, the Russian side said Sendov expressed support for Yeltsin's view that there is no need for NATO's expansion to the East and that NATO membership is not the only way for this country to ensure its security. Back in Bulgaria, Sendov several times was asked to account for his statement but the opposition saw his explanations as inconsistent. At the same time Sofia-based Russian Ambassador Alexander Avdeev told the Bulgarian press that the Russian side has misreported Sendov's statement.

    What Sendov said contradicts documents adopted by the Bulgarian Parliament: a declaration of December 21, 1993, and a decision of December 1, 1995, both stating this country's aspirations to full integration into the European and North Atlantic structures, read the motives for the dismissal. Furthermore, they say, Sendov violated the parliamentary rules envisaging that he make statements and express views in his capacity as Chairman only when he has been explicitly mandated by the National Assembly to do so, or when he expresses views enshrined in documents adopted by the National Assembly.

    Bulgarian politics should be made in Sofia, not in Moscow, said the leader of the opposition Radical Democratic Party, Alexander Yordanov. He accused the National Assembly Chairman of aiding forces that seek confrontation with Europe.

    The MPs of the ruling Left refused to accept the motives of the opposition. Socialist MP Velko Vulkanov said they were "frivolous and insulted the democratic institutions". He also said they displayed a poor knowledge of the constitutional law that gives the head of parliament the right to make statements on his own behalf. The chairman of the parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee, Socialist MP Nikolai Kamov, too, said the dismissal motion was unjustified and its aim was transparent. This view is shared by Socialist floor leader Krassimir Permyanov who said the motion had aims that did not facilitate the pursuing of a constructive and persistent policy.

    The debates evolved into a controversy pro and con future NATO membership, ending up with the opposition accusing the ruling Left of failing to express a clear and unequivocal stand on the matter.

    Blagovest Sendov is considered one of the likely presidential candidates of the socialists. Prior to his Moscow visit, analysts said he stood tangible chances to succeed. The press said his Russian visit and the meeting with the Russian President were meant to be the spring board to a vigorous presidential campaign. There were, however, speculations that circles inside the Socialist Party are working to foil Sendov's candidacy. Views to that effect were voiced today by MPs of the opposition, who believe the Moscow gaffe was a trap set to get Sendov out of the presidential race. Socialist floor leader Premyanov, too, linked the attacks of the opposition against the head of Parliament with the upcoming presidential elections.

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