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News from Bulgaria / Feb 22, 96

From: bulgaria@access1.digex.net (Embassy of Bulgaria)

Bulgarian Telegraph Agency Directory

EMBASSY OF THE REPUBLIC OF BULGARIA - WASHINGTON D.C.

BTA - BULGARIAN TELEGRAPH AGENCY

22 February, 1996


CONTENTS

  • [01] FOREIGN MINISTER PIRINSKI TO VISIT MOSCOW

  • [02] EU-BULGARIA JOINT PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE HOLDS SITTING

  • [03] BULGARIAN-FRENCH INDUSTRIAL PROJECTS IN PREPARATION

  • [04] GREEK PUBLIC ORDER MINISTER GITONAS ON VISIT TO SOFIA

  • [05] JANUARY JOB VACANCIES MORE THAN DOUBLE FROM DECEMBER

  • [06] PROSECUTOR GENERAL CHALLENGES DISMISSAL OF CASE AGAINST T.ZHIVKOV

  • [07] BULGARIA, BELARUS SIGN AGREEMENTS

  • [08] SOFIA, BRUSSELS FIRMS TO BUILD IN BOSNIA

  • [09] JOURNALISTS ARRESTED

  • [10] DETAINED NEWSMEN RELEASED

  • [11] BULGARIA - WORLD BANK

  • [12] ORION GROUP

  • [13] RELIGIOUS RIGHTS IN BULGARIA

  • [14] UPCOMING PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS


  • [01] FOREIGN MINISTER PIRINSKI TO VISIT MOSCOW

    Sofia, February 21 (Iva Toncheva of BTA) - Bulgarian Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski will pay a working visit to Moscow on February 23 - 24 at the invitation of his Russian counterpart Evgenii Primakov, Foreign Ministry's Spokesman Pantelei Karasimeonov told reporters today. This will be the first meeting between Pirinski and Primakov in their capacities as foreign ministers. The two ministers are expected to discuss the current state and the promotion of bilateral relations in the spheres of politics, trade, economy and culture. They will exchange views on the deepening of the political dialogue at an intergovernmental level. The talks will also focus on the session of the Bulgarian-Russian committee for economic and scientific-technical cooperation to be held on February 27-28 in Moscow and on Bulgaria's season in Russia, which starts on March 2. Ministers Pirinski and Primakov are expected to discuss the preparations for the forthcoming visit of Bulgarian Prime Minister Zhan Videnov to Moscow at the invitation of Russian President Boris Yeltsin. They will also consider regional cooperation, the initiatives for stabilization of Southeastern Europe and a large number of issues concerning European security. Minister Pirinski will hold talks with the Chair of the Russian Douma Genadii Seleznyuov and with other leading MPs. The prospects for granting preferences to Bulgarian goods on the Russian market is expected to be raised in the talks. According to latest figures, Bulgaria's imports from Russia are double its exports to this country and unless special measures are taken, the imbalance in the commercial exchange may further increase. The issue is also expected to be discussed at the session of the Bulgarian-Russian committee for economic and scientific-technical cooperation. Several major joint projects between the two states, one of which with the participation of Greece, will be on the agenda of the talks. According to Mr Dimitrov, deputy head of "Eastern Europe and CIS" Department of the Foreing ministry, these projects go beyond bilateral relations to reach wide regional and pan-European significance. The talks are also expected to consider the Bulgarian initiatives for regional cooperation: restoring Balkan-wide cooperation, making Bulgaria a regional centre for contacts and information on infrastructure matters, holding a meeting on transport issues concerning the states from the Black Sea Cooperation and the Central European Initiative, and further developing of the two trilateral initiatives of Bulgaria, Greece and Romania on the one part and Austria, Hungary and Slovakia on the other. The Bulgarian diplomat added that it is possible to invite representatives of the EU, the U.S. and Russia to the meeting of the Balkan foreign minsters.

    [02] EU-BULGARIA JOINT PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE HOLDS SITTING

    Sofia, February 21 (BTA) - The EU-Bulgaria Joint Parliamentary Committee opened its regular session in Brussels today. The Bulgarian parliamentary delegation, led by Nikolai Kamov, Co-Chairman of the Committee for Bulgaria and Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign policy, is in Brussels as of yesterday.

    Today's sitting was opened by Nikolaos Papakyriasis, the Committee's Co-Chairman for the EU. He noted that the operation of the Committee is an integral part of the structured political dialogue which marked the beginning of the cooperation with Bulgaria already as an associate member of the EU, national radio correspondent for Western Europe Alexander Vladkov reported. Nikolai Kamov voiced the stand of the Bulgarian side on the country's full membership in EU and stressed that this is a priority of the foreign policy enjoying broad consensus both in Parliament and in the Bulgarian society.

    Deputy Foreign Minister Irina Bokova delivered a report on behalf of the Government on the second session of the EU-Bulgaria Association Council held in late January. The relations with the EU are already the most dynamic part of Bulgaria's foreign policy, Bokova stated. The European Commission familiarized the Committee members with its assessments on the implementation of the process of Bulgaria's integration into the European Union, Vladkov said.

    [03] BULGARIAN-FRENCH INDUSTRIAL PROJECTS IN PREPARATION

    Sofia, February 21 (Elena Moneva of BTA) - More than twenty Bulgarian-French projects in the crucial areas of Bulgarian industry will be prepared in the next three months, Deputy Prime Minister and Economic Development Minister Roumen Gechev told a news conference today. Executives of 12 leading French industrial companies paid a two- day visit to Sofia to explore investment opportunities. They conferred with officials of Bulgarian ministries and other institutions and with local businessmen. Some of the projects will be finalized even before the end of this year, said Mr Jean-Pierre Souviron, head of the delegation. Schneider Electric explored opportunities for delivery of nuclear equipment for the Kozlodoui Nuclear Power Plant (on the Danube), Mr Gechev said. The company held negotiations with the National Electric Company on joint production of electric equipment for power plants. Two other companies, Electricite de France and Cogema/SGN, also showed interest in the Bulgarian N-Plant. Electricite de France was engaged in consulting at Kozlodoui between 1991 and 1995, when it withdrew from Bulgaria. It is now resuming contacts and hopes to sign new agreements with the nuclear power plant in early summer, the Deputy PM said. Cogema/SGN is ready to tackle the problems of nuclear waste storage and recycling and to share in a joint study and exploitation of the Thracian mining area. Telecommunication privatization and modernization projects have attracted the attention of the Compagnie des Signaux and the Compagnie Generale des Eaux.

    [04] GREEK PUBLIC ORDER MINISTER GITONAS ON VISIT TO SOFIA

    Sofia, February 21 (BTA) - "Our cooperation should include all spheres. There is a great potential in this respect that we can use in the name of the Bulgarian and Greek peoples. It stems from the desire on the part of the two peoples and that of the Bulgarian and Greek Governments and rests on the enduring values and the existing European priorities," Greek Public Order Minister Kostas Gitonas said upon his arrival in Sofia today. The official visit of the delegation of the Greek Ministry of Public Order headed by Minister Gitonas takes place at the invitation of Bulgarian Interior Minister Lyubomir Nachev.

    [05] JANUARY JOB VACANCIES MORE THAN DOUBLE FROM DECEMBER

    Sofia, February 21 (BTA) - The jobless total in January grew 4.5 per cent from the previous month, reaching 442,696, experts of the National Employment Service (NES) told a news conference today. This number represents 11.6 per cent of the economically active population. NES statistics show a 2.3 per cent decrease of the number of unemployed aged 24 and younger, a 3.9 per cent increase in the number of jobless women, and a 3 per cent increase in the number of unemployed men. The 356,497 first-time unemployment registrations in January were 2.9 per cent up from the previous month. Demand for labour increased last month, unlike the same period a year ago. The job vacancies announced in January are more than double from December, reaching 14,120. Unskilled manpower stand better chances of finding work than skilled labour, as 22.8 per cent of the available jobs are for workers. From December, unfilled vacancies increased 7.6 per cent overall and 9.2 per cent for university graduates.

    The National Statistical Institute (NSI) said the jobless total dropped from 740,000 in 1994 to 521,000 in 1995. Forty thousand more than in 1994 found work last year. Unemployment was worst in the mountain areas of Strandja-Sakar (Southeastern Bulgaria), the Rhodopi Mountains (Southern Bulgaria) and some of the borderland areas. The NSI put the country's labour force at 3,552,000. In early February, the "Troud" daily quoted Labour and Social Affairs Minister Mincho Koralski was quoted as saying that 429,000 Bulgarians were unemployed at the end of 1995. This figure was challenged by the daily of the Union of Democratic Forces "Demokratsiya," which also called into question the NSI figures. The newspaper argues that less than half of the actually unemployed register at the job centres on whose reports official statistics are based.

    Experts of the National Employment Service said today that an agreement on exchange of manpower for work experience, approved by the Council of Ministers last June, is already entering into force. To be eligible for inclusion in the programme, applicants must be graduates of a senior or junior college or a vocational high school. In Switzerland, the Bulgarians will be doing 12 to 18 month stints on conditions conforming to Swiss labour and social legislation. A similar agreement is in preparation with France, as well as an accord on employment of Bulgarians in Greece. Negotiations have started with the Republic of South Africa and Lebanon on the admission of Bulgarian citizens to work in those countries.

    [06] PROSECUTOR GENERAL CHALLENGES DISMISSAL OF CASE AGAINST T.ZHIVKOV

    Sofia, January 21 (BTA) - Prosecutor General Ivan Tatarchev told reporters today he will refer to the Constitutional Court as soon as the reasoning for dismissal of the case against former state and party leader Todor Zhivkov and his aide Milko Balev is released. Mr Tatarchev would not say what arguments he will bring forward. In mid-February the Supreme Court voided the sentences against Zhivkov and Balev and dismissed the 1991 case against the two. The two Communist functionaries were found guilty of having incurred losses on the state by giving out flats, cars and disbursing funds. They were sentenced to, respectively, seven and two years of imprisonment. "Case No 3 will not be quashed. To rejoice is but premature," Mr Tatarchev said, asked if the decision on Case No 1 will predetermine the outcome of Case No 3. Under Case No 3 nineteen former statesmen and politicians, Todor Zhivkov included, are charged with funnelling funds to Communist parties, movements and Third World countries. According to press reports, at their meeting in mid-February the 24 Supreme justices decided that as head of state Todor Zhivkov may only be prosecuted for violating the Constitution and for high treason. According to a report in "Troud" on the matter, with this decision the Supreme Court predetermined Zhivkov's future non-liability on some other cases pending against him.

    [07] BULGARIA, BELARUS SIGN AGREEMENTS

    Sofia, February 21 (Ekaterina Kazasova of BTA) - Today Bulgaria and Belarus signed four intergovernmental and five interdepartmental agreements at the end of the visit of Belarus Prime Minister Mikhail Chigir here. During his two-day visit he met Prime Minister Zhan Videnov, President Zhelyu Zhelev and National Assembly Chairman Blagovest Sendov. Chigir extended an invitation to the Bulgarian Prime Minister to pay a return visit to Belarus.

    The two prime ministers assessed the visit as a great success. "The signed agreements create more favourable conditions for promotion of cooperation," Videnov said. The two sides were unanimous that most important were the Agreement for Reciprocal Protection of Investments and the Agreement for Trade and Cooperation. Apart from them, Bulgaria and Belarus signed agreements in the fields of veterinary medicine, plant protection and tourism. The two countries' ministries of foreign affairs, industry, education and forests signed protocols for interaction. Together with the 12 agreements signed immediately after the two countries established diplomatic relations, these documents will lay the foundations of further bilateral cooperation.

    "Expansion of economic relations between Bulgaria and Belarus and doubling of bilateral commodity exchange in 1996 are our priorities," Chigir told a news conference by the end of his visit. Videnov pointed as major reasons for the drop of commodity exchange in the past few years the new customs and political borders which emerged as a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the building up of principally new mechanism for economic cooperation, the economic crises in the two countries and the difficulties in payments. The lack of unsettled problems between Bulgaria and Belarus is a good foundation for the development of bilateral relations, Videnov stated.

    The Bulgarian Prime Minister said that Bulgaria will back Belarus' bid for membership in the Council of Europe. The two countries may also cooperate within the frameworks of the Central European Initiative and other regional organizations and mainly in the spheres of communications, transport and energy, Videnov said. The two sides pointed as most promising for bilateral cooperation heavy industry, electronics and farming machinery.

    Earlier in the day Chigir was received by President Zhelyu Zhelev. The two discussed aspects of bilateral relations. President Zhelev expressed satisfaction with the successful negotiations in the economic sphere at government level. Zhelev and Chigir were unanimous that the two countries should maintain dynamic cooperation.

    [08] SOFIA, BRUSSELS FIRMS TO BUILD IN BOSNIA

    Sofia, February 21 (BTA) - The Mayor of Sofia Stefan Sofiyanski and the visiting Minister of Economics of Brussels Jos Chaber today reached agreement on the formation of joint ventures to share in the post- war reconstruction of Bosnia. "I will be persuading the major building contractors in the Brussels Region to launch joint construction projects with Sofia municipal companies in Sarajevo, Mostar and the other devastated towns," Mr Chaber told reporters. The Belgian delegation negotiated the construction of a new hospital in Sofia. It will be a joint project of Belgian enterprises and the Metropolitian Municipality. Brussels enterprises will take part in the privatization of municipal property in Sofia, it emerged after the meeting. Mr Chaber was received today by President Zhelyu Zhelev and conferred with the leader of the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) Ivan Kostov. The UDF will keep up working for attraction of foreign investment to urban areas where it holds the mayoralties, Mr Kostov told the guest. Before leaving for Brussels, the Minister promised cooperation in transport, health care, privatization, environment and security. "We did not discuss the size of investment but our intentions are very ambitious. I am convinced that interest will be showed, especially in the construction of parking lots, houses, infrastructure facilities and hotel updating," Mr Chaber said.

    [09] JOURNALISTS ARRESTED

    Most dailies today provide frontpage coverage of the arrest of two journalists in Smolyan, Southern Bulgaria, yesterday. "Troud" carries a report on the case under the headline "Prosecutor Intimidates Journalists". The Smolyan correspondents of "Troud" and "24 Chassa", Mitko Shtirkov and Valentin Hadjiev, were arrested under a decree of district prosecutor Slavcho Kurzhev. The press says the two are accused of libel for reporting the appointment of a dismissed policemen as prosecutor in Devin, near Smolyan.

    "It is a disgrace for a country to have a judiciary that arrests free speech instead of bandits," reads an editorial in "24 Chassa". In equally strong worded commentaries journalists of many newspapers protests against the arrest. "Troud's" Editor-in-Chief Tosho Toshev describes the case as "outrageous". The Editor-in-Chief of the ruling Socialists' "Douma" daily, Stefan Prodev, tells "24 Chassa" the arrest of the two journalists is "scandalous". "What we have is no longer mere propaganda but an act that infringes tangibly on the freedom of the journalistic profession," Prodev also says.

    "Troud" writes in an editorial, "The reaction of the journalistic guild yesterday showed that colleagues from the whole political spectrum and all media see the Smolyan outrage against the correspondents of "Troud" and "24 Chassa" as an element of a large-scale operation for intimidating the press, and as a gross encroachment on the freedom of speech." The daily further calls upon Prosecutor General Ivan Tatarchev to react in due manner to the actions of prosecutor Kurzhev. "If, however, the remaining independent powers in this country fail to condemn the arbitrary act against our colleagues, we will have to get back in use a forgotten term - obscurantism," "Troud" also writes.

    "24 Chassa" and "Troud" run brief interviews with prosecutor Kurzhev. He tells "24 Chassa" that the two journalists were arrested under his personal decision that was based on the law. The interviewee also says that the reports of the two contained false facts and describes their dispatches as "scum", adding that they have publicized false facts more than once.

    An official release of the Ministry of the Interior yesterday says Devin regional prosecutor Zhivko Chepishev who according to the two journalists was fired for bribery when serving in the police, is indeed a former police sergeant, and was fired because his actions eroded the prestige of the force. It was his twin brother, Zdravko Chepishev, that was fired from the police for corruption, the Interior Ministry specified.

    [10] DETAINED NEWSMEN RELEASED

    Sofia, February 21 (BTA) - Mitko Shtirkov and Valentin Hadjiev, correspondents of the "Troud" and "24 Chassa" dailies in Smolyan (Southern Bulgaria), were released from custody this afternoon after the town court granted their petitions filed by lawyer Daniela Dokovska. Mrs Dokovska said the investigation is only starting and it is too early for comment, but in her opinion the arrest is "a procedural outrage." The two journalists were arrested on February 20 on libel charges. They had reported to their newspapers that the new Town Prosecutor of nearby Devin Zhivko Chepishev had been fired from the police for accepting bribes. The Regional Directorate of Internal Affairs denied the report, arguing that it was Zdravko Chepishev, the Prosecutor's twin brother, who had been dismissed for bribery. The Interior Ministry Press Centre confirmed this yesterday, adding that Zhivko Chepishev was dismissed as a police sergeant in 1994 "for acting in way that creates prerequisites for damaging the police prestige." Prosecutor General Ivan Tatarchev does not believe that the journalists' arrest is an arbitrary act. "This move is justified by the risk to obstruct the detection of the objective truth," he said. He said that the libel against Mr Chepishev was "incontrovertible" and that a punitive discharge from the police is no disqualification from holding office as prosecutor. In Mr Tatarchev's opinion, Mr Chepishev's misconduct was "nothing serious." The Union of Bulgarian Journalists issued an opinion finding the District Prosecutor's actions "unacceptable." "The law is a law because it rules out arbitrariness, and now the public is left with the impression that the fourth power has been arrested," the Union said. The Free Speech Forum and the journalist associations in Varna and Yambol have also expressed indignation at the correspondents' detention. The members of the Supreme Judicial Council today described the proceedings instituted by the Smolyan District Prosecutor as an "overreaction."

    [11] BULGARIA - WORLD BANK

    The papers report the press conference yesterday of World Bank Resident Representative Alberto Musalem. "World Bank Shows P.M. Yellow Card," reads the headline of the leader in the UDF daily "Demokratsiya". The paper quotes Musalem as saying World Bank financial aid to Bulgaria will be contingent on political support at home for the programme the Government presented in Washington last December. "World Bank Aid Depends on Consensus," is the headline in "Douma".

    [12] ORION GROUP

    The press reports that Ivan Kostov, leader of the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), said on Tuesday he was ready to give the controlling committee of the ruling Socialist Party the whole information he held about Orion Group. At the UDF's regular news conference on Tuesday Kostov said he was sure the BSP did not have the full information he had and that unless the Socialist Party approached him, he would ask for a meeting with its representatives. The press claims that the BSP controlling committee was assigned to investigate "the Orion case" after the Socialists' "Douma" daily wrote about a financial racket with money of the BSP organ run by former "Douma Press" director, now Telecom Company boss Mihail Danov, identified in press reports as a partner in Orion Group companies. In an open letter to the BSP leadership Danov accused senior Socialist functionaries including ex- premier Andrei Loukanov of plotting against the Government.

    [13] RELIGIOUS RIGHTS IN BULGARIA

    A front-page story in "Standart News" says Bulgaria does not figure in a UN global report on religious rights. "The UN acknowledged in a report that Bulgaria does not infringe on religious rights" runs a headline in "Troud".

    "Continent" reports that at a conference here, organized by the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, state institutions were accused of overstepping their authority with regard to religious minorities.

    [14] UPCOMING PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS

    The press reports that Peter Stoyanov, the UDF deputy chairman, is the odds-on favourite for the presidential nomination of the coalition. The parties affiliated to the UDF had until February 20 to name their candidates. Some of the nominees are MPs Alexander Yordanov and Assen Agov. New Social Democratic Party has nominated the incumbent Zhelyu Zhelev but has failed to meet the requirement to submit the nominee's consent in writing. According to "24 Chassa", President Zhelev is expected to state shortly that he would like the UDF to back him. The UDF will determine its presidential nomination at a national conference in late March.

    "Standart News" runs an interview with Yugoslav Deputy Minister of Economic Development, Science and the Environment Misa Jandric. He says the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia suffered damage to the amount of 147,000 million dollars due to the international sanctions and predicts that the country will reach its pre-level by the year 2005.

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