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News from Bulgaria / Feb 27, 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

27 February, 1996


CONTENTS

  • [01] OFFICIAL CONDOLENCES ON ISRAEL BOMBINGS

  • [02] CONDOLENCES ON ALBANIAN BOMBING

  • [03] BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER PIRINSKI LEAVES FOR BRUSSELS

  • [04] FOREIGN MINISTERS OF BULGARIA, GREECE, ROMANIA WILL HOLD TALKS IN SOFIA

  • [05] DEPUTY PM GECHEV LEAVES FOR VIENNA TO PRESENT INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES

  • [06] BULGARIA, KUWAIT: TRADE AND ECONOMIC RELATIONS

  • [07] SOFIA CITY IN DIRE FINANCIAL STRAITS, MAYOR SOFIYANSKI SAYS

  • [08] BUSINESS PRESS

  • [09] BULGARIA TO RECEIVE ECU 21 MILLION

  • [10] GAZPROM PRESIDENT IN BULGARIA


  • [01] OFFICIAL CONDOLENCES ON ISRAEL BOMBINGS

    Sofia, February 26 (BTA) - Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev cabled condolences to Israeli President Ezer Weizmann in connection with the Moslem suicide bombings in Jerusalem and Ashkelon, the President's Press Office said. The telegramme expresses a hope such terrorist acts will not derail Israel's firm and consistent policy for fair, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East.

    [02] CONDOLENCES ON ALBANIAN BOMBING

    Sofia, February 26 (BTA) - Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev cabled condolences to Albanian President Sali Berisha in connection with the bomb explosion in downtown Tirana today, the President's Press Office said today.

    Prime Minister Zhan Videnov cabled condolences to his Albanian counterpart Alexander Meksi, the Government Press Office reported.

    [03] BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER PIRINSKI LEAVES FOR BRUSSELS

    Sofia, February 26 (BTA) - Bulgarian foreign minister Georgi Pirinski left for Brussels this afternoon to attend a meeting tomorrow between the foreign ministers of the European Union and the associated countries. The meeting is expected to discuss structural dialogue, the forthcoming Intergovernmental Conference and the situation in the former Yugoslavia.

    "Infrastructure projects are part of Bulgaria's proposals for stabilization and cooperation in Southeastern Europe," Pirinski said upon his departure. "Our purpose will be to coordinate Bulgaria's proposals with those of the EU regarding Trans-European infrastructure networks," he added. Foreign Minister Pirinski confirmed Bulgaria's stand on starting negotiations on this country's full membership in the EU. According to him, this should take place simultaneously with the other countries with equal starting positions.

    [04] FOREIGN MINISTERS OF BULGARIA, GREECE, ROMANIA WILL HOLD TALKS IN SOFIA

    Sofia, February 26 (Iva Toncheva of BTA) - The Foreign Ministers of Bulgaria, Greece and Romania will hold talks in Sofia on March 16 and 17, Bulgarian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Panteley Karasimeonov told the media today. This will be the second meeting of the three ministers, who held talks in Ioannina, Greece, last August.

    On the Bulgarian initiative, Foreign Ministers Pirinski, Papoulias and Melescanu will discuss in Sofia the implementation of the peace agreements for Bosnia, the involvement of their countries in postwar reconstruction in former Yugoslavia, measures for regional security and cooperation in Southeastern Europe, and joint efforts for implementation of initiatives of the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. They will also consider transregional and infrastructure projects. The ministers will probably invite counterparts from Austria, Hungary and Slovakia to a meeting and joint action to establish an arch of stability in the contest of European integration, the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry Spokesman also said. They will discuss cooperation in justice, crime control and culture.

    In the meantime, Bulgarian diplomats are actively engaged in preparations for a meeting of the foreign ministers of Balkan countries, an initiative recently launched by Bulgarian Prime Minister Zhan Videnov. Starting today, senior Foreign Ministry officials will be visiting the capitals of all Balkan countries and delivering an official written invitation to meet in Sofia by the end of June, signed by Prime Minister Videnov. "A major effort is being made to inform international organizations and the foreign ministries of the European nations," the Foreign Ministry Spokesman said today. The mission of Bulgarian diplomats to Balkan capitals consists in clarifying the Bulgarian initiative, and stressing the need to take practical steps to promote cooperation and enhance security in Southeastern Europe as an element of all-European security. "Bulgaria believes the comprehensive process of all-Balkan cooperation should have two main elements: implementation of the peace agreements for Bosnia, and the development of measures for regional stability, security and cooperation," the spokesman said. The diplomats will be clarifying the Bulgarian position on the development of cross-border and regional cooperation, through implementation of joint projects in trade, industry, agriculture, water resources and the environment. They will discuss the development of regional and subregional infrastructure - transport, telecommunications and energy networks, the promotion of economic cooperation, and the attraction of foreign investment.

    After the completion of the Bulgarian diplomatic missions to Balkan capitals, the information will be summed up, and a round of direct consultations for preparing the foreign ministers' meeting will be launched.

    [05] DEPUTY PM GECHEV LEAVES FOR VIENNA TO PRESENT INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES

    Sofia, February 26 (BTA) - Deputy Prime Miniaster and Minister of Economic Development Roumen Gechev today left for Vienna to attend a forum on "Investment Opportunities in Bulgaria". The Bulgarian delegation includes deputy ministers, Privatization Agency Chairman Vesselin Blagoev, Foreign Investment Agency Chairman Daniela Bobeva and central bank experts.

    The forum will be attended by some 50 large Austrian companies operating in Bulgaria or interested in investing in this country, Gechev said upon his departure from Sofia Airport. "Unfortunately in 1995 we ran a USD 100 million trade deficit with Austria which is a traditional Bulgarian partner," he added. According to Gechev, this may be overcome through Austrian investment, joint production and reexport to Austria. "We have to sign a new trade agreement with Austria as it is no longer a member of the European Free Trade Association," Gechev said.

    [06] BULGARIA, KUWAIT: TRADE AND ECONOMIC RELATIONS

    Sofia, February 26 (BTA) - The trade and economic relations between Bulgaria and Kuwait after the Gulf War (1990-91) are at a level which does not correspond to the two countries' potential, Kuwaiti Ambassador to Sofia Yosuf Al-Onaizi told BTA, prompted by the Kuwaiti National Day which is celebrated on February 25. "Kuwait is making efforts to help the Bulgarian companies' presence on its markets, as well as the exchange of experts in the field of the economy and industry," Ambassador Onaizi said.

    In 1989, commercial exchange between Bulgaria and Kuwait amounted to about the then foreign currency equivalent of 5 million leva, at a time when Bulgaria's national currency was considerably more stable. Bulgarian exports to Kuwait consisted of products of the food and light industries. From Kuwait, this country imported technologies for oil production and processing. In 1992, the commercial exchange between the two countries started to decrease to drop to about US$ 200,000 in 1995.

    The Bulgarian-Kuwaiti trade and economic relations are regulated by the Trade Agreement, signed in 1978, and the Agreement on Economic, Industrial and Technical Cooperation, which the two countries signed in 1982. The Bulgarian and Kuwaiti Parliaments are to ratify the bilateral agreement on double taxation avoidance and the agreement on reciprocal protection and promotion of investment.

    According to Ambassador Onaizi, the transport problem remains to be the chief problem after the end of the Gulf War and the ensuing U.N. sanctions against Iraq. "The impossibility for transport of commodities through Iraq makes the Bulgarian goods noncompetitive," Ambassador Onaizi said. In his view, the decision for transit transport through Saudi Arabia was not implemented in practice. As part of the two-way trade relations, the countries exchange experts. "There are few Kuwaiti firms in Bulgaria, whereas there are many Bulgarian experts working in the sphere of telecommunications and construction in Kuwait who helped in the reconstruction of the country after the Gulf War," Ambassador Onaizi said.

    According to the Kuwaiti Ambassador here, it is expected that the agreement on reciprocal protection of investment will take effect by the year's end which will to a great extent improve the conditions for trade and cooperation between the two countries. Kuwait is interested in making investments in the Bulgarian tourism for the construction of holiday villages, hotels and spas, as well as for improving the distribution of oil products, Ambassador Onaizi told BTA.

    [07] SOFIA CITY IN DIRE FINANCIAL STRAITS, MAYOR SOFIYANSKI SAYS

    Sofia, February 26 (BTA) - The Sofia municipality is in a grave financial crisis. The budget allocations to the capital are extremely insufficient - together with the municipal funds the budget of the city administration will total 14,000 million leva (about USD 186 million), providing for an annual inflation rate of 20%, Sofia Mayor Stefan Sofiyanski said at a news conference here today. The news conference was called to mark the 100 days in office of the new Sofia administration, which on several occasions failed to cope with the havoc wrought in the capital by blizzards.

    The municipal budget (which will be voted in March) is a budget of poverty, Sofiyanski said. He warned that funds will be granted to meet only the most urgent needs. Sanitation, construction, health care and other projects will be delayed, the Mayor said.

    In the past two months the Sofia local authorities received money only for paying wages to teachers, doctors, etc. No free medicines are being distributed and public transport is on the brink of collapse. The central bank is delaying the issuing of a licence for a municipal bank though all requirements have been met, Sofiyanski also said. He said he would demand a meeting with Finance Minister Dimiter Kostov at which he would insist on additional subsidies for Sofia. "We will protest together with the regional mayors if we are refused," Sofiyanski said.

    Municipal budget allocations for repairing streets are double last year's figure. Repair work will start in April. Negotiations on setting up a joint venture with the German RWM company in waste management have reached an advanced stage, the Sofia mayor also told journalists.

    Lack of funds for five years in a row have left as much as 60% of Sofia's bus fleet in disrepair, Deputy Mayor Wilhelm Kraus told BTA. The official opening of the Sofia underground is due in late 1996 but the funds allocated for its construction this year would suffice only to put the first line into operation (from the Lyulin residential district to the centre of Sofia).

    [08] BUSINESS PRESS

    Sofia, February 26 (BTA) - The papers cite Prime Minister's economic adviser Ivan Angelov who said on national television yesterday that the protection of personal bank deposits is not enough reliable yet. According to prof. Angelov, state enterprises owe 174,200 million leva to banks. Private companies' indebtedness totals 199,000 million leva. In his opinion, no more than five or six state banks and about ten private ones should remain from the 45 banks operating in the country at the moment.

    An express communication network will be built jointly with IBM, "Troud" says. It is planned to construct digital telephone exchanges in Sofia connected by optical-fibre cables. The project will ensure the rapid and simultaneous transfer of sound, data and images, thus improving the quality of telephone services, the paper writes citing Reinhard Paul, IBM marketing manager for Central Europe. In his opinion, the implementation of the project will make telephone charges cheaper.

    [09] BULGARIA TO RECEIVE ECU 21 MILLION

    Sofia, February 26 (BTA) - Bulgarian education will receive ECU 21 million within the framework of the TEMPUS and PHARE programmes, Deputy Education Minister Prof. Stancho Stamov said at a news conference here today. Of these 12 million will go to higher education and 9 million to secondary education. Twenty-eight TEMPUS projects and six PHARE projects will be funded this year.

    The first intergovernmental agreement on cultural and scientific cooperation between Bulgaria and the US will be signed soon, Prof. Stamov said. It provides for the exchange of students, scholars and experts as well as for the development of joint projects. It will also regulate the functioning of the American University in Blagoevgrad, Prof. Stamov added. An agreement on cooperation in education and science with Yugoslavia is also ready but we are expecting the other side to propose when to sign it, Education Minister Ilcho Dimitrov said. This year Bulgaria will take part in the Socrates and Europe in School educational programmes of the EU.

    Some 400 Bulgarian students are now studying in the EU and EU associated countries, while in Bulgaria there are 4,000 foreign students, Prof. Stamov said. It is we who are helping the EU in this respect and not vice versa, he commented. Fifteen Bulgarian students will leave to study in Russia next year. For three years there have been no Bulgarian students in Russia because the grants provided by the Russian side are insufficient, Prof. Stamov said. He said that in 1997 the Education Ministry will grant additional funds to these students.

    The Education Ministry also proposed to restore the post of education and science counsellors at the Bulgarian embassies abroad. Such counsellors will be appointed at two Bulgarian embassies, Education Minister Ilcho Dimitrov said, without specifying which embassies. The Education Ministry has also proposed to reopen Bulgarian schools abroad, 80% of which were closed in 1991.

    [10] GAZPROM PRESIDENT IN BULGARIA

    Sofia, February 26 (Lili Todorova of BTA) - Gazprom President Rem Vyahirev today arrived here on a special flight from Moscow. The only confirmed items on his three-day agenda are today's talks with the shareholders of the Bulgarian-Russian joint venture Topenergy, and a meeting with Prime Minister Zhan Videnov tomorrow.

    Vyahirev, rated Russia's most influential businessman, was welcomed at the VIP lounge of Sofia airport by Topenergy managers, including former Bulgarian Prime Minister Andrey Loukanov, and the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff Krasimir Nikolov, member of the joint venture's Supervisory Board.

    Cabinet officials today denied the visit was at the invitation of the Government. Reports to that effect were reaffirmed only by Russian Ambassador Alexandr Avdeev. Vyahirev himself cited Topenergy as his host.

    According to Andrey Loukanov, the Bulgarian co-chairman of the Topenergy Board of Directors, the business plan of the joint venture is not on the agenda. "We will discuss problems of cooperation in the gas industry," he said.

    "We will be clarifying aspects of the expansion of the distribution network, with a view to the transit of 29,000 million cubic meters of gas via Bulgaria," Topenergy Executive Director Sasho Donchev said. He firmly denied that transit charges will be considered. "That is a commercial matter to be discussed by Bulgargas and Gazexport," Donchev said.

    "We have no disagreements with Bulgaria," Vyahirev said. Under the effective agreement, by the year 2010 Russia will be supplying unlimited amounts of gas to Bulgaria, depending on its needs and at European prices, the Gazprom boss said. He dismissed as impractical the idea of nationalizing the largest Russian company.

    The Russian gas giant Gazprom controls one-third of the world natural gas reserves, and supplies 22% of world demand. According balance-sheet figures, its sales in 1994 amounted to 38,400,000 million rubles, and the after-tax profit at 3,400,000 million rubles. The company would rank between 100th and 135th on the annual list of the 500 biggest corporations in the world compiled by Fortune magazine. According to western analysts, Gazprom is the world's second most profitable company after Royal Dutch Shell Group. Now sixty per cent of Gazprom, a former Ministry of Gas and Oil Industry restructured into a joint-stock company in 1993, is in private hands. It is often described as a state within the state.

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