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News from Bulgaria / Apr 2, 96

From: (Embassy of Bulgaria)

Bulgarian Telegraph Agency Directory



2 April, 1996
















    Sofia, April 1 (BTA) - "Bulgaria's international behaviour, including its intensive dialogue with Russia on different levels, parliamentary level included, has not so far given even the slightest grounds to believe that this country has any intention of joining international groupings, which seek to restore a community to which Bulgaria never belonged," National Assembly Chairman Blagovest Sendov said today at a regular news conference.

    Mr Sendov said he is surprised and perplexed at the statements of Russian President Boris Yeltsin on March 29 in Moscow in which he said that the new union among Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan is open to other states, among which as an example was mentioned Bulgaria.

    "Statements of that kind are hardly a contribution to the progress of Bulgarian-Russian relations," Parliament Chairman said. In his view, sovereign and independent Bulgaria seeks to develop mutually beneficial relations on equal grounds with friendly Russia with which it is historically linked.

    "The specified statements, however, cannot call into question Bulgaria's key and irreversible European orientation. This provides grounds to further affirm the decisiveness for consistent realization of Bulgaria's priority task in its foreign policy: full membership in the European Union and joining the other European and Euro-Atlantic structures," Parliament Chairman said.


    April 1 (BTA special correspondent Petyo Petkov) Bulgarian Defence Minister Dimiter Pavlov, who is taking part in the meeting of defence ministers in Tirana, familiarized the participants with Bulgaria's initiative to organize in Sofia this autumn a meeting of Balkan defence ministers, to which representatives from Russia, the US and the EU will be invited. "Security in the Balkans for all and ensured by all is the principle to which Bulgaria will adhere," Dimiter Pavlov said and reminded that divisions in the Balkans give rise to mutual suspicions. Minister Pavlov said that a regional meeting of defence ministers may be held once the Bulgaria-initiated meeting of Balkan foreign ministers outlines the new political framework of regional cooperation. Minister Pavlov also focused on Bulgaria's participation in the Partnership for Peace plan.

    In his speech US Defence Secretary William Perry praised Bulgaria's suggestion. He said that the US will attend the meeting and hopes that Russia will also send its representatives.


    Sofia, April 1 (BTA) - Bulgaria and Yugoslavia are going to sign an agreement on cooperation in culture, science and education. This will be done during the visit by Bulgarian Minister of Education, Science and Technology Ilcho Dimitrov to Belgrade this April. The agreement was coordinated and initialled on March 27 in Belgrade, Hristo Georgiev, Head of the Foreign Ministry's International Cultural Cooperation Department, told journalists today. It will be valid for three years.

    This is the first official Bulgarian-Yugoslav document in which the term "Bulgarian national minority" appears in writing. There are articles concerning the cultural identity of the Bulgarian minority. One of the articles specifies the commitments assumed by the two countries. They include providing literature for the schools where Bulgarian is studied and assistance in compiling textbooks in Bulgarian in compliance with the curricula approved by the Yugoslav authorities.

    Bulgaria will make it possible for primary and secondary school teachers teaching Bulgarian to improve their qualifications by attending special courses. It will grant scholarships to Bulgarians and to Yugoslav citizens of Bulgarian origin to study at Bulgarian univerities and secondary schools. Bulgaria will provide materials for radio and television programmes in the Bulgarian language.

    The agreement envisages enhancement of cooperation between border areas, protection of cultural monuments, exchange of visits by theatrical companies, cooperation between different institutions of the two countries.


    Sofia, April 1 (BTA) - The Government approved a draft law amending the Banks and Lending Act which would vest more powers in the National Bank of Bulgaria (BNB) in the field of banking supervision, Minister of Justice Mladen Chervenyakov said.

    In case the Banks and Lending Act is violated, the banking supervision authorities would have the powers to dismiss the management of the offending bank. BNB would be obliged to appoint two regulators to manage and represent the bank. The draft law defines the term "risk of insolvency" as a combination of two factors - a bank's general capital adequacy (the ratio of capital base to general risk component) is below the BNB minimum and its assets are in such a condition that there is a danger of the bank's faling to meet its debts when claimed. The draft law outlines the rehabilitation measures BNB can undertake and specifies the bankruptcy procedure. Only the central bank may apply to the law court for the opening of bankruptcy procedure.


    Rousse, April 1 (BTA) - The Rousse-based Directorate for Maintenance of the Danube Waterway (DMDW) today celebrates 40 years in operation. It was set up under a government ordinance to maintain the waterway of the Bulgarian section of the Danube and to be in touch with Romania and the other Danubian Commission countries in addressing traffic-related problems.

    Under a 1955 agreement between Bulgaria and Romania, Romania is in charge of maintaining the section of the waterway starting at the mouth of the Timok River to the 610th km of the Danube, DMDW taking care of the section starting at Somovit and ending at Silistra. The DMDW section is an extremely difficult one: the river is slow, the level of the water varies within 8 meters, 10 to 12 shallows impede traffic. A new problem emerged recently after the batteries of the waterway light buoys started to disappear, complained DMDW experts.

    Traffic along the Danube is now regulated by the Convention Concerning the Regime of Navigation on the Danube signed in Belgrade on August 18, 1948. A new convention is due to be signed in a view of the emergence of four new states along the Danube and Russia's loss of access to the river. The documents on the new convention, in whose preparation DMDW participates actively, will be discussed at the 6th session of the Danubian Commission in Kiev this autumn.


    Sofia, April 1 (BTA)

    Almost all national dailies comment Russian President Boris Yeltsin's statement that Bulgaria could join the integration agreement among Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, and publish the reaction of Bulgarian politicians.

    Unless the Cabinet takes a clear stand on the proposal by Monday, the opposition Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) will stage a rally in front of the Council of Ministers' building, UDF leader Ivan Kostov is quoted as saying in "Continent". Should a foreign army attack Bulgaria tomorrow, Bulgarian politicians will jump into their limousines and rush to television and radio to blame it on their political opponents, the daily comments. Unlikely as it seems, this scenario is the first thing brought to mind by the feeble reaction to Yeltsin's statement, "Continent" says. But no one thought of sending a short letter to Moscow, signed by the President, the Prime Minister and Parliament, kindly asking the official Russian authorities never again to use Bulgaria's name in reference to any unions, axes and others formations, the daily says.

    The local political elite reacted strongly to Yeltsin's suggestion that Bulgaria could join in the preparations for a new union of former Soviet republics, "24 Chassa" says. It is not a chance that Bulgaria was mentioned; the Socialists, however, said Yeltsin's suggestions should not be taken seriously, the daily comments. Solomon Passi, President of the Atlantic Club - Bulgaria, ruled out a political gaffe, wrong political assessment or one too many Zhirinovsky vodkas, saying that Yeltsin targeted Bulgaria's neutrality - a top priority for Russia. Interviewed by "24 Chassa", Passi said Bulgaria must choose between Soviet Union-2 and the Schengen list. It is not possible that a country may be on the minds of both Yeltsin and Secretary of State Christopher at the same time, he said.

    "A Soviet republic? No thanks," says "Standart News". Bulgarians are wise enough to see that, as the Bulgarian saying goes, he who eats the pie is not mad, but the one who gives it away is. In Yeltsin's case there are actually many givers: all those who have ruled Bulgaria after Todor Zhivkov, Atlantic Club Vice President Dragomir Draganov says in an interview in "Standart News". In his view, history has proved that Russian diplomacy was and still is among the best in Europe and the world. It does not work by trial and error, but on the basis of serious analyses, Draganov says, adding that Bulgaria should think about its own position and behaviour. President Zhelev's reaction was hysterical, Socialist MP Filip Bokov says in an interview in "Standart News", adding that he had seen no sign of claims on Bulgaria's sovereignty or of plans to make it part of the union devised by Yeltsin. In his view, there is no cause for concern that the Government may swerve from its course towards integration into the European Union.

    On Saturday evening Prime Minister Zhan Videnov had a secret conversation with Boris Yeltsin, says the UDF "Demokratsiya" daily. The masks are down, the truth about Bulgaria's relations with Russia and the doings of the ruling communists during their visits there came to light and Zhan Videnov went into hiding, the daily comments. According to it, the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) more than any political party acts against its own people, its national ideals and interests, and against Bulgarian statehood.

    The Bulgarian Government is pursuing a consistent, fully transparent foreign policy, the BSP "Douma" daily quotes Government Spokesman Nikola Baltov as saying. At no stage and on no level has the Government conducted negotiations that could be interpreted as acting behind the scenes, Baltov says.

    We have more important things to do now, Videnov said in reply to Yeltsin's proposal, "Troud" writes.


    Patriotism should be the first word in the vocabulary of a President, "Continent" cites UDF presidential candidate Peter Stoyanov as saying at the launching of his election campaign. The UDF leadership was surprised by the great number of sympathizers that came to attend the ceremony at the National Palace of Culture, "Continent" comments". An elderly man was taken out on a stretcher after fainting in the packed hall, this daily reports.

    "I have promised to conduct a fair campaign," "Troud" cites Peter Stoyanov as telling his sympathizers. More than 3,000 people carrying blue flags came to applaud their presidential candidate, this daily writes.

    Peter Stoyanov and incumbent President Zhelyu Zhelev will play fairly, "Standart News" writes. Both candidates, chosen to compete in preliminary intra-opposition elections intended to render up a joint presidential candidate, have been in politics for quite some time and know that dirty tricks and blows below the belt are inadmissible, "Standart News" comments. Peter Stoyanov has repeatedly stated that as a former athlete he likes meeting his opponent face to face and Zhelev should do the same, "Standart News" cites Evgeni Bakurdjiev, chief of Peter Stoyanov's campaign centre as telling Bulgarian National Radio. "I think that if Zhelev loses the primaries he will run for another political force which will make him a political corpse," Bakurdjiev said.

    "Demokratsiya" highlights the launch of the election campaign of the UDF presidential candidate Peter Stoyanov. The launch of the campaign acted as a stimulant for Peter Stoyanov. The presidential candidate will observe the rules of fair play , "Demokratsiya" comments. According to this daily, the mentioning of President Zhelev's name received a negative response from the audiences. But Stoyanov declared that in his campaign he would stake on a positive approach and constructive tone, "Demokratsiya" also writes. Peter Stoyanov promised to close the ranks of the UDF, "Douma" writes. The presidential candidate of the UDF will not respond to attacks by dark forces wishing to lay a fez or communist party membership card at his door.


    "We don't care what the others will say," "Douma" writes in a story prompted by speculations about the nomination of Alexander Lilov as the BSP presidential candidate. Lilov is former BSP leader. The BSP should discuss publicly the names for its likely presidential candidate to show the others and itself that it has given up the strategy of near-secret agreements and "high considerations", says this daily. It believes the nomination of Lilov is likely to bewilder or sound preposterous because of BSP's claims that it is searching for new faces to demonstrate its will for the future. Bulgaria needs a self-confident president who would not yield under political pressure and blackmail, the temptation of money and petty political intrigues, writes "Douma". Lilov is a man with experience, the embodiment of the link between past and present of the BSP, the story goes further.

    "Standart News" says the BSP remains silent about its presidential nominee. One thing is sure though: it would not use again the Socialists- back-independent-candidate formula, this daily says. If Bulgaria's top diplomat Georgi Prinski becomes prime minister, the most successful move of the BSP will be nominating Lilov for the president's office. In this case the two will change their roles: a strategy-maker president will run the domestic affairs and a prime minister-diplomat the foreign affairs, says "Standart News".


    Yesterday's sitting of the BSP Supreme Council demonstrated a concern over the condition and the future of Bulgarian agriculture, "Standart News" writes. The truth is that the Left finally understood it has started to loose electorate and that the bread can defeat any government, says this daily. The story further says that the most likely explanation for the Socialists's growing activity in the field of agriculture are the upcoming presidential elections. BSP's agriculture policy failed, writes "Troud". It says that providing preconditions for the emergence of large-scale farming and protecting the interests of agriculture producers will be a priority for the party from now on.

    Providing preconditions for a modern large-scale farming is a topmost task of BSP's agriculture programme, "Standart News" writes. Party leaders are contemplating the reconstruction of large agro-industrial complexes to become the major production unit in the Bulgarian village, this daily says. It goes on to quote Socialist MPs saying that the plenum was a belated one and it was too late the stop the ruin in agriculture.

    For the first time after the former communists changed the name of the party, the BSP top leadership held a plenum to discuss its agriculture policy and the reform in agriculture, "Demokratsiya" says. The major processes underway in Bulgarian agriculture are land restitution and the privatization of food processing companies, while the chief task should be the creation and stabilization of new production structures, the story reads further.

    BSP won the 1994 elections largely due to its agriculture policy but then the party failed to finger the culprits for the collapse of the Bulgarian village, says "Douma".


    "Military Coup in Moscow?" caps a front-page story in "Continent". Three hours after Russian President Boris Yeltsin announced the end of hostilities in Chechnya, several groups of the special units of the Ministry of the Interior, the army and the intelligence were deployed at 16 strategic points in Moscow, the daily says, quoting an informed source. "Continent" quotes sources at the Kremlin as saying that anything could happen after Yeltsin's inadequate actions. A list of names of seven Russian ambassadors who face replacement for a number of reasons is "in circulation", "Continent" says, adding that the list reportedly includes ambassadors to Madrid, Brussels, Sofia and London.

    Bulgaria proposes to hold a meeting of defence ministers of all Balkan states, to be preceded by a meeting of foreign ministers of Southeastern Europe, "Douma" quotes Defence Minister Dimiter Pavlov as saying before his departure to Tirana where he will attend a regional meeting on security. According to Pavlov, the proposed meeting could include participants of the US, Russia, NATO, and other parties interested in the stability on the Balkans. The idea is not a new one but up to now Sofia proposed to host a meeting of countries which were not involved in the conflict in former Yugoslavia, the press quotes Pavlov is saying.

    Rise in monthly wages and pensions effective as of today, "Standart News" says. The 10-per cent rise will be paid on social and children benefits as well. The pensions will be calculated according to a personal coefficient; the highest pension can be no more than threefold the minimum one of 1,800 leva. The planned markup of electricity, heating and coal prices marred the people's joy, "Standart News" says. Electricity prices are expected to go up by 42 per cent, while those for central heating by 85 per cent. The two largest amalgamations in Bulgaria, the Podkrepa Labour Confederation and the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria threatened with civil disobedience if such prices are introduced, the press says.


    International Monetary Fund (IMF) experts see Bulgaria's main mistake and fault for the present crisis in its banking system in the introduction of the scheme guaranteeing deposits prior to the final adjustment of this sector, the "Pari" daily writes. The Bulgarian National Bank (BNB, the central bank) disregarded IMF and World Bank advice of the possible consequences of this step, this daily comments.

    Since the beginning of 1996, BNB recapitalization of commercial banks has reached almost 11,000 million leva while at the end of 1995 the volume of credits was 20,200 million leva. According to BNB statistics, by March 22, 1996 the sum of extended funds totalled 31,100 million leva. Another alarming tendency is the constant growth of the relative share of unguaranteed deposits which grew from 11,400 million leva at the end of 1995 to 26,600 million leva at the end of March 1996, "Pari" writes.

    According to the recent IMF mission to Bulgaria, Bulgaria needs USD 1,700 million or 137,000 leva to recapitalize banks. The IMF recommended the setting up of a special commission, chaired by Prime Minister Zhan Videnov and including all interested cabinet members, the BNB Governor, chiefs of parliamentary committees and IMF and World Bank observers, "Pari" writes. The commission should stir the central bank into action and at the same time work for the structural adjustment of the real economy, this daily writes. The beginning of structural adjustment was marked with the list of 100 enterprises to be wound up, announced by Finance Minister Dimiter Kostov, "Pari" adds.

    "I still claim that with its present foreign exchange reserve the BNB can cover this country's foreign debt payments for 1996, Stoyan Shoukerov, chief of the Currency Operations Division of the BNB, says in an interview for "Banker". But the present grave situation in the banking system makes the signing of agreements with the international financial institutions of paramount importance. According to Shoukerov, not only 1996 but also 1997 would be a difficult for Bulgaria.


    During the session of the Bulgarian-Russian Economic Commission in Moscow nearly a month ago, the sides agreed that Russia will reduce by 50 per cent customs duties for Bulgarian goods, "Standart News" quotes a surprising statement on the national radio of Minister of Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Atanas Paparizov. Paparizov said that Bulgaria too committed itself to revise its customs regulations. "We shall separate the customs duties according to the type of the commodities as one and the same customs duties are now paid for goods which are used in production and for consumer goods, which is wrong, Paparizov said.

    Changing the Bulgarian trade policy towards Moscow is a must so that this country can return on the Russian markets, "Standart News" says, citing experts' opinion. Under the effective legislation in Russia, Bulgaria is one and the same group with industrialized countries like the US, Japan, South Korea, Canada, and others, the daily says. This is why the Bulgarian commodities were a subject of the highest tariffs, "Standart News" says.

    The unclear trade relations between Bulgaria and Russia were an obstacle for the establishment of joint ventures, the daily says. After the changes, Sofia and Moscow hope to cooperate more effectively in the timber industry, tobacco industry and gas power generation, "Standart News" says.


    Sofia, April 1 (BTA) - The Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB, one of the major trade-union amalgamations), refused to discuss the increase in electricity and heat power prices with the Government. Addressing a letter to Doncho Konakchiev, Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the National Council for Tripartite Cooperation (NCTC, comprising representatives of Government, employers and trade unions), and Mincho Koralski, Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, CITUB declined the invitation to talks on the issues, a news conference was told today.

    According to CITUB President Krustyu Petkov, the reason for not accepting the invitation is the Government's well-established practice to make unilateral decisions for any new rise in electricity and heat power prices and for the cost-of-living adjustment of incomes.

    Two weeks ago the trade unions and the Government failed to reach an agreement on the cost-of-living adjustment of incomes in the state- financed sector. When the Government rejected the mechanisms proposed by the trade unions, the representatives of CITUB and the Podkrepa Labour Confederation (Podkrepa, another major trade-union amalgamation in this country) walked out of the NCTC.

    Today the Podkrepa leaders sent an open letter to CITUB and the opposition parties in Parliament - the Union of Democratic Forces, the Popular Union (a coalition of Anastasia Moser's Bulgarian Agrarian National Union and the Democratic Party) and the ethnic Turks' Movement for Rights and Freedoms, proposing to call a joint rally in protest against the negative processes in the Bulgarian society caused by the rule of the Socialist Government. The decision for it was made at last week's meeting of the Podkrepa Confederate Council.

    Having analysed the social, economic and political situation in the country, the trade-union experts established an acute shortage of bread wheat and animal feed, a collapsed banking system and no progress in the economic structural reform, the letter says.

    According to Podkrepa, the rejection of the trade unions' proposals for a cost-of-living adjustment of incomes in the state-financed sector will lead to the further impoverishment of about 600,000 workers and employees, and the increase in the prices of electricity and heat power planned by the Government will be unaffordable for most Bulgarians.

    The CITUB leaders invited Podkrepa to a meeting which would discuss the holding of joint protest actions.

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