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News from Bulgaria / Apr 4, 96

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

Bulgarian Telegraph Agency Directory

EMBASSY OF BULGARIA - WASHINGTON D.C.

BTA - BULGARIAN TELEGRAPH AGENCY

4 April, 1996


CONTENTS

  • [01] BULGARIA IMPLEMENTS PRO-EUROPEAN POLICY,

  • [02] PRESIDENT ZHELEV RECEIVED B.W.A. (Baptist World Alliance) SECRETARY GENERAL

  • [03] PRESIDENT ZHELEV'S CONSULTATIONS ON TAX LEGISLATION

  • [04] FOREIGN MINISTER PIRINSKI VISITS ATHENS

  • [05] BULGARIA DISAPPOINTED IT WAS NOT INVITED TO WASSENAAR ARRANGEMENT

  • [06] BUSINESS PRESS BULGARIA IN FOR DIFFICULTIES WITH FOREIGN DEBT SERVICE

  • [07] BULGARIAN COMPANIES WANT TO JOIN PROJECTS IN FORMER YUGOSLAVIA

  • [08] BULGARIA - SLOVENIA: ECONOMIC RELATIONS STRENGTHENED

  • [09] MASS PRIVATIZATION DEADLINE FOR VOUCHER BOOKS REGISTRATION MAY BE EXTENDED

  • [10] TRIPARTITE COUNCIL DISCUSSES NEW ENERGY PRICES

  • [11] BULGARIA HAS NOT IMPORTED ANIMALS OR MEAT FROM the UK

  • [12] WEDNESDAY NEWS BRIEFS


  • [01] BULGARIA IMPLEMENTS PRO-EUROPEAN POLICY,

    Sofia, April 3 (BTA) - Bulgaria implements a pro-European policy, Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski emphasized in his lecture on the European priorities in Bulgaria's foreign policy and the inter- governmental conference of the European Union. The lecture, attended by ambassadors, diplomats, MPs, politicians, scholars and journalists, was the first in the European Meetings cycle which opened this evening.

    Stressing Bulgaria's European orientation, Pirinski said that Bulgaria seeks to maintain good neighbourly relations with its neighbours and that within the context of its European priorities. The Bulgarian Government is convinced that to meet the European priorities, it should actively work for good neighbourliness and cooperation among the countries in the region.

    The European Union is Bulgaria's biggest trade partmer, it has made the largest investment in this country, Pirinski said. However, the Bulgarian-EU relations encounter challenges - in the area of agriculture in particular - which should be overcome, he said.

    Foreign Minister Pirinski dwelt on the history, the present state and the prospects for Bulgaria's relations with the EU which it desires to join as a full member. He made a positive assessment of the EU inter-governmental conference which is being held in Turin, repeating Bulgaria's hopes that it will end by adopting a decision for the EU enlargement. Pirinski said that Bulgaria is for a rapid full integration with the EU with a period for adaptation allowed to it.

    [02] PRESIDENT ZHELEV RECEIVED B.W.A. (Baptist World Alliance) SECRETARY GENERAL

    Sofia, April 3 (BTA) - Today President Zhelyu Zhelev received Denton Watts, Secretary General of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA). The BWA Secretary General, who is visiting Bulgaria at the invitation of the Union of Evangelical Baptist Churches in Bulgaria, voiced his concern over an erroneous notion about reformed churches, considered to be religious cults by the general Bulgarian public, Mihail Ivanov, adviser to the president on religious and ethnic affairs said. Baptists share the attitude of the Eastern Orthodox Church about the new aggressive cults, Denton Watts said. President Zhelev confirmed his position that respecting the freedom of conscience and religious values is part of Bulgaria's democratic development, Ivanov said.

    [03] PRESIDENT ZHELEV'S CONSULTATIONS ON TAX LEGISLATION

    Sofia, April 3 (BTA) - President Zhelyu Zhelev continued his consultations on tax legislation. Yesterday he considered it woth representatives of two influential trade-union amalgamations, the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria and the Podkrepa Labour Confederation. Today he had a meeting with MPs of the opposition Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), the Popular Union and the ethnic Turks' Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF). Representatives of the parliamentary Bulgarian Business Bloc and New Democracy attended the meeting. There were no MPs of the Bulgarian Socialist Party. According to UDF MP Muravei Radev, the President was asked to impose his suspensive veto on the Aggregate Income Tax Act and the retroactive amendments to the Local Taxes and Rates Act. "Acts have no right to life if they are directed against the basic instrument of market economy - small and medium-sized businesses," Popular Union MP Ventseslav Dimitrov believes. According to opposition MPs, the Government is pursuing an anti- popular policy, burdening people not only with excessive taxes but with an increase in electricity and heat power prices as of April 1.

    [04] FOREIGN MINISTER PIRINSKI VISITS ATHENS

    Sofia, April 3 (BTA) - The official two-day visit of Bulgarian Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski to Athens, which starts on Thursday, is expected to intensify the Bulgarian-Greek political dialogue. Minister Pirinski will depart for Greece late this evening.

    In addition to talks with his Greek counterpart Theodoros Pangalos, the top Bulgarian diplomat will have meetings with President Constantinos Stephanopoulos and with Prime Minister Constantinos Simitis. On Friday Georgi Pirinski will give a lecture at the Greek organisation for stimulation of exports.

    During his visit to Athens Minister Pirinski is expected to discuss a large number of issues concerning the bilateral relations, as well as regional security and cooperation. Bulgaria hopes that Greece will continue to support it in the process of its integration with the European structures, Foreign Ministry's Spokesman Pantelei Karasimeonov said.

    Foreign Minister's talks are expected to focus on the current state and the prospects for the commercial and economic relations. In 1995 the commercial exchange between the two states grew 11 per cent from 1994, reaching 621 million US dollars which ranks Greece third among Bulgaria's foreign trade partners, following Russia and Germany. Since 1990 Greece's exports for Bulgaria have been increasing. In late May the joint Bulgarian-Greek commission for commercial and economic cooperation is scheduled to hold its next session.

    Minister Pirinski will also have talks on Bulgarian-Greek cooperation in infrastructure projects, particularly the trans-European corridors NoNo IV and V, as well as the construction of the Bourgas- Alexandropoulis oil pipeline. In addition to regional cooperation and security, Minister Pirinski is expected to discuss in Greece the preparations for the meeting of Balkan foreign ministers due to be held in Sofia in late June.

    [05] BULGARIA DISAPPOINTED IT WAS NOT INVITED TO WASSENAAR ARRANGEMENT

    Sofia, April 3 (BTA) - "Bulgaria voices dissatisfaction with the fact it is not among the participants in the first meeting of founder- states of the Wassenaar Arrangement," Bulgarian Foreign Ministry's Spokesman Pantelei Karasimeonov told reporters today. He expressed hope that this injustice will be amended. The Foreign Ministry's Spokesman said that Bulgaria has not so far received invitation to attend the meeting, although its candidacy was supported by practically all participants in the negotiations. The Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual- Use Goods and Technologies is designed to succeed the COCOM export controls. Mr Karasimeonov recalled that Bulgaria meets all criteria for membership in the arrangement.

    Bulgaria has on a number of occasions and at different levels voiced readiness and willingness to participate in the newly-founded regime, the Foreign Ministry's Spokesman emphasized. This willingness is based on the country's consistent and purposeful policy for sustained improvement of its national legal framework and mechanisms for exports control, as well as on the fact that it fully meets the membership criteria, he said. Obviously some of the participants in the negotiations are still under the impressions of the conditions created in the first years of radical political and economic changes in Bulgaria that general and unpunished destruction is dominant in this country, including its military industrial complex and foreign trade in special production, reads the statement of the Foreign Ministry's Spokesman. The statement voices, however, hope that these impressions will be dissipated and the confidence in Bulgaria's mechanism of exports control will strengthen and make possible this country's inclusion among the Wassenaar Arrangement members.

    [06] BUSINESS PRESS BULGARIA IN FOR DIFFICULTIES WITH FOREIGN DEBT SERVICE

    "Continent" and "Pari" today quote a Merrill Lynch study predicting that Bulgaria may have difficulties servicing its foreign debt. The consultancy firm said the odds in favour of Bulgaria's signing a loan agreement with the World Bank in the next six months are 50 per cent. "Continent" says central bank Vice Governor Mileti Mladenov called the assessment very favourable. The Merrill Lynch report quoted by the two dailies says that if Bulgaria fails to sign the agreement, its foreign exchange reserves will come in for strong pressure. If they fall under the 500-million-dollar mark, the lev will be very vulnerable.

    Mladenov told "Continent" Bulgaria's foreign exchange reserves stand at 700 million dollars. The consultants said Bulgaria may meet its debt service commitments in 1996, but without new loans it may come across serious difficulties at the end of the year and may have to pledge its gold reserve as security.

    It emerged after a meeting of German economists interested in Bulgaria that Germany is planning to invest in this country a total of 17 million German marks a year under investment projects, said the "Troud" daily. Bonn will reportedly invest 40 million German marks in the setting up of a Bulgarian State Bank for Investment and Development similar to the German Kreditanstalt fur Wiederaufbau. Germany will reportedly invest in Bulgarian agriculture and there are projects for opening fruit and vegetables exchanges in Bulgaria's 10 biggest cities.

    [07] BULGARIAN COMPANIES WANT TO JOIN PROJECTS IN FORMER YUGOSLAVIA

    Quoting the Trade Ministry "Troud" writes that some 45 Bulgarian construction companies are applying for participation in projects for reconstructing infrastructure units in Bosnia-Herzegovina, to be financed by the donor countries. The Bulgarian companies are applying for contractors and subcontractors of construction projects, and for suppliers of materials. Some of the applicants are major state- run companies. The Trade Ministry has prepared a list providing information about the companies to be submitted to the donors at their upcoming conference in Brussels on April 12.

    [08] BULGARIA - SLOVENIA: ECONOMIC RELATIONS STRENGTHENED

    Ljubjana, April 3 (BTA) - Today the Bulgarian-Slovenian Committee for Economic, Industrial, Trade and Technical Cooperation held its first session in Ljubjana.

    The Bulgarian delegation was led by Industry Minister Kliment Vouchev, Co-Chairman of the Committee for Bulgaria. Vouchev briefed the hosts on the condition of Bulgarian economy and the prospects for its development.

    "Bulgaria promotes its relations with the other countries and international institutions, regardless of the problems and difficulties of transition," Vouchev said. 1996 is Bulgaria's Rubicon not only for economy, but for the overall social and economic development, with privatization, financial stabilization of enterprises, investing and establishment of joint ventures forthcoming , he stated.

    "We face similar problems," Slovenian Minister of Economic Relations and Development Janko Dezelak, Committee's Co-Chairman for Slovenia, said. "Unfortunately Pan-Serbian ambitions prevented the establishment of a modern federation to replace former Yugoslavia. The serious approach in resolving the problems of Bulgarian industry is impressive," Janko Dezelak added.

    The two countries' working groups discussed and approved draft agreements in the field of economy, agriculture, banking and foreign economic relations. Other intergovernmental documents will also be drawn up. Both sides showed keen interest in the idea to set up a free trade zone. Bulgarian businessmen and bankers held meetings with their Slovenian colleagues.

    [09] MASS PRIVATIZATION DEADLINE FOR VOUCHER BOOKS REGISTRATION MAY BE EXTENDED

    Sofia, April 3 (BTA) - The parliamentary Economic Committee decided to propose to the MPs to extend the deadline for the registration of voucher books by a month without changing registration fees. The initially set deadline is April 8, 1996. The registration fee is 500 leva but students, pensioners and conscripts have got to pay only 100 leva for their voucher books.

    On May 8 the Economic Committee will consider the progress of preparations for the centralized auctions together with government officials and representatives of licensed privatization funds. Yet another extension is also possible but registration fees would be higher. At that time mass privatization is expected to enter upon its next phase - voucher books can be transferred to relatives and exchanged for privatization funds shares.

    Alexander Bozhkov, MP of the Union of Democratic Forces, insists that the Cabinet table a motion for changes in the mass privatization programme. "It is obvious that the transformation of companies and the subscription for shares employees can acquire on preferential terms cannot be completed by April 8," Bozhkov said in his reasonings. The Securities and Stock Exchanges Commission is not ready for the approval of the privatization funds prospectuses, therefore the exchange of voucher books for shares cannot start immediately after April 8.

    About 110 privatization are expected to publicize their participation in mass privatization; 40 or 50 of them will have their prospectuses approved by the end of May, the Securities and Stock Exchanges Commission (SSEC) projected. Nikolai Koichev, Chairman of the parliamentay Economic Committee, told the MPs about these projections and conveyed SSEC Chairman Hristiyan Tanoushev's assurances that the approval of prospectuses would start next week.

    About 19 percent of eligible Bulgarians had acquired 1,230,000 voucher books by April 2, Nikola Koichev said. A little over 400,000 books were acquired against 500 leva, and 823,000 - against 100 leva.

    Only about 400 (out of 1,063) enterprises on the mass privatization list have their legal status analyzed; however, the legal status analyses of 211 of them should be made more precise, Vesselin Blagoev, Executive Director of the Privatization Agency, said. According to the Centre for Mass Privatization, whose requirements are more lax, three-thirds of the analyses are acceptable, Blagoev said.

    [10] TRIPARTITE COUNCIL DISCUSSES NEW ENERGY PRICES

    Sofia, April 3 (BTA) - The new prices of electricity, heat power and coals will probably be introduced on May 1, Chairman of the National Pricing Committee Dimiter Grivekov said today after a meeting of the National Council for Tripartite Cooperation (representatives of employers, trade unions and the Government).

    The process of specifying energy prices was launched already on September 1, but because of differences in the versions of the Energy Committee and the Pricing Committee, the working team came up with its suggestion as late as today, it was said after the meeting.

    The Interdepartmental Commission on State Energy Regulation decided that electricity will go up an average 32.5 per cent. The price of 1 kwh of electricity for industrial use was set at 3.17 leva and for household use at 1.73 leva. Limit price for coal will go up 30 per cent to reach 450 leva/t. Heat power will mark up 30-35 per cent. The new prices are after VAT, which is taxable on all energy products as of April 1.

    At the beginning of next week the Council of Ministers will hold an extraordinary meeting to discuss the problem of energy prices.

    "Given the current state of the social insurance funds, it is impossible to provide efficient social protection of the population after the new prices are introduced," Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Mincho Koralski believes. In his view the funds at the Social Insurance fund, the Occupational Training and Unemployment Fund and the national fund for targeted compensation of energy prices are insufficient, because a number of enterprises have not paid their social insurance contributions.

    The representatives of the two influential trade unions, the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB) and the Podkrepa Confederation of Labour walked out of the meeting, stating that price hikes should be accompanied by reconsideration of the incomes policy.

    [11] BULGARIA HAS NOT IMPORTED ANIMALS OR MEAT FROM the UK

    Sofia, April 3 (BTA) - Bulgaria has not imported neither livestock nor beef from Great Britain since 1993, Iliya Makedonski, Head of the Infectious Diseases Department with the National Veterinary Service, told BTA. This fact is confirmed by the statistics of the European Commission experts, he stated.

    Bourgas packing house manager Dr Peter Bodourov's allegations, which appeared in some Sofia dailies, that the State Veterinary and Sanitary Control Directorate had isolated the mad cow virus are not true, Makedonski said. The statement that the Directory had isolated the virus by laboratory tests of calf brains imported from the Netherlands are false, according to Makedonski.

    [12] WEDNESDAY NEWS BRIEFS

    The Parliamentary Group of the opposition Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) today submitted a formal motion for an extraordinary sitting of the National Assembly tomorrow morning to consider a draft declaration in connection with the March 29 statement of Russian President Yeltsin. Mr Yeltsin then said that Bulgaria may join the new commonwealth of former Soviet republic. The UDF MPs propose a draft resolution on Bulgaria's accession to NATO as item two on the agenda of tomorrow's sitting.

    Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski today met with the Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Bulgaria Mr Aleksandr Avdeyev, BTA learnt from the Information Department of the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry. The chief Bulgarian diplomat voiced concern over the possible unfavourable impact on the positive development of Bulgarian-Russian relations, arising from the statement made by the President of the Russian Federation on March 29, 1996. Ambassador Avdeyev stated that it is improper for certain politicians or political forces to cast a shadow of doubt on the democratic principles of the domestic and foreign policy of President Boris Yeltsin, the Foreign Ministry said in a press release.

    Sofia's Polytechnical Museum will stage a parade of antique cars in Sofia on April 10 to mark the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the first automobile in Bulgaria. The car in question was a De Dion Boutton, brought here by Czech August Sedevi in 1896. The next car, another De Dion Boutton, arrived in 1902. It belonged to the Swedish Ambassador. The first Mercedes in Bulgaria was bought by the Ministry of War in 1905. Driving courses were organized in Sofia with French instructors in 1905. The parade will start from the Central Railway Station. An exhibition entitled "One Hundred Years of Motoring in Bulgaria" will be opened at the Polytechnical Museum.

    Experts of the Media Section of the Council of Europe Directorate of Human Rights are expected in Sofia on April 23 and 24, MPs of the National Assembly Committee on Radio, Television and BTA learnt at today's meeting of the Committee. The visit responds to a request by National Assembly Chairman Blagovest Sendov for expert assistance in the drafting of the radio and television bill, said Committee Chair Klara Marinova.

    Meeting in New York City, the Bureau of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development unanimously nominated Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister and Economic Development Minister Roumen Gechev for the presidency of the Commission's fourth session and for the 1996-97 term of office, the Government Press Office said.

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