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News from Bulgaria / Apr 11, 96

From: (Embassy of Bulgaria)

Bulgarian Telegraph Agency Directory



11 April, 1996















    Brussels, April 10 (BTA) - A Bulgarian delegation, led by Georgi Dimitrov, Head of the International Organizations Department with the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry, handed Bulgaria's document on discussions within the enhanced dialogue with NATO on the organization's future enlargement to NATO Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs Gebhardt von Moltke in the organization's headquarters today. Dimitrov familiarized Ambassador von Moltke with Bulgaria's work during the drafting of the document as well as that within this country's overall relations with NATO, the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry said.

    The NATO official was also informed about Bulgaria's regional initiatives and the progress in the preparation of the Balkan foreign ministers' meeting in Sofia.

    Ambassador von Moltke was particularly interested in the Balkan cooperation and assessed in highly positive terms Bulgaria's efforts towards its further promotion. Von Moltke familiarized the Bulgarian delegation with NATO's assessment of the IFOR mission and paid special attention to Bulgaria's effort to contribute to the multinational peace-keeping initiative.

    The sides expressed their conviction that the forthcoming visit of NATO Secretary General Javier Solana to Sofia in May will provide more opportunities for developing of this country's relation with the organization and especially for continuing the dialogue between Bulgaria and NATO, the Foreign Ministry's press release says.


    Sofia, April 10 (BTA) - The Republic of Bulgaria hailed the news of the agreement on normalization of bilateral relations and development of cooperation signed by the foreign ministers of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Macedonia, Milan Milutinovic and Ljubomir Frckovski, on April 8, 1996, Bulgarian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Pantelei Karassimeonov told a news conference here today.

    The Foreign Ministry Spokesman stressed that the agreement establishes full diplomatic relations at embassy level. According to him, the mutual recognition of the two countries will contribute to the promotion of stability and security in the Balkans. This stand has repeatedly been expressed by Bulgaria both before the two countries and the international community, said Karassimeonov.


    Sofia, April 10 (BTA) - President Zhelyu Zhelev today returned for further consideration in Parliament the act ratifying the Bulgarian- Greek agreement on the use of the water of the River Mesta. Under the intergovernmental agreement, signed in December 1995 in Sofia, Greece can use 29 per cent of the average annual flow of the transfrontier River Mesta on Bulgarian territory for 35 years. Parliament ratified the agreement in late March. Opposition MPs voted against the ratification as, in their view, the agreement contained dated figures. An MP of the opposition Union of Democratic Forces described the agreement as "treason".

    "The President has reiterated his will for promoting mutually beneficial relations on equal footing between the Republic of Bulgaria and the Hellenic Republic. The problem of the use of the water of the River Mesta has a 30-year history," the Presidential Spokesman said today. He stressed that even during the communist rule the governments and the other state bodies did not act irresponsibly as regards this important issue.

    The Presidential Spokesman recalled a decision of Parliament of January 1990 which said that Bulgaria should use at least 75 per cent of the flow of Mesta on its territory.

    "Violating their authorities in conducting negotiations and without informing the National Assembly and the public, several governments since 1994 made a number of concessions until the conclusion of the present agreement. The President believes that such an approach of drafting and signing international agreements does not correspond to Bulgaria's national interests," the Presidential Spokesman said.

    "Returning the act on the ratification of the agreement between the Governments of Bulgaria and Greece on the use of the water of the River Mesta, President Zhelev insists that the National Assembly work out a clear mandate of the Government which treat the issue of the use of the water of the River Mesta within the framework of all problems of the cooperation between two sovereign and independent states: the Republic of Bulgaria and the Hellenic Republic," the Presidential Spokesman said. In the meantime, President Zhelev issued a decree promulgating a Bulgarian-Greek agreement on the opening of three new border checkpoints and road links between the two countries.


    Sofia, April 10 (BTA) - Parliamentarians of the German Bundestag who are visiting Sofia said they took a positive view of Bulgaria's efforts to be excluded from the EU negative list. They met today with representatives of the Parliamentary Committees on National Security, and Foreign Policy and European Integration.

    Bulgaria appreciates Germany's help for its quicker exclusion from the EU negative list, said Nikolai Kamov, Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Policy and European Integration. Socialist MP Elena Poptodorova familiarized the guests with the legislative measures taken by Parliament about the visa regime and emigration. The number of Bulgarian emigrants to Western Europe was considerably smaller last year, she said. In 1995 Bulgarian emigrants to the EU countries numbered 500 at the most. Some 20,000 Bulgarians have emigrated to Greece and Germany. Control of the visa regime has been tightened; new foreign travel passports are under preparation and business passports will be issued only by the Foreign Ministry. The number of visas for what are known as high-risk countries dropped by 75 per cent on average in 1995.

    Later today the German parliamentarians were received by Prime Minister Zhan Videnov, who set forth the measures taken by the Bulgarian Government to restrict illegal trafficking and crack down on crime as a step towards this country's exclusion from the EU visa blacklist, the Government press office said. The German delegation was received by Interior Minister Lyubomir Nachev. The subjects for discussion were the Central Service for Organized Crime Control, border zones and interaction between border control services, economic crime and corruption in the state apparat. The participants emphasized the need to improve legislation applied in the struggle against ill gotten gains, the Interior Ministry said.


    Sofia, April 10 (BTA) - Minister of Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Atanas Paparizov this afternoon left on a brief official visit to Germany. He will have talks with German Minister of Economy Guenter Rexrodt. "Germany is one of our major European Union partners and I believe that we can review the initiatives launched at all levels to promote the development of business and commercial ties," Trade Minister Paparizov said before his departure. He cited a number of German and joint projects that will be discussed during his talks in Germany. Investment will also be high on the agenda of the visit. Paparizov described as very important the meetings he is scheduled to have with the trade ministers of Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Romania and Ukraine. "There is a number of bilateral issues that need to be addressed," he said.


    Sofia, April 10 (BTA) - Rapporteurs Domenique Columberg, Jean Setlenger and Despina Hadjivasiliou of the Council of Europe (CE) Parliamentary Assembly today had talks in Sofia after which they will draw up a report on the way Bulgaria meets its commitments as CE member. Rapporteurs are sent to all countries admitted to the CE after 1989. The CE rapporteurs had talks at the Bulgarian Parliament and the Directorate of Religious Affairs and were received by President Zhelyu Zhelev.

    The MPs of the Bulgarian delegation to the CE Parliamentary Assembly assured their colleagues that Bulgaria is capitalizing on all opportunities offered by the CE membership, to bring Bulgarian legislation in line with that of Europe. Bulgarian lawyers are familiar with the Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and can advise their clients, said the Bulgarian MPs.

    The leaders of the Foreign Policy Committee with the Bulgarian Parliament brought to the fore the consensus existing on Bulgaria's European Union membership and the differences on its entry into NATO, said committee deputy chief Assen Agov. MPs of the opposition Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) voiced their concern over "the infringement on the freedom of speech and the right to ownership".

    The three rapporteurs also met representatives of Roma organizations. Mass media help establish a negative image of the Roma population and as a result of this society tends to isolate it, United Roma Alliance Chairman Vassil Chaprazov reportedly said during the talks. The leader of the Bulgarian Roma Confederation and MP of the Democratic Left coalition pointed to the need of CE financing for improving the social policy of the government.

    Meeting Hristo Matanov, head of the Directorate of Religious Affairs, the CE Parliamentary Assembly rapporteurs inquired into the reasons for refusing registration to religious communities and Bulgarian visas to foreign missionaries. They were also interested in whether the religious denominations in Bulgaria have the right to counsel and in the progress of restitution of property to the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches.

    Positive trends in building a country with a rule of law and parliamentary democracy dominate in Bulgaria. There is also progress in the observation of human rights, the rapporteurs told President Zhelyu Zhelev. At the meeting Dr. Zhelev expressed concern over Parliament's failure to adopt the legislation necessary for the reform in the judiciary. He announced his intention to approach the Constitutional Court on problems pertaining to the freedom of speech and press, the right to information and on censorship. Setlenger said after the meeting with the President that they share his views on the freedom of speech but it is not identical to full freedom of expression.

    The CE Parliamentary Assembly rapporteurs also met Prosecutor General Ivan Tatarchev, Supreme Court President Roumen Yankov and the editor-in-chief of the ruling Socialists' "Douma" daily, Stefan Prodev.


    Sofia, April 10 (Vanya Ivanova of BTA) - The first day of the official visit to Bulgaria of Lithuanian President Algirdas Brazauskas saw the signing of a Treaty on Friendship and Cooperation and accords on economic, scientific and technical cooperation and on introducing a visa-free regime. The Lithuanian Head of State is visiting Bulgaria at the invitation of his Bulgarian counterpart Zhelyu Zhelev.

    Following the official ceremony upon the guest's arrival, the two countries' Presidents had a one-to-one session. Later the talks were joined by the Bulgarian and Lithuanian delegations.

    Presidents Zhelev and Brazauskas focused on bilateral relations, the two countries' integration into the European structures and NATO's expansion to the east, said Presidential Spokesman Valentin Stoyanov. The two Heads of State were unanimous about NATO's expansion and the need for Bulgaria and Lithuania to join the North Atlantic Alliance, said Stoyanov. The two Presidents expressed satisfaction with the signing of the accords and voiced hope that they will provide a legal basis for expanding further bilateral relations.

    Dr. Zhelev said that a package of bilateral documents in the field of economy is currently being drafted. President Brazauskas believes that the bilateral agreements on shipping and aviation are particularly important for Lithuania. He hopes that all documents that have been signed as well as those due to be signed, will facilitate the two countries' integration into Europe and the progress of reforms they have launched.

    On Thursday the Lithuanian President is expected to meet National Assembly Chairman Blagovest Sendov and to address Parliament. He is not going to meet Bulgarian Prime Minister Zhan Videnov at breakfast tomorrow, as was initially announced, said the Presidential Spokesman.


    Sofia, April 10 (BTA) - Danish Foreign Minister Niels Helveg Petersen will arrive tomorrow on an official visit to Bulgaria. Expansion and deepening of bilateral cooperation and the interaction between Bulgaria and Denmark in the European integration processes and security will be among the central topics of Mr Petersen's talks.

    In addition to meeting his Bulgarian counterpart Georgi Pirinski, Mr Petersen will be received by National Assembly Chairman Blagovest Sendov, Prime Minister Zhan Videnov and President Zhelyu Zhelev. Denmark was the first state to ratify the association agreement between Bulgaria and the EU. The Bulgarian-Danish diplomatic relations on legation level were established in 1930 and in 1964 they were raised to the level of embassies.


    Sofia, April 10 (BTA) - Parliament today passed at a first reading debate the Cabinet-sponsored money laundering bill. The passage of measures to this effect is one of this country's international obligations after it joined the Council of Europe Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds of Crime, MPs said at the start of today's debate.

    Opposition MPs agreed that Bulgaria should have such an act but rejected many of the provisions in the bill. On the proposal of MP Svetoslav Louchnikov of the opposition Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), Parliament extended the deadline for proposals to be made the second reading debate by one week.

    Under the bill, banks, insurance and investment companies, privatization bodies and other financial institutions have to identify their clients when establishing long-term relations, when making transactions and deals exceeding 1,500,000 leva, as well as when suspecting money laundering practices.

    Gathering of information from banks and other financial institutions in a special body with the Interior Ministry, as provided in the bill, will allow the authorities to do away with uncomfortable economic agents and can be used for racketeering of companies on the part of the police, UDF MP Mouravei Radev and Popular Union MP Ventsislav Dimitrov said. Gyulbie Redjeb of the ethnic Turks' Movement for Rights and Freedoms warned about the possibility for violating banking confidentiality. Dimitrov took a stand against the provision under which when receiving information on or suspecting practices of money laundering the special service with the Interior Ministry can suspend the implementation of transactions or deals for 24 hours without being legally liable for the damages incurred thereof. Information on financial transactions and deals should be gathered not by a special service with the Interior Ministry but by the Bank Supervision Department with the central bank, Dimitrov said.

    Opposition MPs said that the bill contains provisions for prevention and identification of cases of money laundering only and does not envisage punitive measures. Justice Minister Mladen Chervenyakov, who took part in the debate, said that the money laundering bill will be implemented in close connection with the Penal Code.


    Sofia, April 10 (BTA) - Passing amendments to the Business of Foreign Persons and Foreign Investment Protection Act, the National Assembly approved a minmum threshold for foreign investments of 50,000 US dollars.

    The amendments, proposed by the parliamentary majority, involve a change in the regulations for foreign persons' deposits in Bulgarian banks. Current legislation provides preferential treatment for foreign persons' deposits which are considered as foreign investments and the income from the deposits is transferable abroad. The difference between interest rates in Bulgaria and abroad made it possible for foreigners, who had registered firms with ridiculously small capital in Bulgaria, to secure themselves very high incomes availing themselves of the preferential treatment, a sponsor of the amendments said. In his opinion, this led to an unjustified outflow of capital. The purpose of the amendments is to bring to the fore foreign investments made directly in in enterprises, another MP said. These are the funds invested in production, shares or the purchase of whole enterprises, he added.

    The amendments deprive foreign investors of any incentives, Muravei Radev, MP of the opposition Union of Democratic Forces, said.The sole privilege foreign investors had was to place their money in the banks after having paid their taxes, to exchange the leva for hard currency and then take the funds aborad, another opposition MP said. In his view, the amendments introduce a discriminatory regime for foreign investments.

    Foreign persons who do not conduct economic activities in Bulgaria under the Business of Foreign Persons and Foreign Investment Protection Act may open bank accounts in foreign currency in two ways: through a bank remittance from abroad or in cash presenting a customs declaration evidencing the money has been lawfully cleared. Foreigners can open accounts in leva only by presenting certificates evidencing the origin of the money. These are the amendments to the Transactions in Currency Assets and Exchange Control Act Parliament also passed on first reading today. They are related to the amendments made to to the Business of Foreign Persons and Foreign Investment Protection Act.


    Sofia, April 10 (BTA) - Industry Minister Kliment Vouchev and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Development Roumen Gechev are conducting an indirect dispute in the "Standart News" daily on the possible privatization of the chemical giant Sodi- Devnya. Sodi is one of the most technically advanced sodium-making enterprises in Europe. The dispute began last year when Gechev proposed that Sodi be included in the list of enterprises for privatization.

    According to Vouchev, the plant should not be privatized. He believes that no Bulgarian company would be able to buy Sodi, while a foreign buyer would either close it or change its line of business. "I shall do my best to maintain the view that the state should keep the plant at any cost," Vouchev says. According to him, by selling the company the state will earn 10,000 million leva but will lose a strategic producer. "This is a wrong state policy," Vouchev concludes.

    Gechev for his part considers Sodi's privatization a possibility for new investments in the plant. "The sale of Sodi-Devnya is not trading in national interests," "Standart News" quotes him as saying. The state does not have enough funds to maintain and modernize the chemical giant, Gechev motivates his statement. The possible buyer will be required to not only pay a good price but to provide guarantees for investment and modernization, to keep the number of jobs and to ensure the plant's competitiveness on the international markets. Although Gechev declined to name the foreign companies which are interested in Sodi, he said that they are the world's biggest chemical concerns. "This means that this country is attractive to foreign investors," Gechev says.

    A 15-year concession of the Varna thermal power plant will amount to USD 500 million, "24 Chassa" says, quoting chief of the Concessions Department with the Cabinet Nikolai Minkov. The amount was calculated by financial consultants of Rothschild Co. Large British electricity producers and Swedish investors are interested in the plant, the daily says. The project is reportedly approved by the World Bank which is expected to allocate funds for the plants' modernization under the Energy-2 financial facility. The Varna thermal plant has six power units of 210 mW each. Since last summer, however, the plant has been working at its minimum capacity due to the shortage of Ukrainian coal, for which it was initially built. Nearly 2,500,000 t of coal is needed to ensure the plant's efficient work. In 1995 it received only a few shipments of 25,000 t each, "24 Chassa" says.


    Sofia, April 10 (BTA) - An extraordinary session of the Plovdiv City Council today decided that a monument to the Soviet army should be dismounted. The decision was taken 30 votes against 17 following heated debates. The monument, widely known as Alyosha, was built in 1957 to commemorate the Russian solders who participated in World War Two and crossed Bulgaria's territory in 1944 when the communists took power in this country.

    The impressive granite statue, figuring a Soviet soldier called Alyosha in a military cloak and a rifle in his right hand, towers above Plovdiv, Bulgaria's second biggest city, atop one of its seven hills. Alyosha's dismounting first entered the agenda of the City Council in December 1991, shortly after the launch of democratic changes in Bulgaria and under the government of the now opposition Union of Democratic Forces (UDF). Then UDF city councilor Hristo Adjarov said it was high time that the city got rid of this "false idol because the Soviet army was an army of occupation". In late December 1991 the then city council said it would call a referendum to decide on the future of Alyosha. Last December Plovdiv Mayor Spas Gurnevski, elected last October on the UDF ticket, said he would not allow the presence of Soviet tanks and monuments in the city.

    Bulgaria and the Russian Federation have signed an agreement providing for the protection of monuments on the two countries' territories, argued city councilors of the ruling Socialist party, who voted against the dismounting of the monument. The Socialists, now a minority in the Plovdiv City Council, cited more Bulgarian-Russian agreements on the preservation of the architectural and cultural heritage signed in 1954, 1972 and 1991.

    The councilors of the opposition UDF, Popular Union and ethnic Turks' Movement for Rights and Freedoms who all backed today's decision said Alyosha stands as a symbol of the Soviet invaders and is of no historical value for Plovdiv and Bulgaria.

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