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News from Bulgaria / Apr 23, 96

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

Bulgarian Telegraph Agency Directory

EMBASSY OF BULGARIA - WASHINGTON D.C.

BTA - BULGARIAN TELEGRAPH AGENCY

23 April, 1996


CONTENTS

  • [01] BULGARIA, ROMANIA DISCUSS DRAFT AGREEMENT ON NUCLEAR INCIDENTS COOPERATION

  • [02] BULGARIAN-GERMAN FORUM ESTABLISHED

  • [03] PRESIDENT ZHELEV DECORATES APOSTOLIC NUNCIO MARIO RIZZI

  • [04] ASSOCIATION OF BALKAN TRADE CHAMBERS MEETING

  • [05] UNSTABLE FOREX MARKET GIVES RISE TO EXPECTATIONS FOR INTEREST RATE INCREASE

  • [06] BUSINESS PRESS

  • [07] MONDAY NEWS BRIEFS


  • [01] BULGARIA, ROMANIA DISCUSS DRAFT AGREEMENT ON NUCLEAR INCIDENTS COOPERATION

    Sofia, April 22 (BTA) - The Bulgarian-Romanian intergovernmental commission on cooperation in environmental protection today started discussions of a draft agreement on early notification of a nuclear incident and on the exchange of information about nuclear facilities. A Romanian delegation, led by the Chairman of the National Committee on Nuclear Control Activity Anton Dragomirescu arrived in Sofia today to take part in the negotiations.

    The sides have the good will to sign the agreement, the Chairman of the Bulgarian side of the Commission Deputy Minister of Environment Yoncho Pelovski told journalists. Pelovski recalled that Bulgaria has signed such a document with Greece. "We are on the threshold of signing a similar agreement with Turkey. I was assured by the Romanian side that they are ready to work late into the night if necessary so that we draft the agreement and, hopefully, sign it on Wednesday," Pelovski said. According to him, the document, which will be drawn in accordance with the regulations of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, will provide for serious measures for early notification of not only nuclear accidents in power stations but of those during the transportation of nuclear fuel and nuclear waste as well. Concluding the agreement, Bulgaria and Romania will commit themselves to meet all obligations under the Convention on Nuclear Safety which they have signed and ratified. "We would like to draft and present before the European Union an agreement which meets all criteria of the European legislation," Pelovski said. Chairman of the Bulgarian Committee for Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy Yanko Yankov takes part in the Commission's working meeting.

    [02] BULGARIAN-GERMAN FORUM ESTABLISHED

    Bonn, April 22 (BTA exclusive by Simeon Vassilev) Bulgarian Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski delivered a report on "Bulgaria: Preparation for European Union Membership" at the setting up of Bulgarian-German Forum here today. Pirinski commended the sponsors of the idea for setting up the forum and particularly the Bulgarian-German friendship group with the Bundestag with its chairman Gerno Erler and deputy chairman Ulrich Schmalz. The Bulgarian Foreign Minister voiced his hope that the forum will play a major role in establishing Bulgaria as a promising German partner. "We believe that the moment has come for launching multilateral cooperation in Southeastern Europe in close link with the European Union," Pirinski said. The Bulgarian-EU dialogue takes place within the framework of multilateral cooperation among the Union and its associated members, he also said.

    "I would like to avail myself of this opportunity to congratulate Germany on its valuable initiatives during its presidency of the EU in 1994 which resulted in an intensification of the relations between the EU and the associated countries," the Bulgarian Foreign Minister said. Bulgarian-German contacts are of vital importance in the process of Bulgaria's integration in European and Euroatlantic structures, Pirinski added. "We have always viewed Germany as a reliable partner and our relations are of a long-term strategic nature," the Bulgarian foreign minister said. He also said that European integration is Bulgaria's strategic choice and its Government is firmly bent on continuing its intensive preparations for this country's full membership in the EU. German experience and aid to this end are of paramount importance for Bulgaria, Pirinski said.

    Bulgarian Ambassador in Bonn Stoyan Stalev read an address on behalf of Bulgarian Prime Minister Zhan Videnov. The address said that the Bulgarian government sees the initiative for setting up a new forum for friendship between the two countries as yet another manifestation of Germany's readiness to support Bulgaria in carrying out the complex and deep social and economic reforms, and as a new manifestation of the traditional Bulgarian-German understanding. "Bulgaria has the will and potential to be a viable and promising partner, following a predictable and consistent policy. Paramount foreign policy and foreign economic objectives of this country in the Balkans are regional stabilization, security and cooperation, which Bulgaria sees as an inseperable part of the all-European processes. We are convinced that the major political and economic goals Bulgaria has set itself require hard work, patience and political consistency, as well as confidence and tangible assistance from the advanced European countries, international organizations and financial structures. "I am sure that Bulgarian-German Forum will be a working instrument for achieving our common goals and aspirations," read the Prime Minister's address.

    Today Minister Pirinski conferred with State Minister with the Federal Chancellor Berndt Schmidbauer. Tomorrow he is scheduled to meet with German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel, with Chairman of the Bundestag's Foreign Policy Committee Karl-Heinz Hornhues, with Chairman of the German Social Democratic Party Oskar Lafontaine, with Rudolf Seiters, Deputy Chairman of the parliamentary coalition of the Christian Democratic Union/the Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU) and with the Eastern Committee of the German Economy Otto Wolf von Amerongen.

    [03] PRESIDENT ZHELEV DECORATES APOSTOLIC NUNCIO MARIO RIZZI

    Sofia, April 22 (BTA) - President Zhelev decorated today Apostolic Nuncio Monsignor Mario Rizzi with the Horseman of Madara First Class Order. Monsignor Rizzi was conferred this high Bulgarian award for his great contribution to promoting relations between Bulgaria and the Vatican and in connection with his final departure from this country. At the presentation ceremony President Zhelev recalled that in 1981 Pope John Paul II proclaimed Slav enlighteners Sts Cyril and Methodius patrons of Europe. He expressed his hope that the head of the Roman Catholic Church would visit Bulgaria soon.

    Monsignor Mario Rizzi was the first apostolic nuncio to Bulgaria after this country restored its diplomatic relations with the Vatican in 1991. Under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 he has the rank of an ambassador. Monsignor Rizzi is a follower of Monsignor Angelo Guiseppe Roncalli appointed by Pope Pius XI was apostolic visitor to Bulgaria from 1925 to 1935. Monsignor Roncalli was elected pope in April 1958 under the name of Pope John XXIII known for his positive attitude to Bulgaria. After Roncalli the Pope was represented in Bulgaria by Archbishop Guiseppe Mazolli (till his death in 1945) and by Francesco Galoni, who was officially recalled in early 1950.

    [04] ASSOCIATION OF BALKAN TRADE CHAMBERS MEETING

    Sofia, April 22 (BTA) - Expansion of trade relations among the Balkan states and their legislative framework, cooperation in banking and finance, the joint projects in infrastructure and tourism were on the agenda of the Fourth General Meeting of the Association of the Balkan Chambers (ABC) which opened today.

    "We highly appreciate ABC's activity because given the undoubted growing inter-dependence among the countries and their economies, cooperation among the Balkan states is a key factor for the stability in the region and in Europe," Minister of Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Atanas Paparizov said in an address on behalf of Bulgarian Prime Minister Zhan Videnov.

    "Information insufficiency is a key problem for the businessmen in the region," Chairman of the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Bozhidar Bozhinov said. The construction of a unified information system operating in the trade chambers of the member states will seek to settle this problem. A working team on finance, banking and insurance has already been formed to assist in the establishment of corresponding relations among the commercial banks in the region. On the agenda of the meeting which is not open to the press, is the signing of an agreement between the arbitration courts of the chambers for settling trade disputes among companies.

    The ABC was established in 1994 on the initiative of the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry as a politically unaffiliated, non-governmental and non-profit organisation. Its members, in addition to the Bulgarian chamber, are those of Albania, Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Romania, Yugoslavia, Macedonia. Tomorrow the general meeting will continue with a round table on the topic of "Liberalization of Trade in the Balkans."

    [05] UNSTABLE FOREX MARKET GIVES RISE TO EXPECTATIONS FOR INTEREST RATE INCREASE

    Sofia, April 22 (Ekaterina Kazassova of BTA) - After trading began on the interbank foreign currency market this morning, traders bought dollars at 82.20-82.60 leva to the US currency and sold them at 84.80-86.00 leva/USD 1. On Friday, the market closed at 83.50-84 leva/USD 1.

    The market is unstable; financial houses and foreign exchange offices restrain from active trading, BTA learned from a dealer of Bulgarian Post Bank. He attributed this situation to the fact that for the first time since late last week traders refused to sign deals. Many dealers and bankers expect that this week the central bank will increase the base interest rate to contain the rising leva/dollar exchange rate. Others, however, speculate that the central bank will increase the repo rate only, leaving the base interest rate at its current level of 49 per cent. Already last week, the National Bank of Bulgaria (BNB, the central bank) discussed the situation on the foreign currency market but took no decisions as regards the monetary policy. "Before increasing the base interest rate, we need to see how fundamental the factors for the present rise of the dollar are," BNB Governor Lyubomir Filipov said. In just three days at the end of last week, the US currency gained 4-5 per cent to the lev. According to Filipov, the leva/dollar exchange rate will become more stable which, however, does not mean that the dollar will remain at the same level. The central bank will react depending on the situation on the market, Filipov said in an interview on the national television on Saturday. According to him, BNB can resort to a number of measures, selling of US dollars included. The BNB is not working against the market; it only seeks to prevent drastic upsurges in the leva/dollar exchange rate stemming from speculative trading, Filipov stressed.

    According to Stoyan Shoukerov, Chief of the BNB Foreign Currency Operations Department, the bank has to considerably increase the base interest rate as otherwise it will be difficult for it to keep its foreign exchange reserves and preserve the confidence in the national currency. "If it were up to me, I would increase the base interest rate not by ten but by 20 percentage points," Shoukerov told a BTA reporter late last week. Few members of the BNB Board of Governors, however, agree with Shoukerov's view.

    In early February the central bank increased the base interest rate from 34 per cent to 42 per cent; just a month later the rate grew to 49 per cent. The two hikes, together with the BNB's interventions on the market, had to check the upsurge of the leva/dollar exchange rate. After a few weeks' respite, however, the dollar suddenly grew by 2.5 leva. Analysts say that this is a familiar trend on the forex market since the coming of the spring traditionally leads to the green backs' emerging from hibernation.

    According to Filipov, last week's appreciation of the dollar cannot be termed as a "leap". The current depreciation of the national currency will improve the competitiveness of the Bulgarian economy, he said. Filipov did not rule out the presence of certain speculative factors but, in his view, they are not the chief ones that caused the dollar's upsurge. Since 1994, the lev's depreciation has always been lower than inflation, the BNB Governor said. According to him, there are no obstacles for the BNB to intervene on the market, even without external financing. Despite this, however, the bank needs external financing after this country paid 2,000 million leva under the deal with the London Club of commercial creditors. By the year's end Bulgaria has to make payments to the amount of USD 800 million.

    The BNB foreign currency reserves currently stand at USD 703 million. The bank relies chiefly on export to maintain the necessary foreign currency reserves. In the past two weeks alone, the BNB bought some USD 46 million. but sold about USD 30 million to commercial banks.

    [06] BUSINESS PRESS

    Sofia, April 22 (BTA) - Under the headline, "No Danger to Frustrate Projects with the World Bank," "Douma" runs an interview with Kennet Lay, World Bank Director in charge of Southeastern Europe. However, some of the projects will be amended, like the agricultural development project and the project on investments and expert financing, Lay notes. According to him, this will open new chances to utilize the funds invested in them. Major priority for Bulgaria is to launch serious structural reforms in the banking sector, Mr Lay says. In 1995, 15 percent of the Gross Domestic Product was spent on loss-making state-owned enterprises, he states. The banks directly take part in this process extending non-performing loans to the enterprises and after that the central bank re-finances the banks. If this is not brought under control there will be drastic depreciation of the lev and the inflation will surge to a galloping pace, Kennet Lay warns. In case structural reform is not implemented the World Bank will have difficulties in investing in Bulgaria, he states in the interview. Then the bank will extend to Bulgaria not more than 125 million US dollars. But if this country makes a considerable progress in handling the losses of state-financed enterprises and in the rehabilitation of the banking system, the amount of the loan may reach 800 million US dollars over the next three years, Lay says.

    A drastic reduction of the number of banks is being prepared, "Pari" writes. The Government measures to stabilize the banking system envisages two-fold reduction of the number of state-owned banks and three-fold of the private ones, the paper writes quoting Ivan Angelov, advisor to the Prime Minister. Within two or three weeks the Cabinet will take a decision about the closing of certain state-financed banks and merging of others, according to Angelov. As well- performing banks in the Government program are pointed Bulbank, State Savings Bank, Post Bank and Biochim.

    "If we were Government pets, we would not have all these problems," Veska Medjidieva, Chairman of the Management Board of the Bulgarian Agricultural and Industrial Bank, says in a interview for the "Troud" paper. Last week the Supreme Court cancelled the banks registration. Medjidieva accused Prosecutor General Ivan Tatarchev of executing a political order of the opposition Union of Democratic Forces. "I cannot understand why someone's decision to assist financially or morally a party in its election campaign is interpreted as a criminal act," Medjidieva says, answering a question whether the bank has financed the election campaign of the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party.

    "Standart News" and "Continent" write about projects to transform the Sofia Airport into a joint stock company. At a joint meeting the boards of directors of the airport complex and Balkan airlines discussed the possibilities to transfer the land-based equipment and employees of the airport service to Balkan. The airport complex does not want to merge with the loss-making Balkan airlines, "Continent" says. In 1995 the company's debts exceeded 2,000 million leva, of which more than 500 million were owned to the Sofia airport, the paper writes.

    [07] MONDAY NEWS BRIEFS

    Bulgarian Academician Assen Hadjiolov died this morning in the French town of Toulouse, the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences announced. Academician Hadjiolov was one of the most outstanding researchers in molecular biology. He gained world acclaim with his studies on ribosome gene structure and cancerogenesis.

    Some 100 Bulgarian Gypsies today set up a trade union which they called Roma Support, seeking to protect the social interests of Gypsies in Bulgaria, the BTA was told by leader Georgi Paroushev. He also said the new organization will be financed by insurer Ivo Karamanski whom the press implicates in links with the crime world.

    "I don't agree with press allegations that Bulgaria neglects its relations with Turkey at the expense of contacts with other countries," Bulgarian Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski said upon his departure for Bonn today. He said active negotiations are currently under way for the exchange of official visits at highest government level. Pirinski also denied press reports that this week he will visit Skopje at the invitation of his Macedonian counterpart Lyubomir Frckovski. He confirmed though that there have been negotiations to prepare such a visit but it will probably take place at a later stage to ensure better results. Prompted by media speculations, Pirinski further dwelled on his citizenship. Press reports expressed doubts that Pirinski, born in New York in 1948, have not given up his US citizenship. "I have solved this matter back in 1974," he said at the airport.

    The deputy chairman of the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) which is Bulgaria's biggest opposition force, Vassil Gotsev, was elected in Strasbourg deputy leader of the European People's Party - Christian Democrats, said the UDF press office. Gotsev is member of the Bulgarian delegation participating in the spring session of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly.

    30 companies - of them 12 for the first time in Bulgaria are participating in the third exhibition of US-made hi-tech products, "American Tech'96", opened this evening by US Charge d'Affaires here Rose Likins. The exhibition displays state-of-the-art products in 39 fields including computers, software and telecoms. The focus of the exhibition will be the presentation of Internet, Via Expo Ltd. who have organized the exhibition, told a news conference. The Oklahoma Department of Trade is participating with 6 companies interested in the Bulgarian market.

    At least three Turkish banks will invest in Bulgaria millions of dollars, but only if there are specific projects for launching new businesses that will generate jobs, including the construction of roads and social establishments. This emerged at a news conference called in Kurdjali by Rassim Moussa whose election as mayor of this Southern Bulgarian town, inhabited mostly by ethnic Turks, was invalidated by the court. Moussa was in the delegation of the ethnic Turks' Movement for Rights and Freedoms that recently visited Turkey, said the BTA local correspondent. Moussa is further quoted saying that in two months' time at the most, a Turkish government delegation will visit this country to discuss technicalities on the Turkish investment to come here.

    The Bulgarian Red Cross today delivered to the 6th Regional Hospital in Sofia 27 boxes of medicines donated by the Exchange and Solidarity Foundation of France. The campaign for raising humanitarian aid was joined by schoolgoers of Versailles and 38 French pharmacy labs. The Sylvie Vartan for Bulgaria Association provided the transport. The donation includes antibiotics, analgetics, vitamins and medicines for cardiovascular, nervous, lung and kidney diseases. Some of them came with expired shelf life and will be discarded, hospital director Elena Pangelska told the BTA.

    Following an audit of the Plovdiv-based AgroBusinessBank, legal proceedings on office abuse charges were launched against the bank's former supervisors and officials, Plovdiv District Prosecutor Andrei Atanasov said. In late 1995, the central bank bought AgroBusinessBank for one lev, took over the bank's management and started an audit of the bank's finances. According to the last report of AgroBusinessBank management, overdue loans amounted to some 1,300 million leva, as much as due interest.

    The opening of a commercial and industrial exhibition was the first event of the Days of Bulgaria in St. Petersburg. Participating in the exhibition are over 30 Bulgarian manufacturers. Bulgarian-Russia relations and cooperation are not only an element of the Bulgarian foreign policy: they are linked with Bulgaria's national interests in the economic and spiritual sphere, Bulgarian Environment Minister Georgi Georgiev, who heads a Bulgarian delegation there, said at the opening of the exhibition quoted by the Bulgarian National Radio correspondent. Environment Minister Georgiev is further quoted saying that the bilateral relations are based on the principles of sovereignty, equality and mutually beneficial cooperation.

    "Bulgarian-German Relations" and "The Balkans in the Policy of the Big Countries" are the latest books published by the National Institute of International Research, promoted before journalists today by Institute Director Evgeni Alexandrov. The books, coming out both in Bulgarian and in English, were published with the assistance of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. The two books are the first in a series of scientific studies on Bulgaria's foreign policy.

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