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News from Bulgaria / Apr 26, 96

From: (Embassy of Bulgaria)

Bulgarian Telegraph Agency Directory



26 April, 1996













    Sofia, April 25 (BTA) - The Council of Ministers today passed two ordinances concerning the Securities and Stock Exchanges Commission - on keeping registers of stock exchanges, investment brokers and companies trading in securities, and on keeping a register of privatization funds. The registers will be accessible to the public, to protect investors from dishonest players on the stock market, the Commission's Chairman Hristiyan Tanoushev said.

    The Government issued a decree to update charges collected by the patent authorities. Charges on inventions rise fourfold and on trademarks and industrial samples threefold. Inventors patenting their own inventions, state-run educational institutions and academic research organizations will only pay half the rate, under the decree.

    The Cabinet decided to open an extrabudgetary account to finance the expenses of the Committee of Tourism for the promotion of Bulgaria as a tourist destination. The funds will be raised from donations.

    The Government today approved a list of 145 state-run companies to be sold off by year-end. Large companies on the list include the Rousse and Varna shipyards, the heavy machine building plant in Rousse and the metal tool plant in Sofia.

    The Council of Ministers moved for ratification by the National Assembly the Third Additional Protocol to the Europe Agreement for Bulgaria's association with the European Union. The protocol was adopted by the EU Council of Ministers on April 22, making European markets accessible to Bulgarian textile goods. The protocol cuts the duty on Bulgarian textiles down to two-sevenths of the duty paid by most- favoured nations, the Minister of Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Atanas Paparizov said. He said the Government will urge Parliament to swiftly ratify the protocol, which would take force on the first day of the month after ratification.

    The ministers heard a report about excise duties on tobacco products in connection with Bulgaria's forthcoming accession to the World Trade Organization. The goal is to put local and foreign producers on an equal footing, Trade Minister Paparizov said. He specified the Government is not seeking to increase revenues by raising excise duties - its goal is compliance with WTO methods of calculation.

    The Government today heard a report on the organization of a Bulgarian trade and industrial exhibition in Moscow. It will open on May 13, as part of the Days of Bulgaria in Russia. The Bulgarian delegation will be led by Trade Minister Paparizov. The delegations will meet on the government level.

    The ministers heard a report about a forthcoming visit by NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana on May 2 and 3.


    Sofia, April 25 (BTA) - "My talks with Bulgarian state leaders will focus on economic issues. I see my first visit to Bulgaria is an attempt to boost trade and economic cooperation between Bulgaria and Bavaria," the Minister President of the German state of Bavaria Edmund Steuber said today upon his arrival in Sofia today. Steuber and his delegation will make a two-day visit to Bulgaria at the invitation of the Bulgarian Government.

    "I would like to find out if there are barriers to better trade and economic cooperation, and especially to joint ventures," Steuber said. "I am afraid the number of joint ventures is small. Thus, Bavarian Hungarian ventures are ten times more," he also said. The Bavarian Minister President expects his visit to boost trade relations between Bulgaria and Bavaria.

    Later today the Bavarian guest and Bulgarian Prime Minister Zhan signed a joint declaration on cooperation in nearly all economic and social fields. At a lengthy meeting, the two leaders discussed the promotion of trade and economic relations between Bulgaria and the German state. They expressed a hope the accord will be beneficial in that respect. The joint declaration names the following areas of cooperation: trade, tourism, transport, construction, agriculture, forestry, health care, culture and science.

    Responding to a question by his guest, Videnov briefed Steuber on plans to temporarily shut down Unit One of the Bulgarian nuclear power plant in Kozlodoui on the Danube, for reasons of prophylaxis, the Government's Spokesman Nikola Baltov said. The schedule for this step, the taking of samples from the vessel of the reactor and possible European aid in case of its early shutdown are still on the agenda, Baltov said.

    Videnov and Steuber also discussed Bulgaria's integration into Europe and its role in the postwar reconstruction of former Yugoslavia. At the end of the first day of his visit, the Bavarian leader met with the Minister of Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Atanas Paparizov. Officials declined to inform the media about the meeting.


    Sofia, April 25 (BTA) - Bulgarian Deputy Foreign Minister Ivan Hristov held political consultations with Chile's Foreign Ministry officials on the condition and prospects of bilateral political and economic relations, reads a Bulgarian Foreign Ministry press release. The two sides agreed to expand the legal framework of bilateral relations through the signing of agreements on eased visa regulations, economic cooperation, mutual protection of investments and avoidance of double taxation.


    Sofia, April 25 (BTA) - Today Parliament readopted the amendments to the Local Taxes and rates Act which President Zhelyu Zhelev returned to the MPs for reconsideration. The Amending Act, passed in early April, provides for an increase in property and inheritance taxes.

    The National Assembly Budgetary and Finance Commiitee disagrees with the reasonings President Zhelev presented in support of his suspensive veto. The head of state challenges the retroactive entry into force of the amendments (as of the beginning of 1996) and not the Amending Act itself. Setting forth its arguments, the Committee said that under the Bulgarian law amending acts become effective as from the date of their being gazetted in case they concern penalties or the grounds for criminal or administrative liability. Taxes are essentially different from penalties, they are liabilities unilaterally established by the State as its dues.

    The Budgetary and Finance Committee disagree with President Zhelev's reasoning in challenging the principle of differentiation on which the property tax schedule is based. The Amending Act provides for the imposition of lower taxes on buildings or parts thereof used for dwelling and of higher taxes on buildings or parts thereof used for business or other purposes and on summer houses.


    Sofia, April 25 (BTA) - The Socialists-dominated Parliament today seconded again the ratification of a Bulgarian-Greek agreement on the use of the Mesta River which President Zhelyu Zhelev returned for further deliberation. Once again, the opposition voted against the ratification of the intergovernmental agreement.

    Under the agreement, which the foreign ministers of Bulgaria and Greece Georgi Pirinski and Karolos Papoulias signed in Sofia in December 1995, Greece can use 29 per cent of the annual flow of the transboundary Mesta River for 35 years. The signing of the agreement took place after decades of negotiations between the two countries.

    In its statement on the issue, the parliamentary Committee on Environmental Protection and Waters said that President Zhelev's motives for returning the bill ratifying the agreement are groundless.

    The Committee rejected one of Zhelev's motives which says that the agreement violates a parliamentary decision of 1990 which places the government under the obligation to ensure that Bulgaria use at least 75 per cent of the flow of the Mesta River when drafting the agreement. The Committee claims that the decision is not violated as in addition to the envisaged 71 per cent, Bulgaria will use another four to five per cent of the water for watering, industrial and other purposes; the water, however, will flow back into Mesta's basin.

    The Committee's statement also recalls a Constitutional Court ruling of 1995 which says that it is possible to challenge a bill on ratification of a document but not a text included in an international agreement.


    Sofia, April 25 (BTA) - Official statistical projections set the average annual inflation this year at 30-35%. The budget figure is 20- 25%. Speaking at a news conference here today, the deputy chief of the National Statistical Institute (NSI), Milcho Mladenov, said the NSI projections take into consideration the markup of electricity and fuel prices to take affect as of May 1 and the 13% hike of the US dollar this month. According to preliminary figures, the 1995 GDP stands at 871,400 million leva at current prices, said Mladenov. Translated into average 1994 prices, it amounts to 535,600 million leva which is 2.6% up from the 1994 figure. The 1995 gross added value is estimated at 785,000 million leva, 0.6% down from the 1994 figure.


    Sofia, April 25 (BTA) - The US dollar yesterday crossed the 90 leva mark fetching 91 leva. Greenbacks gained 3 leva only within three days sending the lev plummeting by some 15%. The bravest foreign exchange dealers yesterday offered dollars at 92 leva. The majority of financial houses withdrew completely from the forex market, writes "Standart News".

    The hike of the dollar over the past few days is attributable mostly to Bulgaria's trade deficit, "Continent" writes quoting dealers. Even the intervention of the National Bank of Bulgaria (BNB, the central bank) will not prevent the dollar from fetching 120 leva in late May unless urgent measures are taken by the BNB now to strengthen the national currency, a bank dealer is quoted as saying. "Continent" writes that yesterday BNB took no steps to strengthen the domestic currency.

    Interviewed by "Troud", Ventsislav Dimitrov of the parliamentary Finance and Budgetary Committee says the steep rise of the dollar is a consequence of the suspended negotiations with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. It is also partly attributable to the absence of fresh money. He believes the central bank is no longer able to maintain a stable foreign exchange rate. As a rule, the foreign exchange rate is set by the market, but as chaos reigns there, nobody dares to make big deals, the interviewee says.

    In an interview for "Standart News", Ventsislav Dimitrov says the a rise of the base interest rate will not stop the dollar from going further up. This step, however, should be taken, he said.

    "Novinar" quotes BNB Foreign Exchange Operations Department chief Stoyan Shoukerov saying today he will propose a steep rise of the base rate. This step is widely expected today or tomorrow at the latest.

    According to "Standart News", the BNB has postponed for today its decision to increase the base interest rate. MPs of the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party have reportedly asked a detailed account from the central bank on the depletion of its foreign exchange reserves, said to have halved over the past five months. In late March they reportedly stood at USD 703.439 million. According to financiers quoted by "Standart News", the only way to overcome the crisis is through dramatic increase of the base rate or persistent market interventions.

    Late last week the head of the BNB Foreign Exchange Operations Department suggested that the base interest rate be pushed up by 20 percentage points for a short time but the measure was rejected by majority of members of the BNB Governing Board. In early February the central bank raised the base interest rate from 34 to 42%, for the first time this year, to push it further up to 49% only a month later. Both markups were accompanied by central bank's interventions on the forex market seeking to prevent the further slide of the lev.

    With a crawling peg jolts on the forex market are normal, "Novinar" is told by Mileti Mladenov of the BNB Governing Board. BNB Governor Lyubomir Filipov recently said that the market should get used to the non-involvement of the central bank.


    Sofia, April 25 (BTA) - Today the Governing Board of the National Bank of Bulgaria (BNB) raised the annual base interest rate to 67 percent. The increase - third in the last two months - is effective as of April 26. In February BNB increased the base interest rate for the first time in a year - from 34 to 42 percent; a month later it was raised to 49 percent. Both increases were aimed to stop the strengthening of hard currency against the lev. As of April 26, the annual interest paid on commercial banks' current accounts in BNB is 14 percent.

    The BNB Governing Board adopted an amendment to the oridnance on guaranteeing banks' deposits. The term for payment of guaranteed deposits commences from the date the BNB Governing Board's decision to revoke a bank's licence enters into force; until now the term commenced on the date of the revocation decision. The time allowed makes it possible to appeal against the BNB decision.

    Based on balance sheet data by August 30, 1996, the BNB Governing Board will apply the measures provided for in the Banks and Lending Act in regard to those commercial banks which have been set up after the adoption of the Act and show a negative capital adequacy by August 30, 1996.


    Sofia, April 25 (BTA) - Bulgaria will avail itself of the services provided by the informal network for information about foreign labour force migration in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Today the Government adopted a decision for Bulgaria's joining the system.

    It was established on the initiative of the International Labour Organization (ILO), of which Bulgaria is also a member. Seven countries have already confirmed their participation in the project: Hungary, Slovakia, Estonia, Russia, Poland, Croatia and Ukraine. The informal information network is designed to help resolve a number of problems arising in connection with the new forms of migration that appeared after the changes in the former socialist countries and have a destabilizing effect on the national labour markets. The Central and Eastern European countries will cooperate in the management and control of migration processes through the system.


    Sofia, April 25 (BTA) - The Balkan Meeting of Ministers Responsible for Posts and Telecommunications, which opened here today, is the first Balkan forum at ministerial level. It will be followed by a meeting of the foreign ministers of the Balkan countries in June in Sofia, Bulgarian Prime Minister Zhan Videnov said today at the opening of the two-day meeting. "We are expecting a confirmation of our proposal for holding a meeting of Balkan foreign ministers in September," Videnov said.

    "In line with the European tendencies in the development of posts and telecommunications, the recommendations of the European Union, the International Telecommunication Union, and the Universal Postal Union, we will be progressing together towards integration of our communication infrastructures into a single European communication network. The idea of this meeting is to establish European standards with which the Balkan countries will participate in the European integration processes," Videnov told the meeting, attended by the posts and telecommunications ministers of Bulgaria, Greece, Albania, Cyprus, the FR of Yugoslavia, Moldova, Slovenia, Turkey, Croatia, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, Hungary and Macedonia.

    The Bulgarian prime minister assured the participants that the Bulgarian Government attaches great importance to this meeting and will be following its proceedings closely. "I am convinced that this meeting will start a tradition, that it will set the beginning of a sustained and business-like cooperation between the national postal and telecommunications operators," Videnov said.

    Lyubomir Kolarov, President of the Committee of Posts and Telecommunications (CPT), on whose initiative the meeting is taking place, described the forum as a chance to upgrade communications in the region. In his address to the forum, Kolarov said that the "Bulgarian Government has declared communications a priority branch in the development of this country's economy," and recalled that recently it approved a strategy for developing telecommunications in Bulgaria by 2010. In his report the CPT President said that one form of cooperation offered by the Bulgarian side for discussion, is the setting up of a council of ministers responsible for posts and telecommunications of the Balkan countries. The Bulgarian side has also proposed the setting up of a Balkan Telecommunications Pool and a Balkan Post Pool to coordinate the activities of the respective government departments in the region, Kolarov said.

    The meeting is expected to adopt a memorandum of intent on cooperation between the communications departments of the Balkan states.

    Dan Barliba, Deputy Director of the Permanent International Secretariat of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC), emphasized Bulgaria's contribution to the expansion of contacts in the region, saying that BSEC expected the meeting to produce impressive results, which would be put to good use.

    Ogus Tezmen, head of the Turkish delegation, hailed the establishment of a Balkan Telecommunications Pool, emphasizing that the future organization should not duplicate the functions of other organizations. Cyprus's presence at the Sofia Meeting is unacceptable to the Turkish delegation, Mr Tezmen said. Adamos Adamides, head of Cyprus's delegation, deplored the raising of the issue by the Turkish delegate.

    Lyubomir Kolarov, President of the Bulgarian Committee of Posts and Telecommunications, explained that the Cypriot representatives had been invited because Bulgaria is working on joint projects with that country.

    Romanian Communications Minister and head of delegation Ioan Muntean expressed his country's view that the initiative for integration at regional level could be accepted only if considered in the context of the European telecoms strategy.

    Vlad Didilica, Deputy Minister of Communications and Informatics of Moldova, said that the Council should deal primarily with regional problems, harmonization of legislation and finding of sources of financing.

    Zoran Vujovic, Minister of Transport and Communications and head of the delegation of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, pointed that the completion of many major projects requires cooperation beyond the borders of the individual countries.

    A major Trans-Balkan Line project is under construction as part of the East-West corridor, said Dimce Camurovski, Assistant Minister of Transport and Communications and head of the Macedonian delegation.

    Greece's representative, Mr G. Daskalakis, Deputy Minister of Transport and Communications, set a high priority on the establishment of clear regulatory principles, fair competition rules and a positive atmosphere for work meeting the requirements of the information society.

    Mr Hydajet Kopani, Director General of the State Department of Posts and Telecommunications and head of the Albanian delegation, stressed that Albania is paying particular attention to the development of a modern, future-oriented infrastructure.

    The Russian delegate, Mr Alexei Rokotian, Head of the Telecommunications Department of the Ministry of Telecommunications, hailed Bulgaria's idea to set up a Balkan structure in posts and telecommunications. Discussions are continuing tomorrow. q

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