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News from Bulgaria / May 2, 96

From: (Embassy of Bulgaria)

Bulgarian Telegraph Agency Directory



2 May, 1996











    Vienna, April 30 (BTA Special Correspondent Yana Kozhouharova) - Austria fully supports Bulgaria's European orientation and the Bulgarian efforts for integration into the European structures, it emerged after the talks between Bulgarian Prime Minister Zhan Videnov and Federal Chancellor Franz Vranitzky today. The two heads government expressed their willingness to boost the bilateral economic cooperation through finding new ways for financing export deals and investment.

    The Bulgarian side was extended a proposal to consider concrete projects for cooperation in the sphere of power generation on the basis of Austria's position which rejects nuclear power generation so that the sides conclude a bilateral agreement on the exchange of information on the situation of nuclear facilities. Experts will discuss possibilities for easing of the visa regulations and the problems related to the movement of people arising from the Schengen Agreement, Vranitzky said after the meeting.

    Austrian companies show particular interest in the opportunities for participation in the rehabilitation of the Bulgarian State Railways; there are concrete opportunities for cooperation in telecommunications and transport infrastructure, Vranitzky said further. According to the Austrian Chancellor, this is why, despite Bulgaria's difficult financial situation, it will be possible to intensify economic relations. Austria will thus help Bulgaria, which is an associate member of the European Union (EU), in its future negotiations for full EU membership, Vranitzky said.

    Videnov familiarized the Federal Chancellor with the political and economic situation in Bulgaria in the run-up to the presidential elections. The Bulgarian premier described the relations between Bulgaria and Austria as traditionally good ties that cover all spheres and emphasized Bulgaria's interest in the Austrian experience as a participant in the processes of European integration.

    Vranitzky reportedly accepted Videnov's invitation to visit Bulgaria in the near future.

    Bulgaria will do its best to intensify the Bulgarian-Austrian political contacts, Videnov said. He stressed that Bulgaria's participation in the processes of European integration and this country's accession to the European economic, political and security structures is a key and indisputable priority of its foreign policy. Mentioning Bulgaria's name in the context of other integration formations is not appropriate, to which effect this country has made an official statement, Videnov said. Bulgaria believes and hopes that the European integration processes will be carried out quickly and without the emergence of new dividing lines in Europe, Videnov said.

    After his talks with Videnov today, Austrian Federal President Thomas Klestil expressed his support for Bulgaria's efforts for integration into the European structures.

    Responding to a question by a BTA correspondent, Klestil said that not only he, but the Austrian government as well, believe that, being a new EU member, Austria should become a connecting link for its Central and East European neighbours, adding that under neighbours he means not only the countries that have a common border with Austria, but Bulgaria as well. Klestil went on to say that Austria supports all types of European cooperation, including that within the framework of the Central European Initiative where Bulgaria will be soon admitted as a full member. The Federal President said that Austria has been informed about Bulgaria's application to join the EU. Austria is famous for its active support for EU's expansion, Klestil said.

    The Federal President said that Austria can give its support for Bulgaria through setting up of joint ventures - an area in which the Austrian side has good expertise. Austrian firms set up 12,000 joint ventures in neighbouring countries, Klestil said, adding that the process should expand beyond Austria's immediate neighbours. This could help Bulgaria on the difficult road to transition to a market economy as well as in meeting the criteria for EU integration, the Federal President said.

    According to Videnov, the talks with Klestil paid special attention to the issue of the Central and East European countries' membership in the EU. "Austria is Bulgaria's third biggest partner and among the biggest investors in this country; however, there is a great amount of untapped opportunities in terms of economic, political and cultural cooperation. Bulgaria and Austria can implement the all-European priorities and their bilateral cooperation in an efficient way," Videnov said.

    Later today after his talks with the Federal Chancellor, Videnov told journalists that the financial stabilization of Bulgaria this year is the major task of the Bulgarian government.

    "It was clear from the very beginning that last year, this and next year would be the most difficult for the payments on Bulgaria's foreign debt. And yet Bulgaria will be able to make the foreign debt payments due this year," said Videnov. He also said that closing down loss-making state-owned enterprises and reaching an agreement with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank this summer are vital for avoiding a financial instability. "It is the government's major task this year and the efforts we take should bring success," said the Bulgarian Prime Minister.

    Today Videnov also visited the Austrian Parliament and met Heinz Fischer who chairs the National Council, the lower house of Parliament. The Austrian side expressed its firm believe that the European Union should expand mostly to include Central and East European countries, Bulgaria being one of them.

    The hosts were interested in Bulgaria's foreign policy priorities and the measures the government has taken for the financial and economic stabilization of the country. Fischer agreed with the view expressed by the Bulgarian Prime Minister, that Bulgaria is pursuing an independent foreign policy and will not be influenced by the trends drawing new dividing lines in Europe.

    The irreversible expansion of the EU is a necessary and unquestionable process, said Videnov. He believes it is likely that in 1998 Bulgaria, together with the other EU membership applicants, start membership negotiations. "We know, however, that the course and finish of the negotiations will differ," added Videnov.

    Later in the day Fischer gave an official dinner for the Bulgarian Prime Minister and the delegation accompanying him.

    Zhan Videnov's working visit ends this evening after a report he will deliver at the Austrian Industrial Association on "Bulgarian Foreign Policy Initiatives in Southern Europe and Creating A Favourable Climate For Foreign Investors", to be followed by a dinner with representatives of Austrian business circles. The delegation will fly back to Bulgaria immediately after.


    Sofia, April 30 (BTA) - Bulgaria and Hungary should promote bilateral military-technical cooperation, BTA was told by Hungarian Defence Minister Gyorgy Keleti at the Sofia Airport today.

    The Hungarian Defence Minister made a several hours' stopover on his way back from Cyprus to Hungary.

    He met his Bulgarian counterpart Dimiter Pavlov and discussed with him issues pertaining to NATO's expansion. Hungary should become member of the North Atlantic Alliance by all means, the Hungarian Defence Minister told journalists. He briefed Dimiter Pavlov on the reforms under way in the Hungarian army. Hungary will reportedly import 100 tanks from Belarus and Russian-made combat equipment worth a total of 240 million US dollars.

    The two countries' Defence Ministers agreed that working groups this year pay visits to the partner country exchange expertise on military cooperation.


    Sofia, April 30 (BTA) - Four US institutions - the American- Bulgarian Enterprise Fund, the American-Bulgarian friendship society, the Sofia-based US chamber of commerce and a US pharmaceutical company donated USD 1,900 to the Union of Thracian Societies for the construction of a chapel near the village of Madjarovo, Southern Bulgaria. The donation was handed to Union Chairman Kostadin Karamitev by William Montgomery, Special Adviser to the US President and the Secretary of State on Bosnia Implementation Issues. The chapel will be built to commemorate the tragic death of some 2,000 Bulgarian refugees of Western Thrace [an area inhabited by Bulgarians that remained part of the Ottoman Empire under the 1879 Berlin Treaty], most of them women and children. The 2,000 were massacred by the Turkish troops in 1913 during the Balkan War near the Yatacik village, renamed Madjarovo after the war when it went back to Bulgaria. Another 23,000 Bulgarians were saved by Roussi Slavov and Dimiter Madjarov, who helped them get across the border into Bulgaria. The chapel, to be inaugurated during late October celebrations in Madjarovo, will bear the name of St. Petka of Bulgaria which, according to Karamitev, is the only Thracian female saint. The donation is also an award for the Union of Thracian Society for its work and objectives, for remembering the past and looking into the future, said Montgomery. He proposed that the chapel be a monument to refugees across the world. Karamitev stressed in his address that the Union is guided by the motto "Remember but don't seek revenge!". He said that the organization does not seek wars, genocide and ethnic cleansing but peace and good-neighbourliness in the Balkans. He presented William Montgomery with the chapel design made by father Kochanov of the Holy Synod. The initiative for the construction of the chapel emerged last year when an event commemorating the 1913 massacre in Madjarovo was attended by the Bulgarian-based ambassadors of the US, Russia, Spain, Greece and Ukraine. The wife of William Montgomery, the then US Ambassador, brought forth the idea to build a chapel, Karamitev said. Russian Ambassador Alexander Avdeev will take part in a ground-breaking ceremony to launch the construction of a monument and a chapel in Kurdjali, Southern Bulgaria, in memory of the Thracian children who died in 1913. The Union of Thracian Societies is celebrating its centenary this year. It is a successor to the Strandjata society of Edrine refugees that emerged in 1896 laying the groundwork of the movement of Thracian refugees in Bulgaria. The name Thracians is used to refer to the Bulgarians living in eastern and Western Thrace who fled to Bulgaria to seek refuge after the signing of the 1879 Berlin Treaty and during the Balkan War in 1913.


    Sofia, April 30 (BTA) - Brazil's capital yesterday hosted political consultations between the Foreign Ministries of Bulgaria and Brazil, the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry said today. The sides informed each other of the political and economic environment in the two countries, the progress of privatization, and the international economic priorities, and exchanged views on topical international issues. The Bulgarian delegation conveyed an invitation from Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski for a visit to Bulgaria to Brazilian Foreign Minister Luiz Felipe Lampreia. In Buenos Aires, the mixed Bulgarian-Argentine intergovernmental commission on economic, commercial and technical cooperation ended its third session. Bulgaria was represented by a delegation headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Ivan Hristov. As part of the session's agenda, Bulgarian businessmen had busy talks with Argentine partners. The sides reviewed the economic situation in the two countries and considered specific opportunities for activating the commercial exchange, expanding scientific and technical cooperation, launching joint enterprises and penetrating on third markets. Political consultations between the two countries were held at the Argentine Foreign Ministry.


    Washington, April 30 (BTA exclusive by Boika Bashlieva) There are no principled differences between the government, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund as regards the measures for the structural adjustment of the real economy and the financial sector in Bulgaria, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Development Roumen Gechev told the BTA. Gechev spent a day in Washington to meet representatives of the two international financial institutions. He arrived in New York on April 16 to participate in the fourth session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development that opened on April 18 to continue until May 3. Gechev chairs the session.

    In mid-1996 at the latest Bulgaria is expected to sign an agreement with the World Bank on the Financial and Enterprise Sector Adjustment Loan (FESAL), to be followed by an agreement with the IMF on stabilizing the financial sector in Bulgaria. The World Bank is ready to extend an additional 90 million US dollars that have already been approved but not yet utilized, to financially assist the programme for the liquidation of loss-making enterprises and solve related social problems. This reportedly emerged during Gechev's talks with World Bank Director for Southeastern Europe Kenneth Leigh and IMF Director for Europe Massimo Ruso. The Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister stressed that both the Bulgarian government and the World Bank are aware of the social implications of structural adjustment.

    As regards the recent leap in the US/lev exchange rate, the representatives of the international financial institutions said that 90 leva is a realistic price of the US dollar and praised the policy of the central bank against intervening in the market using the foreign exchange reserve. Roumen Gechev also said that World Bank and IMF missions will visit Bulgaria by the end of this week.

    Today Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister Roumen Gechev left for New York for the final stage of the session of UN Commission on Sustainable Development to be attended by around 50 ministers of finance, economy and the environment.


    Sofia, April 30 (BTA) - Parliament Chairman Blagovest Sendov today received General Francesco Lovino, deputy leader of the Zagreb- based EU Monitor Mission. The sides exchanged views on the situation in the Balkans, emphasizing Bulgaria's role as a factor of stability. The meeting was attended by representatives of the EU Monitor Mission in Sofia.

    The guest showed interest and was informed of the difficulties facing Bulgaria during its transition to a market economy and in the process of democratization. Sendov also spoke about the first signs of stabilization and the progress of mass privatization. Bulgaria was highly praised for hosting the annual meeting of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The sides expect the upcoming meeting in Sofia of the foreign ministers of the Balkan countries, which will be held on Bulgaria's initiative, to produce results, Parliament's press office said.

    Parlaiment Chairman Blagovest Sendov met today Mr Kurt Wilmer, member of a team of US media experts visiting Bulgaria. The meeting was attended by Ms Rose Likins, charge d'affairs of the US Embassy in Sofia.

    Mr Wilmer set forth some considerations on the Radio and Television Bill and presented a document systematizing impressions of the bill. The remarks are actually recommendations which are in line with universally recognized international principles in the field of the mass media and mass media legislation, said the experts who later met members of the parliamentary Radio, Television and BTA Committee.


    Sofia, April 30 (BTA) - "Bulgarians respect Italy and the Italians," Bulgarian Minister of Education, Science and Technology Ilcho Dimitrov wrote in a letter to former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, the Forza Italia leader.

    The letter was provoked by Berlusconi's statement quoted by the BBC that a victory of the Left in Italy would make Italian schools "Bulgarian", i.e. anti-democratic.

    "In your insinuation I see prejudice or traces of the abhorrent arrogance of the West towards the East - an integral part of European civilization," Dimitrov wrote. To him, this attitude is the worst obstacle nowadays to a genuine European Union and it strengthens the division achieved through the new Berlin Wall, referred to as the "Schengen wall" in the letter.

    Academician Dimitrov stressed that the Bulgarian school is equal to the European paragons and does not suffer by comparison.

    Ilcho Dimitrov said that though the Italian words "Mafia" and "fascism" are used in the Bulgarian language, Bulgarians never use them as synonyms to "Italy", "Italians" and "Italian". Dimitrov recalls that fascism originated in Italy and its history there was longest; it played a disastrous role in European history before and during the Second World War. Anti-fascism was born in Italy and after the war Italian politics contributed extensively to parliamentary democracy.

    Given its important role in the history of mankind and the contemporary world, Italy is in a position to inspire hope, instead of causing disappointment, Dimitrov wrote to Berlusconi. The Bulgarian Education Minister believes that along the way to a genuine European Union countries must not only become equal in economics, politics and culture and tear down the new "Berlin Walls" which divide and oppose them to one another, but they must also get to know each other and develop a sense of mutual respect.


    Sofia, May 1 (BTA) - "The nation's unity today seems to exist only in political speeches occasioned by some observance or another," President Zhelyu Zhelev said in a statement to the nation, marking the 120th anniversary of the April 1876 Uprising today and aired on the national electronic media. "Our present-day society cannot be united unless it answered three fateful questions: about our history, about our present, and about our future," the head of state said. As far as our history is concerned, "it should be accepted in its entirety and not fragmented on a partisan basis," Dr Zhelev said. "The MPs should not dichotomize our history between empires and republics. For the sake of respect for history, I will meet with Simeon of Coburg-Gotha [the exiled Bulgarian monarch, who lives in Madrid and who is scheduled to arrive in Bulgaria on May 25]," the President said. "It is common knowledge that I am a republican and I have been sworn in by the republican Constitution of Bulgaria, but the republic should respect its past," Dr Zhelev said. "Bulgaria is in a crisis and no propaganda can convince us that immiseration has stopped and that the reform is steaming full speed ahead," the President observed. Support for the reform depends on whether Bulgarians trust that what is necessary is being done to restitute land ownership, to encourage private enterprise, to maintain law and order, and to protect individual liberties. "It will be difficult to persuade people to endure the hardships if they see yesterday's nomenklatura privatize the state on a mass scale and justice give way to corruption and 'circles of friends," Dr Zhelev said. "I believe that Bulgaria must retain its independence while joining the European Union and NATO. I believe that our children want free enterprise, free speech and a State of justice. Nobody wants a government which is right-wing with the poor and left- wing with the rich," the President said. "The third question that faces us is the question of the future. The strength of a society lies in the confidence that your children will live better than you do, that you can bequeath them land, a house, money, ideas. And is there anyone of us who can confidently say today that our children will live better than us?" Dr Zhelev asked rhetorically in his statement
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