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News from Bulgaria / May 3, 96

From: (Embassy of Bulgaria)

Bulgarian Telegraph Agency Directory



May 3, 96














    Sofia, May 2 (BTA) - The Cabinet proposed to President Zhelyu Zhelev to issue decrees on the promotion of military officers and take steps for the recruitment of personnel for the Inspectorate of the Defence Ministry, established by a Cabinet decree of July 1995. The proposals are motivated with the Defence and Armed Forces Act and the reform of the Bulgarian army, involving a transition from army to corps organization, said Alexander Petrov, Head of the National Security and Public Order Department with the Cabinet.

    The Cabinet approved an edited version of the rate of charges collected by the Ministry of the Interior. It provides for a 5 per cent discount on fees paid by foreign citizens of Bulgarian nationality studying at Bulgarian universities. Until now they were referred to as foreign citizens of Bulgarian origin, which was ineffective, according to Education Minister Ilcho Dimitrov who sponsored the proposal. The charges for the opening of driving schools were also increased.

    The Cabinet imposed a temporary ban on the export of ground anti- personnel mines, effective until April 30, 1999, in line with international tendencies to ban the export of this type of mines which cause large loss of life, said Cabinet Spokesman Nikola Baltov.

    The Cabinet adopted in principle draft rules for voluntary service. The final version will be adopted within two weeks after a working group set up today amends the draft as proposed at today's cabinet meeting.

    A new clause was added to a Bulgarian-German agreement on the combating of organized crime. A special provision was included on joint operations against the trafficking of radioactive and nuclear material. So far the two countries cooperated in this area without such a provision in the agreement.

    The Cabinet approved an agreement on the drafting of a joint programme for crime prevention and control. The legislative, the executive and the judiciary will pool efforts for its drawing up. The Supreme Judicial Council approved the draft on April 24, the Cabinet pronounced on it today and Parliament is shortly expected to take a stand.


    Sofia, May 2 (BTA) - Fifteen commercial banks and the Bank Consolidation Company (BCC) today signed an agreement to isolate industrial debtors. The measure will back the programme for banking sector stabilization and the structural reform action plan approved by the Cabinet. The two documents were presented to the International Monetary Fund as a necessary condition for starting negotiations on a new standby agreement.

    The need for joint efforts to resolve the problem of the large bad debts in commercial banks' portfolios was cited as a motive for signing of the agreement. The financiers who proposed the measure believe that the agreement will put an end to the flowing of banking capital to state-run loss-makers and will channel the free funds to viable businesses.

    Representatives of seven state-owned and eight private banks signed the agreement today. Another three state-run banks: Bulbank, the Bulgarian Post Bank and Expressbank, will join the agreement tomorrow. Thus, the document will be signed by all state-run lending institutions except for the Central Cooperative Bank.

    Maintaining confidentiality, the banks will exchange information on their receivables from state-run enterprises, the agreement says. The BCC committed itself to summarize the information about the outstanding debts of state-run enterprises and to provide figures when so requested by banks. Under the agreement, the banks will come up with offers and conduct negotiations on debt transfer and debt-equity swaps so that a given state-run enterprise's debt be concentrated in one lending institution.

    Co-Chairman of the Association of Commercial Banks Vladimir Tashkov, who also chairs the Board of Directors of Mineralbank, described the agreement as a belated but necessary step. For the time being, the measures envisaged in the agreement target state-run enterprises only; however, there emerged recommendations that the banks introduce the same approach as regards all their debtors, Tashkov said.

    The agreement will serve as a debt-collection agency until such an institution is set up and starts operations, Deputy Minister of Economic Development Dimiter Dimitrov said.


    The ninth session of the U.N. Trade and Development Conference (UNCTAD) currently under way in the Republic of South Africa elected chief of the Bulgarian delegation, Minister of Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation, Atanas Paparizov as the session's vice president, the Foreign Ministry's Press office said.

    Bulgarian Deputy Foreign Minister Konstantin Glavanakov delivered a report at the UNCTAD round table on "International Trade As an Instrument for World Economy Development after the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Negotiations". Glavanakov spoke about the process of globalization and liberalization of the world economy and the multilateral trade system today and the role of international trade as a chief factor for economic growth and sustainable development of the developing countries and the transition economies. After outlining the major macroeconomic parametres of the Bulgarian economy in 1995, Glavanakov stressed the importance of international trade for the development of this country's economy, the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry said.


    Sofia, May 2 (BTA) - Simplification of the regulations for the issue of work permits to foreigners in Bulgaria and more efficient protection of the internal labour market are the main objects of the amendments to the Ordinance Establishing a Procedure and Terms for the Issue of Work Permits to Aliens in the Republic of Bulgaria, which the Cabinet adopted at its regular meeting today. The revisions draw on the experience of working with foreign nationals amassed in the last few years, said Labour and Social Affairs Minister Mincho Koralski after the meeting. The previous version of the Ordinance, which was adopted in 1992, presented difficulties to the issuing of certain work permits, especially to foreigners who come to Bulgaria under intergovernmental agreements or on arrangements with international institutions, the Minister explained. The amendments adopted today increase from two to three years the maximum period of aliens' employment and particularlize the criteria for a refusal to grant, for revocation and for renewal of a work permit. The new version also establishes the terms on which the members of the family of an alien who has been granted leave of permanent residence in Bulgaria may qualify for a local work permit. Along with that, the amendments to the Ordinance create the necessary conditions for protection of the national labour market. From now on, employers will only be able to hire foreigners by a contract of employment concluded under Bulgarian law. Foreigners may not exceed 10 per cent of the staff of an enterprise, and their recruitment is subject to consent of the National Employment Service. The amendments are intended to harmonize Bulgarian with West European legislation, Mr Koralski said. In his view, they are fully consistent with the provisions of GATT and the World Trade Organization.


    The dailies report that on April 30 the US dollar went past the exchange rate of 95 leva. The crisis broke out only two days after the introduction of the new base interest rate of 67 per cent. The National Bank of Bulgaria (BNB, the central bank) again did not interfere.

    The exchange offices offered the US currency at 95-96 leva and purchased it at 89-90 leva. On the interbank forex market the average purchase price was 91 leva and the average selling price nearly 93 leva. The central exchange rate reached 91.90 leva, up 2.5 leva from the previous day.

    The dailies report that according to representatives of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank the real price of the US dollar in Bulgaria is 90 leva. The representatives of the international financial institutions said this during their talks with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Development Roumen Gechev who was on a one-day visit to Washington to discuss the measures for restructuring Bulgarian economy and banking sector.

    According to informed unidentified sources, the IMF and the World Bank estimated in positive terms the strategy of the BNB to refrain from intervening at the expense of the foreign currency reserves, "Douma" says.

    "Continent" cites unnamed banking experts as saying that the BNB may revoke the licenses of several financial and brokerage houses. The extreme measure is reportedly necessitated by the liquidity crisis in the financial houses. According to dealers, of the 149 financial and brokerage houses, the operative ones can be counted on the fingers of one's hand. The financial houses are named as those to blame for the current appreciation of the foreign currency. They were also blamed for the US dollar jump at the end of 1993 and the beginning of 1994, "Continent" writes. Even if the BNB does not sanction them today, they are still on the "black list" of the commercial banks which for a week now have refused to work with the financial houses, the daily says.

    BNB sources who wanted anonymity told "24 Chassa" that the central bank will issue new money only if it fails to keep the US dollar rate at less than 100 leva. The BNB reportedly believes that for the time being the US dollar exchange rate can still be retained at about 100 leva. According to "Standart News" the US dollar may surge to 115 leva over the next few days.


    NATO Secretary General Javier Solana unveiled a monument to the late NATO secretary general Manfred Woerner. Woerner, who was a friend of Bulgaria, contributed much to European integration. The monument, erected in Sofia's Southern Park, was designed by Maestro Todor Vardjiev; its building was proposed by Atlantic Club Chairman Solomon Passi and supported by Sofia City Council.


    "I would like to note and thank Prime Minister Videnov and your country for Bulgaria's cooperation and contribution to the peace process in Bosnia," NATO Secretary General Javier Solana told journalists today after conferring with representatives of the Bulgarian Cabinet, including Prime Minister Zhan Videnov, Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski and Defence Minister Dimiter Pavlov. Solana is paying a two-day visit to Bulgaria.

    Today's talks with Prime Minister Videnov and members of the Cabinet saw a fruitful exchange of opinions on a wide range of issues of mutual interest, Solana said. The two sides discussed Bulgaria-NATO dialogue at present and in the future and the alliance's individual dialogue with the separate countries and other issues of mutual interest, Solana said.

    "This visit is an extremely important step in our enhanced dialogue in the study on the enlargement of the alliance," Zhan Videnov told the press after the meeting. In early April the Government sent to Brussels a "Document of the Republic of Bulgaria on Consideration of Enhanced Dialogue with NATO in the Study on the Enlargement of the Alliance". Already at the end of 1993 the National Assembly adopted a declaration stating that Bulgaria will avail itself of the opportunities for cooperation with European and Euro-Atlantic structures, including NATO, in view of its integration into them upon their possible enlargement and in compliance with this country's national interests.

    "This visit gives us an opportunity to express more clearly our position and to formulate specific questions already on May 6 in Brussels when Bulgaria's enhanced dialogue with NATO will actually begin," Prime Minister Zhan Videnov added. "We heard very convincing arguments about the future expansion of NATO, about the future of European security, as well as NATO views on the development of the future European security system," Videnov added.

    Later today Javier Solana conferred with National Assembly Chairman Blagovest Sendov. At the talks Sendov stressed that the NATO Secretary General is visiting Bulgaria at an important moment for this country when a discussion is underway on its relations with the North Atlantic Alliance.

    Sendov recalled that Bulgaria's foreign policy is within the competence of Parliament and the Cabinet elected by it. These are the constitutional bodies competent to decide on cooperation issues and this country's integration into the North Atlantic Alliance, the parliamentary chief said. He pointed out that this country's integration into European and Euro-Atlantic structures is a priority in its foreign policy. On his part NATO Secretary General Solana said that NATO membership is a matter of free choice. Solana invited the Bulgarian parliamentary chief to visit Brussels.


    NATO Secretary General Javier Solana today met in succession with leaders of the ruling Democratic Left and the parliamentary opposition forces: the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), the Popular Union and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF).

    UDF leader Ivan Kostov presented a memorandum to Solana, entitled "Bulgaria, NATO: Viewpoint of the Union of Democratic Forces", the UDF press office said. The document confirms the desire of the parliamentary opposition that Bulgaria become a full member of NATO. The memorandum proposed that NATO and the leaders of the democratic opposition parties in Parliament hold regular consultations on the progress of talks with NATO, the updating of already signed agreements on military-political and military-technical cooperation with NATO member states, as well as on the drafting of future agreements between Bulgaria and NATO. Bulgarian society expresses growing discontent with the governance of the Bulgarian Socialist Party and its foreign policy priorities, the document says. The UDF is readying quickly and competently for the time when it will take power by lawful means. This preparation includes steps to intensify the UDF's dialogue with NATO, the document says.

    NATO is the only international organization which can guarantee national security, democratic stability, economic growth and social peace in present-day Europe, the UDF memorandum says. A decision for Bulgaria's full membership in NATO would be a sovereign act by the Republic of Bulgaria which would not pose a threat to the security of third countries such as Russia. Opposition to Bulgaria's membership in NATO, the document says, means that the BSP is tacitly opposed to membership in the EU and the Western European Union. A tacit or express refusal to join NATO would isolate Bulgaria from the present EU members as well as from the Visegrad Four, and from Romania, Macedonia and Albania, the document also says. The Bulgarian democratic opposition would appreciate a prompt reply to the document, which might offer an analysis of the UDF's statements and proposals, the memorandum says in conclusion.

    After his talks with Javier Solana, Democratic Left floor leader Krassimir Premyanov said the NATO Secretary General highly praised the document on enhanced dialogue with NATO presented by the Bulgarian Government at the NATO headquarters in Brussels on April 10. The Socialist MPs put forward three possibilities to guarantee national security: bilateral and multilateral cooperation under Partnership for Peace; possible full membership in the North Atlantic structures; and neutrality in purely military terms. The third option was suggested by MP Chavdar Kyuranov.

    Javier Solana said that by taking a more flexible approach than the Visegrad Four, Bulgaria was by no means placed at a disadvantage or in isolation. Solana rejected the idea to hold a referendum on Bulgaria's membership in NATO. He stressed that this country's EU membership was not linked to its membership in NATO.


    Sofia, May 2 (BTA) - NATO's enlargement will be a fact, NATO Secretary General Javier Solana, who is on a visit to Sofia, said during a lecture organized by the Bulgarian Atlantic Club. NATO's Secretary General said further that free choice should become the basis for the building of new Europe. He stressed that the alliance does not force any country to apply for membership. Joining NATO is a free decision, he said.

    The countries which will join the alliance will be full members, with all benefits and obligations stemming from it, Solana stressed adding that these countries will have to observe Article 5 of the Treaty of Washington.

    The speaker stressed the importance of the dialogue on NATO's enlargement. The issue needs a thorough discussion; the alliance has to explain the role, the obligations of membership in NATO, the benefits and the price which needs to be paid, he said. Solana added that the countries which want to become NATO members should carefully assess how the membership will influence their political and military environment.

    It should be clear that expanding itself, NATO should create a climate of security for all countries, NATO members or not, said Solana. NATO wants a Europe without Cold War dividing lines, a Europe in which Russia has its due place, said the NATO Secretary General. He believes that the strong link between NATO and Russia should be a key element in the new European order and security. Dwelling on NATO- Russia relations, Javier Solana stressed that it will be a historic mistake to create new dividing lines in Europe, isolating Russia.


    Sofia, May 2 (BTA) - NATO Secretary General Javier Solana described the "Document of the Republic of Bulgaria on Consideration of Enhanced Dialogue with NATO in the Study on the Enlargement of the Alliance" as very constructive and valuable at a joint news conference with President Zhelyu Zhelev today. Mr Solana said that he shared this view of Bulgaria's document on enhanced dialogue with NATO with Prime Minister Zhan Videnov with whom he conferred immediately after his arrival in Sofia.

    At the news conference the NATO Secretary General praised Bulgaria's participation in a number of PfP initiatives, this country's contribution to the peace process in Bosnia and Hercegovina and its intentions to send observers there for the forthcoming elections. "Many things surprised me in your country, all of them pleasantly," Solana said in response to a question.

    According to Solana, Bulgaria's strategic role in the Balkans matches NATO's efforts for building stable ties between the countries in the region and its stabilization and for building Balkan security architecture of the end of the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century. Things in Bulgaria are in the process of elucidation; this is a unique phenomenon which attaches paramount importance to the constructive contribution of such countries to security, the NATO Secretary General believes.. "I am convinced that by the end of this year we will achieve better mutual understanding and closer cooperation," Mr Solana said.

    We attach great importance to our relations with NATO and see them as a guarantee for the democratic orientation of the Bulgarian foreign policy, Dr. Zhelev said after half an hour's meeting with Javier Solana. This country's accession to the North Atlantic Alliance as full member will guarantee the irreversible character of the democratic processes here, said the President.

    He went on to stress Bulgaria's active involvement in the various fields of cooperation with its PfP partners and NATO member-states. As a system for collective security, NATO can get from Bulgaria no less than it will give, Dr. Zhelev said stressing the key geographic and geo-strategic location of this country. A number of NATO members are supportive of Bulgaria's entry in it, said Dr. Zhelev, naming Greece, Turkey, Italy, Portugal, Germany and the US.

    Bulgaria should only state categorically its desire to enter NATO, as the huge majority of ex-communist countries have already done, said the President. Unfortunately, there is no consensus on this issue in Bulgaria, he said voicing his conviction that sooner or later a consensus will be reached. The parliamentary majorities are temporary, one day they are replaced, but Bulgaria's interests will not change, and they are linked with NATO, President Zhelev said in conclusion.


    Sofia, May 3 (BTA) - "Thank you and friendship," were the two key words with which NATO Secretary General Javier Solana departed from Bulgaria completing his visit to this country. "There is a lot of work ahead on bilateral dialogue with your country," Solana also said. According to him, Bulgaria and NATO need time and will probably know more about each other by the end of December.
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