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News from Bulgaria / May 8, 96

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

Bulgarian Telegraph Agency Directory

EMBASSY OF BULGARIA - WASHINGTON D.C.

BTA - BULGARIAN TELEGRAPH AGENCY

8 May, 1996


CONTENTS

  • [01] BULGARIAN FOREIGN and DEFENCE MINISTERS TO ATTEND W.E.U. MEETING

  • [02] BULGARIANS TO CHOOSE FAMILY DOCTORS

  • [03] BUSINESS PRESS BULGARIA - RUSSIA

  • [04] MISSING: 3.5 T OF GOLD

  • [05] COAL MINING

  • [06] INTERIOR MINISTER TO BE REPLACED

  • [07] GOVERNMENT LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES

  • [08] "SECURITY THROUGH COOPERATION AND INTEGRATION"

  • [09] I.M.F. MISSION ARRIVES

  • [10] DIGITAL OVERLAY NETWORK PROJECT

  • [11] MEETING OF EXECUTIVE BUREAU OF BSP


  • [01] BULGARIAN FOREIGN and DEFENCE MINISTERS TO ATTEND W.E.U. MEETING

    Sofia, May 7 (BTA) - Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski and Defence Minister Dimiter Pavlov left for Birmingham early today to attend a meeting of foreign and defence ministers of the Western European Union (WEU).

    "Minister Pavlov and I will be taking part in two separate meetings," Pirinski said. "Foreign ministers will focus on the subject of Russia's and Ukraine's involvement in cooperation with WEU, while defence ministers will discuss peace-keeping operations in former Yugoslavia," he said. "The participants in the meeting are expected to exchange views on the ways WEU could help the establishment of pan-European security structures. WEU is believed to offer a wide range of specific helpful opportunities in this respect thanks to the various types of membership and association with it," Pirinski also said.

    Bulgaria will seek to confirm the principles of indivisibility of European security and find the best forms for each individual state, according to Pirinski. Dimiter Pavlov said WEU played a positive role in former Yugoslavia, especially in the control of sanctions enforcement.

    [02] BULGARIANS TO CHOOSE FAMILY DOCTORS

    Sofia, May 7 (Evelina Stefanova of BTA) - Bulgarians have the right to choose their family therapist, pediatrician, gynaecologist and dentist at their district polyclinic by May 21, under a Health Ministry ordinance. The family doctors will be chosen for a year and can be changed if patients change residence or the chosen medics quit their job. Those who have not chosen family doctors can still get medical attention at the polyclinic but must be directed by its head, said Ivan Ivanov, Head of the Ministry's Pre-Hospital Medical Service Department.

    Family doctors will offer primary care. They will provide the first diagnosis in the case of illness and refer the patient to the more specialized services and hospital consultants. Outside business hours doctors on duty will be available.

    Doctors are not quite clear about what they are expected to do. The right to choose a family practitioner is not a real gain according to them. It is in no way linked to doctors' salaries or the provision of equipment, many doctors say. Polyclinics are awash with cards listing the chosen doctors, which must be processed.

    Dr Peter Salchev, Director of the Sofia Regional Health Care Centre, says this is the first step towards a health insurance scheme. The next step will be to peg salaries to performance. The Health Ministry is working up a new rate of salaries, taking into account qualifications, length of service, number of patients and work load. It should be ready by July 1.

    The Health Ministry expects up to 35 per cent of patients to choose their family practitioners in the one-month period set for this. A therapist will have to service between 1,500 and 2,000 patients, which is 1,000 fewer than the patients treated by district doctors now. This will improve the quality of health care, according to Ivan Ivanov. It may become necessary to appoint more doctors to cover all patients.

    Pensioners, who form the largest group of patients, say family doctors must be in rapport with their patients, like the family lawyer and the priest.

    Dimiter Ignatov, Chairman of the Bulgarian Medical Association, says the new scheme breeds corruption. According to him, family practitioners must have a private practice so that they will not be dependent on the public purse. Ignatov says district doctors have only distribution functions and will retain them after family practitioners are chosen. In Europe general practitioners provide primary care, for which purpose they must closely follow their patients' state of health for years. GPs are available around the clock and are paid fees for their services from the patients' health insurance. A doctor spends two years as an assistant to a family doctor to qualify for a GP.

    Sixty doctors took a two-month pilot course for GPs under the PHARE programme, which ended last week. The health programmes of Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands served as a basis for their training. According to them, it could be very useful for doctors with a private practice and with a health insurance scheme in place.

    Free health care in Bulgaria dates from 1951. Private practice was banned in the 1970s by the communist regime and was officially reinstated in the spring of 1991, a step made possible by the changes in Bulgaria.

    [03] BUSINESS PRESS BULGARIA - RUSSIA

    Bulgaria has not received a list of Russian exports for which the latter will request lower duties, dailies report quoting the Ministry of Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation. In late April Sofia sent to Moscow a letter proposing duty reductions. Duties on Bulgarian exports now average 30%. Bulgaria is ready to negotiate more reductions, besides those for Russian oil and gas on which the current duty is 5%.

    "Continent" recalls a recent statement by Trade Minister Atanas Paparizov who expressed a hope the talks on customs preferences for Bulgaria will be continued on a higher level on May 13. Paparizov will lead a delegation to a Bulgarian trade and industrial exhibition opening in Moscow on the same day.

    Dailies recall that according to the National Statistical Institute, Russia is Bulgaria's biggest trade partner, accounting for 19% of Bulgarian trade. This country had a deficit of about $830 million in trade with Russia in 1995.

    [04] MISSING: 3.5 T OF GOLD

    The Bulgarian government's operating gold reserve has decreased 3.5 t from 1993; the difference has not been accounted for, show official central bank figures, "Troud" writes. The operating reserve is not part of the official national reserve, which rose a mere 466 kg in the period under review. According to official figures it is 32.95 t, while officials put it at 31 t, the daily says. It predicts that missing 5 t are abroad, as security for loans. The theory is based on recent claims by bankers and ministers that 4.5 t of operating gold have been used as security, "Troud" says.

    [05] COAL MINING

    Coal mining rose 25% in the first quarter of 1996 compared to the same time of last year, "Douma" says quoting the Deputy Chairman of the Energy Committee Ivan Markov. Coal mining tops a list of six industries which registered a growth.

    [06] INTERIOR MINISTER TO BE REPLACED

    Sofia, May 7 (BTA) - Prime Minister Zhan Videnov asked Parliament to accept the resignation of Interior Minister Lyubomir Nachev, Government Spokesman Nikola Baltov announced after today's meeting of the Council of Ministers. The Government Spokesman added PM Videnov had made a motion for the election of a new interior minister but declined to specify if the nominee is Nikolai Dobrev, currently Chairman of the parliamentary National Security Committee, whom the Prime Minister named last weekend. Lyubomir Nachev himself did not attent the meeting of the Cabinet today. Lyubomir Nachev's resignation was not discussed by the Cabinet today because the consideration of the issue is within competence of the Prime Minister, the Government Spokesman said.

    The Interior Minister gave in his resignation after a grave incident on May 3, 1996 when three policemen were killed. He is the third minister who leaves Zhan Videnov's Cabinet.

    [07] GOVERNMENT LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES

    Sofia, May 7 (BTA) - The Council of Ministers, together with the chairmen of the standing parliamentary committees, identified at a meeting today its legislative initiatives for the summer session of the National Assembly. The bills to be given priority were specified in five basic fields: social security reform, strengthening of the state system and keeping crime under control, land and agricultural reform, rehabilitation of the banking sector and of the state-owned enterprizes, development of the spiritual sphere and of education.

    Under the plan for the legislative initiatives in May-July the Government is to move to the National Assembly sixteen bills; another 44 draft legislations will be developed in the separate ministries. Particular priority will be rendered to the bills connected with the rehabilitation of the banking system and the state-owned enterprizes. The Cabinet also plans to move the 1997 Budget Bill not later than in the autumn. Before that, however, it will move with priority the bill for local authority finance and a new law on central government budget composition, Justice Minister Mladen Chervenyakov said.

    The Bill on Bulgaria's Coat-of-Arms will be moved to the plenary hall during the weeks to come, deputy floor leader of the parliamentary group of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) Rossen Houbenov said. "We are willing to come to agreement with the opposition, but if this turns to be impossible, we shall not leave the state without a coat-of- arms," he added.

    [08] "SECURITY THROUGH COOPERATION AND INTEGRATION"

    Bulgaria now in principle has to reassert itself as a sovereign and independent state in its own right in the international affairs. The Defence Ministry has no right to hold a wait-and-see position: it must protect the Bulgarian interests in the military cooperation with other states. Security through cooperation and integration, this is the position of the [Defence] Ministry, Defence Minister Dimiter Pavlov says in an interview for Balkan Agency. International military cooperation is one of the three basic components in the structure of Bulgaria's military doctrine, the minister reminds in that relation.

    "We have invited all, but we shall not drop our idea if one or another country refuses to participate officially," Minister Pavlov says in the interview in connection with the idea for a meeting of all Balkan defence ministers in Sofia this autumn which he recently promoted in Tirana at a a meeting of several Balkan defence ministers. "...The bilateral meetings with my colleagues of the Balkan states have convinced me that we have much similar views on the regional problems and their possible solutions," the Bulgarian Defence Minister says, stressing the importance of achieving a principal agreement for holding of the regional forum.

    According to Mr Pavlov, "the new Balkan order" after Dayton may begin, once the process of signing the bilateral framework agreements for military cooperation is completed and bilateral confidence-building measures are adopted. Only after that we can advance to the more difficult tasks: for example to the establishment of mutually acceptable and ensured by agreements regional military balances at the lowest possible levels, the Defence Minister believes. In Mr Pavlov's view, this is the basis upon which regional security system may be established, one that will in all cases develop as an inseparable part of the future pan-European security system.

    "In terms of the Bulgarian-Russian military cooperation, new approaches are being established and suitable forms are being sought for settling the problems and deepening these relations. Sticking to the principles of equal treatment and of mutual interest, the cooperation...will progress successfully into the future," Minister Pavlov says. He voices his ministry's satisfaction with the agreement for delivery to the Bulgarian Army of military equipment subject to cuts in the armed forces of the Russian Federation under the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty.

    As a result of NATO's 1995 study on its enlargement, NATO's partners under the "Partnership for Peace" initiative (which Bulgaria signed in early 1994) got a good basis for contemplation about the consequences of such an expansion in a number of aspects, the Defence Minister says in the interview. The discussion on the expansion, however, must continue and deepen, because there are a number of issues which have not been completely settled, he says. Bulgaria's inclusion in the enhanced dialogue with NATO creates favourable conditions for expanding the circle of problems and stands, which should be taken into consideration with view to strengthening security and stability throughout Europe, Minister Pavlov says.

    As an "associate partner" of the Western European Union (WEU) Bulgaria actively participates in its working groups, the Defence Minister also says in the interview for Balkan Agency. "We attach particular importance to the initiative for corporate contemplation on the new security conditions in Europe. We cannot but be encouraged by the fact that 27 states of various statuses in the WEU and of different views about security, proved their willingness to work out adequate and coordinated responses to the existing hazards for the European security," Minister Pavlov says.

    [09] I.M.F. MISSION ARRIVES

    Negotiations on a fourth stand-by agreement (SBA) with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) opened here today between the Bulgarian Government and a mission of IMF experts who arrived in Sofia yesterday. Only technical talks are being held for the time being, pending the May 8 arrival of Mrs Anne McGuirk, IMF Mission Leader for Bulgaria, BTA learnt from the press centre of the IMF Resident Mission in Bulgaria. "The fine economic performance in 1995 is a suitable launchpad for decisive action on the part of the Government," Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Development Roumen Gechev told a news conference last month, presenting the Government's programme which had been submitted to the Fund. He expressed the hope that a fourth SBA could be signed by the middle of the year. The Government does not have differences in principle with the IMF and the World Bank, Mr Gechev said. Bulgaria joined the IMF in September 1991. Its quota amounts to SDR (special drawing rights) 310 million (424 million US dollars). For 1991 Bulgaria received 365 million US dollars on its first stand-by credit. The second SBA, for 212 million US dollars, expired in February 1992. For the first time in 1995 the country did not sign a stabilization agreement with the IMF. The large foreign-debt service payments in 1996 and the volatility of the local inter-bank currency market have almost halved Bulgaria's 1,600 million US dollar official reserves. According to official figures released by the National Bank, the foreign-exchange reserves stood at 670 million US dollars at the end of April 1996. In the course of a fortnight the IMF mission will be perusing the Government's programme submitted in conformity with the Fund's requirements, which were revealed back when a previous mission of the multilateral financial institution visited Bulgaria. Under the programme, some 100 money-losing state-owned enterprises are to be closed down, another 70 are to be rehabilitated, and the banking system is to undergo structural adjustment, Mr Gechev said. What is important is how to handle the debts of banks slated for winding up, he emphasized. According to the Deputy PM, the Programme contains a controversial point about the time limits for privatization of United Bulgarian Bank, which is part of the IMF/WB plan for bank sector financing. The World Bank and the IMF are ready to provide money for severance pay to workers made redundant as a result of the enterprise closures, Mr Gechev said.

    [10] DIGITAL OVERLAY NETWORK PROJECT

    The project for building up a digital overlay network (DON) in Bulgaria will be completed by June 1997 with finishing the last stretch of the digital link between Rousse (on the Danube), and Stara Zagora (Southern Bulgaria), a news conference was told today by Mihail Danov, President of the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company (BTC).

    The DON project was launched at the beginning of 1994. It is financed through low-interest loans from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the World Bank amounting to 150 million US dollars. It is planned to construct two optic fibre loops in Western and Eastern Bulgaria, intersecting in the area of Stara Zagora and Veliko Turnovo (Central Bulgaria).

    At the beginning of 1995, due to the delay in the introduction of new mechanisms for increasing telephone charges to adjust them to inflation, the EBRD suspended the financing of the Stara Zagora - Veliko Turnovo digital link. The laying of the optic fibre cable along this stretch was contracted with the international amalgamation Alcatel which won the BTC tender for the construction of the Eastern Loop.

    Mihail Danov said at today's news conference that the trade negotiations with the contractor Alcatel had been completed; it had been established that the deadlines for the implementation of the DON project are realistic.

    The Stara Zagora - Bourgas (on the southern Black Sea coast) stretch is expected to be commisisoned by May 15, 1996; the Bourgas - Varna (on the northern Black Sea coast) link - by June 15, the Stara Zagora - Veliko Turnovo link - by the end of August; the Stara Zagora - Rousse link - by the end of October; and the Rousse - Sofia link - by the end of the year, Mihail Danov said.

    By signing international agreements with Romania and laying the optic fibre cable across the bridge spanning the Danube between Rousse and the Romanian town of Rousse, the north-south digital transit link, connecting the Baltic republics, Russia and Ukraine through Romania and Bulgaria with Greece and Yugoslavia, will be completed. This will provide a considerable revenue for the BTC, Danov stated.

    A BTC delegation led by Mihail Danov made arrangements for the funding of these activities with the EIB, the EBRD and the World Bank in Luxembourg last week.

    The BTC expects a tranche of 20 million Deutsche mark from the EIB in two days and another tranche of 20 million by the end of May. The EBRD confirmed its readiness to finance the activities of the contractor Alcatel. The World Bank also agreed to fund a DON- related management information project, the news conference was told.

    The BTC economized about 40 million US dollars on the implementation of the DON project as a result of effective work, Mihail Danov said. The BTC asked the international banks to endorse the use of economized funds for the development of Bulgaria's communication system outside the DON project and the banks gave their consent for it in principle.

    In Luxembourg the BTC presented the projects for the construction of digital exchnages in ten former district capitals and the related digital links it would like the international banks to finance, Danov added.

    The EBRD, the EIB and the World Bank studied the BTC business plan. The BTC made it on its own for the first time. In 1994 and 1995 the business plans were drawn with the assistance of foreign consulting firms which cost nearly 300,000 US dollars. Having rectified some inaccuracies, the new business plan will be sent to the international banks which should receive it by the end of this week, Mihail Danov said.

    [11] MEETING OF EXECUTIVE BUREAU OF BSP

    The Executive Bureau of the Supreme Council of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) discussed today the preparations for the scheduled for Sunday plenum on the political concept for the structural reform of the national economy.

    The Executive Bureau did not discuss the candidacy of Nikolai Dobrev, member of the Executive Bureau of the BSP's Supreme Council and Chairman of the parliamentary committee on national security, for the position of interior minister, Spokesperson Klara Marinova said, answering a question. Floor leader of the Parliamentary Group of the Democratic Left Krassimir Premyanov said that Prime Minister Zhan Videnov has already announced his decision to propose Nikolai Dobrev for the position of interior minister. On May 4, a day after the murder of three policemen in Sofia the Prime Minister said he will accept the resignation of interior minister Lyubomir Nachev and will suggest Nikolai Dobrev in his place. According to Krassimir Premyanov, there are no reasons for Mr Dobrev to refuse to take up the portfolio. Mr Premyanov believes that Nikolai Dobrev's position as Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security is an adequate justification for him to take up the position.

    The parliamentary group of the Democratic Left and the BSP's Supreme Council will be ready in time with their suggestion for presidential candidate of the Left, Krassimir Premyanov also said. By May 25 and even earlier, the Parliament will discuss the problem about Bulgaria's coat-of-arms, Chairman Krassimir Premyanov said and specified that this issue is not to be associated with the visit to Bulgaria of Simeon II, the last Bulgarian king who lives in exile in Spain.

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