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News from Bulgaria (96-05-28)

Bulgarian Telegraph Agency Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: Embassy of Bulgaria <>



28 May, 1996


  • [08] BULGARIA - I.M.F.


    Sofia, May 24 (BTA) - "I tried to substantiate the necessity to draft more carefully the strategy for the further development of the processes of transition," Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski said today upon his return from Warsaw, where he attended a Conference of the Council of Europe (CE) on the Economic Reforms in Central and Eastern Europe.

    According to Minister Pirinski, in addition to the financial stabilization, which is unconditioned and absolutely necessary, at this stage of the reform particular attention should be paid to the living standards and the financial indicators, the prospects for overcoming unemployment and ensuring increased rate of employment. Minister Pirinski also drew the attention to the efforts for strengthening the institutional indicators like market economy and pluralistic democracy.

    The Bulgarian Foreign Minister said that according to the Chairman of the World Trade Organisation, a group of countries, among which Bulgaria, will most probably receive membership in the organisation before the end of the year.


    Sofia, May 27 (BTA) - Bulgaria continues its intensive contacts with the European Union, whose full member it wants to become, it was said at a news briefing in the Foreign Ministry today.

    Today and tomorrow Deputy Foreign Minister Irina Bokova is holding consultations with the Irish Foreign Ministry in Dublin. Bulgaria attaches great importance to these talks, because Ireland is the next state after Italy to take the rotating EU presidency. On the agenda of the talks are issues concerning Bulgaria's getting closer to the EU in which it is currently an associated member, the country's preparations for its future EU integration, visa requirements issues and the problem of Bulgaria's removal from the EU visa black list.

    Gunther Burghard, Director-General of DG I-A with the European Union, in charge of the union's relations with the states of the Southeastern Europe is expected to come to Sofia on Thursday and Friday. "This visit is very important for us," Head of European Integration Department with the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry Emil Vulev told reporters today. Mr Burghard will have meetings with Prime Minister Videnov, Foreign Minister Pirinski and his deputy Irina Bokova, with Minister of Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Atanas Paparizov, the parliamentary Committee on Foreign Policy and the Intergovernmental Commission on European Integration Affairs.


    Sofia, May 24 (BTA) - The best news is that the prospects for the Bulgarian exports to Russia are growing, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Development Roumen Gechev said today upon his return from Moscow, where attended the ceremonies on the closing of the Bulgarian Days in Moscow. The Bulgarian Days started in March. According to Mr Gechev, the most important issue he discussed during his meetings in the Russian Ministry of Economy was related to the customs preferences for Bulgarian goods in the Russian market. He reported about the confidence of his Russian colleagues that at the meeting of the Bulgarian-Russian economic commission due in September this issue will be settled and the preferences will be included in Russia's 1997 budget plans.


    Sofia, May 24 (BTA) - May 24, the Day of Slav Letters and Culture is observed throughout Bulgaria today. Politicians, citizens and students paid honours to the creators of the Slav letters, Sts Cyril and Methodius, by laying wreaths and flowers and organising various demonstrations and celebrations. Thanksgiving services were conducted in a number of churches.

    In Sofia the observances started with the laying of wreaths and flowers at the monument to Sts Cyril and Methodius. "The Bulgarian nation with rightful pride commemorates the lifework of Sts Cyril and Methodius. It was a great chance for Bulgaria that the lifework of the two holy brothers was realized through their disciples exactly on the territory of this country," Chairman of the National Assembly Blagovest Sendov told the participants, among whom were President Zhelyu Zhelev, cabinet members, politicians, diplomats, students and citizens.

    Bulgarian Patriarch Maksim was also present at the ceremony. Together with metropolitans Galaktion and Gelasii he held in the morning a thanksgiving service in the Aleksander Nevski cathedral to mark May 24. In his address the Patriarch gave full credit to the lifework of Cyril and Methodius and their followers.


    Sofia, May 24 (BTA) - Queues were to be seen in front of most shops in Sofia today. "There is no grain crisis," said Minister of Agriculture and Food Processing Svetoslav Shivarov in an interview over the national television. "There are difficulties in the bread supply. Bread grain and flour are available not only in sufficient but even in quantities 10-15 per cent larger than the normal. The difficulties are created in the delivery of the bread to the people," Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Construction and Regional Development Doncho Konaktchiev said in a statement over the national radio and television today.


    Sofia, May 27 (BTA) - Following is a press release by Anne McGuirk, IMF Mission Chief for Bulgaria:

    "1. We have reached agreement in principle with the Government on a comprehensive program of economic and structural reform designed to deal decisively with the problems presently confronting Bulgaria - policies that would be supported by a Fund arrangement.

    "2. As is customary, the agreement is 'ad referendum'; that is it must be accepted, first, by the Fund's Managing Director and, second, by the Executive Board of the Fund.

    "3. The agreement is also contingent on the Government implementing a number of measures over the next few weeks, including completion of discussions with the World Bank on structural reforms that could be supported by a new structural adjustment loan.

    "4. Barring the unforeseen, we expect these elements to come together over the next several weeks so as to permit consideration of Bulgaria's proposed arrangement by the Executive Board of the Fund in July.

    "5. A very strong policy package is needed to turn the situation around and restore health to the economy and confidence to the public. The key elements of the program are a marked strengthening of the underlying fiscal position; financial policies geared to stabilizing the exchange rate, establishing a viable external position, and bringing inflation back to a rate of some 2 percent a month as quickly as possible. Of critical importance are fundamental reform and restructuring of the banking and enterprise sectors that stop the past misuse of real and financial resources and prevent its recurrence.

    "6. The year ahead will be a very difficult one for Bulgaria. We are confident, however, that - if vigorously implemented - the policies envisaged under the arrangement will set the stage for Bulgaria finally to begin to reap the benefits of transition. The balance of payments will be stronger, the banking system will be financially sounder, and the enterprise sector will be healthier. Bulgaria can count on the Fund's full support as it embarks on this new beginning."


    Sofia, May 27 (BTA) - "We have reached agreement in principle with the Government on a comprehensive programme of economic and structural reform designed to deal decisively with the problems presently confronting Bulgaria," said Anne McGuirk, Mission Leader for Bulgaria of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), after her final meeting with Prime Minister Zhan Videnov today. In her view, before signing a final agreement with the IMF in support of its balance of payments, Bulgaria will first have to finalize its negotiations with the World Bank on eliminating the adverse effects of the structural reform. Among the negative effects of the reform in the country Mrs McGuirk listed the inevitable increases of energy and transport prices and of taxes and charges as a whole, The arrangement that the IMF mission has proposed for Bulgaria will also have to be considered by the IMF's Executive Board. According to Mrs McGuirk, this may be expected to happen in the first half of July.

    The IMF hopes the Bulgarian Government will implement the prescribed measures as quickly as possible, so as to achieve inflation of some 2 per cent a month, a much lower interest rate and stabilized exchange rate, Mrs McGuirk said. In her view the year ahead will be a difficult one for Bulgaria but, if vigorously implemented, the policies envisaged under the agreement will bring Bulgaria in a much healthier position by the middle of next year both on its external accounts, the banking system, and in the enterprise sector.

    "The Government has committed itself to act on an extra-tight schedule," Prime Minister Zhan Videnov said after the meeting. "We are supposed to take the most decisive action in June, but some of the most important measures will be taken in July 1996," he emphasized. Mr Videnov said that in its initiatives the Government will rely on its social partners and Parliament and hopes that there will be no calls for delay of the implementation of the programme as adopted. "The exact schedule for implementation of the programme will be delivered to the major political factors, to the social partners and to the Parliament tomorrow," the Prime Minister said. "We will count on an agreement with the World Bank in support of structural adjustment which would help mitigate the effects of the liquidation of hopeless money-losers, as well as on an arrangement with the IMF in support of the country's balance of payments which would help us be prompt payers on our external debt and service the internal debt as well," he said. According to Mr Videnov, if this is achieved, Bulgaria will have no problems either with its foreign creditors or with the Bulgarian depositors.

    "Today we signed a detailed strategy for restructuring of the banking system and of the real economy, in specific figures, deadlines and mechanisms," Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Development Roumen Gechev said. He said that Bulgaria has received the support of two authoritative international institutions. The IMF mission will pledge for special attention paid to Bulgaria so that it receives a larger sum, Mr Gechev said. In his view the country may receive a total of more than 700 million US dollars from all international financial institutions (the IMF, the World Bank, the EU and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development), but "what is more important is the very fact that the agreements are signed," as he put it. The effect of the signed accords goes far beyond the significance of the funds which Bulgaria will receive, because they will help regain foreign investors' confidence," Deputy PM Gechev said in conclusion.

    [08] BULGARIA - I.M.F.

    The first draft of the fourth standby agreement between Bulgaria and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has already been prepared, "24 Chassa" writes, quoting Deputy Prime Minister Roumen Gechev's statement on the national radio. Gechev described the document as a "memorandum for concluding a loan agreement with the IMF". According to Gechev, the first version of the document is ready and the remaining details will be finalized within two weeks. Sofia will sign an agreement with the IMF and the World Bank by mid-July, "24 Chassa" quotes Gechev as saying.

    According to the daily, the first draft of the agreement has already been co-ordinated with the IMF. The document envisages measures for the stabilization of the banking sector and the real economy without resorting to blocking of leva or foreign currency accounts or introducing a fixed leva-dollar exchange rate, "24 Chassa" quotes Gechev as saying. According to the daily, the IMF mission in Bulgaria, headed by Anne Mc Guirk, agrees with the key principles underlying the Cabinet's structural reform policy.

    According to "24 Chassa", the amount of funds that Bulgaria can receive from the IMF is between USD 500,000,000 and 600,000,000. The amount is calculated in accordance with Bulgaria's quota of about SDR 400. Provided that the agreement is signed, the first tranche of about USD 150 million will be extended as early as July, "24 Chassa" says.


    Sofia, May 27 (BTA Special Correspondent Atanas Matev) Prime Minister Zhan Videnov returned from his official visits to China and Vietnam. Upon his arrival at Sofia Airport late last night, Videnov described the visits as very successful.

    The meetings were at top state level; the sides established many contacts between individual departments and business representatives as well as through the chambers of commerce, Videnov said. The Asia- Pacific region is the fastest developing region in the world; Bulgaria has traditional partners in China and Vietnam which are ready to ensure a worthy place for this country among their other partners, Videnov said. China and Vietnam consider Bulgaria as a point of contact with developing Europe, in which both countries have a great interest, Videnov said. He went on to stress that Bulgaria and China can develop the bilateral trade while Bulgaria for its part could expect to gain a serious position on the vast Chinese market.


    Sofia, May 25 (Ekaterina Kazassova of BTA) - After 50 years of exile, Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha arrived in Bulgaria today together with his wife, Margarita. Referred to as "His Majesty" by some and as "citizen Simeon Borissov" by others, Simeon, who lives in Spain, came on his first visit to Bulgaria since in 1946 his family was forced into leaving the country after Bulgaria was proclaimed a republic by a referendum. Simeon comes here in response to 101 Bulgarian intellectuals who in November, 1995 invited him to visit Bulgaria.

    Simeon was met at the Sofia airport by several hundred admirers who cried out, "We want our king back," and sang patriotic songs. Several dozens of the most enthusiastic members of the welcoming party had taken positions hours before the plane's arrival.

    Simeon's cortege passed along the central Sofia boulevard "Tsarigradsko Schausse" amid people carrying flowers, banners and placards, saying "Welcome Home," "God, King, Fatherland," and others. The procession could but slowly proceed along the streets of Sofia as they were jammed with people. While it was mainly old people who waited for Simeon at the airport, in downtown Sofia most of those who wanted to welcome him, were young and middle-aged people.

    Greeted along their way by the Sofianites, Simeon II and his wife visited the City Council, where they were met by the Sofia Mayor. The couple signed the Golden Book of Sofia and received as gift a St George icon. "This welcome deleted for me the 50 years of exile," Simeon said after the meeting.

    Simeon II repeated several times that he loves Bulgaria and the Bulgarian people, but kindly evaded the questions about his intentions. "Give me a couple of days," he told the reporters who were eager to find out about his future plans. "Let me first see the country and talk to the people," he said. Asked if he is ready to accept the crown in case the Constitution is amended, he said, "It is only by respecting the institutions that the country can strengthen and become an operating democracy."

    Under the preliminary schedule Simeon is to stay here for about three weeks. More than 100 Bulgarian towns have invited him to be their guest. He has so far accepted the invitations of Plovdiv, Varna and Rousse. Simeon will also visit the Rhila monastery. Later in the day Simeon met with the 101 Bulgarian intellectuals who extended the invitation to visit Bulgaria. Tomorrow he will have dinner with President Zhelev.

    The Union of War Veterans issued a declaration, expressing concern over the reception of Simeon in the country. "We are impressed by the violation of a number of legal standings," the veterans say. They do not rule out the possibility of bewilderment and dissatisfaction among the citizens, which may result in split of the nation. Simeon II is not the first member of the royal family to visit Bulgaria. His sister Maria-Louisa was here in May, 1991 and Queen Mother Joanna of Savoy paid a visit here in late August, 1993 in connection with an anniversary since the death of her husband, King Boris III.


    Simeon II's visit to Bulgaria, which started on May 25, receives front-page prominence in the national dailies. So far he has met with Sofia Mayor Stefan Sofiyanski and President Zhelyu Zhelev.

    Though the royal visit has only just begun, some conclusions can be drawn even at this stage, the independent "Continent" daily says. First, Bulgarian politicians underestimated the ex-monarch, failing to see that thanks to their absolute incompetence in the last six years the King's "electorate" reached impressive proportions, the daily says. Second, the electorate showed once again that it needs a circus atmosphere to become dizzy with euphoria, "Continent" says. "Politicians, half a million people went out into the streets in Sofia alone; on Saturday they met a former king, it will be a small wonder if they meet an incumbent king some day! ", the daily warns.

    The ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) says we have bread but no king, says a signed commentary in "Troud". The Socialists refer to the last king in Bulgarian history as Simeon Borisov Coburg-Gotha, going a step further than the Communist Party (which ruled the country until 1989); the Communists did not refer to the founder of the Bulgarian state as Asparouh Koubratov, though they did not like the word "king" either, the daily says. According to "Troud", the BSP declared Simeon II a tourist and, following this adamant socialist logic, the BSP may declare the sea of hundreds of thousands of Sofianites meeting Simeon II monarchists. The BSP does not want to see that the human sea raged against darkness, the bread shortage and the rotting money of the poor people, the daily says. It is a different matter that Simeon will weep for a while and then will go, says "Troud".

    This was a historic meeting: a former head of state - of the Bulgarian monarchy - was received by the incumbent head of state of the Republic of Bulgaria, "Standart News" says, quoting Stefan Savov (of the parliamentary Popular Union coalition). President Zhelyu Zhelev gave a luncheon in honour of Simeon II on Sunday, attended, among others, by former foreign minister and ambassador to Britain Ivan Stancioff and journalist and publisher Dimiter Panitza, head of the Free and Democratic Bulgaria Foundation. Savov said the meeting was an unprecedented event in the Balkans.

    The opposition "Demokratsiya" daily runs a brief interview with Bulgaria's exiled Monarch Simeon II. The interviewee says he interprets the hearty welcome Bulgarians offered his in his visit to this country as a reminiscence of his father who enjoyed great popularity. Simeon II believes it is a sacrilege to say that Bulgarians meet him as a messiah. He says the aim of his visit is to meet as many compatriots as possible.


    Sofia, May 26 (By Ekaterina Kazassova of BTA) - Bulgaria's exiled king Simeon II who arrived yesterday in Bulgaria for the first time in 50 years had lunch with President Zhelyu Zhelev today. Zhelev has met Simeon before in Madrid. The Bulgarian President has also had two meetings with the Queen Mother Joanna of Savoy. The lunch passed in an exceptionally cordial atmosphere, President Zhelev said afterwards. Political issues concerning Bulgaria, Europe and the world were on the agenda of the talks. The preliminary elections which would nominate the opposition's single presidential candidate were not discussed, Zhelev stated. The two talked about the situation in Bulgaria, but it was not considered in details, however, because as Zhelev put it "this theme presupposes a serious conversation".

    President Zhelev and his wife received Simeon and his Spanish aristocrat wife Margarita in their private villa and not in the official residence. Attending were former Bulgarian ambassador in London and former foreign minister Ivan Stanchov, Dimiter Panitsa, Democratic Party Leader Stefan Savov and Evgeni Silyanov, chief of the royal protocol who had attended the signing of the 1947 Paris Peace Treaty. Earlier in the morning Simeon II and his wife visited the Sunday liturgy at the St Sofia church after which Bulgaria's capital was named. The clergymen showed the guest the place where the king's throne used to be. "I just want to pray for two minutes for Bulgaria," Simeon said. Few elderly women slipped past the security guards and kissed the hands of the royal couple.

    After that Simeon II and his wife made a tour of Sofia. The king's car stopped in front of the National Palace of Culture and the National Theatre where Simeon went out of the car and took a short walk talking to passers-by. The procession stopped for a while before the former royal palace in the centre of Sofia just opposite the former mausoleum of communist leader Georgi Dimitrov (the first head of state after the communists' seizure of power in 1944).


    Sofia, May 27 (Ekaterina Kazassova of BTA) - Simeon Saxe- Coburg-Gotha who arrived in Bulgaria last Saturday following a fifty- year absence, today visited the Boyana church in Sofia. It is the grave site of his Grandmother Queen Eleonara, second wife of Bulgarian King Ferdinand. Her grave was restored in 1994. The early medieval church is on a UNESCO world heritage list.

    Simeon II, 58, visits Bulgaria for the first time after his family fled the country in 1946 after a referendum declared Bulgaria a republic. The visit will continue for about three weeks. According to the press, over 500,000 people welcomed him upon his arrival. The streets in downtown Sofia through which his motorcade passed were literally overflowing with people.

    "I think the joy people meet me with is due more to respect to my father," Simeon II said in an interview for WTN, in the presence of reporters from other media. His father, King Boris III, died a sudden death in 1943. Although there is no direct evidence, rumour has it he was poisoned on Hitler's orders. Simeon II also said that for Bulgaria to move forward, all people should work together, regardless of their ideological differences.

    Yesterday he met with President Zhelyu Zhelev, former leader of the opposition of the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF). He has so far been the only high-ranking official to receive the exiled king. Zhelev, a staunch republican, said he is meeting Simeon as an important part of Bulgarian history. "It is no secret I am a republican, who swore in Bulgaria's republican Constitution, but the republic should respect its past," he said.

    "I am not so interested in the gentleman's return," Prime Minister Zhan Videnov, leader of the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party said upon his return late last night from China and Vietnam. According to the Prime Minister, this is not the top event of the month, not to mention the year. "I would not meet with him, I have more important business," Videnov said, referring to talks with the International Monetary Fund.

    "I am worried about the hopes and expectations my visit has aroused," Simeon II stated at a meeting with teachers and students at the St Kliment Ohridski University of Sofia today. He was invited to attend the press-launch of two books, "Simeon II" and "Bulgarian Monarchs at the National Assembly: Speeches from the Throne (1879-1946), published by the Sofia University Press. The participants in the meeting welcomed Simeon II with stormy applause. University Rector Prof. Ivan Lalov noted in his greeting address that Simeon II's visit reminds the young generation of his father, a honorary doctor of the University, and of the time when Simeon himself, though still a child, was head of state of the country. "I have come here rather to listen and learn and not to make speeches," Simeon II said. He answered numerous questions posed by attendants, most of which greeted him and called on him to stay in Bulgaria.

    In reply to a question if he would take the crown, Simeon II said he had never yielded to difficulties and yet this does not depend on him but on Bulgarians and a lot of other factors. "Hopefully, maybe the time for it will come at some later stage," he said replying a question if he wanted to live in Bulgaria.


    The programme for prompt rehabilitation of the banking system and the real economy proposed by Prime Minister Zhan Videnov should have been supported, Socialist MP and ex-premier Andrei Loukanov said in an interview in "Pari". The measures are adequate but belated, according to him. A year ago they would have come at a much lower social, economic and political price and would have been much less painful. A government commanding a steady parliamentary majority can effect the badly needed structural reform, however painful it is, Loukanov said. But this does not preclude national consensus on the major objectives of reform and active social dialogue ensuring the broadest possible social support, he said.

    Luckily, the Bulgarian economy and finance are managed now by the state institutions vested with the power to do so, Loukanov said. He mentioned, however, alarming facts and tendencies, such as the growing financial potential and influence of criminal and semi-criminal structures.


    Sofia, May 27 (BTA) - Interviewed for national radio today, President Zhelyu Zhelev said that the crisis in the country would topple the Government of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP). Zhelev stated he would campaign for a change in the Constitution which would turn Bulgaria from a parliamentary into a presidential republic.

    Asked to comment on current bread and petrol shortages and the banking crisis, President Zhelev said all of it showed the governing BSP "is incapable of taking the country out of the crisis and it cannot make the transition to a market economy and democracy". "This is very symptomatic of the BSP government and will eventually lead to the BSP falling from power. I think this is almost inevitable. Given that such a serious crisis cannot be controlled, power can be held only through dictatorship," the President believes.

    He expressed his personal opinion that to overcome the situation, "it is absolutely necessary" that Bulgaria become a presidential republic. "The parliamentary republic is very democratic, it is too democratic for transition. The coherence among the branches of government is missing, especially that between the presidency and the executive," Zhelev observed. He stated that if he was elected for another term as president this autumn, he would campaign for "a presidential or a semi-presidential republic in order to overcome the crisis".

    President Zhelev described the great public interest in the visit by Simeon II, Bulgaria's last monarch, as normal. He thinks that there may be attempts to use Simeon II's visit for political ends. In the same time Zhelev believes that Simeon's presence will not have any particular impact in the preliminary election organized by opposition parties to select a single presidential candidate, due to be held on June 1.


    Skopje, May 27 (BTA exclusive by Kostadin Filipov) Referring to sources in Macedonia's Foreign Ministry, the independent television channel A-1 this evening announced that Macedonia had decided that it would not attend the meeting of foreign ministers of the countries in Southeastern Europe, due to be held in Sofia on June 8 and 9, 1996. The decision is motivated by the organizers' intention to refer to the Skopje delegation with the name Macedonia was given when admitted to the United Nations, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, instead of using its constitutional name, the Republic of Macedonia, and the dates set for the meeting which are considered to be inconvenient, the sources said. As everybody knows, a meeting of the UN's HABITAT is going to be held at the same time in Istanbul and a Macedonian delegation will also attend it. Turkey refused to take part in the Southeastern European meeting of foreign ministers for the same reason, the A-1 television channel said.

    Skopje has not confirmed its decision officially, yet but it is in line with Macedonia's still existing reservations about such a meeting. According to the same Foreign Ministry sources, this decision does not call into question the improvement of relations between Skopje and Sofia, a proof of which is the forthcoming visit by Bulgarian Foreign Ministry experts to Skopje to make arrangements for the visit of Bulgaria's top diplomat, Georgi Pirinski, to Macedonia, initially scheduled for April and then postponed.

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