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News from Bulgaria (96-05-29)
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From: Embassy of Bulgaria <firstname.lastname@example.org>
EMBASSY OF BULGARIA - WASHINGTON D.C.
BTA - BULGARIAN TELEGRAPH AGENCY
29 May, 1996
 ON MACEDONIA'S PARTICIPATION IN SOFIA MINISTERIALSkopje, May 28 (BTA exclusive by Kostadin Filanov) Bulgarian Ambassador in Skopje Angel Dimitrov was received today at the Macedonian Foreign Ministry on his initiative in connection with reports in the Macedonian media on the country's possible non- participation in the Sofia meeting of the foreign ministers of the countries of Southeastern Europe, scheduled for June 8-9.
Ambassador Dimitrov met with Macedonian Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Sasho Todorovski. The Macedonian side stressed that the forum would be more successful and better prepared if it were held in late June. This would make possible the participation of countries which otherwise could not be represented at the ministerial level for various reasons, it was said today. This was probably a reference to the elections in Albania and the HABITAT forum in Istanbul, which make June 8-9 unacceptable for Albania and Turkey. The Macedonian side contended that if these countries refused to accept the suggested later date, the forum could be held without them.
Macedonia wishes to attend the forum under its constitutional name, it became known at today's meeting. If this is not possible, Skopje may have to send a lower-level delegation. The Macedonian Foreign Ministry denied that sources from it had provided the information disseminated by some media that the country would not take part in the Sofia meeting. Independent sources claim this is part of the diplomatic games which usually precede such forums.
 FOREIGN MINISTER PIRINSKI STARTS VISIT TO FRANCESofia, May 28 (BTA) - Bulgarian Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski today left on an official two-day visit to France. Before his departure today he voiced expectations that France will confirm and give concrete dimensions to its support for Bulgaria's accession to the European Union. Pirinski was invited to visit France by his French counterpart Herve de Charette. During his stay in Paris he is due to meet Minister of European Affairs Michel Barnier. Answering a journalist's question before his departure, Pirinski said there is no obstacle for Macedonia's participation in the Balkan foreign ministers meeting on June 8-9.
 I.M.F., WORLD BANK BACK GOVERNMENT INITIATIVESSofia, May 28 (BTA) - The Government's initiatives structural reform, rehabilitation of the real economy and banking, and privatization - are supported by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, Deputy Prime Minister Doncho Konakchiev told a news conference today. He is also Deputy Chairman of the Supreme Council of the Bulgarian Socialist Party.
The current talks with these international financial institutions will be followed by four to six weeks of preparations, he said. During that time laws on the comprehensive rehabilitation of the financial sector will be enacted and the Government will take steps to bring certain price levels in line with the international factors. The Cabinet is ready to suggest social guarantees to mitigate the effect of rehabilitation, Konakchiev said. Expenditures in budget-related sectors should be reviewed so as to balance the budget in view of the new conditions, said Konakchiev. He did not rule out a review of the state of the budget in the third quarter.
 PRESIDENT ZHELEV ON CRISIS IN BANKINGSofia, May 28 (BTA) - Today President Zhelev signed the Act on the state protection of deposits with banks for which the central bank has initiated bankruptcy proceedings for promulgation. Thus the president made it possible for the government to proceed with the restructuring of the banking system, said the presidential spokesman today in a special statement which also criticized the act. President Zhelev is inclined to believe that the government and the parliamentary majority of the left-wing are addressing important national problems without a clear concept for their solution, the statement says. The President believes that in its present form the act will hardly achieve its purpose of overcoming the confidence crisis in the banking system. The statement also criticized the government for `imposing hasty decisions, affecting broad social strata, without seeking prior public dialogue'. `The government's approach to the restructuring of the banking system indicates possible continuation of political pressure especially on private commercial banks which would continue to ruin small and medium-size business'.
Zhelev believes that instead of guaranteeing personal deposits 100% and company deposits 50%, the law should have sought other options such as state guarantee of deposits depending on their size. `The thesis [of Prime Minister Videnov] that it is unpardonable for companies to make mistakes in their choice of banks is valid only if these companies are guaranteed access to reliable information on the state of banks and in the presence of mechanisms for protection against arbitrary acts by bank officials,' the presidential spokesman said. He points out that a number of provisions in the act provoke objections of a purely legal nature - state guarantees of foreign currency deposits and accounts, the approach of the state in defending foundations and other nonprofit organizations, etc.
 BULGARIAN-IRISH CONSULTATIONS IN DUBLINDublin, May 28 (BTA) - On May 27, Irina Bokova, Secretary of the Bulgarian Government Committee on European Integration and Deputy Foreign Minister, held bilateral talks at the Irish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry said in a press release today. Bokova held talks with Gay Mitchell, State Minister in the Irish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in the Justice Ministry. The discussions focused on the issues related to the priorities of the Irish presidency over the European Union (EU), the progress and prospects of the EU Intergovernmental Conference, Bulgaria's preparation for an EU membership, the regional stability in Southeastern Europe, as well as the EU visa black list.
The Bulgarian initiative for launching a comprehensive process of multilateral co-operation among the Southeast European countries was welcomed by te Irish side which assessed it as a major contribution to the joint efforts aimed at the stabilization of this part of the world and as a complementation to the EU's initiative to this end. Bokova delivered a letter from Bulgarian Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski to Dick Spring, Irish Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs. The Bulgarian and Irish officials outlined the opportunities for the intensification of the co-operation in the field of justice and internal affairs. The talks paid special attention to issues connected with the effective EU visa policy towards Bulgarian nationals. The officials provided information about the changes introduced in the Bulgarian visa policy and practices; they also discussed practical steps for Bulgaria's removal from the EU visa black list, reads the Foreign Ministry's press release.
 SIMEON II VISITSofia, May 28 (BTA) - Exiled Bulgarian king Simeon Saxe- Coburg-Gotha and his wife Margarita, who arrived in Bulgaria Saturday, today visited the grave of Simeon's father King Boris III at the Rila monastery. The monastery, in southwestern Bulgaria, is one of Bulgaria's most precious national monuments. The abbot, Bishop Ioan, said mass. `Blessed is the day you returned to Bulgaria. This event is historic. For the first time in fifty years a Bulgarian king sets foot in the Rila monastery,' he said. A small crowd outside chanted `We Want Our King Back'. Simeon II examined objects from his father's funeral, and later on retired to the royal apartment whose original furnishings have not been preserved.
Around noon today Simeon II arrived in the southwestern Bulgarian city of Blagoevgrad. After a short meeting with the mayor, Simeon greeted the chanting crowd in front of the mayor's office. `Let us all work together to overcome the crisis in Bulgaria. Bulgaria is great and has overcome many crises through the centuries. A strong, unified and prosperous Bulgaria is not so far away,' he said. Visiting the American University in Bulgaria in the city, he urged young people to stay home where they have many opportunities, rather than seek their fortunes abroad.
`Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and the dynasty he represents cannot unify the nation,' the deputy leader of the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) Georgi Purvanov told a press conference today. He stressed the BSP will not delay stating its views on Simeon's visit, if that is necessary. According to Purvanov, all political forces are tolerant of the visit, which shows the democratic process in Bulgaria has gone far. The BSP official denied suspicions of hidden or overt monarchism in the BSP rank and file.
Speaking to the press in Vidin, the chief secretary of the opposition Bulgarian Agrarian National Union Anastasiya Mozer said she and her party firmly support the Agrarian idea of a parliamentary republic and Simeon's visit is `a nine days' wonder' used by some political forces divert attention from the nation's grave economic and social crisis.
 BULGARIAN-GREEK COOPERATION COMMISSION OPENS SESSIONSofia, May 28 (Vanya Ivanova of BTA) - `If we speak of confidence between Bulgaria and Greece at political level, I can say there is friendship in bilateral commercial and business relations,' the chairman of the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) Bozhidar Bozhinov told Greek Deputy Minister of National Economy Manolis Beteniotis. The Greek Deputy Minister is in Bulgaria for the 18th session of the mixed commission on economic, scientific and technical cooperation that opened here today. He chairs the Greek delegation.
The BCCI chairman believes that the activation of bilateral economic cooperation can be facilitated by ratifying the 1991 Bulgarian-Greek agreement on avoidance of double taxation, signing a transport agreement to facilitate the transfer of goods, and introducing arbitration clauses in the contracts between Bulgarian and Greek companies to guarantee their implementation. Bozhinov further urged for relaxation of the bilateral visa regime and stepping up of the procedures for issuing business visas.
Bozhinov and the Greek guest agree that the two countries' chambers of commerce and industry should assist the development of small and medium-sized businesses, particularly in border areas, and the launch of specific steps for opening free trade areas and new border crossings. Manolis Beteniotis asked the BCCI chairman to support the initiative for instituting a bank of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation.
Bozhinov pledged to urge the government to provide opportunities to Greek companies to participate in privatization funds in Bulgaria. He singled out the fact that Greek is the fourth major investor in this country. The two agreed on the need of stepping up the efforts for launching joint ventures and expediting the customs clearance of goods from and two Bulgaria and Greece.
Official statistics show Greece to be Bulgaria's third biggest trading partner after Russia and Germany. The commercial exchange last year amounted to 500 million US dollars. Bulgaria exports to Greece metals, fertilizers, timber, electricity, lamb and chemicals, importing Greek-made foods, clothes, agricultural produce and cotton. 40% of the commercial exchange is accounted by private companies. Of the total of 800 million US dollars in foreign investment to Bulgaria, 80 million came from Greece. 1,103 Greek companies have businesses in Bulgaria. Three Greek banks - Xiosbank, the Ionian Bank and the National Bank of Greece are licensed to operate in this country.
 OPPOSITION TO INTRODUCE NO-CONFIDENCE MOTION IN CABINETSofia, May 28 (BTA) - The opposition Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) is likely to move a vote of no confidence in the government. A proposal to that effect was discussed last Thursday at an extraordinary sitting of the UDF top leadership, leader Ivan Kostov told journalists today.
The UDF cannot be just an observer of the aggravating crisis with bread, petrol and banks and of the Socialist Party's incapacity to handle it, UDF deputy leader and presidential candidate Peter Stoyanov said in a special statement.The UDF did not expect that the bread, petrol prices and the banking crises would aggravate at such a speed, said Kostov. Less than a month ago the UDF top leadership rejected a no-confidence motion in the belief that it will consolidate the ranks of the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and hush down its internal conflicts. The no-confidence motion will probably be introduced at Parliament in mid- or late-June following consultations with the other opposition forces at Parliament, extraparliamentary parties and organizations and trade unions, said Bozhkov. Kostov doubts the government's capacity to launch the measures demanded by the International Monetary Fund. The cause for the economic collapse is the failure of the Socialist governance for which the BSP should shoulder the responsibility, said Kostov.
 ARMS EXHIBITION HEMUS'96 OPENEDSofia, May 28 (BTA) - Fifty-two foreign and 79 Bulgarian firms from 13 countries are taking part in the second international arms exhibition Hemus'96 which opened in Plovdiv (southern Bulgaria) today, on an area of 2,209 sq m, BTA's local correspondent said. The exhibitors include state-run and private companies, the correspondent told `Daily News' on the telephone. The foreign participants are from Russia, Ukraine, China, Greece, Germany, the USA and Poland.
The number of companies is higher this year, according to Atanas Kaloudov, Executive Director of the International Plovdiv Fair. The management of the fair cosponsors the event with the Hemus foundation.
`I hope Hemus'96 will help promote military cooperation and contribute to contacts in military science and the manufacture and sales of military output,' said Defence Minister Dimiter Pavlov at the opening. The exhibition, through June 1, is under the ministry's auspices.
The opening was attended by Industry Minister Kliment Vouchev, the Minister of Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Atanas Paparizov, NATO official Guilermo Leira, MPs, military attaches, diplomats and governmental delegations from Ukraine, Russia, Armenia, Kazakhstan and Slovenia. The expo will be visited by the currently sitting Bulgarian-Russian commission for scientific- technological and industrial cooperation.
The event showcases space equipment, arms for the ground forces and telecommunications systems, said Deputy Defence Minister Boris Radev. The third exhibition in three years is expected to show that a tradition has been established, he said. The programme also includes an international seminar on military equipment, air shows and cultural events. The foreign guests, including military attaches, will be familiarized the artillery range in Zmeevo (southern Bulgaria). It is world-class and offers certification of all kinds of firearms, Radev said.
Bulgaria is promoting space equipment, several modifications of an assault rifle with a grenade launcher, small but powerful radio systems, three kinds of multipurpose chassis and Bulgarian automobiles. On display are personnel carriers upgraded in Bulgaria, with three kinds of engines- a diesel-powered KAMAZ, a Rover, and a Bulgarian engine manufactured on a Perkins licence. Local plants are ready to perform this service for foreign customers. Bulgarian firms display various aircraft devices. Among the best Bulgarian products, Radev named a training airplane and an air target.
 BUSINESS PRESSSofia, May 28 - The US dollar gained 17 leva on the interbank market yesterday and returned to the level of 160 leva/1 US dollar, `Standart News' says. `Foreign currency demand again brought to a standstill. Banks and financial houses are in a frenzy exchanging all free levs into US dollars,' the daily says, quoting dealers as saying. The same dealers believe that the finalized negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will come in support of the Bulgarian currency. The collapse of the Bulgarian lev is a proof that the foreign investors do not support the country, says Manager of Raiffeisenbank in Bulgaria Douglas Dryden, interviewed for `Demokratsiya'. Raiffeisenbank is the first fully foreign investment in Bulgaria's banking sector which at the same time operates as a Bulgarian bank in compliance with the laws of this country, the daily recalls. The bank's policy is to finance profitable businesses, particularly export-oriented ones, Mr Dryden says. So far the bank has not financed long-term infrastructure projects but hopes to do that once the structural reform produces more clear results, he adds.
The `GBS-Privat' partnership, set up by 611 employees and managers from `Glavbolgarstroi' signed yesterday with the Privatization Agency a deal for the purchase of 80 per cent of the enterprise, the press says. Glavbolgarstroi mainly operates on construction and assembly projects abroad. Under the contract the enterprise is sold for 1,800 million leva, 30 per cent of which is to be paid cash and 70 per cent in long-term government bonds on the country's foreign and home debts. The payment is ensured by a consortium of banks, among which are Bulbank and Raiffeisenbank. The buyer has promised to make investments of 1.6 million US dollars abroad and of some 900 million leva in the country.
The Bulgarian-French company Danone-Serdika will grant a 6 million leva loan to a private farm near Nova Zagora for the purchase of pure bred cattle, `24 Chassa' writes. The loan is extended for a period of 6 months and is to be repaid in milk. Similar loans will be extended within a couple of weeks to other farms for increasing the number of animals and improving the quality of the milk, the daily says. The company will float a total of 88 million leva loans to farmers.
The Bulgarian-Russian Investment Bank will open a representation office in Moscow, the press reports. The bank already received a license from the central bank. With the opening of this representation office the bank will meet the demands of its Bulgarian and Russian customers which use its services as the only bank providing free convertibility between the rouble and the lev, says the bank in a news release.
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