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News from Bulgaria (96-05-30/31)
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From: Embassy of Bulgaria <email@example.com>
EMBASSY OF BULGARIA - WASHINGTON D.C.
BTA - BULGARIAN TELEGRAPH AGENCY30 and 31 May, 1996
 MINISTER PIRINSKI VISITS FRANCEParis, May 29 (BTA) - Bulgarian Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski started his official visit to France with a meeting with his French counterpart Herve de Charette. The French Foreign Minister voiced his satisfaction with the visit of his Bulgarian colleague and with the chance to exchange views and ideas on topical issues of bilateral and multilateral interest. Herve de Charette showed special interest in the Bulgarian standpoints on the issues concerning integration with the European Union, the relations with NATO and the Bulgarian initiative for holding a meeting of foreign ministers from Southeastern Europe in Sofia.
Minister Pirinski emphasized that his visit to Paris is part of the priority policy of the Bulgarian Government for deepening the relations with France and the other EU members. The Bulgarian Foreign Minister dwelled on the problems of security and cooperation in the Balkans. The French party pointed out that the efforts of France and Bulgaria to stabilize peace and security in Southeastern Europe coincide.
Minister Pirinski also raised the issue of relaxing the visa requirements for Bulgarian citizens and in particular the problem of Bulgaria's removal from the EU visa black list. The French party replied that the French Ministry of the Interior is already busy working on these issues. The prospects for Bulgaria's integration with the European Union were also on the agenda. Georgi Pirinski and Herve de Charette signed today an agreement for reciprocal readmission of each other's illegal aliens. Later in the day the top Bulgarian diplomat gave a lecture on "Bulgaria, Candidate Member of the European Union" in the French Institute for International Relations.
 MINISTER PIRINSKI ENDS VISIT TO FRANCEParis, May 30 (BTA) - Bulgarian Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski today completed his visit to France. Today he met with the chairman of the Senate committee for foreign affairs, defence and the armed forces Xavier de Villien whom he briefed on Bulgarian efforts for integration into the European Union (EU). Pirinski requested French support for striking Bulgaria off the EU visa blacklist. Later today the Bulgarian Foreign Minister held talks with the Minister Delegate for European Affairs Michel Barnier with who he discussed Bulgaria's regional initiative for security and cooperation in Southeastern Europe. Pirinski also met with Jean Matteoli, President of the Economic and Social Council of France. The Bulgarian Foreign Minister emphasized Bulgaria's interest in the promotion of joint infrastructure projects in the Balkans and its desire for such projects to win EU support. Minister Pirinski also held talks with Loic Bouvard, deputy chairman of the bureau of the National Assembly. They discussed issues of bilateral cooperation and security in Europe. * * *
France is ready to consider together with Bulgaria the feasibility of dropping this country from the EU visa blacklist, Foreign Minister Pirinski said upon his return from Paris tonight. He said the possibility of treating Bulgaria on a par with the Baltics and some Yugoslav republics was well worth looking into again.
France supports the Bulgarian Government's initiatives for multilateral cooperation among the Balkan countries, the Foreign Minister said. Paris takes a positive view of Bulgarian efforts for integration into the EU, he said.
 RUSSIA TO SUPPLY ARMOUR BY MID-JUNEThe first consignment of armour Russia promissed to supply will arrive in Bulgaria by mid-June, Rear Admiral Oleg Beloventsev, Director General of Russia's arm giant Rosvooruzhenie, told BTA in Plovdiv. He came to see the Hemus'96 International Armament Exhibition. "Despite the grave economic situation in Russia and the fact that we could have sold the armamament to Bulgaria, the President, the Government and the General Staff of the Russian Army, which consider Bulgaria to be an important partner, decided to give it 100 tanks T-72 and 100 armoured personnel carriers free of charge," Rear Admiral Beloventsev said. The armour is part of quantities to be destroyed or exported by Russia, according to the limitations of the CFE (Conventional Foreces in Europe) treaty.
 BULGARIA, GREECE SIGN PROTOCOLThe two-day session of the Bulgarian-Greek Joint Committee for Economic and Technical Cooperation ended in Sofia today with the signing of a protocol for trade and economic relations between Bulgaria and Greece. The protocol is a continuation of earlier documents on Bulgarian-Greek trade and economic relations; it is a confirmation of the friendship and cooperation between the two states; it strengthens the joint actions and opens prospects for their development," Deputy Minister of the National Economy of Greece Manolis Beteniotis, who heads the Greek party in the commission told reporters. According to Deputy Minister of Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Vladimir Kurpachev, head of the Bulgarian party in the commission, the talks considered the state and the prospects for development of the relations between Bulgaria and Greece in trade, finance and banking, transport, labour, telecommunications, construction and tourism. The participants agreed to speed up the ratification of agreements on the avoidance of double taxation and on labour. They also considered concrete measures for the construction works at the three border check-points (the agreement for them was signed on December 22, 1995), transport communications between the two states and the possible restoration of the air service Sofia-Athens-Sofia. The signed agreements will increase the commercial exchange between the two countries, which currently amounts to 630 million US dollars a year," Deputy Minister Kurpachev believes. According to Mr Kurpachev, a meeting of representatives from Russia, Greece and Bulgaria on the joint project for the construction of the Bourgas-Alexandropoulis oil pipeline will most probably be held in August.
 RIGHTS OF BULGARIANS IN YUGOSLAVIA MUST BE OBSERVED,"The Yugoslav Constituion grants minority rights but in fact they are not respected," Ilcho Dimitrov, Minister of Education, Science and Technology, said today. "We back the demand of the Bulgarian minority in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which represents 0.3 percent, that their constitutional rights be respected and their wish to create conditions for their not feeling discriminated compared to the other minority groups," he told today's news conference.
Minister Dimitrov voiced his concern that there are certain forces and feelings in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia which hinder good cooperation with Bulgaria. "A sign of it is the deliberately hostile reaction in the Yugoslav press after the recent visit by a Bulgarian delegation I led to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia," he said. (The visit took place two weeks ago.) Mr Dimitrov stressed that Bulgaria pursues a policy of goodneighbourly relations, understanding and cooperation between the two countries. "We must not turn the Western Outlands into another Macedonian question," he said pointing that Bulgaria has no intention to internationalize the Western Outlands issue. (The Western Outlands are a territory, now in Southeastern Serbia, which Bulgaria, defeated in World War I, lost to Serbia under the 1919 Treaty of Neuilly.)
Minister Dimitrov said that a programme for cultural, scientific and education cooperation between Bulgaria and Yugoslavia in 1996-1998 had been signed. "Its most important aspect is that both countries assume commitments in regard to the Bulgarian minority in the Western Outlands," said Marin Raikov, an expert of Human Rights Department with the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry. According to Mr Raikov, for the first time the programme makes provisions for the participation of Bulgarian experts in the compilation of Bulgarian language textbooks for the Bulgarians living in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The programme makes it possible for them to study at different universities in Bulgaria. The programme provides for cross- border cooperation between the two countries, exchange of radio and television broadcasts in Bulgarian, and the supply of textbooks and books in Bulgarian to the schools in the Western Outlands.
 CENTRAL BANK PROPS UP THE LEV29 May.The National Bank of Bulgaria (BNB) started interventions to support the national currency as of today, under a decision of the BNB Governing Board taken at an emergency sitting. Besides, the central bank decided to take a measures aimed at dealing with the hard currency crisis. The measures provide suspending the extension of unsecured, collateral and discount loans to all commercial banks and their re-financing in hard currency. BNB decided that banks which used their mandatory reserves and did not replenish them in the period May 15-29 will be limited to draw 25 percent of their reserves, rather than 50 percent as it was so far. The measures taken by BNB will be felt more tangibly tomorrow, experts say. The US dollar was in high demand when the forex market opened today. In the afternoon quotations reached 212 leva for one US dollar. However, BNB intervened and the dollar weakened down to 144 leva.
 LEV EDGES UP AGAINST THE DOLLARThe Bulgarian National Bank (BNB) intervened to defend the national currency which gained some 30 leva today, reaching 140 leva to the dollar, "Daily News" learned from Post Bank dealer Ivailo Buyukliev. Mainly state-owned banks - the BNB, Unionbank, Biochim and Post Bank - offered dollars but demand was low, he said. The official exchange rate for Friday was set at 147.04 leva to the dollar, down from 161.97 leva on Thursday. The central bank is taking radical steps, according to dealers of Bulbank, the foreign trade bank. The BNB is trying to avert any dramatic changes in the foreign exchange market at least until the end of next week. It also wants to prevent a drain of leva resources from commercial banks by raising the repo rate to 120 per cent. Next week the BNB may decide to lower the base rate, which stands at 108 per cent now, dealers commented. It is impossible to predict whether the central bank's policy will be effective and consistent, they said.
Falling by 15 to 20 leva on the cash market, the dollar was quoted at 145-150 leva and 165-170 leva (buying and selling rate, respectively). Things are going back to normal but there still is an acute dollar shortage, said brokers from Vi-Vesta and 7M, the finance and broking houses. The official exchange rate increased steadily since Monday, reaching 161.97 leva to the dollar on Thursday. This is the second time that quotations in the interbank market and the buying rate have plunged below the official exchange rate after the central bank's intervention.
 COUNCIL OF MINISTERS' DECISIONSThe Cabinet approved a Bill increasing the VAT rate from 18 per cent to 22 per cent. * * *
The Cabinet approved a Bill raising excise duty on alcohol and cigarettes. The proposed rate is 20 per cent for beer and wine, 30 per cent for brandy and vermouth, 50 per cent for hard liquor and 40 per cent for cigarettes. * * *
One-time grants will be paid to 40,000 people who will lose their jobs after the closure of enterprises on a list approved by the Cabinet. The grants will be paid from a 40 million dollar loan to be granted by the World Bank, Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Mincho Koralski said. All employees who signed contracts by May 14 are eligible. The grants will be calculated on a 9,000 leva basis -the average monthly wage in the first quarter of 1996. Economic restructuring will leave without jobs between 0.8 per cent and 1.5 per cent of the labour force in Bulgaria, which means that it will not increase unemployment considerably, Koralski said. * * *
The Cabinet approved a report by Atanas Paparizov who proposed that Bulgaria officially apply for membership in the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA). * * *
The Council of Ministers authorized Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Minister Atanas Paparizov to conduct negotiations on free trade agreements with Slovenia and Romania. The purpose of the talks is the setting up of free trade zones in industrial goods in 1997 and maximum liberalization in trade with agricultural produce. At the talks the Bulgarian side will defend the stand that the setting up of free trade zones is in the interest of both sides because it would pool their efforts on the road to European economic space and create favourable conditions for promoting economic contacts between them. Negotiations on setting up of a free trade zone will also be started with Turkey. * * *
The Cabinet approved an intergovernmental agreement with Romania on cooperation in civil defence in times of peace, signed on January 18, 1996 in Bucharest.
 BULGARIA WILL AMEND 100 LAWS TO ENTER EUBulgaria will have to amend or pass over 100 acts, decrees and ordinances by 1998 when negotiations on its accession to the European Union (EU) are due to start, Deputy Foreign Minister Irina Bokova said at the government press office today. Ms Bokova is Secretary of the Government Committee on European Integration. The Government approved today a national strategy for applying the recommendations of the White Paper on Preparation of Associated Countries for Integration into the Internal Market presented at the Cannes European Council. The main purpose of the strategy is to bring Bulgarian legislation in line with EU requirements, Ms Bokova also said. The document also analyzes the need for an additional administrative structure in charge of harmonizing Bulgarian legislation and sets the terms for passing the amendments, Deputy Foreign Minister Bokova said.
 IN PARLIAMENTOn a Cabinet motion today Parliament amended the list of companies subject to voucher privatization. It excluded 85 enterprises with total fixed assets of 5,013 million leva and put 72 companies on the list. The Cabinet's arguments were that the state interest in the 85 companies in question had changed, their financial and economic state had deteriorated, preparations for their cash privatization had gone a long way, or they were very important for the national economy. Nikola Koichev, Chairman of the Parliamentary Economic Committee, said the targets set in the Mass Privatization Programme adopted last December would be roughly met with the inclusion of the 72 companies. * * *
Clauses of the Profits Tax Act were passed on second reading today. * * *
The parliamentary group of the Union of Democratic Forces introduced before Parliament a draft resolution banning terrorist activity in Bulgaria. The document envisages organizations including Egypt's Gamaat Islamiya, Islamic Jihad and Muslim Brotherhood, Algeria's Islamic Salvation Front and the Armed Islamic Group, Hizbullah, the Irish Republican Army, Greece's November 17 Revolutionary Organization, and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). It is proposed to ban all terrorist organizations which seek to overthrow the lawful governments of the UN member countries.
 OPPOSITION DEMANDS CABINET'S RESIGNATIONAt an extraordinary session today the top leadership of the largest opposition force in this country - the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), decided to move a no-confidence vote in the Cabinet because of the failure of its economic policy. The issue will be discussed by the UDF parliamentary group on Tuesday. At a news conference after the session UDF leader Ivan Kostov said that this vote will be a challenge to the conscience of all MPs supporting or passively observing the disintegration of the national economy. The UDF will move a no- confidence vote in the Cabinet for its failure to cope with the crisis it itself triggered, said Kostov later in the evening in a televised statement received at BTA. The first steps to overcoming the crisis should be political, Kostov believes. "We can get rid of this incompetent government by winning the presidential elections, united in our support of a single opposition candidate," Kostov said today. This will be a clear no-confidence vote in the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and then we will provoke early parliamentary elections, Kostov said.
This afternoon the Podkrepa Labour Confederation held a rally in front of the building of the Council of Ministers. The rally was supported by the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB) which is this country's other major labour organization, and the Democratic Union of Pensioners. Labour leaders said the protest is aimed against the anti-social policy of the government and its intentions to launch the structural reform with closure of 64 companies and rehabilitation of another 70 state-owned loss-makers. The ruling BSP and the coalition it leads cheated Bulgarians at the 1994 general elections in a "nasty, communist fashion", Podkrepa Vice President Dimiter Manolov said addressing the rally. The multitude started chanting "UDF!" when UDF presidential candidate Peter Stoyanov appeared.
On May 15 the CITUB handed the government a memorandum accusing it of deciding on the winding up of 64 state- owned loss-makers without consulting CEOs or trade unions, and saying the CITUB refuses to accept this administrative approach. CITUB said that it supports the structural reform but that the organization will oppose any forceful or arbitrary closure of enterprises. CITUB insists that the dismissed workers be paid various unemployment benefits as well as that other measures for social security be introduced.
 FUEL PRICES HIKED, TAXI DRIVERS PROTESTAt a session which continued until midnight yesterday the Cabinet decided to hike petrol prices by an average of 80%. The new prices entered into force today and will be valid till the end of June, National Pricing Committee Chairman Dimiter Grivekov said at the government press office today. Two factors pushed fuel prices up - the steep appreciation of the US dollar and the quotations on the Mediterranean market which increased 34% since April, Grivekov explained. The fuel prices hike will hit taxi drivers hardest, Grivekov commented. Early this morning private taxi drivers blocked the square in front of the National Assembly. With their lights on, hooting horns and crape bands on their cars the drivers protested against the drastic increase in fuel prices and advance payment of aggregate incomes tax introduced by the Cabinet this spring. However, members of the public claim the drivers increased their fares weeks before the rise in fuel prices.
 5% IMPORT CHARGE INTRODUCEDSofia, May 30 (BTA) - A 5 per cent temporary charge is to be introduced on all imports for domestic consumption from July 1, the Cabinet decided today. Minister of Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Atanas Paparizov said the charge applies to imports from all countries and is consistent with World Trade Organization agreements. It will be in force until June 30, 1997 and will then be phased out. Exempt from the charge are imported crude oil, natural gas, electricity, coal, nuclear fuel, metals, cotton, pharmaceuticals and raw materials for them and crude sugar. This measure is intended to achieve a trade surplus in the present difficult economic situation, Paparizov said. The charge on imported capital goods may be refunded by a decision of the finance minister or the Cabinet
 SIMEON II MEETS PATRIARCH MAKSIMKing Simeon II and Queen Margarita, who arrived in Bulgaria last weekend after a 50 year long exile, today met with the members of the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church headed by Patriarch Maksim of Bulgaria. "This is the first time in six centuries that a Bulgarian monarch has met with a Bulgarian patriarch," Bishop Yoan of Trayanopol said at the meeting. The last such meeting was held between Tsar Ivan Shishman and Patriarch Euthymius in the 14th century, before Bulgaria fell to the Turks. During the reign of King Ferdinand and King Boris III, the primate of the Bulgarian Church was only an exarch, the clergyman recalled.
Later in the day, Simeon II and his wife conferred with the leadership of The Atlantic Club of Bulgaria. The former monarch is member of the Club's Board of Directors. The guests were driven to the venue of the meeting in the Trabant of the Atlantic Club President, Solomon Passy. The East German-made quasi-car first made headlines in 1991, when the late NATO secretary general Manfred Woerner was given a ride during a visit to Sofia.
Another meeting on the royal schedule today was with representatives of the St John of Rila and Queen Ioanna monarchist clubs.Late this evening the Simeon is scheduled to meet with the Union of Democratic Forces' contender for the opposition presidential nomination Peter Stoyanov. On Sunday Simeon saw incumbent President Zhelyu Zhelev, who is the only Bulgarian statesman who has received him during his visit so far. The press found that Dr Zhelev, an avowed republican, scored a point in his campaign when he invited the royal couple to lunch at his private residence. The President and Mr Stoyanov will contest the opposition candidacy for the top job in the land at pre-elections on June 1. According to some analysts, the royal rendezvous may secure Dr Zhelev part of the monarchist vote.
 SIMEON II VISITPleven, May 30 (BTA correspondent) - Exiled Bulgarian king Simeon II and his wife Margarita, visiting Bulgaria since May 25, today arrived in the northern city of Pleven on a passenger train. The guest laid flowers at the mausoleum of Russian and Romanian soldiers who died for Bulgaria's independence and had a dinner at the military club with officers, graduates of royal military schools. In another development today, the Union of Reserve Officers published a declaration saying reserve officers understand the human side of the visit, but cannot forget the guilt of the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha dynasty to the Bulgarian nation. The Union will follow the visit closely, to see that Simeon behaves in a way appropriate for a guest.
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