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News from Bulgaria, 96-07-15

Bulgarian Telegraph Agency Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: Embassy of Bulgaria <bulgaria@access1.digex.net>


EMBASSY OF BULGARIA - WASHINGTON D.C.

BTA - BULGARIAN TELEGRAPH AGENCY

15 July, 1996


CONTENTS

  • [01] ON BULGARIA'S ADMISSION TO WASSENAAR ARRANGEMENT
  • [02] TALKS OF NATO GENERAL MCKENZIE
  • [03] ANNIVERSARY OF THE NEW BULGARIAN CONSTITUTION
  • [04] BULGARIA SHOULD BE A PRESIDENTIAL REPUBLIC, PRESIDENT ZHELEV SAYS
  • [05] FULBRIGHT SEMINAR ENDS
  • [06] DOLLAR FETCHES 200 LEVA
  • [07] BULGARIAN-AMERICAN BANK GETS LICENCE
  • [08] REDUCED AIR FARES
  • [09] SEA EAGLES WINS AN INTERNATIONAL AIR DISPLAY
  • [10] TRADE UNIONS PRESS FOR PRICE AND WAGE FREEZE
  • [11] BUSINESS NEWS BRIEFS

  • [01] ON BULGARIA'S ADMISSION TO WASSENAAR ARRANGEMENT

    Sofia, July 12 (BTA) - The Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies can be described as "a new element of the world security system," Deputy Foreign Minister Irina Bokova said here today, back from Vienna where she attended the resumed plenary session of the New Forum negotiations, at which Bulgaria was admitted as the 32nd participating country. She sees this as a recognition of the Bulgarian Government's efforts in the prefvention of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. According to Mrs Bokova, her recent visit to the US, as well as a series of consultations with representatives of participating countries in the Wassenaar Arrangement played a significant part in Bulgaria's admission. Mrs Bokova stressed the support received by the European Union as a whole for Bulgaria's application. She assessed the invitation to Bulgaria to join the Wassenaar Arrangement as an acknowledgement of a serious, responsible and consistent policy seeking sustained cooperation in Europe and the region. "It is particularly gratifying to us that this invitation is coming only a couple of days after the meeting of the foreign ministers of South-Eastern Europe in Sofia," she emphasized.

    [02] TALKS OF NATO GENERAL MCKENZIE

    Sofia, July 12 (BTA) - NATO Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe General Jeremy McKenzie, who is on a short working visit here as of yesterday, conferred with Bulgarian Defence Minister Dimiter Pavlov and the Chief of the General Staff of the Bulgarian Army Tsvetan Totomirov today. This is the first visit of General McKenzie to Bulgaria. Its purpose is to discuss the implementation of the Partnership for Peace (PfP) program.

    Another topic on the agenda of General McKenzie's talks was the Cooperative Determination military exercise under PfP which ended in Belene (on the Danube) yesterday. Minister Pavlov told General McKenzie that the achievements of this exercise will be further improved in future joint exercises on the territory of Bulgaria or any other country, Bulgarian Defence Ministry Spokesman Tsvyatko Donchev said. General McKenzie expressed his satisfaction that Bulgaria's armed forces are interested to promote the cooperation with their neighbours.

    Minister Pavlov said that the General's visit is a continuation of Bulgaria's dialogue with NATO following the visit of NATO's Secretary General Javier Solana to Sofia. Regardless of the economic troubles it has, Bulgaria's projects within the PfP initiative are bold and ambitious, Pavlov stated. This is proved by the fact that Bulgaria has participated in almost all initiatives and exercises under PfP.

    During the talks the sides discussed Bulgaria's military cooperation with the countries in the region. Bulgaria has agreed on confidence and cooperation building measures with Greece, Turkey and Romania. The parties also conferred on this country's proposal for a meeting of the Southeastern Europe's defence ministers in Sofia in the autumn. Almost all defence ministers from the region confirmed their participation in this initiative, Spokesman Donchev said.

    Reform in the Bulgarian army, the military and political situation in the Balkans and Bulgaria's participation in PfP figured on the agenda of General Mckenzie's talks with the Chief of the General Staff of the Bulgarian Army Totomirov. General Totomirov described before journalists his impressions from the talks with Pavlov and Totomirov as extremely good. General McKenzie said he is deeply impressed with all he has heard and mainly with the exceptionally positive and successful exercise, Cooperative Determination.

    Later in the day General McKenzie held talks with MPs of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security and Foreign Ministry officials. General McKenzie was received by Deputy Foreign Minister Ivan Hristov. The two discussed issues of European and regional security. Hristov familiarized the guest with the priorities of the Bulgarian foreign policy focussing on this country's efforts to seek security and stability through integration into the European and Euro-Atlantic structures. Hristov briefed General McKenzie on the results of the Balkan Conference on Security, Stability and Cooperation in South-Eastern Europe which was recently held in Sofia. He noted Bulgarias firm stand against axes and new lines of division in the Balkans.

    General McKenzie expressed understanding towards the economic difficulties Bulgaria now experiences reflecting on the military cooperation with NATO within PfP. He voiced the organization's readiness to for assistance in this area.

    Sofia, July 13 (BTA) - NATO is likely to send its representative to the Sofia meeting of defence ministers of Southeastern Europe due this autumn, although it has not participated in its preparation as yet, NATO Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe General Jeremy McKenzie said at Sofia Airport before his departure from Bulgaria.

    [03] ANNIVERSARY OF THE NEW BULGARIAN CONSTITUTION

    Sofia, July 12 (Vanya Ivanova of BTA) - Five years ago today, two years after the beginning of political changes in Bulgaria, a Grand National Assembly adopted a new Constitution hoping it will pave the way for the democratic development of this country. It is the fourth constitution in the history of the modern Bulgarian state.

    In April 1879, an year after Bulgaria was liberated from a long Ottoman rule, the First Grand National Assembly adopted the first modern constitution. It became widely known as the Turnovo Constitution as the MPs were sitting in Turnovo, capital of Bulgaria before the Turkish conquest. It established Bulgaria as a constitutional monarchy and remained in effect till December 1947. This year saw the coming to power of the Fatherland Front, a coalition dominated by the communists who began to rule independently several years later. In 1947 a new constitution was passed that changed the form of government from monarchy to republic, and provided the legal groundwork for building a socialist political and economic system.

    After 1989, the anti-communist forces have repeatedly questioned the legality of a 1947 referendum that overthrew the monarchy and the Turnovo Constitution. 1971 saw the drafting of a new constitution on the proposal of the ruling Communist Party. It envisaged that the Communist Party jointly with the then Bulgarian Agrarian Party "be a leading force in society and in the state" and was adopted by referendum.

    In the spring of 1991 the Seventh Grand National Assembly, elected after the democratic changes, started discussing a draft for a new constitution. In May 1991, 39 of the 145 MPs of the opposition Union of Democratic Forces walked out, claiming that the draft for the basic state law does not provide sufficient guarantees for democratization. On July 9 the 39 protesters even launched a 10 days hunger strike. On July 12, 1991 the Constitution was adopted by a qualified majority of 309 MPs, more than the rqiured two-thirds of Parliament.

    [04] BULGARIA SHOULD BE A PRESIDENTIAL REPUBLIC, PRESIDENT ZHELEV SAYS

    Sofia, July 13 (BTA) - In an address to the nation this evening President Zhelyu Zhelev called for amending the Constitution and changing the form of government from parliamentary to presidential republic. Dr. Zhelev's address was occasioned by the 5th anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution and was broadcast by the national media.

    "Once again we saw people praising the merits of the Constitution as if it has nothing to do with what is going on in the country, as it is not at all responsible for the crisis," said the President. He believes the Constitution does not work properly in the transition and it is largely to blame for the lawlessness, anarchy, insecurity, corruption in the state apparatus and lack of coordination between the institutions. The Constitution provides a chance for "diluting" the responsibilities as a result of which instead of division of responsibility we have division of irresponsibility, said he. The Head of State said that the presidential institution alone can ensure consistency in the work of the governments that come and go, hold responsible cabinet ministers and other representatives of the executive, ensure timely and efficient government action that is essential for the successful completion of the transition. If no such action is taken, Bulgaria might end up the only country failing in the transition, Dr. Zhelev said in conclusion.

    In an address on the same occasion yesterday, Prime Minister Zhan Videnov said that Bulgaria has a democratic Constitution that provides for cooperation among the state institutions. The problems emerging in the process of democratization do not stem from the Constitution but from individual and group political interests, said the Prime Minister.

    [05] FULBRIGHT SEMINAR ENDS

    Sofia, July 12 (BTA) - The Bulgarian-American Commission for Educational Exchange and the US Education Department organized a three-week seminar on the reassessment of myths and reality in Bulgaria from June 24 to July 12, the Commission's Executive Director Julia Stefanova told a news conference today. Participating were 16 professors from 11 US states. This is the first such seminar held in Bulgaria within the Fulbright program. After the seminar's end the US professors should prepare a lesson, lecture or a part of a course on Bulgaria which they should include in their curriculums. During their stay here the US professors had meetings with their colleagues from Bulgarian universities, students, MPs and politicians.

    Scientific exchanges between Bulgaria and the USA began as early as the 1960-ies. The Bulgarian-American Commission for Educational Exchange was set up in February 1993 and is the most recently set in Europe. Currently 150 Bulgarians and 120 Americans are trained under Fulbright scholarships.

    [06] DOLLAR FETCHES 200 LEVA

    Dailies report that private currency exchange offices yesterday bought US dollars at 190-192 leva and sold at 197-200 leva. On the interbank market the dollars were bought at an an average of 184 leva and sold at 185 leva. The official exchange rate for today is 184.60 leva/USD 1, some 3 leva higher than yesterday.

    In a view of the persistent tension on the forex market, the National Bank of Bulgaria (BNB, the central bank) yesterday decided to increase commercial banks' minimum mandatory reserves from 8.5% to 10%.The BNB took the decision in the belief that the current market crisis is partly attributable to the sizable amount of available leva cash in some banks, writes "Zemya".

    Traders on the forex market quoted by "Douma" say the relatively small depreciation of the lev is due to the limited intervention by the BNB and dollar sales by Hebrosbank. The central bank keeps selling foreign exchange but it falls short of the demand. The BNB foreign exchange reserves in late June amounted to USD 613 million. The central bank is sure to abstain from further interventions because of upcoming external debt payments.

    "Novinar" quotes bankers saying that even if the central bank released its whole foreign exchange reserves, it will be swallowed by the market without helping much to boost the domestic currency. These sources believe the forthcoming IMF tranche will not reverse the downward trend of the leva and will only go for the due foreign debt payments. The US dollar has gained 130 leva since December 1995 as in April alone it rose by 118 leva, recalls this daily.

    [07] BULGARIAN-AMERICAN BANK GETS LICENCE

    Dailies report yesterday's licensing of a Bulgarian-American Credit Bank. The bank has a 450 million leva base capital and is licensed to operate in Bulgaria alone. A 99% interest in the bank is held by the Bulgarian-American Enterprise Fund that has to date extended loans only with the Finance Ministry approval. The new licence amazed financiers as early this year the BNB announced it is suspending the licensing of new banks to reconsider its licensing policy," writes "Standart News". It quotes an unnamed banker saying it is inadmissible for the central bank to license new banking joint ventures in the present financial crisis.

    [08] REDUCED AIR FARES

    Dailies report that the Balkan Airlines is introducing 5% to 25% reduction of fares for some of its foreign flights. The national air carrier expects to boost revenues through increasing the passenger traffic, "Pari" writes adding that reduced fares will be offered for most of Balkan's European destinations.

    [09] SEA EAGLES WINS AN INTERNATIONAL AIR DISPLAY

    Sofia, July 12 (BTA) - The Sea Eagles squadron with the Bulgarian Air Force won the first place at an international air exhibition in Hradec Kralove, General Ivan Parapounov, Commander of the Aviation, said. This is the squadron's first participation in an international air display.

    Representatives of almost all European countries gathered for the air exhibition. More than 90 war planes of almost all types and 20 transport helicopters took part in it. The Hradec Kralove exhibition has the reputation of attracting the largest number of participants by tradition. The Bulgarians participated with a MiG-29 plane.

    Bulgaria will host an international air display in late September 1997, General Parapounov said. It will mark the 85th anniversary of the Bulgarian Air Force.

    [10] TRADE UNIONS PRESS FOR PRICE AND WAGE FREEZE

    Sofia, July 14 (BTA) - Freezing prices and wages for six months and taking simultaneous measures to influence prices is the only way to avoid the hyperinflation to which the country is heading. This stance was expressed at a news conference today called by the Podkrepa Labour Confederation, the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB) and the Bulgarian Industrial Association (BIA).

    Without consulting the social partners, the government "dollarized" the economy by adopting several documents, more specifically the methods of setting electricity and fuel prices and the prices of telecoms and postal services bound to the lev-dollar exchange rate, said BIA chief Bozhidar Danev. In this case the incomes of the population, too, should be dollar-based.

    Trade unions estimates show that the minimum pension currently stands at 12 US dollars and the minimum monthly pay at less than 22 dollars. In March the average monthly wage was 122 US dollars dropping to 60 dollars in July. The cabinet has adopted a method based on taking from people's incomes, said CITUB leader Krustyu Petkov. He said very soon the average monthly pay will drop under 50 dollars.

    On July 11 the nationally representative trade unions and employers' organizations introduced at the National Council for Tripartite Cooperation (of government, trade unions and employees) an alternative economic and social policy mapping out short- and long-term measures. They insist that the proposals be considered at the July 16 sitting of the social partners. They also demand that the drafts for adjustment of the 1996 national budget and for the 1997 national budget be subject to preliminary discussions with the social partners.

    If the government refuses to meet the above demands, trade unions and employers threaten to carry out a CITUB decision of July 4 for staging a nation-wide strike this autumn with the support of more labour organizations, said Krustyu Petkov. BIA chief Bozhidar Danev said the ruling Socialist Party does not share the view that a strike can strengthen the economy and argues it will only cripple it.

    [11] BUSINESS NEWS BRIEFS

    Sofia, July 14 (BTA) - A working group headed by the deputy chairman of the Association of Commercial Partnerships of the Ural Region, Vladimir Stepchenko and Montana Deputy Governor Ivan Borisov are studying the opportunities for launching Bulgarian-Russian production and commercial joint ventures. The sides are considering the setting up of a joint venture for production of tinned foods in Perm, Russia, in which the sides will have equal shares. The Bulgarian partner will provide the production line and the Russian partner the facilities, inputs, labour and markets. Preliminary estimates show the product can have a tangibly low prime cost and market price.

    Over 20 Bulgarian book publishers and distributors set up their Association. Its members publish over 30 products with a total press run of 300,000 copies. Among the Association founders are the Balkan News Agency, the Anko publishers, News Holding, the "Meridian Match", "Banker" and "Cash" newspapers, the Senator, Courier and Olart distributing companies. The newly set up organization is chaired by Stepan Eramyan, President of the Erkyul publishers and owner of the local network of the "Maritsa", "Strouma", "Cherno More" and "Nedelen Novinar" newspapers and the "Domashen Zhournal" magazine. The Association is an employers' organization that will work to improve the working conditions, take care of training and cooperation among publishers and distributors. The Association is a new attempt to bring together private publishers after the failure of the Bulgarian Publishing Union, said Mr Eramyan.

    A 56% share in Assenova Krepost Inc. will be sold for USD 10.5 million under a Privatization Agency decision. The buyer is Inplasttrade, a partnership set up by members of the Assenova Krepost management. The exact price will be set on the day of signing the deal at the official exchange rate. Payment will be made 50% in cash and 50% in government bonds. Before that the deal should be approved by the government as 25% of the company shares have been earmarked for voucher privatization.

    100-plus Bulgarian companies are running a consultancy business, Bulgarian Association for Management Consulting Deputy Chairman Dimiter Hristov told a seminar on management consulting. Most of these companies are joint ventures.

    The consultancy market in this country amounts to USD 20 million, while the like figure in Hungary is over USD 100 million, said Hristov. 80% of the users of consultancy services are state-owned enterprises as private entrepreneurs cannot yet afford it. A survey of the Centre for the Study of Democracy found that many Bulgarian companies prefer international consultants to Bulgarian ones in spite of the wide fee margin: 1,500 to 10,000 leva a day charged by Bulgarian consultants and USD 1,000 by foreign ones.


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