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News from Bulgaria, 96-07-25

Bulgarian Telegraph Agency Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: Embassy of Bulgaria <>



25 July, 1996




    Sofia, July 24 (Evgenia Droumeva of BTA) - The EU-Bulgaria Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) opened its third meeting here today. In the course of three days, Bulgarian MPs and MEPs will exchange information and views on various aspects of Bulgaria's integration with the European Union. A declaration containing recommendations to the minsterial-level EU-Bulgaria Association Committee is expected to be adopted at the end of the meeting on Friday.

    Following the signature and the February 1, 1995 entry into force of Bulgaria's Europe Agreement, the Joint Parliamentary Committee was established in September 1995. It is co-chaired by Mr Nikolai Kamov MP of the Bulgarian National Assembly and Mr Nikolaos Papakyriazis, Member of the European Parliament. Taking part in the meeting today were the Irish Ambassador here Mr William Connolly as representative of the President-in-Office of the Council of the European Union and a representative of the European Commission. The Bulgarian government was represented by Deputy Foreign Minister Irina Bokova, Secretary of the Government Committee for European Integration.

    Opening the meeting, Mr Kamov and Mr Papakyriazis expressed satisfaction with the promotion of Bulgaria-EU cooperation and stressed that by its activity the JPC draws Bulgaria closer to the EU. In a welcoming speech, National Assembly Deputy Chairperson Nora Ananieva indicated that the Joint Committee is an already established and efficient institution for pursuit of the political dialogue between Bulgaria and the EU at the parliamentary level. Mrs Ananieva stressed that the operation of the Bulgarian public institution in the period since the second JPC meeting has been directed at the invariable objective: Bulgaria's admission to the EU. The meeting was off limits to the press.

    "The participants in today's meeting showed extraordinary activity. Views were exchanged with representatives of the European Commission, of the current EU President, and with the representative of the Bulgarian Government," Mr Kamov told reporters. Deputy Minister Bokova had been asked numerous questions related to the whole range of Bulgaria-EU relations. "The elements of parliamentary control manifested themselves in a peculiar form today, as Bulgarian MPs and MEPs held a 'question time session' with the Bulgarian Government, the European Commission and the EU President-in-Office. I am exceedingly pleased with the first day of the meeting," Mr Kamov said. According to Mrs Bokova, the JPC meetings are always a convenient occasion to set forth the views of the Bulgarian executive and of the European Commission before the parliamentarians. This is very important in view of the growing role of the European Parliament, she said.


    Sofia, July 24 (Ekatermina Kazassova of BTA) - Eight intergovernmental and interdepartmental agreements were signed here today at the end of a two-day official visit of a Ukrainian government delegation, headed by Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko. The Bulgarian and the Ukrainian heads of government signed a joint declaration on the visit, and ministers of the two countries signed a consular convention and several accords on cooperation in industry, health care, tourism, education and culture.

    Speaking at a pre-departure news conference, Mr Lazarenko assessed his visit here as "exceedingly fruitful." "The documents signed will help expand bilateral relations which are now unsatisfactory," he said. He believes there are opportunities to increase bilateral trade to 500 million dollars which as early as 1996. "Bulgaria has a priority position in Ukraine's economic exchanges," Mr Lazarenko said. What is needed, however, is activation on the Bulgarian side so as to resume deliveries of traditional Bulgarian goods to Ukraine, he believes.

    "During this visit, ways were found to solve projects which were considered doomed after the disintegration of COMECON," said Bulgarian Prime Minister Zhan Videnov. It was agreed that Bulgaria would receive 1,222 million cu m of natural gas and 335,000 t of iron concentrate. Deliveries will be under old agreements signed within the framework of the defunct Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON), in compensation for Bulgaria's share in the construction of a gas pipe line between Yamburg and the USSR western border and for facilities built by Bulgaria for the ore dressing works in Krivoi Rog.

    Expansion of transport ties, for which possibilities are provided by Crete Corridor No.IX (Helsinki-St Petersburg-Moscow-KievChisinau- Bucharest-Rousse-Veliko Turnovo-Gabrovo-Stara Zagora-Haskovo- Kurdjali-Alexandoupolis), was also on the agenda of the visit.

    Among the unsolved questions, Mr Lazarenko listed the need to liberalize trade, avoid double taxation and introduce tariff concessions for certain goods. The programme for cooperation in the power industry and an agreement on delivery of coal and natural gas, which are of the greatest interest to Bulgaria, were not discussed during this visit.They are expected to be signed in December, when Prime Minister Videnov will visit Kiev as invited.

    Mr Lazarenko said Bulgaria was deliberately chosen as the destination of his first visit abroad in his capacity as Ukrainian Prime Minister. "Deciding on this visit, I proceded from the historical traditions of good-neighbour relations between the two countries and the need to give a fresh impetus to cooperation," he said. "Nearly 240,000 Bulgarians live in Ukraine and we reckon with them," he added. In his view, the recently adopted Ukrainian Constitution provides new opportunities for cooperation in education, for wider direct contacts with the homeland of the Bulgarians' ancestors and for conservation of their traditions and culture.

    Ukraine's tolerant treatment of its Bulgarian population was highly appreciated by President Zhelyu Zhelev, who received Prime Minister Lazarenko today. The Bulgarian head of state emphasized that all necessary conditions have been created for promotion of Bulgarians' cultural identity in Ukraine. "There are no disputes whatsoever between Bulgaria and Ukraine, we have similar problems and shared interests, and this catalyzes the progress of bilateral relations," Dr Zhelev said after the meeting. The Ukrainian head of government also met today with National Assembly Deputy Chairperson Nora Ananieva. Later in the day, the Ukrainian government delegation left on a working visit to the US.


    Sofia, July 24 (BTA) - UNDP Resident Representative in Sofia Fabrizio Ossella met today with President Zhelyu ZheleV in connection with the completion of his mission to Bulgaria. After the meeting Mr Ossella told reporters that he highly appreciates his work here and believes more concrete economic measures for overcoming the crisis in the country should be taken.

    Mr Ossella voiced satisfaction over his work with the Bulgarian governments over the past three years since the establishment of the UN's special mission in Bulgaria. Joint programmes in agriculture, social security and others were realized during that period. This morning, with the assistance of UN representatives, a conference on poverty was opened here. Environmental projects for the Black Sea, the Danube, as well as for efficient electricity production are under way. The next representative of the United Nations Development Programme to Bulgaria will arrive here on August 5.


    Sofia, July 24 (BTA) - Georgi Pirinski (presidential candidate of the Bulgarian Socialist Party - BSP) will run in the presidential elections, but after yesterday's decision of the Constitutional Court he needs larger political support, head of Pirinski's press office Filip Bokov told a news conference today. Mr Pirinski did not attend the news conference. Later in the day the BSP's political leadership will announce its decision in the new situation, Mr Bokov said. In his view, the BSP is going to back its candidate.

    Under yesterday's decision of the Constitutional Court, regulating the right to Bulgarian citizenship by birth, current Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski is not a not a natural-born Bulgarian citizen (he was born in the United States and his mother was a US citizen). The Court was approached by the largest opposition formation, the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) in connection with the presidential elections on October 27, 1996. Under the Bulgarian Constitution, "eligible for President shall be any natural-born Bulgarian citizen." BSP leaders described the decision of the Constitutional Court as taking political orders.

    "We call on for an open and honest presidential race and we insist that the UDF provides guarantees for that," Filip Bokov said. Quoting yesterday's statement of UDF leader Ivan Kostov on the national television that "Georgi Pirinski is a convenient candidate for the opposition," Mr Bokov said that in that case the UDF should have no reasons to discuss the Pirinski case.

    Later today the BSP and the UDF exchanged strong-worded attacks on national television. Filip Bokov stated that the UDF declaration and the ruling handed down by the Constitutional Court had probably been both devised at the UDF headquarters. He described the ruling as made on political order and expressed the view that it had been conceived and handed down for the purpose of eliminating Georgi Pirinski from the presidential race. Mr Bokov reproached the presidential candidate of the united opposition for the lack of personal and political dignity, blaming him for trying to disqualify his opponent, making a cat's pow of the Constitutional Court.

    UDF Deputy Chairman Nadezhda Mihailova read a declaration reproaching the BSP for being unfit to govern the country democratically. Mr Pirinski's not appearing at the news conference organized by his own press office and at yesterday's meeting of his parliamentary group, his hiding from journalists after the Constitutional Court announced its decision all show that the BSP presidential candidate has no dignity, Mrs Mihailova said.


    Sofia, July 24 (BTA) - Parliament today passed on first reading an updated version of the 1996 national budget. The vote was 117 in favour, 89 against, and two abstentions. As amended, the 1996 National Budget Act sets central government revenue at 358,216.4 million leva, up by more than 108,069.3 million leva. At 438,932.6 million leva, expenditures are increased by 130,470.2 million leva. The budget deficit is raised to 80,715.7 million leva. The updated version proceeds from 150 leva per US dollar averaged estimated exchange rate in the second half of 1996.

    Until the end of the year inflation, measured by the consumer price index, is expected to be 101 per cent, the Government report says. The Cabinet expects monthly inflation to drop to 2-2.5 per cent at the end of the year. Presenting the changes in the budget, Prime Minister Zhan Videnov stressed that not all expectations and projections for 1996 have come true, which is why the budget has to be updated. The reason for the failed projections are deeply rooted in macroeconomic realities of the last few years, according to the Prime Minister. When the 1996 budget was being drawn up, after coordination with the then management of the central bank, it was concluded that the average annual basic interest rate could be expected at some 25 per cent. And yet, contrary to the Finance Ministry and National Bank projections, the basic interest rate has been increased on three occasions since the start of the year, the last time to 108 per cent on May 10. The Government obviously had to react to the radically changed situation, because the new interest payments could ruin the whole budget, Mr Videnov noted.

    At the end of 1994 the external public debt totalled 10,360 million US dollars, or 103.4 per cent of GDP. As a result of the 972 million dollars paid by the Bulgarian Government at the end of last year the external debt dropped to 9,450 million dollars or 76.4 per cent of GDP, which is already a tolerable figure, Mr Videnov said. Even though external debt interest payments increase in absolute amount, they decrease in proportion, Mr Videnov said.

    Under the effective budget, interest payments on internal and external loans add up to 121,000 million leva, or 45.5 per cent of total expenditures. The update bill would budget to the same end 231,000 million leva, or 52.6 per cent.

    "In a much more complicated situation our Government got up courage to address the exceedingly difficult reform, clearly aware of the utmostly unpopular decision which we have to take. We not only worked out programmes, but went straight ahead with their implementation, guided solely by Bulgaria's present and future interests," Prime Minister Videnov emphasized. "The acknowledgement of the international financial institutions and especially of such an authoritative institution as the International Monetary Fund is ample proof of the ambitious character of the reform launched," Mr Videnov indicated, recalling the July 19 decision of the IMF Executive Board to approve a fourth stand- by arrangement with Bulgaria, allowing it to borrow 585 million US dollars, of which 60 per cent before the end of this year. "Without this update, we will be unable to pursue the reform further this year. Besides this, the budget has to be updated to ensure the necessary financial resources for social protection of the most vulnerable strata of the population," Mr Videnov said.

    The opposition lashed out against the budget update bill. The MPs said that the revenue side bluntly counts on tax expansion, and the expenditure side is overtight to the point of collapse. "We are attending the funeral of the budget. This is not an update but a completely new budget," said Mouravei Radev MP of the main opposition Union of Democratic Forces.


    Sofia, July 24 (BTA) - Today in Parliament Prime Minister Zhan Videnov ruled out the possibility for Bulgaria to declare a moratorium on the foreign debt payments. "I want to state that the Cabinet intends to strictly fulfill its obligations on the foreign debt servicing and pay the principal and interests," Videnov said when presenting the draft amendments to the 1996 budget.

    "Our predecessors left a huge foreign debt and, according to the plan for its repayment, 45 percent of the gross debt owed by early 1995 should be repaid during the four years of this cabinet's term in office," Videnov stated. In 1995-1998 the average annual payments on the foreign debt amount to 1,135 million US dollars. These payments exceed the critical limit of 20 percent of the expected profits from exports and will probably account for some 10 to 12 percent of the gross domestic product in the next few years. "Every country will have difficulties in servicing such large debts. Yet the cabinet will keep on servicing this debt accurately. This is one of the priorities of our cabinet's policy and we are comitted to it, not forgetting the heavier burden of this country's internal debt," the Bulgarian Prime Minister stated.


    Sofia, July 24 (BTA) - Late last night Parliament passed at second reading amendments to the law on ownership and use of farm land adopted in early 1991 by the Grand National Assembly. The law regulates the restoring of ownership on farm land that had been expropriated in the 1950s-60s. The law has been amended several times over the past five years. Amendments were twice declared anti- constitutional. The new amendments envisage that the right of former owners are restored only when nothing has been built on the land. The opposition protested against this provision saying it legalized illegal costruction.

    The MPs passed texts on the compensation of Bulgarian citizens and their heirs whose land has been used for repayment of the state debt under the 1964 agreement on the settlement of outstanding financial issues and promotion of economic cooperation between Bulgaria and Greece.

    The amendments also envisage that the Agriculture Minister suspend land division procedures when the land claims exceeds the available land in the area. Land division procedures are also suspended for final determination of owners' land plots. False land claims will be prosecuted.


    Sofia, July 24 (BTA) - The conditions for social development, social integration and employment-related problems in Bulgaria are atop the agenda of a two-day conference that started here today to promote the programme for social development. An address to the forum read on behalf of Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Mincho Koralski recalled that the conference is held in line with the decisions of the Copenhagen summit on social development held on March 11-12, 1995.

    Participating in the conference are the National Social Security Institute, the Institute of Sociology with the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, the National Rehabilitation Centre and the National Employment Service. The forum was organized by the Labour Ministry jointly with the UN Development Programme.

    "Allow me to take this opportunity to stress that, in the context of Bulgaria, any initiative to combat poverty is doomed to fail if it will not focus on economic recovery and employment generation," Mr Fabrizio Ossella, UNDP Resident Representative in Sofia said in his address to the forum. "To this end, the country needs sound export-oriented industrial and agricultural promotion policies and strategies," he also said.

    The priorities in the national programme for social development were presented by its author - Labour Ministry Chief Secretary Katya Vladimirova. National Social Security Institute chief Nikolai Nikolov dwelled on the social security reform. Deputy Minister of Economic Development Gancho Ganchev spoke on the role of the macroeconomic environment for the social development and Tanya Cholakova, Deputy Minister of Health Care, presented the priorities of the national health care strategy.

    The national programme is aimed at achieving sustainable development, social peace and gradual elimination of poverty, reads the preamble to the document signed by Labour Minister Mincho Koralski. The national programme is a strategic document that will be implemented over the next 5 to 15 years.


    Sofia, July 24 (BTA) - A centre for training people suffering from diabetes was opened in a polyclinic in the Mladost neighbourhood in Sofia. The US company Ely Lily provided some 10,000 US dollars in grant aid for equipping the centre, sources from the polyclinic said.

    With the help of printed matter and video films the patients will be trained how to take care of themselves under programmes which are individual for the different ages. The minimum training period is one week.

    In November, 1995, the Ely Lily company granted several tonnes of insulin, worth 1 million US dollars for the needs of the Bulgarian health care. The centre in the Mladost neighbourhood in Sofia is the third one of its kind to be opened in Bulgaria, following those in Narechenski Bani (Southern Bulgaria) and Rousse (on the Danube). By the end of the year another 5 such centres are due to be opened in different towns in the country. According to experts in endocrinology, the number of diabetics in Bulgaria is currently about 250,000 and for 50,000 of those treatment with insulin is a necessity. In Sofia there are 9,000 peoples suffering from diabetes.

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