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News from Bulgaria, 96-07-29

Bulgarian Telegraph Agency Directory - Previous Article

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


EMBASSY OF BULGARIA - WASHINGTON D.C.

BTA - BULGARIAN TELEGRAPH AGENCY

29 July, 1996


CONTENTS

  • [01] CONDOLENCES ON ATLANTA BOMB EXPLOSION
  • [02] EU-BULGARIA JOINT PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTE ENDS THIRD MEETING
  • [03] SENIOR GERMAN DIPLOMAT ENDS VISIT TO BULGARIA
  • [04] PARLIAMENT ELECTS MEMBERS OF ELECTORAL COMMISSION
  • [05] FOREIGN INVESTMENT IN BULGARIA
  • [06] GOVERNMENT PURSUES NATIONALLY RESPONSIBLE ENERGY POLICY, P.M. VIDENOV SAYS
  • [07] PRIME MINISTER VIDENOV ON BULGARIA'S GRAIN PROBLEM
  • [08] NUMBER OF PRIVATE COMPANIES GROWS IN 1995
  • [09] AGRICULTURE COMMISSIONER FISCHLER VISITS BULGARIA. EU TO EXTEND TO ECU 240 MILLION BY END OF 1999

  • [01] CONDOLENCES ON ATLANTA BOMB EXPLOSION

    Sofia, July 28 (BTA) - Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev strongly condemns the terrorist act at the Atlanta Olympic Games, the President's press office said.

    In a cable to U.S. President Bill Clinton, Zhelev expresses his support for the U.S. authorities in their efforts for the incident-free and successful completion of the Olympic Games which are a symbol of the peoples' desire to live in peace and cooperation. "The Olympic events stress even more strongly the need for the solidarity of the entire international community in its struggle against terrorism," Zhelev says.

    Sofia, July 27 (BTA) - Bulgarian Prime Minister Zhan Videnov cabled his condolences to U.S. President Bill Clinton on this morning's bomb explosion in the Olympic Village in Atlanta. Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski cabled his condolences to the Chairman International Olympic Committee Juan Samaranch and U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher.

    "The Bulgarian Government condemns terrorism and confirms its firm commitment to make its best to put an end to similar terroristic acts," the cables say. In a special statement on the explosion in Atlanta, the Spokesman of the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry said: "The Bulgarian people is shocked at the terrorist act in the Olympic Village in Atlanta, Georgia, which killed two people and injured dozens of others. We express our deepest sympathy to the relatives of the victims and the injured".

    [02] EU-BULGARIA JOINT PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTE ENDS THIRD MEETING

    Sofia, July 26 (BTA) - At the end of its third meeting, which started here on July 24, the EU-Bulgaria Joint Parliamentary Commit

    In its final paper the JPC welcomes the commitment of the Bulgarian Government to stabilize the economic and financial sectors through structural reform measures and urges the acceleration of this process. The JPC welcomes Bulgaria's admission to the Central European Initiative and this country's application to join the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA), as well as the agreement between the EU and Bulgaria which led to the closure of Unit 1 of the Kozlodoui Power Station (on the Danube). The Balkan Conference on stability, security and cooperation in South Eastern Europe is estimated as an important step in the multilateral regional dialogue.

    The final paper contains 22 recommendations of the JPC to the European Parliament, the Bulgarian National assembly, the EU-Bulgaria Association Council, the institutions of the EU and to the Bulgarian Government. Mr Kamov described as particularly important the recommendation for beginning the negotiations on the full membership of Bulgaria and all other applicant countries simultaneously, after the conclusion of the Intergovernmental Conference, in line with the principle of equal treatment.

    Mr Kamov said that in that relation consideration should be given to JPC's recommendations to continue and accelerate the implementation of the structural reform, continue to pursue actively the approximation of Bulgarian legislation to that of the European Union, develop further economic and trade relations between the European Union and Bulgaria, improve the conditions for attracting foreign capital and investment in Bulgaria, enable the EU to abolish the visa requirement for Bulgarian citizens entering the European Union and further promote and strengthen the civil society in Bulgaria.

    At the beginning of today's final meeting, the JPC discussed regional cooperation in the Balkans and the main report was read by Bulgarian Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski.

    The JPC members discussed will Prime Minister Zhan Videnov the structural reform implemented by the Bulgarian Government as well as its political and social cost. Economic stabilization of Bulgaria before the year 2000 and the country's accession to the EU in the first decade of the new century are the prospects before the country, PM Zhan Videnov told reporters later in the day.

    The JPC meeting was also attended by Minister of Trade Paparizov, Deputy Foreign Minister Bokova, the ambassadors here of the EU- associated members, Mr Jean Drestour, representative of the European Commission in charge of Bulgaria and Romania. The participants in the meeting were received by Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev.

    The JPC will hold its fourth meeting in March 1997 in Brussels, The Committee was set up in September 1995 and on February 1 the same year Bulgaria's association agreement with the EU entered into force.

    [03] SENIOR GERMAN DIPLOMAT ENDS VISIT TO BULGARIA

    Sofia, July 26 (BTA) - "Germany supports Bulgaria in its efforts to join the EU and NATO," Dr Werner Hoyer, state minister in charge of European integration with the German Foreign Ministry said today upon his departure from Bulgaria. He described as vital in Bulgaria's preparations for its full membership in the two institutions the acceleration of the process of privatization, attracting larger foreign investment and combatting against crime and corruption. "The last item is directly related to the attraction of foreign capital in your country because it is necessary to guarantee safety of foreigners here", Dr Hoyer said.

    Mr Hoyer was on a visit here on July 25 and 26 at the invitation of the Bulgarian government. He discussed European problems, particularly Bulgaria's joining the EU, with President Zhelyu Zhelev, Prime Minister Zhan Videnov, Trade Minister Atanas Paparizov, Deputy Foreign Minister Irina Bokova, MPs and representatives of the opposition.

    "Bulgaria is a country of particular interest to Germany," Dr Hoyer said. In his view, however, bilateral relations in trade still progress in narrow frames because of the slow pace of the mass privatization in Bulgaria. Mr Hoyer recalled that a significant part of the German companies make their investment decisions irrespective of the state policy. According to Dr Hoyer the upcoming presidential elections provide a good possibility for achieving stability in the country.

    Dr Hoyer said that with President Zhelev and government representatives they have confirmed their common views on all issues they discussed. "My meetings with representatives of the opposition gave me an opportunity to get a clear and unbiased impression of the situation in the country," he said.

    At the invitation of the Centre for European Studies Mr Hoyer read a lecture on the progress of negotiations at the Intergovernmental Conference in 1996 and its relation to the EU enlargement.

    [04] PARLIAMENT ELECTS MEMBERS OF ELECTORAL COMMISSION

    Sofia, July 26 (BTA) - Today Parliament elected the members of the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) for the presidential elections scheduled for October 27, 1996. The Commission will be chaired by Professor Boicho Panev, proposed by the ruling coalition of the Democratic Left (Bulgarian Socialist Party, Alexander Stamboliiski Bulgarian Agrarian National Union and Ecoglasnost Political Club). In the 21-seated CEC eleven of the members were proposed by the Left, six by the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), two by the Popular Union and one by each of the ethnic Turks' Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) and the Bulgarian Business Bloc.

    On proposal of UDF Haralampi Anchev was elected CEC Secretary. Two of the elected deputy chairmen were nominated by the Democratic Left and the other two by the Popular Union and the MRF, each naming one.

    Under the law the CEC decisions should be taken by a majority of two thirds and thus none of the political forces will have full control over the Commission. The CEC decisions are subject to appeal before the Supreme Court and the ruling of the latter is final.

    CEC registers the candidates for president and vice president and pronounces itself on the election results and possible irregularities. The Commission controls the application of the electoral law, sets the terms and procedure of conducting of the candidates' election campaign and monitors the election campaign coverage by the national media. The Commission determines the procedure for the participation of Bulgarian and foreign observers in the elections.

    [05] FOREIGN INVESTMENT IN BULGARIA

    Sofia, July 26 (BTA) - Foreign investment in Bulgaria in January- June amounted to USD 92 million. The volume is nearly equal to last year's total amount, Daniela Bobeva, Chairwoman of the Foreign Investment Agency, said in an interview on the national radio today.

    Direct foreign investment since 1991 totals USD 610 million; indirect and other types of investments amount to USD 300 million. Foreign investors who bought Bulgarian enterprises in 1993-94 account for the biggest amounts of investment. Bulinvest tops the list of biggest investors, followed by Astika, which invested USD 5 million, Reiffeisenbank - USD 4 million, Danone - USD 3 million, and Craft Jacob Suchard - USD 2 million. Coca Cola invests USD 2 million to 3 million on a quarterly basis. Foreign participation in privatization funds at the start of the mass privatization amounted to USD 1 million.

    [06] GOVERNMENT PURSUES NATIONALLY RESPONSIBLE ENERGY POLICY, P.M. VIDENOV SAYS

    Sofia, July (BTA) - The Bulgarian Government is pursuing a clear and nationally responsible policy in power engineering and is fully aware of the country's strategic role in this sector in the Balkans, Prime Minister Zhan Videnov said, answering a question by MP Edvin Sougarev of the largest opposition Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) in the National Assembly today. Mr Sougarev levelled harsh criticism at the Government in connection with the procedure opened in March this year for granting concessions for the gas mains in Bulgaria, their key extensions and other activities of the Russian-Bulgarian Topenergy JV for transiting Russian gas across Bulgaria.

    Before deciding in advance, "the scandalous concession", which, according to Sougarev was made in a Bulgarian-Russian memorandum for cooperation in the fuel sector signed in March this year, the Cabinet should have said who owns the sites and what will be the effect of granting concessions, the MP said. According to Mr Sougarev, the gas pipelines in Bulgaria are "private property" of the state-owned operator Bulgargaz Inc. and are not a public state property and under the respective law they cannot be made a subject of concession. Sougarev supported his reasoning with decisions of the Constitutional Court.

    By the end of the term of the concession (the year 2001) Bulgargaz would have lost some 1,700 million US dollars in net profit and a large amount of gas, Sougarev quotes unspecified experts as saying. The granting of this concession is a treason and would make the Bulgarian economy dependent on non-national interests - those of the Russian Gazprom and of the powerful Bulgarian Multigroup economic conglomerate, the MP said in conclusion.

    The gas pipelines and their extensions are property of the public and of the state under the same decisions of the Constitutional Court, which Mr Sougarev cited. Bulgargaz is only a holder of the right to use the pipelines. The concession, the granting of which has never been decided in advance in the Russian-Bulgarian memorandum for cooperation in power engineering, would attract investments to Bulgaria without burdening the public purse, Videnov said. Mr Sougarev's figures showing possible losses and lost benefits, are not supported by facts, the Prime Minister said.

    The Government has at its disposal reliable means for protecting the interests of Bulgargaz, which is a partner in Topenergy together with Gazprom, Zhan Videnov assured. Experts are drafting a strategy for increasing the interest of the state-owned joint-stock company in the joint venture, he added.

    Gazprom will make large investments and is justified to demand reduction of the transit charges on gas deliveries, however no decision has been adopted on this yet, the Prime Minister said. The Cabinet will seek ways to provide to the Russian partner tax and customs preferences, he said. The project for granting concessions on the pipelines on the territory of Bulgaria is of exceptional importance for this country; there are a number of issues which have yet to be specified on this project and the Government has no other objective but to realize it in a way which would provide maximum profit for Bulgaria, the Prime Minister said.

    [07] PRIME MINISTER VIDENOV ON BULGARIA'S GRAIN PROBLEM

    Sofia, July 26 (BTA) - Meeting in private today, Parliament heard Prime Minister Zhan Videnov answer questions put from opposition MPs as to when and on what grounds the Government has decided to unblock grain from the army's wartime stockage and from the contingency reserves. Before that in the debating chamber, the Prime Minister answered four other questions about the grain balance. Without elaborating, Mr Videnov said that on July 2, 1996 the Government took a decision related to the wartime stockage and the contingency grain reserves. Opposition MPs' allegations that this decision was made in contravention of the laws were denied by the Prime Minister, who called them "a lie." A possible grain crisis first was first mentioned last autumn. The flour shortage made itself tangibly felt in the spring. Flour mills in a number of towns have recently been short of bread wheat. According to press reports, 164 companies exported 685,000 t of last year's harvest, while the limit on exports was 540,000 t. The National Statistical Institute says that bread in the first half of July alone appreciated 15.49 per cent, and flour 37.29 per cent. Answering a question from the leader of the main opposition Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) Ivan Kostov, the Prime Minister confirmed that in May 1996 the Council of Ministers ordered the State Savings Bank (SSB) to extend a 12,000 million leva targeted credit for the purchasing of this year's grain harvest. The credit will be utilized by the state-owned Zurneni Hrani [Cereals] Company and other companies on a Government-approved list for the purchase of 1 million t of grain. Mr Videnov argued that the Government had legal grounds for this decision. The Prime Minister stressed that the SSB and its depositors "are not all jeopardized by this credit operation." Mr Videnov dismissed as "untenable" the thesis of the UDF leader that the Government is taking emergency action to manage the grain crisis. Asked how much grain is expected to be harvested, how much wheat will be imported and with what funds the exports will be paid, Mr Videnov answered that according to projections of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food-Processing, the expected grain harvest is 3,750,000 t, including 1,850,000 t of bread wheat. Domestic bread-grain and feed-grain demand totals about 5,306,000 t, Mr Videnov said. The grain shortage is estimated at 1,549,000 t, including some 500,000 t of bread grain. This deficit is to be made up by import.

    The Prime Minister said the import of some 500,000 t of bread grain is a task of the State. Bread grain will be imported through arranging credit lines with foreign creditors, on which negotiations are being held and specific actions have been taken through representatives of European Union members and other countries. A considerable amount of the import required to replenish the contingency reserves will be paid from the public purse according to the relevant statutory procedure. As far as feed grain is concerned, opportunities are sought to arrange state import for the reproduction centres and the major state-owned enterprises, Mr Videnov said. Entrepreneurs and farmers will be assisted to procure the insufficient grain through tariff concessions. The wheat imported from India is neither contaminated nor infected nor toxic, Zhan Videnov said, answering another question, about a barter deal of Neftochim with India, intermediated by a Marc Rich company. The barter deal between Neftochim and Jugopetrol for gas oil export in exchange for grain import is an ordinary foreign trade transaction, Mr Videnov said, answering a question by Nadezhda Mihailova and Stoyan Raichevski MPs of the UDF. They alleged that Neftochim lost 20 million US dollars from the deal because it was forced to sell the wheat at 150 dollars/t instead of the market price of 220 dollars/t. According to Zhan Videnov, Neftochim has every right to effect commercial transactions at its own discretion and on business terms negotiated with the parties. The Prime Minister explained that according to customs figures, more fuel had been exported than wheat imported before July 20, 1996. After that date, the proportion has reversed, and now fuel exports and grain imports have drawn level, with the imports tending to grow faster. This means that Neftochim should not have sustained a loss, he said. An express Grain Act is needed to solve the problems, Zhan Videnov emphasized. He said that the Government is busily working on the bill and is waiting for ideas from the MPs.

    [08] NUMBER OF PRIVATE COMPANIES GROWS IN 1995

    Sofia, July 26 (BTA) - There were 194,900 operating business companies in Bulgaria in 1995, latest data of the National Statistical Institute (NSI) show. The number of such firms is 4 per cent down the 1995 figure; more than half of them are trading companies. The number of registered firms which have not conducted any business activity for various reasons or have discontinued it is 90,000.

    Industrial output generated by the operating companies in 1995 topped 100,000 million leva. The firms of the food-processing sector account for the biggest share in it. Total profits amounted to 570,000 million leva. 77.6 per cent of the companies, or 4 per cent up the 1994 figure, posted a profit in 1995. 20.1 per cent ran a loss in 1995, which is 3 per cent down the 1994 figure. 2.2 per cent of the operating companies ended 1995 with zero profit.

    A total of 10,024 private companies presented their balance sheets to the NSI in 1995, which is 75 per cent up the figure for 1994. In December 1995 these companies' capital base totalled 77,000 million leva, 9.2 per cent of the capital of all nonfinancial enterprises in Bulgaria. Fifty-five per cent of the private companies which presented their balance sheets posted a profit in 1995. Some 40 per cent posted a loss.

    [09] AGRICULTURE COMMISSIONER FISCHLER VISITS BULGARIA. EU TO EXTEND TO ECU 240 MILLION BY END OF 1999

    Sofia, July 28 (BTA) - The PHARE Programme of the European Union will extend to Bulgaria Ecu 240 million by the end of 1999, Franz Fischler, member of the European Commission in charge of agriculture and rural development, today said. Fischler arrived on a visit to Bulgaria on Friday, at the invitation of the Bulgarian Ministry of Agriculture and Food Processing. Bulgaria has so far received a total of Ecu 428 million under the PHARE Programme, Ecu 56 million of which were allocated to the Bulgarian agriculture.

    The EU will provide technical aid to Bulgaria against food-and- mouth disease. EU experts and their Bulgarian colleagues will draft a strategy which will take this country's agriculture out of the crisis. The cooperation between Bulgaria and the EU should assume more concrete terms, Fischler told a news conference here today.

    Sofia, July 27 (BTA) - Franz Fischler, member of the European Commission in charge of agriculture and rural development, who arrived on Friday on a visit to Bulgaria at the invitation of the Bulgarian Ministry of Agriculture and Food Processing, today held talks with Prime Minister Zhan Videnov, with MPs of the parliamentary Committee on Agriculture and Forests, and visited this country's second biggest city of Plovdiv.

    The meeting between Fischler and Videnov also discussed the grain crisis in Bulgaria. "We discussed the measures which will resolve the grain problem as early as next year," Fischler said after the meeting. The Commissioner recommended that the preparation for the grain sowing in 1997 start this autumn and that the land market be improved. "The European Commission will provide help to resolve these problems," he said.

    Inspectors on the sanitary control of the European Commission established no cases of foot-and-mouth disease in Bulgaria, Fischler said.


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