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News from Bulgaria, 96-09-03
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From: Embassy of Bulgaria <email@example.com>
EMBASSY OF BULGARIA - WASHINGTON D.C.
BTA - BULGARIAN TELEGRAPH AGENCYSeptember 3, 1996
 I.M.F.'S MCGUIRK MEETS P.M. VIDENOVSofia, September 2 (BTA) - After conferring with Prime Minister Zhan Videnov today, Mrs Anne McGuirk, IMF Mission Leader for Bulgaria, said they discussed the Bulgarian Government's compliance with the terms of the fourth stand-by arrangement, the acceleration of the structural reform and the overall state of the macroeconomy. Before completing its first review of the fulfillment of the stand-by arrangement programme, the IMF expects more specific results, Mrs McGuirk emphasized. She said the IMF mission is noticing progress in the implementation of the programme but insists on faster closure of the money-losing enterprises and enforcement of financial discipline on enterprises subject to rehabilitation. The IMF official commended the process of mass and cash privatization. The release of the rest of the tranches under the arrangement with the IMF is contingent on the complete fulfillment of the programme, Mrs McGuirk emphasized. She said she and Mr Videnov had considered ways to curb inflation and contain the dollar/lev rate through revision of the central bank's fiscal policy and specific administrative actions on the part of the Government. Economic stabilization and banking sector rehabilitation and acceleration of the structural reform are more important than getting the second tranche of the arrangement, said Finance Minister Dimiter Kostov, who also attended the meeting. He said the sides discussed a possible change in the structure of interest rates. An excessive interest burden is now placed on borrowers - lending rates reach an effective annual level of over 200 per cent, while deposits pay a mere 80 - 87 per cent per annum, Mr Kostov said. In this connection, the deposit rate may be raised so as to regain savers' confidence in the lev and in the profitability of savings, he stressed. He does not believe that the build-up of wide interest-rate margins can solve the problems of the banking system or the problems of the economy as a whole.
 DEFENCE MINISTER PAVLOV LEAVES FOR ARMENIASofia, September 2 (BTA) - A Bulgarian military delegation, led by Defence Minister Dimiter Pavlov, today left on a two-day visit to the Republic of Armenia at the invitation of Armenian Defence Minister Vazgen Sarkissian. The two countries are expected to sign an agreement on bilateral military cooperation. Mr Pavlov is scheduled to meet with President Levon Ter-Petrossian of Armenia. Following the establishment of diplomatic relations between Bulgaria and Armenia in 1992, the two countries' chambers of commerce and industry signed a cooperation agreement in 1993. An intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in culture, science and education and an intergovernmental agreement on trade and economic cooperation were concluded in 1994. Presidents Zhelyu Zhelev of Bulgaria and Levon Ter-Petrossian of Armenia signed a bilateral Treaty of Friendship in Sofia in April 1995. Bulgarian-Armenian agreements on the avoidance of double taxation of income and property and on investment promotion and reciprocal protection entered into force in 1995. The two countries' central banks also signed a cooperation agreement. A scheduled air service was launched between Bourgas (on the Black Sea) and Yerevan. An Armenian culture season was held in Bulgaria, involving a number of cultural societies of the Armenian diaspora in Bulgaria.
 BUSINESS PRESSSofia, September 2 (BTA) - US giant Westinghouse and a European consortium involving Siemens, Framatom and Igiora, submitted to the National Electric Company tenders for upgrading Units Five and Six of the Kozlodoui nuclear power plant on the Danube, "Standart News" writes.
The three-stage programme for repairs should be completed over three years, from 1997 to 1999. It is intended to enhance the safety of the reactors and improve control systems.
The upgrading will extend the life of the reactors by 20 years, say experts.
Bulgarian National Bank statistics shows last month individuals withdrew dollars from banks, "24 Chassa" writes. According to the paper, bank officials are considering a hike of interest rates on forex deposits. Others, however, doubt it will help regain the confidence of investors who fear bank bankruptcies.
By September 15 the European Union (EU) should decide what funds to allocate to Bulgaria, "Standart News" writes, quoting the Ministry of Economic Development.
The Bulgarian Government's request is for a loan of some ECU 60 million. It will be considered at a trilateral meeting of officials of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the EU in Brussels in early September. The meeting will be especially devoted to Bulgaria's balance of payments.
If Bulgaria receives the money, it will be used to speed up implementation of the Government economic rehabilitation programme, experts say.
In merely two weeks (from August 15 to 26) the number of foreign holidaymakers on the Bulgarian Black Sea rose from 11.8% last year to 15.5%, "Continent" writes, quoting Tourism Committee figures. A total of 321,752 foreigners had visited Bulgarian resorts by August 26. The number of tourists from the former Eastern bloc increased and the number of tourists from Western Europe went down.
 SUPREME COURT REJECTS RULING LEFT'S APPEAL OVER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE PIRINSKI'S REGISTRATIONSofia, September 2 (Evgenia Droumeva of BTA) - A five-member panel of the Supreme Court today unanimously rejected an appeal filed by the Together for Bulgaria Coalition against the refusal of the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) to register Georgi Pirinski and Ivan Marazov as presidential and vice-presidential candidates for the October 27, 1996 elections. The five judges, including Supreme Court President Roumen Yankov, unanimously determined that the presidential candidate of the left-wing coalition led by the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) Georgi Pirinski did not hold Bulgarian citizenship by the time of his birth. Under the Constitution, only natural born Bulgarian citizens may stand as candidates for president and vice president. Supreme Court decisions are final and unappealable. Together for Bulgaria has until September 22 either to file other documents for registration at the CEC or apply for registration of new candidates. Right after the Supreme Court announced its decision, the BSP leadership gathered for an emergency meeting.
Opinion polls suggest that the candidate of the ruling Left Pirinski and the candidate of the opposition United Democratic Forces coalition Peter Stoyanov stand the best chances of winning the presidential elections. Early last week, however, the CEC denied registration of the candidates of the Left because, in their view, Pirinski's documents did not specify the way in which he had acquired Bulgarian citizenship. The CEC denied registration to the opposition candidates, too, citing omissions in the papers of the United Democratic Forces coalition. The Supreme Court is expected to pass on the opposition candidates on Wednesday.
At its session today, the Supreme Court heard the reasoning for the Left's appeal and the CEC observations. According to Enyo Komitov, one of the lawyers representing the Together for Bulgaria coalition, the documents on the registration of the Pirinski/Marazov ticket filed to CEC complied with the statutory requirements. Pirinski and Marazov are Bulgarian citizens by birth, they have not been deprived or relieved of this citizenship, and they have not acquired it by naturalization, the left-wing coalition's second lawyer Tsvetana Choukova argued. In connection with the CEC's requirement that a certificate on the manner of acquisition of citizenship be filed with the other registration documents, Komitov observed that if this requirement is to be satisfied, the elections would be blocked for lack of information. According to Komitov there is no authority that can issue such a certificate.
About a month ago, petitioned by the opposition, the Constitutional Court issued an interpretation of the term "natural-born Bulgarian citizen" which is used in the Constitution as one of the presidential qualifications. The Constitutional Court then determined that Bulgarian citizenship by birth is acquired at the moment of birth in compliance with the then effective citizenship law. Right then, the constitutionality of Pirinski's candidacy sparked a controversy, since he was born in the US in 1948 of a mother who was US citizen at that time and a Bulgarian father. BSP accused the Constitutional Court of delivering a politically motivated judgement.
The Supreme Court today did not formally release its ruling and reasoning. Reporters were briefed on the decision by CEC Secretary Haralampi Anchev.
The Together for Bulgaria coalition tonight issued a statement defining the Supreme Court decision as "part of the strategy to destabilize the political system and the rule of law in this country." "It is evidence that in a number of cases members of the judiciary, instead of protecting citizens' rights and punishing the perpetrators of crimes, themselves undermine confidence in the democratic institutions and keep Bulgaria in a state of political confrontation," the statement also says. It observes that irrespective of the political nature of the Supreme Court ruling, the BSP and the Democratic Left will comply with it because they respect public institutions. The Left declared that it will spare no efforts for the conduct of the elections as scheduled and will field their candidates.
"The Supreme Court ruling is politically motivated," left-wing vice presidential candidate Ivan Marazov commented to reporters in Pazardjik, where he was campaigning today. Prof. Marazov added that he will accept the decision of the Left. "If I am offered the Left's presidential candidacy, I will have to think about it," he said.
The leader of the main opposition Union of Democratic Forces Ivan Kostov described the Supreme Court ruling as "anticipated." "Back in 1991 [when the effective Bulgarian Constitution was adopted] Pirinski was aware of that, and the BSP leadership was aware of that, too, so nobody should pretend to be surprised," Mr Kostov believes. He now expects the Left to put up a new presidential candidate who would meet the requirements of the Constitution.
According to Alexander Tomov, an independent presidential candidate and leader of the extraparliamentary Civic Alliance for the Republic, right after the Constitutional Court interpretation it was clear that Pirinski would be disqualified.
The BSP leadership this evening gathered for an emergency meeting to consider the Supreme Court decision and its further moves in the presidential race.
Speaking to the press, Justice Minister Mladen Chervenyakov described the Supreme Court ruling as "absurd" and "clearly politically motivated." He argued that by coming to this determination, the court exceeded its powers. To prove his point, he quoted an article from the Bulgarian Nationality Act, according to which citizenship may not be ascertained through the courts. Asked today whether the Socialist leadership has considered new presidential candidates, Mr Chervenyakov said it was anticipating to discuss new candidates before the reasoning for the Supreme Court decision is released.
"What matters most is to hold the presidential elections on October 27 and that in a normal situation," said opposition presidential candidate Peter Stoyanov, reacting to the news. He stressed that it is inadmissible to go into hysterics over a court decision.
"BSP will do everything possible for the conduct of fair and democratic presidential elections within the statutory timeframe," the Socialists' spokesperson Klara Marinova said after the meeting of the BSP leadership. As she put it, "BSP stays in the race despite the Supreme Court ruling."
At a plenum tomorrow, the Socialists will pick a presidential and vice presidential candidate of the Left and will fix their campaign tactics and strategy, it was announced after this evening's meeting.
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