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News from Bulgaria, 96-09-09

Bulgarian Telegraph Agency Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: Embassy of Bulgaria <>



September 9, 1996




    Sofia, September 6 (BTA) - Bulgaria marks today the 111th anniversary of its unification. The Union - the setting up of a unified Bulgarian state, was proclaimed on this day in 1885.

    At the Berlin Congress of 1878, held four months after Bulgaria's liberation from Turkish rule in the Russo-Turkish War, the Great Powers divided this country into several parts. Macedonia, Eastern and Western Thrace, inhabited by Bulgarians, were returned to Turkey: Romania got Northern Dobroudja; Northern Bulgaria and the Sofia region formed the Principality of Bulgaria in vassalage to Turkey and the lands between the Balkan Range and the Rhodopes formed an autonomous region of Turkey under the name of Eastern Rumelia. The Union, proclaimed in the South Bulgarian city of Plovdiv, laid the foundations of the modern Bulgarian state. By this act the Bulgarians rejected an injustice they were done by the Great Powers and this country became a factor of prime importance in the Balkans. This makes September 6 is one of the least controversial dates in Bulgaria's modern history.

    The Union was an entirely Bulgarian act both by conception and by realization, National Assembly Chairman Blagovest Sendov said, opening today's sitting of Parliament. On this day Bulgarians remember a motto they were handed down by their forefathers inscribed above the entrance to Parliament building "Union Makes Strength", Sendov said. Krassimir Premyanov, floor leader of the Parliamentary Group of the Democratic Left, called the Union a culmination of the struggle of the Bulgarian people for historical justice. Opposition Union of Democratic Forces floor leader Yordan Sokolov called the Union "one of Bulgaria's moments of triumph". Representatives of different parliamentary groups supported the stand that September 6 is one of the greatest days in Bulgarian history and should become a national holiday. But this proposal was not put to a vote as the National Assembly chairman said this should be duly prepared.

    The observances began with the laying of wreaths in front of the Monument to the Unknown Warrior, the Mausoleum of Prince Alexander Batenberg and monuments to prominent Bulgarian statesmen who contributed to the Union. On the initiative of the Bulgarian Liberals Party, a handful of soil will be taken from Macedonia, the Western Outlands (a territory in Southeastern Serbia which Bulgaria lost to that country under the 1919 Treaty of Neuilly as a result of its defeat in WW I), Dobroudja, Thrace and Moesia and laid in the centre of Sofia. The place will be called Union Alley.

    The celebrations on the 111st anniversary of Bulgaria's unification continued with a service for Bulgaria in front of the Monument to Unification held by Metropolitan Pimen and clergy from Plovdiv.

    "111 years ago in the centre of the fertile Trakia region our predecessors created the greatest Bulgarian event in foreign policy," said Plovdiv Mayor Spass Gurnevski in his address. "Let us say "no" to demagogy and to the lies about the revival of true democracy in Bulgaria. God save both the King and Bulgaria," he said in conclusion.


    Sofia, September 6 (BTA) - By August 29, 1996 liquidation schemes have been chosen for 56 out of a total of 64 money-losing state-owned enterprises designated for winding up by the Government, orders have been issued for 54, court proceedings have been instituted for 39, and trustees in bankruptcy or liquidators have been appointed for 32, Prime Minister Zhan Videnov said during question time in Parliament today.

    The Prime Minister said that the liquidation and isolation procedures have been completed for enterprises within the system of the ministries of trade and foreign economic cooperation, energy and energy resources, and regional development and construction. The remaining part are under the jurisdiction of the ministry of agriculture and food-processing and the ministry of industry.

    "The liquidation of money-losing enterprises within the Industry Ministry system will be completed by the end of September," Industry Minister Lyubomir Dachev told a news conference today. He said that 43 enterprises have already been wound up and part of the remaining 38 on the list stand a chance of being privatized.

    These industrial enterprises, which are in a process of privatization or which will go private shortly, include the Plama oil refinery of Pleven (North Central Bulgaria), whose purchase by Euroenergy Holding Ltd. was okayed by the Council of Ministers yesterday, the industrial truck manufacturer Balkancar Holding Company, computer and computer component maker Microelectronica of Botevgrad (Northwestern Bulgaria), and the Optic Mechanics Plant of Sofia, Mr Dachev said. He specified that Daewoo of South Korea is showing interest in Balkancar Holding and the Industry Ministry will hold a round of negotiations with Daewoo executives tomorrow. Daewoo bought 67 per cent of the Sheraton Sofia Hotel Balkan for 22,300,000 US dollars on September 3.

    Solvay of Belgium, Rhone Poulenc of France and a South Korean company are bidding for the purchase of the giant chemical works Sodi of Devnya (Northeastern Bulgaria).

    "It is none of the Council of Ministers' business to handle the liquidation of enterprises. The managers themselves and the enterprises' creditors have to vindicate their decisions in court. The line ministries and the Bank Consolidation Company, which exercise the State's ownership rights, should do their best to help. By issuing a decree on the liquidation and financial rehabilitation of money-losing enterprises, the Council of Ministries simply tried to provide tangible proof that financial discipline, economic sense and responsibility to depositors should be observed and losses should stop being incurred at the expense of the people," Mr Videnov noted. He said that the competent ministries and departments should handle the bulk of the work on the liquidation and rehabilitation of loss-making state-owned enterprises.

    Mr Videnov's questioner, Alexander Bozhkov MP of the opposition Union of Democratic Forces, criticized the fact that the list of enterprises subject to isolation from bank loans has not been officially published so far.


    Stara Zagora, September 6 (BTA) - Bulgaria will host for the second time an international congress on the philosophical and ethical aspects of space studies, Mitko Gogoshev, Chairman of the branch of the Union of Scientists in Bulgaria in the southern town of Stara Zagora, told the press. The 8th Space and Philosophy congress, an annual forum of an international association of the same name, will be held at the international scientists' convention centre in Varna (on the Black Sea) from September 9 to 14.

    The forum will be attended by some sixty scientists from Bulgaria, Greece, Russia, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Britain, Brazil and the US. Bulgaria will have the largest number of attendees, Gogoshev said. Forty reports will be read on subjects including space law, the survival of human civilization, and axiological aspects of the man-nature system.

    Bulgaria first hosted the congress in 1992 when it was held in Stara Zagora.

    The Space and Philosophy Association was initiated by the Bulgarian and Greek Academies of Sciences. It is chaired by Academician Evangelis Mutsopoulos, Vice President of the Greek Academy.


    Sofia, September 6 (BTA) - The authorities today officially denied reports on an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Bulgaria.

    The General Administration of the National Veterinary Service stated that FMD infection has not been discovered in this country since May 24, 1993.

    The statement came in response to reports in some European countries that FMD had been found in Bulgarian cloven-hoofed animals.


    Sofia, September 7 (BTA) - Bulgaria's former leader Todor Zhivkov, who is 85 today, says he can bring billions of dollars to this country, now in the grip of a severe economic crisis. Zhivkov held on to power for 35 years. He is one of Eastern Europe's longest ruling communist chiefs.

    "I can find money abroad, but no one has approached me about that," claims Zhivkov, who lives under house arrest in his grand- daughter's weekend house in Boyana, a posh Sofia suburb. He was first sentenced on, and later on acquitted of, charges of embezzlement and abuse of power. He remains indicted in several other criminal cases.

    "If they use me and stop that vandalism against me and we start talking on an honest basis, I will cover all loans with foreign financing," Zhivkov told the "Continent" daily. He argues he can sign a written pledge that he will do it. But both the Left and the Right should stomach his ability to do it.

    Zhivkov blames the country's huge foreign debt on all governments which have been in office since his ouster in November 1989. "It is an outright lie that a foreign debt of 10,000 million US dollars was run up at the time of Todor Zhivkov. I have a statement from Western banks on the exact amount of the loans," Zhivkov claims.

    "When I retired from power, we had foreign-exchange reserves of 2,000 million dollars. Who plundered it? I am asking who plundered the foreign-exchange reserves? Check with the statisticians - why a whole department which kept records on that was closed down there," Zhivkov tells the "168 Chassa" weekly in an extensive interview. He declares that he will go public and refute the lies about Bulgaria's foreign debt.

    "Zhivkov turns 85, loved by the starving and hated by his former henchmen," writes "Standart News." According to the results of an opinion poll quoted in the daily, Zhivkov is the fourth most popular politician in Bulgaria. His 34 per cent approval rating is surpassed only by King Simeon II (the exiled Bulgarian monarch who lives in Madrid), incumbent President Zhelyu Zhelev, and the leader of the largest opposition Union of Democratic Forces Ivan Kostov.

    Zhivkov has received numerous offers to stand for president in the elections due on October 27, but has declined them all. Asked whether he would vote for the Ivan Marazov/Irina Bokova ticket of the ruling Socialist (formerly Communist) Party, he says he would not vote at all. "I have not voted since my removal in 1989. I don't vote, I'm not interested in it," Zhivkov says.

    "If I were running for the presidency, I would be elected right in the first round. The majority of the people is on my side," a confident Zhivkov told the "Troud" daily.


    Sofia, September 7 (BTA) - "Go on television, Mr Prime Minister, and explain to the Bulgarian people where is the wheat of Bulgaria, how come that after a bumper crop last year this country was left without bread and without animal feed? Why your Government allowed the export of nearly 1 million tonnes of grain without ensuring adequate bread and feed supply? Who pocketed the billions of leva proceeds from this export? You owe ordinary Bulgarian citizens this explanation, Mr Prime Minister," President Zhelyu Zhelev said in an address to Prime Minister Zhan Videnov which he read on the national electronic media this evening.

    "The Socialist Government of Mr Zhan Videnov has led Bulgaria to a disastrous state," the President said. "In his speech in Dimitrovgrad a week ago, the Prime Minister laid the blame for the latest in a series of Bulgaria's catastrophes on everybody else but himself and his circle of friends, even though, under the Constitution, the entire responsibilty for the present state of the country rests with the Prime Minister and the Government," the President said.

    "Don't try to shirk responsibilities through cheap propaganda," Dr Zhelev said in his address. He called on Mr Videnov to explain to the people what his Government is planning to do to help them survive the coming winter with the current inflation and steep prices.

    "True, this is not just a government concern, but the Cabinet must always keep the matter open, must not hide anything, and must look for support everywhere," the President said. "Otherwise, that is if people start starving and freezing to death, bringing to book will not be limited to resignations, and the matter will probably come to impeachment. This is not a threat but a warning. The situation is tragic and any diplomacy is impertinent," Dr Zhelev said at the end of his address.


    Sofia, September 8 (BTA) - "Yesterday Mr Zhelyu Zhelev ventured to threaten the Government of the Republic of Bulgaria with judicial retribution. The latest in a series of outrages of an outgoing president ought to be silently ignored, were it not for the self-interested abuse of the actual difficulties and everyday problems of Bulgarians at its bottom," the Government Press Office said in a statement today.

    "The Socialist Government of Mr Zhan Videnov has led Bulgaria to a disastrous state," President Zhelev said in an address to the Prime Minister which he read on the national electronic media yesterday. "If people start starving and freezing to death, bringing to book will not be limited to resignations, and the matter will probably come to impeachment. This is not a threat but a warning. The situation is tragic and any diplomacy is impertinent," Dr Zhelev stressed.

    "Indeed, the situation in this country is grave. There are problems, and there will be problems. But they cannot be solved by outbursts on TV," the Government said in its press office release today. "Unlike the President, the Government took the great risk of the unpopular measures; it launched the structural reform, which has been delayed by everybody, in an extremely serious situation," the release reads. "A heavy external and internal debt incurred by others is being repaid, and a nationally responsible head of state is bound to support the efforts of the Executuve," the Cabinet argues.

    "Instead, the gentleman demonstrates a moving concern for the Bulgarian countryside and for bread supply, having forgotten that he is the ideologue of the legislative follies which threw farming back to the age of the wooden plough and barter," reads the statement of the Government Press Office. "The President is imposing suspensory veto on all tax laws but blames the Government for the low pensions," the press release notes. It accuses President Zhelev of gross demagogy. "Don't insult the Bulgarian people on parting, Mr Zhelev!" the statement calls in conclusion.


    Sofia, September 8 (BTA) - The Speaker of the Israeli Knesset Dan Tichon, who arrived on an informal visit here on Wednesday, today conferred with two presidential candidates: Ivan Marazov of the ruling Left and Peter Stoyanov of the united opposition.

    Mr Tichon and Prof. Marazov agreed that Bulgaria can emerge from its present crisis only through political and national concord. Prof. Marazov familiarized the guest with the platform of his "Together for Bulgaria" campaign coalition.

    Mr Stoyanov promised Mr Tichon to talk to the Israeli Ambassador in Sofia on the question raised by the Israeli delegation about the grounds on which the Supreme Court recently reversed the sentences passed by the so-called "People's Court" after the communist takeover in late 1944.

    "During our meetings in Bulgaria we asked for a review of this decision because we cannot live with such a decision even 51 years after the Second World War," Mr Tichon said after his meeting with Mr Stoyanov.

    "Twelve years ago Israel was in the same grave economic situation which Bulgaria is living through now. The formation of a national government by the two major parties helped overcome the crisis in Israel at that time," Mr Tachon noted. "I am convinced that Bulgaria will soon emerge from the crisis and will find the road to economic prosperity," he said.


    Sofia, September 8 (BTA) - Sofia's restored Central Synagogue was solemnly re-dedicated today. Located at the centre of the Bulgarian capital, it is the largest synagogue in the Balkans and the largest of its type in Europe: it can accommodate 1,200 worshippers at a time.

    The Sephardic synagogue was built in 1906-1909. It was designed by Austrian architect Friedrich Gruenanger in the Spanish- Moorish style, as an almost exact scaled-down replica of the Great Synagogue of Vienna (which was destroyed during the last world war). At that time, Sofia already had a Jewish population of 10,000. The earliest records of a Jewish presence in the Bulgarian lands date from the mid-10th century.

    The synagogue was originally dedicated on September 9, 1909 in the presence of the reigning Bulgarian King Ferdinand I, as evidenced by a memorial plaque over the entrance. For 30 years, it served as the centre of Bulgarian Jewry, housing the offices of the Chief Rabbis of Bulgaria and of Sofia, the Beth Din (Supreme Rabbinical Tribunal), and a Judaica library of priceless medieval rabbinical law books and commentaries on the Old Testament.

    The Jews of Sofia continued to hold services there until 1943, long after Bulgaria joined the Axis in World War II. Bulgaria and Denmark are the only countries in Europe which did not allow the deportation of their Jews to the Nazi death camps. The Synagogue escaped vandalization because it was guarded by police even after the Jews were interned from the capital to the provinces under German pressure. However, it was hit and badly damaged by bombs during the Allied air raids of Sofia in 1944.

    After the war the Communist authorities tried on several occasions to confiscate the building in the 1960s and 70s, but the Jewish community parried these encroachments by continually promising to repair it. According to one story, the community paid an old man to go back and forth with a wheelbarrow every time an inspector came so that the authorities would say, "Oh, they are working on it."

    The re-dedication ceremony today was attended by President Zhelyu Zhelev, the Speaker of the Israeli Knesset Dan Tichon, numerous Bulgarian politicians, diplomats, Bulgarian Jews who have arrived expressly for the occasion, and members of the public.

    "Built in the centre, at the heart of Sofia, for nearly 80 years it has been a wonderful symbol of the age-long Jewish presence in our lands, a symbol of the determination of the Bulgarian citizens to build a state epitomizing the ideal of the great son of the Bulgarian people Vassil Levski: 'a state where Bulgarians, Turks, Jews and others will be equal in every respect,'" President Zhelev emphasized in his welcoming speech.

    Knesset Speaker Dan Tichon noted that the Sofia Synagogue is not just a house of worship, it is a home for the intellectuals, a centre of an entire civilization.

    The building of Sofia's Central Synagogue was restored after a fire in early 1990 with the help of Bulgaria, Israel and other countries with large Jewish communities, as well as a number of Israeli foundations. The interior of the dome and the auditorium have been restored with their remarkable sculptural and mural decoration. The famous brass chandelier, suspended under the central dome, is a masterpiece of metal work. Dangerously corroded, it was removed in 1992, and the best Bulgarian experts took 15 months to restore it to its original splendour. The 1.7 t, 19.4 m high chandellier consists of 65 illuminants, 440 colour glass pendants and some 500 Stars of David.

    An exhibition of "Sacred Books of the Jewish People" opened at the Sts Cyril and Methodius National Library and the Tsadikov Choir of Bulgarian Jews in Israel gave concerts as part of the numerous cultural events accompanying the rededication.

    Bulgaria and Israel established diplomatic relations back in 1948, after the establishment of the Jewish State. Relations were broken off in 1967 and re-established in 1990, after the fall of totalitarianism in Bulgaria. Political, economic and cultural contacts have flourished. Visits have been exchanged at all levels: President Chaim Herzog has come to Bulgaria, Bulgaria's prime minister Filip Dimitrov and foreign minister Viktor Vulkov have visited Israel, and former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Shamir (whose wife was born in Bulgaria) has been in Sofia.

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