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News from Bulgaria, 96-09-10

Bulgarian Telegraph Agency Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: Embassy of Bulgaria <>



September 10, 1996




    Sofia, September 9 (Andrei Sharkov of BTA) - There is no alternative to the future cooperation in the gas industry among the Balkan states, Metodi Vachev of Bulgaria's state-owned gas giant Bulgargas said at the opening of the two-day Balkan Gas Conference here today.

    Bulgargas and several other Bulgarian and Greek gas companies are sponsors of the forum organized by the Balkan and Black Sea Petroleum Association (BBSPA). Being also among the BBSPA founders, Bulgargas' main line of business is the transit of gas - mostly from Russia through the Russian Gasprom - to Turkey. It is expected to start running supplies to Greece, Serbia and Macedonia as well.

    The conference will help overcome the isolation of national gas markets, reads an address of the organizers yesterday. The forum will help establish useful contacts, "Daily News" was told by Sasho Donchev, Executive Director of Overgas Inc. of Bulgaria.

    The organizers believe that the operating gas infrastructure and that to be built in the future provide a basis for cooperation. Speaking before "Daily News", participants in the conference voiced hopes that countries will adopt a regional approach in the formation of their gas industry strategies.

    The condition of, and prospects for, the development of the Balkan gas market, transfer and storage of natural gas in the region top the agenda of the conference. If the national gas companies accept the BBSPA initiative, the first regional map of the oil and gas industry will be drawn up to be published in the prestigious "Petroleum Economist" magazine. The forum is also considering the building of trans-national gas storage facilities in the region to meet the demand on the peninsula.

    The Bulgarian gas transmitting system includes:

    - a linear part including 2,100 km of high-pressure gas pipelines with 1,220-mm diameter;

    - 9 compression stations with total capacity of 190 MW;

    - over 55 gas distribution stations running supplies to over 150 consumers across the country;

    - the Chiren underground gas storage facility in Northern Bulgaria (total capacity of 1,000 million cu m);

    - additional facilities, including telecoms system, a soil corrosion protection facility, repair centres.

    The 870 km of transboundary gas pipelines operating parallel to the national network will be expanded to a total length of 1,513 km by 2010, said the Bulgarian participants in the forum. It will allow to increase the annual capacity of the network from 11,000 million cu m to 28,000 million cu m.

    Bulgargas and the Topenergy Bulgarian-Russian joint venture presented their scheme for expanding the market for Russian gas in the Balkans and increasing the capacity of the Chiren gas storage facility. Topenergy is planning to increase by 1,300 km the transit gas pipelines in Bulgaria by 2010 and to built in Bulgaria gas storage facilities with a total capacity of 3,500-4,00 million cu m of gas. Domestic gas consumption last year was just over 5,000 million cu m.

    Topenergy was set to expand the market for Russian gas in Bulgaria and third countries. The way for achieving this is completing and increasing two-fold the operating gas transiting network. A 50% stake in Topenergy is held by the Russian Gasprom, 25.1% by Bulgargas, 8.25% by Multigroup and Overgas Inc. and 2% by the state-owned Chimimport. For 18 months now, however, no progress has been made with the partnership and the Russian partner seems to be losing patience, Sasho Donchev recently told "24 Chassa". Topenergy has been waiting since April a government decision granting it a concession on the gas pipelines in Bulgaria.

    Gas deliveries via Bulgaria to the Balkan states and further through Italy to the rest of Europe would boost the Bulgarian economy, help attract investment and generate new jobs, Mr Donchev said in his report to the forum. His view is shared by Claudio Simeoni of the UN Economic Commission for Europe.

    The conference is due to consdier contracts with Middle East partners including Iran, Qatar and Oman for transborder gas supplies to the Balkans. Bulgaria's geo-strategic location gives it an important role in the future transport of gas from Eastern to Western Europe, Jimmy Rose of EUROGAS told the forum.

    Iranian gas is not seen by BBSPA as an alternative to the Russian gas. However, it offers a chance for expanding the market and the gas transit network via Bulgaria. At the beginning Iranian gas can go to Turkey where consumption is expected to reach 40,000-50,000 million cu m by 2010. Then it can also come to Europe where too demand is constantly on the rise. There are, though, some political factors preventing the launch of the project, BBSPA Executive Director Valentin Kunev recently told an interviewer of "Standart News".


    Sofia, September 9 (BTA) - The newly appointed U.S. Ambassador to Sofia, Avis Bohlen, today met with Prime Minister and Socialist Party leader Zhan Videnov, as well as with leaders of the opposition Union of Democratic Forces (UDF).

    The U.S. administration supports Bulgaria's efforts to develop regional structures, Ambassador Bohlen told Videnov. She highly praised Bulgaria's role in the development of inter-Balkan relations, Government Spokesman Nikola Baltov said after the meeting.

    The U.S. administration is aware that Bulgaria is going through difficult times and supports the measures for the rehabilitation of this country's economy as the only way to solve its problems, Ambassador Bohlen said. Prime Minister Videnov familiarized her with the progress of economic and banking restructuring. He informed her of forthcoming legislative and government measures to attract foreign investment.

    Videnov and Bohlen agreed that political dialogue between Bulgaria and the U.S. had invigorated and discussed Balkan infrastructure projects.

    Mrs Bohlen also met with UDF leader Ivan Kostov, deputy leader and presidential candidate Peter Stoyanov and deputy leader Vassil Gotsev.

    Mrs Bohlen's visit is not a mere formality but a proof that there are good relations between the UDF and the U.S. diplomatic mission to Bulgaria, Ivan Kostov said. He set forth the Union's views on the political and economic situation in Bulgaria.

    "I reiterated the UDF's concern that if the government remains careless to the sharp deterioration of the situation, the presidential elections will not be held in normal circumstances," Kostov said. He explained that one of the government's major responsibilities is to ensure a normal situation for the elections. He said that people, worried by economic difficulties and disappointed with political chaos, will either refuse to vote or if they do, they will not behave normally and excesses may occur. Kostov said that Ambassador Bohlen showed deep concern for the problems of Bulgarian agriculture.


    The participants in a meeting of the Economic and Development Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which opened in Sofia this morning, have showed interest in Bulgaria's trade relations with Russia, mainly in the field of energy sources, Bulgaria's Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Minister Atanas Paparizov told reporters.

    The three-day meeting was opened by National Assembly Chairman Blagovest Sendov and is presided over by the Committee's Chairman, Terry Davis of the UK. Germany, Greece, Italy, Hungary, the Czech Republic, France, Portugal, Estonia and the Scandinavian countries are also represented on the Committee.

    At the first sitting, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Development Roumen Gechev familiarized the Parliamentary Assembly members with the progress of mass privatization and the development of the economic reform in Bulgaria and with the specific action which the Bulgarian Government has taken for its implementation.

    "I was quite frank about the problems we are tackling and about their causes," Mr Gechev told the press. He had stressed the mechanisms which the Bulgarian Government is using to solve these problems.

    "It is exceedingly important to present this policy because little Bulgaria with its huge external and internal debt burden will not be able to cope with the current situation on its own," the Deputy Prime Minister added. Political and business support for an institution like the Council of Europe is crucial for this country, in his view.

    "Your assessments of the Bulgarian economy in a European and world context, of the progress of economic reforms in Central and Eastern Europe, of the effects of the European Monetary Union and unemployment in Europe will be followed with close attention," National Assembly Chairman Blagovest Sendov said in his welcoming speech.

    "We do not hide the fact that we are living through a difficult period in the conditions of implementation of structural reforms, which no previous government during the last five or six years could or would undertake because of their high social price," he added. In his view, Bulgaria's future and the full EU membership which it seeks necessitate that this country's economy be upgraded to satisfy the high criteria of the European community.

    The meeting of the Committee will last until September 11. The participants are scheduled to visit Plovdiv (South Central Bulgaria) tomorrow and the Vihren Shoe Factory of Blagoevgrad (Southwestern Bulgaria). The Director of the Centre for Mass Privatization Kalin Mitrev also attended today's sitting of the Committee.


    The International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers Associations (IFATCA) today offered to mediate the dispute between the Bulgarian Air Traffic Controllers Association (BULATCA) and the Government. IFATCA President Preben Lauritzen, who arrived here yesterday, today sent a letter to that effect to Bulgarian Prime Minister Zhan Videnov and Transport Minister Stamen Stamenov.

    The letter was handed during a meeting among Lauritzen and the chiefs of the Transport Ministry Civil Aviation, Legal Coordination and Finances and Budget departments, requested by the former. In his letter, the President of IFATCA expresses concern over reduced traffic and "the danger" to air traffic safety in Bulgaria.

    In the meantime the Transport Ministry informed Lauritzen about the illegitimacy of the protests launched by Bulgarian controllers. The Ministry press office said the Ministry had not declined to talk with legitimate professional organizations. The government took measures and actions which should alleviate safety concerns expressed by international air traffic organizations, the ministry also said.

    Air traffic controllers from Sofia, Varna (on the Northern Black Sea) and Bourgas (on the Southern Black Sea), members of BULATCA, held an hour's token strike on Tuesday, September 3, demanding higher wages. Three people announced a hunger strike on Monday, September 2, and were supported on the next day by some 20 of 350 controllers in this country. The Sofia regional court declared the strike illegal. Forty controllers were fired.

    Thirty-four highly qualified specialists have replaced protesting controllers at Sofia airport, the Director General of the airport's Air Traffic Control department Valentin Vulkov said. According to him, the newly-formed teams are fully sufficient to ensure flight safety. Air traffic, however, has been reduced to 15 flights an hour, i.e. by 50%, he said. According to him, if the conflict gets aggravated, traffic may be cut down to 10 flights an hour in Sofia, and 10 in Varna.


    In an interview for the Bulgarian National Television, aired late last night, Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov ruled out allegations for Bulgarian participation in the assassination attempt against him in October 1995.

    "I do not see what interest could Bulgaria have to carry out an assassination against a man who was in such a heavy historical situation," Gligorov said.

    "We are two very close peoples. And as such it is natural to show liking and interest towards the events happening in either of the two countries," President Gligorov said. "This does not mean, however, that we should not assess critically certain matters," he added. "But this does not change the general picture: that the Macedonian people consider the Bulgarians close having historical and other relations with them," the Macedonian President stated in the interview.

    According to him, the problems have arisen from the fact that the two peoples have lived separately for a long time and quite often - during the world wars - belonged to opposite military blocks. "However, the young generations do not carry the burden of the past," Gligorov says.

    The other problem in his view is the current condition of the Bulgarian-Macedonian relations. They are not in stagnation, but "rather are not in line with the good start they had", he added. Gligorov said he does not see any obstacles to signing an agreement with Bulgaria for the establishment of a free trade area. Macedonia has signed similar agreements with Slovenia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, he added.

    Gligorov said in the interview he is optimistic about the Bulgarian-Macedonian relations. "People in responsible positions in Bulgaria and Macedonia have not the right to be blinded by issues which do not influence positively bilateral relations and on the contrary - hinder them. What is useful for the two countries should be promoted," the Macedonian President said. He appealed to the Bulgarian people and the incumbents in Bulgaria for more tolerance and greater understanding towards the language spoken by the people of Macedonia.


    Sofia, September 9 (BTA) - The importance of the opposition's unity for its victory in the October 27 presidential election was high on the agenda of today's meeting between Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev and the leader of the opposition Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) Ivan Kostov.

    Speaking to journalists after the meeting, Kostov said the two shared a concern over the unity of the opposition and a conviction that it can win the elections only if it stands united.

    The responsibility for the dramatic aggravation of the economic and social conditions in Bulgaria, jeopardizing the normal conduct of the presidential election, rests with the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and the government of Prime Minister Zhan Videnov, Kostov also said. He believes the BSP and its government must do their best to ensure the conduct of free and fair elections whose results will be recognized by all participants.

    He went on to say that the opposition must push through "a survival programme" while the government must do their best to take the country out of this "near-catastrophe". The UDF will back the efforts of all government institutions trying to address "the tangible problems of survival".

    Later today the press office of President Zhelyu Zhelev issued a statement saying that "instead of appearing on the TV to answer the questions brought forth by the President, the Prime Minister releases through his press service a desperately malicious text trying to pass over the responsibility for the economic catastrophe in the country on anybody other than his self and the government." The statement refers to the declarations the President and the cabinet exchanged over the weekend, blaming each other for the grave economic crisis in Bulgaria. The President's declaration threatened the cabinet might be taken to court to answer for the catastrophe the nation was plunged into.

    "The press office of the President will not engage itself into a dialogue with that of the government, and will only repeat the questions of the President to the Prime Minister. Where is Bulgaria's grain? Why after a very good harvest last year the country this year was left without bread for the people and feed for the livestock? Why did your cabinet allow the export of nearly 1 million tonnes of grain without making sure domestic demand will be met? Where did the billion of leva from these exports go?"

    Dr. Zhelev's questions have remained unanswered as yet, the press release also says.


    The ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and the Bulgarian Anti- Fascist Union today held in Sofia a rally and concert marking the 52nd anniversary of the September 9 anti-fascist uprising. The rally was attended by BSP leader, Prime Minister Zhan Videnov and MPs of the Democratic Left.

    "National consensus should be based on consensus on this country's historical past," said BSP deputy leader Georgi Purvanov. According to the leader of Sofia Socialists Nikola Koichev, the events on September 9, 1944, put into practice the slogan of Social Democrats, "Freedom, Solidarity, Equality".

    Rallies and processions were held in bigger cities nationwide. The anniversary was marked by anti-fascist journalists.

    The Unification National Committee protested against the celebrations, calling September 9 "a bloody day of national destruction".

    The September 9 uprising toppled the monarchist government in Bulgaria, and later on led to the formation of a Communist party government.

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