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Bulgarian Telegraph Agency (BTA), 96-11-14
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From: Embassy of Bulgaria <email@example.com>
EMBASSY OF BULGARIA - WASHINGTON D.C.
BTA - BULGARIAN TELEGRAPH AGENCY
14 November, 1996
 PRESIDENT ZHELEV OPENS CONSULTATIONS ON I.M.F.- PROPOSED CURRENCY BOARDSofia, November 13 (BTA) - President Zhelyu Zhelev today began consultations with representatives of Bulgaria's financial and political community in connection with the proposal of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for introduction of a currency board in this country. He conferred with Nikola Koichev, Chairman of the National Assembly Economic Committee, Kiril Zhelev, Chairman of the National Assembly Budgetary and Finance Committee, Finance Minister Dimiter Kostov and the Governing Board of the National Bank of Bulgaria (BNB).
The proposal for introduction of a currency board in Bulgaria in connection with its severe economic and financial crisis came from the Deputy Director of the IMF European I Department Michael Deppler during his 10-day visit here. Mr Deppler said a currency board was the best option for Bulgaria's way out of the economic crisis. He stressed that Bulgaria has full discretion to decide on the implementation of the measure which is only possible if full political consensus on it is reached. Mr Deppler left the country yesterday without receiving a definite answer to his proposal.
After a plenum held earlier this week, the ruling Left determined that the IMF proposal is constructive and useful for this country. "This option for achievement of macroeconomic and financial stabilization through introduction of a currency board stands far better chances of success than all other options," Finance Minister Dimiter Kostov said after seeing President Zhelev. Mr Kostov noted that before a final decision is made, a detailed balance sheet of the central bank has to be prepared and the technical parameters of the currency board must be specified. The Government and the BNB will probably be able to finish the preparatory work by the end of this year, he said.
"The currency board is a necessary but not the only measure for Bulgaria," Kiril Zhelev, adviser to the President, said. He fears, however, that before the country "ripens" for this measure the conditions for introduction of such a board may disappear. He described the opposition's reluctance to engage in a constructive dialogue on achievement of national consensus on this issue as "dangerous and harmful for an early extrication of the country from the crisis."
"Before a final 'yes' or 'no' answer is given it is necessary to see specific figures, arguments and a way in which this board will become a success," said Mouravei Radev MP of the opposition Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) and Deputy Chairman of the parliamentary Finance and Budgetary Committee. He argued that the Left, while claiming there is no alternative to the currency board, has not provided any information to this effect. German experts told UDF Deputy Chairman Alexander Bozhkov that with this Government in Bulgaria, the introduction of a currency board is the only solution. Mr Bozhkov is visiting the G-7 countries to sound them out about the IMF proposal.
In a letter to President Zhelev, National Assembly Chairman Blagovest Sendov and Prime Minister Zhan Videnov, which appeared in Sofia's newspapers today, the BNB Governing Board observes that the approach adopted by the IMF to impose the currency board option without an alternative is unsuitable. The BNB doubts the possibility of a successful implementation of the measure because of the condition that the final decision be made by political consensus.
"Both Left and Right want to make a scapegoat of the BNB," BNB Governor Lyubomir Filipov said, emerging from his meeting with the President. He criticized all governments which have been in office over the last few years for having "tried to outdo each other in violating the BNB Act and in forcing the central bank to relax fiscal policy."
"We have not said 'no' to the currency board proposal but want to weigh all pros and cons of this option," Mr Filipov said. All nine members of the central bank's Governing Board were present at the meeting with the President.
"The decision to introduce a currency board in Bulgaria may have grave consequences for this country and must be handled responsibly," the President's Advisor for Legislative Affairs Verzhinia Velcheva told reporters today. "The presidency is the only institution with a clear future and will therefore assume its responsibility," she added. He said that President Zhelev will announce his final stand regarding the introduction of a currency board only after a complete picture on the problem emerges. Dr Zhelev is scheduled to meet tomorrow with representatives of the Association of Commercial Banks, with former BNB Governor Todor Vulchev and the presidents of several commercial banks.
 U.D.F.: PARLIAMENT WILL SOON OKAY BULGARIA'S BID FOR NATOSofia, November 13 (BTA) - "The parliamentary group of the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF, the largest opposition force in the National Assembly) will keep moving for the inclusion in the agenda a draft resolution ordering the Council of Ministers to take the necessary steps and express clearly Bulgaria's desire for full membership in NATO," UDF floor leader Yordan Sokolov told a news conference in Parliament today after the majority defeated the UDF motion to put the draft resolution to the vote. "I am convinced that the incumbent Parliament (in which the Left commands a majority) will soon okay the resolution," he said.
The UDF was encouraged to renew its motion by the victory of Peter Stoyanov of the United Democratic Forces coalition in the presidential elections held earlier this month. Sokolov described the elections as a kind of an informal referendum on joining NATO because Stoyanov is known to be a strong advocate of Bulgaria's full membership in the Alliance.
"There is yet another reason for today's motion of the UDF: the session of the North Atlantic Assembly due to be held in Paris on November 17 which will discuss NATO's enlargement," Assen Agov, Deputy Chairman of the parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee, said at the news conference. At the beginning of December the NATO ministers of defence and of foreign affairs will discuss the countries which would be invited to join NATO first.
"It will be much cheaper for Bulgaria to become part of NATO's defence system instead of remaining alone in the Balkans if its neighbours follow the lead of Greece and Turkey and join NATO," Agov said.
At the end of 1993 the National Assembly officialy declared that Bulgaria would use the opportunities for cooperation with the European and Euro-Atlantic structures, NATO included, with a view to acceding to them if they are expanded, and with due consideration of the country's national interests. Bulgaria joined NATO's Partnership for Peace initiative in February 1994 and since then has taken part in a number of exercises held jointly with the other Partner countries and members of NATO both in Bulgaria and abroad.
Bulgaria broadens cooperation with the PFP partners on multilateral and bilateral basis in military technology, military science, military medicine the training of personnel, information services, etc. The country is also interested in joint military production and in know-how developed according to NATO's standards.
In early April 1996 the Government sent a "Document of the Republic of Bulgaria on Consideration of Enhanced Dialogue with NATO in the Study on the Enlargement of the Alliance" to Brussels. Assessing the Sofia visit of NATO Secretary General Javier Solana in May this year, Prime Minister Videnov said it was "an extremely important step in our enhanced dialogue in the study on the enlargement of the Alliance".
 FOREIGN MINISTER PIRINSKI RESIGNSSofia, November 13 (BTA) - At noon today Bulgarian Minister of Foreign Affairs Georgi Pirinski handed in his resignation, reasoning his decision with the insufficient confidence that the Government of the Socialist Party receives from the public. Pirinski's resignation was accepted by Prime Minister Zhan Videnov. "I do not believe the Council of Ministers has the necessary minimum of public confidence. For that reason I find it impossible to stay in it," Pirinski told reporters later in the day.
Georgi Pirinski (48) is in the Cabinet since it was formed in January 1995 after the Socialists gained an overwhelming victory at the parliamentary elections two months earlier. Pirinski, who is viewed as one of the reformists in the Socialist party, is resigning a day after a plenum of the Socialist Party gave support to Prime Minister Zhan Videnov and his policy. The result of the confidence vote was 87 for and 69 against Videnov and according to Pirinski it does not ensure sufficient support to the Government. Although the Prime Minister believed the results will ensure him sufficient support, Pirinski is not of the same opinion, he said.
Pirinski also said that Bulgaria now has to solve problems of exceptional importance, the most serious ones being related to the avoidance of a financial collapse. "Given the support it had so far, the Government cannot come up with sufficiently convincing solutions," Pirinski said, reasoning his decision to resign. "Public confidence is essential but it is lacking now," Pirinski told a news conference. He repeated his words at the plenum that he would not evade his responsibilities as a hitherto acting member of the Government, but that personally he finds it impossible to stay there.
Answering a question at a news conference today, Pirinski emphasized that the decision to resign is personal and has not been taken under the pressure of his fellow-Socialists of the reformist Union for Social Democracy frction in the BSP.
He intends to return to the National Assembly and work actively, preparing the extraordinary congress of the Socialist Party due on December 21 and 22. According to Pirinski it is important for the Socialist Party to retain its parliamentary majority.
Pirinski also said that he does not view as necessary amending the programme of the Socialist Party, however its objectives should be updated and particularized, especially the short-term ones. "The most important processes in store for the Socialist party are related to the drafting of a comprehensive programme for economic and financial stabilization, one that would be supported at a national level," Pirinski said.
After a talk with Prime Minister Zhan Videnov, Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski submitted his resignation in writing, the Council of Ministers' Press Office said. The news release says: "At a meeting with National Assembly Chairman Blagovest Sendov, PM Zhan Videnov said that a new candidate for the position will be suggested by the end of the next month. Until that time a deputy foreign minister under the personal supervision of the Prime Minister will be appointed to act as Foreign Minister."
 REACTIONS TO MINISTER PIRINSKI'S RESIGNATIONSofia, November 13 (BTA) - Opposition MPs described today's resignation of Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski as a praiseworthy act.
"Pirinski's resignation is a manly act," said Ivan Kostov, leader of the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF, the largest opposition coalition). Kostov is not surprised by Pirinski's resignation because he believes Pirinski has failed to fulfil his pledge to gear Bulgaria's foreign policy to the needs of the economy.
Kostov did not commit himself to predictions if other ministers would follow Pirinski's lead. Describing Pirinski as a very popular figure in the Socialist Party, Kostov said in an interview on national radio that with the resignation of his Foreign Minister, Prime Minister Zhan Videnov was in for more problems. "The opposition can definitely provoke the toppling of another minister from Zhan Videnov's cabinet," Kostov told BTA. He said that very soon the behaviour of a cabinet member would be under discussion for "gross violations of the law and corruption". He refused to identify the minister by name but said he was in the economic team of the cabinet.
Anastassia Moser, Co-Chairperson of another opposition force, the Popular Union, also described the Foreign Minister's resignation as a cougageous act and said she would hail similar steps by other ministers in the cabinet of the Left whose policy proved a failure.
Sashka Karakasheva, MP of the Left, is not surprised by what Pirinski did despite his statement at the Socialists' plenum on Monday and Tuesday that he would not resign as Foreign Minister. In her words, the confidence vote Prime Minister Zhan Videnov got makes Pirinski's act a perfectly logical one because he was one of the persons insisting on Videnov's resignation.
"Pirinski's resignation is a logical consequence of the positions he has defended," said Georgi Purvanov of the Socialists' top leadership.
"Obviously a new majority is formed in Parliament and the Government," MP Georgi Dilkov of the Bulgarian Business Bloc (BBB) stated. He is convinced that other ministers, probably except those in the economic team, will resign too. BBB leader George Ganchev criticized Pirinski's performance as Foreign Minister in an interview on national radio. "Never take office as foreign minister again," was Ganchev's advice to Pirinski.
Invited to comment on the Foreign Minister's resignation, President's Spokesman Valentin Stoyanov said this was within the competence of the cabinet; however, in his personal view, Pirinski's resignation is an act of political dignity.
 CHINESE DELEGATION ENDS VISITSofia, November 13 (BTA) - Nearing the end of its three-day visit, the Chinese government delegation headed by Li Lanqing, Vice Premier of the State Council of China, had a meeting with Prime Minister Zhan Videnov. The sides exchanged opinions on a wide range of problems concerning Bulgarian-Chinese relations and assessed bilateral high-level contacts in the past year in very positive terms. They considered the possibility of intensifying the talks on the liberalization of trade relations, through the establishment of free trade areas and joint entry in third markets.
All the meetings which the Chinese delegation had during its three- day visit focussed on the possibilities to broaden economic and trade cooperation. The Chinese officials proposed cooperation in ten areas: the production of small tractors, bicycles, ready-to-wear, sports shoes, toys, household appliances, TV sets, pharmaceutics, cosmetics and telecommunications. An agreement on the export of 150,000 t of urea worth 30 million US dollars from Bulgaria to China was signed during the visit. Talks were held on the import of Chinese coal.
Earlier today the Chinese delegation visited Sofia's University St Kliment Ohridski and donated a language laboratory to the Centre for Oriental Studies.
 U.P.U. (UNIVERSAL POSTAL UNION) DIRECTOR VISITSSofia, November 13 (BTA) - "I am strongly impressed with the plans for development of postal services in Bulgaria which the President of the Committee of Posts and Telecommunications Lyubomir Kolarov, his deputy Oleg Zlatarski and the President of Bulgarian Posts Ltd. Yanko Radenkov presented to me today," the Director-General of the International Bureau of the Universal Postal Union (UPU) Thomas Leavey told reporters today. He arrived on a visit here yesterday at the invitation of Mr Kolarov and today conferred with the leadership of the Committee and the management of Bulgarian Posts.
Mr Leavey stressed that he has undertaken to assist as best as he can for the completion of the projects to build an International Sorting Office at Sofia's Central Station and to automate the country's post offices. Despite the difficulties, the International Sorting Office is scheduled for completion in the autumn of 1997, Mr Kolarov said.
Bulgaria joined the Universal Postal Union in 1879. At the latest 21st Universal Postal Congress in Seoul in 1994, this country was elected member of the Executive Council and deputy chairman of the Seoul Postal Strategy Commission.
 U.S. MANUFACTURERS OFFER WOODEN HOUSES IN BULGARIASofia, November 13 (BTA) - The opportunities for joint production of wooden panels and construction of wooden houses were discussed at a two-day seminar that is being held in Sofia with participants from Bulgaria and the United States. The seminar is financed by the US Department of Agriculture.
The wooden houses are cheap, resistant to unfavourable climatic conditions and energy saving, said Gary Grossman of the Forest Homes US company. He said it takes 70 to 90 days to built a wooden family house, depending on its size and design.
Experts say though that the USD 400-450/sq m price makes the houses unmarketable in Bulgaria, even though the price includes all furniture. One possibility is to start domestic production under US licence. The US businessmen believe, though, that money is not the chief barrier. They say Bulgarians are prejudiced toward wooden houses and prefer living in solid ones. As much as 44% of Americans live in wooden houses.
 OPPOSITION DRAFTS AGREEMENT FOR PROVOKING EARLY PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONSSofia, November 13 (BTA) - The united opposition in Bulgaria, whose presidential candidate Peter Stoyanov decisively won the presidential elections in early November, is drafting an agreement for provoking early parliamentary elections. This will be the second agreement between the three parliamentary opposition forces, the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), the Popular Union coalition and the ethnic Turks' Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), after they agreed in the spring to support a single presidential candidate.
At a meeting today the leaders of the three forces decided to work out a draft agreement for provoking and preparing possible early parliamentary elections, UDF leader Ivan Kostov said.
The opposition will move a vote of no confidence in the Government, but this should be done "at the right moment", Co-Chair of the Popular Union Stefan Savov said. He and the other co-chair of the coalition Anastassia Moser would not commit themselves to concrete terms and dates. After their meeting yesterday the UDF leaders would not specify any dates either, but they have been mandated to negotiate with all parliamentary groups and individual MPs on an early dissolution of the National Assembly.
The opposition leaders are ready for dialogue with anyone who wishes; there is no problem for us to meet and negotiate also with the 19 prominent members of the ruling Socialist Party who pledge for the formation of new government of the Left, Mrs Moser said.
According to the opposition leaders, an important prerequisite for the concrete moves of the opposition towards provoking early parliamentary elections, is also the official inauguration of President- elect Peter Stoyanov.
 PODKREPA TRADE UNION URGES PRESIDENT ZHELEV TO STEP DOWN EARLYSofia, November 13 (BTA) - The Podkrepa Confederation of Labour, one of the two influential trade union amalgamations in Bulgaria, called on today to President Zhelyu Zhelev to step down before his term has expired which drew strong response from the President's office. Under the Constitution Zhelev should step down on January 22 1997. Podkrepa believes that it will be harmful for the democratic processes in Bulgaria to wait until the inauguration of President-elect Peter Stoyanov on January 22. According to the confederation, the united democratic forces want to start to work actively for provoking early parliamentary elections only after the inauguration of the new president. The leaders of the opposition, who took a course for early parliamentary elections, already made statements that they would like Peter Stoyanov to form the caretaker government which, under the Bulgarian Constitution, must be appointed in case Parliament is dissolved and a date is fixed for parliamentary elections.
Presidential Spokesman Valentin Stoyanov said that the suggestion of Podkrepa is doing a favour to the ruling Socialist Party. According to Stoyanov, the Bulgarian Constitution exactly specifies the way in which a caretaker government is appointed. He also said that he personally doubts that anyone is making preparations to form a caretaker government.
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