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Bulgarian Telegraph Agency (BTA), 97-01-31

Bulgarian Telegraph Agency Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

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


EMBASSY OF BULGARIA - WASHINGTON D.C.

BTA - BULGARIAN TELEGRAPH AGENCY

31 January, 1997


CONTENTS

  • [01] PRESIDENT STOYANOV MEETINGS IN BRUSSELS
  • [02] LEFT COALITION INVITES OTHER PARLIAMENTARY FORCES TO TALKS
  • [03] "BULGARIA MUST DECIDE BY APRIL ON NATO MEMBERSHIP"
  • [04] NATO ENLARGEMENT WILL START IN 1999, SOLANA SAYS
  • [05] BORDER CONTROLS TIGHTENED, CUSTOMS SEIZE SMUGGLED GOLD, CDS
  • [06] BULGARIA JOINS EUROCONTROL
  • [07] MLN IBRD CREDIT AGREEMENTRETIFIED
  • [08] BULGARIA - FREEDOM OF SPEECH
  • [09] PROGARAM ON PROBLEMS OF ROMA
  • [10] CULTURAL MATERIALS AGREEMENT
  • [11] ARMY TO STAY OUTSIDE POLITICS
  • [12] BULGARIA ON THE THRESHOLD OF HYPERINFLATION, ECONOMISTS SAY
  • [13] MULTIGROUP SUPPORTS PRESIDENT STOYANOV
  • [14] ECONOMIC CRISIS ALL-PERVASIVE, INCLUDES FOREIGN TRADE
  • [15] STRIKE ACTIONS CONTINUE NATIONWIDE

  • [01] PRESIDENT STOYANOV MEETINGS IN BRUSSELS

    Brussels, January 30 (BTA Corr.) - The European Union will provide balance of payments support for Bulgaria if the main political forces reach political agreement on a government, on early parliamentary elections and the country starts talks in earnest with the IMF, EU External Relations Commissioner Hans van den Broek stressed to reporters in Brussels Thursday.

    At the European Commission headquarters, President Stoyanov met with the President of the European Commission Jacques Santer. The EU sympathizes with Bulgaria and believes the crisis in the country must be overcome, Mr Santer observed. He recalled the 20 MECU released under the PHARE Programme for social programmes and said that possibilities are considered to accelerate processes of the PHARE framework and to support the balance of payments. The EU and the IMF will also conduct a study into the Bulgarian crisis, Mr Santer said.

    "All political moves in Bulgaria must take into account the economic situation and seek containment of hyperinflation and stabilization of the finances, President Stoyanov told reporters. He singled out "solidarity" as the key word used by both Mr Santer and Mr Van den Broek. Bulgarian society needs courage and encouragement of fast and radical reforms, Mr Stoyanov noted. He believes that the negotiations on full EU membership must be held simultaneously with all applicant countries but, as he put it, with the current crisis it is clear that Bulgaria cannot be in the first group. The Bulgarian head of state assured his hosts that a consensus will be reached in Bulgaria so as to launch a radical structural reform and to implement a crisis-management programme. The Bulgarian President invited Mr Santer to visit Bulgaria. Mr Santer said that he will do so at his earliest opportunity.

    Before his meetings at the European Commission, the Bulgarian President had a 30-minute audience with King Albert II of Belgium at the Royal Palace, the President's Press Office said. Peter Stoyanov also conferred with Ambassador Jose Cutileiro, Secretary General of the Western European Union (WEU).

    "My visit demonstrated the Bulgarian people's desire for radical changes and European integration," Mr Stoyanov told reporters. He attaches importance to the fact that Bulgaria's problems are followed by the capital of united Europe. At the Bulgarian Embassy in Brussels, Stoyanov met with representatives of the Bulgarian community in Belgium, including students and researchers.

    "In Brussels I sought understanding and assistance for Bulgaria in its present situation," President Stoyanov told a news conference at the Mission of Bulgaria to the EU Thursday afternoon. The Bulgarian head of state has asked President Santer and Commissioner Van den Broek for financial assistance to be provided before reaching agreement with the financial institutions. "Of course, I did not expect an instant decision on my request. It is subject to consideration," President Stoyanov stressed.

    The Bulgarian President's official visit to Brussels will end after a meeting with Belgian Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene. A dinner with senior local business executives is also on the schedule. Mr Stoyanov leaves for Bulgaria Friday morning.

    [02] LEFT COALITION INVITES OTHER PARLIAMENTARY FORCES TO TALKS

    Sofia, January 30 (BTA) - Leader of the Parliamentary Group of the Democratic Left Georgi Purvanov on Thursday invited in writing the parliamentary political forces for talks on the type, the tasks and the term of operation of the new Cabinet, a news conference was told on Thursday. He said that his parliamentary group will observe the seven day term under the Constitution to form a new Government. We are not hurrying to announce its line-up because we still hold on to the dialogue with the parliamentary formations, Purvanov said. I am certain that I will not be disproved and the new Cabinet will be supported by 121 votes of the Left parliamentary group, Georgi Purvanov said. I would bet that if the other parliamentary groups take part in the vote and no pressure is exercised on their representatives, the Cabinet will be backed by at least 130 votes, he added.

    As a leader of the BSP and of the Left parliamentary group Georgi Purvanov, at least for now, sees no other way out of the political crisis, but realization of the mandate of the Left for forming a new cabinet headed by Nikolai Dobrev.

    The Left is taking an important step, placing on the agenda of the National Assembly the problem of certain urgent measures for the state budget until the key laws are adopted, he pointed out. We believe that by the end of next week, after the Government is formed, the parliamentary groups will return to the plenary hall so that we could raise some other issues. The Left is ready to come up with its draft anti-crisis programme and discuss the problem tabled by the opposition concerning the management of the central bank, Purvanov said. We shall seek to establish a new style of relationship with all financial and economic conglomerates and an approach on a clear and principled basis, Purvanov said, answering a question.

    [03] "BULGARIA MUST DECIDE BY APRIL ON NATO MEMBERSHIP"

    Sofia, January 30 (BTA) - Dr Solomon Passy, President of The Atlantic Club of Bulgaria, believes that Bulgaria must clearly state its position on NATO membership by April.

    "Bulgaria has not quite missed its chance. We still have the opportunity to catch the last train, even though it is already pulling out," Dr Passy said on National Television Wednesday night. At the same time, he agreed that this is a difficult task because very little time remains until the moment when the NATO member states will decide not only which will be the first new members, but also which will be " on the second train." "If we miss those three months, from today until the end of April, we will miss the chance for a long time ahead," Solomon Passy said.

    As he put it, the next Bulgarian government has two urgent tasks: the introduction of a currency board and Bulgaria's entry in NATO. "Indeed, we have no time to waste, and what the next cabinet can do is to manage and make up for the losses we have suffered over the last two years," said Dr Passy, who was elected Vice President of the Atlantic Treaty Association (ATA) in Rome in November 1996.

    [04] NATO ENLARGEMENT WILL START IN 1999, SOLANA SAYS

    Strasbourg, January 30 (BTA Special Correspondent) - One or more countries will be invited to NATO's summit in Madrid in July this year to negotiate their accession to the organisation. This will be done as part of the larger process of European integration. The country (countries) will be named concretely and we expect them to join NATO in 1999, NATO Secretary General Javier Solana said. Mr Solana was in Strasbourg at the invitation of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly. This is the first visit of a NATO chief since the establishment of this organisation and of the Council of Europe.

    The upcoming NATO expansion is not targeted against anyone and is not seeking to isolate Russia, Solana emphasized. In his view no security can be built on the continent without this largest European country. We want to sign an agreement for firm partnership with Russia and build a permanent mechanism of holding consultations with it, he said.

    After his address Solana was asked a number of questions from MPs to the Parliamentary Assembly. Vassil Gotsev of the Bulgarian opposition UDF asked if, after holding parliamentary elections Bulgaria clearly states willingness for NATO membership, this country will receive equal treatment with the other applicant states. Filip Bokov of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) asked what membership prospects remain for the states which will not be invited to join NATO in Madrid.

    In response to the two questions, Javier Solana said that on Wednesday he had a long talk with Bulgarian President Stoyanov which had left him with the impression that the majority of the Bulgarian people may support their country's application for NATO membership. I cannot, however, tell you when this could happen nor can I say now which countries will be invited in Madrid, Solana said.

    In other answers he said that new NATO members will be given the same security guarantees as the current members and that no nuclear weapons will be deployed on their territory. With regards to the other Eastern European states and the former Soviet Union, NATO will realize more extensively its Partnership for Peace programme.

    [05] BORDER CONTROLS TIGHTENED, CUSTOMS SEIZE SMUGGLED GOLD, CDS

    Sofia, January 30 (BTA) - Customs controls at the Bulgarian border crossings have been tightened on orders of the General Customs Directorate. Additional measures were taken on Monday and will remain in force until further notice. One hundred and six customs officers have been detailed to the border checkpoints from the inland posts, and will be rotated. Turkish, Greek and Bulgarian natinals are trying to smuggle goods out of Bulgaria on a massive scale, the Customs Directorate said. With the current galloping inflation, goods cost extremely cheap to foreigners, and they make enormous profits if they manage to take them abroad for resale.

    Customs officers inspecting the Sofia-Moscow train at Rousse on the Danube, Thursday morning discovered 36,000 CDs, the local BTA correspondent reports. The disks were hidden in the ceiling of a compartment. Neither the train crew nor the passengers knew anything about the goods. An investigation against an unidentified perpetrator has been ordered, and the CDs have been seized.

    Bulgarian customs officers intercepted 2.5 kg of gold jewelry at the Kapitan Andreevo checkpoint on the Bulgarian-Turkish border Wednesday, the Customs Directorate said Thursday. Dozens of rings, bracelets, chains and other gold objects were retrieved from a dirty blanket spread under the feet of the driver of a Nissan jeep, driven by two Turkish citisens. The valuables were seized in accordance with the law.

    A Greek national, was caught Wednesday in an attempt to smuggle 10,800 US dollars out of the country at the Koulata crossing with Greece.

    Also on Wednesday, the Sofia-based Gaby Company tried to smuggle 7,000 carnations into Bulgaria. Dealers working for that company hid the flowers in a minibus by which they were returning from Turkey. Dealers in Sofia say a carnation now costs around 1 US dollar.

    On Wednesday evening, customs officers at the Kalotina checkpoint on the border with Serbia found 3,000 CDs worth over 4.5 million leva concealed in a secret compartment on board a Ikarus bus owned by a Czech citizen. The disks were seized and a written statement drawn up. Hours earlier, also at Kalotina, another illicit consignment of 675 CDs was stopped. They were hidden in the ceiling and beneath the flooring in the corridor of the Sofia- Budapest train.

    [06] BULGARIA JOINS EUROCONTROL

    Sofia, January 30 (BTA) - Parliament adopted an act ratifying Bulgaria's accession to the European Organization for the Safety of Air Navigation (EUROCONTROL) and the multilateral agreement on fares. Bulgaria's accession to EUROCONTROL was one of the conditions of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to extend a loan for the improvement of air traffic control systems, the parliamentary Budgetary Committee said in its reasoning. The membership will be to the country's advantage in resolving regional problems of controlling and servicing flights, the Budgetary Committee said. Bulgaria will have the opportunity to take part in planning the strategy of the organization and its decision-making.

    [07] MLN IBRD CREDIT AGREEMENTRETIFIED

    Sofia, January 30 (BTA) - Bulgaria will receive a loan of USD 24.3 million from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development after the National Assembly ratified a credit agreement to this end on Thursday. The funds will be used to finance the reform in social security, more precisely, the project for administrative management of social security. The total cost of the project amounts to USD 33.5 million, of which the Bulgarian government will provide USD 9.2 million. The credit agreement was signed on December 16, 1996 in Washington D.C. The loan is to be repaid in 20 years, with five-year grace period, under the bank standard floating rate.

    The project is to be completed for four years, and will be managed by the National Insurance Institute (NII). The aim is to create a NII information system which will improve collection of contributions and strengthen control. The information system will also improve the quality and shorten the time limits for social security payments, e.g. pensions and welfare benefits. It will be possible to use the information system for both medical insurance and unemployment benefits. Funds have been allocated to improve the finances of the Social Security Fund.

    [08] BULGARIA - FREEDOM OF SPEECH

    Sofia, January 30 (BTA) - The Council of Europe (CE) is studying reports that freedom of speech in Bulgaria is encroached upon, Bulgarian National Television (BNT) said late Wednesday night. The CE has opened a new procedure, monitoring Bulgaria among other countries, to see how they are fulfilling the commitments assumed when joining the organisation. On Wednesday the two standing CE rapporteurs on Bulgaria asked for a postponement of the discussion on this country,in order to get acquainted with the latest developments. One of their concerns was the respect for the freedom of the press, radio and television, because of reports that government officials and members of the parliamentary Committee on Radio, Television and BTA are interfering in their work. If proven, the penalty for such encroachments may be a refusal to recognize the vote of the parliamentary delegation of the country at fault and can go as far as freezing its membership in the CE, the BNT said.

    [09] PROGARAM ON PROBLEMS OF ROMA

    Sofia, January 30 (BTA) - The Council of Ministers adopted a program on resolving the problems of Roma. The program envisages measures to improve the social protection of the Roma population and to increase its chances of finding employment, creating conditions to satisfy gradually the housing needs of the Roma, carrying out an active policy aimed at protecting their health, land allocation for landless and small owners and providing training and education for children of Roma origin.

    [10] CULTURAL MATERIALS AGREEMENT

    Sofia, January 30 (BTA) - The Bulgarian Parliament ratified the Agreement on the importation of educational, scientific and cultural materials (it entered into force in 1952) and the 1976 Protocol to it. The agreement, signed by 85 countries, aims to ensure the free movement of ideas and knowledge. Under it, five groups of materials are exempt from customs duties and charges under certain conditions: books, publications and documents; objects of art and collector's items for educational, scientific and cultural purposes; audio-visual educational, scientific and cultural materials; scientific instruments and equipment; objects designed for blind people. The contracting parties commit to simplify administrative formalities for the import of such materials. The agreement also contains guarantees aginst copyright or intellectual property infringements; the exempted materials are not to be used for promotional or commercial purposes.

    [11] ARMY TO STAY OUTSIDE POLITICS

    Sofia, January 30 (BTA) - "I am convinced that the Bulgarian Army will remain uninvolved in the political confrontation in Bulgaria," outgoing Defence Minister Dimiter Pavlov told a news briefing Thursday. Under the Defence and Armed Forces Act, the Bulgarian Army may not be used for any domestic political tasks, Mr Pavlov recalled. The Defence Ministry and the General Staff will strictly abide by the provisions of the law, he assured his audience. The outgoing Cabinet and the Ministry of Defence have not considered any options of involving military units or military-transport structures in possible anti-strike actions, Mr Pavlov said, answering a reporter's question.

    On Thursday, the outgoing Government decreed that the pay of military professionals be brought into line with the level envisaged by the Defence and Armed Forces Act, Mr Pavlov said. The same applies to paramilitary forces and to Interior Ministry personnel, whose pay is regulated by the Ministry of the Interior Act, he added. Mr Pavlov declared that the pay raise is unrelated to the political situation in Bulgaria and anticipates the passage of the 1997 National Budget Act.

    Under the decree, a commissioned officer's wage will start from the double amount of the average gross monthly wage in the pubilc sector as reported by the National Statistical Institute. Noncommissioned officers will receive at least 1.3 such average wages, volunteer soldiers 1 such wage, and conscript privates 0.1 such wage, Mr Pavlov said.

    A separate statutory instrument will be issued for cost-of-living adjustment of the wages of civilian employees. The basic wage will be updated on a quartly basis, and the amount will be kept in line with the state-financed sphere, Mr Pavlov added.

    [12] BULGARIA ON THE THRESHOLD OF HYPERINFLATION, ECONOMISTS SAY

    Sofia, January 30 (Evgenia Droumeva of BTA) - Bulgaria faces hyperinflation. Wednesday the Central bank set the exchange rate at 1,021.9 leva for US dollar 1, which was 203 leva higher from the previous day. Many of the prices in the shops have been named in US dollars. Economists and politicians are unanimous that a major reason for the galloping inflation is political. The political crisis has been going on for a month now. According to economists, financial stabilization can be achieved only if a stable government is promptly formed to continue the negotiations with IMF on external funding.

    Todor Vulchev, former governor of the National Bank of Bulgaria (BNB), recalls that in late 1996 depositors withdrew 16,000 million leva from SSB within a week. According to him, supposedly the whole amount withdrawn was used to buy dollars, an estimated total of 10 million. Ten million dollars is not a big sum, but given the overall instability on the cash market this could help the US dollar soar even higher, Vulchev says.

    In his view the first brekthrough to be made is in politics and not the economy itself. According to the ex-governor of BNB, the next government should enjoy more confidence. This government should clearly and categorically state what policy it plans to pursue. It should pledge to embark on the road of structural reforms, prompt privatization, the revenues from which it should use to stabilize the currency market, said Vulchev. Until then, however, further development of inflation and fall of the lev could be expected, he added.

    [13] MULTIGROUP SUPPORTS PRESIDENT STOYANOV

    Sofia, January 30 (BTA) - The deepening economic crisis in Bulgaria started to acquire the scale of national catastrophe, said the Managing Board of Multigroup, one of Bulgaria's biggest economic conglomerates, in an official statement publicized in the press. The economic collapse and chaos in the financial sector was further aggravated by the clash between the major political forces in the country, the document says. Multigroup are supportive of the anti- crisis formula proposed by Bulgarian new President Peter Stoyanov. President Stoyanov urged for early general elections and urgent adoption of an anti-crisis programme and relevant laws including one on the introduction of a currency board. Multigroup believes a national consensus is the only way to reduce the mounting tension. It says it has no plans to politicize itself nor aspires to political power in any form, but it will back a government and politicians seeking to provide conditions for securing the democratic changes and for actual transition to a market economy. At the same time Multigroup says it opposes the incumbents, whose actions are harmful for business in Bulgaria.

    [14] ECONOMIC CRISIS ALL-PERVASIVE, INCLUDES FOREIGN TRADE

    Sofia, January 30 (BTA) - Production drop is observed in all sectors of the Bulgarian economy, which makes the economic crisis all- pervasive, Chairman of the National Statistical Institute (NSI) Zahari Karamfilov told a news conference on Thursday.

    According to NSI figures the 1996 drop reached 1.1 per cent in industry, 13.1 per cent in agriculture, 13 per cent in transport, 20 per cent in construction, 9.3 per cent in home trade. Real economy showed a decline of some 6 per cent against 1995. The public sector is expected to register production fall of 5.9 per cent and the private sector - between 5 and 6 per cent. Interim figures show the 1996 GDP at 1,700 million leva in current prices, which is some 8-19 per cent less against the previous year at comparable prices.

    The national economy employs 3.3 million and 42 per cent of them work for private companies. The private sector accounts for 35 per cent of the overall production.

    The negative tendencies in production have affected also the foreign trade contacts. Import keeps growing while export is on the decline. According to NSI figures Bulgaria's foreign trade added up to 8,000 million US dollars by November, 1996 which is 26 per cent down from the entire 1995. Bulgaria's trade is liveliest with the countries of the OECD (48 per cent), followed by the European Union (39 per cent) and its traditional partners in Central and Eastern Europe which account for 33 per cent of the country's total foreign trade. According to statistics, import from the Arab states has been on the decline while the markets for Bulgarian goods in the Middle East have been retained. Bulgaria's key trade partners last year continued to be Russia, Germany, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Ukraine.

    [15] STRIKE ACTIONS CONTINUE NATIONWIDE

    Sofia, January 30 (BTA) - More than 230,000 people went on indefinite or one-hour strike Thursday. According to the joint trade unions' headquarters, overall almost two million people have taken part in some sort of protest actions.

    The Sofia-Kulata international motorway has been blocked for a second day now. Sofia public transport workers stopped for an hour on January 30 joining the national strike, which was announced by the trade unions on January 29. Miners of the St Anna and Shahta mines started their strike actions marching to the General Administration of Mines, the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB) said in a news letter. CITUB structures in many enterprises in the country have been joining the general strike. Public city workers in Plovdiv staged a strike between 7 and 9 a.m. Strikes are on in schools and kindergartens in the large cities. Physicians from all over the country have also launched striking and protest actions.

    Sofia, January 30 (BTA) - "Under the pressure of protests and the trade unions' general strike, the chances of forming a second Socialist government are receding," the leader of the main opposition Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) Ivan Kostov told the 24th protest rally which the United Democratic Forces held in front of the St Alexander Nevsky Memorial Cathedral Thursday. He said that the "would-be" ministers in a future cabinet of Nikolai Dobrev have declined the portfolios in a new Socialist government and that Dobrev himself already hesitates.

    In Sofia, students marched under the motto "We Have Been berrayed." For half an hour on Thursday, they blocked the Eagle's Bridge, where two of Sofia's major thoroughfares intersect. They were protesting the Socialists' rule and supporting the trade unions' general strike.

    United Democratic Forces supporters continued their nationwide rallies, marches and vigils to press demands for early general elections and against the formation of a new Socialist government.


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