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Bulgarian Telegraph Agency (BTA), 97-02-04
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From: Embassy of Bulgaria <email@example.com>
EMBASSY OF BULGARIA - WASHINGTON D.C.
BTA - BULGARIAN TELEGRAPH AGENCY
4 February, 1997
 FLASH: DOBREV RETURNS MANDATE. AGREEMENT ON EARLY ELECTIONS REACHED.The Embassy has learned that today, Feb. 4, N.Dobrev has returned the Leftís mandate to form a new government. According to Bulgarian television news, an agreement has been reached between the political forces in Bulgaria for general elections in April. President Stoyanov is to appoint a caretaker government in the meantime. We will have a confirmation and details tomorrow.
 LEFT APPROVES SECOND CABINET. PREMIER-DESIGNATE STANDS FOR COALITION GOVERNMENTSofia, February 3 (Iva Toncheva of BTA) - Following a threehour debate on Monday evening, the leadership of the ruling Democratic Left approved the line-up of the second cabinet named by prime minister-designate Nikolai Dobrev. The line-up was put to the vote en bloc. "To have a one-party cabinet is bad enough but anarchy is much worse," prime minister-designate Dobrev said at a news conference just before the results of the vote were announced.
Seven of the ministers in Dobrev's prospective cabinet would keep the posts they held in the Videnov cabinet, another three were deputy ministers in it. Three deputy prime-ministers were named: Georgi Pirinski (who would also keep the foreign affairs portfolio), Atanas Paparizov (who would remain minister of trade and foreign economic cooperation), and Nikola Koichev (now Left MP and Chairman of the Economic Committee, is to be concurrently minister of labour and social affairs). Five members of the former cabinet would keep their jobs: Dimiter Kostov of finance, Krustyo Trendafilov of agriculture, Roumen Ovcharov of energy, Ivan Marazov of culture, and Georgi Georgiev of the environment. General Lyuben Petrov (Ret.), Chairman of the parliamentary Committee on National Security and former chief of General Staff of the Army, is nominated to head the Ministry of Defence. Three incumbent deputy ministers are to take over from their chiefs: Lyuben Kornezov of justice, Svetla Toshkova of transport, and Lyuben Petrov of regional development and construction.
Although the Left approved the composition of the cabinet named by Dobrev and Parliament is expected to vote it on Wednesday, Dobrev himself still believes that the country needs a broad-based coalition government. "I still think that Bulgaria's problems are so complicated and the future we are in for so hard that the political forces must find a formula and form a cabinet which will show signs of stability and consensus both in the country and outside it," Nikolai Dobrev stressed speaking to journalists.
At his news conference Dobrev paid special attention to the nationwide wave of protests. "I say 'yes' to just protests, 'yes' to any protests staged within the framework of the law because this is a democratic practice and it should be encouraged... But civil disobedience is something lying outside the law," Dobrev pointed out. In his words, no country in a deep crisis could afford civil disobedience. "Civil disobedience is made use of by criminals, thieves and profiteers. And it is the organizers of the civil disobedience who bear responsibility for it," Dobrev said. "Let the protests be held in the forms allowed by the law," was the appeal which Dobrev made.
 OPPOSITION REFUSES OFFER TO TAKE PART IN A COALITION CABINETSofia, February 3 (BTA) - The negotiations which the Socialist Party proposed to hold with the parliamentary forces with the mediation of the President on signing an agreement on a coalition government did not take place. After meeting Monday noon, the united opposition council reiterated its firm refusal to take part in a coalition government with the Socialist Party.
According to the opposition, during the seven-day time limit which the prime minister-designate has to explore the opportunities for forming a government, the Left has no right to name a different candidate for the prime ministership and even less so relinquish this right in favour of another parliamentary group. The opposition leaders argue that Nikolai Dobrev should decline the mandate, and after that only the President will be competent to ask another political force. In conclusion the United Democratic Forces declared they refuse to play along with the "Socialist Party in its dubious backstage games for formation of a broad-based coalition government."
The opposition leaders also decided that the opposition will be the guarantor and assume political responsibility for all just and peaceful protests and manifestations of civil disobedience. The opposition called on protestors and law enforcers not to yield to provocations and to avoid violence. The opposition asserted in its decision that "the Bulgarian Socialist Party's statements and actions deliberately provoke an escalation of tensions in this country" by "expressing readiness to form a second socialist government while being aware that this might lead to violation of civil peace and to bloodshed." The opposition leaders called on each one of the Left majority MPs to vote against a second Socialist government.
 WE WANT TO FIGHT CRIME, NOT CIVILIANS, POLICE CHIEF SAYSSofia, February 3 (BTA) - We want to fight crime in Bulgaria and not civilians, National Police Director Gen. Hristo Marinski said in an address on Monday released by the national media at mid-day.
Gen. Marinski called upon President Peter Stoyanov, the political forces and state institutions to summon a sitting of the Consultative Council on National Security with public participation to provide preconditions for preserving public peace and preventing violence. "We want to make sure the crisis is not fought with the instruments of violence and lawlessness, but through civilized dialogue," said Gen. Marinski.
He said in the current situation of mass protests the Interior Ministry bodies are doing their best to carry out their legal obligation, ensure public order and prevent violent clashes. He warned the deployment of larger troops to ensure public peace is an impediment for the combat against crime and it has been on the rise recently. Speaking on behalf of the Interior Ministry, he called for the support of political forces, MPs, the prosecution, district governors, mayors and the organizers of the protests in making sure the protests do not go beyond the legal bounds. "We call upon all people in the country to prevent the use of violence that will make the situation difficult to handle. Do not place the Interior Ministry bodies between law and the civil protests. Police serves all and must not be used in pursuing political goals," said he.
 MEDICINES BECOME UNAFFORDABLESofia, February 3 (Eva Stefanova of BTA) - Hyperinflation and the large dependence of the drug market on imported materials and medicines actually made a large part of the Bulgarians unable to afford basic drugs. Chaos and inadequate decisions taken by the Health Ministry officials were the reason why hospitals ran out of money to buy medicines, says a declaration of the Union of Pharmaceutists in Bulgaria. Two month ago a ridiculous decision was taken to dismiss patients who do not need special hospital treatment and give them freely bandages and medicines for three days. For several month now the in-patients have to buy themselves the medicines and even the anesthetic drugs for their own operations.
The ordinance on free supply of medicines is totally inapplicable. The Medika municipally-owned company paid more than 3 million leva for the purchase of life-saving medicines. Medika provides free medicines to people suffering from cancer, epilepsy and mental diseases. The municipality has refunded only 850,000 leva and the company will stop performing this service. There are not enough life- saving and supporting medicines in the country's chemists. This affects mostly people suffering from cancer, diabetes, heart diseases and pregnant women. There is a shortage even of basic drugs. The price of aspirin, analgin and antipyretics is rising very day.
The Union of Pharmaceutists in Bulgaria (UPB) proposed to name the prices of the Bulgarian medicines in hard currency. According to the Union, the other possibility involves liberalizing of the drug prices. The UPB says that if either of these measures is not taken the pharmaceutical market will collapse, this will have fatal consequences for the population's health and the responsibility will rest with the Health Ministry.
According to an expert of the Drugs Wholesalers Associations, the medicines are expensive because there is no health insurance fund. The fund should be set up immediately, according to him. The Association and the UPB are unanimous that a health-care fund should be set up with the Health Ministry and revenues from the duties on imported medicines should be contributed to it.
 FAMINE THREATSofia, February 3 (BTA) - Hyperinflation has become a fact in Bulgaria. Prices are skyrocketing and some sources say in January alone inflation may go well beyond over 100%. Shop shelves are being emptied by a demand gone berserk and overstocking by retailers awaiting new price hikes. The commodity deficit is increasing. Prices are quoted in US dollars in spite of a legal ban. Demand at commodity exchanges is plunging because many retailers suffer huge losses and can no longer afford to buy the expensive goods.
Over the last two weeks government-monitored prices - foods and fuels - soared by the record high of 31.8%. The murderous hike of foreign exchange has also emptied pharmacies, said the Pharmacies Directorate. Thousands of grocery shops are closing down, while others sell only bread and milk. The longest lines are for bread in spite of the daily adjustments of its price. The situation is further aggravated by the depleting grain stocks after a bad year's harvest. Thefts of bread and other foods are frequent.
The so called "suitcase trade" is getting busier and semi-legal peddlers of consumer goods are waiting on long lines to cross the border into Serbia to cash in on retail price differentials. Clothes, household appliances furniture and the like stay long unsold and the longer they stay the more expensive they get, re-priced to the US dollar. Many people admit they survive only thanks to help of relatives in the countryside who have tinned food for the winter.
 HALF OF BULGARIANS SUPPORT CURRENCY BOARDSofia, February 3 (BTA) - One in two Bulgarians believe that the country should introduce a currency board to help achieve financial stabilization, according to a poll of BBSS Gallup International. In November, when the currency board mechanism was first proposed to Bulgaria, only 23% of the public were supportive.
The Gallup pollsters also found that 59.6% of Bulgarians describe the outgoing government of Prime Minister Zhan Videnov as the worst after the launch of democratic changes in 1989. The caretaker cabinet of prime minister Reneta Indjova that served for only three months in 1994 gets a 15.8% approval rating, the highest of all. Next on the governments list with 15.7% approval and 15.1% disapproval rating is that of the anti- Communist Union of Democratic Forces headed by Filip Dimitrov that served in 1991-92. The coalition government of independent Dimiter Popov that held office in 1991 gets 4.8% approval and 0.8% disapproval. The 1992-94 coalition government of independent Lyuben Berov gets 3.3% approval and 1.4% disapproval.
The respondents in the poll say no government deserves to be described as "the best".
 NEW RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR SUBMITS CREDENTIALSSofia, February 3 (BTA) - "I wish the Bulgarian nation to become soon politically free, economically stable and remain an old and sincere friend of Russia," newly appointed Russian Ambassador to Bulgaria Leonid Krestedjiyanz said in what was his first statement after he handed his credentials to President Peter Stoyanov on Monday. The Ambassador had a long talk with the Bulgarian Head of State that has left him with the impression that "the Russian Embassy and Bulgarian leaders will get along well in the future".
The Russian Ambassador said he will study the Bulgarian position on NATO's expansion, an issue to which Russia is very sensitive. After having discussed with President Stoyanov the issue, ambassador Kerestedjiyanz said he found no elements of anti-Russian sentiments in any of the views of Bulgaria in favour of joining NATO.
The future of the Topenergy joint venture is a purely pragmatic issue, said the diplomat adding that the project is equally important for Bulgaria and Russia, for Russia because it will be a gas supplier to Western Europe, and for Bulgaria because soon it will not be able to pay market prices in hard currency for the gas deliveries. He also said the project gives Bulgaria additional opportunities for gas supplies.
 HYPERINFLATION A FACT, ADMIT POLITICIANS, MINISTERSSofia, February 3 (BTA) - Hyperinflation in Bulgaria is now a fact, outgoing Trade Minister Atanas Paparizov and the chairman of the parliamentary economic committee and MP of the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) Nikola Koichev admitted late last week. The opposition had made statements to this effect in early January. Hyperinflation benefits groups who have borrowed money, says the leader of the largest opposition Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) Ivan Kostov. Some experts project a full dolarization of Bulgaria's economy and market. Former BNB governor Todor Vulchev said Sunday a proposal exists for a complete nullification. This means to declare officially the state bankrupt, to nullify all loans and debts and start from zero, he said. Hyperinflation can still be contained by fixing the exchange rate, stopping the financing of the commercial banks by BNB and introducing tight financial and tax discipline, Ivan Angelov, former economic advisor to Prime Minister Videnov, said last week.
 SIXTH DAY OF NATIONAL STRIKESofia, February 3 (BTA) - A growing number of enterprises, some of them in key sectors, have joined a national strike against a new Socialist cabinet and in support of early parliamentary elections, now in its sixth day. In addition, workers of many enterprises are making demands for pay rises and weekly payment of wages. Sofia was paralyzed Monday by a strike of public transport drivers, part of nationwide protests against the formation of a new Socialist government. Important intersections were blocked by protesting students and other citizens, urging immediate early elections. At noon the students were replaced by members of the main trade unions supporting the strike.
A transport strike was called this morning in the second largest city of Plovdiv (southern Bulgaria). All roads into the city were blocked. A one- hour transport strike was staged in Pernik, west of Sofia. An intersection in Yambol (southern Bulgaria) was blocked for several hours. Similar reports also arrived from other cities nationwide. There are reports of blockades at several border checkpoints. Only those on urgent trips and vehicles carrying food were being allowed to pass. The intersection near Danube bridge in Rousse (northeastern Bulgaria), the Rousse-Sofia, Rousse- Silistra and Rousse-Varna international roads were blocked for several hours in the morning. If the political stalemate persists, air traffic controllers at Sofia airport will go on strike, nation radio reported. If the Socialists do not decline to form a cabinet, flights may be stopped for several hours Tuesday.
On Monday strikes were staged at Neftochim, the largest state-owned oil refinery in Bourgas, all mines and many transport companies. Dockers of the ports of Varna and Bourgas were also on strike. A one- hour strike will be staged at Sofia Airport on Tuesday. The strikes are organized by three unions: Promyana, Podkrepa and the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB). Dockers at the port of Bourgas staged a one- hour strike on Monday. The strike committee warned the port will be closed on Tuesday. An indefinite strike continued at the Vazov Engineering Works of the military- industrial complex. Many schools remained closed. Medics and municipal officers also staged protests.
 ONGOING PROTESTSSofia, February 3 (BTA) - Supporters of the united opposition gathered for their 29th daily rally in the centre of Sofia on Monday demanding that the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) return the mandate for forming a second government and that early general elections be held. Rallies of protest were staged in a number of cities throughout Bulgaria. "We say 'never' to any cabinet during the life of the present Parliament, never to a government on a mandate of the Left," Ivan Kostov, leader of the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), stated at the rally in Sofia.
"February 4th is the last day on which the BSP can do something for Bulgaria's good - that is to go. If it doesn't go, we will make no deals with them," Teodor Dechev, Deputy Chairman of the extraparliamentary Bulgarian Social Democratic Party, said addressing the rally. The Free Speech Forum, an organization of journalists fighting censorship, supported the protests of the opposition.
As usual, students marched along Sofia's streets holding their daily procession and joined protesters who had blocked a number of intersections in Sofia earlier on Monday. Only ambulances, police cars, hearses and trucks carrying flour were allowed passage.
 BULGARIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH BACKS PROTESTSSofia, February 3 (BTA) - On Monday BTA received the following declaration, addressed by Patriarch Maxim of Bulgaria to the Bulgarian Parliament and the Bulgarian people: "Concerned over the mounting protest actions by the Bulgarian citizens destitute as a result of impending hyperinflation and the dramatic erosion of their income, we feel bound to declare in full responsibility that the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and myself, as its Primate and Patriarch of Bulgaria, firmly back the just protests of the Bulgarian citizens and appeal for an early introduction of a currency board and a strong coalition nonparty government to help lift the country from the severe crisis. We call the grace of God to be with the entire Bulgarian people."
 RUSSIAN PARLIAMENTARY DELEGATION VISITINGSofia, February 3 (BTA) - A Russian parliamentary delegation, headed by Sergei Baburin, Deputy Chairman of the State Duma, Russia's Parliament lower chamber, had meetings with Foreign Ministry officials, the parliamentary groups of the ruling Left and the opposition Union of Democratic Forces Monday. The delegations is on a visit here as of Sunday.
"We have always felt Bulgaria close, but you should agree that in the recent years our relations were rather contradictory," said Baburin at his meeting with the Parliamentary Group for Friendship between Bulgaria and Russia. In Baburin's view many opportunities have been missed in the two country's economic cooperation. He cited as an example that the Bulgarian side has been delaying for nearly an year its decision on the Russian proposal on the project of a Novorosiisk - Bourgas -Alexandrpoulis oil pipeline. Russia will be compelled to realize this project jointly with Turkey although it will become more expensive, the Deputy Chairman of the State Duma noted.
The guest said that Russian has budgeted 400 million US dollars in technical loans to Bulgaria for 1997. The Russian side considers the possibilities of Bulgarian goods to re-gain their positions on the Russian markets. The lowering of customs duties charged by Russia on Bulgarian imports was on the agenda of the talks between the Russian parliamentary delegation and Deputy Foreign Minister Ivan Hristov.
 IMF, CENTRAL BANK DENY PRESS REPORT THAT BANK DEPOSITS WILL BE BLOCKEDSofia, February 3 (BTA) - The following press release was made available to BTA by the Resident Mission of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Sofia Monday:
"In his recent letter to President Stoyanov the Managing Director of the IMF, Mr. Camdessus, indicated that the Fund is ready to help Bulgaria stop the current deterioration of economic conditions.
"This remains true. At the same time we wish to state clearly that there is no truth in the report, published in the press on Sunday, that the Fund has developed or discussed an emergency plan for Bulgaria."
The economic weekly "Capital Press" headlined the lead story in its latest issue "IMF Readies Emergency Measures for Bulgaria." According to the newspaper, the measures envisaged a "bank holiday," i.e. suspension of the operation of the banking system for a definite period or restricting depositors' access to their money with the banks as a way of containing the pressure of depreciation on the national currency.
The National Bank of Bulgaria (BNB) also denied the reports that such measures will be introduced. In a press release received at BTA the central bank observes that the "BNB Governing Board, within its vested powers, will defend the interests of the Bulgarian depositors and will not allow the taking of non-transparent and non-market actions against them, including the blocking of deposits."
 MEETING OF PRESIDENT'S ECONOMIC COUNCILSofia, February 3 (BTA) - Possible measures to contain inflation was the issue on the agenda of the discussions at a meeting of the Economic Council with the President Monday. The meeting was held on the initiative of the President and was prompted by the critical situation in the country. At the beginning of the meeting President Stoyanov announced that Kiril, one of the sons of Bulgaria's exiled King Simeon II has agreed to be a non- resident consultant to the Economic Council, Irina Yordanova, Head of the President's press office, said. She also said that Monday President Stoyanov promulgated the Act on the Budget Implementation until the Entry into Force of the 1997 National Budget Act. This will make possible the adjustment to inflation of the salaries in the state-financed enterprises and the pensions.
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