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Bulgarian Telegraph Agency (BTA), 97-02-06
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From: Embassy of Bulgaria <firstname.lastname@example.org>
EMBASSY OF BULGARIA - WASHINGTON D.C.
BTA - BULGARIAN TELEGRAPH AGENCY
6 February, 1997
 MEETINGS OF PRESIDENT STOYANOVSofia, February 5 (BTA) - The forthcoming early elections and the caretaker cabinet which the President will appoint after the 37th National Assembly dissolves itself were discussed at talks President Peter Stoyanov had with outgoing deputy prime minister Doncho Konakchiev, leaders of the major trade unions and the leadership of the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) on Wednesday. Mr. Stoyanov and Mr. Konakchiev also discussed the logistics of the early elections.
The trade unions back Stoyanov's idea that the caretaker cabinet, to be appointed by the President in accordance with the Constitution, should not only organize the early elections but also work actively for overcoming the crisis and carrying out economic reforms in the country, Mr. Petkov, CITUB President, said.
UDF leader Ivan Kostov handed President Stoyanov a UDF draft for a declaration suggesting ways out of the crisis. Mr. Kostov told journalists the draft would not be available to the press for the time being. The Movement for Rights and Freedoms delivered a similar draft to President Stoyanov on Wednesday.
According to Alexander Bozhkov, one of UDF leaders who helped write the declaration, the document was drafted on the basis of the general principles and the ideas that are common to the programmes of ex-prime minister-designate Dobrev, the Bulgarian Socialist Party and the UDF itself. If the parliamentary forces converge on such a declaration, it can be used by the future government, Mr. Bozhkov told reporters. Listing the home policy priorities set out in the declaration, he mentioned acceleration of the privatization, structural reform, curbing crime and containing hyperinflation.
Sofia Mayor Stefan Sofiyanski attended the meeting of President Stoyanov with the UDF leaders. Several sources said Wednesday Sofiyanski might head the future caretaker cabinet.
 BULGARIA CELEBRATES END OF POLITICAL DEADLOCKSofia, February 5 (BTA) - You won not only because elections will be held soon in Bulgaria, but because you demonstrated Bulgarian society is alive and this country can no longer be governed without a regulated dialogue between the incumbents and the people," said Bulgarian President Stoyanov addressing the students who marched through the streets of Sofia Wednesday to express their joy over the success of their one-month protests. "With your marches you signed this new public contract and gave the go ahead of its implementation," Stoyanov said. The fact that the students attended the rallies has become a guarantee for the future of Bulgaria, he added. The President thanked the students that they came to believe in the possibility of building a way of life in Bulgaria, which will incite young people to remain in the country. Mr. Stoyanov noted more difficulties lie ahead and the young should not expect miracles only in the next few days.
Peter Stoyanov pledged to ask the future caretaker cabinet and its successor cabinet, which the next parliament should elect, to regularly report on their performance. Chanting, "We Love You", the students opened a bottle of champagne in front of the Presidency.
Later the student march headed for the square in front of the St. Alexander Nevski Cathedral and took part in the rally, organized by the opposition United Democratic Forces. Large rallies were held nationwide to celebrate the end of the political crisis. Rallies in cities are also scheduled for Thursday.
 PARLIAMENT TO COMPLETE WORK WITHIN WEEKSofia, February 5 (BTA) - The 37th National Assembly will complete its operation within days. It will work until it adopts amendments in the Electoral Law and pass some other bills, Chairman Sendov said after a meeting of the parliamentary leaders.
The Parliament cannot possibly carry out all the tasks, it will only handle most necessary matters, Sendov explained. "We no longer speak about all of the most important bills, but rather about those which it is possible to adopt," he said. Among the laws Parliament has planned to pass, are amendments to the Electoral Law, the National Budget Machinery Act, amendments to the Aggregate Income Tax Act, several ratifications as well as the bills on agricultural equipment and on small and medium enterprises whose discussion has already started at second reading.
According to MPs, only technical amendments will be introduced to the Electoral Law. They will most probably concern the electoral registers, ballot papers etc. No parliamentary force has so far moved proposals for correcting the 4-per cent of the national vote requirement for a political party to qualify for seats in Parliament.
Amendments to the National Budget Machinery Act will also be moved, such that will make possible for the caretaker government to hold negotiations and sign loan agreements with the international financial institutions.
Another law which all parliamentary groups believe needs amendments is the Aggregate Income Tax Act. The tax rate should be updated in line with the increased inflation rates, MPs explained.
The parliamentary group of the UDF will suggest replacement of the central bank's governing board. The decision should be taken by consensus, UDF floor leader Yordan Sokolov specified.
Parliament Chairman Blagovest Sendov believes the National Assembly may have to hold extraordinary meetings on Saturday, Sunday and Monday to complete its work on these laws and then it will dissolve.
For the first time since nearly a month ago security outside the Parliament has been removed. People can again walk freely along the square in front of the National Assembly building, which was railed off and placed under strict security after the incidents of January 10 and 11.
 DECLARATION OF THE LEFT MPSSofia, February 5 (BTA) - The parliamentary group of the ruling Left will take part only in the sitting which will adopt the necessary amendments to the electoral law in connection the early elections, says a declaration adopted at a meeting of the parliamentary group of the Left Wednesday evening. In the declaration the Socialists insist that President Peter Stoyanov and the other parliamentary groups meet their commitments and that the 37th National Assembly be dissolved by February 14 at the latest.
The protests of the Bulgarian people (and the events around the building of Parliament on January 10 and 11) were hijacked for political purposes, violating the Constitution, the laws and basic rights of millions of citizens, the declaration says. The Left insists that an investigation be launched into these actions and that participants in and instigators of unlawful actions be tried in court.
At a meeting of the Consultative Council on National Security with the President on Tuesday, the parliamentary forces agreed to dissolve the 37th National Assembly and hold early parliamentary elections between April 10 and 20. Before that, within 10 days, the MPs are to adopt certain laws that are important for the country.
 BULGARIAN-BELGIAN POLITICAL CONSULTATIONSBrussels, February 5 (BTA) - The foreign ministries of Bulgaria and Belgium held political consultations on bilateral issues and European integration. The Bulgarian delegation was headed by acting foreign minister Irina Bokova. The two sides exchanged opinions on the prospects of bilateral relations, which were assessed as excellent. The consultations also discussed EU and NATO enlargement and cooperation between Bulgaria and Belgium in this context.
The Belgian side praised the compromise reached between the political parties in Bulgaria on resolving the crisis in this country.
 GREEK AID FOR BULGARIASofia, February 5 (BTA) - The Greek cabinet decided to grant Bulgaria 1,000 tonnes of maize and 700 tonnes of flour in gratuitous aid, the public relations office of the Foreign Ministry said Wednesday. The aid will be distributed among social welfare and medical establishments in the border regions. The first shipment will arrive February 7.
 SITUATION NORMALIZES GRADUALLY, TRADE UNIONS' DEMANDS REMAINSofia, February 5 (BTA) - After the political forces reached an agreement Tuesday on early elections in April 1997, most of the effective striking actions in the country were called off Wednesday. Hundreds of thousands of Bulgarians all over the country celebrated the Left's giving up of the cabinet-forming mandate until late last night despite sub-zero temperatures. Enthusiastic Bulgarians rejoiced and sang in the streets.
Barricades were cleared already Tuesday night and public transport employees resumed work. Wednesday Sofia looked changed and much more peaceful, even cleaner.
The strike in the country's largest metallurgical plant, Kremikovtsi, was stopped February 5. However workers will be on strike alert and will resume, if the agreement, signed with the plant's management late last night, is not implemented. Under the agreement a new minimum working wage in the plant should be negotiated by February 7. The strike in the largest oil- refinery, Neftochim, was settled after the trade unions and the management reached an agreement to this effect. Negotiations on collective bargaining will go on. Neftochim is operating at minimum capacity. Work was resumed at the Marbas mines. Losses from the strike amounted to 10 million leva, the mines' executive director said.
More than 13,000 workers of the Vazov machine-building plant continued the effective strike Wednesday. The strikers' demands involve pegging of their salaries to the US dollar, selling of goods in the stores in the plant at affordable prices and adopting a program on the plant's rehabilitation. protest actions are also continuing in the Bobov Dol and Pernik mines. Employees of the post offices staged token strikes. The strike in the Bulgarian National Television is also going on.
At a meeting with Sofia Mayor Stefan Sofiyanski Wednesday morning students of the Coordinated Professors-Students' Union agreed to hold a joint action to clean Sofia. The action will probably be held Tuesday afternoon.
 STAPLE FOODS IN SHORT SUPPLY, PRICES SOAR DAILYSofia, February 5 (BTA) - Severe shortages in staple foods like milk, white and yellow cheese, sugar, cooking oil etc. were reported by the Federation of Consumers. Bread queues can be seen in Sofia and other towns around the country. The average price of flour is over 300 leva/1 kg in some regions. Over 2,500 leva is the margin between the lowest and the highest pork prices in the different regions in the country. In most places pork price are between 1,300 leva and 1,500 leva/1 kg. Veal and lamb meat are in short supply on the market, together with chicken meat, which sells at over 1,000 leva/1 kg in Sliven, Vratsa and Kurdjali and at some 1,600 leva/1 kg in Sofia.
Dairy products also went up dramatically. White cheese was offered at some 3,000 leva/1 kg in Plovdiv on the average. In Dobrich alone this food is relatively cheaper at less than 1,000 leva/1 kg. Yellow cheese sells at 4, 600 leva/1 kg in most places. According to the Federation of Consumers, if this trend continues, an average wage in the country soon will not buy even one kilogram of yellow cheese.
The price of potatoes in Sofia is over 400 leva/1 kg on the average and bread prices, despite still unchanged flour quotations, are growing on a daily basis. An example is the price of bread produced at one of the Sofia bakeries, 0.8 kg of which sold at 120 leva on Saturday, at 140 leva on Monday and at 180 leva on Tuesday. (Wednesdayís central exchange rate was 1, 638 leva/1 US dollar).
 NEW FUEL PRICES AND SHORTAGE CRISISSofia, February 5 (BTA) - The most popular type of petrol in Bulgaria - A- 93, will cost 328 leva/l as of Thursday, the Pricing Committee with the government said. Now it costs 222 leva. Diesel fuel does up to 289 leva/l. The new price of A 95 unleaded petrol is 385 leva (up from 260).
If the fuel crisis goes on for another two or three days, transport in the country will be paralyzed, said the head of the Petrol Stations Department with Petrol Co. The Neftochim refinery at Bourgas has stopped supplying petrol to Petrol's filling stations around the country.
According to the refinery's management, there are two ways out of the crisis. One way is to stop work and prevent further losses, asking the outgoing government and Parliament to exempt the imports of crude oil from duty. The other alternative is to assign an authoritative state body to give guarantees for the oil deliveries to foreign banks which said they would grant credits only on this condition.
Fuel for Sofia's ambulance service is supplied from a private filling station and the service will have fuel for only four days if deliveries are stopped. Fuel shortages paralyzed transport in the Eastern Rhodopes (Southern Bulgaria). The reserves of public transport buses are reaching a critical point. Fuel supplies to Plovdiv (South Central Bulgaria) have been disrupted for about a week. Petrol supplies to other towns and cities have also stopped. There was no fuel even for ambulances in the towns of Karlovo (Central Bulgaria), Purvomai and Brezovo (South Central Bulgaria).
The petrol crisis paralyzed transport in the mountainous region of Smolyan (Southern Bulgaria). At least 250,000 people in the uplands are practically cut off from the rest of the world. There has not been any petrol at the local filling stations for a week now.
The crisis forced state road operators to suspend cargo transportation, saving fuel for urban and inter-city passenger buses.
 EDUCATION FACES MOST DIFFICULT YEARSofia, February 5 (Evelina Stefanova) - Projections are that the 1996/97 school year will be one of the most difficult for Bulgarian education. Eighty thousand teachers from most schools in Bulgaria staged a strike protesting the low salaries, which they usually get with delays of three or four months, the risk of closing schools, staff cuts and poor working conditions. There are heating fuel shortages at 40 percent of Bulgaria's 4, 000 schools, Deputy Minister of Education Maria Antova said. One 1600 schools are closed because they have no money to pay heating. The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology suggested that each school propose a programme of its own for making up for classes missed. In addition, prices of textbooks and notebooks surpassed all expectations. Having a schoolgoer in the family has become a luxury beyond most parents' means. A survey shows that one in five Bulgarians has not enough money to buy pencils and textbooks for their children. A school bag alone costs 10,000 leva.
This seems to be the culmination of the crisis in Bulgarian education which began in 1991. Now there are 10,000 first graders fewer than in the previous school years. In the five school years since 1989/1990 the number of schoolgoers has decreased by 13.8 percent, statisticians say. Last year alone the number of pupils dropped by almost 50,000.
Very few are those Bulgarians who can enroll their children in the expensive private schools. Their fees of 3 - 4,000 US dollars a year, are something way out what ordinary Bulgarians can afford.
 WINTER RESORTS STAY FULLSofia, February 5 (BTA) - Bulgarian winter resorts are full, show figures of the two largest resorts, Borovets and Pamporovo. According to the managers, media reports that foreign guests are leaving, and foreign partners cancel bookings, are false. Lack of snow may indeed cause some cancellations, said Toni Zhekova, marketing manager of the five-star Samokov hotel at Borovets. The occupancy of the hotels there now is nearly 100%, with most guests coming from Germany and Britain.
The occupancy at Pamporovo is 70-72%. The number of tourists has fallen slightly from last year, mostly because of the reduction of guests - Bulgarian citizens, says the deputy manager of the resort Raicho Bodourov. Over 44,000 stayed at the resort on February 4. 22,000 were foreigners, most from Germany and Britain. Next came the Netherlands, Turkey, Greece, Russia and Denmark. The average stay was about 10 days. Most holiday-makers this year came on tours organized by Balkan Holidays in London, other big operators were British First Choice, Crystal Holidays and Nilsen.
 NEWSPAPER PUBLISHERS FORM ASSOCIATIONSofia, February 5 (BTA) - Publishers and managers of several national dailies formed an Association of Newspaper Publishers in Bulgaria whose chief aim is to protect the rights of the Bulgarian periodical press, BTA learned from the new organization. The founders include dailies "Demokratsiya", "Continent", "Novinar", "Pari", "Standart News", "Zemya", "Seven Days Sport" and Media Holding. The association is open to all national and local dailies, weeklies, magazines and other media in which Bulgarian owners hold at least a 50% stake.
The founders of the association were unanimous that Bulgarian press is threatened with extinction. The new association will seek to unite efforts to ensure the survival of national dailies, a press release of the association says. The organization will seek to improve the tax environment and ensure strict enforcement of the protection of competition laws, freedom of speech and national interests in the sector. It will cooperate with all other formations of the media, distributors, publishers and advertising agencies, in the name of the common professional and economic interests. The association will also seek to strengthen professional ethics and cooperation among the media.
 FOREIGN INTEREST IN GAS STORAGE FACILITYSofia, February 5 (BTA) - Talks are under way between the management of the Oil and Gas Company of Chiren, Northwestern Bulgaria, and foreign firms on a project to transform the only Bulgarian gas storage facility located there into a strategic gas depot on the Balkans, supplying natural gas to Greece, Turkey and Macedonia, Oil and Gas Company CEO Lyubomir Dimitrov said.
More than 1,000 million cu m of gas are now kept at the Chiren gas storage facility. The capacity of the unit will be increased to 3,000 million cu m of gas. Modernization and expansion of the facility will cost about USD 60 million. Several companies, including Bulgarian-Russian joint venture Topenergy, Gas de France company, Russian Gazprom giant and the Turkish firm Botash, said they will bid in the forthcoming tender for the project.
The gas depot was built on a former gas field opened in 1963. This was the first gas deposit discovered in Bulgaria. However, the gas deposits were drained in 1974 and the facility was transformed into a depot for imported Russian natural gas.
 FOREIGN ACQUISITIONSofia, February 5 (BTA) - The Austrian Knauf company, a subsidiary to the German Knauf firm, acquired in late January 60% of the Bulgarian Gipsfazer plant in Vidin, Northwestern Bulgaria, the Privatization Agency press office said. The deal cost USD 5.7 million, USD 1.1 million of which are in assumed debts of the Bulgarian enterprise. The Austrian buyer will invest USD 5.405 million over the next five years and preserve the plant's line of business production of plaster boards.
 LIBERAL PARTIES IN BULGARIA INSIST THAT BSP DISSOLVE ITSELFSofia, February 5 (BTA) - The liberal parties in Bulgaria insist that the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) dissolve itself, says a declaration received at BTA. The document carries the signatures of DR Zhelyu Zhelev, an individual member and patron of the Liberal International, of the Radical Democratic Party Chairman Kiril Boyadjiev, of the Chairman of New Choice Liberal Union Dimiter Loudjev, the Chairman of the New Democracy formation Ivo Traikov and the Chairman of the Liberal Democratic Initiative Boris Gulubov.
The BSP leadership and members must take such a worthy moral step which will prevent the intraparty agony from turning into an agony for Bulgaria and its people, the declaration says. The liberal community believes that this will bring the political life back to normal, put and end to the destructive confrontation and set the beginning of a new genuine democratic system in Bulgaria. The liberal parties welcome the agreement on holding early general elections reached by the parliamentary political forces.
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