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Bulgarian Telegraph Agency (BTA), 97-02-17
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From: Embassy of Bulgaria <email@example.com>
EMBASSY OF BULGARIA - WASHINGTON D.C.
BTA - BULGARIAN TELEGRAPH AGENCY
17 February, 1997
 PRESIDENT STOYANOV ON INTERIM GOVERNMENT, UPCOMING ELECTIONSSofia, February 14 (BTA) - ``My belief has always been that the electoral law should be revised only in its technical part. This Parliament is worn out and public confidence in it is too low for it to take political decisions that will affect adversely the political process,'' President Peter Stoyanov says in an extensive interview in the ``24 Chassa'' daily Friday. The remark is prompted by the decision of the already dissolved Parliament to reduce the barrier for entering Parliament from 4% to 3%.
The interviewee further says noone exerted pressure on him when he was choosing the people for the caretaker government appointed last Wednesday. Indeed, he consulted a wide circle of people on the line-up of the cabinet, including Sofiyanski and representatives of the democratic forces and the Left. Stoyanov had planned to include a Socialist in the interim administration but then decided ``it would be too big a challenge for some of the Left leaders'' in a view of the delicate situation that followed the walk-out of some outstanding Socialist party members. The President will not hesitate to replace a minister of the caretaker government if it should be done. ``I have appointed this government to have things going, not to make somebody a cabinet minister,'' says he. Asked by the interviewer if he does not think the government is too ``blue'' - referring to the colour that stands as the symbol of the anti- communist UDF, Stoyanov says Sofiyanski, Prime Minister and former Sofia Mayor, and the other ministers have proven themselves as highly responsible persons, regrdless of their political affiliations.
As for the concrete assistance Bulgaria can expect before the April 19 early general elections, Stoyanov says ``he does not want to nurture illusions''. However, Ecu 20 million are expected from the European Union any moment now. He further quoted US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright telling the US Congress that economic assistance could be provided to Bulgaria. ``I will continue to lobby in Europe and the United States to get the support of serious institution. We have not had our lobby so far,'' he said.
 PRESIDENT HOLDS CONSULTATIONS ON CENTRAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION LINE-UPSofia, February 14 (BTA) - President Peter Stoyanov started on Friday consultations with the political forces on the line-up of the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) in charge of the upcoming parliamentary elections. Mr Stoyanov met with representatives of the Left, of the now forming Euro-Left and of the Bulgarian Social Democratic Party (BSDP). The Left voiced its stand that it prefers the proportional principle of forming the commission and of appointing its leadership. The Euro-Left said that the CEC should be formed not on a party principle but by independent experts. Consultations of President Stoyanov with the opposition UDF, the Popular Union and the Bulgarian Business Bloc (BBB) are planned Monday.
 PRESIDENT MEETS SENIOR OFFICERSSofia, February 14 (BTA) - Bulgaria's membership in NATO may prove a kind of a ``Marshall plan'' for this country, President Peter Stoyanov told members of the high command of the Bulgarian army at the Charalitsa training centre. Over the past few years the Bulgarian foreign policy did not manage to make a step towards Europe, while cooling this country's relations with Russia, said the President, who is also Supreme Commander-in- Chief of the Bulgarian Army. ``My wish for Bulgaria to integrate into NATO is so categorical because only a country which defends its interests is respected,'' Stoyanov said, quoted by his press office.
The reform is painful and should be implemented by those who rule this country, Stoyanov said, adding that he will insist for help from the European Union, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. ``The Bulgarian society will progress,'' Stoyanov said. ``Bulgaria will not be forgotten; but we will beg from no one,'' the President said. He promised that he will ask the UN to consider compensating Bulgaria for the losses this country sustained enforcing the sanctions against former Yugoslavia and Iraq.
Politicians who governed Bulgaria until recently are responsible for the bad situation of the army, Stoyanov said. The Head of State described as an act of heroism the ability of the Bulgarian army to preserve its spirit and performance in the current situation.
 SOFYANSKI: BULGARIA HAS RUN OUT OF RESOURCES, WILL RELY ON FOREIGN AIDSofia, February 15 (BTA) - The petrol shortages, grain crisis, privatization and external financing are the key priorities facing the caretaker cabinet, caretaker prime minister Stefan Sofyanski said on the national television on Saturday evening.
According to Sofiyanski, Bulgaria has run out of resources and needs funds which are possible to be obtained from accelerating privatization and external loans. The caretaker prime minister said that the cabinet will streamline privatization procedures and will start, already next week, talks with international financial institutions on extending funds. Sofyanski said that Bulgaria will very likely receive USD 300 million to USD 400 million which will provide an opportunity for achieving certain stabilization. Bulgaria will rely on help from its traditional partners: Germany, Russia, the other European countries and the United States, Sofyanski said.
 CABINET BANS FUEL EXPORTS, INCREASES FUEL PRICESSofia, February 14 (BTA) - The caretaker cabinet imposed a ban on fuel exports, effective from February 14 to April 30, 1997. Fuel prices will be raised next Monday. The Ministry of the Interior tightened control at the border checkpoints so as to prevent illegal export of fuels and vital goods.
Fuel prices will be raised drastically Monday, prime minister Stefan Sofiyanski told a news conference earlier on Friday. On Thursday Sofiyanski visited the Neftochim oil refinery near the Black Sea port of Bourgas. Sofiyanski stressed that the markup will be shocking but will be such so as not to block the economy. According to him, a steep markup could block the work of the army, health care, the social sphere and the public transport. The new prices will normalize the market for some time so that the cabinet take the necessary measures for sustained stabilization. Sofiyanski confirmed that Neftochim will be privatized.
Fuel shortages have hit Bulgaria for a fortnight now. Most of the filling stations across the country are closed. Some public transport services in a number of cities were cut. On its first meeting on Thursday, the caretaker cabinet dismissed the Neftochim board of directors and appointed a new one. The ministers demanded that the new board draft a comprehensive rehabilitation programme within two weeks. By Monday, the management is to draw a list of its priority clients which include the Interior Ministry, the army, social establishments, health care and public transport.
Officers of the Border Troops are conducting careful checks of vehicles leaving Bulgaria at a two-kilometre distance before border checkpoints so as to prevent smuggling of petrol, foods and other vital goods, the press office of the Interior Ministry said. The Interior Ministry apologized to travellers for the possible delays at border crossing points.
As a measure to improve control and security at this country's borders, the border checkpoints will be placed under the command of the Border Troops. This is one of the first steps of the Interior Ministry for establishing a modern border police in Bulgaria, the press release says.
 SOFIYANSKI: BULGARIA WILL HAVE A CURRENCY BOARDSofia, February 14 (BTA) - ``Bulgaria needs a currency board and already next week the Government starts preparing its introduction,'' Sofiyanski, Prime Minister in the caretaker cabinet, told a news conference Friday. A decision on the currency board introduction was taken at the first sitting of the Financial Stabilization Council. The Council was set up by the Cabinet after the Parliament gave the ministers extended powers Thursday. ``We guarantee that deposits will not be frozen after the implementation of a currency board in Bulgaria,'' said Sofiyanski. ``The Bulgarian version of the board will be a hard one given that, according to its definition, it does not involve issuing dollar- denominated government securities,'' said Lyubomir Filipov, Governor of the National Bank of Bulgaria (BNB) and member of the Financial Stabilization Council.
The Council also decided to start working on the settlement of Bulgaria's internal debt. In Sofiyanski's view the internal debt is what blocks the Bulgarian economy at present. ``We will seek the support of international financial institutions, we will rely on accelerated privatization deals and also we will start negotiations with the European Union, the Paris Club and the European Investment Bank on the extending investment loans,'' said Sofiyanski. According to the Prime Minister, resolving the problem with the internal debt the country will rely mainly on external financing.
 RESTRICTIONS IMPOSED ON TRAVEL ABROAD FOR CERTAIN FORMER GOVERNMENT MEMBERS AND THEIR FAMILIESSofia, February 14 (BTA) - Some ministers, deputy ministers, committee chairmen and advisors at the Socialist Cabinet of Zhan Videnov (which resigned in late 1996) will be subject to restrictions in travelling abroad as from Friday, the Interior Ministry's Press Office said. The measure is intended to prevent transfer abroad of foreign currency, valuables, documents and information of national importance, the news release says.
``It is embarrassing to hear about certain restrictions imposed against certain ministers and their families, leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) Georgi Purvanov said in an interview for the Bulgarian radio. According to him if there are suspicions against members of the former cabinet, the names should be stated clearly and suspicions are to be proved. Otherwise this will seem to be a transparent propaganda trick, he said.
Leader of the Bulgarian Business Bloc (BBB) George Ganchev firmly approved the measures and said in his view they are a little belated, because national treasures are being transferred abroad and people in power also take part in the process, the radio said.
``The measures introduced by interior minister Bonev are not very clear from a legal point of view; however, if they are followed by quick action of the part of the courts, the investigation bodies and the prosecutor's office, they would prove useful for Bulgaria,'' former trade minister Atanas Paparizov told the media on Sunday. Paparizov said that he is not among the targeted officials.
``I am surprised by the fact that the measures were introduced after the political situation changed, as this casts a shadow of doubt,'' C.Kyuranov, leader of the Alliance for Social Democracy movement in the BSP, said.
``This is an extremely necessary measure. Seeing that this country is in disarray, that there is no grain, no petrol, no money in the public purse, we cannot say that there is no one to blame,'' prime minister Sofiyanski said on national television Saturday evening. ``They will have to stay here until it is known who did what.. I cannot be told to first prove guilt and then detain them, because in the maentime they will have left the country, '' Sofiyanski said.
 MINISTER BONEV ON INTERIOR MINISTRY'S PRIORITIESSofia, February 14 (BTA) - The new Minister of the Interior, Bogomil Bonev, listed the Ministry's priorities at a meeting with its senior officials immediately after taking office on Thursday, the Interior Ministry press centre said.
The priorities include preparation for the forthcoming general elections; reorganization and tightening control over the operation of officers at the border checkpoints; effective measures to help the prosecuting magistracy call to account the culprits for the present catastrophe; administrative staff cuts and optimization of the Ministry's performance.
Minister Bonev banned his people to go on leave, mobilizing all resources to combat crime. He prohibited the granting of foreign travel passports to persons sentenced for offences at public-law, based on the Foreign Passports Act and the related implementing regulations. The foreign passports issued to such persons so far will be taken away in accordance with the law-prescribed procedure, the Interior Ministry press release said.
``I'm going to replace not only the corrupted employees but also people who have exhausted their potential,'' the caretaker Interior Minister said. ``I'll dismiss no more than 30-40 people, appointing better ones. As to the economic groupings, of course, I'll get acquainted with the available material first, but it's my intention to act according to the stick and carrot principle. If the business is legal, the state should encourage it. If the businessmen's money are abroad, let them work for Bulgaria. If some derive their incomes illicitly, they will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,'' Bonev stated.
``Ex-interior minister Dobrev also made some good things to mobilize the Ministry's staff,'' the caretaker Minister admitted. According to different sources, Minister Bonev has asked all chiefs of central and national services such as the counterintelligence, the Central Service for Organized Control and the Interior Ministry Troops to resign. The Ministry's secretaries have also been asked to submit their resignations.
Sofia, February 15 (BTA) - The Ministry of the Interior is introducing all measures within the law to crack down on and prevent attempts at profiteering and other offences in production and trade in wheat, bread and bread products, says an Interior Ministry press release issued on Saturday. A number of cities across the country are experiencing bread shortages. Bread prices increased once more due to the markup in prices of flour, yeast, salt, electricity and fuels. Once again shopkeepers say people overstock on bread.
Until February 19 Interior Ministry officers will conduct checks to determine the available quantities of wheat and flour in the major mills and warehouses. Checks will be conducted in farm cooperatives and companies, private grain growers and fodder plants. Control will be tightened in trade and haulage of wheat and flour, as well as in production and trade in bread and bread products, the press release says. The checks will be conducted by representatives of the Interior Ministry, local tax administrations, the National Pricing Committee, financial authorities and other controlling bodies.
Long lines formed outside bakeries in Sofia already early in the morning on Saturday. On Friday the municipal bread-making company said it is increasing the price of its white bread by 70 leva to 310 leva. (The minimum monthly wage in Bulgaria is 11,000 leva.) The Sofia Mills said on Friday that they are raising flour prices as of Monday, February 17. This will increase the price of bread made at private bakeries. An 800-g loaf of bread now costs 250 leva; the price is expected to reach 350 leva on Monday.
 FOUNDATION TO HELP MOST NEEDYSofia, February 14 (BTA) - In the coming three or four months the ``Future for All'' Foundation will concentrate on helping the most needy Bulgarians survive the winter. The Foundation, whose Honorary Chairman is President Peter Stoyanov's wife - Antonina Stoyanova, made public the guidelines of its work in 1997 on Thursday.
Under its Survival programme the Foundation will help children's homes, poor families of students and young scientists, elderly people, poverty stricken intellectuals and socially disadvantaged Gypsy families. The Foundation will provide health assistance to the polyclinics in Sofia's Students' Town, to families with many children and sick parents, to elderly people, to children's homes and kindergartens.
``My participation in the Foundation will guarantee the transparency of the funds and their just distribution,'' Ms Stoyanova said.
The Future for All Foundation raises funds through donations from Bulgaria and abroad, charity sales, concerts and other initiatives. The Foundations is planning to open a shop in which firms will sell their goods, donating the profits, said Alisa Sofiyanski, wife of caretaker Prime Minister Stefan Sofiyanski, who also takes part in charity work.
In the next few days the Foundation is planning to open two soup kitchens for socially disadvantaged Gypsies in Sofia and to send clothes to the ``Hope, Faith and Charity'' homes for street children. ``We are planning to provide breakfast for the children in some schools as there are reports that some children are fainting from hunger at school, she said.
 SWISS HUMANITARIAN AIDBern, February 14 (BTA corr.) - The Bulgarian Foreign Aid Agency and the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs agreed on supply of humanitarian aid for Bulgaria worth about 4 million Swiss francs. Announcing the agreement, the Bulgarian diplomatic mission in Bern said in includes 15 tonnes of powdered milk and medicine that will be dispatched next week. The sides also agreed on supply of 3,000 tonnes of bread grain and about 300 tonnes of other foods. The Swiss government has authorized its representatives to control the distribution of the aid on the spot. The aid will go mostly to hospitals and welfare establishments. The head of the Foreign Aid Agency, Emiliya Maslarova, hopes the Swiss humanitarian aid for Bulgaria could reach 10 million francs.
The sides also signed an accord on assistance to the Bulgarian Forestry Committee. The accord envisages the launch of three joint projects. The Swiss side undertook to provide equipment for monitoring air pollution in forests, assist in training experts, in exercising environmental control in the Pirin national reserve and in building a PR centre in the mountain town of Bansko.
 PRIVATIZATION OF SODI ALMOST COMPLETEDSofia, February 14 (BTA) - Stefan Sofiyanski, Prime Minister of the caretaker cabinet, met with representatives of the Solovey Belgian company, the buyer of the Sodi chemical works, based in Devnya (Northeastern Bulgaria) Friday. The privatization deal is expected to be finalized by late February, the Government's press office said. The two sides mapped out concrete measures to implement the agreement within the specified term.
In mid-December 1996 the Privatization Agency announced that Solovey will buy 60 percent of the shares of Sodi for 160 million US dollars. The Belgian company committed to invest 67 million US dollars in new technologies in the next five years.
According to official statistics, Sodi ranks first in Europe and second in the world in volume of production. The plant's annual capacity is 1,200,000 tons of fused-soda ash. It has plants for the production of sodium bicarbonate and calcium chloride. Sodi exports 80 percent of its production.
 UDF PROPOSES JOINT RULE OF THE OPPOSITION FORCES, BROADER PRESIDENTIAL POWERSSofia, February 15 (BTA) - The Union of Democratic Forces (UDF, this country's biggest opposition formation) should share this country's governance with all responsible democratic forces even if the UDF has a majority in the future Parliament; the Union should ask for broadening the presidential powers, UDF leader Ivan Kostov said in his report to the Ninth National Conference of the UDF which started on Saturday morning in Sofia. Attending the forum are more than 4,000 delegates from across the country.
The delegates broke into lengthy applause and chanted ``UDF'' and ``Stoyanov'' when President Peter Stoyanov took the floor. In his address the President thanked for being granted UDF's ``clear and democratic mandate to be a President to all Bulgarians''. Stoyanov stressed that after the early general elections in April the responsibility for ruling Bulgaria will most likely go to the UDF. ``I am proud that the UDF grew to become a nationally responsible force and is ready to govern this country,'' Stoyanov said. He stressed that in the present difficult moment Bulgaria needs unity.
``We have enough evidence to believe that in the forthcoming general elections and after utmost mobilization, the UDF can win a majority in the next Parliament. Taking into account the huge difficulties and the catastrophic economic situation in this country, the UDF will gain no benefits if it rules alone, even if the Union holds a majority in the future Parliament. We have to provide the broadest political base to the legislature and the executive power of the democratic forces,'' Kostov said in his report.
Kostov stressed that the UDF should take a stand for broadening of the presidential powers and strengthening of the president's role of a guarantor of law and order and the principles of civil society. According to Kostov, such changes should include setting up of an investigation office with the president whose chief task will be to crack down on corruption, strengthen the state and eliminate organized crime. ``We shall not be able to deal with the economic catastrophe unless we help punish the culprits for it,'' Kostov said, adding that the UDF should guarantee the voters it will call to account the criminals with political immunity.
In his report to the conference, Kostov explained the need of transforming the UDF into a united organization since, according to him, the formation now lacks a unified cadre policy, it is not corruption-proof and does nor follow a unified programme in power. The majority of the regional representatives and the leaders of the individual parties within the UDF supported the idea of UDF's becoming a united organization. Most of the rapporteurs stressed that the UDF should select its cadres among honest people with outstanding professional qualities.
 UDF NATIONAL CONFRERENCESofia, February 16 (BTA) - 47-year-old Ivan Kostov, Chairman of Bulgaria's biggest opposition formation the Union of Democratic Forces, was reelected by an open ballot at the UDF national conference on Saturday. ``I shall do my best for the UDF victory,'' were Kostov's first words after the vote. Jurist Hristo Bisserov was elected UDF Chief Secretary.
Early on Sunday morning, delegates to the conference reelected as UDF Deputy Chairpersons Ekaterina Mihailova, Nadezhda Mihailova, UDF floor leader in the previous Parliament Yordan Sokolov, and Evgenii Bakurdjiev, chief of the headquarters of the protest actions which brought about early general elections. The four garnered the greatest number of votes in the secret ballot.
The UDF National Executive Board - the formation's leadership, also includes Alexander Bozhkov, who was so far UDF deputy chairman and is deputy prime minister and minister of industry in the caretaker cabinet, economist Mouravei Radev, jurist Vassil Gotsev and UDF former leader and prime minister in the UDF cabinet in 1992 Filip Dimitrov. The National Executive Board has 11 members; UDF future floor leader, who will be elected after the parliamentary elections in April, will join the National Executive Board later.
``The UDF is not the same,'' Bisserov told a news conference on Sunday morning. According to Sokolov, the conference during which the UDF voted a decision to transform into a united organization, is a forum of significant importance. `` Bakurdjiev said that the UDF can now take on a commitment to govern Bulgaria and to overcome the economic catastrophe. ``It became clear that the UDF is a well organized formation with responsible thinking,'' Mihailova said.
 UDF IN FAVOUR OF BULGARIA'S ENTRY INTO EU, NATOSofia, February 16 (BTA) - Bulgaria's biggest opposition formation, the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), declared it is in favour of this country's full membership in the European Union and NATO. ``Peace, security on the Balkans and in Europe, Bulgaria's full membership in the EU and NATO and this country's integration into all European structures are the most important tasks of UDF's foreign policy,'' reads UDF's political programme approved on Sunday at the national conference of the formation.
Kostov stressed that there is a consensus in Bulgaria about this country's entry into the EU but not about its integration into NATO. ``However, we shall do our best to achieve this,'' he said. According to Kostov, the UDF will rely on the fact that newly elected President Peter Stoyanov included Bulgaria's membership in NATO in his election platform and, winning the poll, Kostov said, the President has in practice held a referendum. ``This allows Bulgaria to express its wish to join NATO,'' Kostov said.
Asked about UDF's policy on the Balkans, Kostov said that the Union will follow the principles which President Stoyanov listed in his election platform. In his presidential campaign, Stoyanov took a stand against formation of axes on the Balkans, spoke about establishing balanced relations with Greece and Turkey and stressed that Bulgaria cannot remain an island outside NATO, surrounded by countries which already expressed a wish to join the North Atlantic Organization. ``If this country continues to follow its present policy, Bulgaria will remain an island on the Balkans which is not a NATO member,'' Kostov said. He stressed that, ever since 1992, when the UDF was in power, the formation has followed an intensive Balkan policy.
The UDF political programme also says that the Union takes a stand in favour of speedy market reforms. ``There should be more market to foster more personal initiative and personal responsibility. There should be less government interference so as to guarantee competition, social and ecological order on the market,'' the document says. The programme is to incorporate many proposals by delegates made during discussions of the document. According to Alexander Bozhkov, member of the UDF senior leadership and caretaker industry minister, the Union should take a stand for a ``social market economy''.
The programme also stresses the need of foreign investment which should enjoy special protection and tax reliefs. The document points out the importance of implementing broad privatization. It says that the Bulgarian agriculture can recover only under private ownership of land and means of production.
The programme includes a special section on social policy which, according to UDF, must be just, effective and responsible.
The UDF will use the political programme to draft its election platform.
 UNION OF DEMOCRATIC FORCES' MAJOR TASK IS ELECTION VICTORY AT APRIL GENERAL POLLSofia, February 16 (BTA) - The aim of Bulgaria's biggest opposition formation, UDF, is to win the early parliamentary election in April, hold a majority in the future Parliament and govern Bulgaria together with its partners, the Popular Union and Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF). This was decided at the UDF Ninth National Conference which ended on Sunday afternoon. ``The decisions of this conference will translate into a strong mobilization of UDF local structures, which will guarantee us a huge success at the elections,'' UDF leader Kostov said after the conference. He added that the forum approved documents and decisions which will enable the Union ``to mark a new beginning''.
Delegates to the conference assigned the newly elected UDF leadership to draft the Union's election platform on the basis of the political programme approved at the forum. The document should ``guarantee Bulgaria's way out of the economic catastrophe, crush organized crime, attract foreign funds and investments, implement successfully a social market economy, privatization and the return of land to its owners''.
The UDF will propose to its partners to sign an agreement on forming a pre- election coalition based on a common election platform and preliminary elections. Before the general poll, the UDF intends to conclude an agreement on post-election coalition for legislative work and common governance of the country. In their speeches at the conference, the delegates stressed that the preliminary elections to determine the common candidates to run in the parliamentary elections are a necessary procedure so that the opposition name the best candidates through a democratic mechanism. UDF leaders said that preliminary elections are a better option than agreement on quotas among the partners in the election coalition. Statements of UDF leaders give evidence that the Union will also seek allies among the extraparliamentary democratic formations.
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