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Bulgarian Telegraph Agency (BTA), 97-02-18
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From: Embassy of Bulgaria <email@example.com>
EMBASSY OF BULGARIA - WASHINGTON D.C.
BTA - BULGARIAN TELEGRAPH AGENCY
18 February, 1997
 DOCUMENT - BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT DECLARES WILL TO JOIN NATOREPUBLIC OF BULGARIA - COUNCIL OF MINISTERS (Unofficial translation)
DECISION No. 192 OF THE COUNCIL OF MINISTERS of February 17, 1997 on the full membership of the Republic of Bulgaria in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation
Taking into account the results of the visit of the President of the Republic of Bulgaria to the NATO Headquarters when he expressed a firm stand in favour of the country’s full membership in NATO;
Recognising the important significance of the decisions that NATO is to take in 1997 for the future of Europe and Bulgaria;
Reaffirming clearly the country’s Euro-Atlantic orientation as set down in the Declaration of the National Assembly of December 21, 1993;
Taking into consideration the active participation of Bulgaria in the Partnership for Peace and in the activities of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council;
Declaring its commitment to pursue a policy aimed at generating security and stability in South-Eastern Europe and to maintain good neighbourly relations with the other states of the region;
Sharing the values of democracy, market economy, the rule of law and the fundamental rights and freedoms that the North Atlantic Treaty proclaims;
Inspired by the conviction that the full membership in NATO corresponds to the strategic national interests of Bulgaria:
THE COUNCIL OF MINISTERS DECIDED:
1. The Council of Ministers states the will of the Republic of Bulgaria to become full member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
2. It expresses the willingness that Bulgaria be considered a country which is ready to be invited to begin accession negotiations with the North Atlantic Alliance.
3. It assigns the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Defence the task to develop a National Programme for the accession of the Republic of Bulgaria to NATO.
PRIME MINISTER: Stefan Sofianski
SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE COUNCIL OF MINISTERS: Nelly Koutzkova
 PRESIDENT STOYANOV: NATO MEMBERSHIP IS AS MUCH A MATTER OF POLICY AS OF INDUSTRYSofia, February 17 (BTA) - In an address to the nation Monday Bulgarian President Peter Stoyanov stressed the significance of the Bulgarian Government's decision to declare a will for joining NATO.
"For us NATO membership is as much a matter of policy and joint exercises as of industry, economy and trade," said the President. He believes NATO membership will strengthen the whole national security system, modernize the Bulgarian army, boost the prestige and dignity of Bulgarian officers, non-commissioned officers and soldiers.
He said that, of course, Bulgaria will not become a NATO member overnight. "First, we must pull out of the crisis. I am aware that today you are more worried about the bread issue. But tomorrow when there will be bread, we should not have missed steps of strategic importance for Bulgaria, steps which we must take today," the address went.
The Bulgarian Head of State said Bulgaria will pay a high price for its entry into NATO but "we are bound to pay a much higher price if we stay out of NATO".
Earlier in this century Yalta drew borders cutting Bulgaria off for decades from democratic Europe where it belongs and now we must make sure Bulgaria does not end up in a "gray area of ambiguity on the political map of the Continent", said the President.
 BULGARIA DECLARES WILL TO JOIN NATOSofia, February 17 (BTA) - At a meeting Monday the caretaker cabinet decided to declare Bulgaria's desire for full membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). "The Cabinet would like Bulgaria to be treated as a country ready to be invited to negotiations on accession to NATO," the cabinet decision says. It assigned Foreign Minister Stoyan Stalev and Defence Minister Georgi Ananiev to work out a national programme for Bulgaria's accession to the North Atlantic Alliance.
The Council of Ministers took this decision by consensus. It was coordinated with and backed by President Peter Stoyanov, Mr. Stalev told reporters. "Bulgaria needs urgent inclusion into the programme of study of applicants for accession to NATO," he said.
"Today's declaration is just a beginning, we need a forceful campaign to present our foreign policy interest in joining NATO," the Foreign Minister observed. "Bulgaria stands definite chances of not being underrated as an applicant," Mr. Stalev said, referring to the decisions which the North Atlantic Alliance is to take in June on its eastward enlargement.
In its foreign policy, the interim government will prioritize lobbying in NATO member states, publicizing Monday's decision and possible talks at NATO's headquarters, the caretaker chief diplomat also said. Inside the country, the cabinet will seek to achieve broad consensus on the matter of Bulgaria's NATO membership and to maximize the country's psychological and technological adaptation to the conditions for accession, Mr. Stalev added.
He stressed to reporters Bulgaria's active involvement in NATO's Partnership for Peace initiative and in peacekeeping operations. Bulgaria joined PFP in February 1994 and since then has taken part in a number of joint military exercises with the other PFP Partners and the Allies on its and their territory.
Widening multilateral and bilateral cooperation is being pursued between Bulgaria, the PFP Partners and the Allies in military technology, military science, military medicine, personnel training, information services etc. Bulgaria is also interested in joint military- industrial production and mastering know-how under NATO standards.
Back at the end of 1993, the National Assembly stated in a declaration that Bulgaria will avail itself of the opportunities for cooperation with the European and Euro-Atlantic structures, including NATO, with a view to joining them if and when they enlarge and with consideration for the country's national interests. However, no political consensus on the matter was achieved.
In the 36th and the 37th National Assembly, the Union of Democratic Forces campaigned for Bulgarian membership in NATO. Ex-president Zhelyu Zhelev also backed the idea.
The leaders of the Bulgarian Socialist (ex-Communist) Party have repeatedly stated during the last few years that because of the lack of a broad public consensus on the matter and its crucial importance, it has to be considered very carefully and all consequences of such decisions weighed. The Socialists, however, did not say how long this should take. Individual politicians have also spoken in favour of Bulgaria declaring active neutrality.
the Bulgarian Government's declaration expressing this country's will for full membership in the organization and its readiness to open accession talks. Mr. Noev requested that the interior ministers, who will gather for a meeting of the North Atlantic Council on Tuesday, February 18, be acquainted with the Bulgarian declaration.
Secretary General Solana hailed the Bulgarian Government's decision which is an important step in the common efforts to built a new security architecture in Europe, as well as in strengthening regional stability and security.
In a television interview Russian Ambassador Leonid Kerestedjiants said: "This is a decision of the Bulgarian government, probably taken after a weighing-up of the pros and cons. And yet it should be thought over a little longer." In his view, Russia does not see an anti-Russian attitude behind the decision. "We believe your President's assurances that he is a guarantor of Russian-Bulgarian relations," Ambassador Kerestedjiants said. He pointed out, however, that the decision cannot go down without any consequences at all. "We will try to make them as small as possible," he said. Asked if the consequences would be linked to strategic projects involving Bulgaria and Russia, he answered in the negative. "Projects, whether strategic or large-scale, express our bilateral and multilateral interests and have nothing to do with military strategic decisions," the Russian ambassador said.
Asked to comment the government's decision on television, German Ambassador Peter Metzger said: "Any country which states a desire to join NATO is welcome." He said this is Germany's long-standing position.
 PM SOFIYANSKI MEETS DIPLOMATIC CORPSSofia, February 17 (BTA) - "The caretaker government is assuming its responsibilities with a desire to change things and we rely much on your countries' and your personal support to implement our ambitions," Prime Minister Sofiyanski told foreign ambassadors gathered at the Boyana Residence on Monday. Bulgaria is in a grave situation, the economic crisis is assuming menacing proportions, but the country has human resources as well as stamina and ambition to pull out of it, Sofiyanski said.
In his address the Prime Minister said the caretaker government would concentrate on economic problems. Even a modest financial stabilization would be considered a success. "We will start with the internal debt problem. We are ready to accept the conditions and start talks on the implementation of a currency board this week," Sofiyanski said. He said some investment projects would be prepared along with the negotiations. The cabinet is planning to launch negotiations for the completion of highways and of Sofia airport. The first steps towards banking stabilization are to be made, he said. Sofiyanski pledged the cabinet would do its best to compensate disadvantaged groups, an area in which the diplomats' assistance could be extremely useful.
Despite its short-term nature, the caretaker government will not shelve Bulgaria's foreign policy priorities, Sofiyanski said. He recalled Monday's cabinet decision on the country's accession to NATO, stressing it was taken by a unanimous vote. He stressed this move was not intended to damage anyone's interest, adding that this is the path for Bulgaria and the other former socialist countries to take.
In response the doyen Ambassador M. al-Gamudi said the diplomatic corps would inform their governments of the Bulgarian cabinet's intentions and expressed the diplomats' strong desire to see material progress in the country. He wished the cabinet success during its three-month term.
 MEASURES TO RESOLVE GRAIN CRISISSofia, February 17 (BTA) - Bulgaria has grain only for 15 or 20 days, it emerged at Sunday's meeting of Agriculture Minister Roumen Hristov with directors of grain storage facilities and flour mills. The press release came from the Government Press Office Monday. The caretaker cabinet met on Monday to discuss Minister Hristov's proposals for resolving the grain crisis.
One way is to negotiate aid with the European Union and the international financial institutions. The cabinet authorized Bulgarian ambassadors abroad to hold talks for this purpose. If the talks are successful, the caretaker cabinet will start official negotiations on humanitarian and financial aid for Bulgaria. The first tranche of the ECU 20 million which the EU promised is expected to arrive around March 20, Prime Minister Stefan Sofiyanski told journalists.
A barter deal - grain for sunflower cooking oil -is another way to provide grain, the ministers agreed. According to the Agriculture Minister, this will ensure the import of about 50,000 t of grain. The cabinet is looking for opportunities to barter electricity for wheat with some neighbouring countries. Bulgaria can afford to export electricity, Hristov said.
The import of grain for cash will cost about 20 million US dollars a month which Bulgaria cannot afford at the moment, Hristov said. In his view, the best way is to import 250 - 300,000 t of grain now against the export of the same amount plus certain additional quantity covering interest and other expenses involved in the autumn. Having in mind the current exchange rate of the US dollar (about 3,200 leva/USD 1), all variants envisaging the import of wheat on purely market principles would boost bread prices up to 1,800 - 2,000 leva, Minister Hristov said. At the moment a loaf of bread sells at 250 - 400 leva.
A special council with the Government, headed by Prime Minister Sofiyanski and including the Agriculture Minister and the Minister of Trade Bobeva, will coordinate the work on resolving the grain crisis.
 WORKING GROUP ON FOREIGN AIDSofia, February 17 (BTA) - Ivan Neikov, Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, said on Monday an interdepartmental working group is to be set up to assist UN needs assessment missions. Neikov will head the group which will consist of representatives of the ministries of foreign affairs, health care, trade and foreign economic cooperation, finance and agriculture, and the director of the Foreign Aid Agency.
"Foreign countries are not aware of what exactly Bulgaria needs. The previous cabinet has not made a single request for foreign aid," Neikov said. He added the group is to start work immediately to provide the required information by February 24 when a UN mission is expected in Bulgaria.
 PM SOFIYANSKI: SOFIA-SKOPJE LINGUISTIC DISPUTE IS LUDICROUSSkopje, February 17 (BTA Exclusive by Kostadin Filipov) Bulgarian caretaker Prime Minister Stefan Sofiyanski described the linguistic controversy between Sofia and Skopje as formal and ludicrous.
In an interview for the Macedonian radio, his first interview for a foreign media after being appointed, Sofiyanski said during his short mandate negotiations will continue with the Macedonian government for signing the 19 trade, economic and cultural accords because they reflect the interests of both sides. Formal factors such as the linguistic dispute cannot be an obstacle, Sofiyanski said, specifying this matter has to be taken up by a government with a longer term. Sofiyanski also said the government he heads prioritizes the economic aspects of foreign relations and will "disregard foreign policy problems such as this linguistic controversy which for me is formal and ludicrous, and I would not like to comment on it".
 MINISTRY OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CLOSEDSofia, February 17 (BTA) - On Monday President Peter Stoyanov decreed the closure of the Ministry of Economic Development and assigned the implementation of the decree to caretaker Prime Minister Stefan Sofiyanski. "The caretaker government will have to take appropriate action to arrange the legal succession at the closure of the Ministry of Economic Development, " the President's Press Secretary Neri Terzieva said.
 PERSONNEL CHANGES AT MINISTRIESSofia, February 17 (BTA) - The caretaker government today ordered personnel changes in some ministries.
Valentin Dobrev was appointed First Deputy Foreign Minister. He was in this office in the 1991-93 period. Former Bulgarian Ambassador to Seoul Boiko Mirchev was appointed Deputy Foreign Minister. Deputy Foreign Minister Konstantin Glavanakov of the former team keeps his job.
Deputy Finance Minister Dimiter Radev stays in his position. The other Deputy Finance Minister is Biser Slavkov.
Deputy Energy Ministers Ivanka Dilovska and Ivan Markov were dismissed.
Agriculture Minister Roumen Hristov has already dismissed 30 Agriculture Ministry officers and has yet to replace the deputy ministers. One of the new deputy agriculture ministers will be Hassan Ali of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms.
The new teams will be announced at special news conferences to be held at the ministries, said the government press office.
On Monday Defence Minister Georgi Ananiev acquainted the high command with the changes in his Ministry's leadership. The number of deputy defence ministers will be reduced, said Minister Georgi Ananiev. Defence Ministry and General Staff bodies with duplicated functions will be eliminated.
Deputy defence ministers Boris Radev, Dimiter Mitkov and Stoyan Shatov were dismissed by order of Prime Minister Sofiyanski dated February 17.
Roumen Kunchev was appointed Deputy Minister in charge of military and political issues. He will also head the Defence Ministry's Legal Department and the National Security Research Centre.
Simeon Petkovski was appointed Deputy Minister in charge of military- economic issues.
Deputy Minister Vladimir Nenchev, who is in charge of financial matters, retains his position. He will also head the Ministry's Social Policy Department and the State Military Property Department.
 COUNCIL OF MINISTERS' DECISIONSSofia, February 17 (BTA) - The Finance Ministry is to allocate 5,148 million leva for the holding of early parliamentary elections on April 19, the caretaker government decided on Monday. The Cabinet press office said 200 tonnes of paper will be released from the government reserve for the printing of election papers. Deputy Prime Minister Anchev will head an operative government body to prepare the elections. Bulgarian voters number seven million, the Cabinet press office said.
A delegation headed by Foreign Minister Stalev will go to Brussels on February 23 for the third session of talks on the adjustment of Bulgaria's Europe Agreement, the press office said. The Bulgarian officials will meet with European Commission President Santer and Commissioner Hans van den Broek. Trade ministry experts will ask for special tariff cuts on some Bulgarian exports to the EU, including bakery products and chocolate, ice cream and beer.
The Cabinet appointed a new Board of Directors of Bulgargas, the state- owned gas importer and trader.
Changes were made to the Privatization Agency's Supervisory Board.
 FUEL PRICES MARKED UP SHARPLYSofia, February 17 (BTA) - The caretaker government Monday decided to mark up fuel prices. The decision was announced by Prime Minister Stefan Sofiyanski who said Friday the markup will be "dramatic". Prices were updated as follows: 910 leva per litter for A93 petrol (up from 328 leva), 1070 leva for unleaded A95 (from 385 leva), 850 leva for A86 (from 308 leva) and 720 leva for diesel fuel (from 281 leva).
The markup will hopefully stabilize temporarily the domestic fuel market and fuel supplies withheld because of the giveaway prices are now expected to come out on the market, said the Prime Minister. He said the hike only partially offsets the losses of the Neftochim oil refinery, the biggest in the country. The new prices will help prevent a complete block of the health care and welfare sectors, public transport, the army and police, said Sofiyanski. He said it will not be the last markup.
Last Friday the government introduced an interim ban on the export of fuels and beefed up border controls. It replaced the Managing Board of the Neftochim oil refinery and ordered the new management to draw up a comprehensive rehabilitation programme within two weeks. The Prime Minister personally visited the oil refinery on Friday.
The country has been facing a severe fuel crisis for over ten days now. Most filling stations closed down. Public transport runs at bigger intervals in some population centers and was completely blocked in the Southern Bulgarian town of Sliven and Pernik near Sofia, among other. The Neftochim management stressed the oil refinery has sustained huge losses because of the low fuel prices, does not have money for fresh oil supplies and its serious indebtedness to suppliers and creditors bars its access to credit lines.
 BULGARIA- A PRIME TOURISM DESTINATIONSofia, February 17 (BTA) - "Your country Bulgaria offers excellent opportunities. Scenic and original nature, ancient monuments, mountains, attractive seaside resorts, rehabilitation centers. Actually, I am hardly the first one to reach such conclusions," Mr. Thomas Tate of the Citizens Democracy Corps (CDC) says in an interview for the "Pari" daily.
CDC is an American non-profit organization pooling the efforts of private business for the development of market economy and democratic society in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.
The CDC experts work on strictly volunteer basis. In Bulgaria the Corps has implemented 160 projects. In this country, CDC works together with several other American non-profit organizations united in the Flag Consortium. Flag prioritizes agribusiness, construction, tourism, light industry and consulting services.
Within the framework of the long-term Flag Project, Mr. Tate, who is member of the executive office of the Governor of Nevada, has visited the Bulgarian resorts of Varna, Veliko Turnovo, Albena, Nessebur, Bourgas, Plovdiv and Borovets.
"I guess Bulgaria has a full potential to be a leader in the world tourism market. You can offer your customers innumerable attractions, but this is not enough," Mr. Tate told his interviewer.
He sees worthwhile opportunities for development of rural tourism in Bulgaria. "This is a good niche," he believes. Albena is an example of adequately built tourist infrastructure, with modern communications and high standard of service, Mr. Tate asserts. "A large part of the Black Sea resorts offer excellent conditions for rest and recreation, they are in a better condition than the rest of Bulgaria's tourist facilities," Mr. Tate notes.
Tourism is the industry that will revive Bulgaria in the shortest term, Mr. Tate says. "The private sector and the government must set a priority on this industry and, then, its supporting infrastructure has to be revived."
During his visit to Bulgaria Mr. Tate met with officials of the Committee of Tourism and of private tour-operator associations. He recommended to them to set up a marketing company to popularize tourism and boost the sectors servicing tourism.
To foreign investors who would come to Bulgaria, Mr. Tate says: "Bulgaria offers foreigners value for money." Future foreign investments depend on security and stability in this country. money for tourist projects will come from the European Community and Asia, Mr. Tate adds.
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