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Bulgarian Telegraph Agency (BTA), 97-02-19
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From: Embassy of Bulgaria <firstname.lastname@example.org>
EMBASSY OF BULGARIA - WASHINGTON D.C.
BTA - BULGARIAN TELEGRAPH AGENCY
19 February, 1997
 WORLD BANK MISSION EXPECTED SATURDAYSofia, February 18 (BTA) - The Resident Representative of the World Bank in Sofia Alberto R. Musalem, conferred Tuesday with Prime Minister Sofiyanski on the Cabinet's priorities for which Bulgaria will seek additional foreign financing. The two outlined a tentative schedule for the visit of Kenneth G. Lay, Director of the World Bank's Southeastern Europe Department, who is expected here Saturday.
The mission led by Mr. Lay will discuss the World Bank's overall support for the Cabinet's programme. "We would like to make sure that we will be assisting a decisive programme for structural adjustment," Mr. Musalem said, speaking through an interpreter. He did not specify the amount of financial support but made it clear that this will depend on the assessment of the decisiveness of the restructuring programme.
Mr. Musalem said the Prime Minister told him the Cabinet will prioritize economic stabilization, restoration of confidence, and growth in the medium term.
Deputy Prime Minister Bozhkov said acceleration of privatization and development of the projects approved so far will top the agenda of talks with Mr. Lay. Of a total of 478 million US dollars provided by the World Bank on various projects, merely 96 million dollars have been utilized, Mr. Bozhkov said.
The previous cabinet's programme for liquidation and isolation of loss- making enterprises is assessed as unrealistic and misconducted so far. "We can come up with a far more sweeping programme for structural reform than list several dozen enterprises and promise to liquidate them but never do so, as Videnov did," Mr. Bozhkov said.
"With the World Bank we will be talking on expansion of the previous social assistance scheme. We will be seeking a larger share of the World Bank in the development of social infrastructure: separation of the social funds and creation of the safety net," the Deputy PM said. In his view, this will require very serious moves and a clearer concept on the part of Bulgaria.
 PRESIDENT VETOES ELECTORAL LAW AMENDMENTSSofia, February 18 (BTA) - The April 19 early general elections will take place under a 4% barrier for entry into Parliament, despite the amendments to the electoral law passed by the 37th National Assembly which dissolves February 19. President Stoyanov returned for further consideration the amendments to the Election Act passed by Parliament on February 13. The veto could not be overridden, even though only a simple majority is needed, as the members of the parliamentary committee on state bodies' organization could not form a quorum. One of the amendments reduced the 4% barrier for entry into Parliament to 3%. It was passed by the Left majority and despite the protest of the opposition.
According to Stoyanov, the amendment is a serious change in the electoral regulations. Changes of this type should be passed only by a Parliament which has broad public support, or if there is a consensus among the major political forces, the President says in his motives for the veto. Reduction of the 4% barrier may lead to formation of an unstable Parliament, Stoyanov says.
National Assembly Chairman Sendov said that it is perfectly all right for the elections to be held under the old law. He said he will not use the option to call an extraordinary sitting of Parliament. "The President deliberately returned the act so late so as to bring Parliament to its knees. It is Bulgaria that will be humiliated, and it is the President who is responsible for that" he pointed out.
"This may have been deliberate," Socialist Party leader Purvanov said, commenting the President's late veto. There are no legal grounds to return the amendments, according to him. "The President apparently failed to keep his declaration that he will be a president to all Bulgarians," Purvanov said. "The Head of State yielded to the political pressure on the part of our main political opponent," Purvanov stated.
 FOREIGN MINISTER MEETS NATO AMBASSADORSSofia, February 18 (BTA) - Foreign Minister Stoyan Stalev met with the ambassadors of the NATO member-countries to Bulgaria Tuesday. Minister Stalev familiarized the foreign diplomats with the Monday decision of the Cabinet to declare Bulgaria's desire for full membership in NATO and with the reasoning behind this decision. He defined the meeting as a good start of the procedure of Bulgaria's joining the North Atlantic Alliance.
"This was an useful and honest discussion about the possibility of Bulgaria's compensating for the lagging behind in the dialogue with NATO and being treated on an equal footing with the other East European countries and especially with the EU associate members," Stalev told journalists after the meeting.
The foreign diplomats asked how fast can Bulgaria build up confidence that this decision is final and how will relations between Bulgarian and Russia develop from now on. Foreign Minister Stalev stated that "the best proof for a country's foreign policy is the upcoming parliamentary elections and respectively the programs adopted by the political parties at these elections".
Bulgaria does not cherish illusions that it can quickly make up for the time lost due to this country's unclear position on its membership in NATO, the Foreign Minister stated. He added that the next steps should be very pragmatic especially after the holding of the early parliamentary elections scheduled for April 1997. In his view these steps should aim strengthening of the country's positions in the NATO member-countries. Besides, the willingness to join NATO should go parallel with a very serious preparation within the country, including a pragmatic discussion on the cultural, economic, political and other problems Bulgaria has to face applying for membership in the organization, he added.
Bulgaria should not miss the chance of getting an invitation to the NATO meeting in Madrid in July. It would participate in this meeting as a country which has stated its political will to join NATO and as one of the countries with which negotiations for admission are under way, Stalev said.
 SOUTHEAST EUROPE DIPLOMATS MEETSofia, February 18 (BTA) - The political directors of the ministries of foreign affairs of the countries of Southeastern Europe began a two-day meeting here Tuesday. The meeting was opened by Bulgarian Foreign Minister Stoyan Stalev. In his welcoming speech, he outlined the foreign policy priorities of the caretaker cabinet. They include Bulgaria's categorical desire to join the European Union and NATO, to regain investors' credibility, and to take advantage of the country's geographical location for active regional cooperation.
At the end of their meeting, the political directors will review the proposals made at the Meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Countries of South-Eastern Europe, which was held in Sofia last July, and will coordinate efforts for their implementation. The participants will also consider opportunities for interaction with other regional cooperation initiatives, and specifically participation in joint programmes of the countries of the Central European Initiative and the Black Sea Economic Cooperation. The political directors will discuss proposals on the main questions which will top the agenda of the meeting of foreign ministers of Southeastern Europe, due to take place in Greece in July.
Representatives of the European Union and the European Commission have been invited to attend the political directors' meeting as guests.
 REACTIONS IN MACEDONIA TO LATEST EVENTS IN BULGARIASofia, February 18 (BTA) - "Bulgaria, the first country to recognize Macedonia, is a respected partner, with whom we would like to build close bilateral relations in all fields," says a statement of the Macedonian Foreign Ministry about the latest developments in Bulgaria and other neighbouring countries, the BTA stringer in Skopje writes.
Macedonia cannot remain indifferent to developments in Bulgaria and other neighbouring countries as part of democratic processes in the region and is following them with interest, the document also says. "Our view is that the events in Bulgaria and other neighbouring countries are their internal problem. It is of lasting interest to us that similar problems are resolved as fast as possible, peacefully and democratically. We hail the democratic resolution of the crisis in Bulgaria and wish a stabilization of the situation, so we can continue to resolve issues of common interest through talks and on the basis of equality," says the Macedonian Foreign Ministry statement.
Macedonian media saw the decision of the Bulgarian caretaker cabinet Monday to declare Bulgaria's willingness to join NATO as news of primary importance, the BTA stringer in Skopje said. The "Nova Makedonija" daily published the report on its front page and the independent "Dnevnik" noted Bulgaria lagged behind Poland, Hungary and the Czech republic in the race to join the alliance.
 GREECE SUGGESTS BALKAN MEETINGAthens, February 18 (BTA) - Greece will suggest an extraordinary meeting in the framework of the initiative for stability and goodneighbourliness in Southeastern Europe (the Royaumont initiative), the Athens ANA news agency reported. The forum would take place in March in Athens or Sofia and discuss opportunities for assistance to ailing Balkan countries such as Albania and Bulgaria. The proposal is prompted by the intention of Athens to energize European Union efforts to follow a new European policy in the Balkans. In this connection the Greek Foreign Ministry has launched a campaign to implement proposals of a political and economic nature to be officially presented by Greek second foreign minister in charge of European affairs Georgios Papandreou, to the EU Council of Ministers in Brussels February 24. More specifically, Greece suggests to study opportunities for subsidies, economic assistance and food aid for Bulgaria and Albania.
 BULGARIAN NAVY TO HOST "COOPERATIVE PARTNER '97"Varna, February 18 (BTA) - A conference for preparation of an exercise named "Cooperative Partner '97" will take place in Varna between February 19 and 21. The joint exercise between NATO and Partnership for Peace participating countries will be held off Varna in the Black Sea between June 22 and July 5. It will be hosted by the Bulgarian Navy, the Navy Press Centre said Tuesday.
 OPERATOR DENIES ALLEGATIONS ON N-PLANT SAFETYSofia, February 18 (BTA) - The National Electric Company (NEK) takes exception to statements made in the Greek Parliament in connection with the condition of the Kozlodoui Nuclear Power Plant (on the Danube), reported in the Bulgarian press.
A NEK press release, which reached BTA Tuesday, says that assessments on the plant are made by experts of the International Atomic Energy Agency who have been conducting regular inspections on the condition of the facilities and the level of operation of the N-plant since 1991.
The information feed on January does not suggest any changes in the radiation levels on the site and around the nuclear power plant. "The management of NEK is seriously concerned by the fact that the familiar scenario of political pressure on the Bulgarian nuclear power industry is coming into play yet again through non-experts' insinuations," the press release reads.
On February 13 the Athens News Agency (ANA) quoted Greece's Alternate Minister for European Affairs Georgios Papandreou as saying before the Greek Parliament that Greece will raise with the European Union the question about the restarted Unit One of the Kozlodoui Plant and remains concerned, despite the expert examination by the competent authorities of the European Commission which confirmed the reactor's safety.
 RADIO JOURNALISTS CALL OFF STRIKESofia, February 18 (BTA) - The strike in the Bulgarian National Radio (BNR) is called off, the striking committee said Tuesday evening. The decision was taken at a meeting between the strikers, BNR Director General Vyacheslav Tounev and Prime Minister Stefan Sofiyanski.
The problems of the national radio cannot be resolved within one or two days but this media has and will have the support of the caretaker cabinet, said Sofiyanski. The agreement was reached after Tuesday morning the radio aired only music and news. The strikers demanded non-acceptance of censorship in the BNR and increase of salaries. They also insisted that Deputy Director B.Djamdjiev, R.Petrov and S.Angelova, directors of the Horizont and Hristo Botev programs and A.Tsenov, head of the Bulgaria radio [the external service] be dismissed. At the Tuesday meeting Tounev said he is ready to satisfy almost all the demands. He voiced before journalists his support for the proposal of the striking committee to eliminate all internal and external interference in the BNR performance.
 INTERIOR MINISTRY CRACKS DOWN ON CORRUPTION, TRIES TO CURBS PROFITEERINGSofia, February 18 (BTA) - Caretaker Interior Minister Bogomil Bonev has ordered the National Security Service, the Central Service for Organized Crime Control, the National Police Force, the Metropolitan and the regional directorates of internal affairs to make arrangements until the end of this month for ascertainment of cases in which unearned income has accrued to civil servants, the Interior Ministry said in a press release Tuesday. Under the order, the law enforcement authorities will also investigate all tips on civil servants whose property status does not correspond to the income drawn by them and their family members. After collection of relevant evidence, the case records must be referred to the prosecutor's office which is competent to present government claims against the offenders.
Sofia, February 18 (BTA) - The police is going to take extra measures to control violations of the customs regulations, says a press release of the Interior Ministry. Under an order by Interior Minister Bonev customs and police officers will check for petrol products, meat, milk, flour, grain, medicines, raw hides and leather, raw tobacco, wine and other goods. The order was prompted by reports about a possible smuggling of these goods.
The Interior Ministry bodies and the customs authorities will check incoming vehicles as the policemen will watch the unloading of the imported goods. The police checkpoints will be moved in close proximity to the border crossings, reads the press release.
 COST-OF-LIVING ADJUSTMENT OF INCOMESSofia, February 18 (BTA) - The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs is trying to work out a temporary mechanism to compensate incomes in March. It will present its position at the caretaker cabinet's meeting on Wednesday, Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Ivan Neikov said.
"Protected incomes, which were increased 100 percent in February, are the basis we will work on," First Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Goran Bankov said. "The doubling of wages in the state-financed sector partly adjusted incomes to the 140-percent inflation in October 1996 - January 1997; now we are thinking what more could be done," he added. Mr. Bankov said that there were no resources to compensate the actual drop in incomes. "Depending on the available funds, we will determine the size of the compensation we could add to protected incomes in March. If we are short of funds, we will ask for foreign aid," Mr. Bankov said.
 INTERNATIONAL RED CROSS TO ASSIST BULGARIASofia, February 18 (BTA) - The International Committee of the Red Cross will finance a program of the Bulgarian Red Cross (BRC) for the distribution of humanitarian principles and norms. This was set in a two- year agreement between the BRC and the International Committee of the Red Cross signed Tuesday. The assistance is expected to exceed 160,000 US dollars.
The Spanish Rod Cross will fund a training seminar for red cross officers.
The Sylvie Vartan for Bulgaria Association granted humanitarian aid of the worth of 58,600,000 leva to the BRC. According to the donor's will, the aid will be distributed among socially-disadvantaged families, schools, social establishments and hospitals.
The Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung Corporation of Germany gave 300,000 Deutsche Marks to BRC to buy baby foods and household equipment for children's residential establishments.
BRC received donations from the Netherlands and Italy. The International Ladies' Club, the Bulgarian-Swiss and Bulgarian Dutch associations voiced their readiness to provide humanitarian aid.
 ECO-TOURISM - A WAY TO PRESERVE THE NATURAL AND CULTURAL HERITAGESofia, February 18 (BTA) - A team of consultants on ecotourism working on a biodiversity conservation project financed by the U.S. administration through the Global Environment Facility (GEF) visited Bulgaria over the last three weeks. The consultants of Britain's Shepherd Robson International studied the potential for eco-tourism in two national parks, Mt. Rila (Southwestern Bulgaria) and the Central Balkan Range (Central Bulgaria).
Eco-tourism is part of a National Strategy for Biodiversity Conservation, as well as of a state policy of biodiversity management. The team mapping out a strategy for eco-tourism in the two parks met with local government representatives and officials of the Bulgarian Tourism Union, the Forestry and Tourism Committees, and the Ministry of Regional Development and Construction.
The team's proposals envisage prioritizing legislation on protected areas and devolution of the respective ministries and committees.
The consultants said eco-tourism in the protected mountain areas may be linked successfully with sustainable rural tourism in the adjoining territories. After a hike in scenic places known for their biological diversity tourists will be glad to immerse themselves in rural lifestyle, the consultants argued.
The team suggests the "heritage paths" scheme - using sustainable tourism as a way to revitalize agriculture. This approach has been taken in Slovenia, Austria and Britain. Bulgaria has tried the scheme near Kavarna on the northern Black Sea coast.
A marketing study showed the idea of sustainable rural tourism and eco- tourism in Bulgaria was found attractive in Germany, Austria, Britain, the Benelux and the Scandinavian countries.
The GEF biodiversity project financed by the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Bulgarian government seeks to help this country develop a system of protected areas. It is being implemented along with the National Service for Nature Conservation with the Environment Ministry. One of the project's aims is to promote eco- tourism which boosts economic development in population centres near the Rila and Central Balkan Range national parks.
 PRIVATIZATION INCLUDED AMONG PRIORITIES OF TRANSPORT MINISTRYSofia, February 18 (BTA) - The first task our team will do is to review the financial situation in the transport sector and come up with proposals on the development of the subsectors by the end of the week, caretaker transport minister Wilhelm Krauss told a new conference on Tuesday. Krauss introduced the new team working in the transport ministry. He said that the ministry's priorities will focus on privatization, rehabilitation of the major road network and harmonizing the bill drafted by the transport ministry with the European legislation.
Four transport corridors pass through Bulgaria. "We believe that the East- West corridor [No 8] should be given priority status. It is very important to complete the preliminary research work on the route, to find investors and implement the project," Krauss said.
The Balkan national air carrier must be privatized, caretaker transport minister believes. "Real work on the reconstruction of the Sofia airport should be sped up," the caretaker transport minister said. The rehabilitation programme of the national rail carrier, the Bulgarian State Railways, is good and is implemented successfully, Krauss said. The transport minister believes that the passenger carrier companies should be placed under the municipal authorities. "Our aim is to achieve the European parameters of subsidizing passenger service where state participation is no more than 30%," Krauss said.
 ECONOMISTS PROJECT FEBRUARY INFLATION AT 100 PER CENT-PLUSSofia, February 18 (BTA) - February inflation will top 100 per cent, Prof. Dr. Alexander Dimitrov, Director of the Institute of Economics of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, predicted at a news conference Tuesday. This is double to treble the 40 per cent inflation in January, he added.
Senior Research Associate Georgi Shopov of the same institute found that immiseration has been steadily tending to expand during the last few years. In 1996, the average wage dropped below the poverty line to 97 per cent of it in 1996, Mr. Shopov noted.
Last year some 90 per cent of Bulgarians drew incomes below the poverty line, up from some 80 per cent in 1995 and 75 per cent in 1993, according to Mr. Shopov's figures.
Employees in the state-financed sphere saw their incomes plummet the most, by 60 per cent, Mr. Shopov said. The comparable figure for the enterprise sector is 42 per cent. From 1995 to 1996, personal incomes dropped between 40 and 60 per cent on the average.
"As a result of non-payment of indirect taxes, tens of billions of leva did not go into the public purse but into the pocket of semi-criminal financial agents, adding to their power," Vanyo Konsoulov of the Institute of Economics told the news conference Tuesday. By his estimate, the share of tax revenue in GDP dropped from 30.8 per cent in 1995 to 26.4 per cent in 1996. Interest payments accounted for 50 per cent of budget expenditures. The deficit has been financed by direct borrowing, too. Inflation soared, real interest became negative and, as a result, the lev depreciated. Bulgaria's external debt amounts to 9,6 billion US dollars. Mr. Konsoulov recommended to the Cabinet to develop a budgetary policy which should guarantee financial stabilization and introduction of a currency board, as well as to take action to assist the socially disadvantaged.
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