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Bulgarian Telegraph Agency (BTA), 97-02-20
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From: Embassy of Bulgaria <email@example.com>
EMBASSY OF BULGARIA - WASHINGTON D.C.
BTA - BULGARIAN TELEGRAPH AGENCY
20 February, 1997
 BULGARIA'S MARKS 124TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE HANGING OF NATIONAL HERO VASSIL LEVSKISofia, February 19 (BTA) - Today Bulgarian marks the 124th anniversary of the hanging of Vassil Levski, one of the most prominent leaders and ideologists of the Bulgarian national revolutionary movement. Levski reconsidered the revolutionary strategy for liberating Bulgaria from Ottoman domination, concentrating revolutionary activity inside the country instead of abroad and involving the entire nation in it. Levski set up revolutionary committees including representatives of all social strata. He was arrested by the Turkish authorities following a betrayal in his organization and was hanged in Sofia.
Levski also left a mark in Bulgarian history with his insight into the future. He formulated the principles of Bulgarian statehood. The "sacred and pure republic" he wished to set up was to be established following the best achievements of European political thought. In his speech on the occasion of the anniversary, President Peter Stoyanov stressed that in today's difficult times and now that Bulgaria is facing such a great historical challenge we need the image and the legacy of Vassil Levski more than ever.
 BULGARIA: CRISIS DEEPENSSofia, February 19 (BTA) - February inflation in Bulgaria will top 100 per cent, predicts the Institute of Economics with the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, whose figures diverge substantially from official statistics. At 7-8 US dollars, the average monthly wage has dropped way below the poverty line. Ninety per cent of Bulgarians live below the poverty threshold, the Academy's economists estimate.
Because of a yet another grain crisis, bread prices are rising daily, reaching up to 0.30 US dollars per loaf in some cities. Hundreds of people are queuing in front of the empty bakeries. "Survival headquarters" have started to be set up at some places in the provinces to control the distribution of staple foods.
People are spending their money mainly on milk and bread, and wear out their old clothes and shoes because they cannot afford new ones, according to a sociological survey whose results were quoted on National Radio Tuesday. The Consumer Federation expects another food hike this week. The press reports instances when pensioners pool resources to buy out the last remaining cans of Bulgarian-made (therefore cheaper) pet food and cook four pots of soup out of the contents of one can.
On Thursday the caretaker cabinet will consider plans to nearly sextuple electricity prices to 3.5 US cents/ 1 kWh, as required by the International Monetary Fund, Sofia's acting Mayor Ventseslav Nikolov told reporters Tuesday. Schools and kindergartens may have to cancel classes for lack of heating, just as they did last month, he added.
Urban transport services have been cut down even in Sofia and have been entirely suspended in some places because of the petrol shortage. Daily, BTA correspondents around the country report new surges of fares. Taxi drivers in Sofia already charge 700-800 leva per km which puts off most customers. 1 US dollar exchanges for about 2,600 leva on the cash market.
"Introducing a currency board in Bulgaria as soon as possible is the key to stabilization," Prof. Ivan Angelov, head of the Macroeconomic Policy Section of the Institute of Economics with the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, said on a private Sofia-based TV station Tuesday. "The prices of government-monitored goods and services - mainly foods and transport services - are rising uncontrollably and no one can establish order," he said.
 GOVERNMENT - TRADE UNIONS TALK ON INCOME PROTECTIONSofia, February 19 (BTA) - Krustyu Petkov, President of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB), handed Prime Minister Sofiyanski a draft of an interim national agreement on income protection and stabilization and restructuring of the economy Wednesday. The draft agreement was drawn up by the CITUB which is one of the two most influential trade union amalgamations in this country. Sofiyanski committed to familiarize the cabinet ministers with the document already Wednesday and start negotiations with the social partners as early as next week, Petkov told journalists after the meeting.
Prime Minister Sofiyanski said that the concrete measures that would be set in the agreement depend on the negotiations with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank and the finalizing of the deal for the sale of the Sodi-Devnya chemical plant, said Petkov. The CITUB has drafted two versions of the agreement: with and without hyperinflation. However, Petkov cited the Prime Minister as saying that probably a mixed version will be approved.
The CITUB President further quoted Prime Minister Sofiyanski as saying that the Government is firmly resolved to keep the level of the US dollar/lev exchange rate and even to strengthen the lev. However, the set of measures to this end could be carried out in mid-March at the earliest, after the deal for the sale of Sodi is finalized and fresh money is received, Sofiyanski allegedly said. He voiced the hope that the EU will soon remit 20 million Ecu to assist the socially- disadvantaged in this country.
 BULGARIA TO SEEK ENERGY EFFICIENCYSofia, February 19 (BTA) - Energy efficiency is the uppermost priority of the energy ministry, energy minister Georgi Stoilov told a working meeting with ministry officials on Wednesday. Newly appointed deputy energy minister Kolyu Kolev, who previously worked in the ministry's energy efficiency department, will be in charge of the task.
The Interdepartmental Commission on State Energy Regulation will discuss on Wednesday options for energy sources markup. Heating prices are also expected to be raised.
Sofia, February 19 (BTA) - "The Kozlodoui nuclear power plant, poses a risk, despite improvements made over the past few years," newly appointed energy minister Stoilov told a working meeting of ministry officials on Wednesday. A policy to reduce operation of the dangerous facilities is to be considered; projects for modernization of both the old and the newer units will be discussed, Stoilov said.
On February 13 the Athens News Agency (ANA) quoted Greece's Alternate Minister for European Affairs Georgius 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 N-plant and remains concerned, despite the expert examination by the competent authorities of the European Commission which confirmed the reactor's safety.
The Bulgarian National Electricity Company (NEC) expressed Tuesday firm disagreement with the statements made in the Greek parliament and reported in the Bulgarian press. A NEC press release Tuesday said that assessments of 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 plant since 1991. The information feed on January does not suggest any changes in the radiation levels on the site and around the plant. The management of NEC 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 insinuations by non-experts."
Last September Siemens representatives expressed appreciation for Bulgaria's technological commitment to bring the Kozlodoui N-plant in compliance with international standards. "We see real progress at Kozlodoui, Annik Carnino, Director for Nuclear Facilities Safety, said during a visit to the Bulgarian N-plant in November 1996. In a declaration of December 6, 1996 the European Commission announced that the analysis of the templates taken from Generating Unit One of the Kozlodoui N-plant has shown that the unit may be safely operated. The document also said that the N-plant (generating 45% of this country's electricity) should be closed down only after alternative energy sources are found. "The IAEA and the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) have admitted that the Kozlodoui N- plant has ceased to be a bad example," said former NEC director Kouzmanov at a symposium last autumn. Last year Bulgarian Parliament ratified the Vienna Convention on Nuclear Safety and other related documents.
 BULGARIA SHOULD REGAIN CONFIDENCE, FOREIGN MINISTER STALEV SAYSSofia, February 19 (Iva Toncheva of BTA) - Giving his first news conference on Wednesday, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Stoyan Stalev pointed out that the caretaker cabinet would signal clearly the Bulgarian foreign policy still has European priorities. "We should give an impetus to certain foreign political processes which have been slowed down," Mr. Stalev said. In his view, Bulgaria should restore confidence that it is advancing firmly to a market economy and that there is a good investment climate in it.
"It is important that Bulgaria builds itself a new image in foreign policy and that it uses a clear language," the Foreign Minister said. "Bulgaria should seriously activate its lobbying in the world," Stalev said, noting that this country's image in Europe is very provincial. " We should overcome the fear from competition, we should not be afraid to present ourselves abroad," he said observing that the country's self-isolation would be fatal.
However, Minister Stalev pointed out that one of the most important tasks of the Foreign Ministry would be to render assistance to the other institutions in the financial stabilization of the country and in seeking opportunities for additional crediting of the budget and the balance of payments. The Ministry will provide help in the negotiations with international financial institutions as well.
Commenting on the caretaker cabinet's decision to declare Bulgaria's desire to join NATO, Minister Stalev said this step was belated. "It was taken with the clear awareness that Bulgaria should make up for the time wasted," the Foreign Minister said. He pointed out that the decision for NATO membership is in line with Bulgaria's national interests and will help improve its image. Mr. Stalev cited the results of opinion polls showing that between 52 and 60 percent of Bulgarians endorse the idea to join NATO. Mr. Stalev believes that it will not be necessary to pass a parliamentary resolution on NATO after the general elections in April. The cabinet's decision is based on a declaration the Bulgarian National Assembly adopted in 1993. "I believe that Bulgaria's membership in NATO can contribute a lot to security and stability in the Balkans," the Foreign Minister said.
In reply to a question what effect the NATO membership decision will have on the relations between Bulgaria and Russia, Mr. Stalev said he does not think Russia has any reason to feel hurt by it. "The decision is not directed against third countries and NATO's enlargement will not harm the interests of third countries either," he said. "Bulgarian-Russian relations are good and lasting, based on a new legal framework. The friendship between our countries is strong and long, it has historical roots," Stalev said adding, however, that history should be remembered but on the other hand Bulgaria has national priorities of its own. "The relations with Russia are a priority but there are other priorities as well. "We should look ahead to Bulgaria's future," the Foreign Minister said stressing Bulgaria's European orientation. "The NATO membership decision is not only a military one but a decision for the political culture we want to establish," Stalev said.
"So far Bulgaria has pursued a stable, balanced Balkan policy," Minister Stalev said. "I think we have no serious problems here," he said admitting, however, that maybe there are certain nuances of imbalance. "Bulgaria's main purpose in the Balkans is to have equally good relations with all its neighbours - Greece, Turkey, Macedonia, Serbia and Romania," Minister Stalev said. He said that the relations with Greece are more special because it is a member of both NATO and the European Union. "Turkey can be a very stable economic partner and a partner in NATO," he said. "The language dispute should not be made more dramatic than it actually is, the problem will be resolved," Minister Stalev stated commenting on Bulgarian- Macedonian relations. "Bilateral relations should not be influenced by history," he said.
 BULGARIA, NATO: VIEWS AND COMMENTSSofia, February 19 (BTA) - "I am convinced that the dialogue between Russia and NATO will intensify. Moscow will be able to find enough guarantees for its security. It is important for Bulgaria to be politically part of Europe and not to lag behind or impose self-isolation on itself," foreign minister Stoyan Stalev says in an interview for the "Troud" daily on Wednesday, commenting on the Monday decision of caretaker cabinet to declare Bulgaria's desire to join 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 said. It assigned Stalev and defence minister Ananiev to work out a national programme for Bulgaria's accession to the North Atlantic Alliance.
There would be nothing better for Bulgaria than to be a bridge between NATO and Russia, Defence Minister Ananiev said in an interview for the daily of the army "Bulgarska Armiya" on Wednesday. Bulgaria and the Bulgarian army would only gain from NATO membership which will raise the status of the Bulgarian military, Ananiev said.
The stand of the caretaker cabinet fully corresponds to the declaration of the National Assembly of 1993 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, said former chairman of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee Nikolai Kamov in an interview for Radio Free Europe on Tuesday. Nikolai Kamov recently left the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) which governed this country until last week. With minor differences such a decision could have been adopted by the Socialist cabinet, Kamov believes.
Bulgaria's membership in NATO should not affect the prospects of Russian- Bulgarian relations and large joint projects, Russian Ambassador to Bulgaria Leonid Kerestedjiants said in response to a question on Tuesday. "This is Bulgaria's problem and there is no simple solution. Becoming a member of an organization like NATO, you may be placed in conditions in which you will be forced to act against your original intentions, observing the rules of the game. And this is where the problems start," the Russian ambassador explained.
In the meantime "Standart News" Wednesday cited the results of a sociological survey on NATO membership. One in five respondents was against Bulgaria's membership in the alliance. 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 BSP have repeatedly stated during the last few years that because of the crucial importance of the matter a broad public consensus is needed, and the issue has to be considered very carefully and all consequences of a decision weighed. The Socialists, however, did not say how long this should take.
Bulgaria is an active participant in the Partnership for peace program (PFP) and in NACC. It joined PfP in February 1994 and since then has taken part in a number of joint military exercises with other PfP Partners and NATO Allies. It has also hosted a number of such exercises on its own 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.
Sofia, February 19 (BTA) - On February 17, 1997 the caretaker cabinet appointed by President Stoyanov openly challenged the agreement among Bulgarian political forces. The cabinet announced to the Bulgarian and international community a decision declaring this country's willingness to join NATO, says a declaration of the Supreme Council of the BSP. This act was commended and fully supported by the Head of state, the declaration notes. The claim that the step was expedient because of a lack of clarity in Bulgaria's orientation, is totally groundless, the document says. The decision of the caretaker cabinet contradicts an anti-crisis declaration earlier agreed by the political forces, the document also says.
It is of prime importance to guarantee Bulgaria's national security, NATO membership included, the declaration notes. That is why the debate on these issues should continue until the broadest national concord is reached. There is no explaining the fact that the caretaker government has undertaken to solve a fundamental national security issue. Clearly, this is an attempt to present the Bulgarian public, and the future parliament and government with a fait accompli. In view of the problem's exceptional importance in the long term, it should be decided through a referendum, the document says
 TRADE MINISTER PRIORITIESSofia, February 19 (BTA) - The Trade Ministry will have five priorities in the next two months: to deal with shortages on the domestic market, encourage exports, resolve debt problems, set up free trade zones and privatize companies, caretaker Trade Minister Daniela Bobeva told her first press conference on Wednesday, introducing her team.
The main problem now is shortages, according to Bobeva. Even if there were no hyperinflation, shortages would still exist because of pricing policies so far, the lack of a commodity market and profiteering. The problem can be resolved by keeping reserves of goods to be used to stabilize the market and normalize prices in a crisis. The Ministries of Trade, Agriculture and the Interior will join efforts to end profiteering. Another idea is to attract external resources to ensure the commodity balance. To encourage exports, the ministry will set up a centre to give free information to Bulgarian exporters. Negotiations are underway on a credit line to provide export insurance.
In the next few months, the ministry will take decisive steps to collect debts, both to the government and to Bulgarian companies. It will form a working group to deal with Iraqi debt, which is the largest and exceeds $2, 000 million, counting interest.
Another priority is the promotion of trade and economic relations with Balkan countries. Agreements have been drafted with several Balkan countries on reciprocal investment protection and promotion. Work on the establishment of free trade zones with Poland, Hungary, Romania, Croatia and possibly Macedonia will continue.
Daniela Bobeva is planning to speed up privatization of companies reporting to the Trade Ministry. The ministry has invited foreign advisors to help work out a strategy for the privatization of large companies in the sector. The state-run companies in trade number 400. Most attractive for buyers are several foreign trade companies like Bulgartabak, Petrol, etc.
 PM SOFIYANSKI RECEIVES EBRD RESIDENT REPRESENTATIVESofia, February 19 (BTA) - There is no change in the strategy of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), said EBRD Resident Representative in Bulgaria Timothy O'Neil at a meeting with Prime Minister Sofiyanski Wednesday. The meeting was at the request of Mr. O'Neil, who wished to confirm the readiness of the EBRD to work in Bulgaria. The development of the private sector continues to be a priority of the strategy of the EBRD in Bulgaria, Mr. O'Neil said after the meeting. The EBRD will support first the large- scale cash privatization, second - projects in the private sector and third - mass privatization, the EBRD resident representative said.
Bulgaria may receive between USD 100 and 200 million from the EBRD within the framework of projects already under preparation, Mr. O'Neil said. These projects may attract an additional USD 1,000 million in foreign investment. The EBRD is ready to support the banking system through bank privatization immediately after an agreement with the IMF is reached, Mr. O'Neil said.
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