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Bulgarian Telegraph Agency (BTA), 97-02-26
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From: Embassy of Bulgaria <firstname.lastname@example.org>
EMBASSY OF BULGARIA - WASHINGTON D.C.
BTA - BULGARIAN TELEGRAPH AGENCY
26 February, 1997
 FOREIGN MINISTER STALEV MEETS NATO SECRETARY GENERAL Brussels,February 25 (BTA) - Bulgarian Foreign Minister Stoyan Stalev had a meeting with NATO Secretary General Javier Solana at NATO's Headquarters in Brussels on Tuesday. Mr. Stalev briefed Mr. Solana about the actions taken in implementation of the decision of the Bulgarian Government to apply for NATO membership. He pointed out that Bulgaria should not be isolated from the first steps towards NATO's enlargement. Mr. Solana expressed full support for the Bulgarian Government's decision and the readiness of his organization to render all necessary assistance in making up for any opportunities missed. Bulgaria is a desired partner whose contribution is looked forward to and appreciated, Mr. Solana said.
 3RD EU-BULGARIA ASSOCIATION COUNCILSofia, February 25 (BTA) - The 3rd meeting of the EU-Bulgaria Association Council, held on Tuesday, confirmed the European Union's readiness to continue to support Bulgaria in its efforts to overcome the present crisis. The Council expressed its concern over the situation in Bulgaria, closely linked to the EU through its Europe Agreement and a candidate for full membership in it, said a press release of the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry.
The Bulgarian delegation was headed by Foreign Minister Stoyan Stalev. The meeting was presided over by Michael Patein, Dutch Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. The European Commission was represented by Hans van den Broek.
The EU-Bulgaria Association Council called upon the Bulgarian authorities to take swift and decisive action to stabilize the country's economy and carry out structural reforms. The Council hailed Bulgaria's commitment to reaching an agreement with the International Monetary Fund on a macroeconomic stabilization programme accompanied by comprehensive structural reform.
The EU expressed its readiness to launch initiatives for mobilizing support from the international financial institutions and the international community in parallel to the talks with the IMF on condition a credible programme for economic stabilization and reforms is given a go-ahead. Besides the 76 million ECU extended after May 1996 in support of reforms, the EU opened an additional financial line for urgent social aid under PHARE to protect the most vulnerable social groups in Bulgaria.
The Association Council is aware of the progress Bulgaria has made in its membership preparation strategy and specified the priorities of its further efforts. The Council made a review of the process of approximating the Bulgarian legislation to the EU standards and stressed the importance it attaches to the stability of democratic institutions, the commitment to the rule of law, human and minority rights, the principles of democratic government and civil society.
The Bulgarian side voiced concern over the visa requirements for Bulgarians entering the territory of the EU member countries. The Council expressed its satisfaction with the measures implemented by the Bulgarian authorities to tackle the problem of illegal migration. As to Bulgaria's request for a simplified visa procedure, Bulgaria was encouraged to continue to work for concluding bilateral agreements to this effect.
The Association Council praised Bulgaria's initiative for stability, security and cooperation in the area of Southeastern Europe which complements the EU initiative for regional cooperation defined in the Declaration of Royaumont, the Black Sea Economic Cooperation process and the Central European Initiative in which Bulgaria has been taking an active part.
The Council realizes Bulgaria's role during the crisis in ex- Yugoslavia and hails its ambition to make a contribution to the strengthening of peace and the rebuilding of the region.
 BULGARIA - WEUBulgarian Foreign Minister Stoyan Stalev met with Jose Cutileiro, Secretary General of the Western European Union, in Brussels on Tuesday, the Foreign Ministry's Information department said.
Minister Stalev acquainted Mr. Cutileiro with the situation in Bulgaria and with the most important step the caretaker cabinet made in foreign policy, including its statement on Bulgaria's desire to apply for NATO membership of February 17, 1997. Mr. Stalev confirmed Bulgaria's intention for further development and expansion of interaction with the WEU.
The WEU Secretary General expressed full support for Bulgaria's efforts aimed at economic stabilization and for the interim cabinet's foreign political actions seeking acceleration of the country's European integration.
 IMF SEES NO OBSTACLES TO WORK WITH CARETAKER CABINET ON CURRENCY BOARDSofia, February 25 (BTA) - The caretaker cabinet is no obstacle for starting negotiations on introducing a currency board in Bulgaria, International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission leader Anne McGuirk is reported as saying at a meeting with caretaker prime minister Stefan Sofiyanski on Tuesday. Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Sofiyanski said that the IMF representative reiterated once again her firm position in this respect.
"We discussed the work programme and how we are going to organize the discussion while we are here," McGuirk said after the meeting. She said that talks will be held in the next two weeks about a broad agreement on a new programme for Bulgaria. "We want to agree as quickly as possible on the policies needed to stabilize the situation in the country and to work out a programme to prepare for the currency board," McGuirk said.
"We are just beginning our discussion," the IMF official said. According to her, the IMF mission and the Bulgarian cabinet have a lot of technical work to do for any decisions to be made. "We have not discussed the details of the 1997 budget - we are working with the ministry of finance to develop some kind of budget projection," she said.
"I am pleased with the talks we had. We shall continue to work and I believe that we shall reach a mutually acceptable long-term programme which will go beyond the caretaker cabinet's term of office," Sofiyanski said. He said that the programme should be based on the support of all political forces which will enable Bulgaria to conclude a new stand-by agreement. "The agreement will be implemented under a currency board; we reiterated once again our position that we are ready to introduce a currency board," Sofiyanski said.
McGuirk met with President Peter Stoyanov later on Tuesday. Speaking to reporters after the meeting, she expressed her satisfaction with the determination of the President to support a strong stabilization programme. According to McGuirk, apart from fixing the lev/dollar exchange rate, the currency board will bring about financial stabilization.
McGuirk met on Tuesday with caretaker finance minister Svetoslav Gavriiski and central bank Governor Lyubomir Filipov. The IMF official said that she is pleased with the meetings on the first day of her visit to Sofia.
McGuirk arrived in Sofia on Monday on a two-week visit for preparation work on introducing a currency board in this country and concluding a new stand- by agreement. An IMF technical mission arrived in Bulgaria last Thursday and started work on the technical parameters of the introduction of the currency board.
 GEORGE SOROS DONATES USD 1.8 MILLION IN AIDSofia, February 25 (BTA) - George Soros made an extra donation of USD 800, 000 in humanitarian aid which will be distributed by Open Society - Sofia, this Foundation said on Monday.
USD 100,000 will go for consumables and medicines for hospitals in Bulgaria. USD 200,000 will be used for opening soup kitchens and USD 300, 000 for three-month grants to socially disadvantaged university students.
USD 200,000 will go to schoolchildren whose families are experiencing grave financial problems. This donation came in addition to the USD 1,000,000 plus donation to the Pirogoff Emergency Medical Aid Hospital by the Open Society Foundation and the Albert Schweizer International Institute.
 CABINET, UNIONS, EMPLOYERS TO TAKE ANTI-CRISIS ACTIONSofia, February 25 (BTA) - An agreement on temporary income protection measures and on establishing conditions for economic restructuring was signed on Tuesday by the cabinet, the major trade unions and employers' organizations. It was initialed by Prime Minister Stefan Sofiyanski, Krustyo Petkov, President of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB), Konstantin Trenchev, President of the Podkrepa Labour Confederation, and Bozhidar Danev, President of the Bulgarian Industrial Association.
"This is an extremely important act of support for me," said Prime Minister Sofiyanski. The agreement shows the will of the government, the unions and employers to work in a calmer environment, he said. The document envisages liberalizing the economy and helping the least protected groups of the population. The agreement forms a basis for the talks with the IMF which started today, said Sofiyanski.
The Promyana Alliance for Trade Union and Civil Action also wanted to sign the document but the two largest trade unions and the Industrial Association objected by saying Promyana had not been registered as a union and had not been invited to join the agreement.
Along with CITUB and Podkrepa, Promyana, which includes many former members of the two largest trade unions, was active in the protests against the Socialist government in late December and early January. These protests paved the way for the resignation of Zhan Videnov's Socialist cabinet and the subsequent appointment of a caretaker cabinet by President Peter Stoyanov.
Relations between Podkrepa, set up by dissidents before the fall of the totalitarian regime in 1989, and CITUB, a successor to the official trade unions which served the communist party's interests, have moved from one extreme to the other since 1990. They took joint action on several occasions with varying success. In May 1995 they signed an agreement on joint action.
The two largest trade unions consider the third union represented in the tripartite council, the Community of Free Union Organizations in Bulgaria, illegitimate. The Community, which was recognized and admitted to the tripartite council after several years of futile attempts with the help of the Socialist government, acted in support of the Socialists, leaders of the other trade unions claim.
 RUSSIAN AMBASSADORíS NEWS CONFERENCESofia, February 25 (BTA) - The eastward expansion of NATO and the Russian- Bulgarian relations were at the focus of the news conference of Russian Ambassador to Sofia Leonid Kerestedjiants on Tuesday.
Russia continues to support a negative position on NATO's eastward expansion and it will not change it, Mr. Kerestedjiants said. The Bulgarians should not be concerned about what Russia will do if Bulgaria joins NATO but to think what will happen to them, Mr. Kerestedjiants said.
He went on to stress that Bulgaria's desire to join the North Atlantic Organization should not influence the bilateral Bulgarian-Russian relations. The caretaker cabinet took a decision a week ago that Bulgaria make an official statement of its desire to join NATO. The Russian Ambassador said that he himself will work to attract Russian capital to Bulgaria and to set up a free trade zone which will alleviate the problem with the customs regulations between the two countries.
Mr. Kerestedjiants paid special attention to the Bulgarian-Russian cooperation in the field of nuclear power generation. He expressed a hope that work on Bulgaria's second n-plant at Belene (on the Danube) will be resumed. The Russian side is ready to extend a commodity credit amounting to USD 500 million for the Kozlodoui n-plant (on the Danube) and for the construction of the Belene n-plant. In addition to that, Russia is ready to pay 15% in foreign currency of the USD 2,500 million needed to complete the Belene plant.
Mr. Kerestedjiants said that Russia is ready to resolve the questions of its debt to Bulgaria.
The Russian Ambassador said also that practical work has already begun on the visit of Bulgarian President Peter Stoyanov to Moscow in March.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Lobov will pay a visit to Bulgaria on March 9 and 10 at the head of a delegation of officials of the Russian foreign ministry, the ministry of economic relations and of the business circles, Mr. Kerestedjiants said.
 SIEMENS CONFIRMS N-PLANT SAFETYSofia, February 25 (BTA) - Tests of the strength and structure of the metal casing of Unit One of the Kozlodoui nuclear power plant (on the Danube) give grounds to assume this is one of the best tested VVER- 440 (model V- 230) reactors. The condition of its casing is good enough, to judge from tests of its steel, which leads to the conclusion that "the reactor can be operated without annealing for a few more years". This statement was made by Siemens in response to questions by the Bulgarian media. The German company tested samples of the reactor's metal casing in what was its fourth joint test with the Kurchatov Institute of Russia.
The results of the tests of Unit One were made available to the Bulgarian Committee of Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy at a meeting with experts of Siemens, Russia, the EU and Bulgaria.
The National Electric Company, the Kozlodoui plant and the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences were extremely supportive during the implementing of the project by Siemens and the Kurchatov Institute.
The sample testing was financed under the PHARE programme, which also financed Siemens' safety tests of Units One through Four starting in early 1990.
 FOREIGNERS APPLY FOR REFUGEE STATUSSofia, February 25 (BTA) - Some 1,600 foreigners have applied for refugee status in Bulgaria, according to data of the Sofia Liaison Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Refugee status has already been granted to 240 adults and 43 children, said Volen Kroumov, spokesman of the UNHCR Sofia Office.
Fourteen new applications have been received since the beginning of this year from Afghani, Iraqi, Iranian and Turkish nationals and two stateless persons. Eight have been denied refugee status.
In January refugees living in one household with their families were paid 5, 000 leva a month and refugees living alone 8,000 leva, the exchange rate of the US dollar being around 2,000 leva. In February the sums will be 9,000 and 13,000 leva respectively.
The UNHCR hopes that the next Bulgarian government will adopt an act on refugees. Bulgaria ratified the Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees four years ago.
 MUSEUM RECEIVES PRECIOUS OBJECTSSofia, February 25 (BTA) - Bulgarian President Peter Stoyanov handed to the National Historical Museum jewelry that once belonged to the House of the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Over 36 gold and silver orders, medals, diamonds and jewelry were property of King Ferdinand I, others are family valuables, Director of the History Museum Bozhidar Dimitrov told on Friday BTA. The unique valuables were kept in a secret safe in the building of the President's office ever since the time of Communist leader Todor Zhivkov.
President Stoyanov's gesture finally brought to light this collection which will be shown to the public on Thursday.
On Monday, February 24, the National History Museum received other unique contributions. An anonymous donor from Elhovo (Southern Bulgaria) delivered 19 lead seals of senior Byzantine dignitaries of 11th-13th c., among which is the personal stamp of Emperor Isaak II (Angelus), estimated at 50,000 US dollars, the Museum also said.
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