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Moses Set as Example to Parvanov. On your road to the EU you should be patient and unyielding like Moses when leading his people to the Promised Land, the head of the Belgium's Parliament advised Bulgaria's President Georgi Parvanov at their meeting in Brussels yesterday. Parvanov was also received by King Albert II and had talks with Premier Guy Verhofstadt (on the photo) Photo: Reuters
Brussels-Georgi Purvanov-Visit. President Georgi Purvanov meets NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe General Joseph Ralston. PressPhoto BTA Photo: Emanuela Zaharieva
Slobodan Milosevic(L) had cordial relations with Bill Clinton(R) and was apoplectic when the daily newspaper meant to be Milosevic's mouthpiece savaged the then-U.S. president in a bungled editorial, according to transcripts of his phone calls. The leaked transcripts, published by the Croatian weekly Globus, are the current media sensation in the Balkans. Milosevic is seen at a war crimes hearing at the Hague January 30, 2002 and Clinton is seen during a speech in Tel Aviv January 20. Photo by Pool
Court Acquits Six Terrorists Of Plotting Anti-State Activities.
After hilarious closing statements, the accused still go to jail because of illegal possession of weapons.
By reaching a verdict, the Skopje First Instance Court 1 ended on Tuesday the trial of Izair Samii, Nuhi Mustafi, Muzafer Zekiri, Jakupi Arben, Bejtula Jetmir and Shkodran Idrizi. They were arrested on November 11 last year near the Tetovo village of Trebosh and faced charges as members of the terrorist ANA. The Court acquitted all six of the charge of plotting anti-state activities in default of evidence. However, the accused were found guilty of illegal possession of weapons. The first-accused Izair Samii and the second-accused Mustafi Nuhi were sentenced to two years in prison, as the other four will spent in jail one year. In the case of all six the period of detention pending trial ended.
Before hearing the verdict, the defense and the prosecution gave their final speeches. The prosecution stood their ground that the six accused were guilty of both the charges. They reiterated the fact that nitrate particles were detected on the suspects hands as evidence that they had been using firearms. They also added that the first- and the sixth-accused had been charged with anti-state activities on several occasions before, and that other proceedings against them were underway.
The defense dubbed the accusation as bad media news and poorly schemed frame-up. According to them, the accused are loyal citizens of Macedonia, who love their country very much and who never thought of undermining it. The defense denied allegations that the accused were ANA members since there is no evidence that ANA even exists. So as to sound more convincing, lawyers resorted to telling sayings. For instance, Iseni Shazivar in his brief closing speech described the whole process as much ado about nothing. He stressed that the suspects had been set up by the police that patrol in the region with TV cameras. Lawyer Jovan Jovanovski said that if proceedings were launched against him, he would sign just anything, that he is a female if necessary. He demanded that Arben Jakupi should be released because the villagers of Neproshteno refuse to let the police in the village, wanting their honest student and neighbor back first. All the lawyers of the defense underscored that the suspects carried arms because of the bad security situation, and, as stated by lawyer Stevan Pavlevski, because criminal groups like those that broke into the weekend houses on Sar Mountain walk around plundering. According to lawyer Numan Limani, Jetmir Bejtula was not a member of the NLA or ANA because these organizations refused to admit men with completed elementary school. Savo Kocarev, Shkodrans lawyer, tried to prove in a one-hour speech that the ANA did not actually exist and therefore Shkodran could not have been its member. In his view, Shkodran was a young student whose detention interrupted his studies.
Anonymous Warnings For Planted Explosives In Two Facilities In Prilep.
Prilep, February 6 (MIA)- In the Elementary Court from Prilep and the local information house - Center for newspapers, radio and television anonymous calls were received on Wednesday warning that explosive devices were planted on their premises.
The police was immediately informed, and the employees from the institutions were evacuated.
Prilep police along with special teams from the Ministry of Interior from Skopje investigate the anonymous calls.
SITUATION IN CRISIS REGIONS.
Around of 116 shootouts out of which 29 sporadic and 6 rifle have been registered from the villages of Dobroste, Neraste, Drenovec 1 and 2 and Lisec during Wednesday night in Tetovo region.
Centre for Media Activities of the Coordinative Body for Crisis Management informed 39 sporadic and 2 rifle shootouts have been registered from the villages of Lopate, Opae and Slupcane, Kumanovo - Lipkovo region.
In Skopje region around 30 shootouts have been heard from the village of Grusino and 10 sporadic and 3 rifle shootouts from the villages of Cegrane and Debreste, Gostivar region.
Ethnically mixed police patrols patrolled on Wednesday in Skopje, Kumanovo, Tetovo and Gostivar areas, according to the Plan for police redeployment, Media Activity Center of the Governmental Coordination Body reported.
According to the announcements, the police teams will start to patrol in the Tetovo villages Radiovce and Tenovo on Thursday.
FIRST MEETING OF WORKING GROUP ON DRAFT-LAW ON AMNESTY.
The working group, established by Justice Minister Ixhet Memeti, that develops the draft-law on amnesty held the first official meeting on Wednesday.
According to Memeti, "the issue on amnesty of the former members of 'NLA' was discussed in general terms, as well as the problem with Macedonian citizens, who were not involved in the conflict, but violated the Criminal Law."
The working group is comprised of Vlado Kambovski, professor at the Faculty of Law from Skopje, Bekir Isemi, the representative from the Prosecutor's Office suggested by Minister Memeti, experts from the Ministry of Justice and the representatives from the European Union, OSCE, NATO and US Embassy as external members.
The draft-text of the Law on amnesty, the Statement by President Boris Trajkovski, the letter by EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, former OSCE Chairman-In-Office and NATO Secretary General George Robertson as well as other materials were submitted to the members of the working group.
The concrete work on the Law on amnesty is expected to begin on the session scheduled on Monday. Minister Memeti expressed hope that the Law on amnesty will be soon on the Government's agenda.
The date from which the amnesty will take an effect, according to Mememti "is a real problem, and much attention should be paid on it." According to him, "even in the President's Statement the initial date was not determined as that is complex issue." Considering the fact that the disarming of the former NLA members was discussed between them and NATO representatives from one hand and the NATO representatives and President Trajkovski from the other, Minister Memeti said that he expects NATO representatives to give their contribution.
He informed that it is hard to state the exact number of persons that will be amnestied with this Law, but according to him around 500 persons, "who violated the Criminal Law, but were not directly involved in the conflict" will be also amnestied.
MINISTER CASULE ADDRESSED THE US INSTITUTE OF PEACE.
Macedonian Foreign Minister Slobodan Casule Wednesday addressed at the US Institute of Peace in Washington on topic "Macedonian Spring: Can the Peace Hold?"
Minister Casule in his address stressed that the reason for the crisis in the Republic of Macedonia is in the organised crime since it happened in time when the region started to democratise.
Due to this "Europe and America should combat the terrorism with all power aimed at prevention of creating new Afghanistan in the middle of Europe," Casule said.
Expressing optimism for the situation in the country, Casule said "although certain groups will try to attack the democracy, there are no open issues after the Ohrid peace Agreement and reasons for dissatisfaction, and that's why anyone that behaves differently should be treated adequately."
Around midnight according to Macedonian time, President of the Republic of Macedonia Boris Trajkovski together with Vice-President of the Government Zoran Krstevski, Minister of Finance Nikola Gruevski and Minister of Economy Besnik Fetai will meet with the World Bank President James Wolfensohn.
President Trajkovski Friday will attend the Prayer Breakfast, which is traditionally organised by the US Congress. The Vice-President of the Macedonian Government Zoran Krstevski, Ministers Gruevski and Fetai, the Macedonian Ambassador to USA, Nikola Dimitrov, as well as the deputies Cedomir Kraljevski, Radomir Karangelevski, Mersel Biljali, Naser Ziberi and Zamir Dika will also attend the Breakfast.
Foreign Minister Casule will set out for New York to meet with the UN Secretary -General Kofi Annan.
NATO CONSIDERS EXTENTION OF ITS "TASK FORCE FOX" MISSION TO MACEDONIA.
Macedonia's letter of for extending of the mandate of the "Task Force Fox" after March 26, has not arrived to NATO Headquarters yet, but the issue is already on the Brussels' agenda, NATO high official said Wednesday.
The source said that Macedonia was a main subject at yesterday's ambassadorial meeting in Brussels, but NATO could not make a decision without a written request by the Macedonian Government.
"The Ambassador have decided to start the process, asking for the military advisors to prepare a new study, so that they may overview the conditions," the official said.
"The situation in Macedonia is not worst than it was last fall, so changing of the mandate is not expected. However, it is regular procedure for the NATO military officials to discuss on parameters before decision-making. TFF is to stay in Macedonia for another three months, and its number will remain the same," he added.
The only change that NATO is expecting refers to the TFF command, currently under German authority.
"In accordance with statements of high German officials, we expect that a new country will overtake the mission command," the official said.
He expressed hope that the request for an extension of the TFF mandate would be submitted to NATO Secretary General Gorge Robertson when he arrives to Macedonia today, for a two-day visit, which is to be focused on the Alliance's enlargement and the country's prospects for participation.
The official refused to comment the statement of Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar on overtaking of the mandate in Macedonia by the European Rapid Reaction Forces.
"It is too early to speak about this, as the European Union has not presented its official position yet, meaning that NATO also cannot discuss the matter," he said.
EUROPEAN COMMISSION CONDEMNS ATTACK ON HOUSE IN OPAE.
The Delegation of the European Commission strongly condemns the attack on a house in the village of Opae which was burnt down on February 3. Reconstruction of the same house was undergoing and was financed by the EU.
"This attack was clearly designed to undermine the efforts for lasting return to normalcy," reads the press release from the EC delegation.
The EC delegation urges all concerned not to respond to such provocations. To do so, would jeopardize the implementation of the Framework Agreement, especially as it relates to re-entry, reconstruction and return process, which have processed well in the recent months. "the extremists want to turn the clock back; do not let them do so," reads the press release.
At a meeting held in Opae, the European Commission received assurances from the local community leaders of their support for the reconstruction and return of all persons to their places of origin, as well as their condemnation of this preposterous act.
The Commission remains committed to providing full and practical support for the implementation of the Framework Agreement. "Our assistance is already repairing homes and getting basic utilities running again," the EC says.
"Together with the World Bank, the EC is now in process of preparing the Donors' Conference, to be held in Brussels on March 12. Violent acts like this one jeopardize the prospects for a successful conference by undermining the donor confidence in the future stability of the country."
"That is why it is so important for all communities to make clear that they will not tolerate any return to the violence and disorder that has done so much damage last year," reads the press release from the EC delegation in Macedonia.
Our Medics in Libya were moved out of prison.
Gaddafi's Son Rescues Bulgarians in Tripoli. The six Bulgarians are taken into custody in a deluxe villa.
The Bulgarians detained in Tripoli were moved from prison into house arrest last Monday afternoon. The news was announced in Brussels by Bulgarian foreign minister Solomon Passy yesterday. The six medics have been taken out of prison and accommodated in a villa. In the villa our fellow-countrymen have 4 rooms, a living room and kitchen. For the very first time in 3 years the family of Kristiana Valcheva and Dr Zdravko Georgiev reunited. The medics have been taken out of prison mainly thanks to the efforts of the 'Gaddafi' foundation and its chief Seif al Islam, son of Libyan leader, colonel Muammar Gaddafi. In the meantime there was tension between the institutions over the news from Tripoli. President Parvanov felt offended by our foreign minister Passy for failing to inform him and making him learn the good news from the media.
BULGARIA - BOURGAS - ALEXANDROUPOLIS.
Sofia, February 6 (BTA) - Bulgaria will insist on a 33 per cent stake in a future constorium that will build and operate a pipeline carrying Russian oil from the Bulgarian port of Bourgas (on the Black sea) to the Greek port of Alexandroupolis (on the Aegean).
"We are on the threshold of achieving our due equitable share in the project," Bulgarian Deputy Regional Development and Public Works Minister Hassan Hassan told a news conference on Wednesday. Last week he attended a meeting of Bulgarian, Greek and Russian experts in Moscow on the preparation of an intergovernmental memorandum on the Bourgas-Alexandroupolis project.
The Greeks insist on a Bulgarian stake of 20 per cent. Hassan said there are serious arguments in favour of a larger percentage: the length of the pipeline section on Bulgarian territory and the possible damage that this country might sustain from its construction and operation.
The total length of the pipeline will be 242 km according to the Greek version and 285 km according to the Bulgarian version. Of this, 166 km will be on Bulgarian territory.
The Deputy Minister said that next week Bulgaria's stake will be discussed with Greek government officials. The three countries are expected to sign the intergovernmental memorandum on the project in Athens on April 6.
The pipeline's maximum carrying capacity will be 35,000,000 t annually. Bulgaria can count on earning 1 US dollar per tonne in transit fees.
The total project cost is between 680 and 700 million euros, Hassan said. In his words, the pipeline may go under construction in 2003 and is expected to be completed by 2007. The payback period is between seven and ten years.
At a meeting next week, Bulgaria's possible 33 per cent stake will be shared up among Bulgarian companies which will join the international consortium for the project, the Deputy Minister said. Distribution will be based on the applicants' financial capability. LUKoil Bulgaria, Minstroy Holding, Glavbolgarstroy, Overgas, Construction and Recovery, Montazhi and Gazstroymontazh have expressed interest in the project.
Hassan said that Russian oil companies operating in the Caucasus are ready to furnish guarantees that the Bourgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline will be carrying their oil.
The Deputy Minister noted that the implementation of the project will make Bulgaria an energy transit hub for the piping of Russian oil and natural gas to Europe.
Haskovo (Southern Bulgaria), February 6 (BTA) - Bulgaria and Yugoslavia will sign an agreement on free trade, Yugoslav Ambassador to Sofia Cedomir Radojkovic said Wednesday in Haskovo where he was paying a visit. Experts of the two countries have been negotiating in Belgrade since February 5 the agreement's clauses, said Radojkovic.
Last year trade exchange between the two countries stood at 200 million US dollars, while in 2000 it exceeded 300 million dollars, Radojkovic noted. In his opinion, the construction of the Sofia-Nis highway, for which foreign investment is being sought, will contribute to the development of bilateral trade and economic relations.
Radojkovic said that he had agreed with Haskovo mayor Georgi Ivanov that a trade exhibition of Yugoslav agricultural equipment open in Haskovo on May 6.
BULGARIA - TURKEY - NUCLEAR DETECTORS.
Sofia, February 6 (BTA) - Bulgaria possesses detectors capable of discovering in nuclear material trafficked illicitly by transport vehicles and people across border checkpoints, BTA learnt from the National Customs Agency.
The mobile detectors are installed at the checkpoints of Kapitan Andreevo (on the border with Turkey) and Danube Bridge (on the border with Romania). The equipment, donated by the US, arrived in July 2001, and its serviceability is checked periodically by American experts. Such a check was last conducted at Danube Bridge in December 2001. At Kapitan Andreevo, the Americans checked the nuclear detectors a week ago, after installing identical devices at the Kapikule checkpoint on the Turkish side of the border.
A scandal erupted in the Turkish press over a statement by Edirne Governor Fahri Ucel that nuclear detectors are being installed at five Turkish border checkpoints. Mehmet Kececiler, Minister of State in charge of Customs Affairs, reacted strongly to the fact that the news was disclosed by the Governor instead of being kept secret. The Turkish daily "Sabah" writes that the installation of nuclear material detectors along Turkey's borders is intended to prevent the export of nuclear material and technologies from Europe to Iran, Iraq and Syria via Turkey.
Kremikovtsy could stop working.
In a couple of days, Kremikovtsy could stop working and 10,000 people could remain without salaries, representatives of Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria announced citing Kremikovtsy management sources. Kremikovtsy could stop because of an order of Ministry of Finance that stopped processing customs documents for import and export, the leader of metal-producers trade union to Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria Vasil Yanachkov explained. Tradeunionists warned that stopping Kremikovtsy would also influence Bulgargaz, the National Electric Company, Bulgarian State Railroads and the ports of Burgas and Lom.
In a letter to Vice-Premier and Minister of Labor and social Policy Lydia Shuleva, Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria insists that she appeal to employers to start negotiating the new labor contracts before March 31, when is the expiration date of 5,800 collective labor contracts. The leader of Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria Zhelyazko Hristov warned that non-signing the collective labor contracts would provoke mass protests.
Bomb Planted against Poli Pantev's Lawyer.
The hand-made device exploded in front of the flat of Ilian Vassilev's parents.
A hand-made bomb blasted 27A block of flats in the "Slatina" Sofia residential district at 5.15 a.m. yesterday. Windows, doors and woodwork were showering. The prefab walls splintered. The explosive was planted under the doormat in front of the flat of famous Sofia lawyer Ilian Vassilev's parents. He is said to be a trusted friend of killed mobster Poli Pantev. The lawyer defended Kiro the Jap, Walter Papazki, police officer Kalin Kiossev, detained for the murder of 16-year-old Eleonora. Vassilev himself appeared before the block of flats moments after the blast. Gen. Boyko Borissov, IM Chief Secretary, also came to the scene. He said that the lawyer would be interrogated. The two of them exchanged tart words. Most probably the assault had been planned a long time ago, the criminalists suggested. It could be a respond to the assassination of Dimitar Dimitrov, aka Maimuniaka (Ape), well-informed sources maintain.
President Purvanov Breakfasts with Belgian Investors.
Brussels, February 6 (BTA special correspondent K. Lyubomirova) - Bulgarian President Georgi Purvanov met here over a working breakfast Wednesday morning with 12 representatives of Union Miniere, Interbrew, Solvay, Glaverbel, Amilum and BIAC, all Belgian companies that have invested heavily in Bulgaria.
Purvanov's foreign policy secretary Zlatin Trupkov said after the meeting that the guests were glad Purvanov met with them during his first visit to Brussels as head of state. Issues related to the judicial and administrative reform and the redtape hindrances encountered by foreign investors in Bulgaria were discussed.
Flat glass producer Glaverbel plans to make major investment in Bulgaria soon. BIAC is interested in the reconstruction of the Varna airport.
Purvanov requested the investors' assistance for Bulgaria's participation in the Europalia festival and pledged to do everything in his power to help settle their problems. Belgium ranks as the No.3 investor in Bulgaria after Germany and Greece. It has invested 412 million dollars here between 1992 and 2001.
King of Belgium Inquired How We Survive.
President Parvanov had a 40-minute tete-a-tete talk with Albert II.
"Standart" correspondent Brussels
King Albert II showed vivid interest to Bulgaria, asking how the people are living through the difficult time of reforms. Apart from this the President and the King discussed the ethnic minorities policy and the Bulgarian ethnic model. The monarch posed an inconvenient question about the influx of Bulgarian emigrants to Belgium. Albert II appreciated the role of Bulgaria as a stability factor in the Balkans, Parvanov said after the meeting. He invited the King to visit Bulgaria. Yesterday, Parvanov had a meeting with Ivan Ilieff, Scientific Policy Commissioner to the Belgian government. Mr. Ilieff's father was a Bulgarian who emigrated and settled in Belgium after the September Uprising in 1923. President Parvanov discussed with Ilieff the possibilities for bilateral cooperation in biotechnology, information high-tech, telecommunications and space research.
Wine Galore In Plovdiv from Today.
Connoisseurs gather today in Plovdiv at the 10th jubilee exhibition 'Vinaria'2002. The guests can taste all beverages exhibited in Hall No 10 at the International Fair. 171 foreign and 143 Bulgarian companies will display their brand new production at the exhibition.
Campbell To Draw 1.37 M Euros Fee.
Morris Campbell - chairman of the new Council for Customs Reform, will draw 27,000 euros fee monthly, the notorious contract. Campbell is former liaison officer with the Bulgarian Interior Ministry. He will take 1.37 million euro for his task as advisor. The salary of Emil Dimitrov (aka Revizoro) totals 747.15 levs due to the law. Bulgaria is to pay 33 million levs (10.8 million pounds) to the consultants of 'Crown Agents' according to the contract. The contract envisages that all litigation will be resolved in lines with the Bristish legislation. It imposes more obligations upon Bulgaria, as compared to 'Crown'.
"Crown": Ask for Olia Gencheva.
"No comments. We are subject to the Finance Ministry. Ask for Olia Gencheva," said yesterday David Mosup, interpreter of the English consultants after consulting with Morris Campbell. It is him who is indicated as an agent for contacts on the site of the private consultancy firm. Only the e-mail answered on his cell-phone. Campbell's telephone kept silence as well. Bulgarian customs officers specified that for now, three or four British consultants had arrived. They staid for a while and then returned to their country. "When in Bulgaria, they do not leave office No 116. They are hiding," their Bulgarian colleagues were flat.
The State Must Control the Borders.
The contract for management of the customs houses by the British firm 'Crown Agents' is an acknowledgment of the finance ministry of its difficulties. It's inadmissible to let an overseas firm run the state institution of the customs houses. It's all the same as if to let the wolf guard the sheep-fold. Henceforth, the major point is in who will dispose of and who will be the ultimate consumer of all the economic and commercial information 'Crown Agents' will have. No less significant will be the control over the customs houses for the special services of a country. What security of the state it comes to if the government is deprived of the objective information on the state of things along the borders and in the customs houses. And on control over them. The contract with the British 'agents of the Crown' runs counter to the EU administrative capacity directive and is directly linked with Bulgaria's future joining the dreamed of Europe.
It's Bulgaria's Problem Only.
Former Bulgaria's Chief Negotiator with EU
It is not a EU problem. It is our problem. The EU hints that they are to suspend the support for Bulgaria in line with the "Border and Interior Control" program, which aims to draw our attention. It should evoke an inner reaction. The issue if the Council of Ministers has any decision signed by the prime-minister on the contract with Crown Agents is left unsettled. This is a terminal move. The Englishmen were represented as consultants. What are they to be after all? Transparence is indispensable: the precise commitments of the Crown Agents must be declared on the web site of the Ministry of Finance or the government. The Bulgarian trader whose goods are checked by the customs houses should be aware whose the goods are. And who is on the other side - a Bulgarian or an Englishman. And what that one's functions are.
The Customs Houses Privatized.
EU Furious at Bulgaria because of Milen Velchev. The special services and Emil Dimitrov, head of Customs Agency don't know of it, the European Commission freezes negotiations on 4 chapters.
Customs houses in Bulgaria have been privatized by the British firm 'Crown Agents'. This is evident from the contract for services concluded between finance minister Milen Velchev and the British company. 'Standart' has the contract at its disposal. It was initialed on November 29 2001 and is for a term of 3 years and 6 months. The same day it was approved by the Council of Ministers without such an item being on the agenda of the cabinet. The customs activity in Bulgaria will be managed by a team of 24 of 'Crown Agents'. This is not just the granting of a concession, but a buy-out, senior officials from the European Commission in Brussels explained for 'Standart'. In their view the scandal is a grandiose one. The contract has no precedent. Concluding it Bulgaria will fail to meet its commitments concerning the security of its being a future external boundary of the EU. Brussels immediately freezes the negotiations with this country on 4 chapters, the sources also said. Negotiations on chapters 10 - 'Taxation policy' and 25 - 'Customs Union' have been completely suspended. As for chapters 24 - 'Justice and domestic affairs' Bulgaria will face serious problems. And chapter 29 - 'Budget and finances' won't be opened. 'Concluding the contract Bulgaria will fail to explicitly meet the 'administrative capacity' criterion for implementation of the European legislation', the Brussels sources said. They specified that the same criterion required administration and employees capable of implementing the European laws. It is precisely this criterion by which the European Commission assesses a candidate's readiness. Bulgaria is a future external boundary of the EU and this questions even more its future membership because it will reflect on the functioning of the single market and budget of the community, our sources commented. According to the European Commission frozen will be the PHARE funds under three projects: 'Border and domestic control' (3 million euro), 'Computerization and system communications' (4,85 million euro) and 'Completion of the network of customs laboratories' (3,45 million euro) The special services kept the contract with "Crown Agents" in secret from us. None of our chiefs had any information about the forthcoming deal, said a source from the National Intelligence Service (NIS). The top-level authorities from the Interior Ministry didn't have the vaguest idea that the Customs will be managed by a foreign company. The interference of the British experts into the work of our border-line customs houses will hardly have a beneficial effect on the activity of the intelligence, NIS claims. The intelligence service vary rarely has something to do in the border-line regions. In theory there shouldn't be any threat to national security, says another intelligence source. However, he thinks that the deal is strange. The customs receive serious information about BG economy. Thus, foreigner will get access to the data about goods turnover at a certain check-point and customs duties paid. NIS hasn't given information about "Crown Agents" to the government, because it was not requested, the intelligence says. The main problem is that the firm is private. When it was founded some 200 years ago, it probably had nothing to do with the customs, but now it renders consulting services, says the source from NIS. "Customs are the instrument of the state, they shouldn't be given out to a private company", commented from Istanbul Director of the Customs Agency, Emil Dimitrov, adding further that he has never even seen the contract.
M. Velchev Legalizes Industrial Intelligence.
Reservist Eng. KOLYO KOLEV
former chief of the unit for struggle to combat narcotic-drug-smuggling at the NSS.
The authorities seem to be unaware of concepts like sovereignty and national security. Having failed to draft a program for improving the border and customs control in compliance with the requirements for Bulgaria's joining the EU, they've been trying to shift the responsibility with the aim of evading the penal-legal consequences of an incompetent rule.
Granting the management of the customs houses to foreign firms, institutions or individual physical persons is actually a suspension of art. 1, para 3 of the constitution. It reads: 'No part of the people, political party or another organization, state institution or individual can usurp the exercise of the people's sovereignty.' There lacks a guarantee that the information which 'Crown Agents' will have access to, won't be used in the interest of some or to the detriment of other firms. Signing the contract finance minister Milen Velchev legalizes the so called industrial intelligence and decriminalizes the legal consequences of it. It would be all the same if the Interior ministry placed the organization and management of the border-check activity in the hands of a foreign firm, since the assessment the leadership of the ministry has given to Border police is unsatisfactory.
Questioned is the efficient counteraction to the illicit traficking of people, drugs and contraband commodities because of the differing interests of the IM and the British firm which will run the customs houses. In order that it can meet its commitments under the contract it should be provided access to classified information of the IM, as is the Control and Registration of Foreigners System (CRFS). By the law the interior ministry is obliged to uphold the national security. However, it is not at all included in the priorities of 'Crown Agents'. No one can oblige the firm to keep Bulgaria's state secret. Besides, the British will hardly send just anybody to Bulgaria. For sure, the team of the company will also include officers from the British special services. The NSS and the NIS will be placed in a rather delicate situation since they will have to comply with them.
Once the customs services were placed under the control of the State Security. The new situation has changed things. However, despite that, the customs houses will have to interact with the border control authorities. Their functions are common.
Bulgaria is no private firm. The finance ministry isn't either.
Recorded by NEIKA KRASTEVA
You Are to Decide.
Deputy Head of the EU "Communications" directorate and spokesman of the "EU Enlargement" directorate
Bulgaria is a sovereign state. It is the government to decide how and from what sources to provide support. There are many private firms rendering help to Bulgaria in diverse fields. We want only to know if the contract between the Bulgarian customs houses and the British "Crown Agents" was harmonized with the requirements for support under the PHARE program. And we'd like good coordination to be ensured. Otherwise, the European Commission is neutral in this case. No EU funds are involved in the contract with the "Crown Agents". The deal with them poses no obstacles to Bulgaria's further negotiations on joining the EU. The Bulgarians have to decide themselves if the deal was a right decision.
Exclusive Reporter of "Standart" in Brussels
Austrians to Build Littre Processing Plant in Sofia.
Austrians will make littre processing plant of Sofia by sample of that one in Vienna, said mayor Sofiayanski after a meeting with delegation of Vienna Councillors yesterday. 'Spanish company offered a project ammounting to 187,174,000 euros, but I'm to refuse it, since it's too expensive,' he added. The new project's details will be specified together with Vienna Mayor Michael Hoipl, who is to arrive for the days of the Austrian capital city in Sofia in October. The Austrian delegation will map up with Sofia municipal employees initiatives on mutual infrastructure projects, which will be financed by the European Union, Sofiyanski elaborated. Sofia will open own mission will permanent presence in Brussels through the medium of Vienna, Sofia mayor said.
Only Business Will Help Bulgaria Join Europe.
I'm dreaming of examining candidate ministers on the topic how the state sector is to be ruled.
What Bulgaria and we, Bulgarians, didn't learn during the last 12 years? Which are these things which we didn't outlive? And that constantly hinder our progress? On January 31, 'Standart' organized a discussion entitled 'The Unassimilated Political Lessons from 1989 till Now'. Sociologist Petar-Emil Mitev, political scientist Vassil Garnizov, Direcor of the National Historic Museum Bozhidar Dimitrov and lecturer at the University for National and World Economy Associate Professor Boyan Durankev, psychologist Dr. Nikolay Mihaylov and spokeswoman of the NMS Emel Etem talked in the office building of 'Standart' for nearly 4 hours. We publish some of the opinions of the participants in this discussion.
Associate Professor Dr. Boyan Durankev
I like very much the topic of the discussion in 'Standart': "Lessons of the Transition'. Because if there are lessons, there are teachers and students, too. We had teachers who gave us advises in their own benefit. They are interested only in the new markets and several much more valuable things than the direct profit. First, Bulgaria gave as a present its intellectual capital without gaining any money. At the same time the USA blames us that in Bulgaria pirate's CDs are sold for 6 levs per copy. Bulgaria has beautiful nature and good geographic location. Big countries have serious interests in our country. There is still what to be taken and bought from there. What concerns the students, I have one personal dream - to have an opportunity to examine the candidate ministers. I would ask the respected candidates for the Economic Ministry how the state sector in the economy is to be managed. As a whole, the students aren't at all prepared, second, they are too many, and third - some of them simply have no the necessary qualification. Is there a solution of this problem? For now - yes. First: the government shouldn't be so easily governed from abroad. Second: reciprocity of laws. We are kidding with 8 mill. people by adopting laws, which are in force in the EU, before we have joined the EU. And for that reason the Bulgarian producer of butter can't sell butter in Bulgaria, because it is not subsidized as it is in Germany, for instance. We should envisage these laws to be applied not earlier than the moment in which we join the EU. All the rest is in the sphere of the good wishes, the dreams and the bad plot of the Great Powers. But after Malta there isn't such a plot. Even there the 'plot' was a matter of principles - opened economy for Eastern Europe and closed doors before the ones who haven 50 DM per day for travelling to Western Europe. Not the administration and the laws, but business will help us join the EU. And, of course, we should enter the so called European structure.
PM Saxe-Coburg-Gotha Addresses BAC Meeting.
Sofia, February 6 (BTA) - An increasingly close cooperation with the Stability Pact is an integral part of the realization of the Bulgarian government's ambitious plans in the sphere of economics, Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha said Wednesday at the opening of a meeting of the Stability Pact's Business Advisory Council (BAC) in Sofia.
Thanks to its geographic location, Bulgaria could be transformed into a regional infrastructure hub. The country could become the region's energy hub as well, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha said, noting Bulgaria's potential in the production and distribution of electricity.
The improving investment climate in Bulgaria is another prerequisite for the country's economic stability. The trend is attributable not only to the country's geographic location but also to the availability of skilled workers and to the government's efforts to create an investment-conducive institutional and statutory framework, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha said.
He noted before the participants in the BAC meeting that Bulgaria has demonstrated in the past couple of years a sustained development trade, has enjoyed domestic political and economic stability and has behaved loyally and predictably on the international scene.
The government is convinced that the serious European companies are the natural partners of the countries in this region in their efforts towards economic recovery and development, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha said.
Saxe-Coburg-Gotha urged the Stability Pact to prioritize on transborder projects.
Economy Minister Nikolai Vasilev, Energy Minister Milko Kovachev, business people and diplomats attended the meeting.
BG Needs Board for Customs.
INTERVIEW Standartnews: Emil Dimitrov
Customs houses are the instrument of the state, they shouldn't be an infrastructure of private companies, says Director of the Customs Agency, Emil Dimitrov.
- Mr. Dimitrov, have you learnt that the European Union suspended the negotiations with Bulgaria on four chapters because of the agreement with the British consultants from "Crown Agents"?
- No, because I'm now in Istanbul for the conference on the Balkan customs. At this forum the Bulgarian customs' performance won special recognition. We are the first country invited to present a report on corruption. The second part of my report was devoted to challenges before the customs administration that have bearing on the EU integration processes.
- Apparently, the integration was put on ice again, and the reason is that our customs houses were entrusted to private firms. Actually it means that they are given out for concession. How would you comment on it?
- I haven't heard about a concession granted for customs houses. Europe gives us money, so that we could make progress. They sent us consultants who come with their own projects and funds.
- The experts of "Crown Agents" haven't come with their own funds. The state made a 3-year contract with them worth of 8 million pounds. Your comment?
- I'm not a party to this contract. I haven't even see it. In principle, it would be normal to have it approved by the Council of Ministers, National Security Commission and commissions on Euro-integration and foreign policy to the National Assembly, as well as by the National Security Council to the Presidency. Because it is immediately related to our state borders, the national security of Bulgaria. Our borders are of special interest to Europe, because these are the external frontiers of Schengen. EU has given us ample funds for equipment, not because they love us so dearly, but because they love and safeguard themselves.
- Do you think that the idea of setting up a board also for customs is acceptable?
- Yes, but it must be legitimate.
- What do you mean?
- There are three internationally recognized institutions - IMF, with whom micro- and macro-frames are concerted, the World Bank, which provides loans for covering the deficit, and Council of Europe, which has a standing commission in Bulgaria. In principle, Customs are the instrument of the state, so they shouldn't be an infrastructure of private companies.
- You have been working towards harmonization between the customs legislation of the EU and Bulgaria. Have the EU structures given any assessment of this work?
- Yes, and I can say it is very positive. The customs structuring we proposed was approved, together with our priorities. How else could Europe agree to finance our projects?
- Signing a contract with a private consulting firm from GB, we practically demonstrate that we have funds. How would EU respond to it?
- You can answer this question yourself. There, the common practice is to give money to those who don't have it. And then to keep a watchful eye on how it is spent. It would be logical, if they decide to give whatever was allocated for us to somebody else, who cannot afford foreign consultants. Before February 10 the funds' allocation for 2003 will be voted. Several of our projects have been approved. From Germany we are expecting the equipment for seven task groups, dogs' training school and new modules for our computer system to make it fully compatible with the European one. If we don't get funds, there will be no reform in the customs, and hence - no Euro-integration. It is obvious that Bulgaria cannot raise these funds. At the same time, though, Europe sets its own requirements for modern customs houses and wouldn't agree on a compromise.
I Negotiated Personally, the Cabinet Approved.
INTERVIEW Standartnews: Milen Velchev
Minister of Finance
- Minister Velchev, is it true that the contract with the 'Crown Agents' is changed and the sum that the firm will get is padded?
- After signing the contract, it was announced on the very same day. Not a single figure was changed. The firm will get exactly 8.132 mill sterlings, of course, if the contract is not cancelled. The difference, about which the press writes is due to the taxes, which the 'Crown Agents' firm should pay in Bulgaria. We are not sure how big will they be. Because the contract is about a three year period. The firm will receive 8.132 mill. sterlings from the state. This is the practice in the world.
- After signing the contract did the EU stopped the financing of some projects?
- As far as I know there aren't cancelled contracts. May be there's some delay of some of them while expecting the European Commission to see what role will the firm play. That's why now that kind of information is exchanged between the 'Crown Agents' and the state.
- Who's best aquainted to the contract, signed by the British firm?
- I in person negotiated together with several people from the Finance Ministry. By a decision of the CM I was authorized to negotiate.
- The contract with the 'Crown Agents' doesn't concern the national security? Why wasn't it ratified by the National Assembly?
- Just because it doesn't concern the national security the CM decided that the Public Procurement Act wouldn't be applied to that case. I don't understand why the national assembly should consider every problem connected with the national security. And the CM decided the national assmbly not to be informed about this problem.
- Had the 'Crown Agents' received any money already?
- Yes, an advance payment of 10% on the contracted sum.
- Who controlls the activity of the firm and what is it working on at the moment?
- The firm 'Crown Agents' will render an account before me. Their contract is with the Finance Minister. They have no governing functions, they are simply consultants. And they will be controlled in the way all the consultants are. At the moment they are making a report about the situation at the customs offices in order measures to be taken there.
- If there are any arguments connected with the contract, which court will solve them?
- The arguments connected with texts from the contract will be solved by the English legislation.
(Questions from other media are used, too)
Clinton Cordial with Milosevic in Leaked Transcripts.
By Douglas Hamilton
BELGRADE (Reuters) - Slobodan Milosevic had cordial relations with Bill Clinton and was apoplectic when the daily newspaper meant to be his mouthpiece savaged the then-U.S. president in a bungled editorial, according to transcripts of his phone calls.
The leaked transcripts, published by the Croatian weekly Globus, are the current media sensation in the Balkans.
Croatian defense ministry sources told Reuters in Zagreb on Wednesday they were authentic excerpts from wiretaps of hundreds of calls recorded by the Croatian military intelligence service, but there has been no comment from Serbia or Milosevic himself.
Newspapers say the Americans are "furious" at the intelligence leak, especially the quotes in the transcripts from Clinton.
In parts, the scripts read like an afternoon TV soap opera, with the dry wit, fatherly wisdom and weary political woes of the Serbian strongman in the leading role.
Milosevic, far from playing a bug-eyed, mad dictator, says he is "sick and tired" of seeing himself on television. He is also exasperated by the hill-billy antics of the Bosnian Serbs and fondly sarcastic with members of his dysfunctional family.
Milosevic is due to go on trial next week before the U.N. tribunal at The Hague on charges of crimes against humanity and genocide. It cannot be excluded that Clinton or other major Western political figures will be called to testify.
NICE TO HEAR YOUR VOICE, SAYS CLINTON
"It's nice to hear your voice," Clinton tells Milosevic in one taped call from Air Force One at the end of a New Year's visit to U.S. troops newly installed in Bosnia in January 1996.
"We support normalization of relations and I know it cannot go ahead without you," the U.S. president stresses during a brief conversation about implementing the Dayton peace accords, which Milosevic helped clinch to end the war in Bosnia.
"He spoke really nicely," Milosevic later tells his sidekick Milan Milutinovic, an indicted co-conspirator who is still at large and serving as president of Serbia.
Milutinovic, also known disparagingly to U.S. negotiators as "Tunafish," quips that Clinton must have hid in the plane's toilet to make the call, for fear of being overheard by Madeleine Albright, who he calls "a real bitch."
The next day, Milosevic is stunned to see Politika, the leading pro-government daily in Belgrade, denouncing Clinton as a scandal-tainted draft dodger looking for photo opportunities.
When he rings up to blow a fuse, the editor, Dragan Hadzi Antic, has not even read his own paper. Milosevic lets rip in street language as Antic cowers.
"For Christ's sake! You can't let them do as they please. Politika is considered the mouthpiece of the government and there you go and slag off Clinton!" Milosevic complains.
Correcting course drastically, Politika prints an extremely positive editorial about the U.S. president on the following day, a volte face remarked on at the time by opposition media.
The previous month, Milosevic saw his triumphant appearance in Paris for the Dayton signing ceremony put at risk by the Bosnian Serbs, who were defiantly holding two French pilots downed during NATO strikes in the autumn.
"Look, the French are now organizing a conference, they are organizing everything, they're our friends and we're supposed to start talks with them and I still don't know what to tell them about the pilots," he tells army chief of staff Momcilo Perisic.
He complains that the Bosnian Serbs "have always put us in a terrible negotiating position with their actions."
"What the (expletive) do they need these two pilots for? And now they are jerking us around with this. Let them find where the pilots are!"
Records of his domestic phone calls are by turns tender and hilarious, as Milosevic deals with the overdeveloped egos of his wife, son and daughter.
Son Marko, a nightclub owner who has now fled to Central Asia, emerges as a Narcissus obsessed with his jug ears, which he is planning to have surgically corrected, and his teeth, which he intends to have replaced.
He also plans to buy sets of colored contact lenses to match his clothes.
"You're awfully skinny, every guy your age looks that way," Milosevic tells his son in an attempt to head off the ear surgery. "As soon as you fill out everything will fall into place. I looked even worse when I was thin."
In January 1997, Marko has a new house with a swimming pool, which he keeps heated to 38 degrees Celsius.
"You're a fool, man. That's not healthy," says Milosevic, quickly giving up the argument and passing the phone to "mummy."
Daughter Marija, mostly complaining about business problems at her television station, has a new puppy so smart it can almost talk. But Milosevic has other concerns.
"Please tell (Serbian TV) to get me off the news bulletin, for chrissakes. I am sick and tired of seeing myself... tell them it's enough. Tell them to go on with the New Year's program, to hell with me. I think God and the people are sick and tired of me. I am too."