Passy: EU Proposes to Bulgaria 10 Weddings and 2 Funerals.
The EU enlargement according to the 10 + 2 formula looks like 10 weddings and 2 funerals. This decision was painful for the Bulgarian society, Foreign Minister Solomon Passy said at the opening of 'Wilton Park' international conference in Boyana residence yesterday. He stressed in his speech that the separation of Bulgaria and Romania from the rest of the aspiring countries contradicted the EU principles of catching up and equal chance. The probable delay of our EU membership might result in unpredictable risks both for Bulgaria and to the international community, Passy said further. Despite the aspirations for a prompt progress in the negotiations, there will me no compromises with the interests of Bulgaria, Passy was explicit.
BULGARIA - AUSTRIA - P.M. VISIT.
Bulgarian PM Saxe-Coburg-Gotha Arrives on Official Visit to Austria, Austro-Bulgarian Business Club to Be Established Wednesday.
Vienna, March 20 (BTA Special Correspondent Vanya Ivanova) - Bulgarian Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha arrived on his first official visit to Austria Wednesday evening.
He is scheduled to confer with Federal Chancellor Wolfhan Schuessel, Federal President Thosam Klestil and National Council President Heinz Fischer.
An Austro-Bulgarian Business Club is to be established on the first day of the visit. The club has been initiated by the two countries' economy ministries and the Bulgarian Embassy in Vienna, Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister Nikolay Vassilev, who is on the Bulgarian delegation, told journalists.
"The idea of the Club is to facilitate bilateral corporate contacts in future.
Austria is a major potential investor with which we must invigorate our relations, and there is no reason why we should not achieve the level of relations which Austria has with Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia," Vassilev said. Next month he will visit Korea and China where similar bilateral business clubs will be set up.
In Vienna, the Deputy Prime Minister is expected to discuss opportunities for an increase in trade between Bulgaria and Austria and of Austrian investments in Bulgaria. Before his flight, Vassilev said he will be conferring with executives of large Austrian companies, including Bank Austria, which is among the bidders for Bulgaria's Biochim commercial bank.
Saxe-Coburg-Gotha's delegation also includes Deputy Foreign Minister Ivan Petkov, Privatisation Agency Executive Director Apostol Apostolov, Bulgarian Foreign Investment Agency President Nikolay Marinov and the Prime Minister's recently appointed Chef de Cabinet Radi Naidenov. A large group of business persons joined the official delegation.
During the flight, the Prime Minister, Vassilev and Naidenov greeted and personally acquianted themselves with the businesspersons and journalists who travel with them. Corporate executives shared their problems with the Deputy Prime Minister and voiced their discontent with the licensing requirements which they say cripple their business and with certain taxes. Others familiarized Vassilev with their lines of business.
On Wednesday evening, the Bulgarian Prime Minister and his delegation will visit the St John of Rila Orthodox Chuch in Vienna to meet Bulgarians living in Austria and will attend the inauguration of the Austro-Bulgarian Business Club.
During his three-day stay, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha is scheduled to deliver a lecture at the Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe (IDM) and to attend an Austro-Bulgarian Economic Forum organized by the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber.
BULGARIA-ROMANIA-DEFENCE MINISTERS MEETING.
Rousse, March 20 (BTA) - Defence Minister Nikolai Svinarov of Bulgaria and his Romanian counterpart Mircea Pascu will meet in Lipnik Residence at Rousse (on the Danube) on March 22, the press centre of the Bulgarian Defence Ministry said. Sofia and Bucharest will hold regular consultations in connection with their accession to NATO. Prime ministers Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha of Bulgaria and Adrian Nastase of Romania reached this agreement during Saxe-Coburg-Gotha's visit to Bucharest earlier this month.
Sofia, March 20 (BTA) - A parliamentary delegation led by National Assembly Chairman Prof. Ognyan Gerdjikov will pay an official visit to Romania on March 28-30, the parliamentary press office said.
The visit is at the invitation of Valer Dorneanu, President of the Chamber of Deputies.
The programme of the visit includes meetings with President Ion Iliescu, Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, and the presidents of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies of the Romanian Parliament.
Sofia, March 20 (BTA) - The construction of pan-European Corridor VIII linking Albania, Macedonia, and Bulgaria will be high on the agenda of the 3rd session of the intergovernmental Bulgarian-Albanian commission for trade and economic cooperation, said Transport and Telecommunications Minister Plamen Petrov opening the two-day session in Sofia Wednesday.
The commission is co-chaired by the two countries' transport and telecommunications ministers Plamen Petrov of Bulgaria and Maqo Lakrori of Albania.
According to Petrov, the two countries should cooperate in the development of the energy, gas transmission and petrol-transmission infrastructure, and telecommunications.
Lakrori pointed out that Bulgaria and Albania should cooperate more closely in the construction of the Bourgas-Vlore oil pipeline. He invited Bulgarian companies to participate in the privatization of the Albanian telecom, savings bank, state insurance bank and energy companies.
The Albanian Transport Minister said that Bulgarian construction companies could take part in the construction of a new airport in Tirana for which concessionaires will later be named.
Later on Wednesday Lakrori discussed with Deputy Prime Minister and Regional Development and Public Works Minister Kostadin Paskalev the opportunities for big construction companies to participate in the implementation of big projects in Albania.
The guest said that Bulgarian companies can enter international tenders for road, sea and air projects in Albania. Paskalev and Lakrori discussed the construction of Corridor VIII, as well.
The Albanian official is scheduled to visit the Todor Kableshkov higher transport school.
KURDS-PROTESTS-BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER.
Foreign Minister Passy: Bulgaria Should Not Become a Territory for Actions Directed Against Neighbouring Countries.
Sofia, March 20 (BTA) - Bulgaria should not become a territory for actions against any of its neighbouring countries, Foreign Minister Solomon Passy told journalists Wednesday. The decision of the Bulgarian authorities not to let the buses with Kurdish demonstrators to Bulgaria was based above all on the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and the bilateral agreement with Turkey of 1992, the Bulgarian Foreign Minister said.
Late last night the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that the Bulgarian authorities would not allow the buses with Kurdish protesters, organized on the initiative of the PKK, on Bulgarian territory.
On March 17 buses were provided in Belgium for Kurdish emigrants wishing to join demonstrations along the Bulgarian-Turkish border on the initiative of the PKK. The buses were to pass through the territories of Belgium, Austria, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria.
Around 11:00 some 100 Kurds living in Bulgaria gathered in Sofia and left for the Kapitan Andreevo border checkpoint on the Bulgarian-Turkish border. At the border they will try to present a peace message "Language Without Borders". The Kurds are protesting against the prohibition of the Kurdish language in Turkey.
Coal Miners Stage One-Hour Protest, Want Better Wages.
Sofia, March 20 (BTA) - Coal miners halted work for one hour on Wednesday in protest against the liquidation of mines. The Energy Ministry responded that problems should be solved at the negotiating table and not with strike threats.
The chairman of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB) said that 12,000 of the 23,000 people working in the coal-mining industry have joined the strike and that the strike encompasses all mining companies in the country.
The BTA correspondents around the country reported before noon that one-hour protests were staged at the St. Anna mining complex in Pernik, the Balkan 2000 mining complex in Tvurditsa, the Troyanovo 1 and Troyanovo-North mines and at the Zdravets mine in Dimitrovgrad.
The miners in the Pernik region said they wanted better wages, suspension of the unnecessary liquidation of the industry, renewal of collective labour bargaining and settlement of relations between the mining and energy companies.
2,000 Troyanovo-North miners adopted a declaration Wednesday morning, protesting the privatization of the Maritsa East mines and insisting that a political decision is taken for a development of the energy sector based on the use of domestically produced fuels; to this end, they recommend that new production facilities are built on the site of the Maritsa East 1 thermal power plant and that the existing facilities there are rehabilitated.
The miners in Dimitrovgrad want better wages and want to receive them regularly.
The miners' protest is the result of raising social tension and of the ongoing liquidation of the mining industry which will result in the loss of 10,000 jobs, chairman of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Miners (FITUM) with CITUB Pencho Tokmakchiev said on Tuesday. The workers are severely underpaid and denied social benefits such as free meals and transportation and the signing of a collective labour contract is blocked, he said.
According to Hristo Kazandjiev, director of the Energy Resources Directorate of the Energy Ministry and deputy chairman of the branch council for tripartite cooperation in the mining industry, some of the demands made by the strike committee and the executive committee of FITUM-CITUB are unfeasible.
Kazandjiev said the liquidation of the Minyor mine was suspended once the current government took office and mining activities there have resumed. The liquidation of the St. Anna mine has also been suspended and orders have been issued to resume mining. It is being assessed whether to resume mining at the Ivan Rusev mine, the Energy Ministry said. Liquidation proceedings for only one mine -Zdravets EAD, have been launched after the current government took office. That decision was approved in principle by the trade unions, Kazandjiev said, adding that the ministry will try to preserve the jobs of the miners; all loss-making mining facilities will be liquidated only after the opportunities for their rehabilitation are discussed with the trade unions.
The second demand of the trade unions - for transparency in the privatization of the mines, is fulfilled through the holding of public auctions and tenders and the application of clear criteria by the Energy Ministry and the Privatization Agency. All privatization contracts bind the new owner to preserve the core business and the payroll of the company, Kazandjiev pointed out. Nowhere and under no circumstances has the preservation of the Maritsa East mining complex as a whole enterprise been put into question. The decision for the restructuring of the complex will be taken only in view of the state's interests, is the official position of the Energy Ministry.
The increase in mining industry wages will depend on the productivity of work and the cost-efficiency of operation, the Energy Ministry said regarding the wage hike demands.
The government and the Energy Ministry have not blocked the collective labour bargaining in the industry. The process is a matter of dialogue and of seeking a balance between what is desired and what is possible, Kazandjiev said.
Muravey Sent Kostov to Berlusconi.
The Commander missed the take-over in the UDF.
Chairwoman of the UDF Nadezhda Mihaylova didn't specify the reason for Kostov's absence from the sitting of the NEC. She, however, said she had been informed. Other sources from the UDF headquarters said that Kostov was not abroad or that he wouldn't ever appear at such an event. Nadezhda Mihaylova gave the idea of gathering the former and the now NECs of the UDF to take over the power as early as last week. Edvin Sougarev said before the Bulgarian National Radio that he'd be in charge of the analyses and strategies within the UDF. We won't stand in the way of the government, but won't reanimate it, too.
Guardians Attached to Newly Elected NEC Members.
Nadezhda Mihailova - the new leader of the UDF, allocated the spheres of the National Executive Council (NEC) yesterday. Former UDF deputy-leader - Dimitar Abadzhiev, elaborated that to each of the NEC members, currently not being an MP, would be attached a deputy who had been in charge of the same sphere. Abadzhiev will be the 'leading officer' of Kisyov. Nadezhda Mihailova will map up the UDF meadia strategy. The spokesman and deputy-chief secretary will be elected next week at the session of the National Council.
Nadezhda Mihailova - Foreign Policy
Edvin Sougarev - political analyses and strategies
katerina Mihailova - training and nominations for elective offices and strategies
Plamen Oresharski - Financial Policy
Vladimir Kisyov - Domestic Policy
Ergin Emin - Regional Policy and Human Rights
Gospodin Tonev - Political Principles and Programs
Vanyo Sharkov - Social Policy
Nikolay Mladenov - Public Relations
Political Scientist to Censor the Interviews of NMS MPs.
26-year-old political scientist Ventzeslava Achova will head the Press office of the NMS. She was presented to the NMS MPs at a sitting of the PG last night. 'I have an MA diploma and I've specialized in TV journalism', she said of herself. She elaborated that she had worked in Channel 1 and '7 Dny' (7 Days) TVs. All the interviews of the King's deputies will have to be censored by the press office. This provoked a wave of discontent among the MPs.
The Pope To Attend Service of Maxim.
The Holy Synod will let Pope John Paul II to attend the holy liturgy to be served by Patriarch Maxim and the bishops on May 24 in the 'Saint Alexander Nevsky' cathedral, Neophit, the Dorostol-Cherven metropolitan said yesterday. However, the pope won't serve with His Holiness, because the Orthodox canon prohibits it. On May 26 Pope John Paul II will serve mass in Plovdiv in connection with the Day of the Slav letters and culture and in tribute to the saint brothers Cyril and Methodius he proclaimed patrons of Europe 10 years ago. Patriarch Maxim convenes the Holy Synod for an extraordinary sitting on May 26 to distribute the duties of the bishops in connection with the visit of Pope John Paul II.
Businessman Survived after a Cannonade of 35 Bullets.
I have no enemies and don't suspect anyone, the arms dealer maintains
Sarkis was travelling in his car together with his 26-year-old girl friend D.D. and his driver and bodyguard Hrisomir Petrov. A 'Toyota' jeep with other two bodyguards followed them. A cannonade of bullets reached the two cars but only driver Petrov was shot in the pelvis. He was hospitalized in 'Pirogov'. His life is not endangered. The rest of the passengers weren't wounded, though policemen found 25 holes of bullets in the cars. The press office of the IM elaborated that 44-year-old Sarkis had a criminal record.
Taxes of Needy to be Reduced.
Five percent of the insurance to be paid for a second pension from 2007 on.
The cabinet considers reduction of the income tax for the low-paid Bulgarians next year, Vice-Premier Lidia Shouleva said yesterday. The proposal was made by the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy. The discussion on the new tax policy of the government is to begin next week. This year the higher rates of insurances diminished the tax alleviations. Shouleva insists that the employers, increasing the salaries and opening new jobs, should have the right to down the profit tax by the expenses on insurances of their employees. The monthly contribution for a second pension should up to reach 5 percent by 2007, sources from the Social Ministry said. Currently, 2 percents are allocated to Pension Funds of the people, born after 1959. The Pension Funds will be entitled to invest abroad, both in municipal and mortgage bonds. Now they lack that opportunity.
BG to Loose Ukrainian Tourists for High Prices.
Oleg Baranovskii - general consul of Ukraine to Varna, forecast a reflux of Ukrainian tourist due to the visa regime and high prices in Dobrich yesterday. The guests who used to spend their summer holidays in Bulgaria, should have to travel to the consulates in Kiev and Odessa. The agreement on alleviation of the visa regime will nor be enforced during the season to come, the Ukraine's consul considers. 70,000 compatriots of Mr Baranovskii visited Bulgaria in the previous year. Now they will either go to Crimea, where the climate is similar to the Bulgarian, or will prefer Turkey, Baranovskii elaborated. Bulgaria's southern neighboring country competes with us offering lower prices.
Turkish Business Wants Visa Alleviations.
Bulgaria's southern neighboring country is our second trade partner in Southeastern Europe.
Entrepreneurs from Turkey and Bulgaria proposed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Turkish businessmen with Schengen visas to have free entrance to our country, Bozhidar Bozhinov - chairman of the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), said at a bilateral economic forum yesterday. Bulgaria introduced visa regime for Turkish citizens in July 2001, when this country was enrolled in the Schengen list. Turks owning companies in our state, are wasting a lot of time while waiting for visas. Another proposal reads that the businessmen who come for the first time in Bulgaria, should have the chance to enter by BCCI's invitations and guarantees given by the Turkish Chamber of Commerce. According to the official data, Turkey is the second trade partner of Bulgaria in Southeastern Europe and the sixth one worldwide. The commodity turnover between the two states in 2001, is worth of $712 million. Growth is expected in the trade with industrial products, being tax-free ever since 2002. The Turkish investments in Bulgaria are merely $128 million. Businessmen should invest more money in Bulgarian economy, the Turkey's ambassador to Sofia elaborated.
BG With Equal Share in OIl Pipe-Line.
The contract on Bourgas - Alexandroupolis to be sealed with Russia and Greece in April.
Bulgaria, Greece and Russia will be equal partners during the constriction works of Bourgas - Alexandroupolis oil pipe-line, Vice-Premier Kostadin Paskalev said after negotiations with his Greek counterpart. The three states will share an equal 33 percent stake in the intergovernmental joint venture, to be set up for carrying out the project, as the Bulgarian proposal read. Apart from companies, to extract and process the oil, large-scale international traders will be attracted as well. The state will keep back a share in the Bulgarian venture, which will be establish for implementation of the project, Vice-Premier added.
Bulgartabak and BTC for Sale on Monday.
Privatization of other 1,700 companies will start.
The privatization procedures of Bulgartabak and Bulgarian Telecommunications Company (BTC) are to be opened on Monday, Apostol Apostolov, CEO of PA (Privatization Agency) said. The new Privatization and Post-Privatization Control Act was promulgated in the State Gazette yesterday. This was the only term the two major deals to start. The papers of the tobacco holding were ready as early as a week ago, when the The MPs passed its privatization strategy. The deputies are expected today to vote for the BTC strategy. The two ventures will be sold out on two-tier tenders, while the proceedings will last up to 16 weeks. The PA will short-list 5 candidates in a fortnight term. The short-listed companies will have 6 weeks to submit their final bids with strict parameters - price, investments, development strategy of the company. The PA will select the buyer in a month. In the case of Bulgartabak, keeping back the tobacco production will be the top priority, while the price will be the key factor in BTC's sell-out. The privatization of other 1,700 firms will begin immediately after the methods are to be specified. Swedtel has serious intentions to take part in the BTC's privatization, Sten Ask - ambassador of Sweden to Bulgaria, said yesterday. He talked with Vice-Premier Nikolay Vassilev. The latter said, that the Swedish company would be the biggest investor in the privatization of the state-run telecom.
Jean Videnov's Man Appointed Deputy-Minister of Transport.
The proposal was made by the NMS, the BSP disagreed.
A man of former PM Jean Videnov will be appointed deputy-minister of Transport, 'Standart' learnt. Noiko Koutev will be in charge of the aviation. He will replace Zdravko Velichkov - dismissed at end-2001. Sources from the Council of Ministers confirmed that Koutev's nomination was already approved and PM Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha would sign the appointment order. Koutev was nominated by Nedelcho Ilinchev - national coordinator of NMS PM Yordan Mirchev - chairman of the transport committee with the parliament. Minister Plamen Petrov, however, was against the nomination. The BSP leadership didn't agree with the proposal as well. Koutev headed the 'State Interests Protection' department with the Ministry of Transport in Jean Videnov's cabinet. Vilhelm Kraus - Transport Minister in the UtdDF government, dismissed him.
The BSP and the Power.
Leader Stanishev is forced to manoeuvre between the lobbies within the BSP.
The socialist party is a semi-ruling semi-opposition with two socialists in the government and a parliamentary group which opposes the power. On the other hand, they explicitly refuse to be a partner of the UDF opposition. As of January there have been voices insisting on more seats in the government - both in the ministerial and the middle echelon. However, every time leader Sergey Stanishev is no late to specifies that the BSP doesn't need more power, but a change. Why the BSP is playing like this with the power? According to the latest opinion polls, didn't it come first, in terms of credit rating, before the UDF and the NMS? However, it were the party ratings that scared the socialists. Because they are not ready for the power. In the first place they lack in cadres. Not long ago members of the BSP Supreme Council held meetings with economists. The list included 150 names. All of them are young, ambitious and unburdened people. However, they don't share one and the same opinion on any issue. Until recently, not a single expert wished to commit himself to the BSP. Things changed with the establishment of the '5 to 12' club before the parliamentary elections when big names as financiers Dimitar Ivanov who works in London, Stoyan Alexandrov, etc., indirectly took the side of the socialists. Yet, no one of them has ever given a sign that he's ready to commit himself closer to the BSP. The second problem of the BSP is connected with the power centers within the party. The official line of young Sergey Stanishev is supported by the German social democrats and Moscow. The 'Roumen Ovcharov' circle is particularly powerful because behind it is the lobby of 'Gazprom' in Bulgaria and Russia, BSP sources claim. Georgi Pirinski is said to be lately asserting a powerful lobby around himself. It is claimed that not a single decision can be passed within the BSP without the approval of the 'American connection of the socialists'. A fact over which Stanishev is said to be particularly alarmed. For the time being, he has only one concern - to establish himself and his line at the BSP congress this May. If he fails to do so, he will fall a prey to his own people. At the moment the BSP is between the hammer and the anvil. The electorate is poor and wants that the BSP be an aggressive opposition. However, the socialists are not ready.
Documentary Tells How Bulgarian Ships Rescued 4,500 Jews in 1930s -1940s.
Sofia, March 20 (By BTA's Penka Momchilova) - "No Way Back" documentary (title in English suggested by BTA), which premiered Tuesday night, tells how Bulgarian ship crews rescued 4,500 Jews in the 1930s - 1940s. The documentary focuses on the death of 767 Jewish refugees from Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria and 10 Bulgarian sailors whose ship was torpedoed by a Russian submarine on February 14, 1941.
The authors got the idea to shoot the 50-minute documentary while surfing the Net - they came across a report that Greg Buckston, the grandson of refugees who died aboard "Struma" ship, was planning to organize an expedition to tug out of the sea the remains of the ship.
Research showed that in the 1930s and the early 1940s some 13 or 14 Bulgarian ships took to Palestine 4,500 Jews who were forced to flee Europe. The ships, which had Bulgarian crews but were flying under different colours, would start from Varna, Bourgas, and the Romanian port of Constanta.
The ring was masterminded by Dr. Baruh Confino. In the Israeli town of Ashdod grateful Jews have put up a monument of "Struma", yet this story was unknown to Bulgarians till today because the truth was kept secret for a long time for political reasons, the authors of the documentary explain.
"Struma" was a yacht which once belonged to an English lord. Dr. Confino bought it in 1941 to transport Jews to the Promised Land.
It embarked on its last journey from Constanta. However, before it set sail, the motor broke down and a Romanian tug boat helped tow the vessel to the Bosphorus. The passengers paid for this service with their wedding rings.
A Russian submarine SHT213 torpedoed "Struma" 14 miles northeast of the Bosphorus. The only survivor, Ukrainian Jew David Stolyar, was 19 at that time. Today he is trying to track down the relatives of assistant captain Lazar Dikov, who, in his words, saved his life. Several minutes before he died, Dikov explained to Stolyar how to survive longer in the icy waters.
The officers of the Russian submarine, which was sunken eight months later by a German ship, did not know they were attacking a ship with refugees. They had been told it was probably a German vessel. In a similar way Turkish ship "Merkure" with 320 Jews on board was destroyed on August 5, 1942.
"No Way Back" was written and directed by journalists Atanas Panayotov, Bistra Varneva and Matei Todorov; cameramen Emil Zhoukova and Borislav Georgiev, the music score is written by prominent composer of electronic music Simo Lazarov, who is currently living in Tel Aviv. Actors Vesselin Rankov and Marin Yanev dub the film.
The documentary, citing the archive of the then chief of the port of Varna, Captain Naiden Naidenov, tells how the Bulgarian port authorities helped operate the ring. Captain Naidenov even issued a fake certificate to Captain Anton Prudkin, whose "Rudnichar" ship with refugees aboard sailed four times to Palestine and back.
"At that time the Bulgarian passport was the most valuable one in the world.
But we wanted to reach our country and we were rescued with the help of the Bulgarians," Bulgarian Jew Zvi Suzin says in the film. Suzin is a survivor of "Salvador" ship which sank near Turkey. He said he still remembers the face of a Bulgarian sailor who swam three times to the coast and back to the sinking ship to save women and children passengers.
"We are trying to avoid comments, to let the facts speak. Everyone can make a conclusion alone. We hope that this film will not put a full stop to uncovering the multiaspectual truth of the Bulgarian's role in rescuing the Jews," said the author.