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Varbanov Investigated by Filchev. Ventsislav Varbanov's immunity was withdrawn with 156 votes "for" after a 4-hour debate at the National Assembly. The immunity of the former farm minister in the Kostov's cabinet was withdrawn at the request of Chief Prosecutor Nikola Fichev. Varbanov, who is now an UtdDF MP, will be investigated for misprisions in office. Photo Nikolai Donchev


Miners shout anti-government slogans during a protest rally in front of the Parliament in downtown Sofia on Friday, March 22, 2002. Several thousands of people from across Bulgaria Friday rallied in Sofia demanding that the government either improve its economic and social policy or step down. (AP Photo/Dimitar Deinov)

It is relatively calm Friday morning in Tetovo crisis region without any shootouts, MIA's special correspondent reported.
The Media Activity Center at the governmental Coordinate Body for Crisis Management announced Friday that the police checkpoint "Zicarnica" in Tetovo area was fired upon in several occasions over the night. A strong detonation was heard from the area of Tetovo Teke at about 1:30 a.m. The security forces reported no casualties and the provocations were therefore not responded.
In Tetovo and its surrounding area total of 60 sporadic and 16 rifle shots were registered, out of which 15 came from the direction of Lisec village.
In Kumanovo-Lipkovo region were registered some 20 sporadic and a few rifle shots. According to the General Plan for redeployment of the police of the Coordinate Body for Crisis Management, on Friday the ethnically mixed police units are to enter the villages of Vaksince and Lojane, Lipkovo area.
Total of 12 sporadic shots were heard in Gostivar area.

Ganev Suspected of Divulging Verbatim Report.
Pavlina Zhivkova

It is Stoyan Ganev who is behind the divulgation of the verbatim report, NMS MPs maintain. They assume that the former director of the Premier's office revenges in an attempt to destabilize the cabinet. Other deputies think, that the intrigue was inspired by the government itself. To them, the two BSP ministers - Paskalev and Kalchev, will be the sitting duck. The things could come to their resignations. The timing was right, for the Premier is abroad now. Sevdalin Mavrov - chief secretary of the Council of Ministers, will also be at the gunpoint, as one of the most serious opponents to the contract with 'Crown Agents'.
Confederation of Independent Trade Unions Expects 20,000 People to Join Protests.
Sofia, March 22 (BTA) - For a third year in a row the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions, CITUB, one of the influential trade unions in Bulgaria, organizes a national demonstration on March 22, the first day of spring.
CITUB expects that about 20,000 people from across the country will join the protests mottoed, "For New Social and Economic Policy". Invitations have been sent to all parliamentary and non-parliamentary parties and organizations.
CITUB has also appealed to its structures, workers, people without jobs, pensioners and all socially disadvantaged people to join the demonstration and protest against poverty and unemployment and to demand a change in the cabinets social and economic policy.
Five parties, four of which are not in Parliament (the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization, the Bulgarian EuroLeft, the Bulgarian National Agrarian Union - the Popular Union, the Republican Union and the Bulgarian Democratic Union Radicals), will participate in the demonstration.
The protestors claim that the cabinet has not delivered on its election promises which brought to power the Simeon II National Movement in June last year.
CITUB demands that the minimum monthly wage be raised to 120 leva as of October 1 and for wages in the state-financed sector to be hiked by 10% two times, as of July 1 and as of October 1. The trade union opposes the mechanical cutting of 10% of the jobs in the state-financed sector.
The Sofia Municipality has given a permit for the demonstration to be held.
The protestors are expected to hand over their demands to the cabinet around noon and to stage a demonstration later.
About 1000 people of the three trade unions of workers in the sphere of telecommunications too hold protests on Friday. Their demands are in connection with the pending privatization of the Bulgarian telecom and the planned jobs cuts. The protestors will join the CITUB march.
About 300 cab drivers will take part in the protest too.
The other influential trade union, Podkrepa, is not participating in the demonstration. In a recent interview in a Sofia daily, Podkrepa Leader Konstantin Trenchev said the trade union is giving the last chance to the cabinet.
UDF and BSP Summoned Urgent Sittings.

Leaders of the UDF and BSP summoned urgent sittings of their political leaderships yesterday in line with the scandal of the customs houses. UDF leader Nadezhda Mihailova convened the UDF National Executive Council at a joint meeting with the leadership of UtdDF PG. To the preliminary data, the motives were discussed of making a no-confidence motion to the government. The Executive Bureau of the Bulgarian Socialist Party discussed the same staple two hours later at their sitting at the headquarters of the party. The socialists consider if they are to submit a motion on second hearing of the Premier, and how to proceed with Minister Paskalev, who had taken part in the notorious sitting of the cabinet.
We Affected Party Funds.
Milen Velchev, Finance Minister

The Public Procurement Act is observed in its part of art. 6. Under it, tenders are not indispensable for public procurements connected with the national security and for measures in this field. All jurists believe that the law was not violated. I've been reiterating for a long time, that the attack was launched because of serious economic interests. If the verbatim report is true, it only shows to what a degree are strong these economic interests affected. Apparently, huge amounts floated from the customs houses to the party funds. The other companies, which have aspired for consultancy include a French one, a Swiss and an Italian firms. 'Crown Agents' preliminary report will be presented on March 22.
The affair is 'Watergate' squared Mouravei Radev, UtdDF MP:

This is the Bulgarian 'Watergate' affair squared. If there is some dignity left in those ministers they have to give in their resignations as early as possible. If they don't do it, there will be no-confidence vote. It is inadmissible for the BSP to demand a no-confidence vote because the brilliant proposal for classifying the contract with 'Crown Agents' belongs to their minister Kostadin Paskalev.

All are equal before the law.

Tatyana Doncheva, an MP from coalition 'For Bulgaria'
The ministers have violated the rules and laws. I fear that in every normal state this should result in resignations. All ministers are equal before the law. This holds good of Kostadin Paskalev too. This is the stand of the BSP. Our attitude to all ministers who participated in that sitting will be equal. I strongly hope that the government will spare us the demand of a no-confidence vote and will launch the moves needed in similar cases.
'Kurier': Simeon is Holidaying in Vienna.
Chancellor Wolfgang Schussel asks for 'Kozloduy' NPP.
'The Bulgarian Premier with royal blood in his veins is on holidays in Vienna' - reads the headline of the weighty Austrian 'Kurier' daily about the visit of the Bulgarian Premier to Austria. To the daily, Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha has to cope with grave problems in Bulgaria and his credit rating has dropped sharply. The King - Premier placed his confidence in inefficient advisors, the combat against corruption is sluggishly, the social reform slips, 'Kurier' adds. Yesterday, Bulgaria's Prime Minister was officially welcomed by his host - Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schussel. Bulgaria's integration to the EU and the future of the nuclear power plant - 'Kozloduy', are the key issues to be discussed by the two statesmen, the Austrian radio said. Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha talked also with Federal President Thomas Klestil.
Scandals Flare In the Wake of My Visits Abroad.
Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Premier, in Vienna
The Prosecutor's Office has to checkup who had divulged the verbatim report of the government's sitting, at which the contract with 'Crown Agents' was discussed, because these documents are classified and in line with the national interests and security. This is a matter of national defense and security rather than a political one. First of all, the report should be seen, to find out if it's true. The point is not if the Bulgarian laws were violated by signing this contract, but what the law read and who violated it. It is to be specified if there's to be a hearing in the Parliament, at the request of the opposition. Each time, when I have to pay an important visit abroad, a scandal flares.
Laws Shouldn't Be Flouted.

Georgi Parvanov, President

The government owes more information to the Bulgarian society regarding the contract with the British company 'Crown Agents'. All of us have sworn an oath to the Constitution and to the laws of this country, so any attempt to flout the legislation embarrasses me.
Prime Minister Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Visit Washington, D.C., April 23, 2002.
Sofia, March 22 (BTA) - The Office of White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer issued the following statement in El Paso, Texas, on March 21, 2001: "President Bush will welcome Bulgarian Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Washington on April 23, 2002. Bulgaria is a good partner and friend of the United States which has actively supported the war on terrorism and made significant contributions to our common effort of maintaining peace and stability in Southeast Europe. The visit provides an opportunity for the President and Prime Minister Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to discuss Euroatlantic and regional issues of common concern."
Communique of Council of Ministers.

Criminal Interests are behind the attack.
The contract with British consultant company - 'Crown Agents', on granting consultant service to the customs administration, is one of the steps to improve in the shortest terms the customs revenues collection, which is of key importance for the economy of Bulgaria. According to the Interior Ministry stand, the measures envisaged in the contract are pivotal for the national security and should be classified. That's why the contract had been considered at closed-door sittings of the Council of Ministers. Verbatim reports of CM's closed-door sittings are confidential, in concert with the order No R-35, of June 1, 1999, by the State Administration Minister. The respective institutions will be informed of the case. The ministers are confident, that behind the attempts to attack the contract with 'Crown Agents' there are criminal interests, gravely affected by the reforms in the customs house. Moreover, the government is determined to continue its policy on improving the work of the customs to collect the due revenues into the budget.
2 Ballots for Gotsev Saved His Post in BNT.
Antoaneta Peteva

E-Media Council left Kiril Gotsev at the director's post of the Bulgarian National Television (BNT), it transpired when the TV watchdog voted for the proposal of their colleague - Raicho Raikov to oust the newly elected TV boss. The idea was overridden by the ballots of Juliana Doncheva, Maria Stephanova and Lilia Raicheva. Five members abstained from voting.

Ministers Kept Silence under Tightened Security.

A bodyguard called the journalists 'mules' and threatened them.
Parliament and government alike awoke to see a reporters' blockade because of the scandal over the secret verbatim report on the customs houses. According to it by concluding the contract with 'Crown Agents' the government had tried to violate the law. Yesterday the ministers preferred to evade reporters. Only four of them dared comment on the scandal. These were Nikolai Svinarov, Mehmed Dikme, Anton Stankov and Milko Kovachev. However, the latter wasn't a member of the cabinet in October last when the CM held its secret sitting. On leaving the government sitting the ministers were protected by NSS guards. The ministers had been instructed in advance to evade reporters. A bodyguard was heard shouting 'mules' to the journalists and threatening them with retribution, if they tried to come closer to the ministers. The scandal blew up parliament. Blue and red MPs insisted on the resignations of the ministers who took part in the closed-door sitting. Many accused the former chief of the premier's office Stoyan Ganev. The minister of the state administration Dimitar Kalchev and the CM chief secretary Sevdalin Mavrov assume the responsibility for the verbatim reports of the government which were secretly taken out, minister Kalchev announced in parliament at 3.15 p.m. He didn't specify on whether he would give in his resignation. According to MPs however, only Mavrov will be dismissed. Kalchev and Mavrov will launch an internal investigation on how the document had been smuggled out. The ministers have to report to parliament, Kalchev said. He stressed that a government official had granted the verbatim report to circles which strived after destabilizing the power. Stoyan Ganev is said to have had no access to the documents.
Italians Aspire for 'Maritsa' Highway.

The company will use the road for 25 years at least.
Pavlina Zhivkova

Sections of trans-European 'Maritsa' highway will be granted on concession. The proposal belongs to Kostadin Paskalev - minister of regional development and public works. He will submit it to the Council of Ministers next week. The Parliamentary Regional Development Committee has already discussed the proposal late in the afternoon on Wednesday. Italian Saudgit consortium aspired for the concession. Top Italian construction companies - Salini, Girola and Ital Strade, are in the consortium. As early as 1992, Saudgit had won a tender in this country to build the sections from Sofia to Kalotina and from Orizovo to Kapitan Andreevo. Later, the Italians required to be granted a concession to the highway. In 1994 they set up the joint venture 'Bulit', together with the state-run 'Avtomagistrali - Bulgaria' (Motor Highways) company. They deposited the venture's capital to the Bulgarian Agriculture Bank (BZK), but lost the money after the finance institution was bankrupt. The concession's term will be minimum 25 years. The Italian will introduce toll collecting system, so to get back the investments in the construction works of the highway.
Bulgaria to Take 50 Mln Euros for Danube-Bridge II.

The Parliament ratified the contract between Bulgaria and European Investment Bank totalling 50 million euro for the Danube-bridge 2. The term of the loan's pay-back is 25 years with a 8-year grace period and annual interest rate of some 4 percent. According to the contract, the bank will be tax-relieved of all interests and other sums, to be granted to Bulgaria in case of carrying out the agreement.
Spring Set In, We Are Still Alive.

We'll shiver a little bit longer because of the last bills for electricity and heating
Will the spring warm our souls? Hardly. Even during this transitional season we'll continue to feel the heaviness of the past months on our backs. We'll shiver at every sound of the door bell, fearing the postman, because the last bills would put an end to our patched up budget. Despite that we enjoy each of the green blades of grass, which germ everywhere. Women will walk around the meadows and pick up fresh nettles and early herbs. Jobless man will discuss their fate basking in the sun. There'll be beer for free. Some of the men will form groups in front of the parliament... As a whole spring is a fine season. This spring will be even finer, because we have been through many difficulties...

Ivan Matanov


Beauty Makes King's Chatterers Angry.
Nadelina Aneva


Since the NMS acquired a press secretary the chief of the NMS MPs Plamen Panayotov has a dark-haired beauty as his shadow, rumors in the corridors of parliament claim. 26-year-old Ventsislava Achova was appointed last Tuesday and she has been following the parliamentary leader of the NMS almost all the time. She protects him even more dedicatedly than his guards, unanimous are both journalists and MPs. The young spokeswoman quickly learned to repulse the media attacks by the phrase 'Mr Panayotov is very busy'. In this same way she repels the journalists' interest in her. She may well pretend for the 'Miss' title and apart from it Achova is a certificated political analyst with Master's degree. Another asset is her TV journalism certificate. Her C.V. reveals that she has worked for Channel 1 of BNT, as well as for the '7 Days' TV. The newly appointed PR will only now get to know her journalist-colleagues who reflect the activity of the NMS, as well as with most of the MPs from the movement. Many of the NMS MPs didn't manage to conceal the fact that affected by having to concert all their interviews with her they had accepted her with enmity. Miss Achova herself doesn't accept the accusations that she has been appointed as media censor. 'How could I shut the mouths of 115 MPs?' is Ventsislava's strongest argument.

For People's Sake We'll Speak Even with UtdDF.
INTERVIEW Standartnews: Sergey Stanishev


With the premier's high rating there can be no crisis, says BSP leader Sergey Stanishev.

Velislava Krasteva

- Mr Stanishev, is only the majority to support the authorities today?

- With the premier's high rating we can hardly talk of a crisis in the rule and a collapse in confidence.

- What is the stand of Coalition 'For Bulgaria' on the country's rule?

- We have behaved as opposition since the beginning of this National Assembly. Our coalition didn't back up the government when it was formed. We didn't support the budget which followed the UtdDF policy, either. The government has been conducting a right to the center policy, rather. We have good and substantiated grounds to criticise the cabinet for this reason and because of the absence of coordinated moves, the absence of transparency, the absence of a dialogue with the opposition, with the civilian society.

- What is your attitude to the MFR?

- We regard the MFR as a strategic partner of ours and it is normal to hold a dialogue on a number of issues. A joint, left to the center rule of the BSP and the MFR in the future is not to be ruled out.

- You definitely manifest a consensus behavior to all political forces, the UtdDF included?

- We are ready to talk with any political force on issues which are significant to the people and to look for common solutions.

- Mr Stanishev, what would you demand from Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder at your meeting with him in Berlin?

- We shall set forth the problem of Bulgaria's membership of the Euro-Atlantic Union. We shall also discuss the Eurointegration and the relations between the GSDP and the BSP and most of all the BSP's membership of the Socialist International.

- Do you believe that the GSDP will lobby for the admittance of the BSP to the Socialist International?

- The GSDP has always maintained active contacts with the BSP. In the view of a British Labour-party member, if it depended on the GSDP the BSP would have become a member of the Socialist International long ago.



Governors Shifted the Responsibility of Litter Tax on Us.
INTERVIEW Standartnews: Stefan Sofianski

It is the municipalities to fix the tax, Sofia Mayor Stefan Sofianski was explicit.

Silvia Nikolova

- Mr. Sofianski, the CM said that it pays its debts to the Sofia municipality after you had announced them. Who's lying?

- The public state and municipal properties are excluded from the group of the taxpayers. With the freeing of the departmental buildings from tax assessment the tax assessment of the real estates of the citizens increased. A strongly manifested disbalance appeared. The taxes of the citizens increase and the taxes of the public buildings, when they are paid at all, remain the same. The CM declared that last year it paid 3,000 levs for litter tax. The tax is equal to the litter tax of 10 Sofia families for the same period. The citizens fully took the maintenance of the litter transportation because the relative share of the state property decreased.

- It came out that the Sofia municipality has the right to lay claims against the state for groundless enrichment. Will you do that?

- It would be silly to try the state now.

- What should be done?

- The cabinet and the parliament should only submit the parameters to the municipalities and leave us to decide. The easiest thing is to wash one's hands with the municipalities and to shift the responsibility upon the mayors. A paradox was reached when by a law the state obliged us to give public transport cards for free to the ministerial employees. From debt of 32 mill. levs the ministries have paid only 8.5 mill. levs. They don't pay and we have to pay VAT on these 32 mill. levs.

- Mr. Sofianski, how would you attack the ministries, which don't pay for transport, in order to collect the money they owe you?

- By letters and meetings.

- They accuse you that by your stand you aim political dividends for the Union of the Free Democrats (UFD) before the local elections next year.

- It wasn't out of political ambitions that the UFD submitted a draft for changes in the recalculation of the litter tax. But nobody took the trouble of even considering the proposal.



It's Easier to Cry Than to Laugh.
INTERVIEW Standartnews: Todor Kolev

Great actor Todor Kolev included hits in his new album "The Best."

- Mr Kolev, which was the most tragic character you played ever?

- That of the inspector in the picture "Death Can Wait Awhile" by Evgenii Mihailov. It was a great challenge and I accepted the role with satisfaction. I wanted to prove that it's easier to make spectators cry than laugh.

- Why aren't we to see new Bulgarian films?

- There's no one to make them.

- Did you make fortune after your roles in the box-office pictures such as "The Double", "Dangerous Charm" and "King for a Day"? If you lived in the West you'd be a billionaire.

- Who knows. At present we are not paid the money we deserve. Last year, an act was adopted under which the actors playing protagonists would receive something from the revenues. I was at a sitting convened by the Union of Bulgarian Filmmakers and I gathered that nothing was to change despite the act. Though all of us are masters.

- What about the American productions filmed in Bulgaria?

- I pay no attention to them. These are bubbles. The Americans are paying the Bulgarian actors as though the latter are Hollywood cobblers. The Americans here do not open jobs but create the opportunity some people to make for their living - assistant directors, cameramen and a dozen of actors. Though receiving a modicum of fees, this money help them to survive.

Albena Atanassova

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