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The Forte - Bulgarian Top 100 awards ceremony was held at the National Palace of Culture. The Charisma duet won the greatest number of statuettes - for best debut, best pop actor and best song. Pressphoto BTA Photo Bistra Boshnakova
Ethnic Albanian protesters carrying Albanian flags gather to protest the agreement signed between Yugoslavia and Macedonia in the village of Debelde, near the border between Kosovo and Macedonia Wednesday, April 17, 2002. Ethnic Albanian officials claim that 2,000 acres of land belonging to Kosovo have been given to Macedonia. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
In this handout photo distributed by the Israel Defense Forces, an Israeli soldier shakes hands with a monk as he delivers medication to the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem Wednesday April 17, 2002. According to a Defense Ministry official, Israel will remain in Bethlehem and Ramallah until standoffs there over the surrender of wanted Palestinians have been resolved, but will try to withdraw troops from other areas by early next week. (AP Photo/HO/Israel Defense Forces)
SITUATION IN CRISIS REGIONS.
It is calm Wednesday morning in Tetovo crisis region, reported MIA's correspondent.
The Interior Department of Tetovo registered several rifle and sporadic shots from the villages of Gajre, Odri, Dobroste, Neraste, Dolno Orasje and Prsovce. About ten rifle shots were heard one hour after midnight in the village of Lisec.
According to the Department of Interior, the shots came mostly from the central area of Tetovo town as well as from the settlements of Kupenik and Teke.
MACEDONIAN AND BULGARIAN DEFENSE MINISTERS MEET.
Macedonian Defense Minister Vlado Popovski met Wednesday night with his Bulgarian counterpart Nikolay Svinarov in Athens, where he participates at the international conference "NATO: Next 50 years - Cooperation for Security and Stability for Southeast Europe."
The two ministers reviewed the possibilities for training of the Macedonian officers in Bulgaria as well as for bilateral military-technical cooperation.
Popovski suggested at the meeting to hold regional meeting in Ohrid, focused on the measures for guaranteeing the state borders in this part of Europe.
The meeting also focused on the situation in Macedonia prior to the autumn parliamentary elections. Popovski emphasized that "there are some processes going on in the Albanian political block, which reflect the disagreements between the Albanian population with continuos violence and confrontations."
He pointed out that the Macedonian political parties act responsibly in order to avoid the escalation of this local conflict into a crisis.
It is expected Minister Popovski to meet with other defense ministries from the region at the margins of SEE Defense Minister Conference in Athens.
Defense ministers from Albania Luan Rama, of Bosnia and Herzegovina Mijo Antic, of Bulgaria Nikolay Svinarov, of Croatia Jozo Rados, of Yugoslavia Velimir Radojevic, of Romania Mircea Pascu, of Turkey Sabahattin Cakmakoglu and of Republic of Srpska Slobodan Bilic attend the conference.
NATO Secretary General George Robertson and EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana also take part at the Conference.
Minister Vlado Popovski pays two-day visit to Athens upon an invitation by Greek Defense Minister Yannos Papantoniou.
PM GEORGIEVSKI TO PARTICIPATE IN REGIONAL CONFERENCE IN ATHENS.
Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski will set out for Athens on Tuesday, to participate in the conference "Strategy for the International Recovery and the Regional Cooperation", organized by the "Economist" magazine.
Georgievski is expected to address the conference on Thursday, speaking about the recent developments in Macedonia and the Balkans.
During his stay in Athens, Georgievski will meet with Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreu, with his Greek counterpart Costas Simitis, Minister of Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Costas Skandalidis and Economy Minister Nikos Christodoulakis.
At the meetings, the Macedonian Prime Minister is expected to request from Greece to undertake initiatives within NATO and the European Union, which could contribute to the development and stability of the Balkans, Greek media reported.
Georgievski is also expected to ask for acceleration of the process for implementation of the Greek plan for reconstruction of Southeastern Europe, worth Euro 550 million. The plan foresees 95 million for projects in Macedonia.
Macedonian delegation, led by Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski and accompanied by Foreign Minister Slobodan Casule, yesterday had the first political dialogue with representatives of the European Union, which is part of the Stabilization and Association Agreement.
EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, Euro-Commissioner for External Affairs Kris patten, current holder of the EU Presidency and Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Pique, Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moller and EU Special Envoy Alain Le Roy attended the meeting.
Last year, Macedonia faced a difficult crisis, which had bad influence on the country's economic and political development, Georgievski said at the meeting.
"However, even in such conditions, the Government has taken series of measures to maintain the macroeconomic stability and the reform course. The EU support and the successful implementing of constitutional changes have created conditions for reviving of the economy and its coordination with the EU standards," Georgievski said.
The Government was committed to meet all obligations deriving from the Framework Agreement, he underlined, extending his gratitude for the EU support, reaffirmed at the recent Donors' Conference in Brussels. In this respect, Georgievski pointed out the necessity for fast allocation of means, pledged at this conference.
He also underlined the need for further joint combat against generators of the crisis in the region, especially against organized crime and illegal trafficking.
Saying that the Macedonian Government gave top priority to establishing institutions for efficient implementing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA), Georgievski extended special gratitude to Denmark, which is the first EU member country that recently ratified this Agreement giving additional incentive to other EU countries to do the same.
The EU high representatives expressed the highest recognition to the Macedonian Government for its constructive and crucial role in implementing of the Framework Agreement, as well as their commitment to further assist in an overall development of the country. They also expressed satisfaction with developing of the bilateral relations in regard to implementing of SAA and the Interim Trade Agreement between Macedonia and the EU, which has initiated the process of Macedonia's integration into Europe. The EU representatives also referred to the SAA process in the countries in the region, presenting the European Commission annual report of April 3, 2002, which includes favorable assessments for Macedonia's achievements in various spheres.
Regarding the EU initiative for engaging of European forces that would overtake the NATO mission to Macedonia, Georgievski said the international community presence in the country would be necessary in the future period, while its form should be agreed by EU and NATO. This should be also regarded as the country's special contribution and taken into consideration in relation with Macedonia's candidacy for NATO membership.
Georgievski promised to the EU representatives that the election date would be set soon. Election laws are to be adopted till mid-May. The EU will send 700 monitors to follow the election process.
Earlier yesterday, Casule met with his Luxembourg counterpart Lydie Polfer.
Macedonian prime minister says Greek-Macedonian pipeline may open in June.
ATHENS, Greece - A pipeline linking Macedonia's main oil refinery to the northern Greek port of Thessaloniki could be opened in June, Macedonia's prime minister said Wednesday.
Greece is Macedonia's largest foreign investor with more than dlrs 300 million and owns a 69.5 percent stake in the country's main oil refinery. Hellenic Petroleum S.A., which has spent dlrs 190 million in Macedonia, is building a pipeline linking its refinery to Thessaloniki.
"I believe that the procedure for opening the pipeline will begin in June," Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski said after meeting Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos.
Georgievski was in Athens to attend a business conference and was also scheduled to meet Greek Premier Costas Simitis later Wednesday.
Relations between Greece and Macedonia have improved significantly in the past few years, despite continued disagreement over the name of the former Yugoslav state.
Greece, which has a northern province called Macedonia, claims use of the name masks expansionist aims by its neighbor and usurps Greece's Hellenic heritage.
The dispute led to Greece imposing a crippling two-year embargo on Macedonia in 1994 that almost destroyed its neighbor's fragile economy.
Talks held under United Nations auspices in New York to resolve the dispute have made little headway.
In a gesture of further reconciliation, Georgievski also called for the return of the Elgin Marbles, a 160-meter (yard) frieze that once decorated the Parthenon atop the Acropolis.
The sculptures were taken in the early 19th century by Lord Elgin, then British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, and are now housed in the British Museum in London. Greece has long called for the antiquities' return.
Thachi Announces He Is Leaving The Political Scene.
"It is true that I, and probably other leaders of the DPA, are approaching the end of our political careers, which should end with the promotion of the new young crew that is going to lead the party," said the vice president of DPA Menduh Thachi. He announced this yesterday at a meeting which took place in the election parliament of the DPA youth in Skopje.
The sources from the Albanian political block said that they are not surprised by the statement of Thachi, because for a long time he has been under strong pressure by certain groups from Tetovo to leave the political scene.
Two weeks ago, an unidentified group attacked DPAs regular hanging out place in Tetovo. According to some speculations the target was Thachi himself.
The pressure for his withdrawal from the political scene did not stop after the attack on his restaurant Dora. Rather, it was even intensified with stronger threats. They say that Thachi is done, and he will be liquidated soon if he does not leave the political scene.
According to some sources, the people that are threatening Thachi are ex-NLA members who sacrificed themselves for war and lost family members to it.
In his address to the young members of the DPA party, Thachi blamed his political opponents, the PDP and NDP, for cooperating with different secret intelligence services.
Yet his opponents contend that nobody compromised the Albanians more than he, and therefore as soon as he leave the better it will be for all in Macedonia- and especially for the Albanians.
A Macedonian Miracle: Zoran Rosomanov and the Survival of Free Enterprise in the Balkans.
by Christopher Deliso
April 17, 2002
In the sweltering heat of Summer 2001, as Macedonian Army helicopters were flying overhead to bomb the NLA in nearby Aracinovo, Zoran Rosomanov was laying the foundation for his new factory. At the height of the war, in the midst of chaos and uncertainty about Macedonia's political and economic future, Rosomanov was betting everything he had on the future success of his new enterprise. He had personally signed off on the bank loans, putting his assets and professional credibility on the line. He freely admits now that "many people thought I was crazy." Yet he persevered nonetheless, with a conviction that never wavered, and an optimism that was never stifled. Now this charismatic visionary is one of the leading young businessmen in Macedonia. His upstart printing house has taken the Balkans by storm, and thrown the competition into a panic.
Almost always, the news from Macedonia seems to be bad. It is a refreshing change, therefore, to come across a story of success. And though this story chronicles one man and his entrepeneurial efforts, the tale has wider applications. For in it are intertwined many potent themes: war and its alternatives, the true patriotism and the false, free markets and the role of the state. These are issues that reverberate all around the world, not merely in one beleaguered Balkan country.
Putting Macedonia on par with the West.
Rosomanov's company, Bato and Divajn, is exceptional for its technological sophistication. Specializing in printing and design, this operation uses cutting-edge printing machines from Germany's Heidelberg a world leader in the field. With these state-of-the-art machines, Rosomanov can print up to 15,000 sheets per hour. He has convinced Heidelberg to give him upgrades every few years on credit, as well as to maintain a repair team in his factory. Now he is working on becoming the company's sole Balkan representative.
Together with his business partner, expert printer Dusan Onchevski, Rosomanov manages an extremely complex operation that produces all of those essential things that most people take for granted: bus tickets, beer labels, cigarette boxes and poster advertisements, to name but a few. The factory itself is very sensitive, requiring constant regulation of the moisture content and room temperature. The trained staff of forty works with highly complicated and highly valuable machinery the intricately ridged design templates alone sell for $18,000 each.
Until Rosomanov's $2.7 million investment, Macedonia's printing world had never seen anything to compare with this technology. Hardly anyone had any experience in an industry that was almost entirely non-existent. Not only were the machines expensive, they had to be trucked from far-off places like Germany a cumbersome process that Rosomanov once expedited, by attaching blue lights to the top of his car. His "police escort" enabled the truck to motor freely south to Skopje.
Such imaginative pragmatism has characterized Zoran Rosomanov's business style from the start. Where others saw only barriers, he saw opportunities.
Where many felt helpless to stop the war, he saw a way to establish the preliminary conditions for peace. Indeed, when there was no printing industry in agriculture-minded Macedonia, he created one. Rosomanov would stand out anywhere for his enthusiasm and initiative; in Macedonia, he is almost an anomaly.
Surrounded by his beloved machines, Zoran Rosomanov oversees production from the factory floor.
From the beginning, an entrepeneurial spirit.
Throughout his career, Rosomanov's special talent has been tactical observation. Even at a very young age, he kept his eyes open for opportunities. Rosomanov's strategy, often called simply "market research," is both clever and highly effective. His trademark has always been to observe his surroundings, perceive a need, and then use everything at his disposal from persuasion to promises to cold hard cash to fill that need better than any of his competitors. This is how he has been able to claim the Balkans as his "turf," and to alarm the Slovenian and Austrian competition which is gradually, inexorably, being undermined by the Macedonian juggernaut that is Bato and Divajn.
Rosomanov's career began in music production with Macedonian National Television (MTV). He continued in the same field further north in Europe, becoming a sales manager in Belgrade by the age of 21. Gradually he developed interests in marketing and graphic design. In 1992, at the age of 26, Rosomanov opened a marketing firm in Skopje called Divajn. At the same time, he was making important contacts in the fields of printing and design, and talking up his business with potential investors from Milan to Amsterdam.
Rosomanov then conceived of the idea for something never before seen in Macedonia a printing house that could compete with the European heavyweights.
From the start, it was Rosomanov's almost insane optimism that made the difference. Having no money, self-confidence was all that he could count on.
His first big victory was in convincing an envelope printer from Holland to sell the fledgling enterprise a used four-color printing machine. The machine cost over $200,000; Rosomanov had nothing. The daring solution? "Give it to me on credit," he boldly declared. "You know what?" Rosomanov recalls with a grin, "he gave it to me and to do this, he had to turn down higher offers from three other countries."
Rosomanov's second big victory owed once again to his ability to win the trust of other businessmen. The budding entrepeneur observed that Macedonia's largest brewery, Skopsko, was getting its beer labels printed in far-off Slovenia. The inefficiency of this set-up got Rosomanov's mind working on how he, a complete unknown, could take Skopsko from the Slovenians. He told his designer to buy two beers, remove the labels, and reproduce them "pixel by pixel." After the "new" labels were ready, Rosomanov presented them to the astonished brewers. They were ready to consider that this young upstart might have something to offer. And then, as luck would have it, the delivery truck from Slovenia happened to be running late. Rosomanov recounts:
"so they asked me if I could have one million labels ready by 9 A.M. the next morning. I told them I could do it. When I went back, I called all my workers, and said: 'bring your pillows, we have work to do tonight!' But by 9 A.M. we had finished all of them all one million labels. And that is how I got started."
Consolidation and expansion.
Today, Rosomanov's customers still rave about his punctuality. Time and time again, he has delivered on his word thereby gaining a reputation for reliability. From the humble beginnings of a used four-color printer, he has gone on to build a new Macedonian empire. His clients include Coca Cola, Canon, the Macedonian Lottery, Macedonia's BOSS cigarettes, and Skopje's public bus system. He prints books, newspaper inserts, and promotional material for telecommunications firms and medical supply companies. After viewing Rosomanov's massive operation, one is left with the feeling that there is nothing his company can't do.
This sentiment is doubly confirmed by a visit to Rosomanov's second venture, Divajn Project Management. This outgrowth of his first company offers promotion, marketing and design services. Between his two companies, Rosomanov has mastered a sort of vertical integration. For example, take a typical job for Coca Cola. First, the printing plant churns out the Coca Cola labels, posters and flyers. Then, his graphic design team crafts sexy clothes for those svelte young models also provided by Rosomanov who will work Coke's beachside summer promotions. No one else in Macedonia can offer such a range of complementary services.
As if that weren't enough, Rosomanov has recently been getting into interior design. Employing a decidedly modern aesthetic, his architects create unique and colorful homes which seem much more in the style of Los Angeles or London than little old Skopje. To top it off, Rosomanov is also an accomplished photographer.
The boss looks on as workers scrutinize Skopkso labels for errors.
Free enterprise: a new definition of patriotism.
Zoran Rosomanov's success story would seem improbable enough, happening as it has in a small, poor country. It becomes even more incongruous when we consider that Rosomanov started up just as full-scale battles were going on, and the future of Macedonia remained in doubt. Yet he was undeterred by the threat of war, or the fear that had paralyzed so many of his countrymen. I mentioned my surprise at his stoic attitude; Rosomanov just shrugged it off. "What can we do?" he quipped. "We have to live."
I wondered if Rosomanov had any concerns about security especially considering that several other factories had been attacked or destroyed during the war. He pointed with a grin to a fierce-looking mutt chained up in front of his factory. When we approached, however, the dog just wagged its tail and rolled over happily. Not auspicious. Of course, Bato and Divajn does employ a few security guards, and carries an extensive insurance policy. Still, the boss is not too worried.
Rosomanov's thoughts on patriotism are also refreshingly unique. During the war, the Western media was flooded with images of "angry Slavs."
Paramilitary groups and jeering crowds, it seemed, were the sole representatives of an entirely anti-Western nation. Feeling powerless against both the NLA and the Western media, the Macedonians voiced their frustration through shows of nationalism. But Rosomanov neither enlisted nor sat around waving a flag. Instead, he took his love for Macedonia and turned it into something positive, by starting a business that has made his country a regional leader in the printing industry. By keeping his Macedonian clients from having to shop abroad, he brought a vast amount of money back into the domestic economy. And, of course, he gave people jobs. Rosomanov declares:
"I'm a big fighter for my country. Why? Many people give up. They say, 'the West is better.' But they shouldn't say that. We have a beautiful country, with everything we need here... my fight is, why do we need to look outside?"
Rosomanov's patriotism is quietly expressed in his work. While others complain about Macedonia's many capitulations and call for a stronger military, Rosomanov believes that change will only come through other means chiefly, by developing a climate where free enterprise is allowed to thrive, independently of state coercion and corruption. Macedonia also suffers, he contends, when its businesses import commodities that could be produced at home. In this regard, Macedonia still has a long way to go. To achieve economic freedom and internal stability, the country must first free itself of the burden of its history.
Problems with history, problems with the state.
In the long years of Yugoslav rule, "Macedonia had no voice" in shaping policy, Rosomanov says. In this period, Macedonians held few managerial or other decision-making positions. All of the orders came from Belgrade, and the country was used primarily as a supplier of agricultural products for the rest of Yugoslavia. The reliance on foreign imports for most industrial and technological commodities has characterized Macedonia's first ten years of independence. These are the prime limiting factors that have slowed the transition to a successful economy.
Unsurprisingly, an entrepeneur like Rosomanov would like to speed the process along. In his view, "A country should be run like a business and so it's very important to have a prime minister who is also a businessman." Yet this is not the only essential change, Rosomanov suggests; institutional reforms are also necessary. The bureaucracy is labyrinthine and maddeningly slow. The wheels of government are neither well-oiled nor geared towards helping independent businessmen. Dealing with banks can be a nightmare. On top of all this, there is the legal institution. Rosomanov avers:
"the biggest problem is with the law. First, we must change the court system. People must learn how to protect themselves (i.e., their private property). If we have good courts and a good constitution, many people will invest here."
Foreign investment in Macedonian businesses is a laudable goal. Thus far, however, foreign investors in Macedonia have seemed more like vultures, feeding off the carcasses of bloated state-owned enterprises. As in other Balkan countries, privatization has been a painful experience here. Ingrained pessimism at the reality of state corruption has also contributed to the lack of entrepeneurial initiative in Macedonia. Confronted with insurmountable bureaucracy, unfriendly lenders, an outdated court system and governmental expectation of bribes and kickbacks, it is no wonder why would-be entrepeneurs have found it tough going in Macedonia.
By using the very latest in print technology, Bato and Divajn stays on par with Western competition.
Predictions and possibilities.
Only time will tell whether Zoran Rosomanov exemplifies a new breed of Macedonian businessmen or whether he is just an aberration. On the one hand, the positive response that has greeted his enterprise would seem to indicate that Macedonia is ready for change. Yet since his breadth of vision and personal drive make him an exception rather than the rule, Rosomanov's prediction that "Macedonia will be better than Switzerland" in ten years is perhaps premature.
Indeed, considering that so much of Bato and Divajn's success owes to the unique qualities of one man, we must be careful not to draw too many conclusions from it about the future of Macedonian business. Yet the fact that there are such people as Zoran Rosomanov individuals who refuse to be victims of the state, and who seek independence through building free markets is an encouraging sign. Wedded with Western capitalism, Balkan logic might just prove effective. In such thinking, the human dimension is everything. As Rosomanov says, "I'm rich with the people, not with the money. If you have too much money, but don't have friends, you have nothing." This sentiment is the bedrock on which his business rests. If Macedonia does indeed succeed in pulling itself up to Western standards, it will be through the utilization of just such a homegrown quality one exemplified in the minor miracle of Zoran Rosomanov's unlikely Macedonian empire.
Premier Simeon Koburg-Gotha would be on a vigil in the Zograf monastery on the St. George Day eve.
Premier Simeon Koburg-Gotha would visit the Zograf monastery on May 9 and 10 and would be on a vigil in the night on the St. George Day eve, the new Director of Religions Department to the Cabinet Associated Professor Ivan Zhelev announced at a briefing to journalists. Except Premier Simeon Koburg-Gotha, the delegation to Athos would include Minister of Defense Nikolay Svinarov and other senior officials, although the delegation would not be very big in view of insufficient capacity of the monastery to accept guests, Zhelev said. As for the forthcoming visit of Pope John Paul II, he said that Religions Department would be the mediator between the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and the Vatican, he added.
Nikolay Vasilev would take part in Bulgarian Easter 2002.
Speaking for the media, Minister Nikolay Vasilev said that he accepted the invitation of the Bulgarian Easter 2002 initiative Committee in order to turn this event into a useful and exiting tradition. The event is scheduled to take place in Sofia on May 3, 4 and 5. Vice-Premier Nikolay Vasilev shared his expectation that this-year Bulgarian Easter 2002 would concentrate on governmental achievements and would avoid malicious criticism. He said that he was preparing a report about the last-year Bulgarian Easter. Information about this-year event could be found at http://www.velikden-bg.org/.
Draganova Blackmails PM into Coalition Agreement.
Tosho Peikov and Vessela Draganova and their men are inciting a revolt within the NMS PG. They refuse to join the newly set up King's party. "It is me and Tosho Peikov who have to admit Simeon Saxe-Coburg and the new NMS party into the ruling coalition and not the other way round," Vessela Draganova, leader of the Party of Bulgarian Women, said for "Standart". To close to them people, Tosho Peikov and Vessela Draganova were secretly drafting a coalition agreement with the NMS to blackmail Simeon into keeping their key positions in the coalition. The two of them wanted their relations with the NMS to be reconsidered and Plamen Panayotov to be ousted from the Coalition Council. To Peikov, the council should comprise only Peikov himself, Draganova and Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.
BULGARIA-SECOND DANUBE BRIDGE-CONSULTANTS.
Sofia, April 17 (BTA) - Eighteen companies tendered to provide consulting services for the construction and management of a second Danube Bridge between Vidin (Bulgaria) and Calafat (Romania), Transport and Communications Minister Plamen Petrov said.
The tenderers are from Britain, Germany, Spain, Denmark and other EU countries. Their tenders will be assessed along economic and financial criteria.
The tenderers' experience in the construction of infrastructure facilities will also be taken into consideration. The deadline for submission of tentative offers was April 15. The 18 tenders will be shortlisted, and then between four and eight companies will be asked for final tenders, Petrov said.
The invitation for tentative offers was open to natural and juristic persons from the 15 EU countries and 13 countries entitled to access to the EU financing bodies. The future consultant will receive 5,755,000 euros at the most. One of the requirements is that tenderers must have an annual turnover exceeding 29 million euros.
A memorandum on the construction of the second bridge over the Danube was signed by Bulgaria and Romania in January 1997.
An intergovernmental declaration was signed in March 2000. It was followed by an intergovernmental agreement on the technical, financial and legal parameters of the project in June of that year. In November 2001 Bulgaria and Romania approved the final version of the project for the infrastructure facility, which will have four traffic lanes and two railway lines, and will be worth 207 million euros.
Bulgaria and the European Investment Bank signed a financial agreement in December 2000. It will serve as a basis for a 70-million-euro loan to Sofia for the bridge.
Defence Ministry Signs Contract with Intelcan for Upgrading Graf Ignatievo, Kroumovo Military Airports.
Sofia, April 17 (BTA) - Defence Minister Nikolai Svinarov and Ron Weissberger, President of Intelcan, Canada, on Wednesday signed a contract for the upgrading of the military airports at Graf Ignatievo and Kroumovo.
Svinarov described the contract as an important step in building the interoperability of the armed forces and expressed hope that it precedes the broader presence of Canadian companies in Bulgaria.
Asked about the deadline for completing the implementation of the modernization project, Svinarov said that had the contract been signed by March 15, the modernization would have had to be completed by December 23. He said he hopes the works would be completed by the end of January.
Taking another question, Svinarov said that he could not disclose the value of the contract due to confidentiality considerations.
The defence minister said that Intelcan would not receive any advance payment. Payment will be settled through a letter of credit opened with a first class bank, releasing the respective amount of money after performance of each task under the contract.
Weissberger said that Intelcan would work under the contract with the help of partners based in another four NATO member states - Norway (Navia), Great Britain (Park Air Systems), Germany and the United States (ITT).
Seven companies were invited to participate in the procedure for choosing the contractor of the Graf Ignatievo and Kroumovo modernization project: Bae Systems, Siemens, Park Air Systems, Intelcan Technosystems, Thales , Marconi Systems and Raytneon.
Siemens, Park Air Systems and Raytneon gave up the idea of participating in the competition.
Bidding documents were bought by Bae Systems, Intelcan Technosystems, Thales and Alenia Marconi Systems.
Three of the companies - Intelcan Technosystems, Thales and Alenia Marconi Systems, submitted their bids by the fixed deadline, February 22.
An expert commission assigned by the defence minister studied and evaluated the bids of the three companies. The offer of Intelcan was the best as it fully satisfied the three basic criteria - the best technical proposal, the lowest price and the earliest date of completion.
The embassies of Germany and France in Sofia sent a note to the defence minister in support of the French-German corporation Thales, asking that the evaluation commission reconsider its decision. Svinarov confirmed he had received such a note but stated there is no need to reconsider the results of the competitive bidding.
Intelcan's technical proposal meets the conditions set out in the bidding documents 95 per cent, while that of Thales meets them 45 per cent, Svinarov said. The price offered by Intelcan is lower by over a million than that of Thales. He said it is not true that Intelcan proposes a radar that has been rejected by Poland.
Roderick Moore, Charge d'Affaires of the US Embassy in Sofia, addressed a letter to Svinarov, expressing the support of the US Government for Intelcan and ITT. Moore wrote he did not expect problems with the licensing of the export of the ITT-made GCA 2000 radars to Bulgaria and added he had been assured by a high-ranking ITT official that the equipment will be in line with the NATO standards.
Ohrid, April 17 (BTA) - Bulgarian Prosecutor General Nikola Filchev is participating in a meeting of his counterparts from Central and Eastern Europe, which opened here on Wednesday.
The meeting organized by the Macedonian Prosecutor General's Office is attended by the prosecutor generals and their deputies of Macedonia, Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Montenegro, Romania, Slovenia and Yugoslavia, as well as by senior representatives of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe, the Council of Europe, the European Commission and the Office of the US Attorney General.
The witness protection programme is the focus of the meeting.
Opening the meeting, Macedonian Deputy Prime Minister Zoran Krstevski said the state bodies still showed signs of weakness in the fight against crime.
He said that a truly democratic society can guarantee full respect for human rights and freedoms.
Albena, on the Black Sea, April 17 (BTA) - The issue of minorities other than the Roma in Bulgaria was dropped from a report from the 7th meeting of the EU-Bulgaria consultative committee
Committee co-chairman Bozhidar Danev told a news conference Wednesday that the problem is not of any major significance and both sides agree about that.
"The EU side agreed to drop the issue from their report," said Danev. "The problem with the Roma minority, which is heavily segmented rather than homogenous, is a very specific one and cannot be solved with general measures. Unfortunately, the EU side is unable to offer as a model a European country which has successfully handled this problem."
Tom Eti of the Dutch federation of trade unions explained that they took their information from international sources which talk about Turkish, Macedonioan, Jewish and Armenian minorities in Bulgaria. "We only mentioned these minorities and it threatened to block the discussion. This is why we decided that it is best to drop from the report any references to other minorities in Bulgaria."
He added that the problem with the Roma minority is not unique to Bulgaria and Europe is not in a position to offer a working model to deal with it.
MRF against Medicine Doctor's Proposals.
MPs from the MRF waxed indignant over the proposal the health legislation to be amended, made by the NMS MP Dr. Atanas Shterev. The discussion flared at a joint sitting of the NMS and MRF PGs. The doctor screened his ideas. To him, a self-government body of medics should be established - Medicine Doctors and Dentists Chamber. The MRF MPs didn't share his revolutionary ideas. They insisted that their experts as well as representatives of the Health Ministry took part in the drafting of the reforms. The MPs from the MRF were explicit that now the health system serves the doctors rather than their patients. The acts, however, should not be mended partially but having in mind an overall concept.
Nadezhda Mihailova Delivers EU Ultimatum on 'Kozloduy'
It is Bulgaria to decide if we are to close down the 4 reactors of 'Kozloduy' NPP, but we should be aware of the cost of a possible refusal, UDF leader Nadezhda Mihailova said on her arrival from Brussels yesterday. In their talks Guenter Verheugen - EC enlargement commissioner, confirmed the EU stand that the decommissioning of the four 'Kozloduy' NPP units was set in no uncertain terms for Bulgaria's admission into the EU. The center-left coalition doesn't want to realize how much Bulgarian economy will loose, if we don't close down units I and II and confront with the EU, Mihailova elaborated. At the working dinner with NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson she assured, that the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) will proceed working further on Bulgaria's accession to the Alliance, even if not being invited in the fall.
Prince Cyril Asked to Be the Patron of the 'St. St. Cyril and Methodius' church in Veliki Preslav.
Followers of the NMS will address an official letter to the son of Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha asking him to commit himself as the churchwarden. The members of the initiative committee will invite Prince Cyril to guest to Veliki Preslav on the occasion of May 11, the patron saint's day of the local church. King Boris III provided the means for the construction of the church and his brother Cyril was its patron.
Berlusconi to Bring 120 Businessmen to Bulgaria.
Italian Premier will meet President Parvanov, too.
Italy's PM Silvio Berlusconi will bring 120 businessmen in Sofia on Thursday, when his official visit in Bulgaria is to begin. The entrepreneurs will have talks with representatives of Bulgarian companies at the seat of 'Interpred' - currently owned by Italian 'Miroglio' venture, Italy's ambassador to Bulgaria said for 'Standart' daily. At the time, Italy ranked 16 in the investors list, while now Italy tops this list, the ambassador said further. He stressed that the visit of Premier Berlusconi is closely related to the process of a sharp growth of Italian investments in Bulgaria. Berlusconi is to land at Sofia airport at 10:00 a.m. sharp and will fly off at 5:30 p.m. Except for one-to-one talks with Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Italy's PM will meet President Georgi Parvanov as well.
Interior Minister Petkanov Meets with Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Yilmaz.
Istanbul, April 17 (BTA exclusive by Nahide Deniz) - On the second day of his three-day official visit to Turkey, Interior Minister Georgi Petkanov met Wednesday with Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz.
Petkanov was invited here by his Turkish counterpart Rustu Kazim Yucelen.
Speaking to the press after the half-hour meeting with Yilmaz, Petkanov said that the talks "took a very positive direction". The meeting was held in the presence of members of the Bulgarian delegation, the Turkish Interior Minister and Tourism Minister Mustafa Pasa.
Petkanov talked to Yilmaz about the programme of his visit, where the most important item is the signing of a document on cooperation in guarding the common sea border. The document will be signed in Ankara Thursday, said Petkanov.
He stressed the upward trend in bilateral relations recently and praised the personal role of Mesut Yilmaz.
Yilmaz, on his part, reiterated his country's support for Bulgaria's admission to NATO and the EU and said that Turkey attaches particular importance to the close contacts with Bulgaria.
The Turkish side raised the question about the opening of a new border crossing at Lessovo-Hamzabeyli and at Malko Turnovo - Derekes. The sides agreed on an expansion of the Malko Turnovo - Derekes road to make it passable for large trucks. The Lessovo-Hamzabeyli road has already been expanded on the Bulgarian side of the border and it will soon open for traffic.
Asked about his expectations for the visit, Petkanov said that he hopes for closer cooperation between individual services of the two countries and noted that the Bulgarian delegation includes representatives of several special services.
"Fighting drugs and people rafficking is very important for us. Bulgaria has largely handled the situation by land and has done whatever was necessary to break the land routes, but analysis show that the traffic has been re-directed to the sea," said Petkanov. This is why Bulgaria expects from Turkey help to curtail and stop the traffic through the common Black Sea border, and is ready to do its part of the job, siad he.
Bulgaria also wants to exchange information with Turkey and the two sides are already cooperating in this field, said the Bulgarian Interior Minister. Thanks to this cooperation, the Istanbul police recently seized 65 kg of drugs and a dangerous criminal responsible for a crime in the Bulgarian town of Harmanli was arrested by the Turkish police.
Dwelling on the counter-terror efforts, Petkanov said that fortunately there is no terrorist activity on Bulgarian territory. "Bulgaria is part of the anti-terrorist coalition and is doing what is necessary in the fight against terror."
Petkanov and Yilmaz also talked about a readmission agreement that the Bulgarian Interior Minister said will probably be signed in June.
Defence Minister Svinarov Leaves on Three-Day Visit to Greece.
Sofia, April 17 (BTA) - Defence Minister Nikolay Svinarov leaves Wednesday on a three-day visit to Athens at the invitation Greece's Minister of National Defence Yiannos Papandoniou. Svinarov will attend an international conference "NATO in the Next 50 Years: Cooperation for Security and Stability in South-East Europe", the press office of the Defence Ministry said.
The forum is dedicated to the 50th anniversary of Greece's accession to NATO and will be attended by NATO Secretary General Lord George Robertson, Dr Javier Solana, High Representative for the EU on Common Foreign and Security Policy, defence ministers of Southeast European countries, experts and diplomats.
The participation of the Bulgarian delegation is aimed at contributing to the further strengthening of regional security and the deepening of relations with NATO. The forum will provide opportunities for discussing bilateral relations in security and defence, the press release of the Defence Ministry says.
Apart from setting forth Bulgaria's stand on the main topic of the Conference, the programme of Svinarov's visit includes meetings with the defence ministers of Greece, Turkey, Romania, Macedonia, Albania and Yugoslavia.
Pensions to Up by 6 Percent from June 1 on.
The inflation ate away the raise, elderly people grumble.
From June 1 on the pensions will rise by 6 percent. The National Insurance Institute (NII) Supervisory Board took the decision on the increase yesterday. All the pensions granted till end-2001 will be updated, NII sources specified. The NII Supervisory Board approved the Council of Ministers' decree on fixing a new rate of the social pensions. It will be 46.64 levs from June 1 on. Thus the minimum pension on insurance length of service and age will be 53.64 levs, while the maximum - 186.56 levs. So far the upper bracket amounted to 176 levs. The average pensioners will take 100.62 levs. 'Actually the inflation ate away the growth. We will not be able to buy on the increased pensions things we could buy in January,' members of the Pensioners' Union elaborated.
Bulgarians 3-Fold Poorer than Europeans.
The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita in Bulgaria accounts for less than 30 percent of the European Union rates, reads the report of the European Commission 'Development of the Macro-Economic and Finance Stability in the Aspiring Countries'. GDP per capita in the candidate-countries is 35.2 percent of the average EU rates, but in Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey the rates are the lowest ones. In most of the countries unemployment is a major problem, reads further the EC report. In 2002 the unemployment rates range from 4.9 percent in Cyprus to over 15 percent in Bulgaria, Lithuania, Poland and Slovakia. According to the European Commission prognoses, the unemployment in this country will remain high. Bulgaria has a good potential for a high GDP growth, reads the report. Apart from the unemployment, the Bulgarian economy will face major problems with the low rates of domestic investments. According to the inflation prognoses, it will be higher than the EU zone level, but will hardly drop under 4 or 5 percent annually.
CROWN AGENTS - PRELIMINARY REPORT.
Finance Ministry Publicizes Preliminary Report of Crown Agents.
Sofia, April 17 (BTA) - The preliminary report Crown Agents has drawn on the reform in the Bulgarian customs, a copy of which was made available to BTA, establishes "a number of omissions and shortcomings in the functioning of the National Customs Agency".
The full preliminary report contains a total of 72 concrete recommendations to the customs agency. The document was drawn in compliance with the agreement between the British consultancy firm and the Bulgarian Finance Ministry signed on November 29, 2001.
The majority of the existing problems are institutional and of long-term nature, says the report. The problems are divided into groups. The most significant among them are the lack of effective structures and procedures for investigation of customs violations; absence of effective systems for gathering, analysis and distribution of operative and intelligence information; inadequate exercise of customs control along the border and inside the country.
The report says that better risk assessment would help in increasing the clearance rate of offences and reducing the financial burden and costs of legal trade. The report notes the inefficiency of the systems for collection of revenue and their inadequate application.
The document pays special attention to institutional corruption, the lack of funds and actual opportunities of the inspectorate investigating internal customs violations and conducting audits. Also absent are effective procedures for interaction with the business community, says the report. Crown Agents is of the opinion that the structures and systems for internal and external communications are inadequate.
The system of employment of customs staff should be considered and revised so that job applicants be assessed based on the standards of professional ethics; it also should preclude the possibility of hiring candidates who have committed serious crimes, says the report.
FOREIGN MINISTER-ARAB AMBASSADORS.
Bulgaria Is for Strict Implementation of UN Security Council Resolution on Middle East Conflict, Foreign Minister Passy Tells Arab Countries' Ambassadors.
Sofia, April 17 (BTA) - Bulgaria supports the role of the UN and above all of the UN Security Council and is for a strict implementation of the resolutions of the UN Security Council on the Middle East crisis, Foreign Minister Solomon Passy said Wednesday, emerging from a one-hour meeting with eleven ambassadors of the Arab countries. The meeting was at the request of the Arab ambassadors.
In its two years as a nonpermanent member of the UN Security Council Bulgaria will spare no effort in working for the pacification of the region. "We are aware of the humanitarian, human and political sacrifices of the two sides and will do all within our powers to achieve peace in the region," the Foreign Minister said.
"We are greatly alarmed by the escalation of tension in the region. US Secretary of State Colin Powell is still in the Middle East and before the completion of his visit we cannot make any short-term forecasts of the development of the situation," Passy said.
"We asked Bulgaria to do what it is doing now, i.e. to join the efforts of the EU and the international community to make Israel implement the resolutions of the international community," said Dr Mohammed Salaime, Ambassador of Palestine in Sofia. According to him, this is the only way to establish peace in the region.
The Arab ambassadors thanked Bulgaria for its vote in support of Resolutions 1402 and 1403 of the UN Security Council.
They said that Bulgaria membership in the Security Council assigns it special responsibilities and expressed the hope that it will play a positive role within the framework of the international community and the Security Council.
Trumping with Dossier Records Will Go on.
INTERVIEW Standartnews: Roumen Danov
We are not able both to declassify them and liquidate them, Roumen Danov says.
- Mr Danov, you intended to testify about the case against Atanas Semerdjiev and Nanka Serkedjieva, charged with destroying the dossier records. Why didn't you appear in the court?
- I was not subpoenaed.
- Do you find the sentence just?
- I have arguments extenuating the guilt. To me, Semerdjiev was misled by the people who were interested in destroying the dossier records.
- Could some of the destroyed files contain information about some crimes such as the murder of Georgi Markov or the attempt on the Pope's life?
- In my capacity of President Zhelyu Zhelev's national security adviser I drafted the statement of President Zhelev that there were no evidence of Bulgarian participation in the attempt on the life of Pope Joan Paul II. We could not do the same with Georgi Markov's murder because the file was destroyed.
- The struggle for the State Security archives is going on. The former parliamentary majority adopted an Act on the dossiers, and the now majority passed a Classified Information Act. What do you think of these Acts and the activities of the so-called "Andreev's" Commission?
- It is a fierce struggle for domination. If the issue was solved at the time - radically and immediately - this invisible structure of dependences would have been liquidated. The profanation of the problem with the dossier records resulted in apathy. Regretfully, the UDF set a bad example for political use of the topic.
- There are three ways to solve the problem with the dossiers. The first way is to entirely declassify them, the second one is to liquidate them and the third way is to have a limited access which always results in manipulations.
- The first two things will not happen. The records would not be entirely declassified for part of them were destroyed at Semerdjiev's days. To liquidate them is also impossible for many things were already declassified. This is why the trumping with dossiers will go on.
Rumen Danov is 46-year-old. He was born in Kurdzhaly. He graduated from the English language School in Plovdiv and then in economy and journalism. He is one of the founders of 'Ekoglasnost' (Green Movement) and the UDF. As an MP in the Great National Assembly he was a deputy-chairman of the commission for access to the archives of the former State Security. Later he was an advisor to President Zhelyo Zhelev on national security. Now he is the chairman of the Liberal Union party.