General Staff official says 8,500 army officers to be relieved in 2002.
Some 8,500 officers, sergeants, and sergeant majors will be relieved of their posts in the Bulgarian Army this year. This is what Gen Pandev of the General Staff said at a meeting with the NATO military attaches to Bulgaria.
They also discussed problems related to the social adaptation of the relieved army officers. Pilot projects have been developed to restructure the army bases in Simitli and the village of Brushlen near Sliven. The army bases in Razgrad and Dulgopol will also be reorganized.
BULGARIA - MACEDONIA - EMBASSY.
Skopje, April 30 (BTA) - The Bulgarian Embassy in Skopje reacted to a report by Violeta Cvetkovska, published in Tuesday's issue of the Macedonian daily "Utrinski Vesnik." The report "does not correspond to the truth and presents an unfair attempt to impute words and actions to the Bulgarian Ambassador," the Embassy's press office said.
"Utrinski Vesnik," whose editorial policy is said to favour the opposition Social Democratic League of Macedonia, reports that Bulgarian Ambassador in Skopje Alexander Yordanov caused a scandal during a lunch organized by Germany's Konrad Adenauer Foundation, following a lecture delivered by former Bulgarian prime minister Filip Dimitrov. Yordanov started a controversy with Edward Joseph and Ognen Vangelov, members of the International Crisis Group, concerning the origin of the Macedonian language, the daily writes.
"No such scandal erupted during Mr Filip Dimitrov's lecture or afterwards," the Bulgarian Embassy said.
"Instead of emphasizing the strong positive effect of the lecture, in which Mr Dimitrov outlined Bulgaria's extremely good prospects for membership of NATO and the EU, the writer for 'Utrinski Vesnik,' who did not attend the meeting, 'saw and heard' a language controversy which never actually occurred. She expresses false assumptions, such as the one that the Bulgarian language is 50 per cent 'Russified.'
"It is a puzzling fact that the alleged controversy is reported six days after the moment when it is said to have occurred. According to normal journalist practice, current news, if any, should be covered without delay," the Embassy's press office said.
"Sadly, such reports are discordant with the good relations established lately between the Bulgarian Embassy and the Editorial Board of 'Utrinski Vesnik,'" the Embassy said.
PRIME MINISTER - GREECE.
Sofia, April 30 (BTA) - Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha will lead a governmental delegation on a working visit to Greece between May 9 and 12, the government press service said April 30.
The Prime Minister is scheduled to visit the Bulgarian Zographou Monastery on Mount Athos. The delegation will attend celebrations of the monastery's feast day. Working meetings will be held in Thessaloniki.
The Prime Minister will be accompanied by his Chef de Cabinet Radi Naidenov and Associate Professor Ivan Zhelev, who heads the Directorate of Religious Affairs with the Council of Ministers.
Sofia, April 30 (BTA) - National Assembly Chairman Prof.
Ognyan Gerdjikov will attend the Conference of Speakers and Presidents of European Parliamentary Assemblies in the Croatian capital Zagreb May 9 to 12, the Parliament's press centre said Tuesday.
Croatian Parliament President Zlatko Tomcic will open the conference. Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe President Peter Schieder is to address the forum.
The conference will discuss the parliaments' role in the fight against terrorism, organized crime and corruption. Gerdjikov will deliver a speech.
Czechs Interested In Devt Of Bulgaria's 2nd Nuclear Plant.
The Czech republic is interested in participating in the construction of Bulgaria's second nuclear plant, the country's ambassador said Monday.
The Bulgarian government recently announced it would resume construction of a second nuclear power plant near the Danube port of Belene, 250 kilometers (155 miles) northeast of Sofia. Bulgaria has already invested $1.2 billion in the project, which was frozen in 1990 after pressure from environmentalists.
"The Czech republic is interested in the eventual resumption of the Belene project," Ambassador Petr Dokladal told a news conference.
"The Czech Republic keeps an eye on the development of power engineering in Bulgaria and we ought to note the political support for eventual building of the Belene nuclear plant," he said.
A Czech-built 1,000-megawatt reactor is stored at the Belene site.
On Sunday, Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi said that two Canadian companies had also expressed interest in building the Belene plant.
Pasi identified the firms as Canada's state nuclear energy company, Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., and SNC-Lavalin Inc., an engineering and construction company.
Bulgaria must close two of six units at its only nuclear plant in Kozlodui, 200 kilometers (125 miles) north of Sofia, by the end of this year under an agreement with the European Union, which considers the Soviet-designed reactors unsafe.
However, Emil Vapirev, head of the state agency on nuclear safety, said Monday that it was "technically possible" to temporarily close the reactors, modernize them according to western standards and restart them. Bulgaria hasn't discussed such options with its western partners.
Under the agreement with the E.U., Bulgaria has also to negotiate a deadline for the closure of two more Kozlodui units by the end of 2004.
Bulgaria jump-starts its economy by exporting electricity.
Even by the low standards of Eastern Europe, the Bulgarian economy was a laggard in the 1990s, shrinking for six years and beginning to grow only after it tied its currency, the lev, to the deutsche mark in 1997. Since then Bulgaria has carved out a niche for itself as an exporter of electricity, even though it depends on imports for 70% of its primary energy resources. In 2001 Bulgaria exported 7,000 gigawatt-hours of electricity worth more than $200 million, 4% of its exports. Electricity isn't the largest of Bulgaria's energy exports--fuel products make up 25% of all exports--but it's growing the fastest: 60% last year.
Success came accidentally. Demand for electricity was rising faster among its neighbors than in Bulgaria, and it had excess power capacity plus a Soviet-era grid by which to supply it to the region. And by the end of 2010 annual demand for imported electricity in the Balkans is expected to reach 61,700 gigawatt-hours, more than three times the amount in 2001. But Bulgaria might not be able to offer that supply unless new power stations are built, and if they aren't, the Balkans will have to rely on imports from Russia.
It will require billions of dollars in investments, most of it foreign, to fill the capacity gap. The good news is that Bulgaria looks set to attract most of any such investments, because it has moved faster and farther than its neighbors to create a favorable environment for foreign investors in the energy industry, even though it is not especially blessed with such power sources as hydro capacity or coal deposits. There's no time for delay, because nearly 40% of Bulgaria's energy-generation capacity has to be shut down permanently by 2010, including four of the six reactors at the 3.8-gigawatt nuclear plant at Kozloduy on the Danube River, 200 kilometers north of Sofia, the capital.
Two big American companies, AES and Entergy, have entered Bulgaria to build or refurbish eight units in the Maritza East complex. This consists of three coal-fired power plants and lignite mines 150 kilometers southeast of Sofia. After the nuclear plant at Kozloduy, Maritza East is Bulgaria's second-most-important source of electricity, with a capacity of 2.9 gigawatts.
AES is investing $900 million to build a new 670-megawatt coal-fired plant in Maritza East I, replacing a smaller plant that's 40 years old. Entergy is spending $475 million in Maritza East III to renovate an 840-megawatt plant that's 25 years old. The American ventures represent the biggest foreign investment in Bulgaria to date.
"Bulgaria's energy sector was attractive to us because of the opportunity to replace dirty, old and inefficient generation technology with reliable, clean and very competitive coal-fired generation," says Paul Hanrahan, the COO of AES. "At that time, it was clear to us that the country had turned a corner and was on a path to sustainable growth and stable macroeconomics."
The presence of AES and Entergy in Bulgaria encourages other foreign companies to think of investing there. Enelpower, the engineering arm of the Italian electricity supplier Enel, is considering whether to invest $300 million in acquiring four hydroelectric power stations. BNFL of Britain, Electricité de France and RWE Rheinbraun of Germany have also shown interest.
All are responding to changes in Sofia, where the year-old government, led by the country's former king, Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, is dedicated to promoting faster economic growth by, for example, privatizing Bulgaria's telecom and tobacco monopoly this year.
Bureaucratic delays are shortening, and transparency is improving. The economy has grown on average 4% a year since 1998 and is expected by the Sofia government to expand by 3.75% in 2002. "Bulgaria is quite similar to any other market," says Stephen Gareth Brett, Entergy's managing director for European operations. "The government is showing a keenness to take down barriers to allow the Maritza East III project through and certainly has been cooperative."
Bulgaria's improving economic and political stability is also causing investors to look afresh at its favorable location. The Albanian-Macedonian-Bulgarian Oil & Pipeline Co., a U.S.-based consortium, is currently trying to raise from $850 million to $1.1 billion to build a pipeline 900 kilometers long that would transport 750,000 barrels a day of Caspian crude ($600 million a month) from the Bulgarian Black Sea port of Burgas to the Albanian harbor at Vlore on the Adriatic. The pipeline would bypass the heavily congested Bosporus straits.
It just goes to show that you don't have to be resource-rich to do well. Sensible policies and favorable geography can go a long way.
CHINA CUTS DUTIES ON BULGARIAN IMPORTS.
by Iva Ivanova
RASTIC customs duties abatement for Bulgarian imports will be introduced by China within the next two years, said deputy minister of economy Milen Keremedchiev. The maximum duty of 66% will be reduced to 4%. The issue had been raised at the Ninth Bulgarian-Chinese intergovernment commission held in Beijing prior to the visit of economy minister Nikolai Vassilev to China.
High customs duties are currently imposed on the import of Bulgarian wines, soft drinks, textiles, tobacco products. The abatement is related with China's accession to the World Trade Organisation and the accompanying obligation to reduce customs duties.
Pope plans to meet with Muslim, Jewish and Orthodox leaders during upcoming trip.
VATICAN CITY - Pope John Paul II will meet with Muslim, Jewish and Orthodox Christian leaders during a May 22-26 trip to Azerbaijan and Bulgaria, stops intended to promote religious tolerance.
The pope will spend one night in Azerbaijan, a mainly Muslim former Soviet republic of 7.5 million people with a Catholic population of only 120, according to details of the trip released Tuesday by the Vatican.
While there, the pope will meet with the Muslim leader of the Caucasus region, the local Orthodox bishop and the head of the Jewish community.
A highlight of the stop in Bulgaria will be a meeting with Patriarch Maxim and other Orthodox leaders May 24. The Orthodox Church was originally opposed to the visit, but then changed its position.
John Paul has visited several Orthodox countries but has been blocked from visiting Russia because of opposition by the Orthodox leadership. They accuse the Vatican of seeking to expand its influence in traditional Orthodox lands in eastern Europe.
Meetings with Muslim, Jewish and Protestant representatives are also on the schedule in Bulgaria.
The pope plans to beatify three Catholic priests who were executed in 1952 after being convicted of spying. Bulgaria was under communist rule at that time and the Vatican declared last week that the three were martyrs of the faith.