Revolver and Sward for Simeon.
The PM treats to candies and mineral water for his birthday.
The first anniversary of the NMS rule was overshadowed by the PM's birthday. Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha became 65-year-old on Sunday, but he received presents and congratulations yesterday. The government presented to its leader a small violin made of amber wishing him to play the first fiddle in the orchestra of the ministers. Minister of Defence Nikolay Svinarov presented him a revolver and a sward and the NMS MPs - a bronze sculpture of a fire-dancer. The employees of the Council of Ministers brought a huge cake with the National Emblem on it. MRF leader Ahmed Dogan came with a huge bunch of predominantly yellow flowers. 'A royal bouquet for a royal person', Dogan was curt. Press attache of the government Tzvetelina Uzunova said that the PM received thousands of congratulations, numbering 1,032 on the e-mail only. The PM received telegrams of congratulations from President Georgy Parvanov, ex-presidents Petar Stoyanov and Zhelyo Zhelev, UDF leader Nadezhda Mihaylova and Prosecutor General Filchev, sources from the Council of Ministers said. Simeon treated to candies and mineral water the ministers and the leaders of the parliamentary groups of the NMS and MRF.
UK Secretary of Defence Geoffrey Hoon Arrives on Two-Day Official Visit.
Sofia, June 18 (BTA) - British Secretary of State for Defence Geoffrey Hoon arrives late Tuesday evening on a two-day official visit to Bulgaria at the invitation of his Bulgarian counterpart Nikolay Svinarov, the press office of the Ministry of Defence told BTA.
The two ministers will discuss the process of Bulgaria's integration into NATO, this country's participation in the anti-terror coalition and Bulgaria's military contingent under British command in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) for Afghanistan.
The talks will discuss steps to deepen bilateral relations in the military field and will consider the results of British aid in the training of Bulgarian officers according to NATO standards and the experience which British civilian and military consultants share to assist the work of the Ministry of Defence and the General Staff of the Bulgarian Army in the process of reform, the press release says.
Apart from Defence Minister Svinarov, Geoffrey Hoon is scheduled to meet National Assembly Chairman Ognyan Gerdjikov and Foreign Minister Solomon Passy. The guest will read a lecture at the Atlantic Club in Bulgaria.
Sofiyanski to Close Down Filling Stations.
Construction sites underway already are to be frozen till September 30, irregular gas-stations and car washes sealed down.
Sofia Mayor Stephan Sofiyanski asked the city councillors to declare a moratorium on all petrol stations, gas stations and car washes in construction in Sofia till September 30. The councillors adopted the proposal at their session yesterday. A committee comprising representatives of the 'Architecture and Public Works' and 'Construction Control' departments, the municipal commission on environmental protection, two representatives of each regional administration, will checkup the documents of all filling stations, gas stations and car washes.
Shipyard's Employees to Block Roads.
Workers insist on being paid, don't let the shipyard be sold out.
Employees of the Varna-based shipyard blocked the 'Bridge of Asparukh' yesterday. They rallied against the wage arrears for March and April. The traffic was stopped for some 15 minutes. After the police interfered, the workers cleared the highway. The rally proceeded further in front of the shipyard's office building. Several protesters said they would go on a hunger strike. 188 workers signed a letter of protest to be sent to the Council of Ministers, the Parliament, the transport minister and MPs from Varna. The workers are dissatisfied with the fact that Bulgarian Marine shipping company is about to sell out the shipyard.
Purvanov, Schuster: Bulgarian-Slovak Trade Levels Are Dissatisfactory.
Bratislava, June 18 (BTA spec. corr. Vanya Ivanova) - Trade and economic contacts between Bulgaria and Slovakia are dissatisfactory, presidents Georgi Purvanov and Rudolf Schuster said Tuesday at the opening of a Bulgarian-Slovak business forum in Bratislava. The forum was organized within Purvanov's official two-day visit which started Monday.
The two heads of state noted the good political dialogue between Sofia and Bratislava, but stressed the need to promote trade and economic relations.
Purvanov quoted data, according to which two-way trade in the past years stood at a mere 46 - 48 million dollars. Slovak investment in Bulgaria amounts to 12 million dollars; there is no big Bulgarian investment in Slovakia. The countries fail to utilize the quotas set by the existing bilateral free trade agreement.
The Slovak president reiterated his country's wish to participate in the construction of highways in Bulgaria, the Belene nuclear plant and the second bridge over the Danube, in the country's gasification and the electrification of the Plovdiv-Svilengrad railway line.
President Purvanov called on Slovak companies to invest in Bulgaria, noting the country's political, financial and economic stability and the good legal basis for foreign investors.
The business forum brought together representatives of 20 Bulgarian companies, including Electroimpex, Vitamina AD, and Sofia City Transport, and over 40 Slovak companies. The Slovak Chamber of Commerce and Industry has already found three partners for Bulgarian participants in the forum.
After the opening ceremony the Bulgarian president laid a wreath at the Monument of the Heroes of the Slovak Uprising.
Venelin Ouzounov, chairman of the National Association of Municipalities in Bulgaria, who is also on the Bulgarian delegation accompanying Purvanov, met with the leadership of the National Association of Municipalities in Slovakia.
The two associations wish to restore the close ties between Bulgarian and Slovak municipalities and towns which existed in the past Ouzounov told journalists. The restoration of contacts between Kosice and Stara Zagora in particular, which were twinned years ago, was also put firth, said Ouzounov.
He promised to discuss the matter with the mayor of Stara Zagora.
Belgrade, June 18 (BTA exclusive by Teodora Encheva) - Bulgarian Deputy Foreign Minister Ivan Petkov, who is in Belgrade for the ministerial of the countries-members of the Southeast Europe Cooperation Process, was received by Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic.
Petkov delivered a letter from Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy inviting the Yugoslav Foreign Minister to pay an official visit to Bulgaria.
Foreign Minister Svilanovic accepted the invitation with gratitude.
In his letter Passy stresses the need to pool efforts for a speedier construction of the Sofia-Nis motorway as part of European Corridor X.
The Bulgarian side expressed support for Yugoslavia's membership in the Council of Europe and its accession to Partnership for Peace. Both sides assessed in positive terms political dialogue and the state of bilateral relations.
The meeting stressed the need to implement concrete projects such as the Sofia-Nis motorway and the signing of a free trade agreement.
The Yugoslav side praised Bulgaria's constructive role as a competent defender of the region's interests in the UN Security Council.
Belgrade, June 18 (BTA exclusive by Teodora Encheva) - Experts of the National Institute of Environment Protection and a mobile environmental laboratory of the Belgrade Institute of Health Care took samples of the explosive mixture that leaked from cisterns of the Bulgarian Bul-Rom Petroleum company of Plovdiv which overturned around 15:30 h local time on Sunday, June 16, the private FoNet news agency reported. The results of the tests have not been announced yet.
The incident took place at Novo Laniste near Yagodina on the railroad to Belgrade. Four of the Bulgarian company's eight train cisterns overturned and one of them caught fire. The fire was extinguished on the same day around 18:30 h. The nearby population was evacuated due to a threat of an explosion, the Serbian TANJUG and BETA news agencies reported.
Though the cause of the accident was deformation of the rails due to high temperatures and high speed, traffic along the railway line is running according to schedule, railway workers from Belgrade told BTA.
PM Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Partake in European Council Summit in Sevilla.
Sofia, June 18 (BTA) - Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha will take part in the European Council summit in Sevilla June 21 to 22, said the Government's information directorate.
The prime minister will have a working lunch on June 22 with the government leaders of the EU member states and applicants.
Bulgaria Has Achieved Considerable Progress towards EU Accession, UNICE Says in a Report.
Brussels, June 18 (BTA exclusive by Ana Georgieva) - The Union of Industrial Employers' Confederations of Europe (UNICE) has published its annual report on the progress of each candidate country to accession to the European Union (EU). BTA was delivered the text on Bulgaria progress unabridged.
The report, compiled on the basis of interviews with European and Bulgarian businesses, makes an assessment of the country's economy in the period ending in March-April 2002. Its main conclusion is that Bulgaria has made considerable progress in its preparation for EU membership, building on an economic growth of 4 per cent of GDP in 2001. Bulgaria's relations with the EU continue to be excellent, it is said in the report, recalling that over the past months EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen has reiterated several times that Bulgaria has stepped up its efforts for EU accession.
The UNICE experts expect that in 2002-2003 Bulgaria will be among the most rapidly developing economies in Central and Eastern Europe. The basis for its sustainable economic growth is provided by the country macroeconomic stability achieved as a result of the successful operation of the currency board mechanism, introduced several years ago, and maintaining the budget deficit at a level below 1 per cent. The report acknowledges Bulgaria's successes in the privatization of key sectors of the economy and the enhancement of transparence of the privatization process.
The elimination of a number of tariff schedules and further decreasing the subsidies provided by the state are assessed in positive terms. It is admitted that Bulgaria has made significant progress in the adoption and application of the European acquis, and that it has achieved certain success in combating corruption.
The lack of administrative and judicial capacities and the fact that corruption is still widespread are listed on the negative side.
According to the business circles, there are still considerable difficulties with the protection of intellectual property rights, the placement of government contracts, the requirements for the issue of licences and certificates, and the labour law.
In the view of most business executives - both Bulgarian and foreign ones, Bulgaria will hardly be ready to join the EU in 2002. The report does not provide an answer to the question if the businesses see Bulgaria's economy as a functioning market economy. What the document says is only that the country has made further progress to an effective market economy.
Concerning the potential of Bulgarian enterprises to sustain the pressure of competition, the UNICE report expresses doubts that a large part of the former state-run enterprises, which are now in private hands, have enough funds and business experience to ensure increasing competitiveness for their production.
UNICE describes the Bulgarian energy sector as utterly inefficient and in need of serious reforms. It is concluded that there has not been any improvement in the country's investment climate since 2001.
Rousse, June 18 (BTA) - Assen Assenov, Director of the Bulgarian National Customs Agency, and Gheorghe Dinu, Director of the Romanian general Customs Directorate, signed here on Tuesday a protocol on the exchange of information between the customs authorities at the border crossings at Vidin (Bulgaria) and Calafat (Romania).
The protocol makes it possible to realize a project financed by the US Government and administrated by the World Bank, Assenov explained. It is part of the Facilitation of Trade and Transport in Southeastern Europe Regional Programme.
Based on the protocol, Bulgaria and Romania will start exchanging customs officers as from Tuesday; there will be an exchange of information in real time about doubtful automobiles crossing the border, and the motor vehicles will be arranged on the ferryboat in a special way that will allow the authorities on the other side of the border to carry out a careful selective examination, applying the risk analysis method to prevent the smuggling of narcotics and goods, as well as other customs violations.
"The protocol on Vidin-Calafat is an improvement in the way of exchanging hard-copy information that has been used for a long time by the border cities of Rousse and Giurgiu," Assenov said.
According to Dinu, the decision to exercise more different control on some transport vehicles will be made in less than ten minutes thanks to the exchange of electronic information.
About 70 to 80 trucks a day pass through the border crossings at Vidin and Calafat, it emerged at the meeting.
SOFIA AIRPORT-NEW RUNWAY-OFFERS.
Six Companies Bid for Construction of New Runway at Sofia Airport.
Sofia, June 18 (BTA) - The Sofia Airport Administration received six offers for participation in the Lot B 2 tender for the construction of a new runway and adjacent facilities at Sofia Airport.
The offers received by 14:00 h on Tuesday were from Consolidated Contractors Company W.L.L. (CCC) of Kuwait; the SARCO joint venture of Ed. Zueblin AG and the Bulgarian Moststroy; a joint venture of Turkey's Alarko, Bulgaria's Avtomagistrali and Kuwait's Associated Construction Company W.L.L.; Austria's STRABAG AG jointly with Bulgaria's Granit; and a joint venture of Italy's Italstrade, Bulgaria Putstroy-92 and Germany's Ferrostal. The last offer was from Kuwait's Mohammed Abdoulmohsin Al-Kharafi&Sons for General Trading. The bidders were announced by Vladimir Zhekov, Director of Reconstruction and Development of Sofia Airport.
The public opening of the offers started an hour later at the Airport Conference Hall. The opening was attended by representatives of an interdepartmental commission set up by the Ministry of Transport and Communications and of the bidders.
The opening of the offers continues and by the end of the day it will become known whether they are valid. The offers have to be accompanied by a bank guarantee.
The deadline for submitting offers was extended by three weeks - from May 28, because of the great interest shown by the shortlisted 12 companies.
July 22 is the earliest possible date for concluding a contract for the construction of a new runway. The offers will be assessed by an interdepartmental commission including representatives of the donors of the project.
The entire project for building a new airport in Sofia - passenger terminal plus a system of runways, has to be completed by 2005.
The tender for a new runway is financed by the Kuwait Investment Fund for Arab Cooperation, the EU ISPA and the national budget. The Kuwait donor set a condition that a Kuwait firm be included in the construction of the new runway.
Jobless Down by 5,000 in May, Says Labour Minister.
Sofia, June 18 (BTA) - Unemployed in May numbered 5,000 less than in April, Deputy Prime Minister and Labour Minister Lydia Shouleva said Tuesday opening a discussion with municipality officials, the Labour Ministry and trade unions on a national employment programme. The programme, which is dubbed, "From Social Benefits to Creating Employment", is drafted by the Labour Ministry and the Employment Agency.
Shouleva cited long-term unemployment as the biggest problem. Employers are reluctant to hire people who have been on the dole for several years as they tend to lose their work habits.
Of all 160,000 registered unemployed, 130,000 have been without a job for more than a year, said Employment Agency executive director Tsveta Nanyova. Of these 70 percent have primary school education and no professional qualification.
The idea of the Labour Ministry is that instead of welfare benefits, these people be paid wages. If, however, they refuse the jobs they are offered, they won't get the money,.
The jobs listed in the programme include landscaping, urban sanitation, implementation of environmental projects, and others. The Employment Agency will act as a mediator between the job centres and employers creating jobs on the programme, said Nanyova.
Sofia Mayor Stefan Sofiyanski, however, proposed that the municipal administrations act as coordinators of the programme.
According to Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria leader Zhelyazko Hristov, the programme will not succeed in reducing sharply unemployment if the existing imbalance between the recipients of social benefits and the insured is preserved.
Pilot versions of the national programme will be launched in several municipalities by the end of the year.
Bulgaria Swaps Dollar to Euro Bonds.
Bulgarian National Bank said on Monday that investors had swapped $19.850 million worth of 25-year domestic ZUNK bonds for 20-year euro-denominated bonds with a par value of 21.094 million euro ($19.89 million), as quoted by Reuters. ZUNK bonds to the value of $1.808 billion were issued in 1994 to convert the liabilities of state firms to state banks into government debt. In early June the Finance Ministry had offered local financial institutions to convert dollar-denominated ZUNK bonds into euro-denominated paper without setting upper limits on volume. The minimum volume of ZUNK bonds that each investor could swap was set at $10,000 face value.
Bulgarian Goes to the World Championship for Barmen.
Barman Georgy Daskalov from Plovdiv will represent Bulgaria at the world championship in October in Barcelona. On Sunday afternoon at the contest at the 'Marie-Louise' pool he became national champion for barmen.