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Streams 1.5 m deep ran in Sofia downtown. Cars in the Vassil Levski Blvd (on the photo) laboured along for hours in the water. Most of the traffic lights went out. Photo Stoyan Nenov
President Georgi Purvanov meets Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II, who arrived on a four-day visit to Bulgaria. Pressphoto - BTA Photo: Vladimir Shokov.
The Commander of the NATO Amber Fox Mission Spanish Lieutenant General Frederico Carretero, right, symbolically hands over the command of Task Force Fox from the German Brig. Gen. Heinz Georg Keerl, center behind, to the Dutch Brig. Gen. Harm de Jonge, left, at NATO Camp Fox in Bunardzik,16 kms (10 miles) east of Macedonia's capital Skopje, Wednesday, June 26, 2002. The 1,000-strong multinational mission named Amber Fox, deployed to help an ongoing peace process in the troubled Balkan country, marked the switch in command in a ceremony at the Bunardzik military base just outside the capital, Skopje. (AP Photo/Stringer)
Brazil's Ronaldo celebrates a goal against Turkey during a World Cup semi-final match in Saitama June 26, 2002. Ronaldo fired Brazil into a World Cup final showdown with Germany when he grabbed a 49th-minute winner to give the South Americans a 1-0 semi-final victory over outsiders Turkey on Wednesday. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
Brazil's captain Cafu celebrates the 1-0 victory over Turkey in front of Turkey's Arif Erdem after their World Cup semi-final match in Saitama June 26, 2002. Brazil advanced to the final against Germany in Yokohama on June 30. REUTERS/Ian Waldie
SITUATION IN CRISIS REGIONS.
The situation in Tetovo and its surrounding Wednesday morning is relatively calm with out any shootouts, MIA's correspondent reports.
Police and army sources gunfire has been registered overnight from automatic and infantry weapons from the Teke, the reformatory, the area around Vero supermarket and Blvd. "Vidoe Smilevski Bato" and "Marsal Tito", Gorna Carsija, Kupenik and the area of the highway Tetovo - Gostivar.
Since late Tuesday until early Wednesday shootouts have been registered from Trebos, Ozormiste, Palatica, Slatino, Odri, Dobroste, Prsovce, Neraste, Selce, Mala Recica and Strimnica.
Asir Jakupi (1989), Palatica villager, was brought in Tetovo Medical Centre around 18:00 hours Tuesday, with a gunshot wound. Afterwards, he was transferred to the Surgeon Clinic at the Skopje Urgent Centre.
Jakupi was wounded while working on the land in the area of Trebos. Team of Interior Department conducted an investigation of the site.
ANNOUNCEMENT FROM THE ARCHPRIEST SYNOD OF THE MOC.
At its session held June 25-26 in the "St. Bogorodica" monastery at Matka, the Archpriest Synod of the Macedonian Orthodox Church reviewed the latest situation in the MOC.
In an announcement distributed on Wednesday, the Macedonian Orthodox Church underlines that the invitations sent by the Serbian Orthodox Church not to the Synod but to individual priests, who are invited for joint liturgy and unity with the SOC has a tendency to cause division between the MOC priests and the believers.
The proposal for joint liturgy and canonic unity between the MOC and the SOC was jointly adopted by commissions from the two churches at the meeting from April 15-16, 1992, but was later rejected by the Archpriest synod of the SOC.
"If the proposal for canonic unity was addressed to the Macedonian Orthodox Church, than it would have been reviewed by the MOC Archpriest Synod and a reply would have been provided promptly," officials from the MOC say.
The Archpriest synod insists the communication between the MOC and the SOC to be carried out on the level of the constitutional church bodies. In that case, the MOC would ask for continuation of the negotiations between the two church commissions.
The MOC Archpriest synod also points out that the SOC denies the agreed practice to call the Macedonian Orthodox Church by its constitutional name and to call its Head archbishop of Ohrid and Macedonia.
The MOC finds the gesture of Metropolitan Jovan, who decided to establish canonic unity with the SOC as hazardous for the Church, but starting from the Christian love, the Synod invites metropolitan Jovan to return to the MOC and thus to help in the closing of this issue.
The MOC believes that the individual acceptance of the invitation for canonic unity with the SOC causes divisions in our church.
NETHERLANDS TAKES OVER COMMAND OF "AMBER FOX" MISSION.
Netherlands officially took over from Germany the command of NATO's mission to Macedonia - Amber Fox.
At the ceremony held at Camp Fox in Bunardzik, near Skopje, Lieutenant General Carratero handed over the command of Task Force Fox from Brigadier General Heinz Georg Keerl to Brigadier General Jan Harm De Jonge.
After taking over the command Brigadier General De Jonge said that so far the Task force Fox, led by Commander Keerl, have done an excellent job. "I want to continue that work and NATO's mission to Macedonia to continue to be successful," De Jonge said.
To a journalist question whether he expects increase of tensions prior to the parliamentary elections in Macedonia, he says that "in each country before the elections there are increased tensions and the same will happen in Macedonia.
It is part of the politics," De Jonge said.
Emphasizing that the change of the mandate is not up to him, the new commander says that "he will carry out that mandate that will be granted to him."
General Keerl says that he is satisfied from his role as commander of TFF mission in the past nine months.
"It was very challenging and satisfying time. If I could contribute towards the peace in the country, I would be satisfied," he said.
The ceremony was attended by NATO and OSCE ambassadors Nicolaas Biegman and Craig Jenness, EU special envoy to Macedonia Alain Le Roy, the Manager of Media Activity Center within the Government Coordinate Crisis Management Body, Aleksandar Doncev, representatives of the Macedonian Army Chief of Staff, KFOR representatives and other ambassadors to our country.
Brigadier General De Jonge began his military service in the Dutch Army in 1975 and he filed a number of appointments in the rank of Lieutenant and Captain. In 1994 he was promoted to Colonel and departed for a half-year service to Zagreb. He was promoted to Brigadier General in 2001.
TFF has the mission to support the international observers from the EU and OSCE and to guarantee their safety.
Besides Netherlands and Germany, also France, Italy, Spain, Hungary, Denmark, Greece, Poland, Portugal, Belgium and Turkey have soldiers in this mission.
The soldiers are in constant liaison with the monitors, exchange information and are ready for safe evacuation and rescue of the monitors if necessary.
Currently a total of 30 so-called Liaison Teams are in the country and deployed in the regions relevant to the mission. A team consists of four servicemen and is equipped with two vehicles. These teams are in constant contact with the observers, and the local authorities in order to gain clear picture of the situation in the areas where the observers operate.
Task Force Fox also has three company-size units, i.e. a German, French and an Italian unit, equipped with transport helicopters, armored vehicles and main battle tanks capable of reaching any location within a very short time.
CEI MINISTERIAL MEETING IN OHRID.
The Ministerial Meeting of the Central European Initiative (CEI) member countries ended Wednesday in Ohrid with the adoption of the Final document.
Macedonian Foreign Minister Slobodan Casule told the press conference after the meeting that CEI's main goal is sooner integration of its member countries in the Euro Atlantic structures.
"Ohrid was intentionally chosen as a meeting site, because it is the source of the Slav culture and a place that is a true indicator of the peace in Macedonia.
It is the best example that Macedonia is back on track," Casule emphasized.
He stressed that CEI as one of the oldest regional organizations in Europe, which encompasses countries with different level of economic development, has significant role in bringing closer its member countries towards EU.
According to Casule, an important role has the Stabilization and Association Process that contributes towards enhancing the stability in the region.
Casule said that all participants at the ministerial meeting agreed that the dynamic process of reforms should continue aiming towards integration in the Euro-Atlantic structures, intensifying of the cooperation and the mutual understanding.
According to Casule, additional impetuses to these efforts are the signed Free Trade Agreements, which have fundamental significance for the integration of the region.
He pointed out the role of CEI member countries in the struggle against terrorism and organized crime, adding that all potentials should be utilized for tackling this global phenomenon.
Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero - Waldner said that "new political geography" was established in Southeast Europe, free of conflicts and guided by new leaders and responsible leaderships.
According to her, CEI as regional organization encompassing great part of the European continent promotes new values in Europe and stimulates the political dialogue in the region.
Croatian Foreign Minister Tonino Picula emphasized the significance of CEI that celebrated its 13th anniversary of successful existence in a region inhabited by 250 million persons.
Picula thinks that CEI future is related to the enlargement of the European Union and the cooperation of the countries within the Initiative is not an obstacle for integration in the Union.
He emphasized the growing multinational contacts within CEI with a commitment the problems to be resolved on a higher level with increased regional cooperation.
According to him, that particularly implies to the terrorism and the establishment of joint security relations for easier elimination of the negative phenomena such as illicit trafficking in drugs, humans, weaponry and money laundering.
Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic pointed out the good organization of Ohrid meeting.
"I think that in the next period the level of the regional cooperation should be improved," Svilanovic said, pointing out as options the Stability Pact, the Adriatic-Ionian Initiative and the Danube Cooperation.
"It is necessary to improve the trade and to increase the investments in the region," he said.
Svilanovic believes that a regional economic market should be established against the organized crime and the illicit trafficking with humans and arms, because the profit from these illegal activities is invested into terrorist operations.
"It is essential to develop civil societies," Svilanovic said, mentioning the options for increased economic cooperation, the significant role of the economic chambers and the connection of the non-governmental organizations on regional level.
He pointed out the necessity of increased involvement of the media in these cooperation processes as well as the involvement of the cultural and educational institutions.
To a journalist question, whether the international community could oppose the demarcation of the Macedonian - Yugoslav border, Svilanovic said that "the demarcation should be carried out as soon as possible without any delays."
He does not see any reasons for obstruction, especially from the international community or UN, which support the Border Delineation Agreement between the two countries.
The Final Declaration adopted at the end of the Ministerial meeting in Ohrid reads that the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and their representatives from Macedonia, Austria, Albania, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Italy, FR Yugoslavia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine, Hungary, Croatia and Czech Republic exchanged opinions on the development of the Central Europe region and CEI efforts for creating instruments that would enable stability and prosperity of the member countries.
The text emphasized the commitments for EU enlargement and enhancement of the cooperation among CEI countries after the enlargement of the Union.
"The ministers express their satisfaction because of the stability level reached in the CEI member countries and lowering the risk of new crisis situations. It is a ground for making progress in the integration process of the region," reads the Document that supports the efforts of all Governments for finding out peaceful solutions for resolving the disputes, respecting the human rights, including the minority rights.
The document also welcomes the efforts of the struggle against terrorism, organized crime, arms, drugs and humans trafficking.
The participants at the meeting welcome the Agreement that regulates the future relations between Serbia and Montenegro, the efforts of Belgrade to cooperate with the Court for military crimes committed in former Yugoslavia based in The Hague as well as the admission of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Council of Europe.
The Final Document assesses the elections on Kosovo, as significant step towards establishing interim institutions of the local authority in the province in accordance with Resolution 1244 of the UN Security Council.
It is requested from the CEI member countries to enforce the good neighborly relations in order to provide economic and social progress as a condition for attracting foreign investments and intensifying the cooperation.
The progress in the Process for Stabilization and Association was also welcomed, especially the signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreements of Macedonia and Croatia with the European Union and the negotiations of Albania for signing such agreement with the Union.
The Document also welcomes the efforts for implementation of the programs within the SEE Stability Pact, as an important part of the development of the countries in that part of the European continent.
The regional cooperation, the provision of political stability and sustainable development in the region are also emphasized as especially important.
The Final Document emphasizes the importance of the cooperation among the parliaments of CEI member countries and stimulates the further intensification of the cooperation among the economic chambers within the Initiative of the Central European Trade Chamber.
At the margins of Wednesday's CEI Ministerial Conference in Ohrid, Macedonian Minister of Foreign Affairs met with Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero - Waldner and Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Roberto Antonione.
At the meetings Casule expressed his gratitude for the support that Austria and Italy have granted to Macedonia for preserving the peace and the stability in the country and informed them about the process of adoption of the laws arising from the Framework Agreement and the preparations for the forthcoming elections.
Minister Casule emphasized the necessity of intensifying the economic cooperation of Macedonia with Austria and Italy and increasing the foreign investments in the Macedonian economy.
Antonione informed Casule that the Italian Government has approved financial assistance for realization of the project developed by the Macedonian Government on protection of Radika River amounting to 5,7 million.
The meetings also focused on the security situation on the Balkans. Casule raised the issue of granting military-technical assistance to Macedonia, through the presence of NATO advisors that would assist the training process of the Macedonian staff and would contribute Macedonia to become generator of the stability in the region.
"Macedonia and Yugoslavia have identical positions regarding the border between the two countries and the signed Agreement is respected and applied.
The attacks on the Agreement are in fact political," Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic, who takes part at CEI Ministerial Meeting, said Wednesday in Ohrid.
He informs that at this moment the talks are focused on sooner demarcation of the border, which should not be delayed. In few days a technical meeting will be held among the Macedonian, Yugoslav and Bulgarian experts, which was postponed upon the request of the Bulgarian delegation. "This matter will not be postponed, although it is obvious that the pressure is great to make a political problem out of it. After the implementation of the border all people from the both sides of the border will live as they used to," Svilanovic said, emphasizing that according to the agreement the demarcation will begin from the junction of the three borders and will continue towards Kosovo.
Svilanovic underlined that the "troubles" regarding the import of oil derivatives have been removed and there were no reasons for hindering the trade between Macedonia and Yugoslavia.
He reiterated that the relations between Macedonia and Yugoslavia were excellent, and regarding the redefinition of the relations between Podgorica and Belgrade said that it was "a big thing. "Montenegro and Serbia want to accomplish two things: not to destabilize the Balkans and to integrate the both countries in Europe. I think that the Agreement accomplished that," Svilanovic said.
"The relations between Macedonia and Croatia are good and the trade exchange between the two countries is excellent, but I hope to even better cooperation," Croatian Foreign Minister Tonino Picula said Wednesday in Ohrid.
He informs that in the course of 2003, Croatia intends to apply for a membership in the European Union. "With our own efforts we have to present the country as a candidate for integration in the European Union and to show more willingness to overcome the obstacles and to bring Croatia in Europe in the true manner," Picula said.
He emphasized that the relations among Croatia, Slovenia and Yugoslavia were good, reminding that some of the opened issues should be resolved in order not to be a burden on the relations. "We will need much wisdom and patience to resolve the problems that rose after the forced breakup of the former federation," Picula said.
Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Macedonia, Croatia and FR Yugoslavia reaffirmed their commitment to work on promotion of stability, security, cooperation, economic prosperity and democracy in the Southeast Europe, reads the joint statement issued after the meeting between the three ministers of foreign affairs Slobodan Casule, Tonino Picula and Goran Svilanovic.
The statement reads that the three countries are oriented toward integration in the European as well as in the Euro-Atlantic structures and that they will work on enhancement of the peace and stability in the SEE region and wider.
Macedonia and Croatia reaffirm their commitment to carry out the obligations from the Association and Stabilization Agreement with the EU and also express support to the efforts made by FR Yugoslavia for integration of the country in the EU.
The three ministers express readiness to enhance the economic cooperation and to fully implement the free trade agreements made among the countries from the region.
In that context, they emphasize the cooperation in the field of the transport and infrastructure. In that context, the three ministers express readiness to focus their activities on implementation of international infrastructure projects, like the Corridor 10.
At the same time, they highlight the need from improved cooperation in the field of the energy, and in that context, the establishment of a regional energy market.
"The ministers agreed the support the projects for revitalization of the small and medium-sized enterprises and to promote the projects of joint interest in the field of the environmental tourism and environmental protection," the statement reads.
In addition, the three ministers express support to the ministries and agencies whose task is combating the terrorism, organized crime, money laundering, trafficking in people, narcotics and weaponry.
At the end, the three ministers underline that they agreed for scheduling of regular three-lateral meetings, and the next meeting of this sort will take place in Belgrade in December.
Power was cut in half of the city, shops flooded.
Torrential rain drowned Sofia and left without electricity half of the city yesterday afternoon. The calamity started with hail that broke power lines and damaged dozens of cars and buses. Ice lumps, size of walnut, crushed VIP Mercedeses, too. The streets in downtown Sofia were flooded in a wink of time by half a meter deep muddy torrents. The Perlovo River went out of its bed. Huge jams blocked the traffic in the center. People, wet to the bones, waited at bus and tram stops for hours. Finance Ministry officials had to cross the ministry's lobby knee-deep in water. The ground floors of the Ministry of Economy, Ministry of Transport and the Military Hotel were also deluged.
Bulgarian Medics in Libya Questioned since Tuesday.
Sofia, June 26 (BTA) - The further questioning of six Bulgarian medical workers charged with infecting 393 Libyan children with HIV in a Benghazi hospital started on Tuesday evening, when nurse Nassya Nenova was questioned, Libyan lawyer Osman Bizanti told BTA on the telephone.
The questioning was attended by a lawyer from Bizanti's law firm and an interpreter. Asked if he knew what questions had been asked, Bizanti said Libyan penal law banned the disclosure of any information on the investigation.
There is a punishment for lawyers who provide information on interrogations.
Asked if questioning took place on Tuesday evening alone, Bizanti said there would be more on Wednesday evening. He did not know if the investigators would continue questioning Nenova, or would have someone else.
On June 3, the Arraignment Chamber in Benghazi decided to reserve decision on whether to undertake prosecution against the six Bulgarians and a Palestinian charged with intentionally infecting Libyan children with HIV. The Arraignment Chamber will hold its next hearing on July 15 and, until then, the prosecuting authorities in Tripoli will conduct the additional investigation.
The six Bulgarians (one doctor and five nurses) were detained in February 1999. A year later, they were charged with conspiring against the Libyan State, intentionally infecting Libyan children with HIV, and breaking the conventions of life in Libya. On February 17, 2002, the special People's Court, which was trying their case, dropped the conspiracy charge and transferred the proceedings to the criminal court.
EUROPE FILE-BULGARIA-EU ENLARGEMENT.
Danish Prime Minister: EU Must State Clearly that First Wave of Enlargement Won't Be the Last.
Copenhagen, June 27 (BTA exclusive by Zornitsa Venkova) - It is very important that the Copenhagen European Council in December should send a message that the first wave of enlargement will not be the last, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen told journalists accredited to the EU. His country assumes the EU presidency on July 1.
Rasmussen is aware of Bulgaria's and Romania's concern. He stated categorically that Sofia would be offered a revised roadmap in Copenhagen in December, which would plan acceleration of the accession negotiations and increased financial assistance for Bulgaria's preparation for membership. His wish is that this should be accompanied by a political declaration of the 15 member countries, which should state clearly that the door to the EU remains open.
Rasmussen believes that the countries which will join the EU in the first wave of enlargement may also join this declaration. A senior source said the huge work for completion of the negotiations with the first ten applicant countries would not delay those with Bulgaria.
It is very important to continue deepening relations with Turkey, Rasmussen said. However, he ruled out opening negotiations with Ankara unless it met the political criteria for membership, which is not the case yet. The Danish prime minister added that a decision on the matter would be made in Copenhagen, and it would largely be influenced by the European Commission's report on the country's progress towards accession.
Rasmussen said that as president of the European Council he would do his best to have the decisions of the Seville European Council implemented, and an agreement reached by early November by the 15 member states on their position on the sensitive issue of direct payments to farmers in the new member states.
Parvanov Worshiped at The Iron Church.
President Parvanov worshiped at Bulgarian St Stephan Cathedral in Istanbul yesterday, known as the Iron Church. He is taking part in the 10th meeting of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC). The head of state met with the Bulgarian community in Istanbul and was received by the Oecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. The two of them discussed the unification of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and the role of the Orthodoxy in modern times. Through the visit of Pope John-Paul II to Bulgaria, the Orthodoxy proved its openness to the world and the other religious communities, President Parvanov pointed out. At a meeting with Georgia's President Eduard Shevarnadze Parvanov discussed joint infrastructure projects in the framework of BSEC.
NATIONAL ASSEMBLY CHAIRMAN - KAREKIN II.
Karekin II Tells National Assembly Chairman Gerdjikov His Visit Aims Mainly to Promote Cooperation between Armenian,Bulgarian Churches.
Sofia, June 26 (BTA) - The promotion of cooperation between the Armenian and the Bulgarian churches is the main purpose of Karekin II' visit here. This is what the Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians told National Assembly Chairman Ognyan Gerdjikov at their meeting on Wednesday, the National Assembly press office said.
Karekin II expressed his gratitude for giving the Armenians in Bulgaria the opportunity to develop and prosper.
"The good relations between the Bulgarian and the Armenian peoples have a centuries-long history," Karekin II said at his meeting with Gerdjikov. He expressed his satisfaction that the relations between the two countries are developing on a new level and said he hoped they would be further advanced in all venues of public life.
Gerdjikov also praised the traditionally good and friendly relations between the two peoples and their churches. He said the National Assembly was trying to help the Bulgarian Orthodox Church overcome the rift.
Gerdjikov told his guest that the Bulgarian Parliament was going to adopt a new law on religious faiths. He explained that three bills were being considered and the new law would be based on them and would regulate the unity of the Bulgarian Church.
"Over the last years, there is a return to faith and the church, and this is especially true of young people, that is why we should help along this process," Gerdjikov said.
Karekin II, who is on a four-day official visit to Bulgaria, later on Wednesday will meet President Georgi Purvanov and Ivan Zhelev, Director of Religious Denominations Department with the Council of Ministers. He visited Plovdiv and the Bachkovo Monastery.
Skopje, June 26 (Kostadin Filipov for BTA) - A final document was adopted on Wednesday at the end of the Ohrid meeting of the foreign ministers or their deputies of the Central European Initiative (CEI) member states.
Closing the meeting, Macedonian Foreign Minister Slobodan Casule said that CEI, being one of the oldest regional organizations in Europe, whose members have reached different levels of economic and cultural development, plays an important role in their progress to EU membership.
All member states agreed that they must carry on with reforms as a contribution to the Euro-Atlantic integration effort.
Casule said the participants in the meeting stressed the CEI member countries' role in the fight against terrorism and organized crime. They called on their countries to mobilize their potential against this global threat.
Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner said Southeastern Europe had a new political geography, free of conflicts, and with countries headed by new leaders and responsible state leaderships.
Bulgaria was represented at the meeting by Deputy Foreign Minister Petko Draganov. There were two accents in his statement: first, the need to build the infrastructure projects within the framework of Transport Corridors VIII and X; and second, the need to create a regional energy market, and in this context, the need for Bulgaria to become the energy hub of the Balkans.
Some of the participants supported the idea voiced by Stability Pact Special Coordinator Erhard Busek that a regional energy market should be created, and backed Bulgaria's suggestion that it should become the energy centre of the region.
Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic said talks were needed for the faster demarcation of the border between Macedonia and Yugoslavia. Experts from Bulgaria, Macedonia and Yugoslavia will meet in the near future about the marking of the point where the three countries' borders converge.
The final document of the ministerial meeting expressed satisfaction at the achieved level of stability in the region and the reduced threat of new crises.
The participants hailed the treaty on relations between Serbia and Montenegro, Belgrade's efforts to cooperate with the Hague Tribunal, and the admission of Bosnia-Herzegovina to the Council of Europe.
The document highlighted the effort to fight terrorism, organized crime, and trade in arms, human beings and drugs.
The final document noted the importance of the Kosovo elections for establishing provisional self-government in the province in line with UN Security Council Resolution 1244.
The CEI member states should strengthen their goodneighbourly relations for the attainment of economic and social progress as a condition for attracting foreign investment and developing cooperation.
The participants hailed the progress of the Stabilization and Association Process, particularly the Stabilization and Association Agreements signed between the EU, and Macedonia and Croatia, as well as Albania's negotiations for the signing of such an agreement with the EU.
The ministers hailed the efforts for implementation of the programmes of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe as a major component of development in this part of Europe.
Bulgaria was invited to assume the vice presidency of the working group on small and medium-sized enterprises at the meeting of the committee of national coordinators of the CEI member states, held as part of the Ohrid ministerial meeting on Tuesday. So far Bulgaria has not been involved in the leadership of CEI working groups. It was decided that Sofia should host the next meeting of the CEI national coordinators on September 17.
The next event during the Macedonian presidency of CEI is a meeting of the culture ministers of the 17 member states on Thursday.
Bulgaria will be represented by Culture Minister Bozhidar Abrashev.
MINISTRY OF EDUCATION-UN-AGREEMENT.
Education Minister Atanassov and UN Resident Coordinator Ruedas Sign Memorandum on Cooperation in Introduction of Health Education.
Sofia, June 26 (BTA) - Education and Science Minister Vladimir Atanassov and UN Resident Coordinator Marta Ruedas signed Wednesday a Memorandum of Understanding for cooperation in the implementation of the National Program "For the Children of Bulgaria" in its part concerning introduction of life skills based health education into the Bulgarian school curriculum.
The Memorandum provides for developing a health education program based on the peer education approach for students in grades 9-12, 5-8 and 1-4.
The introduction of health care education will create new jobs for teachers, Atanassov said. According to him, a re-appointment of medical staff at schools will also improve health education.
UN Resident Coordinator Marta Ruedas expressed the hope that health education will become an integral part of Bulgarian education.
Former Barracks Converted into Hotels.
NATO to allot 17 million euros on reconstruction of vacated military barracks.
Former barracks to become hotels, agrarian centers or farms for ostriches, envisage four pilot projects to be developed in Razgrad, Sliven and Simitly. NATO experts have already looked over the barracks. If the projects are approved, the Alliance will provide 17 million euros on their reconstruction, Efrem Radev - director of 'Resource Center' foundation with the Defence Ministry, said yesterday. The international finance institutions will provide credits to cover 43.6 percent of the investments needed for reconstruction. Bulgarian businessmen are envisaged to undertake 53.2 percent of the investments, while the local authorities will provide 3.2%. Eight companies from Razgrad have shown interest in the NATO conversion project so far. It's not yet clear whether the NATO delegation will approve the projects. The experts are on a five-day research mission in Bulgaria, but the decision will be taken in Brussels, NATO sources warn.
Romania Values Highly Military Cooperation with Bulgaria.
Giurgiu-Rousse, June 26 (BTA) - President Ion Iliescu assessed in highly positive terms cooperation with Bulgaria in the military-political and military-technical field. He had the same assessment for the joint work of the two defence ministries for accomplishing the strategic goal - accession to NATO, Bulgarian Defence Minister Nikolai Svinarov said in Rousse Wednesday after an official visit to Romania.
The expenses for the possible involvement of the Romanian industry in the destruction of components of the Bulgarian SS-23 missiles have been included in the memorandum of understanding with the US and will be part of the expected financial aid for the project, said Svinarov. He said in Rousse that the memorandum envisages the destruction to be done on Bulgarian territory alone and no export is mentioned.
The Bucharest meeting of the Defence Ministers of Bulgaria and Romania, Svinarov and Ioan Mircea Pascu, was the fourth this year. At a news conference earlier on Wednesday the Romanian Defence Minister said that the two discussed the latest signals and assessments regarding the NATO candidacy of the two countries, and took decisions concerning bilateral affairs.
Svinarov and Pascu said that Bulgaria and Romania are about to sign an agreement on joint air space control. It is a follow-up on talks in Rousse in November and is possible after the completion of the two countries' air sovereignty centres. After an invitation for NATO membership comes, the air control system will be integrated with that of the Alliance, Svinarov said.
He also said that Romania will take care of the transportation of the Bulgarian weaponry and ammunitions for Afghanistan under a US-coordinated project for training and arming the Afghanistan army.
Taking a reporter's question, the Romanian Defence Minister said that he expects the US companies who will be involved in the destruction of the Bulgarian missiles, to approach Romanian industries, and that Romania is ready to cooperate. The matter is within the powers of the Industry Ministry and not the Defence Ministry, said he.
The Bulgarian Defence Minister explained that the destruction of the missiles will be offset by the implementation of the plan for modernizing the army in 2002-2015, which is now being coordinated with NATO.
The defence ministers of the region are meeting next in Turkey in the 2+2 format, and then again in Varna, on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, and Constanta, on the Romanian Black Sea coast, in September or October.
Ivan Kostov Left UDF without Newpaper.
A 1-million leva debt drove the last nail in the coffin of "Demokratsia", declared Nadezhda Mihailova.
UDF leader Nadezhda Mihailova yesterday called on her fellow party men to close the "Demokratsia" daily. In a dramatic address to the UDF National Council she explained that a party sustaining on a 700,000 yearly state subsidy cannot afford running a newspaper that has over 1-million debt. After the agenda of the meeting was exhausted, Ivan Kostov took the floor. He is currently chairman of the foundation and owner of the "Demokratsia". Kostov added that he will submit to the decision of the leader and appealed to all to support the courageous step of Nadezhda Mihailova. "As a principal of the "Rodina" publishing complex I am greatly concerned because "Demokratsia" daily owes to the printers 540,000 levs. For this reason I will ask for another meeting with Nadezhda Mihailova to clarify the details of the situation", said vice-premier Nikolay Vassilev before his departure for Switzerland yesterday.
Economy Minister Presents Business Opportunities in Bulgaria in Zurich.
Zurich, June 26 (BTA) - Economy Minister Nikolai Vassilev presented the business opportunities in Bulgaria at a business forum on Bulgaria in Zurich Wednesday, said the Economy Ministry.
The event was held in the Swiss Stock Exchange here and was attended by representatives of some 70 companies.
The Economy Minister spoke about the macro-economic picture in the country and the tax policy and economic priorities of the government.
The participants asked questions about how to start a business in Bulgaria and what are the investment conditions.
The forum was opened by Marcus Stern, director of the Swiss Programme for Import Promotion (SIPPO). The participants were addressed by Bulgarian Ambassador Ivanka Petkova and Ambassador Jorg Al. Reding, head of the bilateral relations with the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).
On Thursday Vassilev is scheduled to meet with Mike Moore, Director General of the World Trade Organization.
Switzerland is a traditional trading partner of Bulgaria despite the small share of the commercial exchange - 1.1% of the Bulgarian export in 2001 and 1.2% of the import. Bilateral relations are regulated by the Free Trade Agreement with the EFTA where Switzerland is a member, said the Economy Ministry.
Bulgaria Needs Private Hospitals.
INTERVIEW Standartnews: Aleko Kjurkchiev
Municipalities are bad managers, maintains NMS deputy Aleko Kjurkchiev.
Aleko Kjurkchiev, MP of the NMS, was born in 1960 in Sofia. He graduated medicine and specialized surgery in the United States. Kjurkchiev is one of the best specialists in cardiovascular surgery. In April last year he performed the first in Bulgaria bloodless cardiac surgery. In the NMS he is a chairman of the Health Care Council.
- Mr. Kjurkchiev, who is to blame for tragic incidents in our hospitals?
- In fact it turned out that municipalities cannot maintain hospitals, they only want to appropriate their buildings and control their work. In the whole country you won't find a municipality that can afford maintaining or managing such structure as former regional hospitals relying on its own funds only. If we want to ensure high-quality health care, hospitals should become private, not state-run. In state-run hospitals such incidents are not frequent, but if this happens in a private clinic in practice it means that it will be closed.
- Is it true that there is no money for free medicines?
- No, the health insurance fund hasn't run out of money. The problem is how it will be allocated. Very soon the Health Care Commission will introduce amendments to the Health Insurance Act. At the moment the Health Fund is not publicly accountable and many people misuse it to their personal favor.
- What do you mean by the out-of-control Health Insurance Fund?
- It means that the state control is not enough efficient. The plans are to make the state a more active actor in the General Meeting of the Fund, to enable it to keep an eye on its activity, because the state is the major provider of funds. A new Managing Board is to be elected. There will be changes in the executive power and the director's functions will also be changed. He will take decisions after they are voted by the Managing Board. Thus authoritarian rule over the Health Insurance Fund will be put to end.
- Will the hitherto work of the Fund be checked out?
- Given the present structure of the Heath Insurance Fund such a checkout is impossible.
- When the patients will finally believe that the health reform is carried out for their benefit, not for doctors or Fund's officials?
- It will happen when the cash flow is reversed - payment should follow the medical service, not vice versa.
Analysis: LUKoil in the Balkans.
United Press International
By Christopher Deliso
UPI Business Correspondent
From the Business & Economics Desk
SKOPJE, Macedonia, June 26 (UPI) -- It is a giant among oil companies, with the world's largest proven reserves (14.23 billion barrels). It operates in 25 countries, owns more than 2,600 gas stations worldwide, and accounts for 24 percent of Russia's oil production. Now LUKoil plans to storm Europe -- by way of the Balkans.
Lukoil's expansion in the Balkans is a microcosm of its worldwide plans. The Russian company seeks to capitalize on its strengths, while also addressing its weaknesses. No longer is it confining itself to scavenging off the carcasses of post-communist Eastern-bloc countries. Aggressive recent action in Greece, Cyprus and even Croatia reveals a new sense of confidence.
Although it has vast reserves of crude, LUKoil's refining capability is limited.
Currently, it refines less than half of its 80 million tons annual crude output.
Through the acquisition of refineries -- its major strategy in the Balkans since 1998 -- LUKoil hopes to boost this figure to 100m tons annually by 2005, reports Worldfuels.com.
These acquisitions are complementing needed organizational changes. The company has inspired pessimism among investors because of its lackluster annual growth rate (2 percent-3 percent).
Recently, company Vice President Leonid Fedoun revealed to the Financial Times LUKoil's main challenge: "We should not only be supplying crude oil, but also process and distribute oil products. We want to process up to 60 percent of our total oil at our refineries, compared with 40 percent now."
Currently, LUKoil exports only 55 percent of its production, compared to 70 percent for Yukos, Russia's other oil giant.
Expanding the foreign distribution network is therefore key. Since the price at the pump in Russia is sometimes half of the world price, LUKoil has increased its acquisition of gas stations throughout Europe -- and even in the United States, where it currently owns 1,500.
In Romania, the company has plans to take over up to 250 gas stations over the next three years. LUKoil was also recently offered a 51 percent stake in Avanti, an Austrian retailer with more than 700 gas stations in Europe.
Successful negotiations with Hungary's MOL could bring up to a five-fold increase in LUKoil's Polish gas stations. According to Interfax, the company also plans to acquire a major chain of gas stations in Bulgaria. A day earlier, LUKoil President Vagit Alekperov told ITAR-TASS about a recent tender victory for gas station development in Cyprus.
The Balkans is an attractive market. Transport prices are lower than in Western Europe, and forced privatization in many Balkan countries means great steals on refineries. LUKoil's strategy has generally been to scavenge the old and sick leftovers of the Soviet and Yugoslav countries. This started in 1998 in Romania, with the purchase of an 87 percent share in the Petrotel refinery. This $300 million deal was followed the next year in Bulgaria, with the acquisition of a 58 percent stake in Burgas' Neftochim refinery ($509 million).
Also in 1999 the company picked up 51 percent of Ukraine's Odessa refinery, for $49 million.
Although these high-profile acquisitions -- complete with promises to invest -- seemed to guarantee future success, results have been slow. According to a FT report of May 29, the biggest headaches are in Romania, where Petrotel consistently loses money, "...because the market remains regulated with low prices and dominant state-owned companies." Here, Fedoun holds the Romanian government accountable for failing to come through on privatization promises.
The initial results in Bulgaria -- a $200 million loss in 1999 -- were equally disappointing. Although this was followed the next year by a $50m profit, some remain wary.
In March, the Greek government was warned by a group of international investors not to accept LUKoil's bid for a 23 percent share of Hellenic Petroleum. LUKoil had allegedly devalued the Neftochim refinery, by overcharging for crude oil and undercharging for refinery processing, reported The Russia Journal on March 1. LUKoil has reduced the value of Neftochim to less than $100 million, the investors charged, "while a comparable refinery in Poland is currently valued at $2 billion." In its defense, LUKoil pointed to the $200 million of debts that came along with Neftochim in 1999, and that $90 million of investments have been made since.
Despite these warnings, the Greeks did sell. The purchase fits LUKoil's general plans in southeastern Europe. The company is reportedly interested in a pipeline linking Bulgaria's Black Sea port of Burgas with Greece's Aegean port of Alexandroupoli. A joint venture of the Russians, Bulgarians and Greeks, the pipeline will cost more than $600 million and is set to be completed by 2007.
Farther south, LUKoil has moved aggressively into Cyprus. Besides winning the new tender for gas station development, LUKoil now controls 25 percent of the island's oil market.
Up in Macedonia, the Greeks have made major acquisitions in the banking, telecommunications, retail and oil sectors. In regards to the last, however, they may just be passing the torch to the Russians. Hellenic Petroleum purchased the state-owned Okta refinery in 1999, in a controversial deal that left Macedonians doubting the motives of their leaders.
It has been rumored that OKTA will be resold. But even if it is not, LUKoil's large stake in Hellenic Petroleum means that Macedonia too will fall under Russian influence.
LUKoil shows no signs of slowing down in the Balkans. The latest move is in Croatia, where the government is selling 25 percent of its oil and gas monopoly, INA, under privatization pressure from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Some 20 international bidders -- including LUKoil -- are interested.
INA would seem to fit the LUKoil bill. It was a money-loser until just last year (when it turned a $44 million profit). But its two refineries will need some $360 million in investments through 2005, reported the FT on June 4.
In the end it may be worth it, however. INA has 450 gas stations in Croatia, and also a 16 percent share in Janaf, the state pipeline company. Janaf owns the Druzhba -- Adria pipeline, which provides key access to the Adriatic Sea.
LUKoil and INA's other suitors will have to wait a couple more weeks for the Croatian government to announce its shortlist. They will be cooling their heels much longer, however, where Poland's top refinery PKN Orlen is concerned.
Here, the government is cautious, and talks are being postponed until 2003.
Both Hungary's MOL and Austria's OMV are bidding for the 17.6 percent share of central Europe's largest refining group. Yet these companies are simultaneously actively soliciting INA. Their case will be weaker with the Croats, however, since the Polish postponement makes their future plans and capabilities uncertain.
This is not without irony. The Polish government's wariness -- basically, an understandable concern for getting a decent price -- has itself resulted from observing LUKoil's past Balkan buyouts. Yet since it is not vying for Poland's premier refinery, LUKoil is unaffected by the delay and thus stands a better chance in the Croatian bid.
To complete the coup, LUKoil will likely win in Poland, in a bid for 75 percent of the smaller Rafineria Gdanska. Thus would LUKoil prevent PKN Orlen from swallowing up Gdanska, which it reportedly would like to do.
Polish government opinion on the two deals differs remarkably, and seems to confirm the idea that LUKoil is on a lucky streak. Explaining the PKN Orlen postponement, officials have said the government doesn't take the deal for granted, but if LUKoil's expected bid comes in soon the Gdanska deal could be closed by the end of the year.