Secretary General George Robertson Reaffirms Support for NATO Enlargement.
Sofia, May 28 (BTA) - In a videotaped address to NATO's Parliamentary Assembly, NATO Secretary General George Robertson said he supported the Alliance's enlargement since it offered "the historic opportunity" for Europe "to fully overcome its erstwhile Cold War division and to do so for good".
Robertson is in Rome, presiding over the NATO-Russia Summit.
Lord Robertson wholeheartedly agreed with the NATO Parliamentary Assembly's Draft Declaration on enlargement, which is expected to be adopted at the end of the plenary session on Tuesday. He emphasized that "the nations of Central and Eastern Europe have a legitimate claim to get their fair share of 'Europe', including its transatlantic security dimension".
Opening his address, Robertson stressed the importance of unity and quoted the great Canadian statesman Lester Pearson as saying that "peace and freedom can be secured only if those who love peace and freedom pool their resources and stand together".
The NATO secretary general said NATO pooled its resources and stood together in a three-pronged effort, as evidenced by the common fight against terrorism, NATO's engagement in the Balkans, and the partnership between NATO and Russia.
Pooling its resources, NATO has crushed most of Al Qaida, and with it the myth of invulnerability that surrounded Osama Bin Laden and his henchmen, Robertson said.
Robertson underlined the significance of Tuesday's NATO-Russia Summit in Rome and of the new mechanism of the NATO-Russia relationship. "The NATO-Russia Council launched today gives us the chance to transform the strategic landscape - to build at long last the kind of practical, pragmatic NATO-Russia relationship we should have achieved many years ago. (...)
Now, however, on a range of key issues, Russia will sit alongside and among the 19 Allies as an equal partner."
Elaborating on the November meeting in Prague, Robertson said that NATO enlargement would be a major issue. "Another critical issue for Prague is the modernization of NATO's military capabilities," he said. Robertson warned that "too many NATO governments spend too little on defence. (...) As a result, we face a major disparity in military capabilities between the United States and its Allies. And this is vitally important for us all because if the US and its Allies cannot act effectively together as a meaningful military coalition, NATO will be marginalized no matter how many new members we invite
in, at Prague."
The third objective of the Prague meeting is to "consolidate the Alliance's position as the primary means for developing our armed forces to address terrorism", Robertson said.
The NATO secretary general said enlargement would not end at Prague, where NATO is expected to invite new members. "Even after enlargement, we will continue to need a robust mechanism to link a larger NATO with the wider Europe, with the Caucasus and with Central Asia as well."
Addressing the NATO Parliamentary Assembly's spring session, Robertson emphasized that "parliamentary support will be crucial, and that applies particularly next year". Further in his speech, Robertson said the parliamentarians of NATO "have to educate our publics about the new NATO-Russia relationship. You have to ensure a successful ratification process for NATO enlargement. You have to explain the undiminished importance of our engagement in the Balkan region and you have to make sure that sufficient resources are devoted to defence."
Foreign Minister Solomon Passy: Distance between Bulgaria and NATO Was Halved over the Past Week.
Sofia, May 28 (BTA) - The remaining distance between Bulgaria and NATO was halved over the past week, Foreign Minister Solomon Passy told journalists after the NATO Parliamentary Assembly amended the Declaration which lists seven countries, Bulgaria included, that have made progress towards NATO membership.
Passy expressed satisfaction at the Assembly's decision to support the Bulgarian proposal. The Parliamentary Assembly has supported the governments for years. "By today's decision, it lived up to its calling to pull the governments forward," Passy said.
President Georgi Purvanov called the decision "very good news". "This is an expression of the will of many members of the Parliamentary Assembly, a will for which arguments were provided during the discussions. There were very clear voices supporting this policy at the final sitting, too. I realize, of course, that our efforts should by no means slacken and that we have quite a lot to do until the autumn, when the final decisions will be made," Purvanov said.
Asked by BTA if Greece and Turkey support the proposal that the odds-on favourites among the applicant countries should be named before Prague, Passy said: "To my knowledge, there is no official position of the governments on this matter, but Greece and Turkey have spelled out their principled support - the governments and the parliaments, the NGOs and the public alike."
NATO Parliamentary Assembly President Rafael Estrella and Stanimir Ilchev, Chairman of the Bulgarian Delegation to the forum, gave high marks to the spring session.
Speaking at a news conference at the end of the forum, Estrella underlined the importance of the Declaration, which, according to him, will go down in history as the Sofia Declaration on NATO Enlargement. It calls on the NATO Council for a major and geographically balanced enlargement to enhance security across Europe.
A certain number of countries - Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia - have made great progress in their preparation for membership, Estrella told the news conference.
Asked to comment the differences over the proposed naming of countries in the Declaration, Estrella said it did not involve any risk and was by no means an interference in the work of the NATO Council. He admitted that there came a request from the Council not to name names, adding that the wording of the Declaration respected the Council's powers. "We only noted the fact that there are seven countries that have made progress towards NATO membership," Estrella said.
Estrella rejected claims that the Parliamentary Assembly had no influence on NATO policies. "Some of the most prominent politicians in the area of defence and security of their respective countries are present here, which makes us an influential forum."
National Assembly Chairman Ognyan Gerdjikov congratulated the MPs on the declaration, saying it was "a good success" for Bulgaria. The MPs applauded him. An hour before the end of Tuesday's sitting of the National Assembly, Gerdjikov read out part of the Declaration.
Stanimir Ilchev, Chairman of the Bulgarian Delegation and of the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Policy, Defence and Security, also assessed positively the session and emphasized the importance of the Declaration on NATO Enlargement.
Meanwhile, former foreign minister Nadezhda Mihailova, who is leader of the opposition Union of Democratic Forces, said the enumeration of the applicant countries in the Declaration sent "an encouraging signal". This is a strong political signal and a good prospect for the admission of the named countries, Bulgaria included, at the Prague Summit, Mihailova said, answering a question.
NATO- PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY - DECLARATION.
Final Version of NATO Parliamentary Declaration Names Seven Countries, Including Bulgaria, for Alliance Enlargement.
Sofia, May 28 (BTA) - Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are named in the final version of a Declaration on NATO Enlargement which was adopted at the 2002 Spring Session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly here Tuesday.
The final version of the Declaration says that the Parliamentary Assembly recognizes and appreciates "the efforts made by all aspirant countries towards NATO membership" and expresses "gratitude to these countries for the solidarity shown and for their contribution to the fight against terrorism and NATO efforts following 11 September."
The Parliamentary Assembly notes that the seven countries, mentioned by name, "have proved their progress towards NATO membership through successful programmes of reform at home and their contributions to NATO operations in the Balkans."
This wording did not figure in the original draft of the Declaration and was inserted on the motion of the German and Italian declaration. During the debate on the amendment, the US delegation said they would abstain when it is put to the vote because the US Congress and Government oppose the naming of names. A Canadian delegate said that the Canadian Government also opposes this and that she would vote against.
The argument against the naming was that the countries named would slacken their efforts to comply with the reforms and the membership criteria. It was also argued that acocunt should be taken of those countries which will not be named but which are also making efforts. After a lively debate, the amendment was carried, 65-13 with 22 abstentions.
"Today's decision is a very encouraging decision," Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy told journalists after the wording went through. He stressed, however, that the invitation to NATO membership has not yet been written, sealed or dispatched. "Until we get that invitation, we must keep working, there are no moods of complacency and overoptimism in the Government, we are all set on our work, and this Declaration merely boosts us to do our job better," he noted.
In the document, the parliamentarians call upon the Alliance Heads of State and Government at their next summit in Prague in November "to invite to commence accession talks those aspirant countries assessed to be ready for Alliance membership and whose accession is judged to strengthen security and stability in the North Atlantic area." At the same time, they agree that "a broad and regionally balanced enlargement of NATO is an essential part of the transformation of the Alliance."
The Assembly members furthermore urge continued adherence to NATO's open doors principles, calling for acceleration of cooperation and partnership programmes with those aspirant countries that will not be invited in Prague.
The Declaration says that the Alliance must "indicate an approximate timeframe" for the admission of further new members after the Prague Summit.
BULGARIA - NATO PA - BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER.
Foreign Minister Passy Describes Sofia Hosting Pope Simultaneously with NATO PA Session as "Major Publicity Coup" for Both Bulgaria and NATO.
Sofia, May 28 (BTA) - "Pope John Paul II's visit to Bulgaria right at the time of the Spring Session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Sofia is a major publicity coup for both Bulgaria and NATO," Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy said, addressing the conclusive plenary sitting of the 2002 Spring Session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly here Tuesday.
"More than 600 foreign correspondents from across the world were accredited to cover the papal visit, and they were wondering about that coincidence, whether it was significant and whether the effect was purposeful," Passy said.
"Since 1989 the East has been hot on the West's heels and has been the motor force of change. For 12 years now, the East has been going West," the Foreign Minister said. "The papal visit was movement in the opposite direction: the West went East. That was the first ever meeting of a Roman Pontiff with a Bulgarian Patriarch," the speaker noted.
Personally, he thinks that the aspirant countries which will get membership invitations to NATO must be named several weeks before Prague: "the West should not be embarrassed by its willingness to get together with the East."
Passy raised this issue in Reykjavik, too. He argued that the governments of the uninvited countries should have a grace period to preare public opinion to cope with the disappointment.
The chief Bulgarian diplomat said that lobbying now takes up 90 per cent of his time. "Early naming will be good for NATO, too: the Member States will be relieved of our pressure," Passy said further on. "The parliaments and the non-governmental organizations must go one step ahead of the governments," he noted, urging the Parliamentary Assembly to name the countries in its Declaration.
The Foreign Minister answered questions from NATO PA members in the ensuing debate. Asked about Bulgaria's other political priorities, given that NATO membership is the top such priority, Passy said that Bulgaria has stepped up the pace of negotiations with the European Union, has closed 17 chapters of the acquis and is targeting completion of the negotiations by the end of next year. "As far as the expected invitation to join NATO is concerned, we will continue to work and to carry out the reforms even after we get it, but we are divided between this work and the work abroad. The question arises as to whether to present our achievements abroad or to focus entirely on the work at home and not enter a beauty contest," the Foreign Minister said.
Asked about Bulgaria's role in Southeastern Europe, Passy cited the 2 + 2 cooperation between Turkey and Greece, Bulgaria and Romania as a "pioneering example and important instrument." "The 2 + 2 cooperation will continue after Prague. Our neighbours' prosperity is in our best interest," the Minister said. "We must keep the door open after the NATO invitation. This enlargement should not be the last one," the chief Bulgarian diplomat said.
He also spoke about the building of the infrastructure which the Balkans "desperately" need, as he put it. Sofia and Skopje are the only two capitals of neighbouring European countries without a rail link between them. Completion of this project would take 55 km of track and 200 million of investments.
Bulgaria has four crossings on its southern border: two with Greece and two with Turkey. France and Germany have 15-fold more. Along Bulgaria's 500 km river border with Romania, there is just a single bridge, whereas they are 25-fold more in other sectors of the Danube.
Asked about public opinion on the EU integration process, Passy said that the Bulgarian people and public opinion are very tolerant. "The willingness to join NATO enjoys a comfortable support of 60 per cent, but EU entry is backed by even more, 80 per cent. We will keep working on public opinion because it is volatile and may turn in a matter of hours. Half of the work in this direction is being done by the non-governmental organizations," the Bulgarian Foreign Minister said.
BULGARIA - NATO PA SESSION - BULGARIAN P.M.
"Government Resolved to Carry Out Reforms for Bulgaria's Euro-Atlantic Future," PM Saxe-Coburg-Gotha Tells NATO Parliamentary Assembly.
Sofia, May 28 (BTA) - "My Government is resolved to carry out the reforms required for Bulgaria's Euro-Atlantic future, and Bulgarian society is rallied behind the idea of its Euro-Atlantic project," Bulgarian Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha said, addressing the conclusive plenary sitting of the 2002 Spring Session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly here Tuesday.
Before giving him the floor, NATO PA President Rafael Estrella said: "I am pleased to give you a person whose fate is linked to Spain, who is loved and respected by the Spanish and by the most illustrious Spaniard, King Juan Carlos, a person who found the courage to place himself at the disposal of his people and to help build a new Bulgaria. In Spain we know him simply as Simeon of Bulgaria, and I am honoured to call upon Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Prime Minister of Bulgaria, to address this Assembly."
In his speech the PM said that Bulgaria is "greatly reassured" by the messages from the Reykjavik meeting that a large-scale NATO enlargement can be expected in Prague. "We are also highly appreciative of NATO's commitment to the classical model of an invitation, negotiations, protocols signing and ratification, without additional preconditions or differentiation. The timeframe for ratification, set as the spring of 2003, is fully consistent with this model," Saxe-Coburg-Gotha said.
He argued that Bulgaria is a serious candidate which has been making and which continues to make "extraordinary efforts" to meet the quality criteria.
The PM stressed that Bulgaria maintains excellent relations with its neighbours and pursues active cooperation with them.
"We are strongly encouraged by the fact that in Reykjavik NATO reiterated its commitment to building a peaceful, stable and democratic Southeastern Europe," the speaker said. In his opinion, security in the region is improving but there are still hotbeds of tension, and the region is lagging behind in its economic development. The Prime Minister believes that the international democratic community must keep its presence in the region and its role should gradually transform from crisis response to integration. "Stability in this region can only be achieved by integrating the countries into the Euro-Atlantic structures," he said.
The PM also spoke about Bulgaria's progress towards NATO membership and the success achieved in the military reform. He stressed that in the present-day world of globalization and especially since September 11, 2001, not a single country is in a position to assure its security on its own, and that the most effective way to achieve this is through membership of a defensive alliance like NATO.
"Politically, NATO membership will acknowledge the success of the Bulgarian transition to democracy and market economy, and economically, it will help build foreign investors' confidence," Saxe-Coburg-Gotha said. Concluding his remarks, he stressed his Government's resolve to carry out the planned reforms and to secure Bulgaria's Euro-Atlantic future, as well as the fact that Bulgarian society is rallied behind the idea of its Euro-Atlantic project.
"Prague can and should live up to these high expectations," the PM said. "I do not doubt that the NATO leaders and the Member States' leaders will show the foresight and strategic wisdom to push ahead with the process of Alliance enlargement, thus realizing the strategic vision of a Europe whole, united and peaceful," he said.
After the speech, the PM answered questions from NATO PA delegates.
Most were about economic issues. Asked whether membership in the Alliance and the increased spending on defence and modernization of the armed forces would not add to the country's economic difficlties, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha said that one of the Government's strategic objectives is to improve living standards and reduce unemployment, and Bulgaria's NATO membership will help the country's stability and the attraction of foreign investments.
A Spanish delegate asked whether his country's experience could be applied in Bulgaria. The Prime Minister answered that despite the parallels, each country has its own historical peculiarities and its own reality. In his opinion, Spain's example of tolerance, its ability to close a chapter in history and go ahead, to forgive, could be very helpful to Bulgaria.
Romanian Senator and former prime minister Petre Roman asked Saxe-Coburg-Gotha about his idea of the contribution of Bulgaria and Romania to NATO's military and strategic capability. According to the PM, the two countries' membership will fill up NATO's southern flank and above all will eliminate the salient between the Alliance's southeastern and southwestern pillars, Turkey and Greece. He noted that, besides this, the two countries are located in "strategic proximity" to energy resource-rich areas like the Caucasus and farther east.
Asked what would happen to the Bulgarian Government if the country does not get a membership invitation in Prague, the Prime Minister said: "We think we are fully qualified to become NATO members, provided we will have done our homework by November. I would appreciate it if you personally lobby in favour of Bulgaria's accession to NATO." "Our home is your home, too," NATO PA President Rafael Estrella replied.
BULGARIA - NATO PA SESSION - BULGARIAN PRESIDENT.
"Bulgaria's Accession to NATO Will Reinforce Alliance Politically and Militarily," President Purvanov Tells Parliamentary Assembly.
Sofia, May 28 (BTA) - "Bulgaria will be an ally capable of reinforcing NATO in political, defensive and strategic terms. This is our country's clear and categorical message to the Alliance and to the members of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly," Bulgarian President Georgi Purvanov said, addressing the conclusive plenary sitting of the 2002 Spring Session of the NATO PA here Tuesday.
He stressed in his speech that getting an invitation to join NATO at the Prague Summit this coming autumn is of key importance for this country. "Bulgaria and its citizens deserve to see and to feel a tangible result of their efforts towards integration into the Euro-Atlantic democratic communityt," President Purvanov said.
He noted that, regardless of the transition in power, there is full continuity and consistency on this strategic matter of Bulgarian foreign policy.
"The new challenges to security, especially since September 11, dictate the idea of an enlarged Alliance, capable of coping with newly emerging risks and challenges like terrorism, organized crime and weapons proliferation," Purvanov said.
"Bulgaria welcomes the Reykjavik decisions and expresses the conviction that the large-scale enlargement of NATO to the prepared aspirants will become a fact in Prague, without additional preconditions and trial periods," the Bulgarian head of state stressed. "The admission of Bulgaria and Romania will contribute to the security of the entire region, it will give NATO clear signals and strategic advantages by improving the opportunities to control crisis processes and hot spots in the Western Balkans, it will consolidate the Southern Flank and will enhance the capabilities of the Alliance to generate stability towards the Eastern Black Sea basin and the Caucasus region," President Purvanov said.
He argued that the admission of Bulgaria and Romania to the Alliance will irreversibly extend the zone of application of fundamental principles and triumph of the values of democracy and freedom.
BULGARIA - N-PLANT - JET VORTEX CONDENSER.
Kozloduy, on the Danube, May 28 (BTA) - A State Acceptance Commission started work at the Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant on checking a new Accident Localization System for Unit 3, centred around a jet vortex condenser, the N-Plant said in a press release. The Commission will take up to ten days to complete its work.
The Commission includes experts of the Committee for the Use of Atomic Energy for Peaceful Purposes, the All-Russian Scientific Research Institute for Nuclear Power Plant Operations (VNIIAES), which the chief constructor, a Design Institute in St Petersburg, which is the chief designer, the Regional Environment and Water Inspectorate, the Hygiene and Epidemiology Inspectorate, the Regional Fire and Emergency Safety Unit, and Bulgarian engineering organizations.
The experts will inspect the construction project, will get familiar with the construction file and will watch the trial runs of the equipment, according to the press release.
The Directorate for National Construction Control granted permission for the trial runs on May 25.
The N-Plant recalls that installation of the jet vortex condenser began on April 30 as part of scheduled maintenance of Unit 3, which was shut down on February 17, 2002. Preparatory work for the installation was completed by the end of April, and a water pool was built in which the device was placed using a special technology. Installation was completed on May 20.
The Accident Localization System (ALS), of which the jet vortex condenser is the principal component, offsets the lack of a containment vessel of the generating units using VVER-440 Model V 230 reactrors and makes substantial progress in ensuring safety up to modern standards. Such a system was installed on Kozloduy Unit 4 at the end of last year. It was pioneered at the Novovoronezh Nuclear Power Plant which was subsequently licensed to operate its units for 10-15 years after the end of their service life, the press release said.
The modernization of this type of reactors through installation of jet vortex condensers was supported by all participants in an international seminar organized by the International Atomic Energy Agency in Moscow in October 1999.
Sofia, May 28 (BTA) - An earthquake measuring 3 on the MSK scale at its epicentre about 85 km south of Sofia on Bulgarian territory was registered at 5.29 p.m. local time on Tuesday, according to the Seismological Centre of the Geophysics Institute of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and the Civil Defence Agency.
The quake measured about 2.5 on the Richter scale and was felt at the village of Kroupnik in Simitli Municipality (Blagoevgrad Region).
No loss of life or damage to property has been reported.
BULGARIA - ROMANIA - ECOLOGY.
Silistra, Northeastern Bulgaria, May 28 (BTA) - Romania may support a "mirror" project for wetlands along the Bulgarian and Romanian bank of the Danube in the region of Silistra and Calarasi.
Senior officials of the Regional Environment and Waters Inspectorate in the Danubian port of Rousse and the Environmental Protection Inspectorate in Calarasi, Romania, agreed in principle on such support at a meeting on Tuesday in the Romanian town, also attended by representatives of the two countries' environment ministries.
Director of the Rousse Regional Environment and Waters Inspectorate Todor Moskov said that implementation of the project will preserve endangered species in Europe and the world and improve local biodiversity. Developing eco-tourism will benefit both countries, he said.
The Bulgarian and Romanian Danubian islands may be declared protected tracts, it emerged at the meeting. The Romanian Academy of Sciences is working on how to do this.
Bulgaria and Romania implement other environmental projects related to the mirror project on the wetlands. A lake near Calarasi has been declared a reserve. The Romanian experts are also working on a project for environmental protection against pollution from farming.
Bulgaria is implementing two projects on wetland reclamation in the Persina national park and what once were swamps Kalimok and Brushlyan.
The participants in the meeting also discussed work on the projects for a system for joint monitoring of ambient air quality in Bulgarian and Romanian border towns along the Lower Danube.
ROUSSE - DANUBIAN TRANSPORT CORRIDOR.
Rousse, on the Danube, May 28 (BTA) - Laszlo Bene and Count Batiani Adam, managers of the Hungarian-Spanish transport company BeneFactors Ltd, Markus Wolf, manager of Berlinwasser of Germany, and the director of Kresta Marketing, Ivan Stanchov, have informed the regional administration of Rousse that they are working on the establishment of a ferry connection along the Danube, Rhine and Mein to Hamburg, the press office of Regional Governor Roumen Yanouarov said.
The foreign company officials studied the potential of Port Rousse East and established that all the conditions for receiving regular ferries had been created for 5 million US dollars, said Nikolai Nanov from Rousse-based company Konsult East-West, which has a joint venture set up with Ivan Stanchov's company Stanchov, Sons and Co.
The purpose of the Danubian ro-ro project is to redirect the automobile traffic from Turkey and the Middle East to the route via Bulgaria, Nanov said. Until six years ago, 25 TIR trucks used to cross Rousse in one hour; now this is the number of trucks that pass along this route in one day.
Konsult East-West believes that the automobile traffic from Turkey can be redirected to the route via Rousse because now the Istanbul ferries ship trucks to ports in the Mediterranean only, while the Danube waterway will take them right to the centre of Western Europe, avoiding any road restrictions, borders and payment of charges.
Markus Wolf from Berlinwasser informed the municipal and regional authorities of Rousse that he would provide part of the investment required to build a local water treatment plant, Rousse Mayor Eleonora Nikolova said.
The purpose is to conserve the waters of the Danube.
The total cost of the project is 14 million euros. The remaining part of the funds will be raised together with Giurgiu, Romania, from the European Union's programmes for cross-border cooperation. The negotiations with the authorities of Giurgiu will be held in early June, Nikolova said.
Gerdzhikov Will Fine Football Fans in Parliament.
I'm prepared to make a compromise only for the finals, said the chairman of the National Assembly.
Chairman of Parliament Ognyan Gerdzhikov will fine all football fans among the MPs who play truant from the plenary sittings because of the World Championship. Yesterday Gerdzhikov announced what strict measures he is going to take against dodging football fans. There are more important problems in the Parliament than watching football matches, he said. He also promised to sanction the MPs who disappear from the plenary hall immediately after being registered and go to watch football. Gerdzhikov explained that he is prepared to make a compromise only during the finals. Every Tuesday till the summer vacation the National Assembly will work extra hours, said deputy chief of the NMS parliamentary group Vladimir Dontchev. The parliament is lagging behind with the adoption of 20 laws which are important for meeting the accession requirements of NATO and EU.
Prosecutor's Office Dismissed Charges against Sofianski.
The mayor haven't violated the law or caused damages to municipality, showed the audit.
The prosecutor's office has dismissed the charges against Sofia mayor Stefan Sofianski in connection with the EU bonds worth of 50 million euro emitted by Sofia municipality in 1999. The mayor was accused of power abuse after he, on his own accord, allowed to the "Standard & Powers" agency to estimate the credit rating of the capital city and chose the "Paribas" bank for a mediator in the deal. During a 6-month long investigation it was established that the mayor haven't violated the Public Procurements Act or committed any other crime.