Syria doesn't allow the two children of the victim to return to Bulgaria.
On the eve of May 14 Rositza Yordanova Zhelyazkova from Plovdiv was killed in Syria, sources from the Foreign Ministry said yesterday. The body was found as late as on May 25. It was dismembered and sulfuric acid was poured on it. The body was hidden in the channel of the family pool. Her husband was a suspect of the crime. He was detained and later released. After that he escapes in Lebanon where he was arrested by the local police yesterday. His father was also arrested for a while as suspected of accompliceship. Killed Rositza was 37-year old, mother of two - a six-year-old daughter and a ten-year-old son. At the moment they live with their Syrian grandfather and grandmother. Ambassador of Bulgaria to Syria Boris Stoychev said that everybody did their best to find out the truth and return the two children into Bulgaria. It's likely, however, that the kids would remain in Syria because of the Syrian legislation.
Sofia, May 30 (BTA) - Macedonian Chief of Staff Colonel General Metodi Stamboliski arrives here on May 31 for a two-day official visit to discuss with Bulgarian counterpart Miho Mihov the current state and the outlook before bilateral military cooperation. Stamboliski will meet with Bulgarian Defence Minister Nikolai Svinarov and will visit the Vasil Levski military academy in Veliko Turnovo.
Comments on Guenter Verheugen's Statements.
Sofia, May 30 (BTA) - Negotiations with the EU about Units Three and Four of the Kozloduy nuclear power plant are continuing, Bulgaria is not under any pressure, Minister for European Affairs Meglena Kouneva told journalists in Parliament, answering questions about the plant, to which EU Commissioner Guenter Verheugen referred in his statement to the MPs.
No commitment has been entered about early decommissioning of Units Three and Four, Kouneva said, answering a question. She is leaving with Energy Minister Milko Kovachev for Sweden on Monday and the Kozloduy plant will be on the agenda. The 1999 memorandum signed by Bulgaria and the EU contains the European Commission's insistence that those two units be decommissioned in 2006, as well as the Bulgarian position that they can operate until 2008 and 2010, respectively.
"We must be absolutely sure that Bulgaria has not missed a single chance," Kouneva said. "We will be clarifying our positions, providing arguments and struggling to prove that the units are safe - to the last."
Answering a question, Foreign Minister Solomon Passy said Bulgaria had made no new commitments regarding the nuclear power plant's units, and the latest commitments were included in the 1999 memorandum.
Vesselin Bliznakov MP of the Simeon II National Movement, Chairman of the Parliamentary Energy Committee, said Bulgaria sticks to the time frame it has set in the memorandum: until 2008 for Unit Three and until 2010 for Unit Four.
"A different time frame may be discussed after we are told when they are ready to admit us to the EU," he said. "We have signed a memorandum, we will stick to it and we want to negotiate," Bliznakov added.
Roumen Ovcharov (Coalition for Bulgaria) said that Verheugen's statement raised his hopes and that he left the door open to negotiations. An expert assessment of the units will be made by the International Atomic Energy Agency in June, Ovcharov said.
Ramadan Atalai (Movement for Rights and Freedoms) said negotiations on the decommissioning of Units Three and Four would be held by the year's end as stated in the memorandum. It cannot be said when the two reactors will be shut down until a final decision is negotiated, he said.
President Purvanov Meets with EU Commissioner Verheugen.
Sofia, May 30 (BTA) - Bulgaria can be proud with the progress it has made in the past couple of years, EU enlargement commissioner Guenther Verheugen told Thursday the council on Euro and Euro-Atlantic integration with President Georgi Purvanov.
He added he is sure that if Bulgaria were to continue to stay focused and to press on with the political, economic and social reforms, the progress will very soon be acknowledged.
The only way to guarantee lasting and stable peace in Europe is through overcoming the political, social and economic discrepancies between Western Europe and the Central and East European countries; if the EU enlargement process continues that will prevent further waves of immigrants, he said.
The enlargement process would be impossible to expand without the unconditional support of civil society, Verheugen said.
He met with Purvanov before joining the meeting of the council.
Purvanov told Verheugen he hopes that the annual report on Bulgaria's progress towards EU membership will finally say that the country has a functioning market economy.
The government is doing a lot to attain the goals it set for itself in the program to accelerate accession talks with the EU, Purvanov said, adding that he hopes these efforts will be acknowledged and the annual report of the European Commission will recognize the progress Bulgaria has made.
"I want to believe that the significant efforts of the government in the last couple of months and the progress that has been made in the talks on the different acquis communautaire chapters will be taken notice of during Verheugen's visit," Purvanov said.
He said the goal of the government supported by all state institutions is to complete the accession talks in late 2003. "These are deadlines we have set for ourselves. It is up to the European Commission to decided what timeframes should be mentioned in the road map to membership Bulgaria will get," Purvanov said.
Verheugen is here on a two-day official visit to check on Bulgaria's readiness to honour commitments undertaken during the accession talks, to be briefed on Bulgaria's administrative capacity and on its capabilities to utilize money from the EU pre-accession funds.
EU Commissioner Verheugen Says Bulgaria Made Unique Progress in Accession Talks.
Sofia, May 30 (BTA) - Speaking at a briefing at the Council of Ministers, European Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen said he had never expected that Bulgaria would open all the chapters of the acquis in two years, and described this as 'unique progress'. Verheugen, who arrived on a visit here Tuesday evening, was accompanied by ministers Solomon Passy of foreign affairs and Meglena Kouneva of European affairs.
Verheugen said he expects that the European Commission will come up with an encouraging message for Bulgaria at the end of the year. "We will tell the Bulgarians, 'We need you!'" Verheugen added. In his opinion, Bulgaria can be proud of the excellent progress it has made in the EU talks.
Earlier in the day, Verheugen conferred with President Georgi Purvanov and with Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.
In Verheugen's words, the issue of Bulgaria's membership in the EU is no longer 'whether', but 'exactly when'. "The process of the country accession to the Union is irreversible. Everyone admits that Bulgaria has contributed a lot to the EU. Europe needs politically and strategically important countries, such as Bulgaria," said the EU Commissioner. He noted the country's positive role in the Stability Pact and in the overall process of stabilization of the region.
Verheugen voiced his conviction that at the end of the year Bulgaria will receive the signal it needs, which will be "strong and encouraging".
The EU Commissioner pointed out that the purpose of his visit to Bulgaria is to prepare the next steps in the accession process, to make a review of the country's progress, to analyze what has been achieved so far and to exchange opinions on the political situation in Europe and in the region.
During his meeting with the president and the prime minister, Verheugen reiterated the European Commission's stand that the process of Euro-integration should continue in two directions - promotion and expansion. In his words, it is clear that the populist movements in Europe cannot stand in the way of these processes.
Verheugen said he expects that the EU will adopt a programme which will make it possible to name the countries of the first wave of the enlargement at the end of the year. Meanwhile, an updated strategy is being drafted for the countries which will not be included in the first wave, showing them that they have not been left behind, said the EU commissioner.
He called on the Bulgarian public not to link the date of EU accession to national reputation. An accession date is set on the basis of the readiness of the applicant's economy to meet the competition pressure of the European market.
"Your economy is not ready, it will collapse, and the result will be enormous unemployment and social tension," said Verheugen. He stressed that the EU will accept as new members only countries which have met all the requirements, and which can survive politically and economically in the new environment.
No decision has been taken yet as to how many or which countries will join the EU with the first wave, said Verheugen. The final decision will not be based on political considerations, but on real facts, and the readiness of the applicant countries for EU membership, he added.
Taking up a journalist question, the EU Commissioner voiced his satisfaction with the fact the chief negotiator with the EU Meglena Kouneva was appointed European Affairs Minister. Verheugen noted that the rank of the chief negotiators in the applicant countries is a domestic matter, but it is good to have a full cabinet member as coordinator of the Euro-integrationissues.
Taking up a question on the closure of the four oldest reactors of Kozlodoui N-plant, Verheugen said that the EU is patient and does not exert any pressure on Bulgaria. He noted that this country should meet the requirements of the Energy chapter of the acquis. In Verheugen's words, the EU is interested only in the safety of the nuclear plants in the applicant countries and not in the distribution of energy markets.
Answering a question on the deadline by which units 3 and 4 of Kozlodoui N-plant should be closed, Verheugen said that the fifteen EU member countries were unanimous that this should be done by 2006 and that this date is mentioned in the Energy chapter. Verheugen was categoric that the N-plants of Eastern Europe whose modernization is not financially feasible should be closed. Verheugen confirmed that such a condition was put forward before Bulgaria, Slovakia and Lithuania, which made a firm commitment to close their old reactors. In his words, third countries are treated in a similar way regarding this matter.
"After Commissioner Verheugen spoke about the absolutely unique progress which Bulgaria has made in the EU talks, I have to stress that he has not come here to be polite and praise us, but to make an accurate assessment of what we have done," Foreign Minister Solomon Passy told journalists. "When Verheugen speaks about the progress which can be described as 'Bulgarian miracle' in the talks, he really means it and this is the opinion of the European Commission," Passy added.
In his words, during Verheugen's visit the Bulgarian government has the aim is to present Bulgaria's progress in the best possible way and to continue to work for further advancement.
EU - ENLARGEMENT - COMMISSIONER.
EU Enlargement Commissioner Urges Closure of Nuclear Reactors 3 and 4 by 2006, Recommends Constitutional Changes.
Sofia, May 30 (BTA) - Addressing the National Assembly on Thursday, European Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen congratulated Bulgaria on the remarkable pace of its membership talks with the European Union. He urged the country to comply with requirements concerning the Kozlodoui Nuclear Power Plant and pointed to the need for constitutional amendments.
Bulgaria has assumed the commitment to decommission Kozlodoui power units 3 and 4 earlier than the stipulated deadlines 2008 and 2010, respectively, Verheugen said, speaking through an interpreter. The European Commission has expressed the view that this should be done in 2006 at the latest, and the EU member states have supported this position, he said.
With respect to Bulgaria, the requirement for nuclear reactors closure applies only to Kozlodoui's units 1 through 4, which have many imperfections in terms of design, and does not apply to units 5 and 6, whose design is more recent and ensures greater safety, the Commissioner said.
He recalled that he had signed agreements with the Bulgarian government in 1999, under which the Bulgarian authorities committed themselves to have units 1 and 2 closed for good until the end of 2002. This issue is not problematic, he added.
The European Commission allocates large funds to support the early closure of those reactors which cannot be upgraded, he said.
The European authorities recognize that Bulgaria is honouring its commitments. Each side is familiar with the stance of the other. Related talks will continue throughout this year, Verheugen said. According to him, these talks are based on mutual trust, cooperation and two-way support.
Kozlodoui has been an outstanding issue between the EU and Bulgaria since the G7 meeting held in Munich in 1992, when this type of reactors were categorized as unsafe.
The Bulgarian Constitution needs to be amended to allow EU citizens to own land in this country and to settle the sensitive issue of the broad immunity of the members of the judiciary against prosecution, which is not a legal norm in the EU, he said.
Verheugen congratulated Bulgaria on the remarkable pace of its accession negotiations with the EU and underscored the country's progress towards membership.
At a news briefing in Parliament, Verheugen was asked about the possibility for the European Commission to review its position on the closure of units 3 and 4. He said the Commission cannot be expected to modify its position on the Energy chapter in the membership talks unless a new joint decision is made, supported by all 15 member states.
Asked whether an agreement is likely to be reached on the closure deadline for units 3 and 4 proposed by Bulgaria, Verheugen said "there is nothing to negotiate about," because an agreement and a common EU position are already available, and Bulgaria fully complies with the requirements. He expressed hope that by the end of 2002 Bulgaria will fulfill the EU recommendations on the energy sector in order to close the chapter on Energy.
The Commissioner stressed the imperative need for transparency and stronger involvement of the public in the process of European integration. The National Assembly can contribute to this end as a mediator between state institutions and the public, he said.
DOCKERS - END TO STRIKE.
Dockers End Strike, Ready to Resume Work.
Bourgas, on the Black Sea, May 30 (BTA) - Dockers in Bourgas agreed to discontinue their strike, which lasted into a tenth day May 30.
The agreement was signed by members of the strike committee, Deputy Transport and Communications Minister Krassimira Martinova, Maritime Administration Executive Agency Director Peicho Manolov, and Port of Bourgas Board of Directors Chairman Boiko Ivanov.
The agreement contains 15 provisions. The dockers stated they are ready to resume work immediately.
Some 200 workers hailed the news with shouts of "Victory!" The strikers' principal demands were dismissal of the port's two executive directors and cessation of layoffs and of wage cuts.
Strike committee chairman Zheko Atanassov delivered a copy of the agreement to the seven workers who had been on hunger strike, and they stopped their protest too.
Under the agreement, all workers of Port Bourgas Drouzhestvo Za Rabotna Sila (PB Drouzhestvo) will be allowed to return to their workplaces and the administration will stop hiring new workers.
The Board of Directors Chairman pledges to avert possible confrontation between the returned strikers and the newly hired workers.
The validity of all malpractice reports will be checked until June 15, the sides agreed. The operation of PB Drouzhestvo will be streamlined within three months.
The pay schedule which was valid before March 1 will be reintroduced, effective retroactive to that date. April wages will be disbursed by June 14, and May advance pay until May 31.
A commission will be formed within ten days to investigate into possible unwarranted dismissals since March 1. The persons who took part in the strike will not be prosecuted or held responsible.
The two executive directors are suspended until changes are introduced at PB Drouzhestvo. A decision on their possible liability is due upon completion of the investigation at the port. In the meantime, their functions will be performed by the Board of Directors Chairman, the agreement says.
The strike was launched on May 21. Deputy Transport Minister Krassimira Martinova arrived in Bourgas on the following day but the talks failed.
On May 23, the strikers were locked out as the Port of Bourgas terminated its contract with the employer, PB Drouzhestvo.
The late evening of May 24 saw the launch of negotiations with Deputy Transport Ministers Krassimira Martinova and Lyubomil Ivanov. Although the talks continued until after midnight, they did not yield any positive results.
Three dockers declared hunger strike on the following day and stayed in a trade union office room at the port until May 30, refusing to take anything but water and fruit juices. The group of hunger strikers gradually grew to seven persons.
On May 27, MPs representing the Bourgas constituency arranged a meeting with trade unionists and the strike committee but, again, it was unsuccessful.
According to Transport Minister Plamen Petrov, the agreement on discontinuation of the strike "clearly indicates that common sense and sober judgement have prevailed." In a statement from Bucharest, quoted in a Transport Ministry press release, Petrov noted that "with Thursday's act, the Transport and Communications Ministry team made it clear it will never succumbto political pressure."
Petrov declared that his Ministry is open to dialogue with trade unionists and the employees of all companies in which the Ministry exercises the rights of the State.
"I wish to thank those persons whom I authorized to conduct the negotiations for the firmness they showed. I also thank the trade unions and the strike committee for their cool-mindedness and openness to dialogue."
35 kg of Heroin Intercepted.
Bourgas, May 30 (BTA) - The customs officers at the Malko Turnovo checkpoint, at the border with Turkey, intercepted on Thursday a shipment containing 35 kg of heroin. The drug was uncovered in a false bottom compartment in the gas tank of an incoming minibus with Romanian registration. Two Romanian men and one woman have been detained in connection with the case. They were found to carry 11,450 undeclared euros.
The customs officers at the Kalotina checkpoint at the border with Serbia detained on May 12 a shipment of 7.184 kg heroin stashed in a vehicle with Czech registration.
The Bulgarian customs have seized a total of 89 kg of heroin since the beginning of the year.
Gerdzhikov in Shorts for Football Derby.
Panayotov wears No.9 jersey, Kosta Tsonev invited as coach.
On Saturday Chairman of the National Assembly, Ognyan Gerdzhikov will show up on the "Bulgarska Armia" stadium in shorts to take part in the derby MPs versus journalists. In the deputies' team he is both captain and goal-keeper. It has become known already that Plamen Panayotov is going to be the forward and will wear a jersey with No. 9. All fans will have free access to the stadium. Both fans and footballers are expected to put their contributions in charity boxes to aid life-saving surgery for small children. The MPs don't have a coach as yet, because Kosta Tsonev, who was tipped for the part, has pressing engagements with his voters.
Bulgarian PM to Meet with President Putin During Visit to Moscow.
Sofia, May 30 (BTA) - Bulgarian Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, parliamentary speaker Genadii Seleznyov and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov during his June 3-6 visit to Moscow, the government's press office said.
A declaration on economic, scientific and technical cooperation, a supplement to the agreement to settle mutual financial obligations and an interdepartmental agreement on cooperation between the two countries' culture ministries are prepared for signing during the visit.
Saxe-Coburg-Gotha's itinerary also includes meetings at the Bulgarian Cultural Center with representatives of the Bulgarian expat community in Russia, the editors-in-chief of major Russian media, politicians and business people, the press release says.
Saxe-Coburg-Gotha will lay wreaths at the Monument of the Unknown Soldier and will visit the Christ Saviour Church in Moscow.
Parvanov and Putin Awarded the Same Prizes.
President Georgi Parvanov was awarded the International Prize "For Painstaking Efforts for Enhancing the Unity of Orthodox Peoples". The prise is bestowed each year by the International Fund for Orthodox Peoples Unity (FOPU) with Russian Patriarch Alexis II as its patron. The last prizeman was Russia's President Vladimir Putin. The decision on the award was handed to President Parvanov by the President of the Fund Prof. Valerii Alexeev in person.
1,223 Companies to Be Sold Against Compensatory Vouchers.
Only 15 - 16 are the attractive ventures to be traded on the stock exchange.
1,223 packages and shares from state-run ventures to be sold against compensatory vouchers and bonds, Privatization Agency's (PA) Supervisory Board proposes. The Council of Ministers should approve the list. The shares of only 10 - 15 large-scale companies are to be put on the market - Bulgartabak, BTC (Bulgarian Telecommunications Company), DZI (State Insurance Institute), International Plovdiv Fair, two shipping companies - Bulgarian Marine and Bulgarian River Cabotage. Hundred percent stake of other 4 ventures will be sold on the stock exchange - Automatics and Telemetry Plant, Fashion and New Products Center (CNSM) and two institutes. Packages of 1,203 enterprises with minor state share also may be bought by compensatory vouchers. 20.5 million shares and stakes of state-run ventures will be offered for sale against compensatory vouchers. To unofficial information, the free vouchers currently are worth some 850 million levs, while the bonds - 300 million levs.
PA offers against compensatory vouchers: Venture Share (percent)
International Plovdiv Fair 49
Shipping Company BRC 30
Shipping Company BM 30
Oil&Gas- Pleven 49
TPP Maritsa-3 49
Energoremont-Bobov Dol 49
Malak Iskar-Djourovo 54,93
Todor Batkov: We Can Afford Even Zidane.
The champion's cup is to be awarded to the 'blues' after the game vs Naftex today.
Michael Chernoy has enough means to hire even Zinedine Zidane in Levski, Todor Batkov - member of the Supervisory Board of PFC Levski AD, said yesterday. 'Yet, it's another point if he would wish to come in Levski, and how he would be absorbed in the soccer reality in this country,' lawyer Todor Batkov said further. 'We're monitoring several high-class footballers. We can afford good money for them,' Todor Batkov added. He, however, declined to specify more details. 'Levski is targeting at the champion's title next season as well and winning the Bulgaria's Cup. Furthermore the team should catch up with the third preliminary round thus qualifying for the Champions League in the summer,' Batkov elaborated. To him, owner Michael Chernoy will invest much more means in Levski. 'Mr Chernoy will invest good money in Levski. There won't be reshuffles in the Supervisory and Managers Boards,' Todor Batkov concluded. Mihail Kassabov - vice-president of BFU (Bulgarian Football Union) will bestow the champion's cup and will present with gold medals the players of Levski immediately after the end of the today's match versus Naftex at 'Georgi Asparouhov' stadium. Each fan who would buy a ticket for the game would be granted a special blue jersey. 'I wish Levski to finish the season with a win,' Serb coach of Levski - Slavoljub Muslin said.