Vol 2, No 6
14 February 2000
C E N T R A L E U R O P E A N
N E W S:
News Review for Bulgaria
All the important news from Bulgaria
since 7 February 2000
After a decade of dispute over whether a second bridge should be built over the Danube river, the Bulgarian and Romanian governments agreed that Bulgaria will finance and construct the USD 120 million bridge, while each country will invest an additional USD 35 million in developing the adjacent infrastructure. This was decided during a meeting in Brussels with Balkan Stability Pact Co-ordinator Bodo Hombach. Bulgarian Finance Minister Muravey Radev said that the construction will be discussed in Brussels on 28 March. Ashtom, the largest Israeli construction company, showed interest in investing in the construction of the bridge. Ashtom's president Sadik Sadik met with the Regional Development Minister, Evgeni Chachev, to discuss the formation of a consortium with other investors.
Germany's support for Bulgaria's efforts to join the EU became clear at Monday's meetings in Sofia attended by Christoph Zoepel of the German Foreign Ministry, Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova and Bulgaria's chief EU negotiator, Alexander Bozhkov. Zoepel said it is essential for Bulgaria to speed up its economic growth to over six percent. He also said that it would be very sensible to improve cooperation with German investors and banks. He emphasized that Germany approves of the EU's 26 January proposal to lift visa restrictions on Bulgarian citizens. Before any decisions are made regarding the EU proposal, the German foreign and interior ministers will talk with their Bulgarian counterparts in order to try to find a way to resolve issues that impede the lifting of visa restrictions, such as illegal entry by nationals of third countries.
The talks on Bulgaria's EU membership will open officially in Brussels on 15 February. On the eve of the event, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova invited key figures from the National Assembly for political consultations. The talks with the EU will most likely concern issues in the areas of education, science and culture. Some difficulties are expected in regards to discussions of environmental pollution, due to the lack of strong environmental legislation in Bulgaria.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov announced the appointment of Adriana Tosheva as the new Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, taking over the position previously held by Valya Savcheva. The new Deputy Minister will focus on issues concerning the acceleration of Bulgaria's EU accession. Formerly, Ms Tosheva was an agricultural representative in the World Bank and director of the Phare program at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.
George Robertson visited Sofia on 9 to 10 February for the first time in his capacity as NATO Secretary General, the Bulgarian Telegraph Agency (BTA) learned from the Office of the Foreign Ministry's spokesman. Robertson met President Peter Stoyanov, Prime Minister Ivan Kostov and National Assembly Chairman Yordan Sokolov. In the presence of diplomats, the NATO Secretary General addressed the Bulgarian Parliament. During the talks, special attention was paid to NATO's enlargement and Bulgaria's preparation for accession to the Alliance. Lord Robertson and his hosts exchanged views on stability and security in the Euro-Atlantic area. Other topics included the developments in Kosovo, the interaction between Bulgaria and NATO and European identity in the area of defense and security.
The Greek-Dutch consortium OTE/KPN is still awaiting the decision of the Bulgarian government on the sale of the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company (BTC). The consortium initially offered USD 510 million at the end of 1999 to buy BTC, but this amount is to be revised in light of the better-than-expected earnings of BTC for 1999 and the recent invitation for negotiations for Bulgaria's EU entry. The Bulgarian government valued BTC at USD 1.3 billion and will most likely prolong its negotiations for BTC's privatization, in order to attract other bidders. Another serious contender seems to be Deutsche Telekom, which in October acquired a 35 percent stake in Croatian Telecom. The information about Deutsche Telekom's interest came from another top state official, Nikolay Pavlov, chair of the committee responsible for antitrust regulation. The German company refused to make any comment. According to the weekly Capital, during the last quarter of 1999, Deutsche Telekom unsuccessfully negotiated to acquire the only GSM operator in the country, Mobiltel, a private company owned by offshore companies associated with the Russian multimillionaire Michael Chorny.
And some wine news. The EU has increased its import quotas for Bulgarian wines for this year. Kiril Popov, chief expert at the Ministry of Agriculture, said that Bulgaria is increasing the number of vineyards in the northeastern part of the country. Presently, Bulgaria exports over 80 percent of its wine production to Britain, the former Soviet republics, the United States, Canada and Japan.
The third international Culture of Wine festival is to take place in Sofia from 8 May to 24 June, as announced at a press-conference last week by Plamen Dimitrov, executive director of the festival. Many wineries will be represented this year, with their best wines being showcased. At the same time, an exhibition on the history of Bulgarian wine will open at the National Historical Museum.Nadia Rozeva, 11 February 2000
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