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STABILITY PACT ROUND TABLE ON DEMOCRATIZATION AND HUMAN RIGHTS.
The fifth meeting of the first Stability Pact Round Table on Democratization and Human Rights started Monday in Skopje.
Opening a two-day meeting, Macedonian Foreign Minister Slobodan Casule said that by the energy and enthusiasm of the countries in the region and the support of the countries and the international institutions - the Pact's facilitators - the SEE region would surpass its structural problems, taking its place into the Euro-Atlantic integration processes.
Macedonia granted full support of the Stability Pact, taking active part since its promotion, Casule said, adding that the Pact's main values are integrated in the foreign policy of Macedonia.
"Even in these hard conditions, when the country is dealing with the consequences from the crisis, the Macedonian Government has been working on reforms and regional cooperation, as prerequisites for Macedonia's full integration into the Euro-Atlantic institutions," Casule said.
According to Casule, a confirmation of the Government's commitment to reforms are the measures it has undertaken for accelerating of the economic development, strengthening of democracy, rule of law, building of a civil society with full respect of human, civil and national rights according to the European standards.
In that respect Casule reminded that Macedonia presented many projects within the Round Table for Democratization and Human Rights, saying that most of those projects are aimed at strengthening of a civil society.
"The Pact has not exhausted all of its mechanisms for stabilization of the region. Therefore, all possibilities for joint, intensified cooperation in combat against destabilizing factors in the region should be reviewed. Special attention should be paid to a combat against organized crime and to restoring and consolidating of interethnic relations," Casule said.
He underlined Macedonia's active participation in the Round Table for Economic Reconstruction, Development and Cooperation, saying that many projects of the Quick Start Package are under construction.
For Casule, the Memorandum of Understanding on trade liberalization, signed by the SEE countries on June 27, is one of the Pact's most significant achievements.
Casule extended gratitude to the former Pact's special coordinator Bodo Hombah for his contribution in establishing and successful functioning of the Stability Pact. Casule also congratulated to Erhard Busek, who is nominated for a new Pact's coordinator.
"I am sure that Mr. Busek, as an expert on developments in the region, will contribute to realizing of the Pact's goals and to faster integration of the region in the Euro-Atlantic institutions," Casule said.
Greek Ambassador Alexandros Rondos chairs the meeting, while Igor Dzundev, State Adviser at the Macedonian Foreign Ministry, is co-chairman.
The officials are to discuss on human and minority rights, role of the media, returning of refugees, role of the civil society and local self-government, interethnic issues, transborder cooperation, education, parliamentary cooperation and the future Pact's tasks.
About 120 representatives form the Pact's member countries, the European Commission and the Council of Europe attend the meeting. For the first time, representatives of SEE non-governmental organizations, were invited to attend such meeting.
"The Macedonian Government decided on Monday to sell the "Porcelanka" enterprise from Veles to a company registered in Austria," governmental spokesman Gjorgji Trendafilov said after the session of the Government held on Tuesday.
Trendafilov said that the Porcelanka syndicate supported the sale agreement.
He said that all 623 employees in Porcelanka would maintain their jobs.
He also reported that the Government has decided to grant financial assistance to the employees from the bankrupt companies in amount of 6,000 denars.
As Trendafilov said, the Law on Local Self-government was coordinated in accordance to the guidelines submitted by the ministries of health and education.
He estimated the security situation in the country as "extremely serious."
At a session, presided by Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, the Macedonian Government reviewed and accepted the macroeconomic policy of Macedonia for the upcoming year and analysed its achievement.
The Government discussed the conditions in which the macroeconomic policy was realised, the situation, characteristics of movement and problems of the country's development, especially in the part of human resources.
Based on the past tendencies and conditions, and having in mind the estimates, possibilities and assumptions in the dynamics of the overcoming of the crisis and normalisation of the situation, it is envisaged that macroeconomic aggregates will be as following: annual inflation at level December-December, measured through life expenses is projected at 2,7%, while the level for January-December the following year in relation to the same period of this year is projected at 2,5%.
According to the macroeconomic policy, if the situation in the country is normalised, the GDP is projected at 4%, increase of employees at 2%, and increase of the average salaries of employees at 1%.
The Government accepted the decision for the objectives and tasks of next year's monetary policy, which is in accordance with the economic policy of the country. The basic objectives of the monetary policy will develop through a regulation of the nominal money offer, thus providing a stabile foreign currency course of the denar in relation to the Euro, as well as an increase of the money mass in the denar part at an annual level of 7,4%.
The Government also accepted the decision for determining the highest prices of certain oil derivatives, according to the methodology. Starting from midnight, 86-octane gas will cost 47 denars, 98-octane gas will cost 48 denars, while unleaded gas of 95 octane will cost 45 denars per liter.
According to this decision, there is also a decrease of prices in diesel fuels. D-1 will be sold at 34 denars, and D-2 at 33,50 denars per liter.
The Action Plan for realisation of the agenda for economic reform was also accepted. It has been suggested with the program of the country for urging investments, with a special attention given to attracting direct foreign investments, as well as the proposal for passing of a law for transfer of road traffic.
At the proposal of the Minister of Interior Ljube Boskovski, the Government appointed Goran Mitevski General-Major of Police in the Ministry of Interior, with additional changes of members of several steering boards.
Snowfall is creating problems on the roads throughout the country.
Intensive snowfall is creating problems on the roads in Burgas region. Many automobiles were buried under the snow, and five villages would be cut off from electricity supply at least by the end of the day. The road between Burgas and Sarafovo was closed, while movement in the Stranja region became difficult. Only the traffic through the Arish pass is going without any restrictions. The road situation in the Pazarjik, Bobov Dol and Velingrad regions is also difficult, while all the roads in Vidin region are usable under winter conditions. Snow-cleaning machines in Smolyan region have been working over the clock and there are no problems with electricity supply, representatives of the regional Security Council reported. Snow cover in Pamporovo resort reached 50 cm with minus 11 degrees. Flights to and from Sofia Airport have been going on as usual. More people have been sent to the Pirogov emergency hospital because of traumas caused by unclean streets, the Director of the traumatic Department Neli Seculova said.
Victims of Slippery Roads Filled 'Pirogov'
The buses couldn't reach the suburbs.
65 Sofia residents with broken arms and legs were hospitalized in 'Pirogov' clinic after they fell in the slippery streets of the city. Probably the victims of the ice would double in number if it wasn't a weekend, Dr. Bonyo Bonev from the traumatology in 'Pirogov'said. Many of the buses in Sofia didn't follow their time-table because of the snow. The Sofia municipality sent 320 machines and 530 people to clean-up the streets. Another 110 snow ploughs and 460 workers were sent by the 'Street Cleaning' agency.
Road Agency: All Snow-Ploughs Shovel Non-Stop.
We've launched all the machinery we have, to cope with the heavy snowfall, said the Agency CEO Alben Rodopmanov yesterday. The snowy sectors are being shoveled and sanded all the time by the maintenance service, he was flat. The problem is in that the snow is going on and on. In spite of the bad weather there is no emergency situation and the roads in the country are passable, Rodopmanov elaborated.
All-out for Road Police to Help Drivers.
Already on the ring-road the Sofia policemen warn about the snowdrifts.
Chief Secretary of Interior, Boiko Borissov and General Vassil Vassilev, chief of the National Police Service sent cables to all police stations in the country. They order to all road policemen to help the drivers in trouble because of heavy snow. The policemen must keep in touch with the departments of the Central Road Agency and coordinate their work with them, confirmed to "Standart" Gen. Vassilev. Special attention will be paid to all key cross-roads, narrow mountain passages and high mountainous roads. Road police officers are obliged to report on the situation every two hours. Yesterday, the policemen warned drivers about snowdrifts already on the Sofia ring-road.
Snow-drifts blocked cars and people on the road to Kulata.
The queue of jammed cars near Sandanski reached 5 km.
Hundreds of cars travelling along main road E-79 Sofia-Kulata were trapped in the snow. At 10 o'clock in the sector between Kresna and Sandanski the movement in the two directions was paralyzed by snow-drifts. A TIR track slid and blocked the road. Several cars tried to pass by it, fishtailed and provoked unimaginable chaos. Before the traffic was restored by the help of policemen and 'Emergency Road Service' the queue of stopped cars reached 5-6 km. Huge snow-drifts blocked almost the whole region of Southwestern Bulgaria, where the snow was abundant on Friday. The town of Melnik was isolated from the rest of the world, the situation in Kyustendil was tragic. Radomir and Gyueshevo could be reached by skid-chains only. In the Osogovo Balkan the snow was about 60 cm thick, hut-keepers said.
Snowfall Doesn't Stop, It's Snowing on Friday Again.
The snowfalls will persist today till late in the afternoon, said meteorologist Peter Yankov. The snowdrifts are not expected to melt away even on Tuesday, because until then the temperature will fall by several degrees, reaching minus 11-12 C. In the next two days it will become a little warmer, but on Friday it will start snowing again because the cold atmospheric front is coming closer. Then, however, the snowfall will stop within 24 hours.
Food for Homeless Children in Sofia.
Five food for free stations will function in Sofia since today, the Sofia municipality announced. With a decision of the Municipal council 53,000 levs were granted for their work. During the holidays they will provide meal for children from poor families, orphans and homeless children. Thus every day there'll be free meals for 1,200 children.
Karakachanov Re-elected for Chief of IMRO.
with 342 vouts from 365 delegates at the 15th congress of the organization, which ended in Sofia yesterday. I'll work with everybody, who has will to work, Karakachanov said, after being re-elected. Among the new members of the Executive Committee of IMRO is Plamen Pavlov, chairman of the Agency on Bulgarians Living Abroad.
Petar Stoyanov to Deliver Speech in Monaco.
Incumbent President Petar Stoyanov will deliver a speech on the topic "The Challenges of the European Enlargement" before ministers, parliamentarians and businessmen in Monaco. Stoyanov will be a special guest to the 12 World Summit in the framework of the Crans Montana economic forum, with Amer Moussa, Secretary General of the Arab League and WB Vice-President Jean-Francois Richard.
PM to Celebrate Christmas in Madrid.
Premier Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha will celebrate Christmas together with his family in Madrid, his personal press officer Galia Dicheva said yesterday from Vrana palace. The entire household of the premier is to gather in the Spain's capital. He, however, has not fixed the date of his departure as yet. It will take place immediately before Christmas and will depend on his engagements in Bulgaria.
The EU is no Santa Claus.
The Kostov Cabinet Received the Invitation from Brussels and Stopped Working for Bulgaria.
Only the German chancellor told the Bulgarians the truth: Finish your work and then ask for membership.
As of last Saturday Bulgaria does not face the question of joining the EU. The day before yesterday in Laeken the leaders of the 15 member-countries told the Bulgarians what their politicians should have been the first to do - that the dreamed of membership of the elite club would be postponed for an indefinite time. Not because of the whims of the EU leaders or of the individual member countries, but for the simple fact that we haven't met the membership criteria. And they are - political, economic and adoption and implementation of the European legislation. As for the political criteria we meet them the best - the EU has remarks only concerning the integration of the minorities. However, the most essential reproaches concern the slow pace of the administrative reform, the absence of an essential progress in the reform in the judicial system and the struggle to combat corruption. Regrettably, with the present state of its economy Bulgaria is incapable of meeting most of the EU requirements. Part of these requirements however, are beyond the capacities even of countries like Danmark and Holland. In December of 1999 the EU already made us a gift - it invited us to start accession negotiations. It was more than absurd to wait for another gift from Europe this December. Because the EU is no Santa Claus. And besides, he gives presents only to the best, doesn't he? In December 1999 the then premier Ivan Kostov returned from the EU summit in Helsinki with the invitation in his pocket. And we were left with it. By the end of its mandate the Kostov cabinet didn't manage to do anything substantial to bring Bulgaria closer to what it should be in order to be inseparable from the EU. Against this background there came the vague messages of the new cabinet. Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha proclaimed Bulgaria's joining the EU as one of his cabinet's priorities. And that was all. Then followed talk in the main. And it was so vague and contained so mutually exclusive messages that they bewildered not only the Bulgarians but the European capitals as well. Throughout the autumn the European Commission reminded Bulgaria that it had set itself 2007 as the deadline for joining the EU. Premier Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, known for his meaningful silence, all of a sudden became talkative in Germany. In an exclusive interview for 'Frankfurter Algemeine Zeitung' he said we would be ready in 2004. After his meetings with German politicians they explained journalists that with the premier they had talked about 2004, 2006, 2007 as deadlines for Bulgaria's admittance. Against the background of this lack of coordination, our ruling authorities used to stress that this country would cope with the membership criteria in the coming 2 years. As if by a magic wand. EU enlargement commissioner Guenter Verheugen who is not distinguished for any particular sense of humor, was provoked to smile and utter the following phrase: 'Miracles should never be ruled out, but the success of the 'Harry Potter' approach is not very likely'. The truth was spoken out by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder - don't talk of deadlines before you have finished your work. It is this simple.
10 Best Sportsmen for 2001 Nominated.
Eleven were nominated in the poll for the best coach.
The ten best Bulgarian sportsmen for 2001 were announced yesterday as nominated by the the 45th traditional survey. Theis year's organizers - Nove Holding and Darik radio - broadcast the names of the ten alphabetically. 430 journalists from 144 central and regional nedia, as well as the Bulgarian Association of the Sports Journalists selected Antonina Zetova (volleyball), Evgenia Radanova (short-track), Galabin Boevski (weight-lifter), Magdalena Maleeva (tennis), Nikolay Paslar (free-style wrestling), Petar Stoychev (swimming), Seraphim Barzakov (free-style wrestling), Simona Peycheva (rythmic gimnastics), Tereza Marinova (track-and-field atheletics), Yordan Yovchev (sports gymnastics). The sportsman of the year and the rest will be awarded at the Sheraton hotel on Friday. 34 media nominated 11 experts in the poll for the best coach carried by Dneven Trud daily.
"Vinimpex" to be Stopped from Sale.
The prosecution must initiate the investigation of the guilty, insists MP in a letter to vice-premier Nikolay Vassilev.
Privatization of "Vinimpex" JSC must be stopped because of especially grave infractions, says NMS deputy Nikolay Bouchkov to vice-premier Nikolay Vassilev. The state-run wine-exporting company is earmarked for itemized privatization and will be offered for tender. Tender papers will be available till January 8, 2002, offers may be submitted till January 14. The plundering of "Vinimpex" started as early as 1996, shows audit certificate No. 7020 issued by the State Financial Control dated the same year. DEM 2,6 million and 126,000 USD have been drained from the company to foreign firms, while the arrears from wine sale amount to 80,000 USD in 1996 only. Bouchkov insists that the vice-premier should stop the sale of "Vinimpex" and the prosecutor's office should bear responsible the guilty ones who have to reimburse the losses.
Not me but a congress should decide the future of the BSP.
INTERVIEW Standartnews: Sergey Stanishev
I would not destroy the house if I'm not sure that with the New Left I'll make a better one. I have a physiognomy of my own as I'm now, I've got 100 days to assert as a leader, says the new chairman of the socialists Sergey Stanishev.
- Mr Stanishev, when did you understand that you would be the BSP's new leader? Didn't Georgi Parvanov tell you as early as the night of his election victory?
- Definitely not. I knew I would be the BSP's next leader when the results from the voting at the congress became known. The leader's post within the BSP is not inherited. It is won by means of opinions and stands. This is what all candidates in the contest did.
- After you were elected you declared you were aware of the huge credit of confidence you had got. What is this credit for?
- I accept it as a credit for continuing the change in the BSP. It is not a process in which we put an end and say 'it's up to there that we'll change'. The change of a living party is connected with the changes within society, with the new challenges. This is a daily process in which we have to react adequately.
- Does the BSP need a radical change? Do you share the opinion of colleagues of yours that you are the person to get the BSP ready for joining the project 'New Left' and this, in itself, is a revolution.
- The BSP doesn't need to join the project 'New Left', it is inseparable from this project. It is a strategic project. We have to decide in which way it will develop in future.
- What do you think, should things be brought to the most radical alternative - disbandment of all parties, the BSP included, to set up the New Left?
- I believe that we'll have a discussion within the party too, and with our partners from the New Left, to search out the best alternative for Bulgaria. Because it needs a strong left wing which can underlie a social liberal alternative for ruling the country. I'm not the one to take a decision for disbanding the party, such a decision can be adopted by a congress. But at any rate I would never destroy a house to build an artificial structure if it isn't necessary, if it isn't a working mechanism or won't be in a position to produce a good policy for Bulgaria.
- How will you shape up your physiognomy as leader and how will you come out of Parvanov's shadow? Are you aware what you have to do for around 100 days so that in May next you may go to the next congress with your own physiognomy of leader?
- In principle I think I have a physiognomy of mine. I'll shape up my physiognomy of leader by concrete actions. Time will show what they'll be.
Another Year Like This One Will Be Fatal.
INTERVIEW Standartnews: Emil Kjulev
Previous governments ruined BG foreign markets, as a result the Bulgarians have very low living standard, says Emil Kjulev, chairman of the "Vazrazhdane" (Revival) Club.
- Mr. Kjulev, you claim that our country has lost the traditional markets in Russia and the Arab world. What are the reasons?
- The reason is that the passiveness of the previous government, love of gain and political interests have reduced these markets to the critical minimum. The result is evident - we can all see that the Bulgarians live poorly.
- Do the big business representatives have their own strategy for the recovery of these markets, or is it too late already?
- We do not have a clear-cut strategy as yet. But the basic ideas have already crystallized. The council for economic growth to the Council of Ministers will discuss the key issues. My day dream is that our state administration starts working like this. There is a real risk that it will be extremely difficult to restore our positions at these markets.
- Where can the big business look for points of contact with the state?
- I can give you a fresh example - the meetings Putin had in Greece recently. Greece has sealed an important contract with Gazprom. The document was signed under the auspices of the Russian and Greek presidents. As regards oil supplies, it was Vardoniyanis who talked about the notorious pipe-line Bourgas - Alexandroupolis. He proposed to extend the sector with another 145 kilometers up to Salonika, because there is an oil-refinery there. Greece has very serious commitments when it comes to national business. The state gives priority to the project. In Athens and Salonika private companies have signed 7-8 projects vitally important to Greece. And what has our president's administration done this far?
- How would the "Vazrazhdane" Club estimate the work of the BG presidential institution and the government in recent years?
- In the last five years we have reduced the balance of trade to the critical minimum. We have ruined our markets in Ukraine and the Arab countries. We do not export white cheese and cigarettes any more.
- What will be the first steps of the Council for Economic Growth?
- We are waiting for the ordinance of the Council of Ministers. Time is money. When you lose time you lose markets, the advantages the country used to have. We are prepared with the most important items. I will propose to discuss how we can compensate for the three set-backs in tourism - the terrorist acts on September 11, introduction of VAT in tourism and visa regime for the key destinations. The question is how will Bulgaria compensate for this? Are BG embassies prepared to issue visas expeditiously? Presently one has to waste two or three days waiting for a visa. This is a problem for the state and it must resolve it. Because our rival in tourism, Turkey, issues visas in the airport and has a visa-free regime with Russia.
The Director of State Building Supervision Administration was splashed with sulfur acid.
In its official statement for the media of today, Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works and the State Building Supervision Administration reported for an attack with sulfur acid against the senior official of the State Building Supervision Administration Svetlana Gebreva in front of the building at 11 AM today. The unknown perpetrator escaped, although the driver of Svetlana Gebreva gave a try to catch him. Svetlana Gebreva was sent to Pirogov for emergency skin treatment of the face, the hands and the legs. Fortunately, her eyes were not affected. Svetlana Gebreva was one of the main initiators for removing illegal trade sites from the Sofia circular road and the Rila Monastery region. Some time ago she promised stringent control on building winter tourism sites on Borovets and Pamporovo.
The fifth Church Council started with a scandal.
The fifth Church Council, that is taking place in the Sofia Seminary, started with a scandal. The Plovdiv archbishop Arseniy announced himself against the nomination of the Chief Secretary of the Holy Synod Boris for Chairman of the mandate Commission, while Maxim said that Boris was endorsed by the Synod therefore his nomination could not be debated. The conflict intensified with the statement of Arseniy, who said that if Maxim was unable to preside the Council, somebody else should take his place. Maxim was still expected to present his report for the situation in Bulgarian Orthodox Church.
Sofia, December 17 (BTA) - Since the EU lifted visa restrictions on Bulgarians on April 10, 2001, Greece was visited by more than 300,000 Bulgarians. Only 4 per cent were refused entry, Greek Consul General Nikolaos Diktakis said at a meeting with the press on Monday.
The waiving of visa requirements between Bulgaria and the EU became a fact with Greece's assistance and earnest, consistent efforts, among others, Greek Ambassador Michalis Christidis told the journalists. Contrary to the impression created by certain stories in the Bulgarian press, it is not true that Bulgarians who want to travel to Greece encounter obstacles, Christidis and Diktakis said.
Most refusals are due to failure to submit the required documents or meet other requirements of EU law, Diktakis said.Thirty per cent of those who got a refusal are on negative lists of the Schengen area.
Also, there are the problems of Bulgarians who present fake documents or overstay the period set for tourists to work illegally, Diktakis said. Some of them, as well as nationals of other countries, will be able to legalize their stay and employment after the signing of the newly adopted immigration law 2910 by the President. Some 15,000 Bulgarians have found seasonal jobs in Greece since April 2000 under a bilateral agreement, he said, answering a question.
Diktakis said that Greek state offices would open in Bulgaria and other countries to help foreigners find jobs in Greece with the help of the local authorities and Greek employers. This will safeguard the rights of foreigners willing to work in Greece against bogus employment agencies.
Russian Ex-Kosovo Chief Dies.
MOSCOW (AP) - The former head of the Russian peacekeeping contingent in Kosovo died Monday in a fall from his Moscow apartment building, Russian news agencies reported.
The reports, citing police and a Russian Airborne Forces spokesman, said Maj. Gen. Vladimir Kazantsev fell from his eighth-floor apartment. An investigation was under way, the reports said.
Authorities could not be reached for details late Monday.
Kazantsev, head of combat training for the Airborne Forces, ended his term as head of the Russian Kosovo peacekeeping force on Oct. 31.