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Georgi Paranov

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Bulgaria earned its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1878, but having fought on the losing side in both World Wars, it fell within the Soviet sphere of influence and became a People's Republic in 1946. Communist domination ended in 1990, when Bulgaria held its first multi-party election since World War II and began the contentious process of moving toward political democracy and a market economy while combating inflation, unemployment, corruption, and crime. Today, reforms and democratisation keep Bulgaria on a path toward eventual integration into NATO and the EU - with which it began accession negotiations in 2000. 

Update No: 073 - (27/05/03)

The Bulgarians are keen to improve relations with everybody. They are "coming in from the cold," from the Cold War to be precise when they were famed for poison-tipped umbrellas, an assassination attempt on the Pope and holidays for the workers of the world uniting on the Black Sea.

Tourism boom
The tourists are still coming in droves, 120-130,000 Russians as of yore, but also Germans, British and Scandinavians, Nordics keen on its balmy beaches, cheap wine and board and abundant sunshine. Tourist receipts were up 6% year-on-year in May, due to strong winter demand.
As a side-effect, Bulgarian wine is being exported in large quantities, exports being up two million litres on last year. The UK and Germany are the two main EU markets, while Russia is also a major customer. The one large EU country that is still resisting the charms of Bulgaria is France.
Bulgarian ambassador in Paris, Marin Raikov, recently expressed Bulgaria's wish to increase its tourist exchange with France within the development of tourism as one of the priority branches of national economy. During the recent presentation of Bulgarian tourism in Paris, Raikov voiced regret that Bulgaria was not yet among the primary tourist destinations for the French. However, last year's 113% increase of the number of French tourists in Bulgaria, compared to the previous year, is encouraging. Bulgaria's Trade Representative to France, Arto Chirakyan, for his part, urged French tour operators and agencies to carry out more active awareness campaigns of Bulgaria's tourist potential. Furthermore, the participants in the event stressed the need for opening a Bulgarian advertising and tourist office in the French capital.

The economy looks up somewhat
The economic situation for most people has long been dire. Hence the unpopularity of the government, led by ex-king, Simeon II, a Saxe-Coburg-Gotha in lineage, descended from Queen Victoria. 
He rashly made a promise to double living standards in 800 days; that was on election in March, 2001. Time is almost up; but life is still hard for most Bulgarians.
The calamitous events of 9:11 and their aftermath have offered some distraction and excuse for poor performance. But the coalition government of National Movement, Simeon's party, with a Turkish minority party on board, needs a tangible success. March saw the lowest unemployment figure for months - 15.7%; but that is still substantial. Figures of GDP growth rates of five per cent per annum are not translating into better living for the people, who distrust their accuracy. Simeon has a problem on his hands.

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Bulgaria, Macedonia sign electricity supply agreement

By April 2004, Bulgarian electricity exports to Macedonia will total 400m kWh, the Press Centre of the National Electricity Company [NEC] said, BTA web site has reported. 
The export agreement was signed in Skopje on 25th April by NEC Executive Director, Vasil Atanassov, and Pande Lazarov, director-general of the Macedonian Electricity Company, ESM. It is to be implemented from June 2003 to April 2004. Two other companies were also awarded contracts by participating in the tender. They are Atel of Switzerland and EFT of Britain. 
The parties also signed an emergency supply contract, which is to be executed at the request of the party in need; the electricity supplied will be paid for by the user. The amounts of electricity that the two parties may exchange amount to 100 megawatts.

Bulgaria's electricity exports drop 90 per cent after Turkey halts imports

Bulgaria's export of electricity has dropped 90 per cent after Turkey's decision to halt imports from Bulgaria. At present, Bulgaria exports electricity only to Serbia and Greece. This was announced by Mityu Khristozov, National Electricity Company [NEC] chief engineer. He pointed out that the abrupt halt of exports to Turkey is causing losses to the NEC, because the company is paying taxes for the electricity at its disposal, which had been contracted with the producers, Khorizont Radio has reported. 
Yuliyana Stoyanova reported for the radio: In order to overcome the problem, the NEC is negotiating the export of electricity to Italy and Greece. The price will be about 10 per cent lower than the price of the electricity Bulgaria used to export to Turkey. The NEC is also negotiating with Enel and Edison, which demonstrated an interest in importing electricity to Italy. The link with Italy and Greece, with a 500 MW capacity, could be ready by the summer. The NEC is also negotiating with Greece on the short-and long-term supply of electricity. 
Khristozov explained that, after Turkey's refusal to import electricity from Bulgaria, it became necessary to stop certain production capacities at some of the power plants, but this can be coordinated with the planned annual overhauls. 

EBRD mulls 380m Euro investment in energy

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is planning to invest up to €380m in Bulgaria this year primarily in projects concerning the energy sector, reported.
EBRD Director for Bulgaria, Hohn Shommel-Dow, said the bank was ready to participate in the restructuring of the state gas distributor, Bulgargas, and in the reconstruction of the Maritza-Iztok 1 lignite-fired power plant, 300km (186 miles) east of Sofia, the news agency reported.
According to Ministry of Energy estimates, the Bulgarian republic will need between €2.5bn and €6bn of investment so as to modernise its energy sector in the next three years.

Bulgarian cabinet approves new energy bill

Energy Minister, Milko Kovachev, said that the cabinet ministers had approved a new energy bill. The instrument would guarantee the independence and stability of the State Commission on Energy Regulation and protect consumers from the natural monopolist position of a number of energy enterprises, BTA News Agency has reported. 
With the new law, the country meets its commitment to align its legislation with [European] Community law undertaken during the talks on the Energy Chapter of the acquis. The bill also regulates the usage of renewable resources. Regional licences will be issued through biddings in the field of natural gas. A new energy efficiency bill will be put to the Council of Ministers soon. It will regulate the management of consumption and the rational usage of resources.

Mitsui & Co clinches Maritsa Iztok 2 rehab deal

The contract with Japanese Mitsui & Co for the modernisation of units 1 to 4 at Maritsa Iztok 2 was recently signed in Sofia. The company completed its studies on the restructuring of the thermo-power plant units last November, reported recently. Some €230m must be invested in the restructuring of the units; the money will help increase the units' capacities by 150-170 MgW.
The sulphur purifying installation in the plant's units 7 and 8 was also launched last November. The cost of the environment friendly utility is 115m Bulgarian levs. The European Investment Bank provided €25m for the launch, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development granted €22.5m, while a total of 7.5m levs was released under PHARE programme.
Toshiba Power Systems & Services Co and IHI Corp will implement the project for reconstruction of the sulphur purifying installations. Mitsui & Co, which ranks thirteenth in global trade transactions, launched its operations in Bulgaria 29 years ago.

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President, cabinet want to complete EU talks by 2004

President Georgi Purvanov told reporters on 1st May that he supports the ambitions of the government and of the team negotiating with the EU to complete the accession talks in 2004, BTA web site has reported. 
The Bulgarian head of state was asked to comment a statement by EU Enlargement Commission Guenter Verheugen that Bulgaria won't be able to close the membership talks by 2004. "This deadline is essential for us because it would enable us to enter actual talks on the financial framework and the financial provision of those chapters that are important for us," Purvanov said. 
Purvanov added that this would be a key topic of his talks with European Commission President Romano Prodi in Brussels on 8th May.

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European Bank increases investment in Bulgaria in 2003

In 2003 the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development [EBRD] will invest more than 360m Euros in Bulgaria, predominantly in the spheres of telecommunications and power engineering, Khorizont Radio has reported. 
This amount is double that invested in 2002, Deputy Prime Minister Nikolay Vasilev announced upon returning from Uzbekistan. Minister Vasilev had been taking part in the EBRD's annual meeting, which this year was in Tashkent. 

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Bulgaria invites Turkish firm to start talks on telecom company privatisation

The Privatisation Agency (PNA) has sent a letter of notification to the consortium of Koc Bilgi Grubu Iletisim Ve Teknoloji Hizmetleri A.S. and Turk Telekomunikasyon A.S., inviting it to start negotiations on the sale of the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company (BTC), the PNA said in a press release, BTA web site has reported. 
The Turkish consortium has been ranked second in the competitive bidding procedure for the privatisation of a 65 per cent stake in BTC. 
The move follows a 7th May 2003 decision of the PNA Supervisory Board to deny approval to the BTC sale to Viva Ventures Holding OOD, the press release specified.

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