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BULGARIA


  
  

 

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Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 19,859 15,608 13,600 69
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 2,130 1,790 1,650 106
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

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Update No: 115 - (20/12/06)

Bulgaria to continue effective foreign policy and economic development
Two events of great importance have happened to Bulgaria recently. One of course is entry into the EU, as of January 1st, a major landmark in its history. But another is the re-election of its incumbent president, and the defeat of his populist rival. It would have been a disaster if the rabid ultra-nationalist had won.
"Bulgaria needed to be an active EU member state, rather than part of the union's periphery," President Georgi Purvanov told a news conference after the second round of presidential elections on October 29. Purvanov won a second term in office with the support of nearly 78 per cent of voters, defeating the leader of the ultra-nationalist Ataka movement, Volen Siderov.
"Bulgarians had voted wisely and responsibly," said Purvanov. "Various political leaders had offered contradictory advice, but voters had managed to make the correct choice." 
Purvanov said that with the elections over, he was willing to work with all democratic parties in Bulgaria. Purvanov said he had no personal conflict with Siderov. "I am against policies that aim to create artificial ethnic tension in regions that have a mixed population," Purvanov said, which is a sideswipe at him all the same.
It was the first time in Bulgaria's history that a presidential candidate had got more than 60 per cent of the vote in both rounds of an election, he said. Purvanov said that he would continue following a foreign policy that ensured Bulgaria's EU future. Other foreign policy priorities would include a focus on problems like the trial of the Bulgarian medics in Libya, said Purvanov. 
He said that the priorities of his next term as President would include national defence and the professionalisation of the military, said Purvanov, who as President is Commander-in-Chief of Bulgaria's armed forces. Other priorities would be to work in co-operation with municipal authorities, and to promote municipal decentralisation.
Active budget policies and preferential treatment for Bulgarian companies were also needed, said Purvanov. He said that he wanted to see an increasing number of young people involved in the setting up of the country's institutions. 

Profile of Sergey Stanishev
The most important person in Bulgaria in domestic affairs, however, is the premier. Sergey Stanishev is Prime Minister of Bulgaria and Chairman of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP). He has been in office since August 2005, taking over from Simeon II, the former monarch, whose four-year spell was beset by problems that made his pledge to double living standards, a massive hostage to fortune, impractical.
Stanishev was born in Kherson in Ukraine (then part of the Soviet Union). He was educated at Moscow State University, where he gained a doctorate in history in 1994. He was a visiting fellow in international relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science in 1998. He also worked as a journalist. In 1995 he became a staff member in the Foreign Affairs Department of the BSP. He was Chief of Foreign Policy and International Relations for the BSP from 1996 to 2001. In May 2000 he was elected a Member of the BSP Supreme Council and Member of the Executive Bureau. In June 2001, he was elected to the Bulgarian National Assembly for Ruse.
In December 2001 Stanishev was elected Chairman of the BSP at the party's Congress, and also Chairman of the Parliamentary Group of the Coalition for Bulgaria following the resignation of the former bearer of these positions Georgi Purvanov after his victory in the Presidential election in 2001. Since April 2004 Stanishev has also been a member of the presidency of the Party of European Socialists. Even though, at the beginning, older party members regarded him with suspicion due to his lack of experience, Stanishev has enjoyed considerable public approval mainly because of his great intellectual skills and his successful efforts to modernise the BSP.
In the general election of June 25, 2005, Stanishev was re-elected to the National Assembly, this time for a seat in Burgas. Under his leadership the Coalition for Bulgaria (a coalition dominated by the BSP) won 31% of the votes. Stanishev said that the next government "should be led by the party which won most votes in the elections." On 20 July, after nearly a month of political uncertainty, Stanishev agreed to attempt to form a Cabinet. On July 27, 2005 the Bulgarian Parliament chose him as the new Prime Minister in a coalition government with the Movement for Rights and Freedoms. The vote was 120 to 119. However, the parliament voted against Stanishev's proposed Cabinet by 119 to 117 votes.
This was followed by another two weeks of political deadlock. Finally on August 15 Stanishev was able to form a three-party grand coalition with the party of outgoing Prime Minister Simeon Sakskoburggotski and with the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, a Turkish minority party. Stanishev said the coalition's priorities would be "European integration, social responsibility and economic growth." He was elected Prime Minister by the Bulgarian parliament on August 16 with 168 in favour and 67 against. On August 17, 2005, with an official ceremony on 1 Dondukov Boulevard, Sergey Stanishev took office as Prime Minister.
Stanishev, the second-youngest chairman of the BSP, is an unconventional politician. Although not married, he has been living for a long time with prominent journalist Elena Yoncheva. In 2002 he amazed party members when he came to a gathering at Buzludzha on a motorcycle with a rock-style jacket that had a label on the back saying: "If you are reading this, Elena must have fallen off on the way." Stanishev is an active Internet user. He joined the Internet Society of Bulgaria on April 22, 2001, and immediately following his election as leader of the Socialist Party in 2001, he had an ICQ-chat with hundreds of users.

Bulgaria Puts All Public Figures to Ex-Secret Services Probe
The issue of lustration has reared its head in Bulgaria, the release of secret files and the exposure of those who were informers and worse under communism. Vile as these practices were, people were often blackmailed by the regime threatening their families. This was the foul moral corruption of communism. 
But there has long been a clamour to know the truth. All will now be revealed. All public officials in Bulgaria will face the opening of their secret files, if any, kept with the former communist services, the Parliament decided on November 29th. 
The new law passed at second reading with the votes of the ruling majority seeks to unveil if any ministers, lawmakers, magistrates, district governors, army or civil military officials, journalists, etc. had collaborated with the ex-internal security services of Bulgaria. Of course they had only too often.
To open, keep and announce any documents from these controversial files, the legislators decided to set a special nine-member body elected by the Parliament. It will function independently, on a five-year mandate, and will check the communist-time past of all the officials and public personalities.
Subject to public files opening will be also the chiefs of current special services, the president and the vice-president and the national ombudsman, according to the new former secret files opening law.
NATO and EU candidate representatives of Bulgaria will be also required to have an off-services clear past. Every Bulgarian citizen will have access only to own files and such concerning his family, the law says.
Sixteen years after the collapse of the regime, Bulgaria has remained the only country among former Soviet satellites in failing to reach consensus on the issue. In the beginning of June the government called for the entire opening of the security police archives, showing a major shift in the stand of the Prime Minister Stanishev, who initially urged that the files should be destroyed.
The laws regulating the archives however are still unclear. All documents related to the former Durjavna Sigurnost are made available only by personal approval of the interior minister.
In 1994, the Bulgarian Parliament passed a law saying that the documents of the Durjavna Sigurnost were not "state secrets," but failed to assure access to the files. Then in 1997, the first stable anti- Communist government created a commission to screen candidates for high state positions. The commission was closed in 2002 by the government of Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg.

France Opens 52 Labour Market Sectors for Bulgaria, Romania
EU entry is going to make a big difference. Many will want to make a new life for themselves abroad. Now they can. The old communist policy of keeping people inside by force turned the so-called socialist countries into socialist prison-camps. 
But it had a logic of course, to prevent an exodus of bright, educated people to the West. That can now happen, thanks to EU membership, a gain in freedom, but a loss to the economy. It is hoped that some will go, but then return after acquiring new skills and experience. Time will tell. 
Bulgarians and Romanians will be allowed to work in several sectors on France's labour market after January 1, 2007, said Minister Delegate for European Affairs Catherine Colonna. She said France will open its labour market for the two countries right after they join the European Union and not after two years as it was the country's policy for the ten member states that joined in 2004.
Bulgarian and Romanian migrant workers will be allowed in a total of 52 labour sectors such as agriculture, tourism and construction, Colonna added.
January 1st is a historical date for Bulgaria and it is the beginning of a very important stage of integration, Colonna said. The country still has to work on issues like fight against organized crime and corruption, trafficking of people and goods, food safety and development of administrative capacity, she added.
Colonna was on an official visit to Bulgaria at the invitation of EU-Affairs Minister Meglena Kuneva. The agenda of Catherine Colonna included meetings with PM Stanishev, Foreign Minister Ivaylo Kalfin and magistrates.

Stanishev in Shanghai
Bulgaria is making efforts to join forces with the Asian East, particularly the formal, as opposed to the former, communist East, China and Vietnam.
Stanishev actually does concern himself with foreign business affairs, not just domestic ones. He went to Shanghai, the second largest city included in the programme of his four-day official visit in China and the key one, in late November. Before that he had had talks with Wu Banguo, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) of the People's Republic of China, the press office of Council of Ministers reports. 
The Bulgarian Prime Minister read a lecture at the University for International Relations that prepares economic cadres in China. The Bulgarian PM is convinced that membership in the EU will intensify co-operation with China as a strategic partner. Stanishev shared that topic with the Speaker of the Chinese Parliament who is second in the political hierarchy of the country. Special attention was paid to the establishment of joint ventures as a winning formula for the two states. 

Vietnam the real ally
Going to China as the premier of a tiny country in Central Europe, always overshadowed by Russia was one thing, to go to Vietnam, another. 
In his last day on the official visit in Vietnam the Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev laid flowers at the Hanoi museum, Darik Radio reports. 
The PM read a lecture to students in the Institute for International Relations.
Sergey Stanishev talked about the traditionally good relations between Bulgaria and Vietnam. 45,000 Vietnamese people used to work and study in our country and they know Bulgarian. One of the Deputy Prime Ministers in the Hanoi cabinet and two of the present ministers used to study in Bulgaria, he told them. 
The Deputy Minister of Economy and Energy Yordan Dimov is expected to sign an agreement for supply of coal from Vietnam for the Varna heating plant. 

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AVIATION

Israeli firm to invest in plane parts factory 


Istraeli Company, Tat Technology Ltd, said it was interested in building plane parts at it's manufacturing plant in Bulgaria's town of Yambol. The plant will produce parts for military and civil aircraft, Sofia news agency reported. 
Representatives of Yambol municipality said that the company's President, Dov Zeelim, and associates have expressed their interest in local machinery companies HES, Metalic and Hydrosystem. Tat Technology was also interested in three local machine-building plants, a Yambol municipality representative said. If built, the plant will cover an area of 10,000 square metres and will create 200 work places. Tat Technology already owns one plant in Israel and two in the Unites States. The annual turnover of the company was more than 80 million Euro. The company is about to send a list of concrete questions to the Yambol municipality and will decide whether to build the plant in the area after it receives the answers. TAT Technologies specialises in design, development and manufacture of heat exchangers, cooling systems, cold plates, air-cycle and vapour-cycle air conditioning systems, fuel systems, etc. The company also deals with the manufacture and overhaul of secondary and emergency power systems for the F-16 jet fighter.

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ENERGY

NEK signs Belene NPP contract 

Bulgaria's National Electric Company (NEK) signed on November 29th a four billion Euro preliminary contract with Russia's Atomstroyexport for the construction of Belene nuclear power plant (NPP), Bulgarian Economy and Energy Minister, Roumen Ovcharov, said, Sofia News Agency reported on December 2nd.
NEK's CEO, Lyubomir Velkov, Executive Director, Mardik Papazyan, and Atomstroyexport President, Sergei Shmatko, signed the agreement. At its session on October 30, NEK board of directors decided to award a public procurement tender for the design, construction and commissioning of Units 1 and 2 of NPP Belene to Russia's Atomstroyexport. Two other companies, French Areva and German Siemens, would also participate in the construction. The Russian company won the tender launched by Bulgaria ahead of a Czech consortium Skoda Allianz, which did not object the final decision, leaving no obstacles to the launch of the project for Bulgaria's second NPP. The bids of the two companies were opened on February 1st, 2006. After the signing of the agreement, Atomstroyexport's president was cited as saying that the Belene plant would be one of the most state-of-the-art plants built in Europe, and that the Russian company and its European partners AREVA and Siemens were here for the long-term. The construction schedule will start to be implemented early in 2007. In addition to Atomstroyexport, other Russian companies and banks may come to invest in Bulgaria, Shmatko was cited as saying. Bulgaria's NEK said that the main reasons for the selection of Atomstroyexport were "the higher safety and the longer term of operation of the reactors." The NPP will consist of two 1000-megawatt reactors. The first unit will be constructed in 6.5 years. Nearly 50 per cent of Atomstroyexport was controlled by gas giant Gazprom. NEK's CEO outlined that the main advantages of the project are construction of two third-generation 1,000-megawatt units that meet all the requirements of the International Atomic Energy Agency and have a 60-year operational lifespan, guaranteeing the national energy security and the possibility to generate larger amounts of environment-friendly electricity, which will enhance Bulgaria's competitiveness, encouraging the economy by contracting Bulgarian enterprises in the plant's construction and creation of many jobs. Rosatom deputy head Vladimir Travin said Atomstroyexport had won the tender in a difficult, fair competition, which obliged the company to fulfil its obligations to a high standard and according to schedule. 
Norbert Haspel, representative of AREVA and Siemens, who is also AREVA vice president of the plants sector, said the consortium would supply the most cutting edge equipment. Pleven Regional Governor Tsvetko Tsvetkov said the local government would back the project to have it completed on time. NEK's CEO Lyubomir Velkov said financing for the Belene project could be provided in 2007. 
An information memorandum to financing institutions is being prepared, along with the documents needed to find an investor, Velkov said. Ovcharov added that preliminary talks had been held with EURATOM representatives about a loan of 300 million Euro. The necessary information will be submitted for assessment to the organisation by the end of December. Shmatko said subcontractors would be selected by tender. Czech enterprises are also expected to be involved in the project. 

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MINERALS & METALS

Steel plant runs 10mn slabs caster 

Bulgarian Prime Minister, Sergei Stanishev, and Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Kremikovtsi Metallurgical Works, Pramod Mittal, opened a second continuous steel caster for slabs in the plant, Sofia News Agency reported. 
"For Bulgaria, Kremikovtsi is a symbol of steel-making and I am glad for the plant's modernisation," Stanishev said in his address to the workers. The premier said that the government would continue to support the serious investors in Bulgaria. The second continuous steel caster for slabs constitutes a 10 million Euro investment, Mittal said, adding that the three-year investment programme of Kremikovtsi totals 400 million Euro. This is the second biggest investment in the plant in the past years, it was reported. The plant's management hopes the caster would improve the quality of the steel products coming out of the plant and bring down power consumption and the amount of raw materials used. The first such machine has been working for close to a year and a half already. Mittal was cited by the news agency as saying that the plans are for Kremikovtsi to achieve annual production of 5.2 million tonnes.

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