President Peter Stoyanov will visit Germany this week, on 17 to 19 April. The President will meet with Bavarian Prime Minister Edmund Stoiber and Federal President Johannes Rau. Stoyanov will talk with Stoiber in Munich and will participate in a discussion on politics in Southeastern Europe with members of the Bulgaria-Germany Society.
Stoyanov will also give a talk on "The New Place of the Balkans in Europe" to the German Foreign Policy Society and will visit Siemens, whose economic contacts with Bulgaria pre-date World War II. In Munich Stoyanov will meet Bulgarian students and German business representatives interested in Stability Pact projects. Some 6000 Bulgarians currently live in Bavaria.
According to March's National Public Opinion survey, 57 percent of Bulgarians aged 18 or over are in favor of NATO membership and 24 percent are against it. Approval of NATO membership prevails among supporters of the ruling Union of Democratic Forces and the Euro-Left. The polls on EU membership remain steady: 77 percent of Bulgarians are in favor, and 8 per cent are against. Sixty-eight per cent of the Socialist Party's electorate approves EU membership. Forty eight percent of the voters supporting the Socialist Party are against NATO membership and 35 percent approve of it.
The trade of goods between Bulgaria and Israel will exceed USD 62 million this year, almost double the amount for 1999, said Israeli Ambassador to Bulgaria, David Cohen. At Cohen's initiative, a bilateral business forum entitled "Partners in Business" was held in Pleven with the participation of several Israeli businessmen. During their meetings with Bulgarian CEOs, the guests showed great interest in setting up joint ventures in the areas of agriculture, tourism, health care and high-tech industry.
Direct Israeli investment in Bulgaria in 1999 totaled USD 17 million, placing the country 12th among Bulgaria's investors, Cohen said. In practice, the total volume of Israeli investment was much larger but part of it was accounted for by indirect investment which Cohen said was the way to avoid double taxation in 1999.
The EU Commission's project to clear the Danube River of the wreckage of three bombed Yugoslav bridges will start in mid-September, it was announced last week. While Yugoslavia is cooperating with the EU,the international bidding process probably won't start until June. The Danube Commission believes that the clean-up will cost EUR 24.1 million.
The EU has indicated it will pay 85 percent of the clean-up costs, but EU transport ministers and the EU Parliament still have to approve the funds. NATO's 11-week bombing campaign against Yugoslavia last year destroyed all of Yugoslavia's Danube bridges and divided the river in two at Novi Sad. Vessels from several Bulgarian shipping companies were stranded by this action, and, these companies have since suffered from the lack of trade along the river.
Bulgaria is likely to improve its credit rating from B2 to B1 in the next two months, said Deputy Financial Minister Plamen Oresharski after a meeting with representatives of Moody's Investment Services who were in Bulgaria to conduct an annual review. The Moody's representatives acknowledged the considerable increase in the prices of the Bulgarian Brady bonds in the last several months. Next week, Bulgaria will be visited by representatives of Standard & Poor's.
Nadia Rozeva,14 April 2000