New visa policy
Bulgaria will introduce a visa regime for Georgian and Tunisian nationals. The government's Council on Euro-Integration made this decision in accordance with the new Bulgarian visa policy. The decision stems from Bulgaria's removal from the EU visa blacklist which was announced on 1 December after a meeting of the Home and Justice Ministers of the European Union.
Bulgaria wants to sign readmission agreements with Yugoslavia, Macedonia, Ukraine and Russia in order to avoid introducing visa restrictions for the citizens of those countries. The preparations for the readmission agreements with Yugoslavia and Macedonia are already underway. Russia plans to study the feasibility of such an agreement.
"The introduction of tighter border controls in Bulgaria is one of the implications of its removal from the EU visa blacklist," Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov said. "While we waited for Bulgaria to be stricken off the visa blacklist, we knew very well that one of the conditions was the introduction of a tighter border regime with some countries," Stoyanov said on Monday before his departure on an official visit to Greece.
President Stoyanov in Greece
"There are no political problems between Bulgaria and Greece, and the two countries are willing to implement a number of infrastructure projects of shared interest," President Stoyanov and his Greek counterpart President Konstantinos Stephanopoulos told a joint news conference in Athens on Monday morning.
Stoyanov was on an official two-day visit to Greece. As his first visit to an EU country after the decision to lift the visa requirement for Bulgarians, Stoyanov thanked Stephanopoulos for his country's clear and resolute stand on the matter.
Prime Minister of Greece Kostas Simitis, who also met Stoyanov, said that the interior ministers of the two countries would meet for talks related to Bulgaria's inclusion on the EU whitelist for lifting visa restrictions. "Greece is not afraid of the lifting of the visa requirement for Bulgarians because, if it was, it would not have joined in on the decision," Simitis said. He also discussed the situation in Yugoslavia with Stoyanov.
Many infrastructure issues, including those concerning the Bourgas-Alexandrupolis oil pipeline, the Koulata-Promachonas border crossing and the shared use of the waters of the Mesta River were discussed between members of Stoyanov's delegation and a number of Greek officials.
Stoyanov met the Mayor of Athens, Dimitrios Avramopoulos, with whom he discussed opportunities for expanding relations between Bulgaria and Greece, in particular between the two capitals. Athens-Sofia relations can develop within the context of pan-European cooperation, Stoyanov said after the meeting. Stoyanov has now invited the Mayor of Athens to visit Sofia.
Within the framework of the visit Bulgarian Regional Development Minister Evgeni Chachev also held talks with his Greek counterpart, Town Planning Minister Kostas Laliotis, and many other governmental representatives. Trade and economic issues were discussed. Economic Minister Yannis Papandoniu expressed hope that bilateral trade will be fostered after the visa regime for Bulgarians is efficently dropped.
On Tuesday the aircraft of the presidential delegation was accidentally damaged at the airport and Petar Stoyanov and his delegation returned to Sofia on a Balkan Airways's Boeing airplane. The Greek authorities expressed profound regret for the accident and pledged to cover all expenses for the repair.
Kostov and Mihailova in Nice
Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov addressed the principal session of the European Conference of heads of state and government, and ministers of foreign affairs of the EU member states and applicant countries in Nice on Thursday morning.
"The political decision to remove short-term visa requirements for Bulgarian citizens, which was made several days ago, was greeted with incredible enthusiasm in Bulgaria," Kostov said. He noted that the decision had given a strong impetus toward the European idea in his country, reassuring Bulgarians that they are traveling on the right path. The announcement also gave a much-needed boost to their self-confidence and dignity.
"Bulgaria welcomes the EU-Zagreb initiative, which opens up a European prospect to the countries of the Western Balkans through stabilization and association," Kostov noted, expressing the shared conviction of governments in the region that this is the only way to solve the problems of Southeastern Europe. "Bulgaria contributes to European integration by supporting Southeastern Europe's security and democratization," he added.
"My country is among the enthusiastic supporters of European integration. We are preparing consistently and responsibly for our future membership," Kostov said.
Kostov met with a group of 50 Bulgarian students in Nice who went to France to demonstrate in support of the enlargement. They traveled with a special "Eurobus" and were granted free visas by the Ambassador of France to Sofia, Dominiqe Chassard.
"Bulgaria's top priority is to earn an assessment as a functioning market economy in the next regular report from the European Commission on the country's progress towards accession," Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov said while addressing the students.
"There is a considerable quality change in foreign confidence in Bulgaria, which was demonstrated at the conference today and during our bilateral meetings," Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova said at a joint news conference with Prime Minister Ivan Kostov on Thursday.
"The EU enlargement is a priority of the Swedish presidency which is very important to us, because Bulgaria has an ambitious programme in this direction," Mihailova said. Sweden takes over the rotating EU presidency on 1 January 2001.
And in the other news...
- Ivan Kostov will depart on Sunday 10 December for the Czech Republic, on what will be the first visit to the country by a Bulgarian prime minister since 1989. His program includes talks with his Czech counterpart Miloš Zeman, President Václav Havel, Czech Senate First Deputy Chairman Ivan Havliček and Chamber of Deputies Chairman Václav Klaus.
- Direct foreign investment in Bulgaria between January and September 2000 amounts to USD 440 million or 3.6 percent of the GDP, according to the preliminary data from the National Bank of Bulgaria. USD 30.8 million less was invested in 2000 as compared to the corresponding period in 1999. Greece was the top investor between January and September 2000 at USD 19.5 million dollars, followed by Austria at USD 8.1 million dollars and Italy at USD 6.8 million dollars.
- On Tuesday the Press Office of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests released a statement outlining its policy recommendations for the prevention of mad-cow disease in the country. Bulgaria will prohibit the import of livestock as well as meat and meat products, sub-products, seminal material, embryos and ova from cattle, bioconcentrates and other feed for carnivorous animals containing proteins from ruminants that originate from Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, France, Britain, Ireland, Switzerland, Belgium and Portugal.
An exception will be made for boned carcass meat from cattle under 18 months of age originating from regions where mad-cow disease has not been detected. The measures are instituted on account of the aggravated situation in these countries and in order to prevent mad-cow disease from spreading into Bulgaria.
Matilda Nahabedian, 8 December 2000
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