Kostov speaks out on King Simeon's movement
The election debate so far has shown the United Democratic Forces (UDF) coalition that there is no clear alternative to its election platform, Prime Minister Ivan Kostov said on 20 May at the opening of UDF's national election press office in Sofia.
According to Kostov, UDF opponents have not been critical of what the present government has done so far or of the UDF's election platform. "In the pre-election debates, the competence of UDF stood out as indisputable," Kostov added.
Referring to statements by representatives of the Simeon II National Movement, Kostov said that a proposed radical tax reform came across as "strikingly incompetent." He said that the Bulgarian taxation system has been reformed and is in line with the European standards; any other ideas jeopardize the negotiations with the European Union. He also said that it is inadmissible for a special law to grant tax preferences because it goes against EU conditions.
The question about the role of the Currency Board is also a serious one and a change like the one proposed by the Simeon II National Movement calls into question negotiations with the EU, Kostov said. He further countered attacks against the public investment program of the government, explaining that when it was adopted, it was compliant with European standards—following the adoption of a law on regional development. Kostov warned that if the program was not implemented, Bulgaria would be unable to join the EU.
Asked whether a coalition between UDF and the Simeon II National Movement is possible, Kostov said: "We will form a coalition only on the basis of shared principles put together in a program and bringing together people capable of identifying the priorities and rating the tasks."
Prime Minister Kostov, leader of the largest party in the ruling coalition, has said that the election programs put out by his party and the movement of exiled King Simeon II have little in common, "especially in the social and the labor sphere."
Asked about the possibility of a new coalition after the 17 June elections, Kostov said his party would have to be sure that any partner could "go all the way" in Bulgaria's pursuit of membership with the EU and NATO.
Simeon's movement unleashes its agenda
The National Movement Simeon II on 21 May presented its economic and foreign policy priorities, BTA and Reuters reported. Nikolai Vasiliev, who heads the movement's economic team, said its economic program is "both bold and radical."
He said the program envisages a "zero budget deficit" and would preserve the country's Currency Board. At the same time Vasiliev said, "we plan a radical tax reform and achieving dynamic, even explosive economic growth" through attracting foreign investments and completing privatization initiatives.
Solomon Passy, who heads the movement's list for the elections, said NATO and EU membership will make up the foreign policy priorities. Passy said, "relations with Ukraine are just as important as those with Russia, and in some respects even more important."
Concern mounts over Macedonian conflict
The situation in Macedonia is deteriorating and the concern that the conflict will escalate into a possible civil war is strengthening, Defense Minister Boyko Noev told reporters in Plovdiv. He pointed out that Bulgaria would categorically not interfere because such a move would not meet with the approval of the Bulgarian public.
Minister Noev said that the possibility of political talks could not be excluded from taking place soon in regard to participation of Multinational Southeastern Europe Peacekeeping Troops in the conflict. Stationed in Plovdiv, these troops could be deployed in peacekeeping operations, despite the fact that some of the participating countries, including Bulgaria, have strong reservations regarding the possibility of their direct engagement on the territory of Macedonia and Kosovo.
Bulgarians on trial in Lybia—can Simeon help?
Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova on 21 May invited King Simeon to the Foreign Ministry, asking him to share with her information on his activities on behalf of the six Bulgarians currently on trial in Libya for allegedly infecting children with the HIV virus, BTA reported.
Mihailova said she has "learned from the press" that Simeon has "long taken steps [believed] to be in the interests of the detained" and voiced the hope that he would share with her information she could use in her capacity as coordinator of the efforts to aid the Bulgarians on trial there.
World Bank demands more economic reform
Economic reforms in Bulgaria must be continued after the general election, advised the World Bank. Only then will credits amounting to USD 750 million be granted (until 2004). The next cabinet is to pursue the recent macroeconomic policy and sustain five percent annual growth and the direct foreign investment flow is to be stabilized at some USD 800 million per year.
The World Bank warned that it would reduce its credits almost threefold, if the future broad-coalition government slows down reforms efforts. Under this downside scenario World Bank lending would drop to USD 230 million within the next four years, which would mostly affect projects in the fields of agriculture, healthcare and social protection.
The politics of lustration
State archives in Bulgaria have revealed that more than 50 politicians, who have served in the parliament since the fall of Communism, previously worked for the secret service in the Communist era. The list includes three former ministers and one head of a political party.
The revelations come two months before parliamentary elections; six of the named politicians are candidates. The head of the commission examining the archives, Methodi Andreev, said the named politicians committed no crimes. He said publishing their names would shield them from possible blackmail.
Correspondents say the revelations—prompted by a law which opens former archives to public scrutiny—remain flawed because an estimated 40 percent of the archived documents were destroyed by security officials shortly after the fall of Communism in 1989.
Orban offers his advice
Visiting Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban on 18 May urged Bulgaria to reform its intelligence services, calling on the country's leadership to "sever ties" with spies who once supplied the Soviet Union with information, the AP reported.
Orban stressed that if Bulgaria wants to join NATO, it must undertake widespread changes of its intelligence services to ensure that intelligence information "will not leak out to foreign states on the basis of old contacts and through old channels." During the visit, Orban emphasized Hungary's support of Bulgaria's Euro-Atlantic integration efforts.
Nadia Rozeva Green, 25 May 2001
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