Balkan Airlines struggles amidst financial uncertainty
Trade unions are insisting on protecting Bulgaria's interests by invalidating the contract for the privatisation of Balkan Airlines with Zeevi Holdings—the Israeli transport and information technology group. According to union leaders, the last two years prove that the majority shareholders of the carrier have been deliberately pushing the company to into bankruptcy and closure.
In a letter to the president, prime minister, the Privatisation Agency (PNA) and Balkan Airlines CEO Zvi Frank various labour organisations, including the Association of Transport Trade Unions with the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (KNSB) and the Federation of Transport Workers with the Podkrepa Labour Confederation, voiced their concerns.
Bulgaria now plans to seek another investor to take over Balkan Airlines following last week's decision by Zeevi Holdings to ground the Bulgarian carrier. Earlier this week, Zeevi filed a USD 230 million claim against the Bulgarian government at the Paris-based International Court of Arbitration, on the grounds that it had breached the sale agreement for Balkan Airlines. The government refuted the claim but ordered an immediate tax audit for Balkan Airlines.
Hemus Air, a Bulgarian charter airline operator that flew some Balkan passengers to London last week, is seen as a possible investor. Balkan Airlines suspended flights to 50 international destinations a week ago after failing to make a USD 500,000 insurance payment to Bulstrad, the Bulgarian state insurance company, and gave most of its 2100 staff one month's paid leave.
Bulgarian state radio troubles mount
Ivan Borislavov, the new director of Bulgaria's national radio was hospitalised last Sunday following a heart attack. His illness coincides with protests by a group of journalists who staged a hunger strike to show their disapproval of his nomination, the state radio station said. Ivan Borislavov was admitted to hospital "suffering from a myocardial infarction but his condition is stable," hospital doctors said.
Striking journalists expressed their sympathy for the 54-year-old poet, translator and literary critic, but said the incident should not be used "to exploit the arguments behind the litigation" against him. In a declaration signed a few weeks ago by more than one third of the 1,500 radio staff members, the journalists said they feared Borislavov would make "the radio's news mission secondary to its cultural role." Journalists at the Bulgarian state radio station stressed that their objections about Borislavov were "not political, but professional."
Britain receptive to Bulgarian military matters
British Minister for the Armed Forces John Spellar, arrived in Bulgaria on 19 February for an official two-day visit. Spellar's visit is part of the annual programme for bilateral co-operation between Bulgaria and Britain in the regard to military field matters, the Defence Ministry press centre told BTA.
Spellar and his Bulgarian hosts will discuss problems connected with the reform of the Bulgarian Army, the implementation of Bulgaria's Action Plan for NATO membership and bilateral relations in the sphere of defence.
Sofia hosts EU candidate talks
A two-day session of high-ranking financial officials from the 12 candidate countries for European Union membership has taken place in Sofia, informed the Bulgarian Finance Ministry. The summit was the initiative of Bulgarian Finance Minister Mouravey Radev. All of the topics negotiated were in the context of implementing the EU Maastricht criteria.
Nadia Rozeva Green, 23 February 2001
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