Central Europe Review: politics, society and culture in Central and Eastern Europe
Vol 2, No 12
27 March 2000

C E N T R A L   E U R O P E A N    N E W S:
News Round-up for Bulgaria
News from Bulgaria since
20 March 2000

Nadia Rozeva

A leak from the Romanian chemical plant in Turnu Măgurele reached Nikopol last week. The poisonous cloud stayed over the city for two and a half hours, regional environmental officials said. The level of ammonia measured in the cloud was 4.57 times higher than the limit and the concentration of hydrogen sulfide was two times over the norm. This is not the first case of air pollution in the region. This has happened over and over in the past, but unfortunately no serious actions have been initiated on the Bulgarian side to stop the pollution.

The foreign ministers of Bulgaria, Macedonia and Albania expect a lot from the conference of donors to be held in Brussels by the end of March within the framework of the Southeast European Stability Pact. In Tirana on Friday last week, the foreign ministers of the three countries discussed the situation in the Balkans from the point of view of security, and the joint projects to be presented at the donor conference. Nadezhda Mihailova proposed to her counterparts that Bulgaria, Macedonia and Albania sign a memorandum of understanding on the development of Corridor VIII. Mihailova believes that the results of the Stability Pact donor conference can be assessed in positive terms only if additional funds, besides those already declared by the European Union and other international donors, are attracted to the region.

An updated version of the Bulgarian 2001 Government program was released this week. The program was passed on the votes of the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) and the Popular Union. The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and the Euro-Left voted against the program with the Alliance for National Salvation, deeming the program unrealistic.

Mobiltel AD, Bulgaria's only digital mobile phone company, said it is planning an IPO of its shares on a European stock exchange late this year or early next year, to be managed by JP Morgan & Co. and Credit Suisse First Boston. Last year, Mobiltel more than tripled its number of clients and earned revenue of about USD 180 million, said President Vladimir Grashnov. Mobiltel's only competitor is Mobikom, a joint venture between Bulgarian Telecommunication Co and the UK's Cable & Wireless Plc, which offers an analog-type cellular network. Mobiltel reported a subscriber growth of 257.4 per cent in 1999.

Foreign investments in Bulgaria in 1999 totaled USD 755.3 million, Foreign Investment Agency President Georgi Tabakov told a news conference last Thursday. Tabakov said that this year, the volume of foreign investment could reach USD 1.1 billion, provided that three major deals are concluded: the purchase of the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company, the Bulgartabac cigarette company, and Bulbank.

The Supreme Administrative Court has dismissed the case against the Council of Ministers' decision to issue a license to Rupert Murdoch's Balkan News Corporation (BNC) for a private TV channel in Bulgaria. The appeal, brought by the Media Broadcasting Services (MBS), was rejected on account of inconsistencies which were not removed within the required time, the Court said. If the MBS do not appeal the court decision, the State Commission on Telecommunications can issue a license to BNC, the judge said. MBS was one of the three candidates admitted to the final round of the competitive bidding for a first private nationwide TV operator in Bulgaria.

Nadia Rozeva, 27 March 2000




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