Central Europe Review: politics,
society and culture in Central and Eastern Europe
Vol 2, No 7
21 February 2000

Bulgaria NewsC E N T R A L   E U R O P E A N   N E W S:
News Review for Bulgaria
All the important news from Bulgaria
since 12 February 2000

Nadia Rozeva

The wave of deadly cyanide caused by a spill last month at a Romanian gold smelter led to the death of hundreds of tons of fish in the Danube river. This ecological catastrophe, which started in the Tisza River in Romania, has spread quickly and was expected to reach Bulgaria on 17 February. The Bulgarian Ministry of Health has warned the population not to drink or irrigate crops with the river water. "We expect the poisonous spill to be well diluted by the time it reaches Bulgaria, but we have begun taking tests from the Danube at the border in case our estimates prove wrong," Boyan Tzolov, director of Regional Environment Inspection, told Reuters on Tuesday last week. Environment Minister Evodokia Maneva said there was no evidence of cyanide pollution in Bulgarian waters. "We are monitoring the river closely and we are prepared to alert the population at the first sign of contamination," Maneva told Reuters. However, there is a strong concern that the polluted waters could reach the Sreburna conservation area, where many rare species, including pelicans, still exist in their natural habitats. The latest tests to determine cyanide concentration performed in the western part of the Bulgarian section of the Danube river last Friday showed a ten-fold increase in the amount of the deadly chemicals, but officials say this amount is still within normal limits.

A special meeting of the EU Council of Ministers launched accession negotiations with Bulgaria on 15 February. Full membership in the European Union is a strategic goal for Bulgaria, Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova said in her address at the opening of the negotiations. Mihailova said that Bulgaria expects to be granted full EU membership by the end of 2006. Bulgaria has made significant progress in meeting membership criteria both in the political and economic sphere, she stated. She also said that the decision of the European Council in Helsinki to open accession negotiations with Bulgaria is further confirmation of the success of the reforms and Bulgaria's preparation for EU membership. Mihailova outlined the government's successes in preparing for the adoption of the EU's main policies and emphasized Bulgaria's commitment to the EU's value system. The foreign minister noted that the introduction of a visa-free regime for Bulgarian citizens travelling to the EU will reflect the country's progress in the areas of the judiciary and internal affairs. The other countries that began EU accession negotiations were Romania, Slovakia, Malta, Latvia and Lithuania. Negotiations with the six applicant countries will begin in late March. Bulgaria applied for full EU membership on 16 December 1995.

AES Corporation, the largest US developer of power plants, said Tuesday it had signed a deal to build a 670-megawatt power plant in Bulgaria, at a cost of USD 750 million. The facility will provide close to ten percent of Bulgaria's domestic electric supply and will replace aged power plants. AES said the coal-fueled plant is the largest investment by a private foreign company in Bulgaria. AES will build, own and operate the plant under a 15-year agreement with the Bulgarian state-owned electric company. The plant will be located in southeastern Bulgaria at the site of the partially closed Maritza East 1 plant. The AES plant is aiming to start commercial operation in 2003.

Construction of a new USD 200 million terminal at Sofia Airport is expected to begin in March. Presently, Bulgaria is calling for preliminary bids from construction companies. The project is estimated to take two years to complete, and it is going to include runways, a passenger terminal and a four-story parking lot. Bulgaria expects to receive EUR 59.5 million in grants from the EU for the project. The European Investment Bank is to lend EUR 60 million and the Kuwait Fund for Arabic Economic Development will provide EUR 40.5 million. The new terminal is designed to accommodate over 2.5 million passengers a year.

Bulgaria will receive around EUR 650 million in financial aid for its EU accession preparation, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Vladimir Kissiov announced at a press conference last week. The aid will be received through the PHARE Program, the ISPA financial program and SAPARD agricultural program.

The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) are considering the possibility of a coalition cabinet, the daily Trud reported last week based on a statement by BSP's leader, Georgui Purvanov.

The Committee for Nuclear Power Usage for Peace Purposes (CNPUPP) performed a careful inspection of reactor 1 at the Kozloduy nuclear power plant. The reactor was shut down last August for reconstruction and nuclear refueling. Over 50 technical improvements were made as part of the plant's safety program. The information center at Kozloduy announced on 13 February that the reactor had returned back to its normal parameters and was ready to be added to the Bulgarian energy system.

Ognian Doinov, a former member of the Politburo, the policy-making body of the Bulgarian Communist Party, has died of cancer in Vienna. Doinov was a close ally of former Communist ruler Todor Zhivkov. In 1990, Doinov opened a consulting company in Vienna, where he remained until his death. Two years later, Doinov was indicted on charges of impoverishing Bulgaria by giving millions of US dollars to Communist movements in developing countries. The prosecutor general asked for Doinov's extradition, but Austrian authorities refused to cooperate. Doinov was 64.

The William Gladstone and Bulgaria's Resurrection exhibit opened last Thursday at the National Library in Sofia. The exhibit is dedicated to the 190th anniversary of the prominent politician and four-time prime minister of Great Britain. The event was organized with the help of Sofia University's History Department, the Central State Archives, the Bulgarian Society for British Studies and the Council of Ministers. "I regard Gladstone as a devoted friend and supporter of Bulgaria," said curator Roumen Genov, an associate professor of History at Sofia University. In 1876, Gladstone published a pamphlet entitled "Bulgarian Horrors and the Questions of the East" attacking the Disraeli government for its indifference to the Turks' brutal repression of the Bulgarian rebellion of April 1876. Gladstone also protested against the 1878 Berlin Treaty, which divided Greater Bulgaria, formed by the San Stefano Treaty signed earlier that year, into three parts, two of which - Macedonia and East Roumelia - remained under Turkish suzerainty.

Nadia Rozeva, 18 February 2000




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