Tests for DU contamination in Kosovo
Samples taken by Bulgarian environmental and military experts in Kosovo in order to test for evidence of depleted uranium (DU) contamination have been sent for analysis to the laboratory of the Environment Ministry. The analysis conducted at the laboratory of the Defence Ministry did not reveal any traces of DU contamination, Defence Minister Boiko Noev said. A comprehensive program for taking medical and environmental analysis of DU contamination is being discussed.
The Bulgarian servicemen in Kosovo may also be subjected to additional medical check-ups. "Our experts are tackling the problem around the clock," he said. Noev is of the opinion that there are no grounds to doubt the Bulgarian civilian and military experts and the methods used to take samples in Kosovo. "At present none of the countries that have sent a contingent to Kosovo is planning a recall of troops. There are no reasons why we should be thinking about it," he said.
Presenting Bulgaria's achievements in Berlin
Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova spoke about Bulgaria's achievements regarding the transition from a controlled to a free market economy at a forum of the European People's Party (EPP) in Berlin on Friday. Mihailova, Vice President of the EPP, also addressed a colloquium on the "New Challenges to the Social Market Economy" held within the framework of the 14th EPP congress.
Mihailova said that the transition to democracy and a working market economy was successful because of serious effort. She talked about how Bulgaria has become a model for successful development. While Bulgarians were concerned about their physical survival in the winter of 1996-97, the question now is when exactly Bulgaria will become an EU member. Over 70% of Bulgarians firmly support future EU membership and are eager to see this occur. Most Bulgarians think that since they carried the burden of reforms, they should now see the results, Mihailova added.
An opening for Hodač, perhaps?
The National Council for Radio and Television (NCRT) announced a new procedure for appointing a director of the National Radio, after it failed to approve any of the three candidates. The deadline for presenting the new nominations is 19 January.
The three rejected candidates—Alexander Velev (current director), Valeri Todorov and Dimitar Dimitrov, failed to satisfy NCRT's criteria, as they lacked vision for the development of the national radio. Any non-profit organization, media or institution may propose a candidate for the post, according to the new rules.
Forced assimilation under Communism
Five years of archival research by a Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) correspondent in Bulgaria has resulted in a documentary film that sheds light on the forced assimilation of ethnic Turks in the 1980s. Reporter Tatiana Vaksberg of Radio Free Europe found documents showing that assimilation was ordered by those at the highest levels. Most Bulgarians saw the evidence for the first time last week when the film aired on national television.
The film raises questions about why those in the Communist leadership, who ordered the forced assimilation of some one million Turks, were never brought to justice.
Bulgarian judicial authorities say the lack of any documents clearly ordering assimilation has prevented them from convicting anyone. Vaksberg, however, says prosecutors never conducted an extensive search of state archives, the files of the Interior Ministry or the Bulgarian Communist Party. Vaksberg searched the archives and discovered exactly the kind of documents that the courts have said are necessary for convictions. One document from the Interior Ministry archives shows that former Interior Minister Dimitar Stoyanov ordered a campaign in December 1984 to force ethnic Turks in Bulgaria to adopt Slavic names.
Stoyanov, who died last year, served as Interior Minister under late Communist dictator Todor Zhivkov from 1973 until 1988. A January 1985 document found by Vaksberg shows that Georgi Atanasov, then secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, also ordered the forced assimilation of ethnic Turks in northern Bulgaria. Atanasov was prime minister at the time of Zhivkov's ousting in November 1989 and continued in this position until the first post-Communist elections in early 1990.
Vaksberg did not find any assimilation orders coming directly from Zhivkov himself, but the document of Zhivkov's Iinterior Mminister strongly suggests that Zhivkov was behind the campaign—a position generally accepted by historians.
Denial about the crime
Vaksberg says there is still much denial in the country about the ethnic cleansing of Turks during the mid-1980s. "I know many people, students, who've never heard about this. I think the country is not yet ready to understand this crime—the dimension of this crime."
Zhivkov first deported thousands of alleged ringleaders to Turkey and then gave ethnic Turks the right to emigrate to Turkey. The exodus quickly developed into one of the largest human migrations in post-World War Two Europe. Ankara estimates that about 370,000 people entered Turkey—although some 50,000 later returned to Bulgaria after receiving little support from Turkish authorities.
Uniting the left
A new political force was created on 7 January when leaders of four left parties signed a coalition agreement, aiming to win the parliamentary elections, due in June this year. The leaders—Georgi Parvanov of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, Petar Agov of the Bulgarian Social Democrat Party, Krastio Petkov of the United Workers' Block and Nikolay Kamov of the Social Democrats signed a political memorandum for the creation of a union called the New Left. (see this week's article in CER)
Bulgarians on trial in Tripoli
Emil Manolov, the Bulgarian ambassador in Libya, was assured on Wednesday by the prison authorities that the six Bulgarian medical workers detained in Tripoli were in good health. Five nurses—Nasya Nenova, Valentina Siropoulo, Valya Chervenyashka, Snezhana Dimitrova and Kristiana Vulcheva, and one doctor, Zdravko Georgiev, have been put on trial for intentionally infecting 393 Libyan children with HIV and for acting in breach of the Libyan norms and traditions.
Manolov made his usual Wednesday visit to the male and female wards of the prison where the Bulgarians are held, bringing them food and fruits, crosswords, detergents and medicine as requested. The trial of the six Bulgarians was adjourned for the eighth time as requested by the defence and the next sitting is scheduled for 10 February. After the 6 January sitting, Manolov accompanied Vladimir Sheitanov, the lawyer hired by the defendants' relatives, to the People's Claim Bureau.
Matilda Nahabedian, 15 January 2001
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