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Bulgaria: President Says Bulgarians Want A European Civilization

Prague, 28 February 1997 (RFE/RL) - Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov, currently on a visit to the Czech Republic, says the Bulgarian people are suffering and many are living in poverty. Stoyanov says Bulgarians want change, justice and a move toward what he terms a European type of civilization.

The Bulgarian president made the comments in Prague today in an address to a gathering sponsored by the Czech Foreign Ministry's Bohemiae Foundation and attended by Czech government officials, diplomats, bankers, and business leaders.

He says that in the last four years, Bulgaria has had no reforms, just an imitation of reforms that he says has been tied to corruption, crime and arrogance of the years of Socialist Party rule.

Stoyanov says culturally and geographically Bulgaria is a part of Europe."My people today also want a European way of life and spirit of civilization," he said.

He says that although Bulgaria is experiencing hard times the people are experiencing a spiritual revival and are ready to undertake radical structural reform, including steps toward a market economy, combined with transparent privatization.

Moreover, he says Bulgaria will do everything necessary to become a fully fledged member of the European Union and NATO.

Stoyanov says Bulgarians are realists and their euphoria will not last long. He says the Bulgarians have not paid a high price because of reforms but rather because reforms were not implemented.

He says the time has come to tell the Bulgarians that to survive, we have to begin reforms immediately and that these reforms are going to carry a high price. Quoting what he says is an old Jewish saying, Stoyanov says "We are realists and that is why we believe in miracles."

"Bulgaria has already lost one chance and we do not have the right to make another mistake," he said.

He says he knows NATO membership will not happen overnight or in a year but that Bulgaria has to express its categorical willingness to join NATO and the European .

Asked whether he is considering a referendum on NATO membership, Stoyanov says he would be against a referendum but that the decision on whether to hold one lies with parliament.

"Sometimes it is not good to transfer the burden of a decision to the voters," he said.

The important thing is that simultaneous negotiations begin for admission into the European Union and NATO, we understand that those better prepared will join earlier, but separate negotiations would have a very negative effect both economically and spiritually on countries such as Bulgaria.

He predicts he and the interim government he has appointed will rapidly become unpopular due to the radical economic reforms they are introducing. We have no other choice but to privatize and close down loss making enterprises.

Asked about the need for a screening law ("lustrace") Stoyanov says that while no one can accuse him of being predisposed to the Communists, he openly speaks his mind, his parents having gone through the camps. But he says that Bulgaria missed the right time to introduce a screening law.The present Bulgarian Socialist Party is not the legal heir to the former Bulgarian Communist Party. He says that opening a discussion on screening would meet with a negative public reaction, as he puts it quoting another Bulgarian saying, "There is a time and place for everything." He says a screening law would only radicalize the Socialists and turn them into staunch Communists again.