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Bulgaria: Country Has 'Political Will' For Reforms, Says President

Prague, 28 February 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov says that for the first time since 1989, his country now has the "political will" to push forward with difficult economic reforms. Stoyanov made the comment today during a news conference at RFE/RL's Prague headquarters.

Stoyanov, who is on a five-day tour of Central Europe, said his trip was intended as a signal to Bulgarians that market reforms will bring prosperity in the long run. He said Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary are already beginning to "reap the fruit" of reforms started years ago.

Bulgaria's previous Socialist government stalled privatization and legislation that would have encouraged foreign investment, saying that there was no political will for such measures.

Stoyanov says speedy reforms are now needed to make up for lost time. He said that the main goal of Sofia's current caretaker government is not only to launch reforms, but to bring them to a "point of no return."

Earlier today, Stoyanov met with Czech President Vaclav Havel, who pledged Czech support for Bulgaria's efforts to join Western European structures. Havel said Stoyanov repeated Bulgaria's apologies for participating in the 1968 invasion of then-Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact countries.

The Bulgarian president today also spoke of a spiritual revival underway in Bulgaria. In comments to the Czech Foreign Ministry's Bohemia Foundation, he said the Bulgarian people are ready to undertake radical reforms but that they will have to be reminded of the heavy impact of those reforms.

Stoyanov repeated this message in his comments at RFE/RL. He said the purpose of his Central European trip was to highlight that there are former communist countries that have chosen the "right way."

He said he is hoping to convince Bulgarians that the path chosen by the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary is the only possible way to save his country from its economic woes.

Stoyanov also said in response to a reporter's question that Russia has no say in Sofia's desire to join NATO.

Stoyanov said that the decision last week by Sofia's caretaker cabinet to pursue NATO membership "probably came too late" for Bulgaria to join the front ranks of potential new NATO members.

At the same time, Stoyanov welcomed the prospect of further trade relations with Russia. He said closer trade ties between Sofia and Moscow can be started immediately.