THE NETHERLANDS SUPPORT BULGARIA'S BUDGET
The Dutch Government committed itself to solve at least some of the problems of the Sofia city transport by launching EUR2.25MN to the Sofia municipality. The money will be used to improve public transport vehicles in the Bulgarian capital. A month and a half ago the municipality signed a 10-year loan agreement with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), which stipulated that EUR35MN be paid for renovation of disintegrating buses, trams and trolley buses. The news was announced personally by the Netherlands' Finance Minister Gerrit Zalm who paid a two-day visit to Bulgaria on the invitation of his Bulgarian counterpart Milen Velchev.The meeting between Velchev and Zalm followed the signing of a memorandum on understanding between Bulgaria and the Netherlands in Luxembourg on June 10. A week later both ministers reviewed the projects, financed by the Dutch Cabinet.During the meeting they discussed changes to the scheme for development of Bulgaria's 2003 budget, as well as the building of a unit to serve the country's payments to the EU budget. (Payments are due after Bulgaria enters the union.) Among the other topics of the discussions were a project of the Insurance Supervision Agency for monitoring insurance companies and a project for counteraction to money laundering.Gerrit Zalm is known as one of the finance ministers with the longest experience. He took the post on August 22, 1994, in the first government of the Prime Minister Wim Kok. The collaboration between Bulgaria and the Netherlands was significantly improved during his first mandate. That was mostly due to the fact that Bulgaria is a member of the Dutch group of the IMF and the World Bank, which also includes Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Cyprus, Georgia, Israel, Macedonia, Moldova, Romania and the Ukraine. The Netherlands Finance Minister Zalm is also the Dutch Governor in the World Bank. His country is the group leader and represents the other members to general meetings of the international financial institutions.Gerrit Zalm also contributed to the restructuring of Bulgaria's debt to the Paris Club. On June 17 the Sofia University awarded him the title Doctor Honoris Causa. At the end of the ceremony Mr. Zalm made a lecture on the budget policy of the Netherlands. Gerrit Zalm was also accepted by the Bulgarian Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Earlier President Georgi Parvanov awarded him the Stara Planina Medal.