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Monday, 18 June, 2001, 22:43 GMT 23:43 UK
Simeon's recipe for change
Ex-King of Bulgaria Simeon II
Simeon promises change - and continuity
By Nick Thorpe in Sofia

On the seventh floor of the Palace of Culture, a vast concrete edifice which squats like a toad near the centre of Sofia, 64-year old Simeon Saxe Coburg Gotha, the man born to be king of Bulgaria, delivered his victory speech on Sunday night.

"We are embarking together on the road to ... Bulgaria's spiritual and economic revival," said Simeon, and he held out the offer of a coalition government to any party which shares the same goals.

We think our philosophy of life is very different ... you will see a very big difference here

Nikolai Vassilev, economic adviser
In the corridors of the Palace afterwards, one of Simeon II's top economic advisers, 31-year-old Nikolai Vassilev - tipped as a favourite for finance minister - spelt out how their economic programme differs from that of the outgoing government.

"The general direction of the economic policy of this government was basically right", he explained, but "they didn't finish privatisation".

"They didn't solve the problem of unemployment, they didn't know how to achieve the high level of economic growth that we're planning to achieve," he added.

In short, the outgoing government had lacked the bravery and vision necessary to take Bulgaria into the 21st century, he cocluded.

State 'corruption'

But he reserved his toughest criticism for allegedly corrupt practices, not just of the UDF, but of all Bulgarian governments since the fall of communism.

Bulgarian factory worker
Ordinary Bulgarians are desperate for prosperity
"We don't want the state appointing directors of state-owned companies, their wives to be the directors of customs, their cousins to be the directors of the tax office," he said.

He added: "We think our philosophy of life is very different. We are coming from the private sector.

"We're not professional politicians who have nothing better to do in life than just steal money from the nation. You... will see a very big difference here."

However Petar Stoyanov is a popular president, and has no intention of making a return to constitutional monarchy, if that is Simeon II's eventual intention, any easier.

'New centre of power'

On pages two and three of Bulgaria's top-circulation daily, Trud, is a picture of yet another palace - at Vrana, a suburb of Sofia.

The yellow banner headline reads: "The new centre of power".

Surrounded by lush gardens, Vrana is the Sofia residence of Simeon II, a palace he received back from the state earlier this year.

With its red-tiled roofs, fish-ponds and fountains, it is hard to imagine a starker contrast with the Palace of Culture where he proclaimed victory.

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See also:

18 Jun 01 | Europe
King who came in from the cold
18 Jun 01 | Europe
East European royalty in exile
14 Jun 01 | Europe
Old king promises new Bulgaria
15 Jan 01 | Europe
Timeline: Bulgaria
03 May 01 | Europe
Bulgarian ex-king in the running
04 Apr 01 | Europe
Ex-king to unveil political plans
15 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Bulgaria
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