Books on Bulgaria
% of GDP
Bulgaria earned its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1878, but having
fought on the losing side in both World Wars, it fell within the Soviet sphere
of influence and became a People's Republic in 1946. Communist domination ended
in 1990, when Bulgaria held its first multi-party election since World War II
and began the contentious process of moving toward political democracy and a
market economy while combating inflation, unemployment, corruption, and crime.
Today, reforms and democratisation keep Bulgaria on a path toward eventual
integration into NATO and the EU - with which it began accession negotiations in
Update No: 084 - (29/04/04)
Simeon launches tome on 'Emerging Bulgaria'
The premier of Bulgaria, Simeon 11, the former king of the country, is well aware that he is no longer trailing clouds of monarchical glory. He rather unwisely promised a doubling of living standards within 800 days on his accession in March 2001. The date with destiny has come and gone without anything so dramatic happening.
There are genuine reasons why things could never have gone as well as that. One of them is that Bulgaria has yet to shed the image of Soviet-era mediocrity with which it became indelibly associated in the old days of communism. 'A Holiday In Bulgaria' is one derisive chapter title, for instance, in Francis Fukuyama's The End of History, referring to the drab and decidedly quotidian standard of its tourist industry. A paradise for the workers, but not for those aspiring to more luxurious life. The murky, polluted Black Sea versus the Mediterranean or the wide-open Atlantic or better yet Pacific!
Simeon is painfully aware that this image problem has deterred investors. He was a prime mover in seeing a new book through publication that puts Bulgaria in a better light. It is of course an old European country, for all that it was ruled by the Turks until 1878. Sofia is no great showcase, lacking the architectural grandeur of Budapest or Bucharest (even after the depredations of Ceaucescu). But there are many charming rural retreats, with Orthodox monastries and churches of stunning aspect. A different sort of tourist industry to that of the workers' paradise of old would be perfectly feasible, if only the prejudices could be dissolved. Hence the need for a new look at the country, which ' Emerging Bulgaria' provides.
Simeon says his piece
Simeon gave an address on its appearance in Sofia earlier this year, that is worth quoting in full, to convey a rounded idea of the man, potentially still his country's
"I will just say a couple of words because those who know me are well aware that I do not have the gifts of a speaker, but I daresay I have the ability to work a lot (Simeon in fact became a highly successful businessman in exile in Madrid after being forced out of his throne by the communists as a boy in 1945).
I would like just to say that this presentation today means a lot and I think that it will have a very special effect not only in explaining things to friends, but also to new people who are not familiar with Bulgarian reality; and it will also be a very reliable and graphic reference point to underscore our country's progress.
Some of you are aware that we have had very positive figures advanced to us about our integration into the EU. Today we also have unanimity in our Committee for Foreign Affairs and Defence in the Parliament and we are looking for our adherence to NATO. These are two of our primary goals that, let me underline, I do not think they could be achieved without the assistance and encouragement of many of the people who are here this evening and also of our foreign friends such as Oxford University Press, who have had this idea and whose books I have seen on other countries and was very impressed by.
I can only say that this volume is a big contribution. I hope it will help everybody who has invested in Bulgaria and who is thinking of investing, to do so and to feel that they are in a business-friendly country with an administration, which is doing its very best, in spite of many obstacles and difficulties, to make it even more friendly and to guarantee the success of whoever thinks of settling business in Bulgaria."
Bulgaria-Iran seek closer economic ties
Iran and Bulgaria should expand their cooperation in the fields of trade, economy and further building of gas pipes to Europe. In the Iranian capital Iran's Foreign Minister, Kharazi, met with Bulgaria's Deputy Foreign Minister, Ivan Petkov. Both officials discussed opportunities for improving relations between the two countries. A joint committee for such improvement was suggested by Iran's top diplomat, New Europe reported recently.
FOREIGN ECONOMIC RELATIONS
Ukrainian and Bulgarian speakers discuss trade
The trade relations between the two countries will gradually change if Ukraine joins the WTO (World Trade Organisation) according to Chairman of Bulgaria's National Assembly, Ognion Gerdjikov, New Europe reported recently.
At a meeting in Bulgaria, Gerdjikov exchanged views with Ukrainian parliamentary speaker, Volodymyr Litvin, who headed an official parliamentary delegation to Bulgaria. They discussed issues like bilateral relations, trade and economic cooperation along with the problem areas.
Trade relations between Ukraine and Bulgaria seem to be on the right track, hence both speakers called relations between their countries "wonderful" in all areas and even assured that there exist no problems that cannot be solved. Gerdjikov focused on trade deficit because in his opinion trade turnover between the countries will prosper.
Litvin's meeting with Gerdjikov was "extremely interesting." Litvin wants to solve the issue of completing construction of the Kryvy Rih ore-mining and processing plant. The Bulgarian speaker stressed the fact that they have invested a huge sum in the project. Other participants "were able to provide a panoramic view" and emphasised the position of both Bulgaria and Ukraine in the world. Litvin pledged to find a solution favourable to Bulgaria. He even underlined the importance for Ukraine of Bulgaria's success in achieving dynamic and strategic development alongside a mutual understanding between political groups that is based on a jointly agreed programme of development.
A trade agreement was signed between Ukraine, Bulgaria and Russia. During the meeting, transit of spent nuclear fuel was discussed. Ukraine has always been cooperative in solving the above issue, stated Gerdjikov.
Litvin was sure that inter-parliamentary cooperation would be efficient. On being asked what problems may crop up in reaching a trilateral agreement on the transfer of spent nuclear fuel, Litvin replied that issue which concerns movement of special cargo requires safety measures and which must have the consent of all the parties.
In case of Kryvy Rih plant, Litvin highlighted the fact that both governments, Ukraine and Bulgaria, must settle on the precise share of each participant in the project.
Bulgarian, Bosnian Speakers discuss cooperation, EU, NATO membership
On the second day of his official three-day visit to Bosnia-Herzegovina recently, National Assembly Chairman, Ognyan Gerdzhikov, met Nikola Spiric, Speaker of the House of Representatives of Bosnia-Herzegovina, said the parliamentary press office, BTA web site reported.
At the talks Spiric thanked Bulgaria for being the first to recognize Bosnia and Herzegovina. Gerdzhikov said that Bosnia and Herzegovina can count on Bulgaria's support on its road to the EU and NATO.
Gerdzhikov and Spiric praised bilateral political relations but said there was considerable untapped potential in the field of economic relations. Politicians should work to establish more favourable conditions for the development of economic relations, Gerdzhikov and Spiric agreed. Gerdzhikov said communications between the two countries and the legal framework of their relations should be improved to boost bilateral economic cooperation. Visa regulations are another obstacle to the development of bilateral economic ties as well as the fact that Bosnia-Herzegovina has neither an embassy nor a consulate in Bulgaria, Gerdzhikov said.
On his part the speaker of the House of Representatives of Bosnia-Herzegovina pointed out that the countries of Eastern Europe should pool their efforts in fighting corruption, and drugs and human trafficking. A street in Sarajevo will be named "Bulgaria" to symbolize the friendship between the two countries, Spiric said.
ProCredit to collect fresh 19m EBRD credit line
ProCredit Bank recently reached an agreement to receive a fresh 19m credit line by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). According to banking statements, cited by BTA, the credit agreement was signed by EBRD Business Group Director for Southern and Eastern Europe, Olivier Descamps, and Chairwoman of the management board of ProCredit Bank, Susanne Decker, as well as Procredit Bank board member and executive officer, Peter Slavov.
The credit line will come under a facility set up by the EBRD and the US government for financing small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), BTA reported.
EBRD also expects to raise its stake in ProCredit Bank by 1.02m in the near future, which together with the loan will further support the development of this country's SMEs, BTA reported.
The loan is being provided under the US/EBRD SME Financing Facility, a US$150m fund consisting of US$50m from the US government and US$100m from the EBRD to support the growth of SMEs in the following countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Georgia, Kazakstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, FYR Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, and Ukraine. Descamps said this loan will help overcome one of the main stumbling blocks in supporting the SME sector: access to finance.
It is crucial that entrepreneurs which form the building blocks of vibrant economies are supported with access to capital to help them develop their businesses. The EBRD loan will enable ProCredit Bank to do just that, he added.
Established in 2001, ProCredit Bank has issued more than 30,500 loans worth 162m. Due to increased demand for finance from local entrepreneurs, the bank recently expanded its branch network to 28 outlets in 21 cities across Bulgaria, providing commercial loans as well as standard retail bank services including current and savings account.
Presently, the bank reaches entrepreneurs across 80% of Bulgaria's geographical area, whilst it expects to open a further 28 branches within the next three years. The EBRD currently holds a 2.4m stake in the bank, and has previously provided a 7m loan. ProCredit Bank is part of a family of micro banks and institutions established throughout southeast Europe with the support of international organisations to help support the growth of the SMEs sector in the region.
Second Nuclear Plant decree to be signed
New Europe reported recently that Prime Minister, Simeon Saxe-Coburg, is likely to sign a decree for resuming construction works at the site of second Bulgarian Nuclear plant in Belene, Chairman of Parliamentary Energy Commission, Vesselin Bliznakov, said. After signing the decree, tenders for the design and building of the nuclear facilities will be opened. Bliznakov projected that construction works in Belene will take at least four years and the new nuclear plant will be able to function for at least 4 decades. According to Bliznakov, the construction works will benefit the economic development of the whole Danube-long region, considering the costs of nearly 1bn. The government decided to resume construction of the Belene nuclear power plant on the Danube River, some 250km (155 miles) northeast of Sofia, in 2003. The project had been mothballed back in 1990 under pressure from eco groupings. A US company is engaged in drafting an expert report on the advantages of each of two technologies - Canadian and Russian - proposed by international bidders.
Viva Ventures mulls no BTC buy if no GSM licence
Viva Ventures might give up acquiring a 65% stake in Bulgaria's dominant telecom BTC if it is not issued a GSM licence, state Privatisation Agency chief, Iliya Vassilev, stated recently. Vassilev, together with Economy Minister, Lidiya Shuleva, Transport Minister, Nikolay Vassilev, and members of the parliamentary commission for economic policies, had gathered to discuss the progress of the deal.
The issue of the third mobile operator licence award was one of the crucial conditions and a potential deal-breaker for the finalisation of the landmark sale deal for 65% stake in the BTC to Viva Ventures, a wholly-owned unit by British-based equity house, Advent International. Following a last-minute break-through the sales contract was signed on February 20th. Shortly after, the Privatisation Agency submitted to the SCRC a proposal for awarding the licence without a tender. "We cannot bring the agency's suggestion into effect since according to newly adopted law amendments holding a tender is the only way for issuing a licence," Chairman of the State Communication Regulation Commission (SCRC), Georgi Alrexandrov Alexandrov, said, New Europe reported.
Norwegian Nera back in business in Bulgaria
Norwegian telecom suppliers Nera recently announced its return to the Bulgarian market to assist companies in building and maintaining wireless communications networks, New Europe reported.
Nera is a provider of wireless products and solutions facilitating access to fast and competitive data, Internet, multimedia, voice and mobile communications. The company currently holds five per cent of the global market of wireless transmission, 15-20 per cent of the high capacity (SDH), and approximately 40 per cent of the mobile satellite communications.
Tourist still choose Bulgaria for rest and relaxation
Bulgaria ranks among the top seven tourist destinations, according to a recent survey by the TUI, the biggest European tour operator. At the Tourism Expo Berlin 2004 in Germany, Banker Weekly reported that Bulgaria ranks 20th in the rating of the exposition's organisers. According to forecasts of other prestigious tour operators, such as Thomas Cook and Alltours Flugeisen, the number of German vacationers in Bulgaria will go up by some 23-25 per cent this year. However, such optimism I slightly premature, as bookings at present are below last year's level. Bulgaria's Deputy Economy Minister, Dimitar Hadzhinikolov, hoped the delay would be made up soon after Tourism Expo Berlin 2004, during which he represented Bulgaria's tourism potential.
Italian, Bulgarian ministers discuss transport, economic cooperation
Bulgaria will receive Italian support in its initiative to make the new air traffic control centre in Sofia a co-regional centre for Central and Southeast Europe along with Brindisi, Deputy Prime Minister and Transport and Communications Minister, Nikolay Vasilev, said at the joint news conference he gave with Italian Deputy Prime Minister, Gianfranco Fini, after their working meeting. Air transport projects dominated the talks on the first day of Vasilev three-day working visit to Italy, BTA web site reported.
"If the centre is established in Brindisi, we plan on a flexible way to incorporate Sofia," Fini commented on the idea of a joint project called Justiniano. According to him, the two centres will not compete but could effect a very successful partnership instead. Brindizi and Sofia stand at a sufficient distance to preclude competition, Minister Vasilev added that Brindisi and Sofia have all prerequisites to dominate the region of the Mediterranean as air traffic control centres.
Two Italian companies, Volare and Air One, have shown interest in the planned privatisation of Bulgaria's flag carrier Bulgaria Air. Interest in the concessions of Varna and Burgas airports has so far been registered by Milan Airport operator SEA together with other partners, Vasilev said. Vasilev also insisted before Fini that the sending of Italian experts to Bulgaria's Transport and Communications Ministry be speeded up in compliance with the Italian law on the stabilization of the Balkans. Under this law, Italy will help Bulgaria analyse the opportunities for financing project related to Trans-European Corridor VIII. According to Minister, Gianfranco Fini, there is every condition for a major step forward in trade and economic relations between Bulgaria and Italy. He underscored that there are already large, small, and medium-sized enterprises in Bulgaria and that this is a process that is yet to accelerate. Italy will support Bulgaria's EU accession that should occur in January 2007, Fini pointed out. It also emerged that the two Deputy Prime Ministers have coordinated joint actions for the security of Balkan countries whose borders are external for the EU.
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