Books on Bulgaria
% of GDP
Update No: 096 - (26/04/05)
Monarch at bay
Bulgaria's Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg Gotha, the country's former king,
said on April 15th that his priority was to take his country into the European
Union and not to claim back his throne. He lost his throne in 1944, when he was
five years old, under circumstances for which he can hardly be blamed.
For five decades he was a successful businessman in Madrid. Then came the
collapse of communism and his chance to influence his country's destiny once
His National Movement for Bulgaria won elections in March 2001; it formed a
government with the support of a pro-Turkish minority party.
But being in power in a post-communist state is decidedly problematic, to say
the least. He had rashly promised a doubling of living standards in five years,
the life-time of the parliament. Elections are due next year in 2006; and of
course the miracle has not happened.
EU entry beckons in 2007
Bulgaria's Cabinet has approved the draft on Bulgaria's EU Accession Treaty,
governmental spokesman Dimitar Tsonev announced.
By approving the draft it entitled Saxe-Coburg, Foreign Minister Solomon Passy
and Euro-integration Minister Meglena Kuneva to sign all pre accession documents
and the Accession Treaty. The Cabinet also decided to invite President Parvanov
to join the official signing.
The Bulgarian delegation also included Bulgaria's Ambassador to the European
Union, the country's envoys to Belgium and Luxembourg as well as the
governmental spokesman. The European Parliament has approved the admission of
Bulgaria to the European Union, paving the way for the signature of EU accession
On March 30, MEPs in the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee gave
their backing to Bucharest and Sofia's accession in 2007. Accession negotiations
with Bulgaria and Romania were completed on 17th December 2004 and Treaty of
Accession is now finalised.
Romania and Bulgaria's target date for EU entry is January 1st 2007, but
Brussels has repeatedly stressed that accession will be delayed by a year if
both countries cannot prove that reforms promised during negotiations are up to
Bulgaria and Romania sign accession deal
Bulgaria and Romania took their last step on the road to EU accession with the
signature of their Accession Treaties on April 25th. Full membership of the club
will follow on 1 January 2007, if the countries live up to their reform
The entry of the two former communist states will add some 30 million citizens
to the EU's current 454 million, and extend the Union's borders to Moldova and
the Black Sea.
According to the treaties, Romania will receive more than 11 billion euro in EU
aid between 2007 and 2009, while more than 4 billion euro are to be put aside
for Bulgaria, the smaller of the two countries.
Practically, the signature of the treaties which specify the terms of
membership, will mean that Bulgarian and Romanian officials will be allowed to
take part in EU meetings as observers, but will have no voting powers.
The signing of the Accession treaties follows the green light given recently by
the European Parliament. On 13 April MEPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of both
countries' accessions. However, they underlined Bulgaria and Romania still had
work to do before 1 January 2007.
The Damocles sword - safeguard clause
Both countries must still complete the reform of their judiciary system and
push harder in the fight against corruption.
Bulgaria has to carry on with reform of its police services, as well as the
integration of its Roma minorities into mainstream society. Romania, on the
other hand, has to improve its border security and work harder on administration
reforms, environment issues and the integration of its minorities.
If the EU notices feet-dragging by either of the countries, membership may be
delayed by a year, by activation of the so-called safeguard clause.
And Romania has an additional safeguard clause in its contract, saying
membership will be postponed if progress in the fields of justice and home
affairs, and competition policy is insufficient.
The European Commission has repeated often that the signing of the Accession
Treaties does not mean that the work is complete.
Recently, the European Parliament agreed with the Commission that MEPs should
also remain involved in the accession process of the two countries, particularly
concerning the question of a possible postponement of membership.
"The European Commission will seriously consider European Parliament's view
before issuing any recommendations", Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn
Poor, but working on it
Bulgaria and Romania both overcame communism in 1989 and struggled with the
transition to capitalism through the 1990s. The countries are poor by European
standards with a per capita GDP of less than 3000 euro, which is below 40
percent of the EU average.
Latvia, the poorest of the ten newest member states, has a GDP of 4800 euro
while Germany has one of over 26,000 euro.
But the EU accession process, supported by the majority of both countries'
populations, is irreversible and has already made a huge difference. Amongst
other things, the countries have stabilised their economies and initiated many
reforms of state and social institutions.
The countries have showed important economic growth with Bulgaria's economy
growing by an average of 5-6 per cent annually and Romania registering a record
8.3 per cent GDP growth in 2004.
Hope for the Western Balkans?
If Bulgaria and Romania complete the implementation of their reforms and
become respectively the EU's second and third Balkan state in 2007, their
accession will also give hope to the Western Balkans.
Serbia, Bosnia and Macedonia are currently launching their EU accession
processes while Croatia is set to open talks at a later point this year.
Bulgaria and Romania started membership talks in 2000 and completed them in
December 2004. However, the debate on whether or not the countries should join
the EU still continues at the national level in some of the member states.
Bulgaria to develop software for BMW
Bavarian State Minister of Economic Affairs, Infrastructure, Transport and
Technology, Otto Wiesheu, leading a 30-member delegation including entrepreneurs
from the German province Bavaria, visited Bulgaria recently. During a meeting
with Bulgaria's Deputy Prime Minister, Nikolay Vassilev, Wiesheu said Bavarian
IT contractors ere interested in Bulgarian enterprises, Sofia News Agency
Vassilev started discussions with major branch companies for the implementation
of projects in Bulgaria. The company that develops software for BMW, Softlab,
which is 100 per cent property of BMW, intends to start a business with
Bulgarian IT experts. In Bulgaria Softlab declared an interest in developing
software for BMW with Bulgarian IT specialists. Vassilev and Wiesheu shared
mutual content with the fruitful cooperation between Bulgaria and Siemens. The
German engineering giant recently provided 25 ultra-modern diesel trains for the
Bulgarian state railway network.
Bulgaria increase electricity export
National Electricity Transmission Company (NETC) exported 30% more energy in
January-March compared to the same period of 2004, the company's CEO, Vassil
Anastasov, said at a news conference, Sofia News Agency reported.
Revenue increased by 54m Bulgarian levs while expenses went down by 16m levs for
2004, compared to 2003. The Bulgarian energy system faced a difficult time
between February 17 and 23, when 7,720m watt were needed to cover domestic
demand and exports, Anastasov said that such a situation had not existed since
1999. He added that the decommissioning of units three and four of Kozloduy
nuclear power plant in 2006 will affect the electricity exports but not the
Sofia and Tokyo eye better business relations
Bulgarian Economy Minister, Milko Kovachev, said his country has provided
excellent opportunities for Japanese direct investment in environmental
equipment production and technology development, the Bulgarian News Agency
The country can attract such investment with its experience in mechanical
engineering and its qualified personnel and even urged Ebara to outsource to
Bulgaria, he was quoted as saying.
Under an agreement between Kovachev and Ebara Corporation Chairman Hiroyuki
Fujimura, it was decided that Japanese experts would conduct research on the use
of biomass in Bulgaria to produce biofuel, plastics and electricity. Ebara is
the global leader in environmental engineering, and Fujimura co-chairs the
Japanese-Bulgarian Economic committee.
Kovachev also met the Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO) President,
Hiroshi Tsukamoto. During the meeting, both sides agreed that information
technologies (IT) are a promising area of economic cooperation between their
countries. Hachiro Okonogi, senior vice minister of economy, trade and industry,
told Kovachev that the Bulgarian private sector needs to be more aggressive and
should extend its presence on the Japanese market.
Kovachev said Bulgaria is popular in Japan for such traditional products as
yoghurt, wine, and rose oil but Japanese companies should also invest in other
sectors of the Bulgarian economy, such as electronics, mechanical engineering,
auto-making, the IT industry, energy and tourism.
Okonogi praised Bulgaria for its choice of exhibits for World Expo 2005 in
Aichi: honey, yoghurt, wine, herbs, mineral water and rose industry products. He
recalled that after the 1970 World Expo in Osaka, Bulgarian yoghurt entered the
Kovachev also conducted talks with Hiromasa Yonekura, chairman of the Committee
on Europe at the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren). During the
meeting it was announced that a delegation of Keidanren members operating in the
chemical industry, the IT sector, mechanical engineering and tourism would visit
Bulgaria in May.
The Bulgaria Invest Agency in Sofia and JETRO will organise a visit by Japanese
businesspersons to Bulgaria within the coming months.
Sofia and Prague push for better tourism ties
Bulgaria and the Czech Republic are expected to sign an agreement for
cooperation in the tourism sector by the end of May, Bulgarian Deputy Economy
Minister, Dimiter Hadhinkolov, said recently. Hadjinikolov also met Ivana
Hanacikova, director of tourism at the Czech Ministry of Regional Development in
It was also decided by both countries that a Bulgairan-Czech working meeting
would also be held at the end of May to exchange know-how on the use of European
Union structural funds and the drawing up of projects in tourism.
The Czech Republic has traditionally been a serious market for Bulgarian
tourism. The number of Czech tourists to Bulgaria has consistently grown in the
last three years and is projected to increase by 30 per cent this year, Czech
tour operators told Hadjinikolov over a working breakfast at the Bulgarian
embassy in Prague, which was also attended by the Executive Director of
Bulgaria's Tourism Agency, Bisser Yalumov.
In 2004 Bulgaria was visited by 102,000 Czech tourists, up 30.17 per cent on the
previous year. Bulgaria is regaining its position as a popular destination
preferred by Czech holiday-makers. The sides decided that at the Prague
exhibition in 2006 Bulgaria would double the area of its section.
Bulgarian Ambassador Martin Tomov claimed that his country is emerging as the
second most important Balkan partner to the Czech Republic after Turkey,
surpassing Croatia, Romania and Greece. Major Czech tour operators, including
Cedok and Alexandria, plan to invest heavily in the Bulgarian summer resorts
Primorsko and Tsarevo. It was reported that this year 15 Czech tour operators
are to promote country's top destinations.
Bulgaria also participated for the seventh time in the international tourism
expo Holiday World, in February, in the Czech Republic's capital. Holiday World
has been known as one of the best tourism events in Central Europe for image
presentation of destination, reports said.
Bulgaria would be presented by Nessebar municipality, the national flag carrier
Bulgaria Air, Sunny Beach Union of Owners, Albena, Astral Holidays and the Czech
tour operators Alexandria and Vicomte.
Tourism agencies to lure more Germans to Bulgaria
Bulgarian tourist agents expect the annual flow of German tourists to Bulgaria
to increase by 5% this year, Bulgarian Deputy economy Minister, Dimiter
Hadhinkolov, said, the Bulgarian News Agency reported.
This matter was discussed at the Bulgarian embassy in Berlin in the light of the
International Tourism Exchange (ITB) which opened in the German capital on March
Hadhinkolov said his country is implementing a new policy to encourage Germans
to continue visiting Bulgaria in large numbers, as in 2004. The head of the
Federal Association of the German Tourism Industry (BTW), Klaus Laepple,
recently announced that construction work at Bulgarian Black Sea resorts may
lead to inconveniences which can be a cause of decline in German bookings.
Chilova met with the Bulgarian Ambassador in Berlin, Meglena Plougchieva, to
discuss the planned move of the Bulgarian Cultural Institute into the embassy
premises. After the meeting, Plougchieva said the move would allow the Bulgarian
authorities to save on rents, which will make more money available for cultural
activities. Chilova said an initiative is being considered to appoint tourist
attachés to work at Bulgarian cultural centres abroad. ITB Berlin projects a
modern image of Bulgaria as the country is advertised as a year-round tourist
destination offering a full range of holiday services, said Tourism Agency
Director, Bisser Yalumov.
There are also plans to set up call-centres at Bulgarian cultural offices abroad
to provide tourist information about Bulgaria.