Bulgarian-Russian Economic Commission Makes Progress in Top Areas of Cooperation
We can continue relying on our partner's constructive attitude to matters of shared interest, Minister Traikov said in Moscow
Traikov noted the positive changes in the Bulgarian economy since the Commission's previous session: Bulgaria managed to maintain macroeconomic stability, its GDP grew 2.1 per cent in the last quarter of 2010 from a year earlier, export increased 33 per cent in 2010 on year and in January 2011 it was up 73 per cent on a year earlier.
With its low tax burden, favourable business environment and legislation promoting investments, Bulgaria is one of the most attractive investment destinations in Europe, Traikov said. He praised the results of economic cooperation with Russia, taking into account the negative impact of the economic downturn. In 2010 Bulgarian export to Russia went up 44.2 per cent on 2009 and import grew 31.4 per cent.
The energy industry remains a strategic area of bilateral cooperation. Developing its nuclear power industry, Bulgaria sets a top priority on the highest levels of safety. Mindful of this, Bulgaria and Russia reaffirmed their interest in shortly finding a mutually advantageous solution to all issues which may lead to a successful implementation of the Belene nuclear power plant project, based on the corporate level agreements reached so far and in strict keeping with the safety standards.
The two countries will continue cooperating in the South Stream natural gas pipeline project and will work to bring it in line with the requirements of the EU's Third Energy Liberalisation Package. Bulgaria and Russia will participate in a presentation of the project in Brussels in May where all aspects of interest to the EU, Bulgaria and Russia will be discussed. Bulgaria and Russia agreed that further steps to implementing the Bourgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline project can be taken only after the final report on environmental impact assessment becomes available.
Bulgaria raised the issue of access for Bulgarian companies to tenders and competitive bidding for public procurement contracts and for implementation of targeted federal and regional programmes in Russia. Sofia insists that Moscow should discuss possible ways for Bulgarian companies to participate in construction projects for the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi in 2014 and the International Summer Universiade in Kazan in 2013.
On Bulgaria's proposal the sides agreed on the need to deepen contacts in air services with a view to increasing the tourist flows. Sofia would like the Russian authorities to show greater flexibility on a number of practical matters: increasing the number of airports accessible to Bulgarian air carriers, determining the frequency of flights from Moscow to Varna and Bourgas, switching from one airport to another depending on the volume of tourist travel. In 2010 Bulgaria Air tried to switch from Perm to Novorossiysk as a landing place but received a refusal.
Another possible way of increasing tourist flows is to have Russians get treatment at Bulgarian spa centres with financing from the local health insurance funds. This option was also discussed at the session of the Intergovernmental Commission. In 2010 the number of Russian tourists to Bulgaria increased by 32 per cent to 378,000 but still is below the potential of this market, Traikov said.
Bulgaria also insists that the Varna-Novorossiysk roll-on/roll-off service resume operation or the ships travelling between Varna and Kavkaz be adjusted to transport trucks. Traikov and Russian Energy Minister Sergey Shmatko signed a joint statement on partnership for modernization. The document affirms the two countries' willingness to encourage the participation of Bulgarian companies (as belonging to an EU Member State) in the modernization of the Russian economy.
The Bulgarian Small and Medium Enterprises Promotion Agency signed a memorandum of cooperation with the Russian Agency for Small and Medium Business Support. Bulgarian statistics show that trade between Bulgaria and Russia grew 32.9 per cent from 2009 to 4,100 million US dollars in 2010. Import from Russia grew 31.4 per cent to 3,400 million dollars, and export rose 44.2 per cent to 587 million dollars.
Over 78 per cent of the members of the business delegation accompanying Traikov during his visit to Moscow until April 8 believe that two-way trade will increase in 2011, the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) said. The business delegation was organized by BCCI and is led by its President, Tsvetan Simeonov.