Sofia, November 13, 2015/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Clive Leviev-Saywer of The Sofia Globe
Europe must use the historic opportunity to promote economic progress and political stability in the Balkans, Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev told a business forum in Hamburg.
Plevneliev was addressing representatives of the AGA business association, of which more than 3500 German companies are members.
He said that the development of South Eastern Europe was a strategic objective of the EU, and by 2020, close to 50 billion euro would be invested in the region through various European programmess
“The European Union can no longer consider South East Europe as peripheral, but as a centre of European politics and geopolitical interests”, Plevneliev said, according to a statement by his office.
The security of Europe depended on stability in the Balkans, and therefore for the countries of the region it was strategically important to attract more German investments as a factor for sustainable development.
Plevneliev said that in the past 10 years, German direct investment in South Eastern Europe had increased six times, and the annual trade between Germany and the region had increased three times and has grown to 53 billion euro.
“Bulgaria is becoming a modern, open European economy, as have all the other countries in South Eastern Europe,” he said.
Plevneliev said that the Balkans today are an example that Europe of the Regions operates, and he highlighted efforts towards better transport and energy connectivity, towards attracting large investors and creating shared economic clusters among individual countries.
The development of the motor vehicle sector in Romania and Serbia was the basis of the existing industry in Bulgaria for the production of components and parts for the automotive industry, he said.
Today 80 per cent of the cars stamped “Made in Europe” included technical components manufactured in Bulgaria, Plevneliev said.
He said that the Balkan countries had realised that the better that existing clusters in the field of banking, financial, insurance, tourism, information and communication technologies function, the faster will be attracted investors in the automotive industry, agriculture, food and pharmacy sectors.
“As a president I politically guarantee an ambitious programme for reforms in my country. While almost everyone is talking about growth, I think that the correct word is progress,” Plevneliev said.
“Other EU member states carried out bold reforms and achieved serious progress. They established strong groundwork and now they can grow again. Bulgaria and the region have solid groundwork and they will definitely grow. According to me, it is not about whether but rather about how fast we will grow,” he said.
Plevneliev said that the achievements of Bulgaria should not be underestimated,proof of this being the thousands of companies from Germany, who have invested in the country and that had achieved success. In the past 10 years, trade of Bulgaria and Germany has increased seven times. “Bulgaria is among the countries with the lowest taxes and the lowest debt in the EU. We are the only European country among the top 10 outsourcing destinations in the world,” he said.
In the field of information and communication technology, Bulgaria ranks third in the world in the number of certified specialists per capita, he said. For years, leading companies had developed and profited rom the growing potential of Bulgaria and established it as a regional technology centre. “We also have a dynamic ecosystem of start-ups in the field of information and communication technologies. Sofia was named the third-best city in Europe for startups after London and Dublin, with hundreds of startup companies a year, Plevneliev said.
He said that the Balkans’ importance, as a crossroad between Europe and Asia, would continue increasing and the economic powers would realise their huge potential.
Plevneliev said the European Energy Union was a new engine for the integration in the EU and the region. He said that the price of the natural gas in South Eastern Europe would be soon determined by the market and not by political interests.