Bulgaria is not just a holiday resort

ALTHOUGH trade between Bulgaria and Slovakia is increasing, certain opportunities for closer business relations between the two countries remain unexplored. Cars, machine production, energy, infrastructure, and food are prospective industries for cooperation.

The Alexander Nevski cathedral in Sofia. The Alexander Nevski cathedral in Sofia. (Source: ČTK)

ALTHOUGH trade between Bulgaria and Slovakia is increasing, certain opportunities for closer business relations between the two countries remain unexplored. Cars, machine production, energy, infrastructure, and food are prospective industries for cooperation.

However, Slovak businesses are interested in the Bulgarian market. This was proved by a seminar in May organised by Bratislava Region, the Slovak Investment and Trade Development Agency (SARIO), the Bratislava regional chamber of commerce and industry, the embassy of Bulgaria in Slovakia and the Slovak embassy in Bulgaria which focused on presenting business conditions and opportunities in Bulgaria.

At the same time, the Sofia Administrative Region and Bratislava Region, as the two most developed regions in their countries, signed a memorandum on cooperation. The chairman of Bratislava Region, Vladimír Bajan, emphasised mainly opportunities in tourism as one of the most attractive areas for partnership.

At the governmental level, the Bulgarian Ministry of Economy and Energy and the Slovak Ministry of Economy recently signed a memorandum on cooperation as well. Bulgaria and Slovakia are also close partners in the European Union in the area of the development of new nuclear energy sources, said Vassil Valchev, economic counsellor in the Embassy of Bulgaria to Slovakia.

Valchev sees several unexplored opportunities in bilateral cooperation.

In the Slovak car industry, Bulgarian companies could be successful suppliers for the production of spare parts and equipment for the leading automotive producers, he said.

Bulgaria can provide an experienced work force for producing building and agricultural machines and equipment. It can also be used as a base for entering other prospective markets, such as Romania, Serbia, and others.

In the energy sector, Slovak companies can be successful suppliers of equipment for the Bulgarian nuclear, water and electric power stations.

Slovak companies could collaborate on the implementation of infrastructure projects in Bulgaria financed by European funds where Slovak companies could use their experience, know-how, and equipment, according to Valchev.

There are also opportunities in the food industry.

“Many small Bulgarian food companies were forced to close their production facilities when Bulgaria became an EU member because they were unable to meet the high European quality requirements,” Valchev said.

However, the economic relations of both countries are still mainly maintained just through their bilateral trade, although its turnover has rapidly increased over the last two to three years, Valchev said.

Nonetheless, in 2007, only 0.2 percent of Slovak imports came from Bulgaria and 0.4 percent of Slovak exports were sold in Bulgaria, according to the Slovak Statistic Office.

The turnover of foreign trade between Bulgaria and Slovakia in 2005 was $157.2 million and in 2006 it was $211.3 million. In 2007, it represented $340.1 million, representing a year-on-year increase of 61 percent.

The volume of Slovak exports to Bulgaria reached $224.9 million and imports $115.2 million in 2007.

“The statistics shows that exports from Slovakia to Bulgaria are nearly two times more than Bulgarian exports to Slovakia, which is because Slovakia exports mainly expensive commodities,” Valchev said.

Slovakia's main exports to Bulgaria include cars, LCD TV sets, office paper, electrical and industrial equipment. Bulgarian exports to Slovakia are made up of substantial amounts of chemical raw materials, steel products, some textile commodities, food products, and wines.

Volkswagen, KIA Motors, SONY, and Samsung are among the largest exporters to the Bulgarian market from Slovakia.

Other Slovak-based companies operating successfully in the Bulgarian market are SEZ Krompachy, which produces electrical equipment; IDOPS, a producer of polystyrene in Bulgaria; and REKMA Slovakia, which implements infrastructure projects.

Large Bulgarian steel and chemical producers and exporters, such as Kremikovtsy, Stomana industries, KCM-Assenovgrad, and wine producer Domein Menada are the most active in the Slovak market.

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