Today, April 25, 2015, Bulgarian Industrial Association celebrated its 35th Anniversary. Representatives of the biggest Bulgarian enterprises established the Bulgarian Industrial Economic Association (BIEA), later on renamed to Bulgarian Industrial Association (BIA), on 25 April 1980. BIEA was the first non-governmental business organization in the former socialist camp – a facilitator of the market relations in Bulgaria. Even in a time of planned economy and strong political pressure, BIEA succeeded in establishing some market principles which were modern for its time and are still regarded as such today.
From its very foundation BIEA started to develop a regional structure by establishing regional industrial associations and chambers. Each regional industrial association is an independent legal entity.
BIEA set up the first Venture Capital Fund in Bulgaria and the first Commercial Bank, Economic Initiatives Bank PLC, by means of which it funded the establishment of over 600 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). A great number of them have been functioning successfully ever since.
An important part of BIEA’s activity was the establishment of technological parks in the sphere of technological transfer with the Technical Universities in Sofia and Varna.
The Association’s inventive ideas and activities aroused interest not only in Bulgaria but also abroad.
At the democratic changes onset BIEA was renamed to Bulgarian Industrial Association (BIA). The transition from planned to market economy inevitably assigned BIA a new role in the Bulgarian industry development.
BIA took an active part in the regulation stipulation concerning the business, assisted the privatization process and the foundation of market principles in the Bulgarian economy.
BIA is the only business organization which is a member of BUSINESSEUROPE, a confederate-like European business organization, thus representing the Bulgarian companies and employers’ interests at a European level. Furthermore, it actively participates in the work of the International Labour Organization (ILO), the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and the South East European Employers’ Forum (SEEEF). BIA is also among the founders of the Union of Black Sea and Caspian Confederation of Enterprises (UBCCE).
BIA has signed cooperation agreements with over 70 national business and employers’ organizations from countries across Europe, Asia, Africa and the USA.
The Bulgarian Industrial Association has played a crucial role in the establishment of social dialogue between employers and trade unions, as well as the development of social partnership in the country. Collective bargaining has been implemented at sector and company level with the assistance and active participation of BIA.
Another accomplishment of the Association in the development of the present-day Bulgarian economy is the foundation of the Stock Market in Bulgaria and the Court of Arbitration as an institution to facilitate a fast settlement of economic disputes.
BIA has also played an important role in communication technologies development. The association was the first internet provider in Bulgarian and it was the first to introduce the use of e-signature.
BIA set up health and social security funds, as well as the first leasing company in Bulgaria, Interlease Inc., which for the time being owns over 40 percent of the market share.
BIA continues to work for the development and stabilization of the economic environment in the new century.
It has also enhanced its international activity. BIA facilitated Bulgaria’s accession to the EU by setting up an EU-Bulgaria Joined Consultative Committee and functioned as a co-chair on the Bulgarian part for as long as two mandates.
BIA is very active in drafting the economic policy in Bulgaria, developing and enhancing the socio-economic policy regulation, and conducting analyses, research and experts’ evaluations in the sphere of industrial, tax, and social policy, industrial relations, environmental protection, goods technical requirements, SMEs development etc.
The Bulgarian Industrial Association plays a crucial role in the vocational training sphere. A Vocational Education and Training Center (VTC) was specifically set up which offers a wide range of qualification and re-qualification courses and issues nationally acknowledged certificates.
A Computer Training Center was established with the VETC which is accompanied by a regional Cisco Academy for training experts in computer networks. The Academy issues world acknowledged certificates. The Cisco Academy with BIA was the first on the Balkan Peninsula to launch training courses in Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) programme for training Cisco System licensed specialists in network developing. In 2003 Cisco Academy with BIA was awarded the prize “Best trainee in the world” and “Best instructor in Bulgaria”. The Academy was also nominated for best management of network academy.
BIA is the only organization in CEE which has a sector for assisting the harmonization of the national and European requirements on environment, quality and safety. The Clean Industry Centre implements ISO systems for company management and takes part in drafting regulation documents in the environmental sphere.
The Court of Arbitration at BIA guarantees high quality in dispute settlement. This quality is assured by the competent panel of arbitrators, including former Constitutional Court judges and some of the most distinguished scholars and practitioners in the field of commercial law. The Chairman of the Arbitration Court is the former President of the National Assembly (2001–2005) of the Republic of Bulgaria, professor Ogniyan Gerdzhikov.
Since 2010 a National Competence Assessment Center has been operating at BIA which fosters the implementation of a competence-based approach in human resources management. The center coordinates the operation of a competence assessment system, MyCompetence, developed within a project under Human Resources Developemtn Operational Programme. The key objective of MyCompetence is to serve as an effective link between education and business by bridging the gap between educational and professional standards.
BIA’s present-day profile has been determined to a great extent by its work style, impressive potential of experts and the wide variety of services which it offers to its members.
The expert opinions, proposals and positions of BIA on topical economic issues have been part and parcel from the most important discussions in the country.
The Association continues to play an active part in the social dialogue system at national and international level where it upholds the Bulgarian business’ interests for regulation and administrative changes. The sector organizations which are members of BIA are parties in almost all collective labour agreements.
BIA works actively in solving economic problems by provoking public discussions on topical issues and offering constructive possible solutions. BIA was the first to pay attention to the informal economy issue, the severe inter-company indebtedness, the breach of market principles in setting electricity prices etc.
Furthermore, the Bulgarian Industrial Association works actively for the implementation of an infrastructural and energy system reform, for decreasing the administrative pressure on business by subtracting regulation regimes, for curtailing informal economy sector, as well as overcoming the grave problems in the pension-social security system, the education system, the healthcare etc.
BIA has published a wide range or information materials and free online newsletters on various topics, including environment, energy industry, labour and social security legislation, European policies, programmes and projects, corporate social responsibility etc.
The Business-Industry-Capitals electronic journal (www.daily.bia-bg.com) offers to all users of BIA’s services updated business information in English and Bulgarian, thus reaching an audience of over 30 000 subscribers from the country and abroad.
During the twenty-five severe politico-economic transition BIA has proved to be one of the State’s leading partners in setting the economic policy by maintaining at the same time its political neutrality and being guided only by national respect, competence and honesty .
Due to the expert potential and efforts of BIA in the last years, a number of issues in the field of economy have been resolved. Some of these are:
- Private enforcement process was implemented;
- The Commercial Register was moved out of court;
- The number and gravity of regulatory regimes were significantly revised;
- The natural gas price supplement which remains with Bulgargas was reduced from 3% to 0.5% and hedging was introduced in relation to oil and natural gas price, as well as the US dollar exchange rate;
- A possibility to pay state and municipal fees at POS was implemented without the respective bank fees;
- The procedure for issuing integrated permits was changed in order to simplify the investing process;
- Flat tax was introduced for natural persons;
- The number of payment orders for paying taxes and social contributions was significantly reduced by the introduction of a common payment order;
- Regulation governing the Temporary Agency Work was implemented;
- The closing down of commercial activities and services provided by ministries has started in order to eliminate unfair competition against the private sector;
- A rapid reimbursement of the State and municipalities’ overdue liabilities to business has started;
- The structure of Bulgarian State Railways Holding was optimized;
- The Bulgarian business’ problems found solution at the European Parliament;
- Some of BIA’s proposals are being now implemented including the following: building up a link between the National Revenue Agency and the customs office, introducing green certificates trading, encouraging the construction of RES for individual consumption, developing a system for skill and competence validation etc.