“The vision of Bulgaria in the Netherlands is not objective - your reputation is not sufficiently visible in the positive light, and in the heads of the people there are clichés like “crime and corruption”. This has to change because you have everything - beautiful nature, rich history and culture, wonderful people, interesting opportunities for doing business. Bulgaria is one of the oldest countries in Europe, and today it is a modern country with a modern economy and modern nation, so you have to put yourself in a new way on the international map, you need to become visible in positive terms.”
This was said by H.E. Bea Ten Tusscher - Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Bulgaria, today (1 November 2018) during a meeting with the Executive President of BIA Radosvet Radev. Participants in the meeting were also the Economic and Trade Advisor to the Netherlands Embassy in Bulgaria Monika Nikolova, as well as Vesselin Iliev - Director General of the International Economic Relations center at BIA.
“You are a small, but clever nation and I am convinced that you have the strength and the opportunity to show the world your good side. For Europe to be strong, we must all be strong. We are in one family, and family members must support and help each other. We are ready to support you and to develop partnerships between the institutions, the non-governmental sector and the companies in both countries so we can go forward together,” said Ambassador Tusscher and stressed that Dutch investors in Bulgaria are striving to maintain modern management and modern industrial relations, modern attitude to work and jobs. Thus, they contribute in a specific way to the development of the Bulgarian economy.
“It is a pleasure to welcome the ambassador of the biggest investor in Bulgaria. Thank you for the good knowledge of our country and for the good attitude,” said Radosvet Radev and added: “The assessment of the world for Bulgaria is something that makes me very grieved, and one of my ambitions is to change this. Crime and corruption is everywhere in the world, and it cannot become a label for our country because we really have a positive things to show.”
The Executive President of BIA has stressed that the Netherlands is one of the most preferred destinations for Bulgarian youths and we already have about 3-4 thousand students in Dutch universities. According to him, it is the society of Bulgarian students in the Netherlands that is the winner of the new image of Bulgaria. In addition, these young people have the opportunity to work while studying, and thus assimilate the culture of modern industrial relations, even begin to dream in a new way. “I hope that the Dutch society will start to notice these bright young minds, but for me as an employer it is much more important that they return to Bulgaria, to contribute with their knowledge and experience to the home economy,” Radosvet Radev said.
“A week ago I had the opportunity in an interview to praise the Dutch legal system, which is very liberal to investors (the so-called Dutch sandwich). This is one set, working example that Bulgaria can take and adapt because the legal framework in our country is rather aggressive towards the business,” said the Executive President of BIA. He expressed his regret that the investment climate in Bulgaria is getting worse. According to him, corruption is not the first reason for this, and the main brakes are the small market, the labor shortage (both as quantity and quality) and the heavy bureaucracy.
“When thirty years ago we started to develop a market economy and attract foreign investors, we mistakenly counted on the advantage of “cheap labor”. In this way, we attracted mainly investors in industries where the main expenses are for wages and low-income investments have prompted the development of sectors with low added value. Thirty years ago, the first private companies in our country were founded by the people of my generation, and we carry the good and bad scars of the time before. We will not have the strength and the time to make the orderly and beautiful economy that looks like the Dutch, but our children will do it,” Radosvet Radev said.
The Executive President of BIA noted that the modern industrial relations come to us with foreign investors. “We grew up with the trial and error method, and foreign investors came up with the ready-made protocols of behavior. Nevertheless, we Bulgarians are good students and learn fast. I believe that Bulgaria will become an increasingly desirable destination - both for investors and for young people. That is why we rely on the support of our European partners - criticize us, point out to our shortcomings, show us the mistakes. That is the only way we can learn our lessons! Do not miss, however, to see our good sides, our accomplishments, our qualities, because we have a lot to be proud of,” said Radosvet Radev.
During the conversation it was noted that the Netherlands is one of Bulgaria’s traditional and important economic partners. In 2017 the country ranked 10th in exports and 8th in terms of import to Bulgaria, and the trade turnover amounted to 1.8 billion euro. Bulgaria exports biodiesel, sunflower and rapeseed seeds, medicaments and electrical resistances to the Netherlands, and we import telephones, medicines, blood products and passenger cars.
For the period 1996-2017, the Dutch foreign direct investments (FDI) in Bulgaria amounted to EUR 8.1 billion, with the country ranking first in terms of FDI in Bulgaria, and the main sectors with Dutch investments are the telecommunications and technologies, production and trade in fuels, energy and the food and drink industry. The leading investors with Dutch participation in Bulgaria are “Ideal Standard Holding (BC)” - Sevlievo, “NEF Telecom Bulgaria”, “Lukoil Neftochim Bourgas”, “Bultel Cable Bulgaria”, “Deutsche Leasing Bulgaria”, “Motorola Bulgaria”, “Metro Cash & Carry Bulgaria”, “Alstom Power Bulgaria” and others.
Potential for the development of trade and economic relations between Bulgaria and the Netherlands lies in the field of tourism and agriculture. In recent years there has been a steady growth of Dutch tourists in our country, although there are no existing cooperation agreements between the two countries.