You are listening to on the sixth day, a weekly broadcast survey of Radio K2, today, 17.01.2015, Saturday. The major topic that we are discussing today with our interlocutors is who and on what basis he wants and can manage Bulgaria. I am Iliana Benovska and are getting in contact with my next interlocutor on the radio K2, this is the Minister of Economy from the Reformist Bloc, Mr. Bojidar Loukarsky. Good afternoon, Mr. Loukarsky.
Good afternoon, Mrs. Benovska, good afternoon to the listeners of Radio K2.
Thank you for this participation and the patience with view of the little delay, but we took a long interview with your partner Meglena Kuneva, as she was the first interlocutor. I do not say this to mitigate the delay. Will you please talk a little closer to the phone’s microphone?
I’ll start with the hottest news to go to the more fundamental ones in your scope. It has been just published in the Press newspaper that German investments in Bulgaria have been actually blocked for more than 5 years as a result of Bulgaria’s blacklisting by the German Economics Ministry. As it was quoted by the Press newspaper, the fact was announced by our Ambassador in Berlin, Radi Naydenov. Is this true?
This is no longer true. Actually, Bulgaria was blacklisted by the German investments and the general public might have been noted the lack of German investment, but following the Klyosters case resolution and the decision of the National Assembly, Bulgaria has been removed from the blacklist, which has been supported by a decision taken by the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, our Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Economy and the German’s Ambassador in Bulgaria, for which we have held numerous meetings. As a result, / … / it will be announced, but the ignorance of our Ambassador in Berlin is surprising because through the resolution of Klyosters case, dated the end of last calendar year, the German investments in Bulgaria have been already tapped and Bulgaria is removed from the blacklist, which is officially stated by the German side.
Will an official denial be issued, because we have just talked with our two interlocutors for abuse of media power – the sixth power.
How will we proceed? We will issue an official statement, the decision regarding the Klyosters case was widely debated in the Parliament and depicted in the media, and I repeat and emphasize clearly, it is surprising that the Bulgarian official representative in such an important Member State as Germany being our partner for years does not know for the resolution…. that Bulgaria has been removed from the blacklist.
We clarified this issue. The other topic arisen at night – another victim of supported in catastrophic conditions elevators.
I was in touch until late at night with Mr. Stefan Tsankov, Director of the State Agency for Metrology and Technical Surveillance, which is responsible for the elevators. He was at the place of incident. As you well know, this Agency is under the umbrella of the Ministry of Economy.
Yes, that’s way I am asking you.
Actually, prior the issuance of the completely official statement, I should tell you that the first versions in this particular case stated that the elevator was in a proper operation condition since it had been recently repaired and certified respectively. Neighbors said that there were no problems and that, in fact, God forgive killed, but he had so, according to initial data, had so hobby to deal with the elevator, and a screwdriver was found at the place of incident, as well as other traces of violent attempts to open the elevator. I just repeat, these are the first versions, the investigation has not still come out with the final version, but what we know is that the elevator has been recently inspected, certified and repaired in order to arrive to an excellent technical condition. This, of course, cannot take us away from the focus of the case with faulty elevators; we are in a constant contact with NGOs in the sector. Currently, this is one of the concerns we have been dealing with very seriously since I was assigned as a minister. We have also done a passport registry of the elevators and we have set up a working group to prepare the amendments to the Law on Technical Requirements together with other associations and NGOs related to the elevator business. The problem, in general, let me tell you Ms. Benovska and the general public and our listeners, is that there are a lot of gaps in the law, especially regarding the issue of operational permits. When a license of any company is revoked, and in view of the huge gap in the law, allowing that company under the same or another name, with the same personnel and the same technical capabilities, to literally obtain new operational license on the next day irrespective of the fact that is being set under a procedure for license seizure.
That’s what I wanted to ask you. How will you decide radically the matter because people have been dying on the roads and have been perishing in murders, etc., and on top of that – elevators.
The issue should be decided on the basis of the legislative changes, which are under preparation or have been prepared. Frankly speaking, I must say that our colleague Mr. Tsankov, the Chairman of the State Agency for Metrology and Technical Surveillance, has even tried to introduce these legislative changes in the previous Parliament. Otherwise, they were not adopted due to different reasons. Currently, my desire is literally to the end of the month or the beginning of February, until the legal basis are clarified, if possible, these legal changes to be made through the Parliamentary group of the Reformist Bloc in order to really stop any such deviations in the sector related to the elevator, certification, equipment and operation of elevators, which concerns so many victims and our health and life.
Mr. Loukarsky, the third question, which is again topical. On 20.01.2015, a regular annual meeting of business with the government will be held; is it true that you’re not invited as a Minister of Economy?
Yes, it is true that I have not received a formal invitation; this meeting of the business with the government is partially organized by the business. This week I had a long conversation with the President of KRIB, the new Chairman of the Confederation Mr. Kirill Domuschiev, who complained to me that in fact they were not also invited and they will not participate in this meeting, so…
No, they are invited. They are invited; they are counted for funding, and many KRIB members even entered with personal contributions to support this meeting, besides the entrance, which is no small amount to be paid.
It is not quite so.
How isn’t it so?
It is not quite so, Mr. Ivanov as well as Mr. Kiril Domuschiev fairly explained to me that this strictly does not comply with the true and that KRIB, quite formally as an opinion, will not participate in this meeting, so this economic forum could not be pointed as a comprehensive one. It affects the part of the employers’ organizations, I do not even know which of them will be there, and it is a fact is that the Minister of Economy has not been invited yet.
Well, if you receive an invitation, will you participate?
Yes, I will. I do not even know which other ministries are invited, I know that the Prime Minister has been invited. His participation has not been officially confirmed yet, so I think that this topic may not be further discussed.
Just to clarify. I have just asked Meglena Kuneva the same. Iconomedia was fined by the FSC with a very large amount for their publications. Your party member Radan Kanev stated in Facebook, saying: “I will be the Capital newpaper”. If you go to this meeting, in case of KRIB refusal – the biggest employers’ organization, for which you as a Minister of the Economy should be well aware that it’s a donor of the largest share of the GDP and provides the most jobs ,it will turn out as you stand behind the Capital newspaper.
It will be right that. I’m not so extreme as my colleague Kanev and I would not like to interfere neither in the work of independent regulators, such as FSC or to intervene. I really respect the Capital newpaper , but I would not want to split the business and to intervene in such conflicts.
You mean that if Iconomedia invites you, you will go to the meeting with the business.
Generally speaking, I will go, but I have not received an invitation, which offends me personally.
Probably, they are running to you now to submit you the invitation, since we are talking about this. Can you tell us how many meetings you have held with important industry, employers’ organizations, ambassadors, other institutions, since you are Minister of Economy. Why do you do it?
I’ve had meetings with absolutely all business organizations, quite a lot of ambassadors, perhaps the ambassadors of most leading countries in the EU and non-EU countries, where we have experience or traditionally export and exchange goods. The ideas are two, because your question contains two sections. With regard to meetings with professional organizations, the feedback from the real business is very important for me in order to know what is happening in Bulgaria, the states of the economy and what should be improved. You know that one of the main goals of our programme, as well as the programmes of the Ministry of Economy and the government, which is posed on numerous ongoing speculation, but it will be soon presented to the public society, is the liberalization of licensing and registration, of course, where it is possible and does not affect human life, as in business /…./. And the so called decreasing of administrative burden are actually all documentaries and standardization barriers that the business is facing.That is one of the main topics of the meetings I have held with business and this is one of the issues we have debated with the Bulgarian Industrial Association and the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce, KRIB and the Association of Industrial Capital in Bulgaria. Together with these organizations we will resume the Economic Growth Council that existed at the time of Minister Shouleva. We will only call it otherwise –the Economic Development Council, I prefer that word. That idea was presented by the chairman of the Economic Committee in the National Assembly, Petar Kanev and was adopted very enthusiastically and warmly by the employers’ organizations. These exchanges of information between the Ministry of Economy and those who need to create climate for business development and the real business give good results. Regarding my meetings with the ambassadors, this is my another initiative that I try to interact and think that there is already a result, it is the strengthening of foreign investment, because in the last year and a half, they reached the critical minimum; respectively my experience to make sure that the Bulgarian, especially small and medium enterprises to have greater access to markets in foreign countries.
Because as you know, the Bulgarian market is small, and the majority of SMEs operate on this market. Yesterday, I had an informal meeting in the evening with the representatives of a business professional organization that deals with sunscreen facilities. The persons told me that they actually work only on the domestic market, without an information and access to foreign markets, which provide the opportunity for development of enterprises of this type. Therefore, I meet with the ambassadors of countries because unlike our ambassadors, the ambassadors of other countries, especially the EU Member States that are in Bulgaria, are extremely focused on the economic development and the trade exchange and they are quite frankly working for the interests of different companies, large and small from their countries to carry out trade exchange, which is good.
The US Secretary of State was here this week, you followed and participated in the meeting and you probably know the highlights, namely that Bulgaria and the USA share a strategic relationship and both countries are ready to bring a new dynamism to bilateral cooperation, with emphasis on economic ties, energy security, and rule of law and sphere of security. The economy is leading. Before that you had a meeting with Marcie Ries, the US Ambassador, was this a preparation for the meeting? You also went to the USA. Are you American agent in the Bulgarian economy?
It sounds so agency, whether I am an American agent in the Bulgarian economy, but, actually, for me as a minister, and for us as a country, the US market is extremely important and despite our traditional trade relations with the United States, I believe that in view of what others do in the EU, we are lagging. This is a vast market, which is extremely important for us, and the American investors are also important for Bulgaria and this is one factor that we have recently neglected. As an Economy Minister, I will try to settle this, as it was the purpose of my visit to the US and our meetings with Mrs. Ries.
Last question, what is the message to small and medium business, you said in the beginning even on the air of Radio K2 that one of your main tasks is to assist it. What have you done up to now as a Minister of Economy in view of your recent assignment?
Within the short time since I was assigned as a Minister, I concluded, and this is something we are trying to do, that SMEs should expand to distant markets, especially those so called markets of third countries outside the EU Member States, because this is the trend other EU countries have applied. And what we are a bit off is the lack of information, lack of marketing, and this is the main thing that I noticed when I visited the USA and held meetings with investors there , and what we must do is to make the business and the small and medium enterprises to create clusters because any company that operates individually working could not achieve this effect, which could be achieved if they make clusters in the branches and through joint efforts to attain greater realization on foreign markets. This is one of the things we are targeting now.
The last question. Did you find your way in the economy, you were warm welcomed, it was said that a lawyer would manage the economy and , therefore, I forgot to ask, what happened to the Programme for Competitiveness?
The Operational Programme Competitiveness and Innovation is to be approved by Brussels, but we have been assured that this will done very soon, maybe in February and maybe it will work this year, I do not think, I’m sure this was one of the first programmes after taking the new government, which was submitted to Brussels as a project, and which is to be approved. There is a minor detail related to the gas interconnector Bulgaria – Serbia and this problem is mainly within the Serbian side. This is something that stops approval of the program. I am sure that this detail will be clarified soon in Brussels and the Operational Programme for Competitiveness will start to help small and medium-sized enterprises in this industry, business, small and medium-sized enterprises to be developed this year.
Mr. Loukarsky , thank you very much for this participation , we clarified quite important issues and we will continue to follow the events.