HEAVEN IS NEARBY
Very close to being a heaven on earth, Bulgaria is not only famous for its 378 km Black Sea coast made up of golden, sandy beaches, but also the charming coastal outcrops, such as Nessebar, the “Pearl of the Black Sea” and a Unesco World Heritage site. Of course, the beaches are just the beginning of Bulgaria’s beauty as the country’s remarkably picturesque mountains with tempting hikes, glistening lakes, masterpiece monasteries, stunning cathedrals, delicious dishes, rugged castles and cavernous caves complete the picture
By His Excellency Mr Petko Doykov, Ambassador of Republic of Bulgaria in India
Bulgaria is a small but beautiful country in the South Eastern part of Europe with a long history and many attractive features. Established in 681 A.D. the country has gone a long way to become the modern contemporary state of today. A member of the EU and NATO, Bulgaria comes to the foreigners as a country with a lot of opportunities for cooperation and joint projects, yet with a lot of interesting places to enjoy and discover as well.
RELIABLE & PREDICTABLE PARTNER
In the recent years, Bulgaria has constantly been a reliable and predictable partner of all European countries. Projecting stability has inevitably been on the agenda of the Bulgarian government. During the first half of 2018, Bulgaria held for the first time the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Promoting the European perspective of the neighbouring countries of the Western Balkans as a way of furthering stability and prosperity on the continent was one of the main priorities of the first-ever Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU. The reason for the country’s stability should be sought in the unity of the Bulgarian people. “United We Stand Strong” is our main slogan. It is enshrined in our Constitution and it is clearly visible on the façade of the main building of the Bulgarian parliament in downtown Sofia. Bulgaria is a country of tolerance where representatives of different religions, such as Orthodox Christianity, Islam, etc., have been peacefully coexisting for centuries. The spirit of tolerance is behind our unity and domestic stability. In turn, they constitute an important prerequisite for the country’s economic development and our people’s prosperity. A very important part of the Bulgarian economy is centered on the sectors of manufacturing and services. Traditionally, Bulgaria is also famous for its strong agricultural traditions. Equally important are sectors such as tourism, education, etc. Just to mention here that there are currently more than 50 universities in Bulgaria and their doors are open equally to students from Bulgaria and abroad.
Blessed with outstanding nature and abundant natural resources, Bulgaria comes third in Europe in number of cultural artefacts and second in number of natural spring resources. Our tiny EU country has everything from rich culture and ancient history, mountainous rivers and sea to four seasons, delicious food and the famous Bulgarian wines. All that is packed in a territory of only 111 square kilometers, and it inspires the travelers to visit Bulgaria again and again. By welcoming more than 8.8 million tourist arrivals in 2017, more than its own population of slightly above 7 million, Bulgaria reached a milestone of 7.6% increase in foreign tourist arrivals in 2017, which is a remarkable growth in the context of the European tourism industry. The number of Indian tourists in Bulgaria reached 12000 in 2017, registering an impressive growth of 22% in comparison to the preceding 2016. Indian travelers also discovered Bulgaria, voting for it as the “Best Emerging Tourism Destination in the World” in the “Travel & Leisure” Awards for 2016.
MY EFFORTS TOWARDS CORDIAL RELATIONS
The main focus of the Embassy’s activities during the past few years was on the exchange of visits. We hosted in India the Bulgarian Minister of Tourism, two Deputy Ministers of economy, a Deputy Minister of science and education, and a number of delegations at a lower level. Many business delegations from my country also visited India. And we had Indian official and business delegations going to Bulgaria as well. Quite recently, from 4 to 6 September 2018 the Honourable President of India Shri Ram Nath Kovind paid a historic visit to Bulgaria. The last one at such a level took place 15 years ago. And we worked actively for the encouragement of people-to-people contacts which we deem as a backbone of the traditionally strong and excellent interaction between our two countries. With a view to improving the relations between Bulgaria and India in the field of economy and trade in September 2017, the India-Asia-Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce was registered in New Delhi, which is the third bilateral commercial chamber established in the last 2 years. The chamber announced officially its existence on 28 November 2017 with its launching taking place at the premises of the Embassy of Bulgaria in New Delhi thus giving the Indo-Bulgarian business community yet another reason to celebrate. Bulgaria holding the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union during the first half of 2018 created many new opportunities for the bilateral economic relations. In cooperation with FICCI, the Embassy organised a Bulgarian-Indian Business Forum in New Delhi in March 2018 and jointly with the India-AsiaBulgarian Chamber of Commerce we organised and conducted a Road Show in Tamil Nadu in April 2018 in order to better present the possibilities for business and investment in Bulgaria.
STRENGTHENING STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP
As mentioned above, the two countries have been enjoying excellent relations throughout the whole history of their existence. We recently had a state-level visit to Bulgaria and our ambition is this visit of the Honourable President of India to pave the way for a number of visits at the levels of Parliament, Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs, etc. Such visits would additionally boost the cooperation in the areas of mutual interest, with culture, education and people-to-people contacts being an important part of our endeavours to maintain and further increase the bilateral dialogue and interaction. A very promising area is the cultural exchanges. It is worth noting that the second-largest city of Bulgaria, Plovidv, which is the oldest living city in Europe, will be the European capital of culture in 2019. This in itself is representative of how significant Bulgaria’s contribution to the common European cultural heritage is. On the other hand, the International Day of Yoga was celebrated in 2018 in over 30 Bulgarian cities. These are just two examples of how broad are the perspectives and opportunities for cooperating with each other in the field of culture. The last decade recorded four-times growth in the bilateral turnover. Bulgarian exports to India increased by 83% in 2016 with the bilateral trade increasing by 14% in the same year and the trend is up with 7% growth of the bilateral trade in 2017. Yet, there is a huge potential for the further increase of the bilateral trade and investment relations. Bulgaria is among the fastest-growing economies in the European Union with 3.6% growth in 2017. The country is the second-best outsourcing destination on the European continent with the lowest corporate tax rates of 10%, highly educated workforce and free access to the 500 million EU market. Bulgaria’s debt stands the third lowest in the EU 28 (25.4% of GDP) as of 2017, and we have in Bulgaria competitive operational costs and labour level. At the same time, eight of every ten cars in Europe are equipped with some auto parts produced in Bulgaria. The tourism industry of Bulgaria reached the highest growth in tourism arrivals in Europe in 2017 and the results in 2018 are also impressive. To avail ourselves of this potential and to be able to unleash it, the Bulgarian Embassy in New Delhi and its Commercial Section will keep working closely with the Indian Chambers like FICCI, ASSOCHAM, PHD, etc. and the three bilateral chambers, namely India-Asia-Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce, Indian-Bulgarian Business Chamber and Balkan-India Business Association.
POTENTIAL IN INDIA
Today, India is considered as the fastest-growing major economy in the world, and we consider it as one of our strategic economic partners. Over the years, our countries have developed a longstanding amicable relationship, and businesses from Bulgaria and India have established mutually beneficial partnerships. It is our understanding that there is a scope for further expanding the Bulgarian exports to India. One category of goods that holds great potential is the agricultural products, food stuffs and beverages. Another one is the Bulgarian perfumery and cosmetics. Bulgaria is a famous producer and exporter of rose oil and rose oil-based products which have also attracted customers in other Asian markets. Finally, we can seek further opportunities to expand our exports of products on the higher end, such as pharmaceuticals, machines for the food processing industry, etc. Equally important, the interest of the Bulgarian business towards India has led to the implementation of large-scale projects under various programmes of the Indian government, such as Make in India and Clean India. We take pride in the fact that in recent years Bulgarian entrepreneurs have strengthened their position as one of the fastest growing Internet providers in New Delhi and Hyderabad. Bulgarian companies have established production facilities in India and are currently operating a manufacturing plant for veterinary medicines in Pune. In 2017, Bulgarian and Indian companies have launched ambitious investment projects under the Make in India initiative in the fields of bio-toilets production and solar energy. The Embassy and its Commercial Section are ready to extend their support to future Bulgarian projects in India