Text Box: December 2005, no. 3

The Association of Balkan Chambers is a non-political and non-governmental organization aiming at assisting the business activities on the Balkans. Its founding members were the Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Turkey and Serbia, later joined by Cyprus. Membership is open to all Balkan Chambers who accept its statute.

The main priorities of ABC are: development of co-operation among the business communities in the Balkan region, as well as with third parties; encouragement and support of activities aimed to structural changes in the economies of Balkan countries with the view of the accession to EU; initiation and implementation of global interest projects for the Balkan.






The General Assembly of the Association of Balkan Chambers

The General Assembly of the Association of Balkan Chambers took place on the 7 - 8 December 2005, in Athens, Greece, under the presidency of the Union of Hellenic Chambers of Commerce. The main topics of the agenda referred to: promotion of the regional economic cooperation, tourism-important field of cooperation for the region, ABC chambers as consultants on the EU structural and cohesion funds for companies, partnership project ABC-DIHK.
On this occasion the new president and vicepresident of ABC were elected: Mr.Branko Azeski-president of the national Chamber in Skopje and, respectively, Dr. Victor Babiuc-president of the national Chamber in Bucharest

CCIR awarded the top Romanian companies
The Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Romania (CCIR) organised on 28 November 2005, the 12th National Chart of Top Companies—a reference event for the business environment in Romania.
The 12th National Chart of Top Companies included economic actors that scored exceptional economic results in 2004 and showed interest in the promotion of market economy values.
The evaluation base consisted in the processing by the county chambers of commerce and industry of data about 505,922 companies that deposited their balance sheets with the internal revenue services in 2004, with a total turnover of RON 453.3 billion and a payroll of 4,133,360. After assessment of the performance of these companies, the county chambers of commerce and industry awarded 21,590 companies that fulfilled the eligibility criteria set by the Chart methodology. The first ten companies from each county and from Bucharest, respectively were eligible for the National Chart, classified on six domains: • R&D and High-Tech • Industry • Agriculture, Silviculture and Food Industry • Construction • Services • Commerce, Export, Tourism. After successive assessments, 2,803 companies qualified for the National Chart, with a total turnover of RON 108.8 billion (24 per cent of the total turnover of the companies initially evaluated in the Chart at national level).
The first five most performing counties in terms of number of companies awarded are Bucharest Municipality (928), Timis County (170), Brasov County (137), Constanta County (133), and Prahova (132).
Other awards were also granted within the National Chart of Top Companies event: the Trophy of Excellence to 20 companies that had ranked among the top three companies for the last five editions of the Chart; the Award of Excellence to 69 companies that had ranked among the top three companies for the last three editions of the Chart; and the Creativity Trophy (organised jointly with the State Office for Inventions and Trademarks) to 30 companies that showed interest in such activities as those related to patents and the protection of industrial designs.
Source: CCIR press release


The 2nd Edition of the National Forum on KNOWLEDGE BASED ECONOMY

December 12-13 2005
The Chamber of Commerce and industry of Romania in cooperation with Human Resource Training Centre and having as main sponsors ORACLE ROMANIA and MICROSOFT ROMANIA, has organized the second edition of National Forum on KNOWLEDGE BASED ECONOMY. The main objectives of this event was:
● To debate the coherent, systemic strategy for the 2007 year when Romania is aiming at EU integration
● To consolidate the partnership between academic offer and high priority needs supporting the re-launching the Romanian industry
● To discuss the key human issues with the coming paradigm of knowledge based Economy in Common Europe
● To prepare the partnership between Romanian local networks and European IST projects that are to be proposed for the IST 7th Framework 2007 – 2010.
Source: www.ccir.ro 

BCCI to Further the Economic and Trade Relations Development with Lithuania
An economic and trade agreement between BCCI, the International Chamber of Commerce in Lithuania and the Association of Lithuanian Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Crafts was signed on 21 November during the Bulgaria-Lithuania Business Forum. Under the agreement the three organizations will further the development of business relations between entrepreneurs from both countries by organizing seminars, business forums, conferences; they will exchange information about the economic and export possibilities and changes in the business legislation.
The forum was organized on the occasion of the Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus’ visit to our country. Over 50 Bulgarian and Lithuanian companies from the finance and banking business, building, machinery and plant, legal services, real estates investment projects sectors took part in the forum.
Source: Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry – www.bcci.bg 

BCCI Celebrated its 110 Anniversary and Awarded the Annual Prizes
On 17 November BCCI officially celebrates 110 years of its establishment. The event was marked by an official meeting of the BCCI’s Board of Directors and a formal ceremony. During the celebration the 2005 annual prizes were awarded. Businessmen, ministers, MPs, diplomats, representatives of the media attended the event.
BCCI’s tradition of awarding annual prizes dates back to 1994. The prizes are given to diplomats – for contribution to the Republic of Bulgaria economic relations development, to leading companies and holdings – for business achievements, to regional chambers, sectorial organizations and others – for active participation in achieving the BCCI’s objectives, to journalists and media – for publicizing BCCI’s activity in service to Bulgarian business with news, reports and interviews.
The companies were awarded prizes on the basis of the BCCI’s Top100 classifications. BCCI’s annual prizes are a specific indicator of the entrepreneurial activity and an impetus to the Bulgarian business. The list of the prize winners can be found on the BCCI’s website www.bcci.bg.
The Vice-President Angel Marin congratulated BCCI on its anniversary and praised highly its contribution to the dialogue and cooperation between government and business.
The prize winners in the Companies, Regional Chamber of Commmerce and Industry, Sectorial Organization categories.
The prizewinners in the Ambassador, Trade Representative and Foreign CCI or a Related Organization – Partner categories.
Source: www.bcci.bg 

Within the third meeting of the businesspeople of Western Balkans, held in Serbian Chamber of Commerce, 16 November 2005, organized by Media Invest, Novi Sad, the award “Golden Bridge” has been given to the fallowing officials, companies and businessmen:
· H.E. Aleksandar Aleksejev, Ambassador of Rusia in Serbia Montenegro,
· H.E. Stanimir Vukićević, Ambassador of S&M in BIH,
· H.E. Josip Vrbosić, Ambassador of Croatia in BIH,
· Ms. Marija Enrjuz, Attaché in USA Embassy in S&M,
· IGM Trade Dooel, Kavadarci, Macedonia,
· MZT Hepos, Skopje, Macedonia,
· Tobacco Factory, Sarajevo, BIH,
· Feal, Siroki Brijeg, BIH,
· Montenegro Airlines, Podgorica,
· Plantaze “13 juli”, Podgorica,
· Mr. Duško Knežević, Manager of Atlas Group, Belgrade
· Dmitar Poloviva, Director, Slovenia Chamber of Commerce, represenatative office in Belgrade,
· Elektroprivreda Srbije,
· Elektromontaža, Serbia
· Vunizol, Surdulica, Serbia,
· Aleksandrija, Belgrade, Serbia,
· Henkel-Merima, Kruševac, Serbia,
· IMPOL-SEVAL, Sevojno, Serbia,
· Lukoil, Belgrade, Serbia
· Jugosever, Belgrade
· Mr. Miloš Tankosavić, journalist from Belgrade

The representatives of the chambers of : Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Slovenia and BIH have stressed that regional cooperation is the only road towards stabilization, development and EU integration.
Next meeting of the businessmen of Western Balkan will be held in Podgorica in 2006.






Romanian and Bulgarian companies are the most optimistic in Eurochambres Economic Survey (EES) 2006
“Business confidence in Europe remains continuously positive, but this is not clearly sufficient for a sound economic recovery. We do not need stabilisation and a wait-and-see approach, but clear upward trend” – said Eurochambres President Cristoph Leitl with the occasion of EES presentation. Results of this year’s Eurochambres Economic Survey suggest that on average the European economy will continue to grow next year on a stable, but not very steep path. Business confidence, domestic demand and export sales are expected to decline in 2006 compared to 2005. Only total turnover and employment are expected slightly increase. More than 90,000 companies from 27 European countries were polled.
For Romania and Bulgaria (countries in course of integration), Croatia 9in the middle of negotiation process) and Turkey (at the beginning of negotiation) the provisions are more optimistic than 2005.
Source: Eurochambres press release


Balkan Accession fund bags EUR 10 million for Romania and Bulgaria
The International Finance Corporation (IFC) plans to contribute around EUR 10 million investment fund targeting Romanian and Bulgarian markets.
The fund is managed by the administrators of the Romanian-American Investment Fund (FRAI) and the Bulgarian-American investment Fund (FBAI).
A corporation press release puts the IFC’s contribution at 13.3 percent of the overall capitalisation of the fund, which will be named the Balkan Accession Fund.
The new fund’s primacy will be mezzanine finance operations and targets investments in medium sized companies in Romania and Bulgaria. For the short term the fund is addressing expansion to Croatia and Serbia-Montenegro.
So far, the Balkan Accession Fund has raised some EUR 20 million, of which FRAI contributed EUR 5 million and FBAI EUR 1 million.
The fund was launched early in the year by the Balkan Accession management Company. The main FBAI, are the German Investment and Development Company, the Dutch Development Financing Fund and other firms and individuals from Romania, Bulgaria and the United States.
The fund targets the growing sectors of the industry, while the value of an investment is between 3-8 million.
Source: Business Review

Contract on formation of Southeast Europe energy union signed
Belgrade/Athens, Oct 25, 2005 - Serbian Minister of Energy and Mining Radomir Naumov said that a contract on formation of an energy union between the countries of Southeast Europe was signed today in Athens, marking the creation of the first integrated, regulatory and stable energy marke.
In a statement to the Tanjug news agency, Naumov said that the union consists of ten Southeast European countries, including Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Italy, FYR of Macedonia, Romania, Serbia-Montenegro, and Turkey, adding that these countries have accepted all current regulations regarding the energy and environmental protection sectors, as well as those concerning competition.
According to Naumov, the contract on formation of the energy union crowned nine years of work, and its signing, regarded as historic for Europe, is as significant as the day when the agreement on the formation of a steel and coal union was signed in 1951.
Naumov said that the contract on formation of the energy union, besides improving energy functioning of the entire region, should add to its economic progress, stressing its political content.
Naumov recalled that the contract’s signatories include countries in the process of accession to the EU and stressed that, in the energy sector, Serbia-Montenegro became a part of the European Union, which is highly important when it comes to investment in the forthcoming period.
The minister pointed out the plan of investing more than €21 billion in the electric power sector in the region in the next 15 years. He also said that present at the signing of the contract were Greece’s prime minister, minister of foreign affairs and speaker in the parliament, the mayor of Athens, ministers and deputy prime ministers of many Southeast European countries, as well as numerous representatives of banks and embassies.

Good start
to EU negotiations
Belgrade, Nov 08, 2005- The first round of Serbia-Montenegro’s negotiations on stabilisation and association with the European Union began in a good and constructive atmosphere, negotiators said.
The introductory round was held with a team led by the European Commission’s Western Balkans director, Reinhard Pribe and three local teams of delegates, one each from Serbia and Montenegro and a federal team.
Serbia’s team leader, deputy prime minister Miroljub Labus said that he is satisfied with meeting.
Despite the delays, European Commission’s Western Balkans director, Reinhard Pribe was positive about the beginning of the negotiations.
“The EU delegation is very satisfied because everyone on the other side of the table was well prepared. We mainly discussed the preamble to the Agreement on Stabilisation and Association and touched on some key issues,” he told media.
The second round of negotiations will be held in the second half of December.

Balkans edging closer to the EU
London, Nov 07 – An article published in the London weekly Economist states that nations of the western Balkans are taking noticeable steps towards European integration.
Even though most Balkan nations have many more obstacles and years ahead of them before becoming members of the European Union, it seems that European politicians have decided that it would be better to make these countries a part of the team instead of letting them make problems outside of it, according to the article.
One of the main problems of this plan mentioned in the article is the fact that EU candidate nations receive a lot more financial help than nations that are still not official candidates. For example, Bulgaria received 300 million euros from the EU in 2003, but will by 2009 be receiving 1.6 billion euros in aid. Serbia on the other hand, which has a similarly large population as Bulgaria, will see its financial help in this same period fall from 240 to 117 million euros.
Economist states that these are the consequences of the EU’s short-term thinking which won’t help to stop the piling up of new problems for the Balkans, and for the collective EU as well.

The Government Adopted Its Governance Programme
Acceleration of the process of preparation for Bulgaria’s accession to the European Union, achievement of high and sustainable economic growth and social responsibility so as to offer solutions to citizens’ problems – these are the three major goals outlined and specified in the government’s programme adopted at the emergency session of the Council of Ministers.
The draft programme was developed on the basis of the political priorities that are expressed in the programme declaration signed by the coalition partners in August this year. The draft document takes into consideration the National Development Plan for 2007-2013. The government’s term of office, covering the period from 2005 to 2009, coincides with the years prior to and after Bulgaria’s EU membership. Therefore the programme provides for the steps to be taken before our country joins the Union and in the first years after it becomes a EU member, taking into account the financial framework that the EU adopted for Bulgaria for 2007-2009.
The governance programme tries to strike a balance and to combine the commitments taken to the voters. It is based on the principles of good state governance, commitment and coordination between the policies followed by the ministries. Among the programme’s merits is also its unique structure, applied for the first time in Bulgaria. It introduces the principle of integrated state governance and correlation of the policies of the ministries. This will ensure better coordination in the implementation of the government’s priorities. All respective ministries have drafted their strategic objectives and programmes in line with the government’s priorities.
The newly adopted ruling programme of the coalition government will serve as basis on which the different ministries can come up with their concrete programmes. We will seek new flexible financing mechanisms, including the state budget, European funds, international financing institutions, public-private partnership, Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev said at a press-conference after the cabinet’s session. The governance programme offers a completely new matrix, where the concrete policies, financing mechanisms and commitments of the relevant ministries, as well as tentative timetables for their implementation, are written down against each priority. The Prime Minister pointed out that the programme is open and can be updated in the future.
Another distinctive feature of the government’s programme is the fact that it was widely discussed not only within the ruling coalition but also among society, with trade unions, employers’ organizations and NGOs contributing a lot.
One of the concrete measures laid down in the programme as imperative to be undertaken in the next year is the construction and putting into operation of 60 km of the highways.
The document outlines concrete action and measures to be taken with regard to keeping up with the EU economic growth, rise in the income and cohesion in the quality of life; maintaining high and sustainable economic growth, encouragement of private initiative and continuation in the processes of privatization, concessions granting, development of public-private partnership. Other priorities as expressed in the programme are: modernization of the state, establishing knowledge-based economy, increase of employment rate and training of the workforce in line with the EU’s Growth and Jobs Strategy; education and culture development; guaranteed and accessible healthcare system; elimination of regional discrepancies, and maintenance of the dynamic regional development; decisive measures against organized crime and corruption; enhanced judicial reform, ensuring fast, efficient, transparent, fair and accessible justice; Bulgaria’s accession to the EU on 1 January 2007 and full participation in the union’s bodies and institutions.
Source: www.government.bg








The Fifth Danube Region Business Conference was held in Sava Center in Belgrade, 10- 11 November 2005. It was organized under the patronage of their excellences Mme. Benita Ferro- Waldner, member of the European Commission responsible for external relations and the European neighborhood Policy and Mr. Vuk Drašković, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia and Montenegro, under the auspices of the Danube Cooperation Process. The organizers were the Ministry for Trade, Tourism and Services of Serbia and Serbian Chamber of Commerce. Co organizers were GTZ, BMZ and Serbian Tourist Organization in cooperation with City of Vienna, TINA Vienna-Transport Strategies GmbH, Bank Austrian Creditanstalt, The Austrian Federal Economic Chamber and AOC.
The Motto of the conference was “The Danube Cooperation Without Barriers”.
DRBC 5 brought together representatives of the business community, governmental, regional and municipal administration, economic, science and research institution, legislators, NGOs and civil society representatives, as well as professional associations from all neighboring and some EU countries: Austria, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, etc.
At the plenary session introductory speeches were given by: H.E. Milovan Bozinovic, Ambassador, President of Danube Commission, H.E. Vuk Draskovic, Minister FER, H.E. Mihail Razvan Ungureany, Minister for FER of Romania, Mr. Bojan Dimitrijevic, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Services of R. Serbia, Mr. Leo Kruecz, Regional Director for SEE, Kuakas and Central Asia, Federal ministry for ECD of Germany, Mr. Otto Schwetz, Chairman of Pan-European Corridor VII, Ms. Gabriela Konevska, SECI.
It was stressed that cultural, touristic, and economic roles of the Danube are of the great importance for the region, having in mind that it is the most European river of all. The Danube is used by more than 2 mil. passengers per year. Regarding Serbia Mr. Dimitrijevic, Minister for TTS highlighted that the investments expected to be made in Danube region in Serbia, which includes the length of about 600 km, are mostly needed for construction of ports and marines. He concluded that for further development of the Danube region a public campaign is needed with full participation of the public and private sector.
Mr. Aziju Leo Krojc, Regional Manager for SEE, Kuakas and CA said that the Danube is the corner stone for regional cooperation of all Danube countries. He also said that by opening of the Freedom Bridge in Novi Sad all obstacles lifted at the 2.888 km long route of the Danube.
Mr. Oto Schwetz, Chairman of Pan-European Corridor VII stressed that the investment of about 1,2 billion EUR is needed for solving all transport problems on the Danube.
All aspects of cooperation in the Danube region were discussed at 5 working groups:
· Investments, SMEs and Financial Services,
· Infrastructure and Transport,
· Tourism and Culture,
· Environmental Protection and Water Management,
· Cooperation between Science and Business: Obstacles and Perspectives


Furniture Makers to Test Products in Bulgaria
Bulgaria's first laboratory for furniture testing and certification will start operating by the end of 2006. This will facilitate local manufacturers, who now send their products for certification to Italy and Hungary. The financing for the laboratory has been secured by the Italian government.
The construction and equipment of the centre will cost about BGN 1 million. The laboratory will test the products of local manufacturers and will issue different types of certificates, depending on the requirements of foreign partners, including certificates for children's furniture. The prices will be half the rates charged by the European laboratories, the Bulgarian chamber of the wood-processing and furniture industry said.
Furniture production in Bulgaria surged by 18% in 2004, a similar increase is expected this year, too, the chamber said. The volume of the output reached EUR 280 million, with exports accounting for EUR 200 million of the sales (20% higher than in 2003).
Source: Ministry of Economy and Energy of Bulgaria, www.mi.government.bg

New Vehicle Inspection Shed is Opened at Malko Tarnovo Border Checkpoint
On 25 November 2005 Minister of Finance Plamen Oresharski and H.E. British Ambassador Jeremy Hill opened new facility for close examination of vehicles at Malko Tarnovo Border Checkpoint.
The construction of the new facility is financed by the British government through the British Embassy in Sofia which coordinates and manages the project. The new vehicle inspection shed at Malko Tarnovo Border Checkpoint is situated on an area of 500 sq.m. and has two levels.
The money amounting to BGN 1,076,000 is extended by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Drugs and Crime Fund.
The construction of this facility was part of the long-lived co-operation between Bulgaria and the United Kingdom in counteracting drug trafficking.
A cold storage shed for searches of lorries suspected of drug trafficking along the so-called Balkan road to the amount of £120,000 was opened at Kapitan Andreevo Border Checkpoint in 2002. In 2003, the British Government ensured the supply and the installation of a system for automatic scanning of the registration numbers of heavy-freight lorries that enter Bulgaria from Turkey through Kapitan Andreevo Border Checkpoint to the amount of £40,000. A highly protected specialized information system for real-time data exchange among drug traffic divisions within the National Customs Agency was also built under a project funded by the British Government totalling £36,700.
Source: Ministry of Economy and Energy of Bulgaria, www.mi.government.bg


Bulgarian National Bank registered a 11.5% FDI growth in Bulgaria for the period January-September 2005
According to the preliminary records of Bulgarian National Bank (BNB) the foreign direct investments in Bulgaria for the period January-September 2005 account for EUR 1322.8 mln. The FDI register a 11.5% growth in comparison to the same period last year, when the investments in the country account for EUR 1187 mln. No significant privatization projects have been completed in the first three quarters of 2005.
“In compliance with the most recent analysis of the experts in InvestBulgaria Agency (IBA) and the data on behalf of the investors, the greenfield investments in the Bulgarian economy up to this moment exceed EUR 1.5 bln. BNB has not yet registered the investments on the projects certified with a First Class Investor Certificates. By the end of the year another two investment projects will be awarded with First Class Certificates”, announced Mr. Pavel Ezekiev, Executive Director of InvestBulgaria Agency.
InvestBulgaria Agency has certified 10 investment projects so far in accordance with the Investment Encouragement Act. Eight projects received certificates for a First Class Investor, guaranteeing investments in Bulgaria for over BGN 70 mln. each. Their complete realization will create some 10,500 new working positions.
Regarding our forecasts for the investments volume, the analysis of IBA show that the investments attracted in Bulgaria for 2005 will account for a total of EUR 6 bln. The FDI will reach the record volume of 2004 accounting for about EUR 2.5 bln. We develop our forecasts based on the recent rates of investing in the Bulgarian economy, as well as on the trends and results in the international investment environment”, explained Mr. Ezekiev.
The preliminary data of BNB on investments by countries for the period January-September 2005 show that the most investments have been attracted from Austria (32.5% of the total volume of FDI in Bulgaria), Switzerland (14.2%) and UK (13.5%).
Source: Bulgarian National Bank

Vignette Sale for 2006 Starts
On 5th December starts the sale of all types of vignette stickers for 2006. By the end of the year continued the sale of vignettes for 2005. The parallel sale will not change the validity term of the vignette types now offered.
The sale of vignette stickers this year will be again through the Road Executive Agency distribution posts in the District Road Offices and in 23 specialized units of the Agency at the cross-border checkpoints.
Vignette stickers can be bought as well from the sale posts of DZI – Trans, Bulgarian Posts – EAD, DZI Bank as well as from the SHELL and OMV petrol stations.
Source: www.mrrb.government.bg


Cabinet Raises Quota for Low-duty Sugar Import
The annual quota for import of raw sugar charged a preferential 5% customs duty will increase by 20,000 tonnes, the Bulgarian cabinet decided at a meeting Thursday, finally satisfying the request of the sugar refinery in Gorna Oryahovitsa. Earlier this year the company accused the authorities of favouring Litex Commerce, which won 87% of the low-duty quota. The Gorna Oryahovitsa-based company requested 89,000 tonnes of raw sugar but received just 27,000 tonnes.
The battle has not been won yet, the plant's executive director, Georgi Uzunov, said. We are yet to see how the additional quota will be distributed.
Source: Ministry of economy and Energy, www.mi.government.bg



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