Bulgaria offers many advantages as an investment destination and we will continue to pursue a policy with a focus on that, said Prime Minister Boyko Borissov at his meeting today with Austria’s Ambassador Andrea Wicke and with representatives of Austrian businesses in Bulgaria. The Prime Minister highlighted Bulgaria’s entry into the EU banking union and ERM II that guarantees transparency of finances. “I think that Bulgaria manages the pandemic in a way which is the best way in Europe and that your companies cannot aver that they work in a pandemic situation,” Mr. Borissov said, noting the flexibility as demonstrated in terms of measures to mitigate, as much as possible, the feeling of the businesses of the crisis caused by the pandemic. The Prime Minister placed special emphasis on education as a key priority of the Government. “We have doubled the salaries of schoolteachers; the same holds good for university teaching staff. That is billions on top. We have invested over a billion in educational infrastructure. Indeed, a lot has been done by this Government in this area as never before,” stressed Prime Minister Boyko Borissov.
The meeting focused on the development of economic relations between Bulgaria and Austria, the potential of which is evidenced by the trade turnover last year, which exceeded 1 billion euro, and the impressive amount of Austrian investments in Bulgaria. Austria ranks second in terms of foreign direct investment in Bulgaria, with over 350 Austrian companies operating in the country.
The meeting discussed the responses to an opinion poll conducted among Austrian investors in Bulgaria, at the initiative of the Commercial Office of the Austrian Embassy in Sofia, which is essentially the Austrian Chamber of Commerce in Bulgaria. The main task of the Office is to conduce to the continuous improvement and expansion of business relations between Austria and Bulgaria and to arouse the interest of Austrian companies in the Bulgarian market. Mrs. Ulrike Straka, Commercial Counselor at the Austrian Embassy in Sofia, presented the results of the poll.
The data show the challenges facing Austrian investors in the context of the pandemic whose negative impact continued throughout 2020. Austrian businesses in Bulgaria singled out the foreseeable economic policy as a leading priority in the situation of global crisis. The results of the poll also show that 60 out of 94 companies managed to go without layoffs in the pandemic, and that some of the companies availed, inter alia, of the Government’s socio-economic measures. For 65 of the companies polled, further investment plans are not changed or are almost unchanged despite the pandemic. The poll also shows the understanding of investors that improving infrastructure in Bulgaria is the key to the business-friendly environment in Bulgaria. Another important issue that preoccupies investors is the labor market and the shortage of skilled workers. Almost half of the polled Austrian companies in Bulgaria believe that the impact of the crisis on businesses due to the pandemic of COVID-19 will be felt until 2022.