EBRD First Vice President Bennett in Bulgaria

By Axel  Reiserer

Marking the 20th anniversary since the EBRD opened its office in Bulgaria, the Bank’s First Vice President, Phil Bennett, has visited the country this week. “The EBRD is proud to support the development of Bulgaria’s economy. We are pleased to have been active in the country’s transition over these past years, and having met with many companies that we have financed, we believe there is a mandate to continue to intensify our efforts for the benefit of the country and its people.”

Since the start of its operations in Bulgaria in 1993, the EBRD has invested €2.7 billion in 225 projects, with a total project value of €8.8 billion. Ninety-three per cent of the portfolio is in the private sector. Over the years the Bank’s investments and activities have evolved significantly, in accordance with the country’s overall economic development.

The most recent was a €15 million loan for energy efficiency improvements. This year the Bank’s business volume in Bulgaria is expected to reach €200 million, in line with the Bank’s annual business volume in the country in recent years.

The EBRD’s key recent initiatives in Bulgaria include investments to increase the competiveness of the country’s corporate sector and to support municipal infrastructure. Energy sector investments have also been a very significant part of the Bank’s activities, with particular focus on sustainable energy investments. Smaller local companies have seen increased financial support, through both direct investments and the Bank’s financing via local financial institutions.

Daniel Berg, EBRD Director, Bulgaria, said: “The EBRD has consistently worked to contribute to Bulgaria’s success and prosperity. We are very proud of our contribution to the Bank’s impact over the past two decades. . We strongly believe in Bulgaria’s potential, and we will continue to lend our support, particularly with our private sector partners.”

The latest EBRD Transition Report provides a mixed assessment of Bulgaria’s reform process. While the energy policy is being downgraded for the second successive year, the report also finds that Bulgaria has an above-average share of small and medium-sized enterprises, which are crucial for sound long-term economic development. The most recent economic forecast by the EBRD expects growth to pick up significantly in 2014 and to reach 2.0 per cent.

In addition to being the single largest investor in Bulgaria, the EBRD also manages the Kozloduy International Decommissioning Support Fund for decommissioning the Kozloduy nuclear plant. The Fund also provides grant support to energy efficiency projects in line with the country’s National Energy Strategy.

During his visit to Bulgaria EBRD First Vice President Bennett met President Plevneliev, Prime Minister Oresharski, Deputy Prime Minster Bobeva, Finance Minister and EBRD Governor Chobanov and the mayor of Sofia Fandakova. He also saw representatives of the business and diplomatic communities, and visited the gold mine at Chelopech, in which the EBRD has been a lender for nearly a decade and which is a positive example for sustainable long-term investments.