BELGIUM'S INVESTMENTS IN BULGARIA COULD INCREASE
For the third time President Georgi Parvanov met with His Majesty Albert II, King of the Belgians, who was on a three-day visit to Bulgaria (October 14 -16) at the invitation of the Bulgarian Head of State. Their previous talks were last February and in October 2002 when President Parvanov visited Belgium. During the meetings between the Belgian monarch and the Bulgarian statesmen both sides expressed satisfaction with the fair relations between the two countries. Bulgaria's accession to NATO and the EU is the invariable issue of talks between the Bulgarian political elite and foreign statesmen. Next week Belgium will ratify the protocols for Bulgaria's accession to the Alliance. A Belgian-Bulgarian business forum was held in the Boyana residence under the patronage of the two heads of state. The event was organized by the Federation of Enterprises in Belgium and the Bulgarian Industrial Association. The two organisations signed agreements for bilateral cooperation. According to President Parvanov, Belgium's investments of USD500MN and the trade turnover of USD375MN are less than the two countries' opportunities. Investments in Bulgaria are investments in the entire Southwestern region because Bulgaria is a zone of stability, Mr. Parvanov pointed out. Among the most successful Belgian investors in this country are: Solvay, which invested USD193MN in Sodi Devnya and in 2000 became a majority owner of the Devnya-based Thermoelectric Power Plant EAD. Union Miniere has invested USD90MN in the Copper Smelter of Pirdop. Together with a Dutch company the Belgians hold 75% of JV for the construction of the Oiltanking-Bulgaria terminal at the Varna Port. Interbrew AD has invested in the breweries Kamenitza AD of Plovdiv, Astika of Haskovo, Plevensko Pivo and Bourgasko Pivo AD. In his speech in front to the 140 participants in the business forum, President Parvanov recalled that the Bulgarian State, restored after the country's Liberation, was rebuilt according to Belgium's model. His Majesty Albert II, who is a cousin of the Bulgarian Premier Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, and his wife Queen Paola were welcomed by an official ceremony in the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. Later, President Parvanov and His Majesty Albert II exchanged orders and Ms. Zorka Parvanova presented Queen Paola with a traditional Bulgarian folk costume.