Банкеръ Weekly

Briefs

BULGARIA IS STILL UNKNOWN TO OUR BUSINESSMEN

Pierre Consigni, France's honorary finance inspector-in-chief to the Banker weekly

Pierre Consigni is France's honorary finance inspector-in-chief and chairman of Alliance Bulgaria - France - an organisation aiming at stimulating the cooperation between both countries. He is famous for being among the high ranking French officials who has never been in politics. For nearly seven years he was an advisor to the French government during the presidency of General Charles de Gaulle. Later he headed various agencies. At some point he chaired the French Red Cross. He participated in the negotiations for settling Bulgarian debt to its creditors, members of the so called Paris Club.

Mr. Consigni, what is the purpose of your visit to Bulgaria?
- In particular this is the invitation of the Bulgarian Ministry of Finance. We would like to support our Bulgarian colleagues in the sphere of gambling games - casinos, poker machines, lotteries and even horse race bookings. So that the mission I am leading consists of French experts in all these spheres and we would like to give advice to your experts.

You have taken part in the negotiations for the settling of Bulgarian debt to the creditors, members of the Paris club. Do you think that a part of this debt can be exchanged according to the schemes debt against investments or debt against environment? Do you think that French government is interested in applying these schemes with regard to its receivables from Bulgaria?
- In principle at the discussions for the Bulgarian debt all members of the Paris club were positive about that. You are aware that France is presiding the Paris club, but as you know all members abide to and implement the decisions. In this aspect a Bulgarian delegation visited France a couple of weeks ago. At the meeting we discussed the conditions for the settlement of Bulgarian debt. No final decision has been taken yet, but any way, one of the possibilities we are discussing is the exchange of debt against investments.

What part of the debt do you mean?
- I am not the person who makes the final decision.

At present the two largest French banks - BNP Paribas and Societe General - have entered the Bulgarian market. Do you think they will be followed by other big French companies? Do you know some of them which are interested in investing in Bulgaria?
- I'd say that besides the banks you have mentioned there is also another big French company - Danone - which is in Bulgaria and its operation is successful. I cannot specify what are the investment plans of the other large French companies. As for the state authorities, our wish is the French investors to show bigger interest in Bulgaria. At present France is not among the biggest investors in Bulgaria. Germany and Belgium for example have much higher contribution.
I think that the lack of more substantial French investments in Bulgaria is due to the fact that still very little is known about your country in France. In ths aspect I would like to point out the need of stimulating the cooperation between both countries. I chair an organisation named Alliance France and Bulgaria. On May 2, 2001 our organisation will meet in France representatives of the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce, the Foreign Investments Agency and the SME Agency. In Paris the Bulgarian delegation will meet representatives of the French business. Our primary goal is to introduce French business circles to the Bulgarian conditions and investment environment. Our second goal is those, who wish to make investments, to be able to practically carry out their intentions.

What changes do you think should be implemented in the Bulgarian financial sector regulations, so that our legislation in this sphere is fully harmonised with the EU legislation?
- The banking system is among the most important parts of the financial system of any country. I think that the total banking system in Bulgaria should be strengthened. You have already achieved a certain balance. But you should start a more active policy directed towards economic growth. That is why strength and quality of the banking system have crucial importance.

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