NEW WAVE OF COMMERCIAL ATTACHES COMES ALONG
One of the most attractive appointments, dreamt of by any state official, is work abroad, either as a diplomat or as a commercial attache. The Ministry of Economy is preparing a landing on three continents with the appointment of 13 new Bulgarian trade attaches. Although no contest has been officially invited yet, a great number of candidates are already inquiring information from the ministry. According to the Deputy Minister of Economy Milen Keremedchiev, the choice will start within a few weeks.The work of our economic represtatives abroad has always been a subject of sharp discussions between the rulers and the opposition, and their nomination is almost invariably connected with lobbyist interests. The money which the Treasury spends on the maintenance of a trade mission is not at all negligible. According to various estimates, an economic representative abroad costs between EUR50,000-90,000 a year on average. And the question if the spent money has yielded any positive results is most often rhethorical.Some of the lucky nominees, who succeed to pass through the sieve of the specially appoined commission for the future contest, will be responisble for the promotion of Bulgaria's commercial relations with Lebanon, Egypt, Libya, and Algeria. Bulgaria opened trade representative office in these countries more than a year and half ago. The functions of trade attaches in the above-mentioned countries are currently fulfilled by the ambassadors, and the work is too much for them. This might be partly an explanation why the much-expected investments from Arab countries did not come to Bulgaria. The govornors obviously hope that Bulgarian goods would step onto the market in Latin America, as Mexico, Argenitina and Peru are among the countries where we'll have new trade attaches.The Deputy Premier and Minister of Economy Nikolay Vassilev has personally made a decision to strengthen the teams of trade representations in Bulgaria's strategic EU partners, which are the top foreign investors in our country. According to Mr. Keremedchiev, the well-developed industrial Italian region Vento in Northern Italy is of special interest to our country. But Bulgaria's representative in Rome Valentin Yordanov finds it difficult to cover the entire territory of the Apennines. Therefore, a trade representative will be appointed in Milan as well. The team in Spain will be increased as well. New represenatives will be sent to Barcelona. A second trade representative will be appointed in France, too, although in the words of Mr. Keremedchiev Bulgaria's incumbent attache in Paris Arto Chrakyan is our most outstanding trade representative. A serious achievement in his activity is the presentation of Bulgaria in front of the management boards of Citroen and Peugeot. Bulgaria's positions in Scandinavia are expected to strenghten by the appointment of a new trade attache in Oslo. One more trade representative office in Greece will be opened in some of the big towns.However, the changes won't go without dismissals. During its meeting in December 2002 the Testemonial Committee with the Ministry of Economy, which appraises the work of Bulgaria's trade attaches round the world, made a decision for three dismissals. One of our represntatives in the Ukraine, for example, will have to come home for violating Nikolay Vassilev's order not to leave the country where he works without a written permission. Bulgaria's trade representative in New York Stamen Tassev will also return to Bulgaria due to his unsatisfactory results.By the forthcoming contest the second wave of appointment of trade attaches will be realized during the government of the NMSII. The first one was in the summer of 2001 when the already former deputy minister of economy Lyubka Kachakova repalced most of Bulgaria's trade representatives abroad. The newly-appointed were expected to perform wonders and increase the foreign direct investments in Bulgaria and also open the way for exports by Bulgarian companies. Only a year later, however, it turned out that Ms. Kachakova's choice was not very felicitous and it was criticized by the Deputy Premier Nikolai Vassilev personally at the annual meeting with 54 attaches in the summer of 2002 at teh Boyana residence. Then he demanded from each one of them to bring at least one strategic investor from the country he works in, and to assist to closing at least one big deal with a Bulgarian company. He also put to the trade representative the task to draft lists of the top 100 companeis in the respective countries and research their interest in making investments in Bulgaria. Six months later the Economic Ministry reported that the lists of foreign companeis were ready and there was an improvement in respect of the information given to Bulgarian firms. Although Nikolay Vassilev's political cabinet shares the position of the Bulgarian Industrial Association and the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry that the remuneration of trade attaches should be bound with the results fo their activities, it cannot be applied at present. The reasons are that amendments are necessary in the State Officials Act and the Act on State Administration.