THE GERMAN ENGINE PULLS DIRECTLY INTO UNIFIED EUROPE
COMMERCIAL EXCHANGE BETWEEN GERMANY AND BULGARIA INCREASES STEADILY Mitko Vassilev, Head of the Representative Office and Chairman of the Business Club of German Economy in BulgariaIt is widely known that Germany is one of Bulgaria's main trade and economic partners. It is sufficient to mention that it is a leading investor, a major commercial partner, the most important tourist market for Bulgaria, on of the engines of European integration, and an advocate of the EU's expansion to the East.The year 2002 was rich in important and interesting economic events. Filled with enthusiasm by the invitation to Bulgaria for membership in NATO, the evaluation that there is a functioning market economy in the country, and the outlook for joining the EU in 2007, we seem to lose sight of some important aspects of the bilateral economic realtions with countries, which have a key role for the development of the Bulgarian economy at the international level. It's worth while considering in more detail three aspects in the Bulgarian-German economic cooperation. TradeAfter the huge collapse in the beginning of the 1990s and the fluctuating development of foreign-trade commercial exchange between the two countries, a steady upward trend in the bilateral turnover of goods has been noticed since 1997. A record high commercial exchange between Germany and Bulgaria, amounting to some DEM3.4BN, was registered in 2001. Bulgarian exports to Germany then totalled DEM1.4BN, and imports were worth about DEM2BN. Although the fiscal 2002 has not been completed yet and conclusive statistacal data cannot be presented, a 10.1% increase in the first ten months of last year has been observed. According to Germany's data, it amounts to EUR1.5BN. Bulgaria's exports amounted to some EUR600MN (8.2% growth as compared to 2001) and imports from Germany were worth about EUR900MN (11.5% rise from the same period of last year). We have reasons to expect that the conclusive figures for the entire 2002 will make us glad by a new record in the bilateral commercial exchange. However, the trade deficit trend for Bulgaria persists. Imports' and exports' structure is relatively stable. The happy news is that although at a lower pace, Bulgaria's export to Germany increases.InvestmentsGermany has been almost continuously the leading investor in Bulgaria since 1992. According to the Foreign Investment Agency, a total of USD4.8BN was invested in Bulgaria from 1992 till September 2002. USD595MN of that amount were German investments. Thus, Germany keeps its leadership. The names of big Greman investors, well-known to the general public, include: Metro, Heidelberger Zement, Liebher, WAZ, Knauf, Ytong, Willi Betz, Messer Grissheim, Festo, Siemens, Sparky, Rollmann, Norekom, Hugo Pfohe, Allianz, Hypovereinsbank, etc. The data for the first half of 2002 showed that Greece was the top investor in Bulgaria. The fact that Germany had yielded its leadership was pointed out during the two official visists to Germany in 2002 and in the following three months Germany regained its leadership. Small and Medium-sized EnterprisesThere is hardly a country in the world where people have not heard about the big German corporations, such as Deimler Chrysler, Siemens, BMW, Robert Bosch, Deutsche Bank, Lufthansa, MAN, Tissen Krupp, Volkswagen, BASF, Bayer, Allianz, etc. At the same time, the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of Germany's econony. They are the driving force and engine of progress, which reacts flexibly to the market changes and creates innovations. There are many regional, national and European programmes (more than 400) in Germany, which in one way or another encourage the SMEs. In the era of globalizarion SMEs in Germany are inclined to seek foreign partners and new markets. Cooperation between Bulgarian and German SMEs may result in interchange of important know-how, development of joint projects and their implementation, stepping onto third markets, and opening of new working positions. It is necessary to work purposefully for the elimination of hindrances, impeding the mutuually advatageous two-way business. In that connection the Business Club of German Economy in Bulgaria realized its initiative and carried out three consecutive researches (in 1996, 1999 and 2001), regarding the experience of German investors operating in Bulgaria and the prospects to their activities. The consecutive poll of the German businessmen operating in Bulgaria will be held in 2003. It will provide an updated picture of the present situation and the future trends. The German economy has opportunities for and is willing to cooperate and work with the Bulgarian business. In that respect not only positions should become closer, but specific priorities should be outlined and programmes for activities are to be worked out.