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260. Bujar Skendo: Tourism in Albania provides good opportunities for the Bulgarian business

Focus: 2008-09-30

Mr. Ambassador, whats the state of the relations between out two countries?

Bujar Skendo: The relations between Bulgaria and Albania can be characterized as excellent. We are awaiting the formal visit of the Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov in Tirana, which will be the fourth visit of a highest-standing official in Albania. Also, we are expecting Bulgarias ratification of the protocol for the admission of Albania to NATO.

How does Albania moves along the reform path and the process of reaching the standards necessary for membership in NATO and the EU?

Bujar Skendo: Albania is changing with exceptional speed. There is visible progress in our development. It would be enough to remind that Albania was rated in the last report by the World Bank one of the ten countries with quickest reforms regarding creating opportunities for the development of the business. Naturally this reflects the creation of thousands new companies, local and foreign. This new business climate affects the social and economical life in the country. Road infrastructure improves; all villages and coastal tourist zones are linked to the main roads. Albania has become a massive construction site.

Since we are talking about tourism, are there any changes in this field?

Bujar Skendo: Tourism is changing and getting modernized with every passing day. More than 2 Million tourists visited Albania this year. Do you know how many young Bulgarians I met along the South coastline? It was very exciting for me when I was coming along Bulgarian license plates and when we were greeting each other.

Is there any development of the economic relations between Bulgaria and Albania during the last years? What is the growth in trade between the two countries?

Bujar Skendo: There is development in the trade relations. Albania continues to import goods from Bulgaria worth USD 100 Million per year. Albania imports goods in Bulgaria amounting to 15-20 Million. There is some imbalance but this happens in trade relations. The relations are not constant, they change every year.

What is the share of the Bulgarian investments in Albania?

Bujar Skendo: Bulgarian investments in Albania register growth in 2008. We used to have only one investment for fizzy drinks near Tirana before. Now investments grow and according to the recent data there are new Bulgarian companies investing primarily in light and food industry. But I think that Bulgarian businessmen havent make a full use of the tourism field in Albania a field, which is quite attractive and brings good profit to foreign investors. There are a lot of investments in hotels, vacation villages, etc. Bulgarian investors could make benefit of this and present projects to the Albanian government. This would be in their benefit and naturally in the interest of the development of the Albanian tourism.

Are Albanian investors interested in Bulgaria? What are the most attractive sectors for such investments?

Bujar Skendo: Albanian investments in Bulgaria are concentrated mainly in construction. There are several Albanian companies operating in the field, but we can speak about more serious intentions in this field.

259. 208 EU Insurers Work in Bulgaria

News BG: 2008-09-29

The premium income of the Bulgarian insurance market in the first months of the year is 852, 514 million levs, according to data from the Association of insurers in Bulgaria.

Of these, 723,296 million have been collected by general insurance companies and 129,218 million levs - from life insurers.

32,6% of the gross premium income of insurance comes from brokers, BNR announces.

247 are the insurance brokers, registered in Bulgaria. The number of insurance agents is 53 048.

Only in the first half of the year 171 insurance brokers have claimed that they want to practice in Bulgaria. Their total number is 745.

The insurers from the EU, interested in the Bulgarian market, are 26 for the second quarter of 2008 only, while their total number is 208.

258. 2nd Congress on Investment in Tourism Starts in Bulgaria

News BG: 2008-09-27

The National board on tourism and the State agency on tourism organized the second congress of the investors in tourism. It is expected the Bulgarian president Georgi Parvanov to open the forum.

The aim of the forum is the representatives of the legislative and the executive power, chair persons and members of representative tourist organisations, mayors and investors to discuss present issues about the development of the tourist industry in Bulgaria.

Among the main topics during the discussion are the funding of the national advertisement and the international marketing in Bulgaria, the ownership and the management of the tourist attractions. The participants will discuss also the problem with the qualification of the personnel in this sector.

257. New multi-functional building for Evropa Boulevard in Sofia

Wise Property: 2008-09-26

Mapa International is investing in a facility that will feature office and warehouse spaces on Evropa Boulevard across from supermarket Metro-2. The mixed-purpose building will occupy about 3000 sq m out of a 0.8 ha land plot. In addition, the investor plans to construct a multi-functional centre resembling a traditional mall with a total built-up area of 10 000 sq m, Stroitelstvo gradut reported.

The designer is the Plovdiv-based studio ARZH-ART with project manager architect Emil Zhechev.

The office building will feature five levels, one of them subterranean. Two parking lots with a total of 31 car spaces are also envisioned in the plan.

Spokespersons from the architectural studio have revealed that the office building will have a dynamic structure with broken symmetry.

A café, conference halls and offices for clients' meetings will occupy the first level. The upper three levels will be offices for the Mapa International employees.

A warehouse will adjoin the office building at its rear. Its total built-up area will be 1100 sq m. Building will begin as soon as a construction company is selected.

256. Exhibition of The Cyrillic Alphabet in Manhattan For Bulgarian Independence

Sofia Echo: 2008-09-25

The exhibition The Bulgarian letters alphabet of Europe with which the 100-year anniversary of Bulgaria's independence will be marked in New York is from today at the hearth of Manhattan, informed BNR.

In front of the guests at Scandinavian house where the exhibition is placed, the Bulgarian prime minister Sergei Stanishev reminded how memorable for the Bulgarians is the marking of this anniversary.

These are 100 years in which the Bulgarian people walked with dignity, putting a lot of effort, overcoming big difficulties, achieving a lot, stressed PM Stanishev. He expressed his joy that the anniversary is marked not only in Bulgaria but also in the USA.

For me, as it is for all Bulgarians, Bulgaria is where lives even one our fellow countryman, pointed out Stanishev. He expressed confidence that this memorable date would be marked throughout the world where Bulgarians live.

The opening of the exhibition was attended by the Bulgarian deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs Ivaylo Kalfin, the Bulgarian ambassador in USA Elena Poptodorova, foreign diplomats, journalists.

Sergei Stanishev is in New York to take part in the regular 63rd session of the United Nations General Assembly.

255. 66,5 Million for Small and Medium Business

News BG: 2008-09-24

Gratuitous financial aid for the amount of 65 million levs will be given to small and medium business, the Economy Ministry announced.

The first contracts with beneficiaries of this aid were signed today.

Up to now 115 contracts for the amount of 40 315 129 levs have been signed according to the procedure "Technological modernization in companies".

177 contracts have been signed on the procedure "Covering of internationally accepted standards" for gratuitous financial aid for a total of 8 068 994 levs.

By the end of the month the ministry will add 4 new procedures for gratuitous financial aid on Operative programme "Development of the competitiveness of Bulgarian standards" 2007-2013.

254. Diamond found in Lesotho among largest ever: company

Sofia Echo: 2008-09-23

LONDON (AFP) - Gem Diamonds, a London-listed mining firm, said on Sunday it had recovered a 478 carat diamond from its mine in Lesotho: the 20th-largest rough diamond ever found.

The discovery of the gem, which the company said had the potential to become one of the largest round-cut diamonds in the world, was made on September 8 at the Letseng mine in Lesotho.

"Preliminary examination of this remarkable diamond indicates that it will yield a record-breaking polished stone of the very best colour and clarity," the company's Chief Executive Clifford Elphick said in a statement.

The diamond, which has not yet been named, has the potential to yield a 150 carat polished stone, a company spokesman said.

That would be far bigger than the 105 carat round-cut Koh-i-Noor diamond seized by Britain from India in the 19th century and now part of the Crown Jewels.

It would still only be a fraction of the size, however, of the Cullinan diamond discovered in 1905, which was 3,106 carats when recovered and yielded a teardrop shaped diamond of 530 carats: the Great Star of Africa.

The Letseng mine is owned by a mining company that is 70 percent owned by Gem Diamonds, with the remaining 30 percent held by the Lesotho government.

Gem Diamonds's share price on the London Stock Exchange was 741.50 pence at the close of trading on Friday.

253. 100 Years Independence of Bulgaria

News BG: 2008-09-22

The war of Liberation of 1877-1878 ended with the Peace Treaty of San Stefano, signed on 3 March 1878, which restored the Bulgarian state to her 14c territories. That however was followed by the Berlin Treaty of 1878, which truncated the country, dividing it into the Principality of Bulgaria, vassal of the Ottoman Empire, and Eastern Roumelia (Southern Bulgaria) which was granted administrative autonomy but remained under the political and military authority of the Sultan. The arrangement impeded the economic development of the country and eliminated its place in the family of European nations. Moreover, the Treaty of Berlin made it compulsory for the Principality of Bulgaria to comply with the Capitulations enforced on the Ottoman Empire by the Great Powers, notably the preferential import of European industrial production, thus inflicting damages on the production of Bulgarian goods. That was but one of the causes for the efforts of the entire political elite of Bulgaria after the Unification of Eastern Roumelia with the Principality of Bulgaria in 1886, towards the formal recognition of Bulgarian independence. The first years of the 20c created conducive conditions: the Big Powers were concentrating on the decision, by Austro-Hungary, to annex Bosnia and Herzegovina in violation of the clauses of the Berlin Treaty; France and Germany disputed their protectorate over Morocco. In Turkey itself, the Young Turks performed their own coup detat in 1908.

It was precisely in the same year that on 22 September the historic Declaration of Bulgarian Independence was read in the Church of the 40 Martyrs in the old Bulgarian capital of Veliko Turnovo and Prince Ferdinand was bestowed the title of Tzar of the Bulgarians. The act formally restored the connection between the resurrected Bulgarian state and the Second Bulgarian Kingdom of 1393-96. The Declaration was then read again, by Prime Minister Alexander Malinov, to the thousands of Bulgarians who had gathered on the historic hills of Tzarevetz.

Now the efforts focused on the diplomatic recognition of the Bulgarian independence. With the mediation of, and the financial encouragement by Russia, Turkey renounced its claims on Bulgaria and recognised the independent Bulgarian state. This was followed by formal recognition by the Great Powers in April 1909. Independent Bulgaria was a fact.

The Independence was extremely beneficial for the future of the Bulgarian state. It put Bulgaria on an equal footing with the other states in Europe, created favourable conditions for its bilateral and multilateral links and, last but not least, set up the foundations of the fruitful economic development of the country.

252. Bulgarian bourse ends week on positive note

Sofia Echo: 2008-09-20

Bulgarian stock indices bounced up after seven straight days of decline on September 19, buoyed by positive developments on international markets, recovering a fraction of the losses suffered over the preceeding week.

Lehman Brothers' bankruptcy filing and the AIG turmoil sunk the main indices of the Bulgarian Stock Exchange (BSE) through the week, but the Federal Reserve's plans to shore up the aching financial sectors brought relief for the markets, BSE making no exception.

The bourse's Sofix blue-chip index, which tracks the performance of the 19 most liquid stocks on BSE, finished 1.7 per cent higher on the day, but still ended the week 11 per cent down, at 853.75 points. The wider BG40 index closed at 206.86 points, up 2.2 per cent for the day and 11.7 down for the week on September 19.

Most blue chips finished the week even worse, with the stock price of insurer Euro Ins losing 23.5 per cent for the week and drug maker Sopharma closing 20 per cent down. Only one of the companies in the BG40 index, pharmaceutical firm Bulgarska Roz Sevtopolis, finished the week higher, adding 6.4 per cent.

"Quite a few factors added to the selling. Because of the drop in stock prices, some repo deals made at the start of this year or end of last year went through," broker Ivan Ovcharov from Elana Trading brokerage told investor.bg. "Foreign investors also played a role, selling stock actively, worried by developments on their own markets."

In related news, the chairperson of Bulgaria's securities regulator Apostol Apostolov said on September 19 that he did not expect the global financial turmoil to have a direct impact on the Bulgarian market.

A stable macro-economic framework and favourable tax environment give reason to believe that the global crisis will only have an indirect impact on Bulgaria, he told Bulgarian news agency BTA.

Apostolov, who said earlier this week that "what does not killl us, makes us stronger", believes that the BSE is working efficiently and a recovery of the global markets would make the Bulgarian stock exchange attractive to investors again.

251. The Bulgarian Bank System is Stable

News BG: 2008-09-19

Over 81% of Bulgarian banks are a property of stable European treasuries, who have no direct investments in the mortgage market in the USA and have not incurred losses.

This was announced by the manager of Bulgarian National Bank Ivan Iskrov.

According to him the mother-banks have continued to give financial resources to their Bulgarian branches. The Bulgarian banks have high credit standards, Iskrov

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