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Greece, Athens, Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria

Ambassador Valentin Poryazov gave an interview for the Greek newspaper "Voria"

09 September 2023 News

Bulgaria and Greece are the closest partners in the Balkans


This year Bulgaria is the honored country at the 87th TIF. What can we expect to see at your booth? Are B2B meetings between Bulgarian and Greek businessmen planned at your stand? From which sectors come the Bulgarian entrepreneurs who will attend the TIF?

Bulgaria was invited to be the honoured country at the 87th Thessaloniki International Fair where the latest trends in a number of strategic economic areas will be presented. This is, indeed, an honour for us and we will do our best to present the potential of the Bulgarian economy.

Bulgaria will be represented in sectors such as IT, hi-tech, energy, infrastructure, construction, education, tourism, and the food industry. Bulgarian companies with a strong international presence will participate, such as EnduroSat, a significant player in the satellite industry and space technology, and Telerik Academy, providing accessible and innovative digital technology training. Among the participants is the Sofia Techpark, which provides a platform for global, regional and national companies to develop innovative technologies and exchange know-how to boost competitiveness and the business climate. The Bulgarian Investment Agency, which supports the creation and the successful development of projects leading to new jobs, exports and transfer of know-how, will also be present at the Thessaloniki International Fair. The Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, whose experts conduct scientific research, training and activities of national and international importance, will participate as well.

The presence at such an important international forum as TIF provides a broad range of opportunities and prospects for further development of economic cooperation in a number of areas, with the potential to improve the overall business climate and attract new investors. We expect the Bulgarian companies to have fruitful bilateral meetings and establish new direct contacts with potential partners from Greece.

During the Thessaloniki Fair, a bilateral Business Forum will be held with the participation of Ministers from both governments and business leaders. It will further stimulate the establishment of new partnerships between Bulgarian and Greek companies.

In which sectors is the investment interest of Bulgarian businessmen in Greece focused and, conversely, do you think there are prospects for even more investment of Greek businesses in your country?

Greece is an attractive destination for international investments, including from Bulgaria. At present Bulgarian investment interests are mainly focused in the energy, infrastructure and tourism sectors. I hope that in the near future we will also witness Bulgarian investments in new fields, like communications and information technologies.

The IGB project for a gas interconnector between Greece and Bulgaria, in operation since October 2022, in which the Bulgaria participates with a 50% stake, is a clear example of a strategic long-term investment with a broad regional scope that has served as a positive example and inspiration for new sustainable investments. The same applies to the project for a floating LNG terminal near Alexandroupolis, in which Bulgaria participates with 20% and which will be completed by the end of this year.

Bulgaria has a particular interest in the plans for the future development and management of the Greek ports of Kavala and Alexandroupolis. Bulgarian businesses are also showing strong interest in using these two commercial ports, especially in the context of the blocked trade routes in the Black Sea due to the Russian aggression against Ukraine. All this presupposes the establishment of a much better connecting infrastructure between our two countries, relevant for two members of the European Union and bringing new prospects for our economic cooperation in the next decades. These new realities are best embodied by the Sea2Sea project, whose aim is to connect Bulgarian ports on the Black Sea with the Greek ports in the northern Aegean Sea through a modern transport, energy and communication infrastructure. In practical terms, it would be an alternative route to the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles.

As far as tourism is concerned, it is worth noting that in recent years large-scale Bulgarian investment projects have been implemented, including hotel complexes in Chalkidiki and the island of Thassos. The tourist industry in Greece favors the attraction of new investments and creates conditions for the realization of successful investment projects.

Bulgaria traditionally is an important trading partner of Greece and an attractive investment destination for Greek businesses, focused primarily on banking, trade, real estate, construction, metal production, food and beverages, etc. In recent years, the Greek business presence in Bulgaria has grown significantly, with over 18,000 Greek companies operating in Bulgaria. The total Greek investments in Bulgaria reached a record 3 billion euros in 2022. For 2023, Greece is the third largest source of direct foreign investment in Bulgaria with over 300 million euros.

The global and regional crises that we witness in recent years have accelerated our joint awareness that the economies of Bulgaria and Greece are mutually complementary, and our common EU membership creates countless opportunities for cooperation. I am confident that both governments have the political will to realize them to the benefit of their citizens, to the benefit of the future generations of Greeks and Bulgarians.

Do you think that the bilateral energy agreements (Chiren/Revythoussa gas storage) make Bulgaria and Greece a strong dipole in the Balkans at a European level since, especially after the war in Ukraine, the energy crisis is the most important issue on the international agenda? And how can these agreements be taken a step further?

Energy security, diversification of energy sources and green transition are among the leading priorities of our cooperation.

The solidarity demonstrated by Greece, which provided its energy infrastructure, including the LNG terminal at Revithoussa, after Russia suddenly cut gas supplies to Bulgaria in April 2022, was a clear proof of the high level of political trust and strategic partnership that has been established between our two countries. At the same time, Bulgaria has helped guarantee Greek energy security by reserving a part of the capacity of our underground gas storage "Chiren" for Greece.

The real synergy in the field of energy security that has already been established between Bulgaria and Greece represent a solid basis for facing together the contemporary regional and global challenges and overcoming their consequences. Undoubtedly, Greece and Bulgaria have the potential to create together an energy hub in Southeast Europe, whose importance would be not only of regional, but also of pan-European dimensions.

How is the plan to create a new Alexandroupoli-Bourgas oil pipeline developing and what are the goals of this plan?

You will remember that after the Russian aggression against Ukraine, the EU decided to introduce a ban on the imports of Russian oil. The dependence of our refinery in Burgas upon Russian oil forced the Bulgarian government to request a special derogation from this ban until the end of 2024. Obviously, we urgently need a strategy for securing non-Russian oil via alternative routes.

The Alexandroupolis-Burgas oil pipeline project is of a strategic importance not only for Bulgaria and Greece, but for the entire region, as it will diversify the sources of crude oil for the largest oil refinery in Southeast Europe - that in Burgas.

The pipeline will reduce our dependence on Russia to a minimum. It will guarantee the reliability and security of oil supplies for Bulgaria and the region, which will have a positive economic effect in terms of attracting investments and creating new jobs. Simultaneously, the project will strengthen and upgrade the energy connectivity between Bulgaria and Greece.

For that purpose we have established a high-level bilateral interagency working group, which deals with all aspects of the pipeline's planning and future construction. I expect practical results from the deliberations of our experts in the next couple of months.

Many of your countrymen visit Halkidiki, Kavala and Thassos every summer and many of them even buy houses. Are they facing any problems and should the Greek state solve them? Also, do you think there are prospects for further tourism cooperation between the two countries?

Greece is a preferred summer destination for many Bulgarians. Every year more and more Bulgarians spend their summer holidays in your country, especially in Northern Greece. This has naturally led to an increased interest in buying summer houses or other property in Greece, where the market is diverse. Northern Greece is particularly attractive for us with its proximity to Bulgaria, excellent conditions for tourism and numerous beaches. We hope that these Bulgarian investments have a positive economic effect and contribute to the development of tourism in Northern Greece. The Greek government has recently introduced an efficient registration system which significantly eased the procedure for acquiring property. Of course, there are still shortcomings in the operation of the real estate market, but we hope that over time they will be overcome.

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