Bulgaria, Vietnam look to strategic partnership

In an interview granted to VOV prior to his Vietnam visit, President Rosen Plevneliev   revealed a new economic cooperation model with Vietnam

Vietnam and Bulgaria are expected to sign a joint statement during President Rosen Plevneliev’s October 27-31 visit, demonstrating the two countries’ desire to develop a strategic partnership in the future.

Located in South East of Europe, Bulgaria has a population of 6.98 million, including approximately 3 million foreign nationals.

Despite the recent global financial turmoil, Bulgaria has made significant economic achievements. It succeeded in cutting the public debt-to-GDP ratio from 100% to the current 16% in the past decade, and kept the budget deficit and inflation within EU limits. It was also the only EU member country to have improved confidence ratings in the wake of the global recession.

In an interview granted to VOV prior to his Vietnam visit, President Rosen Plevneliev revealed a new economic cooperation model with Vietnam

Bulgaria prioritises comprehensive integration into the European Union, striving to join the Schengen Agreement and Eurozone. It plans to balance East-West relations by developing ties with the US and Russia.

Bulgaria attaches importance to strengthening ties with Asian powers such as China, Japan, India, and the Republic of Korea, as well as countries in Southeast Asia, including Vietnam.

Political links

Bulgaria was one of the 10 countries recognising and establishing diplomatic ties with Vietnam in 1950.

President Ho Chi Minh paid a landmark visit to Sofia in August 1957, laying a foundation for the long-standing friendship and multifaceted cooperation between the two countries.

Bilateral relations developed well between 1950 and 1989, with Bulgaria providing valuable spiritual and material assistance to Vietnam’s struggle for national liberation and defence.

However, the relations ground to a halt in the early 1990s following Bulgaria’s political reshuffle, and they were resumed in 1993.

In its Asian policy, Bulgaria is keen to boost relations with Vietnam. During recent bilateral meetings, senior Bulgarian leaders expressed their desires to establish a strategic partnership with Vietnam.

Since 2000 the two countries’ top leaders have maintained regular reciprocal visits, including those to Sofia by Prime Minister Phan Van Khai in 2000, National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Phu Trong in 2008, Deputy PM Nguyen Sinh Hung in 2010, and Defence Minister Phung Quang Thanh in 2013.

Vietnam received Bulgarian parliamentary speaker Ognyan Gerdzhikov in 2004, PM SergeyStanishev in 2006 and Vice President Angel Marin in 2007.

President Rosen Plevneliev (R) received Deputy PM Nguyen Thien Nhan in Sofia during the latter's visit in 2012 (Photo:VGP)

President Rosen Plevneliev (R) received Deputy PM Nguyen Thien Nhan in Sofia during the latter’s visit in 2012 (Photo:VGP)

The two countries have worked closely together at multilateral forums. Bulgaria supported Vietnam’s 2007 WTO membership, 2008-09 UN Security Council non-permanent membership and 2014-16 UN Human Rights Council membership bids.

Vietnam supported Bulgaria’s candidacy for UNESCO leadership in 2009-13 and its seat on the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2011.

Economic cooperation

Two-way trade remains modest at US$70-80 million a year. To raise bilateral trade, both sides signed a new economic cooperation agreement in 2001, granting each other the most-favoured nations status.

The Vietnam-Bulgaria inter-governmental committee for economic, commercial and scientific and technological cooperation convened its 22nd meeting in Hanoi in 2012, identifying areas of cooperation in 2013.

During a Bulgaria visit in 2010 by Deputy PM Nguyen Sinh Hung, both sides signed an agreement on bilateral debt settlement, taking effect in August 2010. Under the agreement, Bulgaria agreed to transform US$600,000 out of Vietnam’s debt into its official development assistance (ODA).

Vietnam mainly exports garments, footwear, coffee, pepper, tobacco, coal and seafood to Bulgaria, and imports chemicals, pharmaceuticals, wine, machinery, shipbuilding parts, wheat, and fodder from the European nation.

As of December 2012 Bulgaria had 7 valid investment projects in Vietnam, capitalised at US$29.86 million, ranking it 57th among foreign investors in the country.

These projects were focused on manufacturing and processing industries, information and communications technology (ICT), science and technology and services. Two manufacturing and processing projects alone were valued at US$28 million, making up 93% of the total registered capital.

Progress has been made in cultural, education, security and national defence cooperation. Bulgaria has so far trained more than 4,000 scientists and experts and 30,000 skilled workers.

More than 1,000 Vietnamese are currently residing in Bulgaria. Many of them are doing business well, including IMEXCO and RD.