Sofia, 29 March 2013 Press release

Lopatka: "Rule of law essential for further investment in Bulgaria"

Working meetings of State Secretary Lopatka with leading Bulgarian government representatives focused on economic cooperation

Sofia, 29 March 2013 – "With some 400 companies represented in Bulgaria, Austria is the second largest investor in the country. Further improvement of investment conditions and protection of investment should thus be in the interest of both countries, as any interest in making further investments in Bulgaria could otherwise dwindle", State Secretary Reinhold Lopatka said and discussed his view with Bulgaria's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Regional Development, Ekaterina Zaharieva and also with the Minister for Economy, Energy and Tourism, Assen Vassilev. The main items on the agenda of the meeting in Sofia were the protection of Austrian investment and the perspectives of economic cooperation with Bulgaria, including the future involvement of Austrian companies in EU projects.

The State Secretary also concentrated on safeguarding the rule of law and supporting the current need for reform in Bulgaria: "It is in the interest of both of our countries that Bulgaria should soon reach EU standards in terms of legal protection, a transparent judicial system and the fight against corruption." While the last report of the European Commission on the reform of the judicial system recognised progress made, it nevertheless referred to the need for continuing reform efforts, especially with regard to the fight against corruption and organised crime. "We call upon the Bulgarian side to swiftly continue its reforms", Lopatka said.

A further item on the agenda was the situation of EVN (Energieversorgung Niederösterreich), an important electricity supplier in Bulgaria. In February, EVN property was attacked in the course of mass demonstrations against high electricity charges; and EVN initiated arbitration proceedings for the damage suffered. The State Secretary urged for a constructive solution in this context. "EVN is an experienced and responsible Austrian company and has invested more than 500 million euros in improving the Bulgarian power supply network since 2005 and this has also represented a valuable contribution to the economic development of Bulgaria", the State Secretary concluded.

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