Partnership and investment in the railway sector
A delegation of the Czech Senate, led by its Chairman, Premysl Sobotka, made an official visit to Bulgaria on 28th-30th March. On 29th March, Mr Sobotka and the Czech Parliamentary delegation met the Chairman of the National Assembly, Georgi Pirinski. The Czech Senate Chairman delivered a speech before the deputies in the Bulgarian Parliament. Mr Sobotka underlined the fact that Czech experience of EU membership could help Bulgaria avoid certain mistakes. He said that among the prerequisites for the establishment of a successful economic development of the newly-acceded EU member-countries are not only the concentration of effort upon the development of projects to be funded by the Structural Funds, but also the establishment of a favourable business environment for foreign entrepreneurs
In confirmation of his appraisal of Bulgaria as a viable commercial partner of the Czech Republic, the Senate Chairman particularly pointed to the joint Czech-Bulgarian companies in the sphere of railway transport. On the afternoon on 29th March, Mr Sobotka and his delegation visited the production and technology facilities of “Balkan SAST” in Sofia. This daughter company of AZD Prague is among the examples of good bilateral economic cooperation. The investment hitherto made by the “mother-company” amounts to EUR3 million and it is envisaged that in the period 2007-2008 this will exceed EUR7 million. In his address to the Bulgarian and Czech business managers, the Chairman of the Czech Senate pointed out that the role of politicians is to “open the doors”, thus enabling the representatives of the business sector to establish useful and successful contacts and implement in practice the possibilities created on political level.
Eng. Zdenek Hrdle, Director General of AZD Prague, noted that the new 60 employment possibilities hitherto offered by “Balkan Sast”, as well as pending employment offers, are mainly targeted at young Bulgarian professionals. The transfer of know-how and the recruitment of local experts are major elements of the corporative vision of AZD Prague, emphasised the Director General. In his turn, the Governor of “Balkan SAST”, eng. Ivan Kovachev, presented to the guests the production capacities of the company and its projects in the sphere of safety systems and equipment for rail and road transport, including the underground.
On 30th March in the Rila Hall of the Sheraton Hotel, Mr Sobotka officially opened a business forum on “Cooperation options for Czech and Bulgarian companies in the sphere of railway transport in Bulgaria”. In his opening speech the Minister of Transport, Petar Mutafchiev, expressed his personal support, as well as the general support of the Government, for each foreign investor who demonstrates the good will to assist the development of the railway sector. The Minister emphasised the growing role of public-private partnerships as an alternative to state budget-funding in the sphere of railway infrastructure in particular. He stated that the topmost priorities in this sector in Bulgaria are safety issues and the implementation of interoperability, both of which are spheres where our country can make efficient use of Czech experience.
Four Czech Companies – AZD Prague, ŽPSV, OHL ŽS and KPM Consult, as well as the Association for Transport Telematics in the Czech Republic, presented their activities before officials from the Bulgarian Ministry of Transport, the Parliamentary Committee for Transport and Communications, Sofia Municipality, BDZ EAD, NRIC and SE “TCR”. His Excellency, the Ambassador of the Czech Republic in Sofia, Martin Klepetko, commented: “AZD Prague, ŽPSV, OHL ŽS and KPM Consult have accumulated significant experience in the railway sector and the provision of consultancy services for companies in the Czech Republic and the markets of Central and Eastern European Countries. I am convinced that with their know-how these four companies can be useful for the development of railway construction and transport in Bulgaria”.
The vision of the four represented Czech companies, three of which have solid positions in Bulgaria, was voiced by eng. Michal Stefl, Chief Executive Director of OHL ŽS, thus: “the aim of Czech investors is not an unscrupulous market invasion but the establishment of fruitful cooperation, which is the sine qua non for the efficient functioning of the Trans-European transport network”.