Foundation for Local Government Reform
2008/02: Valuable Forum

The Foundation for Local Government Reform (FLGR) carried out the Second Annual Conference "Municipalities and Business - Partners for Economic Development" on 18-19 February 2008 in Sofia.

Mr. Asen Gagauzov, Minister of Regional Development and Public Works, and H. E. Etienne de Poncins, Ambassador of France in Bulgaria opened the Conference.

The forum brought together over 180 participants: mayors, chairmen of municipality council, deputy mayors, directorate directors and experts from 48 municipalities, 4 regional governors, representatives of seven ministries, two agencies, universities, NGOs and business, representatives of Italian Chamber of Commerce, “Economic moulding and development strategies” - Ireland, USAID, German technical collaboration, as well representatives of the foreign missions of Ireland, Norway and France in Bulgaria.

In the Keynote presentation Jan Havelka, investment advisor, CEO, IPEC-CZ, presented his SWAT analyses of Bulgarian competitiveness in the globalising world. He emphasised on the necessity of common vision and strategy at national, regional and municipal level, of mutual trust and co-operation between the different levels of government, as well of effective utilization of EU funds for regional projects.

The topic of the first plenary session was “Competitiveness of the Bulgarian municipalities for site selection and location of new business”. During it two municipalities from the newest members of the EU - Romania and Bulgaria - shared their approaches and initiatives for attracting investments. The Secretary of the municipality of Giurgui, Romania, Petre Rosu also told about the joint ideas of Giurgui and Rousse for improving the infrastructure of the Friendship Bridge. Georgi Ivanov, Mayor of Haskovo, outlined the approaches and initiatives, which helped for improving the business climate in Haskovo. He also stressed that the lack of coordination and political lead to missed opportunities for accelerated local and regional development. Dr. John Bradley, international consultant in the field of development strategies, Ireland, outlined the importance of Bulgarian national development strategy and the necessity of coordinated actions at national and local level for its successful implementation. Relying on the Irish experience he represented his views for the possible development strategies and challenges, which stand in front of Bulgaria.

The second plenary session discussed the topic: “Bulgarian businesses and the EU”. Dimitar Petkov, Deputy Executive Director, The Bulgarian Small and Medium Enterprises Promotion Agency (BSMEPA), presented the challenges in front of the businesses under the conditions of globalisation. Julieta Hubenova, National Programme Director, The EBRD Business Advisory Service (BAS) Programme for Bulgaria, presented the former experience of the Programme, as well the inspiring results of those companies and enterprises, which took advantage of their collaboration with the Programme. Zoya Hristova, on the example of Nidex Comp., Town of Gotse Delchev, pointed out the high productivity and quality of product as key factors for sustainable development of the companies. Fabrizio Riccomi, Nerosubianco Srl, Italy, presented the joint efforts of 15 municipalities from the province Mantua, Lombardy, to work out a common strategy for the development of business and the territorial marketing of the province along with the local businesses, as well the opportunities for European funding for the implementation of this strategy.

The plenary session devoted to the Human Capital Development was a follow up of one of the major topics of the First Annual Conference (2006). Emiliyana Dimitrova, Ministry of Education and Science, presented the National strategy for the creation of educational results, adequate to the needs of the contemporary society. Dr. Alexandar Alexandrov, manager of Hill International Bulgaria LTD, shared up-to-date practices for successful management, evaluation and development of people. Adelina Kostova, HR Director, Nestle Bulgaria, shared concrete results in the work with people and the formation of corporative values of the company.

The second day of the conference began with plenary session, devoted to the topic: “The Investors’ Profile”. Friederike Suess, Forum Amerika, Germany, and Lu YongMing, Counselor of Economic and Commercial Counselor’s office of Embassy of the PR China in Bulgaria made presentations. It was stressed that the Bulgarian municipality did not compete with a neighbour municipality, but with a municipality from Latin America or Asia, for instance. It was also emphasized that the regional approach to the promotion of advantages attains bigger significance.

In the plenary session, devoted to “The High-Tech Industry - Real Chance for development of the Bulgarian Economy”, Anna Yaneva, Deputy Minister of Economy and Energy, acquainted the participants with the results already achieved and the anticipated in the work of the Ministry of Economy and Energy in the field of innovation encouragement and investments in production and services with high added value. The partnership between science and businesses was presented through the experience of City of Auburn, Alabama, USA, by the friend of Bulgaria for many years Phillip Dunlap, Economic Development Director, and Megan McGowen, Deputy Economic Development Director, City of Auburn, AL, USA. Prof. Tsanko Yablanski, Thracian University, Stara Zagora, outlined the scientists’ role for the development of business and economy.

The Conference ended with a plenary session on the topic “Development in Areas of Protected Nature”. Yordan Dardov, Deputy Minister of Environment and Waters, Toma Belev, Director, National Vitosha Park, and chairman of the Board of Directors of the Association of Parks in Bulgaria , and Katerina Rakovska, WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme, presented the opportunities for development and business in the protected areas. Sauro Cristofani, Region Peruggia, Italy, presented the Italian experience in the development of protected areas.

The participants in the conference emphasized the necessity of this meeting for the improvement of co-operation and coordination in the work of national government and local authorities, as well as in the forming of effective steps for the improvement of the opportunities for economic development and encouragement of economic growth.

Dimcho Kyosev, Deputy Mayor, Economy and International Programmes, Municipality of Silistra:

The professional organisation of the Conference made exceptional impression. The organisers deserve gratitude for the smooth run of the sessions, for the interesting presenters and the wealth of topics. The knowledge and the spirit of communication were enriched by the opportunity for discussion on the proposed topics after each plenary enriched.

Interesting and positive experience of Bulgarian and foreign municipalities was shared at the conference. I am convinced that based on this experience we can and we have to reconsider the priorities of the municipality and bring in new style of work.

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