Bulgaria, Turkey Seek to Further Enhance Bilateral Co-operation

Bulgarian Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg has outlined trade, investment and tourism as priority areas in the further development of economic ties between his country and neighbouring Turkey.

"Bulgaria sees in Turkey a very promising economic partner," Saxe-Coburg said at a joint news conference with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday (6 July), hours after the Turkish leader's arrival on a two-day official visit to Sofia.

In 2003, the trade volume between the two countries exceeded 1 billion euros, a 45 per cent year-on-year increase and making Turkey the fifth largest economic and commercial partner of Bulgaria, Saxe-Coburg said at a Turkish-Bulgarian business forum on Tuesday.

Turkish direct investments in Bulgaria, totalling 111.6m euros to date, could exceed 283m euros this year, analysts say.

The two prime ministers will attend a ceremony marking the launch of a 129m-euro flat glass and tableware plant owned by Turkey's Sisecam Group. The project -- the largest Turkish greenfield investment to date -- is expected to create 700 jobs in the economically depressed town of Targovishte, about 345km northeast of Sofia.

Turkish businesses are demonstrating a growing investment interest in Bulgaria, Erdogan said, adding that one obstacle hampering rapid progress in this area is the existing visa regime. "The relief made available to European businessmen should be granted to Turkish businessmen too," Erdogan said Tuesday.

Bilateral political co-operation was also on the agenda. Erdogan has reportedly voiced hope that Bulgaria would support his country's bid to become a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2009.

Erdogan and Saxe-Coburg also discussed Turkey's EU bid. During their joint press conference, Erdogan urged the Union to set a starting date for membership negotiations.

"The EU will have a test against Turkey in December of 2004. If the EU fails to set a date for opening accession talks with Turkey, it will deeply distress our people and this would not be just a double standard but something beyond any standards," Erdogan said.

Saxe-Coburg expressed Bulgaria's full support for Turkey's EU bid, as did Bulgarian Parliament Speaker Ognyan Gerdzhikov during a meeting with Erdogan on Wednesday. Gerdzhikov also urged Turkey to join the project for an oil pipeline from the Caucasus region, saying it would benefit the entire region.

Meanwhile, Turkish State Minister Besir Atalay and Bulgarian Education Minister Igor Damianov signed a co-operation agreement on education Tuesday.

600450 Bulgaria, Turkey Seek to Further Enhance Bilateral Co-operation glassonweb.com

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