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Bulgaria’s EU membership boosts competitiveness of the country’s SMEs: Eleonora Negulova

Bulgaria's accession to the European Union had different impact on the country's small and medium-sized business. Some companies from that sector found new opportunities and started to benefit from the European single market. Others did not have the capacity to make a swift transition to the new economic situation and had to close down or diversify their business, the Chairperson of the National Association Small and Medium-Sized Business Eleonora Negulova told Radio Bulgaria and added:

Снимка“As a whole, Bulgaria's small and medium-sized business benefited from the country's EU membership. The capacity of the micro, small and medium-sized Bulgarian companies to work in a more competitive business environment in the EU increased significantly in the past three or four years. Many businessmen from that sector started to understand the entrepreneurial culture typical of the EU countries and the way they should boost their competitiveness.”

The EU money absorbed by Bulgaria's SMEs in the first programming period and the money allotted to that business in the second programming period amount to nearly EUR 5 billion. In other words, that sector has opportunities for serious development. However, when people speak in public that some problems related to the management of the EU funds may occur, or that some EU financial programmes may be suspended in the future, the small and medium-sized companies enter a state of uncertainty, because we are talking about a huge financial resource provided by the European Union to those companies, Eleonora Negulova went on to say.

Besides, in the recent years the Bulgarian SMEs had the opportunity to use a huge financial resource allotted by the Bulgarian Development Bank and the JEREMIE Fund. The small business had the chance to use loans with low interest rate as well.

We asked Mrs. Negulova about the contribution of the country's SMEs to Bulgaria's gross domestic product?

“99.2% of the economic actors in Bulgaria are SMEs and they form nearly 60% of the country's GDP. In many Bulgarian regions those enterprises are the main taxpayer, employer and the only investor. Within the context of the latest developments of EU economy, it is clear that the SMEs play an extremely important role in Europe. That is why the European Commission has been committed to encouraging friendly business environment, which is of great significance for the social and economic life of all EU members. The SMEs in Bulgaria should be regarded as an element of the national security, because the social role of those companies is very important in border, depopulated and mountain regions and in areas which are highly affected by the demographic crisis. ”

The Bulgarian SMEs have contributed to over 70% of the total employment and the new jobs in the past 10 years. However, those companies have been facing the challenge to do business in constantly changing environment. The authorities must support the SMEs at a local level, in order to guarantee them sustainable development, Eleonora Negulova further said.

“Unfortunately, in the past 27 years Bulgaria's authorities failed to launch a reliable infrastructure that stands close to the SMEs and provides them accessible assistance. Those companies have not been able to afford most of the consultancy services. Let alone the access to justice. Many SMEs often refuse justice proceedings due to their limited financial resource, or the long duration of the lawsuits. The state authorities have been making more efforts towards improving the business environment for the SMEs. However, those efforts must be consistent and there must be better continuity between the administration cabinets. The problems of the Bulgarian SMEs will not be solved permanently, unless a public body which acts as coordinator between the institutions is established. Unfortunately, the Bulgarian Small and Medium Enterprises Promotion Agency does not have the necessary resource to play that role. There is still a lot of work to be done and if the politicians, who are now taking part at the election campaign, realize the significance of the small and medium-sized business for the country's social and economic life and find the right solutions for that sector, they would be not simply politicians  but statesmen as well”, Eleonora Negulova contends.

English version: Kostadin Atanasov 

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