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Grazyna Chorazykiewicz: Poland can be helpful with EU funds absorption

Published on , , Sofia

If you are a small firm, or maybe a medium one, and you find it tight in Bulgaria for numerous reasons - there is no market for your product, or the market is oversaturated, or competition is huge, or the business environment is suppressing you, it is natural that you will start looking for ways to invest abroad. But how to do that properly? One option is to dedicate many days, even weeks, to search the Internet for the legislation of the countries you are interested in. Then to find appropriate partners but this would only be helpful if you meet them face to face. A second option is to get help. And here come the trade sections of embassies.

There is nothing more useful than going to such a section of the country you are interested in (if, of course the embassy of the country has such a section and is not in a process of cutting public spending), so that you are told what the legislation in the country is, which companies you should go to, how to find them, how to get in touch etc. As I had such a need, I was very much impressed by the fact that Poland has a national stand at the Solar Balkans exhibition in Sofia a week ago. (It is worth mentioning that such stands also had the Czech Republic, Spain, the German-Bulgarian trade chamber).

It seems that the embassy of the former socialist republic not only has such a section, called Trade and Investment Promotion Section, but it is constantly involved in numerous exhibitions all around Bulgaria. The section's chief is Dr Grazyna Chorazykiewicz, whom I met during the forum with an appointment. After I had met two Poles at the stand who spoke brilliant Bulgarian language, my conversation with Dr Chorazykiewicz surprised me again - again brilliant Bulgarian. Because she, like her colleague Marcin Mikolajczyk, had graduated in Bulgaria.

This, though, did not prevent both of them from knowing what is necessary for an economy to grow - small and medium enterprises and op[opportunities for them. This is precisely what they do and it is obvious that Ms Grazyna Chorazykiewicz loves her job very much. Not only this, she also said she loved Bulgaria, which was the predominant feeling among the Poles. I spoke to her about what Polish companies are interested in Bulgaria, what problems do they encounter and what Bulgarian companies are interested in in Poland.

By the way, here is the place for me to mention that the Trade and Investment Promotion Section with the Polish Embassy in Sofia works not only to help Polish companies in Bulgaria but they also assist Bulgarian companies to find a place at the 38-million Polish market.

With Ms Chorazykiewicz we also spoke about our common past with Poland, about tourism and European values.

euinside: Ms Chorazykiewicz, are Polish companies interested in investing in Bulgaria and how do you assess the cooperation between Polish and Bulgarian companies at this stage?

Grazyna Chorazykiewicz: I have to emphasize that Polish companies ate interested in the Bulgarian market. They just come to us, in the Trade and Investment Promotion Section at the Polish embassy, which deals with promoting Bulgarian-Polish business, they come to us, search for information about the Bulgarian market, they look for potential partners. We have a possibility all the offers, proposals and questions to be published on our website. This concerns Bulgarian companies too who are interested in the Polish market. They simply have an opportunity to receive information about the conditions for doing business in Bulgaria and vice versa.

euinside: Which are the areas of particular interest for the Polish investors?

Grazyna Chorazykiewicz: Currently very important in the field of our business contacts is cooperation on the absorption of EU funds. I have to underpin that we as a Section organise various seminars, we have good cooperation with the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, with which we organise joint events, seminars, at which we present Poland's experience in EU funds absorption and this is where Bulgarian companies show great interest in. I have to say that Poland, as a large country, has a very good absorption record and it can offer Bulgarian firms know-how, experience for joint realisation of projects. There are such attempts already, Polish-Bulgarian consortia are being created to take part in tenders. I have to say that this good both for Bulgaria and Poland. So, we see here great potential for development. There are firms that are interested in renewable energy. This is in fact our future, we have to protect the environment. There is a wonderful European project for the clean-up of the Danube river, in which Polish firms are very interested. We will organise presentations, seminars where Polish companies can share their experience in terms of preparing a project and realising it then.

euinside: Poland is almost the only EU member state that remained almost untouched by the crisis. What is the situation at the moment and is there an expansion of firms to invest outside Poland?

Grazyna Chorazykiewicz: It is true that Poland remained during the global economic crisis, as it is said, like a green dot on Europe's map. We managed to register 1.7% growth and this was thanks to internal demand, to the internal market and the relative flexibility of Polish companies who adapt very quickly to harsh conditions. As we know, economy is being driven mainly by small and medium enterprises and I have to say that it is them that go abroad in a search of opportunities. In Bulgaria come firms from Poland, they look for opportunities, but they also pass by Romania and other countries just to share their experience or to find ways of cooperation.

euinside: We have common past, to say so, and Bulgaria was a very popular destination for Polish tourists. What is the situation now?

Grazyna Chorazykiewicz: I have to tell you that after a relatively short period when Polish tourists went elsewhere, not we can say that there is some kind of a return towards Bulgaria. Polish tourists traditionally come for the Black Sea but they are also interested in other types of tourism. This is very important because Bulgaria is a wonderful country. A country which has an excessive abundance of natural wealth and this is well known in Poland, and our tourists are very exigent not only in terms of the Black Sea, but they also show interest in winter tourism, they know about the abundance of mineral waters, mountains, so indeed more and more Polish tourists visit Bulgaria.

euinside: Do you have some specific numbers?

Grazyna Chorazykiewicz: Currently I cannot say but it is something like 200 thousand, I think, for the last year.

euinside: And they are mainly attracted by nature or, maybe, the lower price?

Grazyna Chorazykiewicz: To tell you the truth, they are very interested in nature, they are attracted by a kind of positive emotion there is between us. This means that the poles come to Bulgaria also because of past traditions of good contacts. I myself travel a lot all over Bulgaria and I have to tell you that I feel such a positive reaction when I discuss Poland and the Poles. There are always various sorts of contacts - either in the past or now. I can also say, on the other hand, that in Poland Bulgaria means something good, positive and even when firms come to my office they always say - we love to work together, because we are Slavs and we find common ground and we love to work together.

euinside: This is indeed wonderful but let me get you back to business cooperation between Poland and Bulgaria. What type of Bulgarian companies are interested in investing in Poland - small, big ones, any particular area of interest?

Grazyna Chorazykiewicz: I have to tell you that in Poland very popular is the Bulgarian wine, the famous Bulgarian wine, which is why there are investments in distribution of wines in Poland. There are wine cellars that have invested in Poland. There are also companies who are trying to find their way in the area of energy for example.

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