AmCham Bulgaria President’s Remarks at the Business Breakfast with H.E. Kenneth Merten, April 27, 2023

Dear AmCham Bulgaria members,

Your Excellency,

Ambassador Merten – Welcome to Bulgaria!

It is a great moment having you here with our members today. This is one of your first public appearances since the start of your tenure earlier this month. This one has more business focus, as it should be.

AmCham is very proud and grateful for giving us this honor. And probably we are already creating a tradition here.

I can even sense the excitement and the rising expectations of the audience here of what you are about to say. We expect to hear firsthand what are your priorities for the next three years.

What I can assure you is that you can rely on AmCham to pursue our joint priorities in many sectors and in many areas of national and regional importance.

You and your team can count on us as Board, members, expertise, team, and network working on

  • investment climate improvement,
  • rule of law and fight against corruption,
  • in making the necessary reforms for better healthcare and education,
  • shaping the efficient pathways of Bulgaria’s energy decarbonization, diversification, and independence,
  • as well as to support the modernization in defense.

One thing is certain: only together we can continue building up stronger relationships in these strategic sectors for both the United States and Bulgaria.

Of course, we are looking forward to new projects and initiatives.

Having this esteemed audience, let me outline what are the priorities of AmCham. In fact, they haven’t changed much for many years, but they have specific flavor depending on the dynamics and the desired result:

Regional and Transatlantic Advocacy

  • We promote trade and investments between the U.S., Bulgaria, and Canada with physical and virtual outreach and events – last year we did a U.S. Road Show in California and in Portland, this year we will probe more targeted business mission.
  • Also, for a year now the AmCham Office in D.C. is helping Bulgarian companies to explore U.S. and vice versa.

Regional & International Initiatives

  • We are happy to have iconic and prominent companies among our members. Their focus on their core businesses and engagement with AmCham, helps all together to achieve a better positioning and collaboration at national and regional levels.
  • Our two major reports – one on Bulgaria’s Power Sector Decarbonization and another on Healthcare present some solid proposals for reforms thus meeting the requirements of EU Green Deal and the expectations of the citizens. In the Fall we will organize large-scale Energy conference advocating for a comprehensive and inclusive Energy and Climate Strategy of Bulgaria. And in few months’ time, together with the Swiss and German Chambers we will restart our idea for a Healthcare Policy Platform.
  • We have continuous engagement with the Three Seas Initiative – this year in Bucharest we will take part as well.
  • As of now, AmCham Bulgaria partners with other nine Chambers in the Balkans to make this region more friendly for trade, transport, and doing business. This is our contribution to their accession to the EU.

Sustainable Business Climate and Investments

This has been our credo for many years now. And this topic is enormous, indeed!

  • On Rule of law and fight against corruption we restarted a coalition with many bilateral chambers. Our collective action is visible and sound. In January 2022 together with your predecessor – the Honorable Herro Mustafa – we sent strong messages to the political elite and the need of bold actions. And we will continue with concrete proposals in the Commercial Law and other areas for improvement that are created together with other bilateral chambers.
  • Earlier this month AmCham advocated for Bulgaria’s advancement towards the Eurozone and accession to the Schengen Area. It might seem as an oxymoron – Americans to advocate for the Euro – but as part of the Transatlantic Economy it is a must for Bulgaria.
  • With our updated U.S. Investments in Bulgaria Report that is due in Summer 2023, we aim to achieve two goals: how many are the American companies operating in Bulgaria – is their number increased, remained the same or has grown over the past five years since the last edition of this report. It will serve as a litmus of the business climate in Bulgaria.

Digital Economy and Innovation

  • Large-scale digitalization of services in Bulgaria is needed. When the world is excited on ChatGPT, other AI tools, Space missions to Mars and the Moon, Bulgaria is covered with paper and needles bureaucracy.
  • Digital Transformation, Cyber Security & Privacy – we are speaking about them constantly. Here we need a partner – a stable government with vision to implement the desired policies and platforms, and we need some common effort of the digital associations for joint initiatives for a better digital advancement of sectors and the country.
  • Innovation and R&D capacity improvement and technology transfer – having a better business climate, Bulgaria will be seen by the global investors and entrepreneurs.

Human Capital

  • Diversity and inclusion awareness – this topic is dear to our hearts. Our focus is to raise the sensitivity about and to help companies embrace proper policies that accommodate differences, and their people have a better best place to work and prosper.
  • The Empower Her initiative found good soil among our members, and it can be introduced furthermore including to other business organizations.
  • Education and Future of work – Bulgaria has some great achievements in education, but there is a real gap between schools and real business. AmCham cannot solve all of it, but our experts can help in making better business-oriented programs and vocational training. Institutions such as the Fulbright Commission, America for Bulgaria, the American College of Sofia, and the American University in Bulgaria are already shaping generations of bold, positive, and valuable people. We should do more with them together.

When we bid farewell to Ambassador Mustafa, I thought that events like this build bridges. Today I feel that they lay solid foundations of trust, cooperation, and common goals.

AmCham Bulgaria is happy to have you, Ambassador Merten, here with our community today. Your tenure starts during the celebration of 120 years of the establishing of the diplomatic relations between America and Bulgaria. The stake to continue our efforts in rule of law, improving the business environment, and increase economic development is high.

Together, we can achieve everything.

Now, I would like to thank our Golden Sponsors: Asarel-Medet JSC, Dundee Precious Metals Bulgaria, Geotechmin Group, Glavbolgarstroy, HPE operated by Selectium, Mastercard, Overgas Inc, and VISA.

Also, I would like to thank those companies that bought Corporate Tables and thus supported the event: APRA Porter Novelli Balkans Communication Group, BG Nova, ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3, Interlogistics Holding Limited Sofia Ltd., JTI Bulgaria, Kamenitza, MSD Bulgaria, Nettera Telecommunications

Ambassador Merten – now the floor is yours!