How can we foster a positive exchange of ideas and better collaboration among the main organs of AmCham Bulgaria? This is a fundamental question with a simple solution – gather committee chairs at a joint meeting and let them speak.
On June 13th, 2023, AmCham Bulgaria hosted the first-ever joint meeting of the Committee chairs of the Chamber. The hall of the office welcomed Luka Chichov and Dr. Boryana Alexieva, Co-Chairs of the Healthcare Committee, Hon. Prof. Eng. Iliya Garkov, Ph.D., Chair of the Energy and Mineral Resources Committee, Georgi Ganev and Plamen Zhechev, Co-Chairs of the Digital Economy Committee, Zlatina Kushkieva, Chair of the Human Capital and Education Committee, and Omourtag Petkov, Chair of the Rule of Law and Legislative Reform Committee. On behalf of the team were present Ivan Mihaylov, CEO, Nadezhda Vakareeva, Event and Project Manager, Stephania Semova, Committee Lead, and Daniel Kiryakov, Communications and Public Affairs Manager.
Each committee chair presented their committee priorities with some additional context which led to a discussion between the co-chairs on several hot topics and potential solutions that these committees are tackling. Not surprisingly, all the co-chairs expressed their readiness for a cross-committee collaboration, better cooperation, intensified exchange of ideas, and willingness to engage more members in the implementation of the committees and the Chamber’s priorities.
“What we need is higher engagement from the membership. We need to encourage them or even fight for them to have better representation on the committees, share expertise, and deliver positions and statements on a regular and ad-hoc basis in achieving our main priority – improving the business environment and the investment climate in Bulgaria. Your work is essential for the achievement of these goals, and you have the freedom to pursue your own professional growth by achieving AmCham’s priorities and the priorities of the Committees,” pointed out Ivan Mihaylov, CEO, AmCham Bulgaria.
Energy and Mineral Resources (EMR)
The focus of the EMR Committee is on the better and smoother transition of energy and mineral resources industries, in line with the EU Green Deal requirements, and the aim to meet the ESG reporting. However, there are major discrepancies between what the green regulations demand, and the reality related to Europe’s resource independence, energy supply (both gas and electricity) following the EU sanctions against Russia, and the lack of own resources – exploration and extraction – in Europe. All these aspects severely undermine the competitiveness of the continent, and Bulgaria – as an integral part of the EU and the Transatlantic Economy (with the United States) – is in an unfavorable position facing poor regulation and long terms of permits in many industries.
Three priorities emerged from the Healthcare as an Investment Report (2021): Improving Efficiency in Hospital Care, Implementation of Digital Health, and Investment in Prevention and Screening. Considering the new administration, the committee leadership will continue to push for an engagement with the Ministry of Healthcare to achieve some tangible improvement in this sector via a pilot project with hospitals. All committee priorities will be achieved through partnership with the key stakeholders that the Chamber and the Committee already have some collaboration with.
Human Capital and Education (HCE)
Last year the HCE Committee implemented a successful Educational Program with two Bulgarian Universities – New Bulgarian University and the Faculty of Economics and Business Administration of Sofia University. In 2023, they have an idea to continue this by organizing a Hackathon in which member companies will present to the students business cases that need some fresh insight to come up with solutions.
The Committee will continue to implement topics and ideas under the EmpowerHer umbrella project that aims to raise awareness and give tools for the economic empowerment of women, as well as help their professional growth to C-Level positions.
It will continue promoting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion practices to members since there are still underutilized workforce segments in Bulgaria which will lead to the improvement of the business climate in the country.
Working towards reducing the education-business gap remains a priority for the Committee. Thus, technology transfer, vocational and higher education should receive additional focus and support on a national level and the contribution from members is essential, as is the compiling of a set of recommendations to the government.
Digital Economy (DE)
The DE Committee had a series of successful webinars on cyber security partnering with the SME Promotion Agency. It will continue to foster better digital literacy among businesses and other stakeholders to cope with the vast spread of cybercrime and disinformation. Digital Education is another focus priority that could raise awareness among students and teachers through webinars and other activities.
Having some dynamics in the digital area in the ongoing EU-US dialogue to improve the digital space, regulatory issues become a must for the committee. In addition, there are many local issues – related to e-identity, e-signature, digital assets, etc. that the Bulgarian legislators and the government, together with the business associations, should develop and implement.
Collaboration with the Healthcare Committee becomes a priority as Digital Health is a cross-sectoral topic.
Rule of Law and Legislative Reform (RLLR)
This is one of the most recently established committees, but it gained some strong pace and public recognition by key stakeholders for its work. Its overarching priority is active advocacy for the real and thorough improvement of the rule of law in Bulgaria. Currently, its members and external top-notch legal experts are working on a major overhaul of Commercial Law engaging professionals from other bilateral chambers and judges from the Commercial sections of the courts in Bulgaria. The process will take time and when the suggested changes are ready, a second round of consultations with relevant stakeholders will be initiated.
In addition, the committee will seek feedback from the membership to embrace and advocate on behalf of those needed requirements for the improvement of the investment climate in the country.
Their third major topic – closely related to the improvement of the business environment– is the need for a mechanism for investment screening in Bulgaria. Here the RLLR Committee will cooperate with the Center for the Study of Democracy and other stakeholders.
The committee chairs agreed that this joint approach paves the grounds for a better understanding of the issues of the industries presented in the Chamber. The more structured, Chamber-centred, and result-oriented approach each of the Committees has, the better reputation and greater success in the institutional dialogue AmCham will have.
The Chamber should be the driving force for positive business and social change and its voice can be better heard via positions and statements, public appearances, and even restart of its famous White Paper project in the upcoming fall.