H.E. Petr Dokladal: President Klaus Seeks to Stimulate Ties with Bulgaria

Novinite Insider » INTERVIEW | November 23, 2004, Tuesday // 00:00
H.E. Petr Dokladal: President Klaus Seeks to Stimulate Ties with Bulgaria Photo by Yuliana Nikolova (Sofia News Agency)

H.E. Petr Dokladal is Ambassador of the Czech Republic to Bulgaria since 2001. Before that he worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, Personnel Division, Deputy Director. From 1994 till 1999 he held the position of Consul General of the Czech Republic in Montreal, Canada. Married with two children. Speaks French, English and Russian. His hobbies include history, classical music, theatre, and sports.

H.E. Petr Dokladal spoke to Sofia News Agency Editor-in-Chief Milena Hristova

Q: What significance do you attach to the visit of President Vaclav Klaus to Bulgaria, the first trip of a Czech head of state in ten years?

A: The upcoming visit will look for broader opportunities for cooperation with an emphasis on trade and economic relations. It will be an important event in our relations that could stimulate our political, economic and cultural relations in the future.

Q: Czech investments in 2004 saw a considerable increase over last year, ranking the country among the ten top investors in Bulgaria. What do Czech companies find most attractive about Bulgaria?

A: The most important factor is the macroeconomic stability that the country has achieved over the last several years. Czech companies consider Bulgaria to be a partner with tremendous European prospects, skilled and educated people.

Q: What challenges lie ahead in the economic and trade relations between the two countries? What obstacles deter them?

A: The potential for Czech investors and business companies is much larger than the current level. The biggest projects are the participation in the privatisation of Bulgaria's electricity distribution companies, the interest of Skoda in the construction of a nuclear plant, the privatisation of hydro power plants by Energo Pro and the ongoing privatisation of Bulgaria's energy sector.

Bulgaria's economic relations have also big potential for transferring experience from a post to pre-accession countries as it has the chance to avoid the mistakes of the past.

Czech companies are welcomed in Bulgaria and Czech representatives remain optimistic despite the occasional bureaucratic obstacles, slow and complicated court system and lack of transparency. The Czech Minister of Industry and Trade Milan Urban, who paid a visit to Bulgaria last week, underlined that Bulgaria's business environment is compatible with EU member states.

A: Do you think the acquisition of the Bulgarian electricity distribution companies in the Western package will turn CEZ into a leader of the Central and East-European electricity market?

A: The purchase of the power utility pool in Western Bulgaria is CEZ biggest investment and also biggest foreign investment in the history of the Czech Republic. CEZ thus begins to build up a new stage, the first step towards making it a leader on the Central and East-European electricity market. CEZ is very much interested in joining the privatisation process in Romania, Poland and Hungary.

Q: Do you think Bulgarians are well prepared for EU membership? What lessons can the Czech Republic teach Bulgaria as a EU member state?

A: Bulgaria has technically closed all the negotiation chapters and I expect it will have enough time to fulfill all requirements and necessary recommendations of the European Commission by January 1, 2007. In this sense Bulgaria is not fully prepared but it is in good shape prior to EU membership.

The Czech Republic sets a very good example for Bulgaria as to how to solve the problems before EU membership - judicial reforms, corruption, fights against organized crimes even in the fields of economics. Bulgaria also faces a number of obligations related to the environment, harmonization with the legislation of EU.

Q: Can you say that the Czechs now are ambivalent over EU membership?

A: Czechs are neither euro-optimistic nor euro-skeptic but rather euro-realists, pragmatists who do not expect miracles from EU membership. The people understand that the country's accession to the EU on May 1 put just the beginning of the process of integration and most of the problems must be solved by ourselves.

Q: President Vaclav Klaus has refused to sign the EU Constitution, saying it was a very controversial document. Should the people of the Czech Republic ratify it in a referendum?

A: All political discussions in our country lead to the conclusion that a referendum should be organized. The European Constitution is a very complex issue that could change the functioning and substance of the European Union. It is my belief that political parties should consult the people on such an important document. The timing of the referendum has not been scheduled yet.

Q: As Czechs and Slovaks marked the 15th anniversary of the start of the Velvet Revolution against communist rule, revolution leader and former president Vaclav Havel warned of the communist party's continuing support in the country. Do you think the support for the communist party is prompted by nostalgia? Does it highlight disillusionment?

A: My understanding of the situation is that important port of the voters for the communist party are mostly people who are unsatisfied over any political development. Another factor are the Social Democrats whose power weakened, leaving free space in the left side of the Czech electorate for the communist party.

Q: Can you describe Bulgaria in three words?

A: Very good food, wine and nice people.

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