China Eager to Invest in Bulgaria, Might Squeeze Russia Out of Belene NPP
China will soon invest in airports, ports and container terminals to turn Bulgaria into its "door" for the import of Chinese goods in Europe, and will even consider building a nuclear plant in the Balkan country.
This has been announced by Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov after he met with his Chinese counterpart, Wen Jiabao and 11 ministers from the Chinese cabinet at the UN headquarters in New York City.
Borisov, who has been on a week-long visit in New York City for UN forums, described his conference with the head of the Cabinet of the People's Republic of China as the most important meeting on the sidelines of the 65th session of the UN General Assembly.
Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao has in turn stated his government is encouraging China's business sector to invest in Bulgaria.
According to Borisov, his Chinese colleague is aware of Bulgaria's strategic location, its ports, infrastructure projects, technology parks, culture and tourism, adding that the two countries would certainly agree on investments in ports, terminals and airports.
In his words, the potential investment of greatest interest for China are nuclear power plants (NPP).
The Chinese ministers were especially interested in the project for the second Bulgarian NPP at Belene. However, they have insisted that any such investment be made with Chinese technology, while under the current contracts, the Belene plant is supposed to be built by the Russian company Atomstroyexport, with two VVER-1000 reactors.
Borisov in a way expressed regret that the contracts for Belene have been signed prior to his taking of office.
"They immediately started speaking of a nuclear power plant. You know that they used French licenses, then bought them, and are now building nuclear plants all over the world. And they are now saying - why don't you build the plant with our technology," the Bulgarian Prime Minister said while not elaborating whether a scenario in which Bulgaria terminates its nuclear deal with Russians in order to go to the Chinese is at all possible.
Up until now, the only scenario in which Chinese companies were rumored to be able to take part in the Belene NPP project, was by backing a small-scale investment of the Serbian government in the plant.
After his visit to China in June, Bulgarian Minister of Economy, Energy, and Tourism Traikov said there was interest on part of Chinese companies in the construction of a seventh and eighth unit at the only operational Bulgarian nuclear plant at Kozloduy; China's interest in the Belene plant has not been confirmed for the first time in Wen's meeting with Borisov.
In addition to talks about nuclear energy, ports, container terminals, and airports, Borisov has invited China to set up in Bulgaria a permanent annual expo of Chinese goods and services for Europe.
The two PMs have agreed on mutual visits and it is expected that during his upcoming trip to China, Borisov will sign the contracts for Chinese investments in Bulgaria.
During the meeting, Wen said China and Bulgaria have traditional friendship, and that bilateral ties have weathered various tests and are now faced with new opportunities for development.
"Both sides should further expand contacts and communication at all levels, enhance mutual trust and consolidate the political basis of bilateral ties," Wen said, as cited by Xinhua agency.
China is ready to work with Bulgaria to promote a balanced and stable growth of bilateral trade, expand cross investment, and strengthen exchanges and communication in various fields including culture, education and tourism, Wen declared.
For his part, Borisov said Sino-Bulgarian ties are a good model of friendly relations between countries of different social systems.
"Bulgaria would like to deepen bilateral substantial cooperation with China in the fields of trade, finance, environment protection, tourism and infrastructure construction, and lift bilateral ties to a new height," Borisov said.
The Bulgarian Prime Minister has repeatedly underscored the importance of the meeting because of the expectations for attracting Chinese investments, which should help Bulgaria with its economic and financial situation at a time when the EU is considering imposing severe sanctions on those member states whose budget deficits exceed the 3% threshold set by the Stability and Growth Pact.
In the past four months, the Bulgarian government has been increasingly active in attracting Chinese state and private investors for the future large-scale industrial zone at Bozhurishte near Sofia.
China's Prime Minister Wen Jiabao told Borisov he remembered that he swam in the Black Sea during a vacation back in 1988, which is why the Bulgarian government has invited him to visit Varna during his future Bulgarian visit. Wen also did not forget to remind that Bulgaria was among the first sovereign nations to recognize the People's Republic of China back in 1949.
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