Ekaterina Zaharieva: “We Expect More Japanese Investments in Bulgaria”13 August 2019 News
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ekaterina Zaharieva received Japan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Taro Kono in Sofia today. They discussed a broadening of bilateral contacts, an increase of Japanese investments in this country, and cooperation between Bulgaria and Japan within the framework of the Western Balkans’ European integration.
Taro Kono is the first Japanese Foreign Minister to visit Sofia in 12 years. His trip comes at a time when the two countries mark three anniversaries in their bilateral relations: 80 years since the establishment and 60 years since the resumption of diplomatic relations, as well as 110 years since the beginning of their official contacts. Ekaterina Zaharieva thanked Taro Kono for accepting her invitation just four months after her visit to Tokyo.
The Bulgarian Foreign Minister emphasised the long-standing warm and friendly relationship between the two countries. “We will not forget the Japanese samurai who fought for Bulgaria’s freedom in the Battle of Pleven in 1877,” she said.
Ekaterina Zaharieva pointed out that after Shinzo Abe paid the first visit here by a Japanese Prime Minister last year, two-way trade has increased by 30% and now stands at USD 214.7 million. The Foreign Ministers were unanimous that despite the steady growth, bilateral economic relations have a far greater potential. “I would like to see more Japanese investments in Bulgaria. There are already quite a few big Japanese companies in our market, and we very much hope to see soon a car manufacturer, and not just a manufacturer of automotive components, from Japan in Bulgaria,” Zaharieva said. She noted that 14,000 tourists visit Bulgaria, but together with Taro Kono they will be working for the launch of a direct air service between Sofia and Tokyo, which should help increase the tourist exchange between the two countries.
“There is a lot more room for deepening economic relations which have been developing very positively since Prime Minister Abe’s visit,” said Taro Kono. Ekaterina Zaharieva stressed that Bulgaria has very good high tech professionals. She expressed the hope that the greater business potential between the two countries will also be revealed at a Bulgaria Business Seminar that the Bulgarian Embassy in Tokyo will organise in September with support from the Ministry of Economy and the Japan-Bulgaria Foundation.
Minister Kono acknowledged Bulgaria’s role in maintaining stability in the Balkans. He said that Japan will continue to cooperate with Bulgaria, including for its future presidency of the Berlin Process in 2020 jointly with the Republic of North Macedonia.
The Berlin Process presidency “proves that Bulgaria is a key factor of preserving stability in the region of the Balkans,” Taro Kono said. “The European integration of the Western Balkans is the key to this stability,” he added.
Taro Kono said that Japan will continue to be a partner of Bulgaria and will be working together with this country for the European integration of the Western Balkans. The two countries have already implemented jointly a disaster and crisis prevention project in the Republic of North Macedonia.
The two ministers now agreed that a team of the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry will be sent shortly to Japan for planning new joint projects in support of the European integration of the Western Balkan countries. The Foreign Ministry team will visit the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
The two ministers also discussed important issues on the international agenda: North Korea, Iran, the reform in the UN and Brexit.
Minister Kono said in conclusion that he is looking forward to the participation of the Bulgarian athletes at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo and wished them success.
Japan is the third largest economy in the world and a strategic partner of the EU and NATO. Japan provided invaluable support to Bulgaria during the transition to democracy, financing projects worth over BGN 1.4 billion.