Bulgaria’s President Rosen Plevneliev has expressed his hope to continue strengthening cooperation with Vietnam and seek new ways to bring the relations to a strategic partnership.

He has given an interview to the Vietnam News Agency on the prospect of the two countries’ relationship on the occasion of his coming official visit to Vietnam from October 27-31. Following is the full text of the interview:

Q: Would you please tell us about the significance of your upcoming visit to Vietnam and the prospect of bilateral relations between Vietnam and Bulgaria?

A: Vietnam is a traditional friend of Bulgaria and an important partner for us in the dynamic region of Southeast Asia. Vietnam has maintained an impressive rate of development and its active, constructive and pragmatic foreign policy helped the country to raise its economic and overall significance in the region. We would very much like to continue to strengthen our cooperation and find new ways to work together to bring our bilateral relations to the level of a strategic partnership. During my upcoming visit we will also sign a number of new bilateral agreements, such as a “Memorandum for Cooperation between the Bulgarian Academy of Science and the Vietnamese Academy of Science and Technology”, which will open up many more new opportunities to enhance our partnership.

Q: Bulgaria is known as a traditional friend and partner of Vietnam. However, bilateral trade between the two countries remains rather modest, around 50 million USD last year. In your opinion, what should the two countries do to make the bilateral cooperation more comprehensive, taking into account the fact that Bulgaria is a member of the European Union (EU)?

A: The trade turnover has increased in recent years but it still does not correspond to the potential of our two countries. We need to focus more of our joint efforts to increase, balance and diversify our bilateral trade. In this regard, during my visit we will be opening a new Office of the Bulgarian Trade and Economic Service in Ho Chi Minh City.

One possibility for developing our economic relations is using Bulgaria as a hub for Vietnamese goods exported to the Balkan region and the EU. The Bulgarian seaports of Varna and Burgas, the river ports on the Danube and the industrial zones next to them, offer very good possibilities for this and are at the base of the “New Model for Economic Cooperation”.

Another important area for increasing our economic ties is direct investments. We need to work towards increasing Vietnamese investments in Bulgaria and Bulgarian investments in Vietnam. Our economies have many prospective fields where investment cooperation would be very profitable, such as the food, pharmaceutical and textile industries. Bulgarian engineering companies are interested in participating in the development and delivery of irrigation systems, as well as working on projects in the fields of construction and infrastructure. The energy market also offers good opportunities for increased cooperation that we could further explore.

Bulgarian membership in the EU also gives us more opportunities for developing our economic partnership. The “Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Partnership and Cooperation” between the EU and Vietnam, ratified by Bulgaria on January 17th 2013, also opened up new possibilities for closer economic ties and set up the foundation for the beginning of negotiations between Vietnam and the EU on a Free Trade Agreement.

Q: There are about 3,500 Vietnamese who have graduated from Bulgarian universities and 30,000 Vietnamese people who have worked in the country, serving as bridges in promoting mutual understanding between our two peoples. How do you see the importance of people-to-people diplomacy in bolstering the existing close ties between our peoples in the future?

A: Bulgaria and Vietnam have enjoyed close connections for decades. In the beginning, they were based on good cooperation between the governments of both countries. But, in time, they grew up into something more. They became relationship of friendship and trust. One of the most important factors for that change was the thousands of Vietnamese people who worked and studied in Bulgaria. For us, they are one of the most important links between our two countries. They are our “ambassadors” to Vietnam, promoting our country and culture, and we are very proud of them. During their time in Bulgaria, they also brought with them the unique and vibrant Vietnamese culture which captured the imagination of many Bulgarians. We should encourage and strengthen these links between our two peoples.

Today, mutual interest is still high in both countries. There are still a number of Vietnamese students in Bulgaria. And, this year, Sofia University and the Vietnamese University for Social and Humanitarian Sciences signed an agreement to establish a Department of Vietnamese studies in Bulgaria and a Department of Bulgarian studies in Vietnam.
In the near future, I believe there will be even more direct contacts between Bulgarians and Vietnamese that will help our friendship and partnership grow and be an important factor for the development of both countries.-VNA