By Ramesh Mathew/Staff Reporter
Bulgaria is looking forward to a giant leap in its bilateral ties with Qatar, particularly in strengthening economic co-operation in coming years.
In an interview with Gulf Times yesterday, the Balkan republic’s ambassador Metin Kazak said his country has identified certain areas where it hopes to accelerate co-operation with Qatar in the coming years so that both the nations are benefited.
Bulgaria, which opened its Doha embassy in 2009, has been having diplomatic relations with Qatar since 1990. A celebration is planned on November 23 to commemorate the silver jubilee of bilateral relations with Qatar.
While explaining the scope and reasons for expanding economic co-operation with Qatar, Kazak said Bulgaria could provide better expertise to local companies and institutions in such areas as organic farming and different forms of food processing, making use of the vast experience and knowledge of Bulgarian professionals in a host of fields.
As of now, the bilateral trade between the two countries is not so big, said the ambassador. Out of the about 500 Bulgarians in Qatar, most are employed with prominent engineering firms and such major institutions as Qatar Airways and Aspire. Qatar Airways has a number of pilots and other senior professionals from Bulgaria, he said. There are several sport trainers too from Bulgaria, serving institutions of Qatar.
A Qatari entrepreneur has set up a major joint venture, an agricultural processing company in Bulgaria, and more investments from Qatar are on cards, said Kazak. The most important activity of the company is live-stock breeding, purchase, flattening, and production of chilled meat and its exports to meet the requirements of this country. Considerable quantities of lamb meat is exported from Bulgaria to Qatar these days, he said. A Bulgarian mechanised butchery has started operations in Umm Slal Mohamed.
Bulgaria is also exploring opportunities for their skilled professionals such as doctors and nurses in Qatar’s ever growing health sector.
It is understood that there has been a big rise in the number of travellers going to Bulgaria these days, said the ambassador while adding that efforts are currently underway to grant visa on arrival to Qataris.
“Now those holding valid Schengen visa could travel to Bulgaria without applying for a Bulgarian visa,” said Kazak. Already the nationals of the UAE are entitled to get visa on arrival in Bulgaria.
Qatar Airways, he said, is flying directly to Sofia and chances for the operations of another service to Varna, a major tourist centre in Bulgaria, is currently being explored by the airline. Some 20 years ago, there used to be be a direct service between Doha and Varna, said the ambassador.
As most of those travelling to Bulgaria from Qatar are holding Schengen visa, very few visas are locally issued from its embassy in Doha even though people could still take visa from the embassy in Doha.
While recalling the growing bilateral relations with Qatar, Kazak said in the last two years about 10 delegations from Bulgaria were on visit here and both president and prime minister of Bulgaria led delegations. Eight ministers also accompanied the prime minister, he said.
Kazak pointed out that a few educational and technical co-operation agreements were signed by Bulgarian varsities with Qatar University and there are growing levels of co-operation at this level. He also informed that many students from Arab region are undergoing professional engineering and medical courses in Bulgarian institutions and among them are children of expatriate parents in Qatar.
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