HC Deb 02 March 2000 vol 345 cc535-6
2. Mr. Kevin Barron (Rother Valley)

What his assessment is of the prospects for improved trade links with Bulgaria. [111531]

The Minister for Energy and Competitiveness in Europe (Mrs. Helen Liddell)

A number of developments suggest that there are likely to be good prospects for improving trade links with Bulgaria. The European Union formally opened accession negotiations with Bulgaria on 15 February. That move was strongly supported by Britain. British Trade International, in co-operation with other organisations, is involved in a number of initiatives, such as the London chamber of commerce business mission in May, which will promote commercial opportunities in the market to the UK business community.

Mr. Barron

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. There are increasing opportunities in Bulgaria, particularly since the currency stabilisation. She will know that Bulgaria is currently off cover with the Export Credits Guarantee Department. If British businesses want to export to Bulgaria, will the Government consider cases individually until the advisory council says that Bulgaria should be on cover and we have a stronger trading relationship?

Mrs. Liddell

My hon. Friend has an extensive knowledge of Bulgaria and he is right to say that it has not had long-term ECGD cover since April 1990, when it declared a unilateral moratorium on debt repayment and servicing. However, the provision of ECGD cover for Bulgaria is under review. A decision should be reached within the next month.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

What undertakings did we give Bulgaria during the war against Serbia and are we implementing them?

Mrs. Liddell

As my hon. Friend knows, that is a matter for my right hon. Friends the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Defence. When my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister visited Sofia in May last year, he said that in view of the progress that Bulgaria had made towards democracy and attempts to secure a properly operating free market, the EU should consider it as part of the next wave for accession.

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