AOBR with rotating chairman Kiril Domuschiev presented its priorities for 2024

The Association of Bulgarian Employers' Organizations (AOBR) has announced its main priorities for 2024. This happened at an official press conference on January 17, 2024, in which the heads of the four nationally representative employer organizations, members of AOBR, took part: Vasil Velev - Chairman of the Board of the Association of Industrial Capital in Bulgaria (AIKB), Dobri Mitrev - Chairman of Board of Directors of the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce (BCC), Tsvetan Simeonov - Chairman of the Board of the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), Kiril Domuschiev - Chairman of the Board of the Confederation of Employers and Industrialists in Bulgaria (KRIB) and rotating chairman of the AOBR for 2024 .

In 2024, AOBR will work on 31 measures in five key areas for the Bulgarian economy, including business environment and economy, energy and green transition, education and labor market, social policy.

In the introductory speech at the opening of the press conference the chairman of KRIB and rotating chairman of AOBR Kiril Domuschiev pointed out that AOBR member enterprises produce 86% of the country's gross added value and employ 82% of all employed. "And not only that - I can confidently state that we are a real factor in the social dialogue and that we defend the interests of Bulgarian business, which is among the largest taxpayers in the country."

The formulated priorities for 2024 aim to direct the attention of the institutions to the implementation of policies of key importance to Bulgarian business. "Stated in three words, the national priorities of the AOBR are: Full Schengen membership '24, The Eurozone '25 and the OECD '26" pointed out Kiril Domuschiev, who presented the national priorities of AOBR. "For Schengen, the hot topic at the moment, we think this is a successful first step, which we welcome. This success, which was achieved with the admission of Bulgaria to Schengen by air and water, must at all costs be followed an hour sooner by the opening of land borders, which is the most serious problem facing Bulgarian business. We know that there are risks and that the process is influenced by the elections in Austria, therefore we expect and insist that everything possible be done this year to finalize the process of Bulgaria's entry into the land-based Schengen. For the Eurozone, it is now important to emphasize that having a regular government gives us hope that this strategic goal for business has a chance and should be achieved in 2025. That, however, depends from the policies that are carried out - fiscal, flexible and developed labor market, transformation of the economy towards productions with higher added value, digitization and digital transformation, higher educational standards, etc. Regarding the OECD, I would like to remind you that it was we, the employers' organizations united in the AOBR, who more than six years ago raised Bulgaria's membership in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) as a unifying national goal, and since then this priority has been alternately important for us. The initiative for Bulgaria's admission to the OECD belongs to the OECD and dates back to March 2017, and from January 1, 2018, the OECD is an observer member of the Business Council of the OECD. We managed to include this goal in the agenda of governments and society, and we continue to work very hard in this direction. That is why we will continue to insist to the government and all state institutions to work very hard in order to realize our country's membership in the OECD by the end of 2026. pointed out the chairman of KRIB.

The chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Tsvetan Simeonov presented the AOBR's priorities regarding the business environment and the development of the economy. "The significant successes achieved by the BTPP in the capacity of rotating chairman of the AOBR for 2023 were related to electricity prices, making compensations for non-residential consumers, natural gas prices, etc. We achieved partial success in relation to the workload of the Bulgarian employers with the first three days of sick leave for their employees, as we managed to ease the business with one day of them. AOBR's priorities did not change significantly this year because many of our proposals were not heard. First of all, there remains the need to reduce the administrative burden, which for everyone is great, but for small and medium-sized enterprises it is a bigger problem. We wish to preserve the current tax model, because it works well for meeting the costs of Bulgarian enterprises and also for attracting foreign investors. The "polluter pays" model of municipal waste charging is still being postponed. E-governance clearly remains not a priority for the authorities for another year," added Tsvetan Simeonov, the chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The Chairman of KRIB Kiril Domuschiev presented the priorities of AOBR in the field of energy and the green transition. "The continuation and successful completion of the liberalization process will lead to a level playing field between market participants, eliminate cross-subsidization between individual market segments and allow the development of different products and delivery profiles. It is high time to stop the implementation of social policy through energy, and the energy poor to be protected in an appropriate way through the social system of the country", pointed out the chairman of KRIB. Other priorities of AOBR in the energy sector are: resumption of the compensatory mechanism for high electricity prices; adopting a mechanism and procedures for signing long-term contracts for energy-intensive enterprises; formation of a national market of greenhouse gas emissions, for trading of the saved emissions and direct purchase from the Bulgarian industry; activation of the operational work of the Advisory Council for the European Green Deal with a view to achieving a structured and balanced approach in the formation of national policies under the so-called green transition in all its elements. Completion of the work on the development of the National Strategy for Sustainable Energy Development of the Republic of Bulgaria until 2030 with a horizon of 2050, of the update of the Integrated Plan in the field of energy and climate of the Republic of Bulgaria 2021-2030 with a horizon of 2050 ., as well as the preparation of the annual plans for the development of the transmission and distribution electricity networks, the gas transmission infrastructure taking into account the national priorities and the guarantee of energy supplies at minimum prices are also among the priorities of the AOBR in the field of energy.

"It is clear to everyone that without education there is no way to be competitive, to introduce new technologies, to increase added value. For us, this question is archival" said Dobri Mitrev, Chairman of the Board of BSK, who presented the priorities of AOBR in the field of education and the labor market. "Without an educated nation, we cannot be a prosperous country. First of all, it is important to orientate education to the needs of the labor market. It is extremely important to synchronize adult education policies between the Ministry of Education and Culture and the Ministry of Education and Culture. Next, the procedures for importing labor from third countries need to be seriously eased. There is interest in our country, but if we do not ease the procedures, reduce the deadlines and make this process cheaper, we will fall extremely far behind. Last year, Romania and Greece announced their programs to actively attract people from third countries. For us, this delay and neglect of this extremely important issue can seriously affect our competitiveness. It is also mandatory for us to create a program for the inclusion of the permanently unemployed in the educational and work processes. Last but not least, we will encourage efforts to create affordable childcare services. It is unacceptable, due to the lack of nurseries and kindergartens, for people of working age to be in their homes, because they have nowhere to give their child to be raised and educated", the chairman of the BSK pointed out.

AIKB chairman Vasil Velev presented the priorities of AOBR in the field of social policy. "The priorities in the social sphere of the AOBR are four. The first is the finalization of the negotiations on the development and adoption of a transparent mechanism for determining the minimum wage for the country. Of the four largest economies in the world, nowhere, except in Bulgaria and the EU, do they strive for a minimum wage to be half of the average - neither in China, nor in the USA, nor in India. And precisely these three are developing much more dynamically than the EU and Bulgaria. The second priority is strengthening and developing the capital pillars in the pension model and the link between the insurance contribution and the pension. It is high time to stop the practices of extracting short-term dividends and destroy the pension model instead of developing and aiming for the long-term effects. The third is to improve the adequacy of the support provided by the social welfare system, to be tied to participation in programs for basic literacy, education, training, employment, etc. And the last, but not least, priority is health reform with an emphasis on prevention and screening. The average ratio in Europe of hospital care to pre-hospital care and screening is 1:1, in our country this ratio is 3:1. AOBR insists on the introduction of standards similar to the European ones, which will be respected." added the Chairman of the Board of Directors of AIKB Vasil Velev.

AOBR was established in 1995 as a union of nationally representative employers' organizations, with the aim of unified representation of Bulgarian employers before national and international institutions.

According to the statute of the AOBR, the Association is chaired on a rotating basis - in 2024, the rotating chairman of the AOBR is KRIB.

A full video recording of the press conference is posted at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4RTyXWx5DLM