Brussels, Nov 2002
As a follow up to the 18 October signing by candidate countries of the Association agreement for FP6, we take a closer look at the state of research in Bulgaria.
Bulgaria is a Parliamentary Republic whose present Constitution was adopted in July 1991. Since the 1996-7 financial crisis, Bulgaria has steadied its economy, and now offers a stable currency, low basic interest rates, and substantial foreign-exchange reserves.
Real economic growth has increased from 2.4% in 1999 to 5.8% in 2000, with the upward trend continuing into 2001 helped along by increased trade with the EU – up 19.4% on 2000. Bulgarian exports to the EU – mostly metals such as copper and iron, textiles and agricultural products – increased 13% between 2000 and 2001, the equivalent of 54.8% of its total exports.
While economic development has been generally positive, October's 'Regular Report on Bulgaria's Progress Towards Accession' suggests "greater effort" is needed to make Bulgarian research and technological development more efficient and competitive at European level – adding, however, "that no major problems should be expected in this field in the perspective of accession".
Progress in research developments Bulgaria's National Framework for developing science and research was adopted in 2001. Its main aim is to secure annual growth of 0.15% in GERD/GDP – gross R&D expenditure as a percentage of GDP. Amendments to the law on public procurement adopted in April 2002 now give universities and research institutes a level playing field to compete with companies in public procurement tenders.
Progress was also seen in the adoption of a strategy to increase participation by SMEs in science-related activities, the "2002-2006 SME Strategy". Bulgaria was Associated with the EU's Fifth Framework Programme and will now participate in the Sixth Framework Programme (2002-2006). The government has already approved several EU-related national scientific programmes, areas such as genomics, the information society, nanotechnologies and new materials. These programmes are coordinated by the National Council on Scientific Research.
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