EU sanctions against Russia are not affecting the Bulgarian economy, Acting Economy Minister Nikola Stoyanov told MPs on Thursday.
Stoyanov was invited to address MPs on Thursday, following a request made by the pro-Russian Vazrazhdane party.
The impact on the Bulgarian economy is insignificant, with exports to Russia expected to decline by less than 2 percent in 2022, Stoyanov said, citing available macroeconomic data.
Even before the war in Ukraine, more than 60% of Bulgaria’s trade was with the European Union, as trade with Russia had risen to just 5-6% in the previous ten years, he added.
According to the minister, it is too early to say how the sanctions will affect the various sectors. Contracts signed before the sanctions took effect will remain in effect until they are fulfilled, Stoyanov said, noting that there are also cases regarding the storage of some imported products from Russia when it became clear that there would be sanctions.
The minister added that much more time must pass to see the real effect of these sanctions on the Bulgarian economy.
Speaking about the eleventh package of sanctions still under negotiation among EU countries, the minister said it is mainly aimed at limiting the possibilities of circumventing previous sanctions by re-exporting banned products and technologies to Russia from third countries.
He added that most of the information concerning member states’ discussions on the eleventh package is sensitive and cannot be shared in a public plenary debate.
Asked if companies were using Bulgaria to avoid sanctions, Mr Stoyanov said Bulgaria was strictly complying with its obligations under the EU sanctions regime on Russia and was monitoring all attempts to circumvent them – a job which, as he said, it is done by “the Bulgarian services, together with the Ministry of Finance and other bodies”.
At the end of April, the Bulgarian prosecutor’s office investigated whether the government and relevant bodies are implementing the sanctions against Russia. The investigation began after the publication in the media of information “related to the manner of implementation of European sanctions by the Republic of Bulgaria,” the prosecutor’s office announced at the time.
In February, EURACTIV reported that Bulgaria had not imposed sanctions against Russian citizens or companies appearing on the EU sanctions list. The sanctions regime was imposed after the annexation of Crimea in 2014.
In Bulgaria, penalties must be imposed by the tax authorities, but the National Revenue Service has so far not imposed a single freeze.
Earlier, GERB MP Delyan Dobrev said that Russian oligarchs’ millions are being laundered through a bank in Bulgaria. The prosecutor’s office announced that it had instructed the State Agency for National Security to investigate the case.