Bulgaria got a positive assessment by the Interior Minister of Poland Mariusz Blaszczak on a meeting he held with the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior Rumiana Bachvarova. The Bulgarian Prime Minister stated that Bulgaria has a very important role in guarding the most sensitive external border of the European Union, making all efforts possible to limit the illegal immigration. Bulgaria has a good organization that restricts the crossing of the illegal migrants. Thanks to that organization, the immigrants are restricted to cross Bulgaria as they are detained entrance on the country’s territory. This is a very strong message to the migrants stating that Bulgaria is not easy to cross.
Bulgaria gets support from the European states and officers coming from other countries. Currently are being detained around 200 people each week, which is less than the same period in 2015. The Deputy Prime Minister also stated that Bulgaria makes everything possible to guard its external border, which is also an external border of the European Union. The Polish guest showed the strong support of Poland for the accession of Bulgaria in the Schengen zone.
Year 2016 brought a serious demand for office space in Sofia and this has been carried over into the entire 2016, setting a stage for very dynamic office market. The increased demand for office space have continued while new projects for office buildings in Sofia have entered the market. Some of these projects are in already established office locations and they provide office supply in response to the serious demand from the outsourcing companies. The offices with good location in Sofia and smart distribution of the area reach occupancy rates of 90 to 95%.
There is however a slight difference on the office market. In 2015 the newly opened companies were looking for office space of 200 to 300 sq.m, while in 2016 there was a demand for bigger offices in Sofia of 700 to 800 sq.m. The tenants for such office premises in Sofia are companies working in the outsourcing and IT business, as well as companies offering financial intermediation services. In many cases those companies working in Sofia do not serve the Bulgarian market but have clients abroad.
According to the reports, the Prime Minister of Bulgaria have sent a letter to the European Union Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, where he brought up the issues of Bulgaria’s entry in the borderless Schengen area and the Eurozone. Sofia will be monitored under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism, that is applied by Brussels.
The Prime Minister stated that the country will continue to work on the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism and the acceptance of Bulgaria in the Schengen zone. The country is also in ongoing talks for joining the Eurozone. According to the Prime Minister, once the three processes are completed successfully, the Bulgarian citizens will be happy to enjoy the benefits of the membership in the European Union and later also share the responsibilities.
The Prime Minister insisted that Bulgaria has fulfilled the Schengen criteria in 2011 and was blocked by the Netherlands and Finland. The official letter was intended as an act of gratitude for the decision of the Commission to launch the European Border and Coast Guard program.
The rental levels of the offices in Sofia city have increased with 4 % on an yearly basis, reaching up to 13 Euro per sq.m for occupying the offices of the highest class A. These are average levels for this type of office buildings in Sofia, which are characterized by convenient location, excellent working conditions, many facilities. Such offices of high class which however do not share such central location can be found for lower rental levels.
In general, Bulgaria remains a very attractive office destination in comparison with the other countries from Eastern Europe. In addition to the strategic location and the attractive rental levels, the country also provides low taxes and professionals with excellent knowledge and rich experience. The rental prices of the offices of class A in Sofia are lower compared to such destinations like Prague, Budapest, Warsaw. Bucharest, Belgrade, Skopje.
Officials from Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, countries that are outside the Schengen zone, have met with several other officials from countries that are already part of the Schengen area. The meeting was held in September in the Polish capital of Warsaw. The members of countries that are part of the Schengen borderless area that were invited in the meeting were Denmark and Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. Switzerland, which is a non-EU member also send a delegate at the meeting.
The officials from Bulgaria, which was pushing for many years to join the passport free Schengen zone, are now feeling that Schengen is not that important for the country anymore. These statements of the Prime Minister of Bulgaria coincided with the remarks made by the Foreign Minister of Hungary who showed indications that Budapest will not necessarily support an entry by a Southeastern European nation into the Schengen zone.
Many office buildings in Sofia that were under construction have been completed or are near completion by the end of 2016. At the same time, the increased demand for such offices have let to the start of many new office building projects in Sofia. In the end of 2015 the city had 1.79 million sq.m. of office premises. The large office projects that were completed in the capital of Bulgaria included Capital Fort with its 42 000 sq.m, Brussels Business Center with its two office towers of 9000 sq.m and Trade Center Europe with 8000 sq.m, as well as the SPS Tower featuring another 10 000 sq.m.
The increased demand of the large companies led to the start of many new projects and enlargement of the ones that already existed. Approximately 30 % of these office buildings in Sofia were constructed for own usage or were not large enough to answer to the needs and demand of the large outsourcing companies. The companies that stay behind the increased demand are working in the IT and the outsourcing sphere. These companies already occupy almost three thirds of the rented offices of class A in Sofia. The low levels of supply of this type of offices lead to a slight increase in the rental levels.
Hungary made a step back in its strong support for the entry of Bulgaria in the borderless area of Schengen. The country stated officially that Bulgaria first needs to meet the Schengen accession criteria and the Schengen protocol. That position was announced by Zoltan Kovacs, a government spokesman and was reported in the website EurActiv.
Kovac further stated that the visit of the Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orban is a proof that Budapest wants to be among the first defenders of Bulgaria along with other European union countries. Yet, according to the website Hungary shows flexible positions, and in fact wants Bulgaria to stay outside Schengen so that it can act as a buffer zone for the migrants and thus to protects the Schengen zone.
Bulgaria keeps its position as a leader of the outsourcing market in Eastern Europe. The rental levels of the offices in the capital Sofia are still lowest compared to the rest of the capitals on the Balkans. Sofia and Bulgaria in general remain very attractive office destination, as the office buildings provided to the outsourcing companies are modern and functional, with great locations and many facilities. Bulgaria not only offers attractive rental prices and strategic location, but it also tempts the companies with lower taxes and perfectly qualified work labor, as well as improved procedures for starting a business.
Since the beginning of 2014 until the final months of 2016, the available office space in the Top 10 of the most sought after office buildings in Sofia have gone from 7.5% to 3.5%. The rental levels have gone up a little bit from 12 to 13 Euro per sq.m. In the next few months many new office projects of excellent quality will be completed in Sofia, attracting the attention of the outsourcing companies. All new projects of office buildings that are starting now in the capital of Bulgaria have been previously coordinated and consulted between the investors and the future tenants.
According to the reports in Athens and Sofia, the two countries – Greece and Bulgaria will join forces in their cooperation on border security. The two countries will make efforts to secure the border of Greece with Turkey and with Bulgaria, aiming better protection from migration. In the end of August, a meeting was held in Sofia between the Deputy Minister of Greece and the Interior Minister of Bulgaria. Mr. Nikos Toskas and Mrs. Rumiana Bachvarova discussed the option for police forces from the two countries to cooperate and thus offer better protection of the border between Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey.
Even if the number of the migrants crossing Europe has dropped once the deal between the European Union and Turkey was signed, since the beginning of September more than 800 migrants have crossed the border from Turkey to Greece according to data given by UNHCR. The president of Turkey agreed upon the control of the migration in exchange of support to the refugees in Turkey and liberation on the visa regime for people traveling in the Schengen zone.
The real estate agents are facing an improvement on the office market situation in Sofia in the last couple of years. This means increased demand for offices and reduced number of available offices spaces, as well as increased expenses for the tenant companies and less options on the labor force market. At the same time the companies have higher requirements concerning the Sofia offices they want to move in.
The companies do consider the rental price when they are searching for a new office to relocate and that rental price is the main factor that leads them. However, the companies are now also considering the location of the working area and the quality of the building and the facilities and services offered. Most of the companies who are working in Bulgaria or have outsourced their businesses to Sofia and the other big cities in the country plan to develop and in fact grow with 25 % and more, renting bigger and more spacious offices.