The Hemus Defence Exhibition has a good attendance by foreign delegations

SOFIA (Bulgaria), January 17, 2018, Author Boyko Nikolov (Bm), The Former Defense Minister Nicolay Nenchev in the officially opens ceremony of the Hemus Exhibition in 2016/Photo: BNR

In the period May 31 – June 2, 2018, Plovdiv will again host the only Bulgarian International Exhibition of Defense, Anti-Terrorism and Security – Hemus. Traditionally, the exhibition enjoys a large participation from Bulgarian and international companies and delegations. In 2016, some of the exhibitors were Arsenal, VMZ, Opticoelectron, Optix, MTG Dolphin, Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Poland, Otokar, Rinmetal, Saab and others.

After Bulgaria officially took over the management of Europe in the next six months and knowing what the Ministry of Defense’s priorities were during this presidency, we decided to make an interview with the key actors in organizing the event. Boyko Nikolov’s questions are answered by Rear Admiral Nikolay Nikolov – Chairman of the Hemus-95 Foundation and Mrs. Valia Dankova – an indispensable part of the organization of the exhibition in recent years.

(BN) 11 countries and 21 foreign delegations participated in 2016. Do you think that these figures will remain the same and even grow larger during the upcoming exhibition in May in Plovdiv?

(NN/VD) – The preparation of the exhibition is going on very well for the time being. As of the moment, representatives of 9 countries have declared interest for participation as exhibitors. We expect that, within the most active period January – March, their number will increase. Also, a big part of the areas which have been taken by exhibitors during the previous editions of the exhibition are already reserved, which speaks for interest on the part of the international defence industry.

It is also actively being worked on attracting appropriate visitors to the exhibition. The Minister of Defence approved a list according to which ministers and official delegations from 57 countries, 3 NATO agencies, the European Defence Agency and the National Armaments Directors of 32 countries have been invited. We expect, as in each exhibition by now, a significant part of them to accept the invitation and visit the exhibition.

One of the major strong sides of the exhibition is the good attendance by foreign delegations having in mind the comparatively small scale of the exhibition. This provides an opportunity for very good visibility of the exhibitors. In a conversation during the exhibition in 2016, one of the exhibitors (a representative of a Bulgarian company) shared that he was extremely satisfied with his participation, because three Ministers had visited his stand. We think that this would harder happen to Bulgarian companies at another exhibition even if it is the biggest and most famous one.

(BN) Almost the whole Bulgarian defence industry participates in that exhibition regularly. If we disregard the fact that this is the only national exhibition and their presence is almost “obligatory”, how they (the Bulgarian defence industry) assess their participation? Have you observed successfully concluded transactions, arrangements, and start of new partnerships?

(NN/VD) – This question is quite reasonable on one side, and on the other side it belongs a bit to the sphere of “fair legends”. The answer is: yes, we have. In addition, in 2014, we had big problems with a vehicle, sold to a foreign delegation that insisted on receiving it in short terms and despite the explicit prohibition against taking exhibits out before the end of the exhibition, however, we had to make an exception.

In particular, the research on the exhibitor satisfaction, made by an independent company (Alpha Research) shows that during “HEMUS 2016” the majority of the exhibitors have succeeded in implementing their preliminary set goals. 89% of the exhibitors, who stated that their goal was establishment of business contacts during the exhibition also assessed that aim as achieved. Over 75% of the exhibitors stated that they were satisfied with their participation in “Hemus 2016”, and over 50% assessed the perspectives for post-exhibition business transactions as good or very good.

(BN) I have noticed that the foreign companies that participate are mainly ones that have concluded or expect to conclude future transaction with Bulgarian state authorities. What more, according to you, it may be done in a purely organizational aspect for the elimination of that factor and foreign companies not to come only for already ready future trade relations?

(NN/VD) – We don’t have such observations and such a statement sounds a bit overstated. Exhibitors pay for participation in an exhibition aiming to have these expenditures back and earn. In order foreign companies to come to the exhibition even without having “ready” future trade relations with the Ministry of Defence, it is needed they to believe that they have the chance to win if they participate on a market principle in the tenders of the Ministry. If they believe that transactions are negotiated in another way, neither foreign, nor Bulgarian companies will be quite interested in participating in the exhibition. That is why the active work on attracting as large number of companies as possible is a key one both in respect of creation of favourable competitive environment and in respect of transparency.

(BN) The Bulgarian exhibition is small in comparison to lots of foreign similar military exhibitions. Is it planned this to be changed in the next years? How do you think it can happen?

(NN/VD) – We shall be careful what we compare. Let’s allow ourselves to make a comparison with Eurosatory, the most popular, amongst the Bulgarian companies, European exhibition and an acknowledged global forum. The exhibitors there, in 2016, were 27 times more than those at Hemus, but the expenditures on defence of France are 77 times more. Or the Polish exhibition MSPO – in 2016 there were 10 times more exhibitors than at Hemus, but Poland also had about 12 times larger budget for military expenditures for 2016 (and even planned an increase for 2018). In return for it MSPO was visited by 46 foreign delegations in 2016, only twice more than Hemus.

We believe that the benefit from the participation in Hemus is quite significant, but we do not think it is extremely necessary the exhibition to be especially expanded. It would better if the scale of the exhibition is adequate to the rate of development of the capabilities for guaranteeing the national security of Bulgaria on one side and to the capacity of the Bulgarian defence industry and defence and security resource on the other side.

(BN) I know that during all days of the exhibition it is performed various demonstrations of military vehicles. What is the ratio during these demonstrations – by whom are they mostly performed – Bulgarian or foreign companies?

(NN/VD) – During the exhibition it is performed demonstration firings, static and dynamic display. The static display is organized by the Joint Forces Command and it is shown existing and acquired new samples of vehicles and armament by the Ministry of Defence. The dynamic display is for demonstration of actions during special operations and is organized together with the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Interior.

The event, in which companies participate, is the demonstration firings. Traditionally almost only Bulgarian companies or companies with representation in Bulgaria participate in them. At the demonstration firings in 2016, 4 Bulgarian companies („Arcus“ JSCo, „VMZ“ JSCo, „Dunarit“ JSCo and „Stroyproject” Ltd.) showed how their products work. „Lassa Engineering” Ltd. presented the system S.C.A.R. – POD. Despite the big distance to “Zmejovo” Test Ground, where firings are performed, from the place of the exhibition, a big part of the foreign delegations also visit the firings.

(BN) I know that it is a tradition during the exhibition a parallel conference on different themes to be held in contrast to the exhibition itself. Do you know what the theme of the future conference in 2018 will be or which themes have attracted your attention as possible?

(NN/VD) – By tradition, the exhibition is accompanied by an International Scientific Conference, organized by “Prof. Tsvetan Lazarov” Defence Institute. In 2018 the 9th edition of the conference is forthcoming. The theme of the 9th International Conference, which will be held on 1st June 2018, will be “Scientific Research, Innovation and Industrial Cooperation in the Interest of the Common European Defence and Security”.

Not without satisfaction, we should also mention the fact that the 9th edition of the conference is included in the Calendar of Events during the upcoming Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union and the respective participation on behalf of the European institutions is expected. Not only the Conference, but also Hemus 2018 may be considered an appropriate platform for the work of the EU member states on the Preparatory Action on Defence Research – PADR in terms of development of the future European Defence Research Programme – EDRP, as well as in the activity on achieving common European approach under the European Defence Industrial Development Programme – EDIDP.