SOFIA (AFP) – The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) announced yesterday it would invest 500 million euros ($440 million) in Bulgaria over the next three years to help the impoverished Balkan country’s economic reforms. The bank aims to «to provide strong support to Bulgaria’s efforts toward (EU) accession, and toward narrowing the gap, which still separates it from the more advanced central European transition economies,» said EBRD regional official John Chomel-Doeno. The EBRD, which has operated in Bulgaria since 1992, has directly invested 539 million euros in 42 projects in the country and supported investments of a total of two billion euros, he said. Infrastructure, including energy, finance and small and medium-sized enterprises, are the priority areas for the EBRD in Bulgaria, he said. An EBRD report on Bulgaria published yesterday noted a stabilization of the country’s economy after austerity measures by the new government of Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg, who took office in July. «The main challenge ahead for Bulgaria is to maintain macroeconomic stability and make decisive progress in structural reforms, so as to stimulate domestic demand and improve future growth prospects,» it said. The state still holds Turk Ticaret Bankasi (Turkbank), Bayindirbank, EGS Bank and Milli Aydin Bankasi (Tarisbank) under receivership.