EU in BG: Cohesion Future Kick-Off Conference

site.btaUPDATED Government Departments Share Experience with EU-backed Programmes, Outline Cohesion Policy Priorities

Government Departments Share Experience with EU-backed Programmes, Outline Cohesion Policy Priorities
Government Departments Share Experience with EU-backed Programmes, Outline Cohesion Policy Priorities
Detelina Karaevena, the head of the National Fund Directorate at the Finance Ministry, at the kick-off conference for a BTA project titled "EU in BG: Cohesion Future" in Sofia, Dec. 1 (BTA Photo)

Addressing the kick-off conference for a EC-backed BTA project titled "EU in BG: Cohesion Future" in Sofia Thursday, officials of the Ministries of Regional Development, Environment, Finance, Labour and Innovation shared their experience with EU-funded programmes, especially those in the field of cohesion policy.

Deputy Labour and Social Policy Minister Natalia Efremova said that better and higher-paid work, as well as the development of the social system through better social services for people who needs them, are among the priorities of Operational Programme Human Resources Development (2021-2027). Regarding child development, the deputy minister said that the national implementation plan for the European Child Guarantee has been approved. Efremova identified the implementation of the measures under this plan as the biggest challenge. The plan is to ensure that over 196,000 Bulgarian children have access to education, pre-school education, healthy food and social services. We have a very important priority in the area of youth employment, Efremova stressed. The allocated resource is BGN 735 million and it is aimed entirely at helping young people from education to employment. We have many young people who neither study nor work, Efremova also noted.

Marta Tsvetkova, a head of the Environment Ministry's planning unit, spoke about three strategic goals in the EU-backed Operational Programme Environment in 2021-2027: clean environment for people's health; supporting the country in meeting its environmental commitments; and helping the country exit the infringement procedures and avoid the payment of sanctions. BGN 3.5 billion is available from the Cohesion Fund and the European Regional Development Fund for achieving these goals. Some BGN 700 million of this will go to the Southwestern Region and the rest for other underdeveloped regions.

She also said that OP Enviornment has five priorities: water, waste, biodiversity, climate change and air. Building and improving the water infrastructure, encouraging segregated waste collection; preserving biodiversity and mitigating climate change are at the core of all projects that will be backed as part of the programme.

Deputy Regional Development Minister Dessislava Georgieva said that her Ministry works to improve the quality of life for people in many ways: creates new urban spaces, culture spaces and supports improving the energy efficiency of buildings. She catalogued programmes in which the Ministry is involved and which are part of the EU cohesion policy. One - and foremost - is the large Operational Programme Regional Development, which will continue to be implemented until the end of 2027 and which has supported investment in a variety of sectors, the Deputy Minister said. The Regional Development Ministry is also in charge of 12 programmes for regional cooperation with neighbouring countries and other EU member states, most of which are focused on addressing shared challenges such as climate change, unemployment, poverty and mitigating inequalities. "Dialogue between the State and people will be in the focus of the new programming period, which will practically start in 2023, because we believe that the voice of the people must be heard so that EU investment can really help make Bulgarian towns a better place to live in," said the deputy minister.

Detelina Karaevena, the head of the National Fund Directorate at the Finance Ministry, spoke about her Ministry's experience in managing EU funding. "We are trying to be the good and useful partner, to approach the matter practically and make sure the administrative rules are observed. She explained that the National Fund Directorate is the unit that provides the funding in keeping with the rules and the established practice. She said that the 2014-2020 programming period is still in its peak because the COVID pandemic caused a delay in many projects. She argued that administrative capacity is a key components for all programmes.

Velina Popova, Head of Programming at the Directorate General European Competitiveness Funds with the Ministry of Innovation and Growth, said that her Ministry is new - actually an old administration transformed into a ministry, which is now trying to change. The pandemic has provided the impetus for this. Since 2020, the Directorate General European Competitiveness Funds has been managing programmes for businesses and expected to attract some 3,000-4,000 projects, but Covid drove up the number to nearly 35,000.

She stressed that another very important area for investment her ministry plans is the transition to a circular economy: reducing energy intensity and improving energy independence. "Here, funding has increased avalanche-like compared to previous period: while in 2014-2020 there was a EUR 36 million budget for resource efficiency, now around EUR 380 million is earmarked for the circular economy," said Popova. Significant funding is also available for internationalization and growth of enterprises, she added.

She pointed out that one of the challenges facing her Ministry is regional imbalances. "When we were doing planning for Competitiveness and Innovation in Enterprises, we found that about 40% of the business is concentrated in Sofia. We will try and do our best to ensure that the funds for enterprises go throughout Bulgaria. Over 80% of the funds will go outside Sofia," Popova concluded. 

Ivan Popov, Deputy Executive Director of the Executive Agency Education Programme (which is the managing authority of Operational Programme Science and Education for Smart Growth 2014-2020), said that education has been a priority policy in several successive Bulgarian governments. The Education Programme is funded by the European Social Fund Plus and was among the first programmes approved under ESF+ by the European Commission. The total funding is nearly BGN 2 billion, Popov said.

The programme has three priorities. The first is inclusive education and integration in all stages of education, and is funded with BGN 560 million. The second one is aimed at modernization and quality of education, and BGN 470 million has been allocated for it. The third is the link between education and the labour market, for which BGN 760 million is available. BGN 0.5 billion have been earmarked for higher education as the aim is to introduce a dual education where students can study while working. This form of education already exists in Bulgarian secondary education. Also, the programme will continue to support student internships as a fast track for students to find a job, Popov added.




By 01:20 on 02.06.2023 Today`s news

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