EC President: Bulgaria Has Made Encouraging Progress, Long Way to Go Yet

Bulgaria in EU | December 16, 2011, Friday // 13:46|  views

EC President Jos? Manuel Barroso has praised Bulgaria's progress with EU Funds absorption, adding that the country still has "a long way to go". Photo by BGNES

Prime Minister Boyko Borisov has read in Parliament a letter sent by Jos? Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, in which he lists recommendations to Bulgaria on how to achieve improved EU Funds absorption in the next few years.

Barroso's letter comes in response to a Bulgarian report on the steps it has taken in connection with last year's report of the EC on the country's progress under the Co-operation and Verification Mechanism (CVM).

Borisov reads the letter and comments on its content, issuing instructions to the ministers, according the minutes of the meeting, as cited by

Barroso praises Bulgaria for the increasingly accelerated pace of implementation of the Cohesion Policy and registers as good performance the completion of the Lyulin highway and the progress made with the extension of the Sofia underground and the Trakia highway.

"Despite that, it cannot be said that enough progress has been made to guarantee the full absorption by 2015 of the funds granted under the structural funds and the Cohesion Fund," Barroso writes, adding that the achievement of this goal will be determined by the rate of absorption the country registers by end-2013, or "two financial years after the implementation of the Cohesion Policy, whose budget in terms of resources granted solely under the Structural Funds and the Cohesion fund, exceed EUR 2 B".

The EC President explains that, regardless of the number of applications for major projects received by the Commission, Bulgaria's administration will have to make additional efforts to guarantee the actual absorption of the granted financial resources.

Barroso advises Bulgaria to develop a sufficient number of projects and to ensure a swifter processing of project applications, especially ones submitted by small and medium-sized enterprises.

He also suggests that the country should improve contract management and provide more efficient servicing of applications for payments

"Traikov- we have been discussing this – it will take even more efforts," Prime Minister Borisov tells the Minister of Economy, Energy and Tourism.

Barroso also strongly recommends  that  Bulgaria start preparing its Cohesion Policy for the next programming period 2014-2020, which he says should begin with the development of sector strategies, for instance in the spheres of healthcare and scientific research and innovations,  so that the projects financed under the Structural Funds and the Cohesion Fund can be included in a coordinated framework.

The EC President notes that if Bulgaria wishes to abide by the recommendations, it will have to continue at full steam with the institutional reform process in certain sectors, such as road, the rail and water transport.

"Moskovski, what you are doing is recognized and, as you can see, appreciated by the EC as only right," Borisov tells the Transport Minister.

Barroso yet again draws attention to the necessity of boosting the administrative capacity for monitoring Structural Funds absorption and exercising control over the legal execution of public procurement.

In his words, the capacity of assignors of public procurement must be increased through the use of higher quality consultancy services.

Commenting on the issue, Borisov notes that a new draft bill has been tabled which should see  these problems solved.

Bulgaria's Prime Minister also instructs Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov and the Justice Ministry to push the draft bill through Parliament as fast as possible.

In his letter, Barroso describes the international assistance Bulgaria can tap from the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the World Bank for enhancing its administrative capacity and for implementing reforms.

"You can use consultants and money from the EIB, including by paying for them, so that they will prepare sound and high quality projects," Borisov says.

While reading the letter, the Prime Minister praises EU Funds Minister Tomislav Donchev on several occasions.

Borisov finds that Barroso's statement that "the first results are already a fact "means that he must not make any reshuffles on a ministerial level or among the people working on the projects.

The Prime Minister echoes Barroso's reminder that the final estimate of Donchev's work will be given in end-2013, when it should be reported that Bulgaria has absorbed over BGN 4 B.

Borisov also stresses the fact that most of Barros's recommendations end with the conclusion that "there is still a long way to go", which he sees as words of encouragement.

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Tags: Jose Manuel Barroso, Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, EU Funds Minister, Tomislav Donchev, Ivaylo Moskovski, Traicho Traikov, cohesion policy, Structural Funds, Administrative Capacity


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