Bulgaria to Get More EU Funding for Business, Innovations at Expense of Infrastructure in 2014-2020

Bulgaria in EU | August 22, 2013, Thursday // 15:52|  views

Photo by EPA/BGNES

Bulgaria's allocation of EU funding for business, science and innovations increases by around EUR 350 M in the next programming period (2014-2020) at the expense of infrastructure.

At the same time, the EU funding earmarked for the "Rural Development Program" drops by around EUR 550 M, while the funding allocated to the fisheries sector increases by around EUR 20 M, according to mediapool.bg, based on data provided by Zinaida Zlatanova, Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Minister.

The biggest winners in the next programming period are to be Bulgarian agricultural producers, who are to receive twice the funding granted during the current programming period.

On Wednesday, Bulgaria's government approved the draft Partnership Agreement with the European Commission for the 2014-2020 programming period.

Under the agreement, the funding for the new business-oriented program "Innovations and Competitiveness" increases by EUR 50 M.

The funding earmarked for the operational programs "Human Resources Development", "Science and Education" and "Good Governance" increases by a total of EUR 340 M.

The funding for infrastructure-oriented operational programs, "Transport", "Regional Development" and "Environment" shrinks by a total of around EUR 800 M to EUR 3.65 B.

News portal mediapool.bg informs that if the funding under the Connecting Europe Facility is included, which remains uncertain at the current stage, the total amount increases to EUR 4 B, compared to EUR 4.5 B in the current programming period.

Tomislav Donchev, former EU Funds Minister in the center-right GERB government and current GERB MP, argues that the increase in EU funding for the business sector and the decrease in funding for highways and water infrastructure is attributable to the change of priorities under the Europe 2020 strategy which are determined by the EC.

Asked to comment on the same issue, Zlatanova emphasizes the importance of the economic engine.

She also claims that EU funding allocations under almost all programs have dropped, adding that it is due to the unprecedented overall decrease in the EU budget for the entire 2014-2020.

Zlatanova says that a comparison of the current and the next programming periods must not result in political battles about placing the blame on somebody.

She suggests that the draft Partnership Agreement with the EC is to be used as an instrument of national unification for the sake of improving the lives of all Bulgarian citizens.

The funding for the current programming period was negotiated by Bulgaria's three-way coalition government (2005-2009) headed by Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev.

According to mediapool.bg, the issue of allocating EU funding for the villages around big cities remains unsolved in the draft Partnership Agreement due to the ongoing argument between the Regional Development Ministry and the Agriculture Ministry.

The Agriculture Ministry insists that the funding allocated to the "Growth Regions" OP must be used to finance the 67 municipalities, not only the cities included in it, while the Regional Development Ministry suggests that the funding must only go to the 67 cities specified, thereby leaving the villages without EU funding.

At the same time, the EC has demanded a decrease in the total number of cities, stressing that the financial assistance must be concentrated in several growth centers, around which economic regions are established.

According to sources close to the matter, the final version of the draft Partnership Agreement which the government will defend before the EC on Thursday envisages a decrease in the number of cities from 67 to 50.

Ginka Chavdarova, Executive Director of the National Association of Municipalities in Bulgaria, warns against repeating and multiplying the mistakes from the current programming period, stressing that no blank spots are to be left on the map.

She comments that the villages around big cities must be eligible for funding earmarked for the "Growth Regions" OP.

Dimcho Mihalevski, socialist MP and Chair of the parliamentary regional policy committee, agrees, adding that it is "unfair, inefficient and illogical" to transfer the villages to the agricultural OP which has had its resources slashed.

Meanwhile, the new operational program on science and education gains an increase by around EUR 100 M to EUR 508 M at the expense of the resources allocated to the "Good Governance" OP, which unites the existing "Technical Assistance" and "Administrative Capacity" programs.

The budget of the "Good Governance" OP has been downsized from EUR 460 M to EUR 356 M.

The main portion of the funding under the "Good Governance" OP, around EUR 190 M, is to go to e-government and improving access to information and communication technologies, while the remainder is to be spent on administrative trainings.

The draft Partnership Agreement is to be sent to the EC for technical consultations by the end of the week, while the EC is to send feedback in October, according to Zlatanova.

The Partnership Agreement is to be conclusively approved by the EC by the beginning of 2014.

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Tags: EU funding, programming period, operational program, 2014-2020, European Commission, Zinaida Zlatanova, Tomislav Donchev, GERB government, Dimcho Mihalevski, Ginka Chavdarova, National Association of Municipalities in the Republic of Bulgaria


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