site.btaUPDATED National Association of Municipalities in Bulgaria Holds General Assembly in Presence of President, PM, Government Ministers

National Association of Municipalities in Bulgaria Holds General Assembly in Presence of President, PM, Government Ministers
National Association of Municipalities in Bulgaria Holds General Assembly in Presence of President, PM, Government Ministers
A snapshot from the opening of the 37th General Assembly of the National Association of Municipalities in the Republic of Bulgaria, Sofia, February 27, 2024 (BTA Photo)

The National Association of Municipalities in the Republic of Bulgaria (NAMRB) is holding its 37th General Assembly Tuesday and Wednesday. Among the guests were President Rumen Radev, Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov, Deputy Prime Minister Mariya Gabriel and Finance Minister Assen Vassilev. In his opening remarks, President Radev said that that during the political instability in recent years, mayors had become the personification of statesmanship, who guaranteed the stability of social processes. According to the President, the real solution to many political problems can only be achieved with financial decentralization of the municipalities, while he also said that the State needs to interfere with a clear long-term strategy and commitments in underdeveloped regions.

NAMRB Chairman Daniel Panov, who is also Mayor of the north-central city of Veliko Tarnovo, welcomed the 430 delegates and the opportunity to discuss municipal problems with them together and look for solutions regardless of the size of municipalities and political affiliation of mayors. The agenda of the two-day assembly will include a report on the activities of the NAMRB in 2023 as well as the program and budget for the activity of the NAMRB for 2024. The General Assembly delegates will elect the members of the new Governing Board and Supervisory Board of the Association, and their Chairpersons.

Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov assured the attending mayors that there will be continuity of priorities after the expected government rotation in early March. He said: “This [rotation] process is not a struggle for offices, with one political force trying to outwit another, but is a process that will determine what will be the real priorities of the government in the next period [of nine months after the rotation]. In recent weeks, every single partner, foreign or national, starts the conversation with the question, "Will you be able to make the transition?" I am sure that Mrs [Mariya] Gabriel gets the same question. I assure you that she and myself have no doubt in this regard. What is up to us, we will do. There will be continuity. We are working very hard in an environment that is not very easy, so that you can feel reassured that what you see as the right direction of development will continue. That includes fighting corruption, reforming the judiciary, stopping the leakages in public finances so that there is a more efficient use of this money. Also in areas of public life that have been underfunded for years. I want to mention the significant increase of the budgets in the areas of culture, sport and education. Of course, there is never enough for everyone. What we have been trying to do as a team over these years is to define how these funds that are coming in from the budget in various areas could contribute to one thing - improving the quality of life. Again, let me repeat that the process you see is a struggle to keep the priorities as they have been in recent months, to be able to build on them and to be able to discuss in nine months' time how to move forward. Unfortunately, there are politicians who are trying to present things in a different light and to convince us that we will be better off without a Parliament-appointed government and without a working Parliament. No, we won’t be better off  because there can be no budget and no priorities. The main [foreign] priorities for Bulgaria remain: joining Schengen [for all types of travel] and accession to the eurozone, which will benefit people and businesses. Our partnership with you is based on these priorities.

On the first day of the General Assembly, Sofia Mayor Vasil Terziev reiterated how important it is for municipalities to have financial decentralization so as to enhance the financial security and stability to cities and towns in times of political turbulence and crises. "Financial decentralization and transparency in management have been talked about for more than 15 years. I believe that in this mandate the municipalities will work under the conditions of real financial decentralization," he said. Terziev also called for part of direct taxes, like income tax and profit tax, to be left in the municipal budgets and not transferred to the state budget.

Finance Minister Assen Vassilev said that the economic and financial environment is expected to remain unchanged and that taxes won't be raised. "We are still waiting to officially discuss your ideas for fiscal decentralization. I am not against it," Vassilev said. The problem there is the very uneven distribution of tax revenues across the country, he added. He also said: "The idea is that the investment programme for municipalities should be sustainable and continue. What we have talked about in Parliament, with the budget committee and the regional ministry is that it should be a revolving type: when you are finished with one project, you can take up a new one up to the limit. You have an interest to finish your projects as quickly as possible."

 

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By 20:41 on 21.04.2024 Today`s news

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