site.btaHead of Cabinet's Central Coordinating Unit: Success Impossible without Reforming Publicly Funded Sectors
Addressing the kick-off conference for an EC-backed BTA project titled "EU in BG: Cohesion Future", Ivan Ivanov, Director of the Central Coordination Unit at the Council of Ministers said that success is impossible without reforming the sectors which attract public funding and EU funding. "We should never forget that cohesion policy is only a small part of these common policies and that it is a project we have to defend because it is vulnerable to speculation. We have seen in recent years that we tend to blame Europe even for our own internal problems, he said.
"It is our common responsibility to make Bulgarians continue to believe in this common European project and not to take it for granted," he said.
In his words, the cohesion policy has proved that it works. "When we joined [the EU] in 2007, we had about 30% of the European GDP, now we are nearing 60%".
Ivanov said that the analyses his office has started preparing for this programming period show that regional disparities continue to widen and there is a significant difference between regions that are depopulated and several enclaves that are booming economically and nearing the living standards in the economically advanced countries.
Ivanov noted that cohesion policy exacerbates these processes: large municipalities are attracting resources, while those that lack skilled people are struggling. "This is the opposite of what we aim for," he said. "We need to work on the ground, to work with the smaller and weaker ones, to do analyses, to see when these processes deepen. We also need to devolve some responsibilities to local authorities."
Ivanov went on to say that Northern Bulgaria has been largely ignored: an analysis of the partnership agreement found that only 18% of the EU funding for Bulgaria has ended up in the North of the country. "Now we have to reverse this trend, we have made a commitment that at least 50% of the funds from the new programming period should go to this part of the country," Ivanov said.
He said EU money should only complement own funding.
He also said that it is important to make sure the programmes do not overlap. "Now we have two parallel systems - the National Recovery and Resilience Plan and the cohesion policy. "Huge resources, huge challenges, but we have to make sure that there is no double funding," he said.
Iavanov noted that the importance of "green" and "digital" should be recognized. "The Covid pandemic showed us that we cannot be flexible and sustainable without being digital; we cannot build economic growth and not be green, because in doing so we will destroy the future of our children," Ivanov said.
The final focus of Ivanov's speech was transparency. He said that the popular perception of the EU funds is that it is money for the elite. "It is very difficult to fight such a phenomenon. There is no easy solution. The only way is to be transparent. If there is no trust among people, then our job is half done," he concluded.