BTA News

BTA Hosts “Europe in the Balkans” Conference in Ruse

The project is aimed to help people get a better understanding of the role of cohesion policy, including in the Balkans; raise public awareness of projects funded by the EU through its cohesion policy; and promoting open dialogue about the results of the implementation of cohesion policy at the local level and civic engagement in related matters.

Tuesday’s conference discussed relevant novelties in the period 2021-2027 and the results achieved in 2014-2020. It was opened by Deputy Regional Development and Public Works Minister Angelina Boneva, Ruse Regional Governor Danail Kovachev, Ruse Mayor Pencho Milkov and BTA Director General Kiril Valchev.

In his address, Valchev said that “Europe in the Balkans” is a series of conferences on EU cross-border funds boosting Bulgaria’s cohesion with its neighbours. BTA recognizes the need for more information and discussions on the matter. Each regional conference will lay emphasis on the concrete steps towards cohesion.

Valchev highlighted the Interreg VI-A Romania-Bulgaria Programme for 2021-2027, financed through the European Regional Development Fund. Rather than reporting on the money absorbed, the discussion should focus on the content of the joint projects and their pragmatic goals such as becoming better connected, greener, more educated and closer together, Valchev said. “Above all, we should discuss what we need to do together for our common future,” he added.

The Ruse conference set the beginning of a discussion on the development of the North Central Planning Region. More local conferences in the same region are to be held in Razgrad, Veliko Tarnovo, Silistra and Gabrovo.

The bigger project includes discussions that BTA will hold until August 2024 in: Blagoevgrad, Burgas, Varna, Vidin, Vratsa, Dobrich, Kazanlak, Kardzhali, Kyustendil, Lovech, Montana, Pazardzhik, Pernik, Pleven, Plovdiv, Ruse, Samokov, Sliven, Smolyan, Sofia, Stara Zagora, Targovishte, Haskovo, Shumen and Yambol, as well as cross-border conferences in Belgrade, Bosilegrad, Bucharest, Adrianople, Skopje and Thessaloniki.

Here is a takeaway from what the participants in the Ruse discussion said:

Deputy Transport and Communications Minister Dimitar Nedyalkov said in a greetings address to BTA that the Ruse-Veliko Tarnovo motorway is the most important project under the Transport Connectivity Programme 2021-2027. Nedyalkov said Bulgaria and Romania are working actively for building another bridge over the Danube River between Ruse and Giurgiu. The European Commission is expected by the end of January to approve the funding for the feasibility studies for the future Danube bridge, which will be the third one between Bulgaria and Romania and the second one at this particular site.

Ruse Deputy Regional Governor Georgi Georgiev said the Balkans are of pivotal importance for an independent, stable and peaceful Europe. He said: “For the sake of our shared prosperity, we should seek more of what unites us as nations than what makes us different. Therefore, it is essential to implement strategic projects to upgrade transport connectivity, exchange high-skilled experts and improve infrastructure in general. It is equally necessary to align the activities of the institutions and the authorities to create conditions for overall advancement.”

Vida Vlaikova, who is in charge of the North Central Planning Region at the Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works, said the approach being applied in the 2021-2027 programming period uses an instrument called integrated territorial investments. It is a way to finance a set of projects under different programmes. Vlaikova recalled that a procedure was launched in June 2023 to present concepts for the integration of territorial investments. A total of 165 concepts were submitted from across Bulgaria. These include 26 concepts in the North Central Planning Region, 23 of which are to be implemented within the boundaries of the region and the remaining three are part of bigger ideas spanning two or more regions.

Tsvetan Spassov of the Labour and Social Policy Ministry, who heads the managing authority for Operational Programme Human Resources Development, said the plan is to get more people involved in various training and education courses under the programme by 2030. The main highlight this year is the European Year of Skills, which runs from May 9, 2023, until May 8, 2024, Spassov said.

Emilia Nikolova of the Ministry of Education and Science said that among the priorities of the Education Programme 2021-2027 are inclusive education and learning integration, modernization and quality of education, and linking education to the labour market. Procedures are planned to promote literacy among adults (BGN 61 million), develop dual training (BGN 86 million) and fight segregation and discrimination (BGN 31 million).

Angel Kanchev University of Ruse Deputy Rector Dessislava Atanassova said the university’s participation in European projects and programmes has allowed it to develop as a multidisciplinary research university, one of 10 research universities in Bulgaria. Over the last programming period the University of Ruse successfully completed more than 20 projects after attracting BGN 130 million in funding, Atanassova said. As one of the successful large projects of the new programming period she singled out the building of a centre of excellence which runs five high-tech laboratories specializing in various fields. The first stage of the BGN 3 million project ended on December 31, 2023.

Danubius Euroregion Association (DEA) Executive Director Lili Gancheva noted that the implementation of joint projects creates friendship and trust among the partners, which matters for future undertakings. She said the DEA was set up in 2002 to promote and coordinate cross-border cooperation along the Danube River. The association’s activities have been focused on helping central and local authorities in finding solutions to common cross-border problems, boosting cross-border business and stepping up cooperation in education, culture, tourism and social affairs.