BTA News

Edirne and Haskovo Host BTA’s “Europe in the Balkans” Conference in Cross-Border Format

BTA’s conference “Europe in the Balkans: A Common Future” is being held in cross-border format for the second time on Monday. It opened in the Turkish city of Edirne, with participants in the southern Bulgarian town of Haskovo joining online from BTA’s National Press Club.

Bulgaria’s Consul General in Edirne, Borislav Dimitrov, opened the event.

The participants in Turkiye include Ceyda Pekozer, Project Manager of the Interreg IPA Bulgaria-Turkey Cross Border Cooperation Programme, Esra Konaklilar from ETTDER (Association for Promoting and Tourism of Edirne) and Assoc. Prof. Emre Atilgan from Trakya University, Coordinator of the Cross-Border Regions Collaborate for Blue Growth: Blue Growth Collabs.

In Haskovo, the participants include, among others, Zhelyazko Kolev, Chief Expert at the Regional Administration, and Krasimir Stankov, project management expert for the Interreg – IPA CBC Bulgaria – Turkey Programme 2021-2027.

The project “Europe in the Balkans: A Common Future” is implemented by BTA with support from the European Commission. It builds on a past project, “Europe in Bulgaria: A Common Future”, and aims to foster a better understanding of the role of the cohesion policy in the Balkans; to raise awareness of projects funded by the EU through the Cohesion Funds; promote dialogue on the results of the projects at local level and boost civic participation in issues related to cohesion policy.

The series of conferences was launched in Sofia on December 20, 2023. The first cross-border conference was held on January 16-17 in the Bulgarian city of Ruse and in Bucharest.

So far conferences have been held in Razgrad, Veliko Tarnovo, Silistra, Gabrovo, Burgas, Sliven and Yambol. Until August, BTA will hold discussions in its press clubs across Bulgaria and will organize cross-border conferences in Belgrade, Bosilegrad, Skopje and Thessaloniki.

The Europe in the Balkans: A Common Future project is funded with EUR 348,871. To achieve the project’s aims, BTA is using a media mix and expects to reach out to between 700,000 and 1 million people in Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, North Macedonia, Greece and Turkiye.

Following are sound bites from the conference.

Bulgaria’s Consul General in Edirne, Borislav Dimitrov: Bulgaria and Turkiye are friendly countries and NATO Allies. Our relations are based on goodneighbourliness, respect and shared interests. Our partnership concerns security, defence, trade, the economy, energy, modern technologies, culture and tourism. Cooperation in fighting cross-border crime, illegal migration and terrorism is at a very good level. Bulgaria expects the very good dialogue to continue and there is a great potential for developing relations in all areas, including innovation. Work on joint projects in transport and agriculture would contribute to finding technological solutions to overcome modern challenges. INTERREG is an excellent opportunity to promote bilateral dialogue.

Ceyda Pekozer, Project Manager of the Interreg IPA Bulgaria-Turkey Cross Border Cooperation Programme (IPA INTERREG): The goal of the cross-border program Bulgaria- Turkiye is to keep the territorial closeness in the region. There are three key priorities. The first one is an environmentally conscious cross-border region, for which there is a budget of EUR 6.6 million. The focus is on energy efficiency and reduction of harmful emissions, as well as the transition to a circular economy. Micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, including those organized as cooperatives and social enterprises, from both countries will receive direct financial assistance for the first time in this program period. It is expected that 16 projects will be supported. The second priority is the integrated development of the cross-border region with a budget of EUR 21.5 million, with a shift in focus from individual projects to territorial approaches and solutions. The financing of 20 projects is expected. The third priority is a safer cross-border region with a budget of EUR 1.73 million.

Dr. Emre Atilgan, Trakya University, Edirne: The first completed project of the cross-border program between Bulgaria and Turkiye is Blue Growth. There are four partners involved in the project: Prof. Dr Assen Zlatarov University of Burgas, Trakya University – Edirne, vocational high school of chemical technology in Burgas and the high school in Edirne. There project was signed and started October 9, 2020 and its implementation took 36 months, with a budget of EUR 3.3 million. The goals of the project are to create research centers for blue growth in Burgas and Edirne; an initiative for the cooperation of scientific research institutions in the field of environmental protection; institutional and academic capacity in the cross-border region for reducing pollution, the sustainable management of aquatic ecosystems and effective use of marine and water resources. Two research centers and three laboratories have been established.

Dr. Emel Gonenc Guler from the Association for Promoting Edirne and Tourism of Edirne: The project titled “Revival of Ancient Historical and Cultural Corridors” was established in 2018 with the initial goal of reviving the Arch Bridge in Harmanli, as well as increasing its tourist appeal. The idea of a joint project was the result of talks and discussions. The main goal of the project is to develop the capacity of the cities Edirne and Harmanli for cross-border cooperation in the field of sustainable tourism on the Via Diagonalis. In accordance with this objective, the project focuses on better preservation, use and promotion of the Via Diagonalis heritage, promoting cross-border cooperation and solving problems between Harmanli and Edirne, restoration of the Arch Bridge, and virtual reconstruction of historical places in Edrine with the help of 3D technology and mapping, as well as building the capacity of the target groups for the protection and promotion of the cultural heritage.