Bulgarian Caretaker Min Hints at Loss of Regional Development EU Funds
Bulgaria's caretaker minister for regional development and investment planning has warned about EU funding losses under the "Regional Development" Operational Program 2007-2013.
Speaking Wednesday, upon assuming office, Ekaterina Zaharieva did not specify the projects which were at risk.
She listed a number of priority tasks, including the organization of the early elections in October, the fast-tracking of projects behind schedule, the recovery of suspended EU funding payments for the 2007-2013 programming period, talks with the European Commission on the new operational program "Growth Regions" 2014-2020 and achieving stability in the work of the administration.
Zaharieva, as cited by investor.bg, emphasized that the prolonged protests and the changes of government over the past year and a half had obstructed the normal work of the administration and the business sector.
She also cited the housing policy, energy efficiency, and environmental protection as other priorities.
She emphasized that the caretaker government would have to find away to take out money from the state budget to pay to construction companies as the payments to these firms were already substantially delayed.
Owing to an EU funds freeze under two operational programs, "Environment" 2007-2013 and "Regional Development" 2007-2013, the state and municipalities owe around BGN 2 B to construction companies.
Expressing concern over the situation, the Bulgarian Construction Chamber recommended to companies working on EU-funded projects to stop work due to the systemic non-payment of due sums.
The Chamber warned about the risk of mass bankruptcies of construction companies and job losses.
In her Wednesday statement, Zaharieva said that Bulgaria was seeking to include 67 cities in the new operational program "Growth Regions" in a bid to boost regional development through EU funding.
The EC, however, has insisted that money under the program only go to 6-7 cities capable of generating economic growth and creating jobs, while the remainder of cities use other options for securing EU funding.
Zaharieva and her predecessor, former Regional Development Minister Desislava Terzoeva, announced that the 67 cities had been dropped from the Partnership Agreement with the European Commission.
Zaharieva was skeptical that Bulgaria would win in the fight to include a larger number of cities in the program.
She noted that the fate of the Investment Planning Ministry created by the former socialist-led government would be decided by the next government.
The separation of the former Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works into two ministries, the Regional Development Ministry and the Investment Planning Ministry, took around a year to accomplish due to a large number of necessary legal changes.
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