Bulgaria Struggles with Recovery Plan Implementation, EU Warns

World » EU | June 19, 2024, Wednesday // 16:59
Bulgaria: Bulgaria Struggles with Recovery Plan Implementation, EU Warns

Bulgaria is significantly delayed in implementing its Recovery and Sustainability Plan, according to the 2024 report from the European Commission. The plan, valued at 5.689 billion euros in grants, has so far seen only one payment of 1.37 billion euros, which is 24% of the total amount. Bulgaria still has 4.3 billion euros pending, contingent upon the completion of 299 remaining stages and goals out of 321. The deadline for the plan's implementation is August 2026.

Since May 15, the European Commission has been collaborating with Bulgarian authorities to meet the requirements for the second payment. Brussels expects improvements in administrative capacity, public procurement quality, and the independence and functioning of regulators. Enhancing the business environment is crucial, as 53% of investors lack confidence in the legal and judicial protection of their investments.

The report highlights Bulgaria's challenges in decarbonizing its economy and energy production. Delayed electricity market liberalization, a key reform under the Recovery Plan, is impeding the transition to clean energy. Heating systems are often in poor condition, relying mainly on natural gas or coal. While there was a notable increase in solar PV deployment in 2023, wind energy use has stagnated over the past decade, and the country lacks sufficient energy storage capacity.

Energy poverty remains a significant issue in Bulgaria, with 22.5% of the population unable to adequately heat their homes in 2022, the highest rate in the EU compared to the average of 9.3%. Greenhouse gas emissions from road transport are also a serious problem, having increased by 29% in 2022 compared to 2005 levels. Despite high passenger car usage, the share of battery electric vehicles is low, and there is inadequate infrastructure for charging electric vehicles, hindering the adoption of electric mobility.

The report also notes a deterioration in Bulgarian education over the past year, with the country showing poorer results in international assessments. A significant proportion of 15-year-olds lack minimum proficiency in mathematics (53.5%), reading (52.9%), and science (48%). Digital skills in Bulgaria are much lower than the EU average (35.5% vs. 55.5%), and adult participation in further education or retraining courses remains low, despite being a focus of transition plans for coal regions.

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Tags: recovery, plan, Bulgaria, EU

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