Bulgaria to Negotiate EU Funding Extension for Water Projects
The European Commission will negotiate extension of the funding for four water projects, realized through the EU ISPA program, which expiration date is the end of the year.
The four projects are in the Bulgarian cities of Varna, Shumen, Svilengrad and Balchik and amount to EUR 110 M altogether.
The extension has been discussed at a meeting in Brussels between the Bulgarian Ministers for Regional Development, Transport and EU Funds (Rosen Plevneliev, Alexandar Tsvetkov and Tomislav Donchev) and the EU Commissioner for Regional Development, Johannes Hahn.
Donchev has explained that three scenarios for the projects have been discussed at the meeting - an extension of the EU funding until the end of 2011, redirection of some of the projects for financing by the operational program “Environment”, or their full failure.
He added that a final decision has not been reached and that next week experts will review each project individually.
“We agree that these projects need to be completed. We will decide whether extension of funding is possible for each case individually. In some cases this could be possible but it needs to be well defended by Bulgaria,” said Ton van Lierop, the Commission's regional development spokesman.
He also said that the Commission's flexibility on the issue will depend on the technical arguments for every project. He noted that it is possible for some projects to be redirected to the operational program “Environment” but that would mean that the funding under ISPA would be lost.
“There is no deadline for the decision to be made. The sooner we receive the arguments, the faster we will decide,” the spokesman said.
The deadline for completion of the projects under the ISPA program has already been extended once until the end of 2010.
The four projects in Varna, Shumen, Svilengrad and Balchik are controversial because the financial memorandums for their completion was signed by Brussels in 2003, but were ratified by Bulgarian in the beginning of 2004.
Bulgarian experts claim that according to the international law, the document is valid when it is ratified by the other side as well.
If Brussels accept this argument, then the projects would have to be extended by 1 year because the EC has come up with a decision to extend with one year the deadlines for all infrastructural projects under financial memorandums that cost less than BGN 100 M.
Operational program “Transport” has also been a topic of discussion at the meeting. Minister Plevneliev has explained that Brussels was “extremely concerned” about the capacity of the Bulgarian Road Agency.
“This is why a new unit of the Regional Development Ministry will be created tomorrow. Its purpose would be to coordinate, control, communicate and command the road agency. The idea is for the unit to start work in day because we have problems in all these fields,” Plevneliev said.
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