Bulgaria cleared the main stumbling block in the way of unlocking 6.3 billion euro in EU funding after the European Commission endorsed the country’s recovery and resilience plan on April 7, following repeated rounds of revisions that delayed the approval by more than a year.
The Commission’s positive assessment clears the way for the Council of the EU to approve the funding, which will come from the Recovery and Resilience Facility of NextGenerationEU stimulus package meant to bolster member states’ recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.
In Sofia for the announcement, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen praised Bulgaria’s plan for allocating the bulk of the funding to finance the measures aimed at reaching the EU’s climate and energy objectives.
She also welcomed the plan’s “ambitions” in the areas of digital transition, healthcare, public administration and the judiciary.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said that the funding, the equivalent of 10 per cent of Bulgaria’s annual gross domestic product, would “ensure the modernisation of Bulgaria” by guaranteeing the country’s energy security, judiciary reforms and investment in a number of areas.
The recovery and resilience plans envisions 59 per cent of all funding going towards measures that support climate objectives, including investment in decarbonisation of the energy sector, increased renewable power generation, building up large electricity storage capacities and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Digital transition is another area to receive significant funding, 26 per cent of the total, with investments planned in digital connectivity, the digitalisation of public administration, as well as the digitalisation of the transport and energy sectors.
Additionally, the plan contains “comprehensive anti-corruption measures, including reforms to ensure the accountability and criminal liability of the General Prosecutor, strengthened anti-corruption institutions and increased transparency and competition in public procurement, as well as a reform to improve the governance of state-owned enterprises,” the Commission said in a statement.
The Council of the EU is expected to approve the plan within four weeks, after which the Commission would authorise disbursements “based on the satisfactory fulfilment of the milestones and targets.” The initial tranche of funding under the plan is expected to be released in the second half of 2022.
Bulgaria’s recovery and resilience plan is available in full here (in Bulgarian).
(European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov in Sofia on April 7 2022. Photo: EC Audiovisual Service)
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