How did the Commission assess Bulgaria's recovery and resilience plan?
The Commission is assessing the recovery and resilience plans based on eleven criteria set out in the Regulation itself. Notably, the criteria require an assessment of whether:
-the measures have a lasting impact;
-the measures address the challenges identified in the country specific recommendations or a significant subset of them;
-the milestones and targets which allow for monitoring the progress with the reforms and investments are clear and realistic;
-the plans meet the 37% climate expenditure target and the 20% digital expenditure target;
-the plans respect the do no significant harm principle;
-the plans provide an adequate control and audit mechanism and set out the plausibility of the costing information.
The Commission has summarised its assessment in the proposal for the Council Implementing Decision. The accompanying staff working document provides detailed documentation on the assessment.
Does the recovery and resilience plan effectively support the green transition?
Bulgaria's plan provides strong support for the green transition with 59% of its total €6.3 billion allocation dedicated to the green transition. This substantially exceeds the minimum of 37% required by the RRF Regulation.
The plan aims to accelerate the decarbonisation of the energy sector with ambitious reforms, including the adoption of a clear framework for the coal phase-out and binding commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power production by 40% by 2025. Investments in the plan aim to triple power generation from renewables by 2026, and accelerate their deployment and that of alternative energy sources, such as green hydrogen and biogas. There is also support for electricity interconnection capacity with Greece and Romania. Moreover, the Bulgarian plan sets ambitious targets for expanded storage capacity for solar and geothermal electricity.
Reforms of the road and railways sectors, the promotion of zero-emission vehicles, support for railways, better road safety, intermodal transport and sustainable urban mobility will contribute to more sustainable transport. In the area of biodiversity, dedicated measures aim to protect and restore ecosystems and natural habitats and species.
Does the recovery and resilience plan effectively contribute to the digital transition?
The Bulgarian plan's contribution to the digital transition amounts to 26% of its total allocation of €6.3 billion. This exceeds the minimum of 20% required by the RRF Regulation.
The plan includes measures covering various dimensions of the digital transformation. It includes significant investments and reforms in digital connectivity to increase the coverage of very high capacity networks in rural and sparsely populated areas, and to create a favourable environment for the deployment of 5G networks and digital infrastructure. The plan also supports the development of e-government and the digitalisation of public administration and the judiciary. This contributes to a lower administrative burden for citizens and businesses and to increasing the quality and effectiveness of public services in areas such as justice, health, agriculture and environment, culture, employment and social protection.
The plan also supports the digitalisation of the transport and energy sectors. Investments in the digital transformation of business processes and increased cybersecurity capabilities should contribute to improving the efficiency and productivity of businesses. Increasing the population's level of digital skills is another priority supported by the plan, including through targeted reforms and investments in the education system, such as setting up Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) laboratories in schools, and support for upskilling and reskilling to increase the employability of the workforce.
Does the recovery and resilience plan represent a balanced response to the economic and social situation of Bulgaria?
The Bulgarian plan represents a comprehensive and adequately balanced response to Bulgaria's economic and social situation, thereby contributing appropriately to all six pillars referred to in the RRF Regulation.
Beyond its important contribution to the green and digital transitions, the plan presents well-targeted policy actions to promote smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. This includes reforms and investments to improve the business environment, foster innovation and R&D and support SMEs and the cultural and creative sectors. Social cohesion is strengthened through the reform of the minimum income scheme, strengthening the adequacy and coverage of the scheme, and modernising the services of the Employment and Social Assistance agencies, as well as by providing support to the social and solidarity economy.
The plan also contains measures for improving education and skills, lifelong learning and vocational training, and for reforming the system of social services, including long-term care. As one of the critical sectors for achieving crisis preparedness and resilience, the health sector represents a dedicated component in the plan. Bulgaria's plan contains measures to modernise hospitals and medical facilities, establish an air ambulance system, construct outpatient care units in remote areas and under-served regions and address shortages of healthcare professionals across the country. The plan also includes measures for the next generation, such as the mandatory inclusion of four-year-olds in pre-school education and investments in educational infrastructures, including STEM laboratories and youth centres.
Do the reforms presented by Bulgaria effectively address a significant part of the country-specific recommendations issued to it in the context of the European Semester?
The Bulgarian plan includes an extensive set of mutually reinforcing reforms and investments that contribute to effectively addressing a significant subset of the economic and social challenges outlined in the country-specific recommendations addressed to Bulgaria by the Council in the European Semester in 2019 and in 2020. These concern notably the areas of decarbonisation, sustainable transport, digital connectivity, healthcare, education and skills, social inclusion, research and innovation, public administration and justice, and business environment.
In the social field, the Bulgarian plan includes measures to foster social inclusion, which are expected to improve the adequacy and coverage of the minimum income scheme and move forward with the integration of employment and social services. Other measures addressing the country-specific recommendations focus on skills acquisition - digital skills in particular -, improving the labour market relevance of education and lifelong-learning systems and on widening the offer of healthcare services across Bulgaria.
Through ambitious support for the decarbonisation of the energy sector, increasing the energy efficiency of the building stock and implementing actions in the areas of sustainable transport and digital infrastructure and services, Bulgaria's plan addresses country-specific recommendations in those areas.
Finally, the plan contains far-reaching measures to improve the efficiency of public administration and the justice system, prevent, detect and correct corruption, improve the business environment and improve the research and innovation system.
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