The Commission adopted today its Partnership Agreement with Bulgaria, laying down the country's Cohesion Policy investment strategy worth €11 billion for the period 2021-2027. Cohesion Policy funds will promote economic, social and territorial cohesion in the Bulgarian regions and help implementing key EU priorities such as the green and digital transition. These funds will also support policy areas where Bulgaria has potential to improve and reduce regional disparities within the country.
The Partnership Agreement covers the European Regional and Development Fund - ERDF, the European Social Fund Plus - ESF+, the Cohesion Fund - CF, the Just Transition Fund - JTF, and the European Maritime Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund - EMFAF.
Green transition and reducing energy dependence
€2.4 billion from the ERDF and Cohesion Fund will help Bulgaria achieve its climate targets.
In particular, €600 million will help increase the share of renewable energy to 27% of total energy consumption as well as reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in public buildings. ERDF funding will also be used to recycle 70% of all packaging waste.
Moreover, the investments will also focus on the reduction by more than 1/3 (at least 35%) in the share of the population living at risk of natural disasters, such as floods or wildfires.
The JTF will provide €1.3 billion to ensure a socially and economically sustainable transition. The Fund will improve the capacity of the impacted territories to make better use of renewable energy.
Catching up with the EU and supporting the most vulnerable regions
The funds will also help Bulgaria improve its basic infrastructure, especially in the regions where infrastructure investments are insufficient or lacking. Almost half of the total Cohesion Policy funding, €4.2 billion will be invested in the Northwest, North Central and Northeast regions, including in co-financing the construction of the Shipka Tunnel, the first tunnel through the Balkan Mountains.
Moreover, EU support for the business environment is expected to increase the share of innovative small and medium-sized businesses that will create jobs and contribute to the development of the Bulgarian economy from 27.2% in 2016 to 32% in 2026.
Jobs of the future: A more socially inclusive and digital-friendly labour market
Bulgaria will invest €2.6 billion from the ESF+ to improve access to employment, increase skills so that people can successfully navigate the digital and green transition, and ensure equal access to quality and inclusive education and training. This includes €315 million for youth employment support and €630 million for social inclusion measures of which €136 million will tackle child poverty. €221 million will address the socio-economic integration of marginalised communities, such as Roma.
Thanks to EU funding, the early school dropout rate is expected to decrease by 2030 from 12.8% to 7%. The adult participation in learning is expected to increase from 24.6% to 35.4%, while the employment rate is expected to increase from 73% to 79%. The population at risk of poverty and social exclusion is expected to decrease by 0.8 million from 2.3 million to 1.5 million.
Finally, Bulgaria aims to exceed the Porto target when it comes to employment rate, and the number of people at risk of poverty and social exclusion in the country should decrease by almost 800,000.
Sustainable fisheries and aquaculture
The EMFAF will invest around €84.9 million in more sustainable fisheries and the restoration and conservation of aquatic biological resources in the Black Sea. Support will also be provided for the development of a sustainable aquaculture and processing sector, the local fisheries and aquaculture communities and to the implementation of international ocean governance. All supported actions will contribute to the objectives of the Common Fishery Policy as well as the key EU policy priorities outlined in the European Green Deal, the Farm to Fork and the Biodiversity strategies.
Members of the College said:
Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira, said: “The Partnership Agreement marks a decisive step for Bulgaria. Cohesion funding in 2021-2027 will be essential to reduce regional disparities in the country and promote growth convergence with the rest of the EU. We now look forward to the completion of negotiations on the ten operational programmes so that Cohesion Policy can start investments in key areas such as clean environment, better education, support for businesses and transport infrastructure as soon as possible.”
Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit, said: “The goals in Bulgaria's Partnership Agreement showcase a strong commitment to meet the Porto social targets on employment, lifelong learning and reducing poverty. By investing its ESF+ funds in people, Bulgaria will improve social inclusion and access to the labour market, especially for people who are vulnerable or disadvantaged.”
Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevicius, said: “the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund plays a crucial role in supporting coastal communities, alleviating consequences of crisis on the fisheries sector and in decarbonising our economy. It supports innovative projects that contribute to the sustainable exploitation and management of aquatic and maritime resources. This Partnership Agreement underpins the commitment of Bulgaria to advance on the green and digital transition building low-carbon, sustainable and innovative fisheries and aquaculture sectors and supporting development of blue economy in coastal communities. It will also support the resilience of the sectors faced with challenges from exceptional events causing significant disruption of markets."
The Partnership Agreement with Bulgaria covers 10 national programmes. The agreement also includes the eligibility and implementation of the JTF in 3 Bulgarian districts most negatively impacted by the climate transition.
Under Cohesion Policy, and in cooperation with the Commission, each Member State prepares a Partnership Agreement, a strategic document for programming investments from the Cohesion Policy funds (European Regional and Development Fund, the European Social Fund Plus, the Cohesion Fund and the Just Transition Fund) and the European Maritime Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund during the Multiannual Financial Framework. It focuses on EU priorities, laying down the strategy and investment priorities identified by the Member State, and it presents a list of national and regional programmes for implementation on the ground, including the indicative annual financial allocation for each programme.
The Partnership Agreement with Bulgaria is the twelfth agreement for the 2021-2027 funding period, following the ones already adopted for Greece, Germany, Austria, Czechia, Lithuania, Finland, Denmark, France, Sweden, the Netherlands and Poland.
Under the 2021-2027 Common Provisions Regulation, Member States must fulfil so-called horizontal and thematic enabling conditions in the implementation of Cohesion Policy programmes. One of the enabling conditions requires compliance with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. When preparing their programmes, the Member States have to assess whether the enabling conditions are fulfilled. If the Commission does not agree with this assessment, it cannot reimburse expenditure related to the parts of the programme concerned, until the conditions are fulfilled. Member States must ensure that these conditions remain fulfilled during the whole programming period.