The European Commission has today adopted a positive assessment of the recovery and resilience plan of Bulgaria. This is a key step paving the way for the EU to disburse €6.3 billion in grants under the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF). This financing will support the implementation of the crucial investment and reform measures outlined in the recovery and resilience plan of Bulgaria. It will play a crucial role in enabling Bulgaria to emerge stronger from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The RRF is the key instrument at the heart of NextGenerationEU. It will provide up to €800 billion (in current prices) to support investments and reforms across the EU. The Bulgarian plan forms part of an unprecedented coordinated EU response to the COVID-19 crisis, to address common European challenges by embracing the green and digital transitions, to strengthen economic and social resilience and the cohesion of the single market.
The Commission assessed the Bulgarian plan based on the criteria set out in the RRF Regulation. The analysis of the Commission considered, in particular, whether the investments and reforms contained in the Bulgarian plan support the green and digital transitions; contribute to effectively addressing challenges identified in the European Semester; and strengthen its growth potential, job creation and economic and social resilience.
Securing the green and digital transition of Bulgaria
The assessment of the Commission finds that the Bulgarian plan devotes 59% of its total allocation on measures that support climate objectives. This includes significant investments to accelerate the decarbonisation of the energy sector, tripling power generation from renewables by 2026, building up large electricity storage capacities, cutting greenhouse gas emissions of the power sector by 40% by 2025, and setting out a framework for the coal phase-out. The plan also covers support for energy-efficiency renovation of the building stock, as well as targeted reforms to facilitate these investments. Sustainable transport is also promoted. Measures in the areas of water management and biodiversity conservation and restoration will also be key in the context of the objectives of the green transition.
The assessment of the Commission of the Bulgarian plan finds that it devotes 26% of its total allocation on measures that support the digital transition. This includes investments in digital connectivity, digital skills, the digitalisation of public administration and of businesses, as well as the digitalisation of the transport and energy sectors. Support for the deployment of broadband infrastructure throughout the country will help bridge the digital divide and enable improved access to online services.
Reinforcing the economic and social resilience of Bulgaria
The Commission considers that the Bulgarian plan includes an extensive set of mutually reinforcing reforms and investments that contribute to effectively addressing all or a significant subset of the economic and social challenges outlined in the country-specific recommendations addressed to Bulgaria.
It 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 plan also includes reforms and investments to foster social inclusion, notably by strengthening the adequacy and coverage of the minimum income scheme, improving the provision of employment and social services and their integration, modernising long-term care and through support for the culture and creative sectors. The plan includes 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 represents a balanced response to the economic and social situation of Bulgaria, thereby contributing appropriately to all six pillars referred to in the RRF Regulation.
Supporting flagship investment and reform projects
The Bulgarian plan proposes projects in all seven European flagship areas. These are specific investment projects which address issues that are common to all Member States in areas that create jobs and growth and are needed for the green and digital transition.
For instance, Bulgaria has proposed a €924 million programme to renovate private and public buildings to improve their energy performance. This will reduce the primary energy demand in the country, limit energy waste, lower carbon emissions, while also ensuring positive social, health and environmental implications. To support the digital transition, €297 million will be invested in the digitalisation of public administration and €270 million will be invested in the large-scale deployment of digital infrastructure, increasing the coverage of very high capacity networks across the country, including in rural and sparsely populated areas.
The assessment of the Commission also finds that none of the measures included in the plan significantly harms the environment, in line with the requirements laid out in the Regulation.
The Commission considers that the control systems put in place by Bulgaria are adequate to protect the financial interests of the Union. The plan provides sufficient details on how national authorities will prevent, detect and correct instances of conflict of interest, corruption and fraud relating to the use of funds.
Members of the College said:
President Ursula von der Leyen said: “Today, the European Commission has endorsed the €6.3 billion recovery and resilience plan of Bulgaria. With almost 60% of the plan financing our climate and energy objectives, it is one of the greenest plans we have approved so far. A 40% cut in CO2 emissions in the power sector and a tripling in power generation from renewables will firmly set Bulgaria on its path to decarbonise the energy sector. I also commend the plan ambitions in the areas of digital transition, healthcare, public administration and the justice system. Together we will make NextGenerationEU a success on the ground, for a more sustainable, resilient future.”
Valdis Dombrovskis, Executive Vice-President for an Economy that Works for People, said: “The Bulgarian recovery plan is an ambitious blueprint for its recovery. We welcome the strong focus on the green transition, with significant investments to decarbonise the energy sector. Bulgaria plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions from its power production by 40% and triple power generation from renewables. The plan also supports sustainable transport and making buildings more energy-efficient. Bulgaria aims to reduce its digital divide by deploying broadband infrastructure throughout the country, boosting digital skills and turning its public administration, business, transport and energy sectors more digital. It envisages comprehensive anti-corruption measures, greater transparency and competition in public procurement and improvements to the governance of state-owned enterprises. In all, this plan will help Bulgaria to emerge stronger after the crisis. Now it is time to put it into effect.”
Paolo Gentiloni, Commissioner for Economy, said: “Excellent news for Bulgaria: our positive assessment of the recovery and resilience plan will pave the way for the disbursement of €6.3 billion over the coming years. This funding will support the implementation of an ambitious set of investments and reforms that will deliver major benefits for Bulgarian citizens. This is a very green plan, with close to 59% of funds dedicated to climate objectives, through energy sector decarbonisation, tripling renewable power generation and the phasing out of coal. More than a quarter of the funding will support the digital transition, with measures to boost skills, digitalise the public administration and key sectors of the economy, and speed up the rollout of broadband across Bulgaria. The plan will also support employment and social inclusion and improve hospitals and medical facilities. Last but not least, the plan contains strong measures to combat corruption. This is crucial to protecting the interests of Bulgarian citizens and to ensuring that the country can fulfil its true potential.”
The Commission has today adopted a proposal for a decision to provide €6.3 billion in grants to Bulgaria under the RRF. The Council will now have, as a rule, four weeks to adopt the proposal of the Commission.
The Commission will authorise payment disbursements based on the satisfactory fulfilment of the milestones and targets outlined in the recovery and resilience plan, reflecting progress on the implementation of the investments and reforms.
Source: European Commission