The EC today adopted a partnership agreement with Bulgaria worth EUR 11 billion — it defines the country's investment strategy in the field of cohesion policy for the period 2021-2027.
Cohesion policy funds will promote economic, social and territorial cohesion in the Bulgarian regions and help to fulfill the EU's main priorities, such as the environmental and digital transition. These funds will also support policy areas in which Bulgaria has the potential to make progress and reduce regional differences within the country.
The Partnership Agreement covers the European Regional Development Fund - ERDF, the European Social Fund Plus - ESF+, the Cohesion Fund, the Just Transition Fund - JSF, and the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund - EMFF.
The ecological transition and reduction of energy dependence 2.4 billion euros from the ERDF and the Cohesion Fund will help Bulgaria achieve its climate goals.
Specifically, €600 million will help increase the share of renewable energy sources 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.
In addition, investments will also be aimed at reducing by more than a third (at least 35%) the proportion of the population living at risk of natural disasters such as floods or forest fires.
The FSP will provide €1.3 billion to ensure a socially and economically sustainable transition. The fund will improve the capacity of the affected territories to better use energy from renewable sources.
Catching up with the EU and supporting the most vulnerable regions
The funds will also help Bulgaria improve its basic infrastructure, especially in regions where infrastructure investment is insufficient or absent. Almost half of the total Cohesion Policy funding (€4.2 billion) will be invested in the North-West, North-Central and North-East regions, including co-financing for the construction of the Shipka Tunnel, the first tunnel to pass through Stara Planina.
EU support for a favorable business environment is also expected to increase the share of innovative small and medium-sized enterprises from 27.2% in 2016 to 32% in 2026 — they will create jobs and contribute to the development of the Bulgarian economy.
Jobs of the future: a more inclusive and digital labor market
Bulgaria will invest EUR 2.6 billion from the ESF+ with the aim of improving access to employment, increasing skills so that people can successfully navigate the dual ecological and digital transition, as well as guaranteeing equal access to quality and inclusive education and training. This includes EUR 315 million to support youth employment and EUR 630 million for social inclusion measures, of which EUR 136 million is earmarked for combating child poverty. 221 million euros will be directed to the socio-economic integration of marginalized communities, for example the Roma.
Thanks to EU funding, early school leaving is expected to fall from 12.8% to 7% by 2030. Adult participation in learning activities is expected to rise from 24.6% to 35.4%, while employment 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 people (from 2.3 to 1.5 million people).
Finally, Bulgaria aims to exceed the target set at the Porto Summit in terms of employment rates, and the number of people at risk of poverty and social exclusion in the country should decrease by almost 800,000.