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THE ESC CO-ORGANISED A PUBLIC HEARING ON THE “POLICIES TO DEVELOP THE BACKWARD REGIONS”

From left to right: Lazar Lazarov, Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Policy; Prof. Lalko Dulevski, President of the ESC; Henry Malosse, President of the European Economic and Social Committee; Mihail Mikov, President of the National Assembly of the Republic of Bulgaria; Zinaida Zlatanova, Deputy Prime Minister; Desislava Terzieva, Minister of Regional Development.


The President of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) Henry Malosse and the President of the Economic and Social Council (ESC) of the Republic of Bulgaria Prof. Lalko Dulevski participated in a public hearing on the “Policies to develop the backward regions”, which was held on 14th May in “East Hall” of the National Assembly.

The meeting was a joint initiative of the National Assembly of the Republic of Bulgaria, the ESC and the EESC, and it was under the patronage of the President of National Assembly Mihail Mikov. The forum was attended by representatives of the parliaments of Greece and Romania, Deputy Prime Minister Zinaida Zlatanova, members of the Bulgarian government, the Vice-President of the National Assembly Aliosman Imamov, chairpersons of Parliamentary Committees, Members of Parliament, EESC and ESC members, experts. All participants welcomed the meeting and defined the event as an innovative European practice.

“Intra-regional disproportions between regions and municipalities, between Sofia and the other big cities are issues that are not only Bulgarian, but also of our neighbours and entire Europe”, said at the opening of the forum the President of the National Assembly Mihail Mikov. “We must insist on a more explicit, stronger, and clearer Cohesion Policy in the European Union”, stated Mr. Mikov. “The issue with the backward regions is part of a larger political and philosophical theme of inequality. Bridging the gap among the regions requires complex European, national and local policies to be implemented”, added he.

The EESC President Henri Malosse stressed that “as representatives of the civil society we have to help for the cohesion between societies, to help for the implementation of reforms, because life is a constant change”. He highlighted as a priority for its EESC Presidency the regional development policies, the rural areas and finding solutions to problems, especially in the countries of Eastern Europe.

“The EESC is one of the European institutions, the institution of civil dialogue, which is actively involved in the public debate, it does not make decisions, its task is to initiate and participate in discussions such as this one”, added Mr. Malosse. “We need to save the diversity in the EU, while developing regions”, noted the EESC President and recalled the EU motto “United in Diversity”.

In their speeches, the Deputy Prime Minister Zinaida Zlatanova and the Minister of Regional Development Desislava Terzieva pointed out that the reduction of social and economic differences among the regions in Bulgaria was a top priority of the government and was set out in the draft Partnership Agreement between Bulgaria and the EU. One of the most important EU priorities for the period 2014-2020 is the territorial development both at national and EU level, the support for less developed regions to close the gap and to ensure growth.

Prof. Dulevski stated that in Bulgaria there was no complete practical information for the local business, the local trade unions organisations and the local authorities about the possibilities in the next programming period. In his opinion, the first step that should be taken was the relevant ministries and responsible institutions to bring all the information in a clear, accessible way to enable local business and communities to understand what are the options they have.

The ESC President proposed further evaluation of the impact to be made on all measures, programmes – the whole toolbox that can be used in the next period in terms of demographic development. “The territories are in a critical situation in terms of demographic development and we must tell the truth in order to find an adequate solution to them”, said Prof. Dulevski.

The ESC has concrete proposals to overcome the backwardness of regions and will adopt an opinion on policies and possibilities for development of the backward regions and it will referred to at least two regions: Troyan - Northwest and Smolyan - Rhodope region. Prof. Dulevski informed the audience about the initiative an informal forum in Smolyan to be created – “Rhodopi” Forum, and declared the support of the ESC and personally of the EESC President Malosse. Another forthcoming ESC initiative is the organisation of a Bulgarian-Greek forum for the development of cross-border cooperation jointly with the Greek ESC and the support of the EESC President Malosse.

Prof. Dulevski proposed such informal forum to be established in Northwestern Bulgaria by inviting representatives of the Romanian and Serbian institutions to participate. “We would be grateful if this forum is supported by the parliaments of the three countries”, said Dulevski and concluded that “these informal forums should be a tool for the hope of people”.

Statements were made by the Romanian Member of Parliament Ana Birch and the national representative of the Greek Chamber of Deputies Ioannis Kefalogiannis. Mr. Kefalogiannis stressed that it was necessary the whole policy of the Member States and the implementation of the Europe 2020 Strategy to be reviewed, because although the cohesion policy is a result of the crisis, Europe has not shown the needed results.

Ana Birch noted that it was good for our countries that the cohesion policy remains a priority of the EU. On one hand, this is dictated by the need to deal first with the competitive pressures on the EU in global aspect, and on the other hand with the internal challenges related to overcoming the social and economic differences. Mrs. Birch added that the shared experience and good cooperation are an essential ingredient in the recipe for strengthening our region in the EU and beyond.

The discussion involved members of parliament, EESC members, state institutions representatives, mayors and governors.
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