The Union cannot prosper if there are smaller geographical administrative entities that are poor. This is why for Mr. Novakov the word “crucial” best defines the dimension of regional development. For him, decentralized governing bodies play a key role in regional development only if they have the functional capacity to do it. If not, the country’s government should have the power. Mr. Novakov also stated the importance of closing the economic and social gap there exists between regions, even between the ones in the same country.
He says that, “unfortunately, we are observing really [unbalanced] policies in that direction: when you are in the capital you have optic wi-fi, good streets, stable power supply, clean water supply, good transports and everything, and just a hundred kilometers away you almost literally need a survival package in the car because there is no pharmacy, or enough firemen, police, ambulances and so on and so forth. There are EU officials who claim to be standing rapporteurs on Cohesion Policy and Regional development, however they do not take action to even out the economic and social differences around the EU. But, since Europe is [as] strong as the weakest region in that union”, it is hard to look for progress where there is no equality of chances.
Moving from the general topic about the EU and its regions, to the particular case of Bulgaria, we asked Mr. Novakov about the development of the regions in his country. He thinks that “at the moment there are more national operational programs than regional. But even if it is a national program, it is actually investing in the regions, thanks to a very active regional development ministry that is trying to balance the spread of the finance around the country. We are not even close to the German model, where regions are autonomous and well developed, but also not even near the other extreme case of Greece that is still very much centralized. If regional administrations are allowed to plan investments independently, if they get sharply and immediately the chance to increase, the error rate is huge, enormous. […] In Bulgaria, about 200 million euros were invested in the administrative capacity, just for the last previous programming period. An example: if, let’s say, 20 years ago somebody from Italy would come to my home town asking local authorities to do business, I am almost sure no one would reply, even in English. But now, people are using high-tech gadgets in their work, you can find the opening hours of the municipality offices in Italian and the information on the Internet. This is because of the Union!”
End of part 1.