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13 December

A strong voice for the development of the European regions - Interview with Bulgarian MEP Iskra Mihaylova

iskramdrIskra Mihaylova, an experienced MEP from Bulgaria, is the Chair of the Committee for Regional Development, and also a member of the FEDRA Honorary Committee. As a representative of the regional sphere in the EU, and a devoted militant for the development of the non EU-member states, she agreed to have FEDRA in her Parliament office and talk about her work in the REGI Committee and at the delegations to the EU of the Neighbourhood Countries of Macedonia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. The interview started with the topic of the priorities of the Committee for Regional Development. According to Mrs Mihaylova, the focus is on obtaining the best results from the current planning period and to prepare the path for the next legislation concerning the cohesion policy after 2020. Implementation, simplification, and coordination are the key words in Mihaylova’s speech and also the link between the several proposals drafted by the parliamentary committee. 

On her desk, the dossier on top of the proposal for the European Commission contains the Structural Reform Support Program for the period 2017-2020. The objective of the latter is to support member states in their structural reforms through the creation of a special centralized program already in the agenda for January 2017. The second dossier in sight is called OMNIBUS, and it regards the simplification of the financial management. It takes the REGI Committee in the field of regional development, and it involves it in the common provision regulation, and in the cohesion funds. The third dossier was born out of the necessity to push the Commission and the member states to put more effort into moving forward with the operational program. Many of the programs currently under development are moving slowly and consequently, the absorption of the structural funds it is too low, especially at this moment in the EU history, when all the member states need help with different issues: the migrant crisis, social inclusion, minorities’ issues, education, infrastructure, and, last but not the least, natural disasters. But things seem to speed up, as it happened after the last earthquake in Italy. The dreadful repercussions of this natural calamity generated changes in the laws regarding the specific assistance given to the member states affected by natural disasters. The main idea of the revision of these laws was to simplify the procedure in order to make the support effective, rapid, and to create expenses criteria eligible for EU funding. Moreover, the REGI Committee is working on a better coordination between the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) and the European Funds for Strategic Investments (EFSI) because, as they act at the same time in the same territories, “a good balance, good coordination and good complementarity between these two instruments is a necessity for all the beneficiaries”, and to ensure their effectiveness. 

Having been a minister in her country, Bulgaria, and then a member of the delegation to the EU of Macedonia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, Mrs Mihaylova has good knowledge of the situation in these countries. So we asked her how the European projects could be relevant for their national and regional development. According to her, despite the fact that the partnership programs are important for the countries under the European Neighbourhood Policy, there is the lack of information which prevents the beneficiaries to fully take advantage of the aid provided by the EU. The projects focus mainly on education, cultural heritage and cultural exchange, and the environment. The EU created specific instruments to work together, such as bilateral partnerships, the partnership programs or other specific projects, for example the important Black Sea Basin Program. However, there is still a lack of communication on the full list of opportunities and how to grasp them. The people and the local authorities in these countries do not know that if they create a partnership with a European university, they can participate in the Erasmus program, they do not know they can take part in big projects on the framework of Horizon2020, COSME, CreativeEurope or Fiscalis2020. Because of this, they fail to implement youth initiatives and they do not completely understand how this is important in creating the so called administrative capacity which will help them develop. The key is to create a group of informed, trained and passionate young people who should bridge the information gap between disadvantaged countries and the EU. FEDRA does not only agree with the MEP’s idea, but it can also propose a viable solution using its Young Regional Ambassadors. Following Mihaylova’s words, “young people can be ambassadors, they can create links, [for this reason] it is very important to open their minds, to give them more information, to involve them in the decision making process”. It seems like the EU needs the youth by its side in order to create a stronger Union, an open-space for information, and a field of equal opportunities. Each FEDRA YRA has the characteristics or the capacities so that what Mrs Mihaylova proposed can be accomplished. They are responsible citizens capable of using their knowledge to contribute to the development of the EU regions. In order to increase the chance for growth of the Neighbourhood States, the candidates for the next EU-accession, FEDRA is willing to join the MEPs effort, thus it lends this initiative to the developing regions.        

Read 977 times Last modified on Wednesday, 25 January 2017 10:53
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