We should support Bulgaria and the other new member states through a smart cohesion policy, said EU Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources Günther Oettinger at a discussion on “The future of the EU Budget: trends and challenges”. The event was organised at the National Assembly by the parliamentary Committee on European Affairs and Oversight of the European Funds and the Budget and Finance Committee.
Two programmes are crucial for Bulgaria: for the development of rural areas, which will guarantee a strong agricultural sector of the country, and for building infrastructure, building stock, etc., said Günther Oettinger. In his words, there should be a good balance in spending the funds by not reducing expenditure for rural areas and cohesion to the benefit of other priority areas. We cannot avoid cuts in the agricultural policy, but I will not allow them to be large, because agriculture needs support everywhere, not only in the underdeveloped regions, said the EU Commissioner.
The past 10 years have been good for Bulgaria, your country is moving in the right direction but needs more time to complete what it started, emphasised Günther Oettinger. He said that the multiannual financial framework provided guarantees for all member states and was a precondition for successful planning. We are now drafting the financial framework which we will present before the Council of the EU and the European Parliament in May for agreement, said the EU Commissioner. This makes the forthcoming Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU so significant and is an opportunityyou’re your country to lobby for its interests, he added.
Kristian Vigenin, Chair of the Committee on European Affairs and Oversight of the European Funds, said that the topics under discussion were of key importance for the EU and Bulgaria should have a clear position on them. For some of them our country will have an important role as of 1 January 2018 because it takes over the presidency of the Council of the EU, he emphasised. The issues of the multiannual financial framework will not be resolved within our presidency, but the proposals of the European Commission will be made in May next year, Kristian Vigenin explained.
It is important that we are having this discussion with EU Commissioner Günther Oettinger because it gives us an opportunity to discuss the essential topic of the Bulgarian priorities in the debate on the future of the EU budget two months before Bulgaria takes over the EU presidency, emphasised Evgenia Angelova, Deputy Chair of the Budget and Finance Committee.
MEP Georgi Pirinski said that the most important challenge should be the differences in income levels, in the real situation of the economies and societies. In his words, it is necessary to consider what cohesion policy we need, because at the moment 60 eurocents of each euro invested as part of this policy go back to West European companies which are implementing the projects. I am afraid that if this policy continues, the differences between the EU member states will not be overcome even in 20 years, emphasised Georgi Pirinski.
Countries like Bulgaria need the EU cohesion policy to continue after 2020, said MEP Andrey Novakov at the discussion. He emphasised that the EU should fund needs and not wishes and this was the wise way to spend the money of the European taxpayer. In his words, the future of the EU could be easily compared to the future of the cohesion policy.
Iskra Mihaylova, MEP, said that our country should be prepared for a discussion on the future of Europe, the cohesion and the agricultural policy, as well as have a clear vision of its own development. We are not just recipients of support, we are involved in the overall process of EU economic development; by contributing to companies from other EU member states, we contribute to the economic growth of the community.
The discussion was attended by MPs from the parliamentary Committee on European Affairs and Oversight of the European Funds and the Budget and Finance Committee, members of the Committee of the Regions, the European Economic and Social Committee, representatives of employers’ and trade union organisations, and NGOs.