Начало Новини Northwestern Bulgaria Could Become Attractive

Northwestern Bulgaria Could Become Attractive

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Source: 24 Hours daily, 28.03.2013
Author: Liliana Pavlova*

There are hardly any Bulgarians, whether residing in the country or abroad, who do not consider Bulgaria one of the most beautiful places in the world. Every piece of our territory is lovely, our land is fertile, and our history – abundant. Thus, every government, at least initially, has the best intentions and the belief that the country’s territory is a national treasure, which must be preserved for the future generations.
But sobering sets in as soon as the review of numbers and stats begins. Bulgarian regions are unevenly developed. Their differences with regions in other European countries are huge and the inter-regional and intra- regional differences are also worrying. I have not come to this “revelation” just now, it has been the case for a while now, but during my tenure as Minister of Regional Development and Public Works I got deeply into this issue. Furthermore, I believe we partly managed to outline the basic measures for dealing with the issue.

In any contemporary country regions should develop based on high-grade and timely planning. Such planning in turn takes the form of so-called strategic documents. For years on, preparation of the required strategic documents for Bulgaria’s regional development was below par. It didn’t happen at the desired pace and valuable time was wasted. I am happy that during our tenure two key documents were elaborated and adopted: The National Strategy for Regional Growth of the Republic of Bulgaria for the Period 2012-2022 and the National Concept for Spatial Development for the Period 2013-2025.

These documents form the backbone providing the vision of sustainable development of Bulgarian regions, municipalities, and settlements, so that all of us would live, work, and rest as “white people”. Owing to the Strategy and the Concept we fully realized the problems and more importantly – we now have the previously missing levers to resolve them. What does that mean, you ask? Well, for example, turning Northwestern Bulgaria into an attractive location for
“white people”. Currently, this region is referred to, in a play of words, as “Northwestern-Declined Bulgaria”. A very sad definition, which could hardly lay claim to any originality and wittiness. Simply because the Northwest is getting depopulated …
What can and should be done? The Regional Development Act identifies 8 indicators according to which a region may fall within the scope of purposeful support. In this region more than half of the municipalities are small and lack a prominent urban center. They fall within the scope the highest categories of regions requiring purposeful support. The region is also among the most vulnerable European regions, given the challenges of globalization, demographic, climate-, and environmental changes.

And our Northwest does have development potential. The favorable geographic location (locked between the Stara Planina and the Danube), the preserved natural givens and the cultural and historical heritage provide opportunities to develop tourism and the tourist industry. One should also not underestimate the fact that the region has considerable potential for development of light industry.
Its territory is crossed by the Trans-European Transport Corridors No 4 and No 7 (Danube river), it has ports and ferryboat complexes, multimodal shipments, nearly completed second Danube bridge at Vidin-Kalafat. These are all prerequisites for development of business and tourism, as well as for effective cross-border cooperation. Why not develop the ports along the Danube, their potential is far from exhausted. Lom is the second biggest Danube port and the developed infrastructure provides the shortest direct land connection Lom-Thessaloniki.

Vidin Port operates four port terminals, including the Vidin-Kalafat ferry. Both ports are within the priority infrastructure directions for the development of international combined shipments. Significant actions are required to use their potential, including through implementation of future projects in pursuance of EU’s Danube Strategy. Upgrading of the Vidin-Mezdra-Sofia railway, the development of a high-speed Vidin-Sofia road, as well as development of the ports as multimodal logistics centres will provide multimodal shipments and positive impact on the future development of the Northwestern Region.

Among the future regional development measures I propose preparation and implementation of a goal-oriented policy aimed at overcoming the chronic economic backwardness of Northwestern Bulgaria. It is perfectly possible and realistic for the state to support the transformation of Vidin into a city, which, owing to its geographic location, would succeed in becoming a key “center” and driver of economic development in the Northwestern Region. Putting particular focus and specific actions for this region may gradually improve the business environment, and local and international investors may be attracted through purposeful incentives and privileges. A workable idea is to set up preferential terms for the business to invest in this particular Region. Last, but not least, the new Operational Program Regions in Growth 2014-2020 could also give economic impetus to the Northwest through purposeful funding of cities in the Region.

Thus, there is a “recipe” to turn Northwestern Bulgaria into an attractive living location. The only thing required is the political will to successfully implement all measures, as well as the overall program for modernization of Bulgarian regions.
*Liliana Pavlova is a PhD in Economy and a former Minister of Regional Development and Public Works in Borisov’s government during September 2011 – February 2013. There are hardly any Bulgarians, whether residing in the country or abroad, who do not consider Bulgaria one of the most beautiful places in the world. Every piece of our territory is lovely, our land is fertile, and our history – abundant. Thus, every government, at least initially, has the best intentions and the belief that the country’s territory is a national treasure, which must be preserved for the future generations.
But sobering sets in as soon as the review of numbers and stats begins. Bulgarian regions are unevenly developed. Their differences with regions in other European countries are huge and the inter-regional and intra- regional differences are also worrying. I have not come to this “revelation” just now, it has been the case for a while now, but during my tenure as Minister of Regional Development and Public Works I got deeply into this issue. Furthermore, I believe we partly managed to outline the basic measures for dealing with the issue.

In any contemporary country regions should develop based on high-grade and timely planning. Such planning in turn takes the form of so-called strategic documents. For years on, preparation of the required strategic documents for Bulgaria’s regional development was below par. It didn’t happen at the desired pace and valuable time was wasted. I am happy that during our tenure two key documents were elaborated and adopted: The National Strategy for Regional Growth of the Republic of Bulgaria for the Period 2012-2022 and the National Concept for Spatial Development for the Period 2013-2025.

These documents form the backbone providing the vision of sustainable development of Bulgarian regions, municipalities, and settlements, so that all of us would live, work, and rest as “white people”. Owing to the Strategy and the Concept we fully realized the problems and more importantly – we now have the previously missing levers to resolve them. What does that mean, you ask? Well, for example, turning Northwestern Bulgaria into an attractive location for
“white people”. Currently, this region is referred to, in a play of words, as “Northwestern-Declined Bulgaria”. A very sad definition, which could hardly lay claim to any originality and wittiness. Simply because the Northwest is getting depopulated …
What can and should be done? The Regional Development Act identifies 8 indicators according to which a region may fall within the scope of purposeful support. In this region more than half of the municipalities are small and lack a prominent urban center. They fall within the scope the highest categories of regions requiring purposeful support. The region is also among the most vulnerable European regions, given the challenges of globalization, demographic, climate-, and environmental changes.

And our Northwest does have development potential. The favorable geographic location (locked between the Stara Planina and the Danube), the preserved natural givens and the cultural and historical heritage provide opportunities to develop tourism and the tourist industry. One should also not underestimate the fact that the region has considerable potential for development of light industry.
Its territory is crossed by the Trans-European Transport Corridors No 4 and No 7 (Danube river), it has ports and ferryboat complexes, multimodal shipments, nearly completed second Danube bridge at Vidin-Kalafat. These are all prerequisites for development of business and tourism, as well as for effective cross-border cooperation. Why not develop the ports along the Danube, their potential is far from exhausted. Lom is the second biggest Danube port and the developed infrastructure provides the shortest direct land connection Lom-Thessaloniki.

Vidin Port operates four port terminals, including the Vidin-Kalafat ferry. Both ports are within the priority infrastructure directions for the development of international combined shipments. Significant actions are required to use their potential, including through implementation of future projects in pursuance of EU’s Danube Strategy. Upgrading of the Vidin-Mezdra-Sofia railway, the development of a high-speed Vidin-Sofia road, as well as development of the ports as multimodal logistics centres will provide multimodal shipments and positive impact on the future development of the Northwestern Region.

Among the future regional development measures I propose preparation and implementation of a goal-oriented policy aimed at overcoming the chronic economic backwardness of Northwestern Bulgaria. It is perfectly possible and realistic for the state to support the transformation of Vidin into a city, which, owing to its geographic location, would succeed in becoming a key “center” and driver of economic development in the Northwestern Region. Putting particular focus and specific actions for this region may gradually improve the business environment, and local and international investors may be attracted through purposeful incentives and privileges. A workable idea is to set up preferential terms for the business to invest in this particular Region. Last, but not least, the new Operational Program Regions in Growth 2014-2020 could also give economic impetus to the Northwest through purposeful funding of cities in the Region.

Thus, there is a “recipe” to turn Northwestern Bulgaria into an attractive living location. The only thing required is the political will to successfully implement all measures, as well as the overall program for modernization of Bulgarian regions.

*Liliana Pavlova is a PhD in Economy and a former Minister of Regional Development and Public Works in Borisov’s government during September 2011 – February 2013.

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