Sofia, September 10, 2015/ Independent Balkan News Agency
By Clive Leviev-Sawyer of The Sofia Globe
The European Commission (EC) adopted on September 9 a cross-border co-operation programme for Greece and Bulgaria which has as its first priority boosting the competitiveness of SMEs and helping them expand beyond local markets, the EC said.
The programme is worth 129 million euro, with a contribution from the European Union of more than 110 million euro from the European Regional Development Fund.
Corina Crețu, Commissioner for Regional Policy, said: “This programme will help the border regions of Bulgaria and Greece to work together and address common challenges. This new programme is clearly result-oriented and will make a real difference on the ground, from improved transport infrastructure to opportunities for new jobs.”
The EC said that the programme will focus on four priorities – a competitive and innovative cross border area, a sustainable and climate adaptable cross border area, a better interconnected cross border area, and a socially inclusive cross border area.
The programme, which covers 11 Greek and Bulgarian regions, will also improve cross border co-operation to better protect the local population from the risk of flooding.
It will develop and promote the border area’s cultural and natural heritage, the EC said.
Furthermore, investments under the Interreg programme will improve the management of water resources and cross border connectivity. “This means reduced travel times as well as improved traffic safety,” the EC said.
Finally, the programme aims to expand social entrepreneurship in the border area, leading to increased employment in social enterprises and enhanced delivery of social services to vulnerable communities.
The results expected from the programme, according to the EC, include an improved entrepreneurial climate, better access to key markets and a wider customer base for SMEs, increased resilience to cross border natural disasters (floods), increased tourist traffic in the border area, and reduced travel times and improved traffic safety.
The 11 regions involved in the Interreg V-A Greece-Bulgaria are, in Greece, the regions of Evros, Xanthi, Rodopi, Drama, Kavala, Thessaloniki and Serres, and in Bulgaria the regions of Blagoevgrad, Haskovo, Smolyan and Kurdjali.
The programme is managed by the Greek Ministry for Economy, Transport, Maritime affairs and Aegean, and Tourism.