A budget of 28.4m euros is expected for joint projects with the Republic of Northern Macedonia in the period 2021-2027.

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It is expected that over 28.4 million euros will be invested in the implementation of joint projects between Bulgaria and the Republic of Northern Macedonia in the programming period 2021-2027. This is the indicative budget of the cross-border cooperation program between the two countries. The government has decided to increase by 46% the share of European Regional Development Fund funds under the program compared to the current programming period 2014-2020, and the final approval of the proposal by the European Commission is currently expected.

With this decision, the Bulgarian government reaffirmed the high potential and added value of the joint cross-border cooperation program and joint projects to improve life and the economic situation in the region. This was stated by the Deputy Minister of Regional Development and Public Works Denitsa Nikolova, who co-chairs an online meeting of the joint working group for preparation of the INTERREG-IPA Cross-Border Cooperation Program between the Republic of Bulgaria and the Republic of Northern Macedonia for the period 2021-2027. Macedonia co-chaired the meeting was Zoran Dimitrovski, Deputy Minister of Local Self-Government. The working group approved an updated strategic framework for the future program, which will allow the development of a draft programming document and the start of negotiations with the European Commission.

It became clear at the meeting that there are three main priorities that will be supported under the joint program. Among them are the implementation of the strategic project for the construction of a border checkpoint “Klepalo” between Strumyani and Berovo.

The second priority is aimed at implementing the integrated territorial approach under Policy Objective 5 “Europe closer to the citizens”, which aims to directly link local needs with strategic development directions and enable local stakeholders to prioritize investment in improving the welfare of the region. The priority will also lend a hand to small and medium-sized businesses in the border region through targeted support with simplified financing instruments to modernize and expand production. The program will also fund projects under the European priority “Green Europe”, aimed at building green infrastructure to reduce harmful emissions and environmental pollution. Nikolova clarified that this type of projects will be clearly distinguished from the targeted support we will receive under the Fair Transition Fund, as well as from the planned investments at the national level. Progress on the current program was also noted during the meeting. “We have one of the best performing programs in the EU and the numbers speak for themselves,” said the deputy regional minister. To date, 77 contracts have been signed with a total value of over 19.4m euros, representing almost 100% of the programme’s budget. More than 12.5m euros have already been paid to beneficiaries on both sides of the border, which is almost 65% of its total resources. Deputy Minister Nikolova also said that despite the difficulties related to the COVID pandemic, there was no delay in payments to project beneficiaries, thus the program proved to be a reliable and predictable partner in difficult times of crisis.

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