Filiz Hyusmenova: This part of the Danube and my home town Silistra make me think of open spaces, fruitfulness and hard working farmers. Unfortunately, good natural conditions alone are not enough to bring prosperity to the area and the people. Some of the towns and villages in the region are constantly in the top of unemployment rate references. Unfortunately the Northeast and the Northwest of Bulgaria are among the most impoverished of all.

Filiz Hyusmenova: In terms of geographical and natural characteristics the Danube provides huge advantages. Abundance of water and biological diversity are favourable for agriculture, tourism, new energy sources and infrastructure. Clearly the river is a major transport artery and can facilitate commercial and cultural exchange with other countries. Any success in business will increase demand for labour and education. The EU appreciates this and this year a discussion commenced on the strategy for development of macro regions along the Danube with the idea to help narrow the gap between needy and prosperous regions within the EU.

FOCUS: The Danube Strategy covers EU countries: Austria, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary and the Czech Republic and the consultations will include non-member countries: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldova, Serbia, Ukraine, Croatia and Montenegro. What is Bulgaria’s role in the implementation of the Strategy?

Filiz Hyusmenova: Bulgaria must use all chances provided by the Strategy. Our country, like the other participants presented their initial positions in the European Commission in January. Last February the EC started public consultations including online such at: REGIO-EU-DANUBE-STRATEGY@ec.europa.eu, aiming at including representatives in the local authorities, in the business, in the NGO sector and with the citizens. The idea is to allow all parties concerned to take part in the discussion of the Danube region development and get involved now while the framework of the strategy is being defined. Conferences, discussions, round tables and meetings with the people should be held to communicate the concept of the strategy and seek support or alternative views. People living in the Danube areas are directly concerned and should get actively involved. I myself am really enthusiastic about the plan and will put every effort in explaining the Danube Strategy in Bulgaria and using the benefits it provides. On 1 April I will organize a public discussion in Silistra, which will be attended by a representative of the EC and by Romanian mayors.

Filiz Hyusmenova: The EC will not be allotting special funds for the Danube Strategy but will rather redirect financing from the structural funds and the Cohesion Fund plus some national funding. Loans will be extended by financial institutions like the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). Financing will be provided for projects that are compliant with the Danube Strategy and the plan therewith. Implementation of projects will continue over the next programme period 2014 – 2020, which allows us to be thinking in strategic terms. It is important for the projects to be well developed, funding cannot and will not be guaranteed. Everything depends on the quality and importance of projects, i.e. on our ability to make use of EU financing. The Danube Strategy will enhance international projects, which will allow Bulgaria and Romania to cooperate in providing efficient, economic and strategically appropriate solutions.

FOCUS: Is it not a shame that there is only one single bridge over the Danube connecting Bulgaria and Romania? Whose fault is this?

Filiz Hyusmenova: The fact is there is only one bridge while the two countries are interested in better communications. The lack of a second bridge is also hampering the development of Transport Corridor 4 connecting Vidin, Sofia and Calafat. The construction of Danube Bridge 2 has seriously fallen behind schedule and despite objective problems, it is not a good thing we are about to lose EU financing for the project. The Bulgarian government included the Vidin-Calafat Bridge in the Danube Strategy and I am positive the facility will be built. We should be thinking and working on other communications between Bulgaria and Romania. Yet in 2007 investors showed interest in building bridges between Oryahovo and Bechet or between Silistra and Calarasi. The idea continues to be a priority for Silistra and Calarasi. I expect the issue to be tables by the mayors of the two towns. I am certain we will be able to include individual projects in the general concept of the Danube Strategy to enhance communications and help protect natural resources and cultural tourism.

Filiz Hyusmenova: Updating the railway and port infrastructure, bridge and ferry-boat connections across the Danube, water ways and navigation systems, which will further the mobility and commercial activity in the region. The setting up of a Danube cultural corridor and creating a tourist product too will enhance development and employment. Gasification of the industrial and domestic facilities too is highly advisable. When people and the business get better acquainted with the plan, they will find their best fields of activity.

Filiz Hyusmenova: Any strategy will remain futile if not adopted with reason and zeal. The Danube Strategy is a document that will be adopted by the European Parliament and the Council and will be implemented by the European Commission, which is good enough for me. Besides the approach has already been tested in the development of the EU strategy for the Baltic region, which has been very efficient. This experience will help us use the good practices.

Read the article on Focus Information Agency (Bulgaria)

Ms Hyusmenova, you come from the Danube region, what is your opinion on the development of these areas?

Filiz Hyusmenova: This part of the Danube and my home town Silistra make me think of open spaces, fruitfulness and hard working farmers. Unfortunately, good natural conditions alone are not enough to bring prosperity to the area and the people. Some of the towns and villages in the region are constantly in the top of unemployment rate references. Unfortunately the Northeast and the Northwest of Bulgaria are among the most impoverished of all.

Filiz Hyusmenova: In terms of geographical and natural characteristics the Danube provides huge advantages. Abundance of water and biological diversity are favourable for agriculture, tourism, new energy sources and infrastructure. Clearly the river is a major transport artery and can facilitate commercial and cultural exchange with other countries. Any success in business will increase demand for labour and education. The EU appreciates this and this year a discussion commenced on the strategy for development of macro regions along the Danube with the idea to help narrow the gap between needy and prosperous regions within the EU.

FOCUS: The Danube Strategy covers EU countries: Austria, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary and the Czech Republic and the consultations will include non-member countries: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldova, Serbia, Ukraine, Croatia and Montenegro. What is Bulgaria’s role in the implementation of the Strategy?

Filiz Hyusmenova: Bulgaria must use all chances provided by the Strategy. Our country, like the other participants presented their initial positions in the European Commission in January. Last February the EC started public consultations including online such at: REGIO-EU-DANUBE-STRATEGY@ec.europa.eu, aiming at including representatives in the local authorities, in the business, in the NGO sector and with the citizens. The idea is to allow all parties concerned to take part in the discussion of the Danube region development and get involved now while the framework of the strategy is being defined. Conferences, discussions, round tables and meetings with the people should be held to communicate the concept of the strategy and seek support or alternative views. People living in the Danube areas are directly concerned and should get actively involved. I myself am really enthusiastic about the plan and will put every effort in explaining the Danube Strategy in Bulgaria and using the benefits it provides. On 1 April I will organize a public discussion in Silistra, which will be attended by a representative of the EC and by Romanian mayors.

Filiz Hyusmenova: The EC will not be allotting special funds for the Danube Strategy but will rather redirect financing from the structural funds and the Cohesion Fund plus some national funding. Loans will be extended by financial institutions like the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). Financing will be provided for projects that are compliant with the Danube Strategy and the plan therewith. Implementation of projects will continue over the next programme period 2014 – 2020, which allows us to be thinking in strategic terms. It is important for the projects to be well developed, funding cannot and will not be guaranteed. Everything depends on the quality and importance of projects, i.e. on our ability to make use of EU financing. The Danube Strategy will enhance international projects, which will allow Bulgaria and Romania to cooperate in providing efficient, economic and strategically appropriate solutions.

FOCUS: Is it not a shame that there is only one single bridge over the Danube connecting Bulgaria and Romania? Whose fault is this?

Filiz Hyusmenova: The fact is there is only one bridge while the two countries are interested in better communications. The lack of a second bridge is also hampering the development of Transport Corridor 4 connecting Vidin, Sofia and Calafat. The construction of Danube Bridge 2 has seriously fallen behind schedule and despite objective problems, it is not a good thing we are about to lose EU financing for the project. The Bulgarian government included the Vidin-Calafat Bridge in the Danube Strategy and I am positive the facility will be built. We should be thinking and working on other communications between Bulgaria and Romania. Yet in 2007 investors showed interest in building bridges between Oryahovo and Bechet or between Silistra and Calarasi. The idea continues to be a priority for Silistra and Calarasi. I expect the issue to be tables by the mayors of the two towns. I am certain we will be able to include individual projects in the general concept of the Danube Strategy to enhance communications and help protect natural resources and cultural tourism.

Filiz Hyusmenova: Updating the railway and port infrastructure, bridge and ferry-boat connections across the Danube, water ways and navigation systems, which will further the mobility and commercial activity in the region. The setting up of a Danube cultural corridor and creating a tourist product too will enhance development and employment. Gasification of the industrial and domestic facilities too is highly advisable. When people and the business get better acquainted with the plan, they will find their best fields of activity.

Filiz Hyusmenova: Any strategy will remain futile if not adopted with reason and zeal. The Danube Strategy is a document that will be adopted by the European Parliament and the Council and will be implemented by the European Commission, which is good enough for me. Besides the approach has already been tested in the development of the EU strategy for the Baltic region, which has been very efficient. This experience will help us use the good practices.

Read the article on Focus Information Agency (Bulgaria)

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