On the eve of the summit in Sibiu, Romania, on 9 May 2019, when important decisions will be taken on the future development of the EU, the Bulgarian Economic and Social Council (ESC) adopted a resolution on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for the period 2021-2027. The resolution reflects the main positions of the ESC, addressed both to the European Commission (EC) and to the Bulgarian institutions involved in the MFF negotiation process.
ESC emphasizes that it supports the building of an even stronger European Union - as a more active and more authoritative actor on the world stage, and Bulgaria must be an equal partner that is rapidly developing its economy and achieving real convergence with other Member States. In this context, ESC supports the increase of the EU budget to 1.3% of the gross national income, and considers that each country's concessions and exceptions to the contributions should be dropped, and the standard formula for calculating the national contribution should apply to all Member States.
Accepting that the MFF is a key instrument for achieving EU policy goals, ESC stresses the need to reach full agreement of the Member States on the structure and resources for the next period until 2027. ESC supports in principle the EC's proposal to increase the share of EU's own resources to 40% by limiting national contributions. ESC recommends that additional sources of added value be considered at the European level besides those recommended by the Monti Group, thus increasing the EU's real resources. In this context, ESC recommends the Bulgarian Ministry of Finance to carefully analyse the Monti Group's proposal in view of the benefit and damages for Bulgaria if the proposed new sources of funding are accepted and the EU's actual own revenue is increased.
ESC strongly disagrees with the idea of creating a budget instrument, a separate parliamentary body and a separate intergovernmental forum in the Eurozone, and warns that this will lead to serious problems and may even become a prerequisite for the disintegration of EU unity. At the same time, ESC supports the creation of an instrument to finance economic convergence measures for Member States that are in the process of preparing for accession to the Eurozone, but stresses that this instrument is unacceptable in the way it is proposed. According to ESC, it is necessary to develop adequate, clear and objective criteria for the allocation of resources among Member States, otherwise they would have a negative effect.
ESC also supports EU practice to set preconditions when using European funds but opposes regional development funds to be linked to macroeconomic findings in the context of the European Semester. According to ESC, the tying of European funds to the rule of law must be based on objective criteria, otherwise this would have a negative effect.
ESC supports the priorities proposed by the EC to develop new technologies, research, environmental policy, security and defence policy. Alongside this, ESC is alarming about the reduction of the funds for cohesion policy and for agricultural policy. The clear objective of EU programmes should be to promote cohesion rather than differences, the opinion said. ESC insists on preserving the amount of the funds set aside so far and on unifying the conditions for farmers, which will lead to a real convergence of lagging regions. ESC also does not accept the reduction of rural resources, which would be contrary to cohesion policy. ESC recommends looking for additional funds for rural development, as EC funds for a common agricultural policy are insufficient for Bulgaria (EUR 7.719 billion) at current prices) and in Bulgaria rural areas are increasingly depopulated.
ESC assesses the European Social Fund as important for Bulgaria and for the cohesion process and stresses that the unemployment of young people and of people aged over 55 is a serious challenge. At the same time, ESC proposes to discuss the possibility of developing models for the creation of European social protection instruments to take over part of the functions of national models such as the European unemployment insurance fund, anti-poverty funds and provision of accessible social services for children, the elderly, people with disabilities.
Taking into account that the next MFF is very important for the development of the national economy and the process of Bulgaria's accession to the Eurozone, ESC underlines that our state needs modern and high quality public investments in transport, energy and digital infrastructure and they could hardly be carried out without EU funds. On the other hand, Bulgaria will rely on these funds also in connection with the implementation of high European standards in ecology, poverty reduction, access to quality social services.
In the context of the MFF, ESC proposes that the national priorities for the next programming period should be the following: Competitiveness Science and Innovation; education and training of highly qualified workers; improving the connectivity and digitization of the economy and human resources - directly linking vocational education and training to the needs of the labour market.