THE MINISTRY OF FINANCE SEEKS APPRAISER OF THE EU PLAN
No later than next November the Ministry of Finance will announce a competition for an appraiser of the National Plan for development of Bulgaria after its integration to the European Union. The news was announced by the head of the Administration of EU Funds directorate at the Ministry, Boryana Pencheva, during a round table organized by the Dutch Economic Institute on September 27. The competition will be open to private consulting companies, research centres, NGOs, and universities. The winner will be authorized to carry out the so called preliminary control (ex-ante evaluation) of the National Plan for development of Bulgaria from 2007 to 2013. It means that the future appraiser of the plan will have to say its opinion on whether the administration directorate has distributed the funds from the EU to the purpose. The preparation of the plan was part of a government strategy for utilisation of the money from the EU Structural Fund and Cohesion Fund, adopted two years ago. The deadline by which the document should be ready (i.e. approved by the European Commission as well) expires in December 2006. The development of the draft was assigned to the Agency for Economic Analyses and Forecasts. An integral part of the plan will also be the so called operating programs within which the EU funds will be distributed in practice. Programs aimed at raising the competitive power of the Bulgarian economy, developing the human resources, the transport, and the environment, will start operations in the country after 2007. The fifth program will include projects related to the regional development. Bulgaria has committed to prepare the operating programs that will include the priority issues in its economic development after the EU integration by the end of 2005.According to Boryana Pencheva, the preparation is impeded by the fact that for the present it is only known how much Bulgaria will be paid from the Structural Fund and the Cohesion Fund during the first three years of membership. The financial framework for Bulgaria and Romania presented by the European Commission in early February stipulated that Sofia would receive EUR2.3BN in the period 2007-2009 for the purposes of the so called structural activities.It's typical that each of the five Bulgarian programs will be financed by only one of the EU regional policy funds that will operate after 2007 - the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, or the Cohesion Fund. The minimum limit of expenses within one program that will be covered by European money is 20% of the respective budget. In the Cohesion Fund, the EU is going to allocate up to 85% of the value of the projects. The European Regional Development Fund will provide 75% and 50% of the necessary funds. In practice it means that co-financing from the national budget should be provided as well. Another problem which according to experts in the financial ministry will lead to increasing the country's budget deficit after 2007 is the fact that payments for future European projects will be carried out by the treasury. The expenses will be compensated by the single European fund but with a one-year delay. As part of making the utilisation of European taxpayers' money more disciplined, Sofia will be forced to prepare a special report every year.