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Citizens' Dialogue in Gabrovo: Building trust in Europe begins with understanding the concerns of citizens

Connecting Europe with citizens is a top priority, stressed the President of the Republic of Bulgaria Rosen Plevneliev and the President of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) Markku Markkula as the series of Citizens' Dialogue events organised by the CoR moved to the Bulgarian city of Gabrovo on Monday.

President of the Republic of Bulgaria Rosen Plevneliev said: "When things are tough, we need to talk and seek solutions together. We ask many questions about the future of Europe but the answer is very simple: we have achieved so much together and we have much more to achieve on the common road to a more democratic Europe. Future of Bulgaria and Europe must not be shaped in a battlefield but in our classrooms. We need quality human capital and education to attract investments and industries of future to Bulgaria."

Addressing 400 citizens in the town hall, President of the European Committee of the Regions Markku Markkula said: "Today is the start of a journey. Before trying to address Europe's many challenges - from migration to creating sustainable jobs and boosting innovation – we want to take the time to listen and understand the concerns and wishes from people living in Europe's cities and regions. Let's work together to build effective solutions for all citizens."

In this regard, President Markkula highlighted the role of local authorities in defining investment priorities which deliver tangible results to the citizens through effective use of private sources and public funds, including EU budget. Since Bulgaria joined the European Union in 2007, European funding has already helped to finance projects such as the extension of the Sofia metro and improvement of waste and water management facilities. For 2014–2020, the country has been allocated a total of around €9.9 billion from Structural and Investment funds.

Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Donchev, responsible for European Funds and Economic Policies in the Bulgarian government, said: "Bulgaria has always strived to be a constructive partner in the European debate. Flexibility is needed for the Union to be more prepared for reaction to unforeseen circumstances, but it should not become a reason to abandon long-term commitments for investment in economic, social and territorial cohesion in urban areas, in rural development, the fight against poverty and social exclusion. We should pay attention to the real concerns of citizens to build their trust in the European project."

Bulgarian members of European Parliament Eva Paunova and Andrey Novakov, as well as the Head of the Representation of the European Commission in Bulgaria Ognian Zlatev, also took part in the debate with citizens. The event was hosted by the Mayor of Gabrovo Tanya Hristova, Head of the Bulgarian delegation in the European Committee of the Regions.

"It is important that Europe continues to provide the financial framework for quality investments through its cohesion policy but also to act in synergy with other financial resources at local, regional, national and European level. We need a more effective approach to EU cohesion policy and simplification of the administrative burdens upon public and private investors. We need to support entrepreneurial thinking, as well as to direct investments to the new technologies and innovations", Mayor Hristova concluded.

Over the weekend, Gabrovo also played host to an Innovation Camp organized in partnership by the CoR and the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission. The innovation camp concept brings together experts, stakeholders and decision-makers who aim to propose innovative solutions to societal issues and promote a local culture of innovativeness. In Gabrovo the focus was on overcoming the innovation divide in Europe and helping lagging regions to integrate smart specialisation in education.

Contact:

Lauri Ouvinen
Tel. +32 22822063
lauri.ouvinen@cor.europa.eu

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