ATHENS (Greece), September 16 (SeeNews) – Bulgaria and Greece received a approval from the European Commission to invest an aggregate 83.9 million euro ($83.7 million) in improvements to regions on either side of their shared border, the European Territorial Cooperation (ETC) cohesion funding mechanism, known as Interreg, said.
Out of the total sum, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) will provide 80%, or 67.2 million euro, with the two countries each co-financing the balance of 20% in the cross-border cooperation programme, Interreg Greece-Bulgaria said in a statement earlier this week.
In Bulgaria, the southern regions which will benefit from project funding are Blagoevgrad, Haskovo, Smolyan and Kardzhali, whereas in Greece there are seven regions in total.
Bulgaria plans to channel some 30 million euro to advance two priority infrastructure projects, the regional ministry said in a separate statement on Friday.
The first one consists in completing the main road infrastructure of the Bulgarian town of Smolyan to facilitate the border crossings at Rudozem-Xanthi and the planned new one at Zlatograd-Thermes. The second project will involve the preparation of a technical design and investment study for the upgrade of the railway line Radomir–Kulata.
The Greek side will take charge of upgrading the remaining road infrastructure to Xanthi as well as to boost the digitalisation, inter-connection, infrastructure and equipment for border control systems.
Another 35 million euro will be set aside for joint projects in the event of natural disasters and other emergencies, for green infrastructure, circular economy and environmental pollution reduction initiatives.
The budget will be spread among three major priority areas, namely supporting the green transition, enhancing mobility and connectivity as well as improving inclusivity and access to education, training and sustainable economic development initiatives.
More than 30% of the budget is earmarked for activities relating to managing climate risks. Some of the investment needs that have been identified focus on tourism, renewable energy and river systems, infrastructure and transport connectivity as well as environmental and waste management, and biodiversity.
Programme beneficiaries include local, regional and national public authorities, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), research and higher education institutions, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), among others.
Interreg Greece-Bulgaria covers territories near the 475-km border between the two countries, plus the regional units of Thessaloniki, Kavala and Thasos, and includes the basins of the rivers Struma, Mesta and Maritsa. It covers a population of some 2.7 million.
($ = 1.00113 euro)