1. Key messages about local development and CLLD in this country
The implementation of LEADER approach in Bulgaria started 15 years ago with 11 pilot LAGs financed by UNDP. The 2007-13 period was the first of EU funding for LEADER and 35 LAGs implemented LEADER in Bulgaria. During the period 2014-20, the implementation of LEADER/CLLD in Bulgaria is multi-funded by all four eligible ESI Funds, with a total amount of support of over €191 million. 64 LAGs implement CLLD strategies, 39 of these are multi-funded and 25 funded only by EAFRD, plus 9 mono-funded FLAGs funded by EMFF. The implementation of CLLD in Bulgaria with support from all ESIF can be assessed as successful, as it provides opportunities for integrated development at the local level.
3. Possibility of multi-funding (linking several Funds in one strategy)
Yes, 39 (of 64) LAGs implement CLLD strategies funded by two or three ESI Funds.
4. Number of LAGs
Number of LAGs using this Fund
Total number of LAGs
Despite some delay due to prolonged administrative procedures, the use of multi-funded CLLD in Bulgaria is successful. The multi-funded strategies of LAGs receive support from different Operational Programmes or Funds based on the identified needs for local development. CLLD strategies, supported by the relevant ESIF, are implemented in the context of one or more priorities of the respective programme or programmes, in accordance with the rules for these Funds.
5. Purposes, objectives for which CLLD is used
The objectives of CLLD in Bulgaria are:
- Development and stimulation of entrepreneurship and sustainable business;
- Development of a dynamic living environment and improvement of the quality of life;
- Development of practices and models for good governance and participation of stakeholders in the development of the territory;
- Development of territorial identity, marketing and brands based on the specific territorial potential and local products.
6. State of play
The Bulgarian LAGs signed the agreements for their 2014-20 CLLD strategies in 2016 (1st call) and in 2017 (2nd call). The real implementation of these strategies – calls for projects under measure 19.2 – started in 2018. There was some delay in the implementation of the EAFRD parts of the strategies, while at the same time the funding from other OPs (ERDF and ESF) had better levels of contracting, execution and payment. In 2021, the MA and Paying Agency of the RDP took measures to respond to this and the situation EAFRD-projects improved. In addition, with the last amendment of the RDP, additional funds were provided for LAGs and the period for contracting and implementation was prolonged until 2025 (REGULATION (EU) 2020/2220).
Implementation of EMFF FLAGs started with considerable delay – FLAGs were selected in 2017 but due to administrative barriers they could only launch their first calls for projects in mid-2019. However, implementation picked up speed considerably over 2020 and 2021.
7. Key achievements so far
Despite the challenges of the CLLD implementation, LAGs have managed to support local stakeholders and commitments stand at 55% (November 2021). FLAGs made a major effort to speed up implementation and the amount committed by March 2021 was 64% of the total.
8. Key barriers encountered
Bulgarian LAGs faced some difficulties due to the changes in national regulations for CLLD after the approval of their strategies. Another problem is related to the delay in approval of the projects supported by EAFRD, which leads to a decrease in trust of local stakeholders. In the process of implementation of CLLD, the MAs and the central coordination unit took measures and some of the administrative burden was reduced.
9. Some national specificities
Since 2018, all LAGs and FLAGs from Bulgaria – mono- and multi-funded – announce their calls and procedures through the joint information system for management and monitoring of EU funds in Bulgaria 2020 (UMIS 2020, https://eumis2020.government.bg), which is used for electronic submission, contracting and reporting of projects funded by ESI Funds.
The system allows: preparing and editing electronic application forms and electronic submission of project proposals, and information about open application procedures under all ESIF. UMIS 2020 maintains also a public module (2020.eufunds.bg), accessible to the wider public with information about funds, projects, regions and beneficiaries, stages of use and financial data. The procedures, application forms and the process of application, implementation and reporting are as a whole unified with some differences according to the specifics of each Fund. This provides significant simplification.
This new country profile, the 16th in this LDnet series on CLLD in Europe, offers an overview of CLLD in Bulgaria in the 2014-2020 period: local development approach, use of EU funds, number of LAGs, achievements so far, barriers encountered, national specificities. November 2021
Author: Neli Kadieva
Series coordination and editing: Urszula Budzich-Tabor, Stefan Kah, Haris Martinos