European Commission’s Celine Gauer Meets with Bulgarian Parliamentary Committees

by Cristian Florescu

The head of the European Commission’s Recovery and Resilience Task Force, Celine Gauer, visited the Bulgarian National Assembly on Tuesday to meet with members of 10 parliamentary committees, the legislature wrote on its website.

Kalina Konstantinova, who chairs the e-Government and Information Technology Committee, said at the opening of the meeting that the European Commission’s Recovery and Resilience Facility is one of the most important mechanisms for the success of key reforms and for dealing with the current crises at the national and European level. The first disbursement under Bulgaria’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP) provides much-needed financial support to make the country’s economy more competitive, digitized and environment-friendly, Konstantinova said.

Gauer underscored the importance of her meeting with the Bulgarian lawmakers, noting that they have a leading role to play in implementing the NRRP and overseeing the process. She expressed satisfaction with Bulgaria’s cooperation with the Task Force and urged the country to complete its structural reforms by the 2026 deadline set in connection with the NRRP.

After the meeting, members of various parliamentary groups commented on arrangements under the NRRP concerning the energy sector.

The Continue the Change parliamentary group said at a briefing that a 40% cut of carbon emissions was agreed with the former GERB-UDF government when it signed up to the EU emission reduction goals. For their part, GERB-UDF drew attention to the actions of the latest regular government, which was dominated by Continue the Change.

Georg Georgiev (GERB-UDF) said the closure of Bulgaria’s coal-fired power plants was apparently proposed by the country. He said the institutions which were involved in the NRRP negotiations in the field of energy should explain what exactly happened, what Bulgaria proposed, and whether the proposed measures were necessary to get the NRRP approved by the European Commission.

Borislav Gutsanov (BSP for Bulgaria) said the possibility that Bulgaria will have to close its power plants which run on lignite (brown coal) is a key issue for the country. Gutsanov compared it to the closure of the two older reactors of the Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant, which was agreed upon (and eventually carried out) as a condition for Bulgaria’s accession to the European Union. “Leaving our coal-fired power plants in operation is of paramount importance for our energy sector,” he argued.

Stanislav Anastassov (Movement for Rights and Freedoms) countered by saying that the European Commission has identified enough possibilities for converting the Bulgarian coal-fired power plants and retaining the jobs they provide. However, the country “has not done its homework properly”, he said.

Tsoncho Ganev (Vazrazhdane) stressed that the latest regular government, headed by prime minister Kiril Petkov, explicitly stated in the NRRP that Bulgaria’s thermoelectric power capacities “will be closed and cut” within three years.

Nadezhda Yordanova (Democratic Bulgaria) described the meeting with Gauer as very useful. “The meeting made it clear yet again that the reforms in the field of the rule of law are essential [for getting funding] for the NRRP, and not a single step can be made without them,” Yordanova commented. “Controversial questions were highlighted in the energy sector. It became clear that no part of the NRRP can be removed automatically. If Bulgaria wants to make changes, it has to suggest alternatives and substantiate them while bearing in mind that time is running out: all reforms must be implemented by the end of 2026.”

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