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REGION OF THE WEEK: South-West Bulgaria

Sofia airport


What are the region's priorities?

Yugozapaden is the planning region that covers South-West Bulgaria, including Sofia and the four provinces that surround the capital city (Blagoevgrad, Pernik, Kyustendil and Sofia Provinces).  The region is Bulgaria's richest, with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita of 73% the EU average (2008 figures).

Sofia is the biggest and the most developed city and province in Bulgaria.  The city contributes over 30% to Bulgaria's national GDP and attracts 60% of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).  The service sector is particularly important, representing 70% of the city's economy.  Manufacturing activities include metal products, textiles, rubber and leather goods, printing and electronics.  Sofia is also an important transport hub, with three pan-European transport corridors passing through the city:

  • Budapest – Vidin – Sofia – Thessaloníki
  • Skopje – Sofia – Burgas – Varna
  • Belgrade – Sofia – Plovdiv – Istanbul


How has EU regional policy contributed?

Since joining the EU in 2007, Bulgaria is benefiting from EU regional funding during the 2007-2013 period.  The country has been allocated almost €6.9 billion for this period.   These funds will be allocated to projects in the following priority areas that are covered by operational programmes:

  • Administrative Capacity
  • Competitiveness
  • Environment
  • Human Resources Development
  • Regional Development
  • Transport
  • Technical Assistance


Improving transport infrastructure and accessibility is a top priority. Nearly €2 billion (equivalent to 30% of the total allocation) will be spent on reducing the country’s high infrastructure deficit. Priority projects under the trans-European transport networks (TEN-T) aim to construct 248 km of motorways. Over 2 100 km of roads and 780 km of railways are to be upgraded with the help of the funds.

Some €850 million has been planned for investment in research and innovation. It is expected that the funds will generate 110 projects forging links between research organisations and industry, ultimately creating some 300 research jobs.  A total of €320 million will be invested on business support. A strong commitment has been taken to use financial engineering
instruments, with nearly €200 million allocated to the JEREMIE initiative (Joint European Resources for Micro to Medium Enterprises) through guarantees, venture capital, mezzanine and growth funds.

€67 million will be spent on developing modern broadband networks and e-services for business and citizens. Over €370 million will be invested in employment measures, including skills and training.

€2.8 billion (42% of fund allocations) has been allocated to support environmental, risk prevention and energy projects. This massive investment is designed to help Bulgaria comply with EU environmental rules and address the challenges of climate change.

Project examples

  • Sofia airport is now able to handle increased traffic thanks to the new passenger terminal and runway that were built with EU funding (over 3 million passengers pass through the airport each year)
  • Two major extensions to the Sofia metro are being constructed with EU funding.  These should enable a 20% reduction in road traffic by 2013, helping to tackle pollution and road accidents.  Further information about the project timetable and benefits are available on the metropolitan website.
  • An ongoing project will modernise and renovate children's playgrounds, public parks, facilities for disabled people and subways in several parts of the Sofia municipality.  These improvements are expected to benefit over 400,000 people.


Further information