Operational Programme 'Greece - Bulgaria'

Programme under the European Territorial Co-operation Objective, co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)


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On 28 March 2008 the European Commission approved a Cross-border Co-operation Programme between Greece and Bulgaria for the period 2007-13. The Programme involves Community support for the following regions in Greece: Evros, Xanthi, Rodopi, Drama, Thessaloniki and Serres; and the following regions in Bulgaria: Blagoevgrad, Smolyan, Kardzhali and Haskovo. The Greek region of Kavala may take part in projects as an adjacent area, i.e. receiving a maximum 20% of the funding allocated to the Programme.

The total budget of the Programme is about €130 million, with Community assistance through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) amounting to some €111 million. This represents approximately 1.3% of the total EU investment earmarked for the European Territorial Co-operation Objective under the Cohesion Policy 2007-13.

1. Aim and purpose of the programme

The eligible area is characterised by high mountains, which hinder easy access to the regions on both sides of the border. At the same time, the water resources support fragile ecosystems (wetlands, riverside forests, etc.), which require attention in terms of their management. There is a heterogeneous economic structure in the cross-border area primarily due to the fact that Bulgaria is undergoing a period of transition marked by economic, fiscal and institutional reform. The eligible area is also characterised by an ageing population and therefore a declining workforce. There have been significant job losses in the area, which is related to low level or insufficient specialisation, despite the fact that the demand for a specialised, knowledge-based workforce is increasing.

The Programme aims to promote cross-border co-operation by bringing together the different actors in the cross-border area to boost the development of the region and transform it into a centre for sustainable development and expansion of the European Economic Area, notably in the hinterland of the Balkans, the Black Sea zone and the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.

2. Expected impact of investments

The Greece-Bulgaria Programme is expected to result in strengthened networks and co-operation in border security, management of natural resources, and business and research networks, with viable solutions for seamless communication using modern infrastructure. The cross-border area should benefit from harmonious, balanced and sustainable development, with reduced economic and social territorial disparities. The process of economic and social restructuring in these areas is expected to be accelerated.

3. Priorities

The Operational Programme is structured along the following four priority axes:

Priority 1: Quality of Life [approximately 46% of total funding]

The main aim under this priority is to upgrade and manage environmental and cultural assets and also address health and social issues, all in an effort to improve the quality of life and welfare of residents in the cross-border area. Other objectives include: (1) protecting and promoting the rich and diverse natural resources of the area as a vehicle for balanced economic development; (2) promoting joint risk management in the fields of water management, waste management and risk management for protection against natural and anthropogenic disasters; (3) promoting and protecting cultural assets and creating cultural co-operation in the cross-border area; and (4) establishing co-operation as part of addressing health and social protection issues.

Potential actions cover three areas of intervention: environmental issues; cultural issues; and health and social security issues.

Priority 2: Accessibility [approximately 24% of total funding]

The main aim under this priority is to improve transport and communication networks and ensure easy and safe circulation of goods, services and people in the cross-border area. Other objectives include: (1) improving road and railway networks as a means of social and economic development in the cross-border area; (2) improving the mobility of goods, services and people in the cross-border area; and (3) coordinating infrastructure initiatives in the cross-border area in an effort to boost its economic activity and ensure balanced spatial development.

Potential actions cover two areas of intervention: enhancement of the road/railway network; and establishment/upgrading of cross-border facilities in the Programme area.

Priority 3: Competitiveness and Human Resources [approximately 24% of total funding]

The main aim under this priority is to stimulate entrepreneurship, invest in human capital and promote research and innovation so as to increase competitiveness and improve the economic and social development of the cross-border area. Other objectives include: (1) using the restructuring of the economy as an opportunity for sustainable economic and spatial development; (2) investing in human capital with the view that it is one of the most valuable resources in the cross-border area for promoting economic activities; (3) stimulating entrepreneurship and integrating information and communication technologies (ICT) and new technologies into all economic sectors; (4) integrating innovation into the productive sectors of the economy; and (5) facilitating initiatives in view of the forthcoming open labour market in the cross-border area.

Potential actions cover three areas of intervention: support and development of human resources – support for preparatory actions in view of the open labour market; encouragement of entrepreneurship and actions addressing the economy restructuring process; and promotion of co-operation between research, technological and academic institutions and business organisations.

Priority 4: Technical Assistance [approximately 6% of total funding]

This priority aims at supporting the overall management and implementation of the Programme. It will provide overall assistance to the Programme for project preparation, programme management and implementation, and programme publicity and evaluation.

Financial and Technical information

Operational Programme 'Greece - Bulgaria'

Intervention Type

Operational Programme

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Number of decision


Final approval date


Breakdown of finances by priority axis

Priority Axis EU Investment National Public Contribution Total Public Contribution
Quality of Life 50 938 541 8 989 154 59 927 695
Accessibility 26 576 630 4 689 994 31 266 624
Competitiveness and Human Resources 26 576 630 4 689 994 31 266 624
Technical Assistance 6 644 157 1 172 498 7 816 655
Total 110 735 958 19 541 640 130 277 598