Since its accession to the European Union (EU), Bulgaria has experienced relatively rapid economic growth, with GDP per capita gaps with the EU closing by one third between 2000 and 2019. However, income inequalities within the population and across regions have increased. Effective multi-level governance is an essential pathway for inclusive growth and well-being, and for delivering a more resilient recovery from COVID-19. Yet, despite the Bulgarian government’s significant efforts on this front through, for example, its successive decentralisation strategies and programmes, as well as its 2014-20 Operational Programme “Regions in Growth, more could be done.

This report examines current regional and municipal governance structures and provides guidance and recommendations to support the Bulgarian authorities in designing and implementing regionalisation and decentralisation policies for regional development. To promote a place-based, bottom-up approach to regional development policy, an efficient multi-level governance system is required – one based on an enhanced role for regional and local actors, capable of designing and implementing context-sensitive policies and ensuring a better match between policies and citizen preferences.

The report reflects the outcome of two years of engagement and dialogue with Bulgaria’s Ministry of Regional Development and Public Work, and draws from international experiences and good practice, responses from a dedicated OECD questionnaire completed in August 2019, a series of stakeholder interviews, and an international policy seminar (23-27 September 2019). This work is part of the OECD Multi-Level Governance Studies series. It was conducted by the OECD Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs, Regions and Cities (CFE), under the leadership of the Regional Development Policy Committee (RDPC). It was presented at the First Pilot Meeting on Multi-level Governance and Public Investment for Regional Development on 17 November 2020 and the final report was approved on 12 February 2021 by written procedure under the reference [CFE/RDPC(2020)18/REV1].

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