Decentralisation and Regionalisation in Bulgaria

Towards Balanced Regional Development

image of Decentralisation and Regionalisation in Bulgaria

Bulgaria has made solid progress in its territorial governance and socio-economic development. Yet, it has not been able to counteract large and increasing territorial disparities. Doing so will require addressing remaining structural challenges that may be limiting further transformation, government performance and regional resilience. It will also depend on shifting from a centrally-designed approach to regional development policy to one that incorporates subnational input and carefully considers regional specificities. Such a shift, coupled with a revitalised multi-level governance model to strengthen regional and municipal governance, could generate more balanced regional development and inclusive growth in Bulgaria. This multi-level governance study considers the avenues Bulgarian national and subnational authorities could take to ensure more place-based regional development and governance. It emphasises a comprehensive, yet incremental, approach to decentralisation and regionalisation reforms to generate more effective and balanced regional development.


Avenues towards place-based regional policy and governance

To design and implement place-based regional development policies and ultimately reap positive regional development outcomes, Bulgaria needs to renew its multi-level governance model and establish effective co‑ordination mechanisms across levels of government. This should be done by revisiting the current decentralisation strategy and reforming both municipal and regional governance systems. Reforming municipal governance involves enhancing intra-municipal decentralisation and civil society participation, generating more effective administrative decentralisation and horizontal co‑operation and strengthening fiscal decentralisation and responsibility. To enhance regional governance, both the district level and the planning regions need to be considered, given the strong interconnections between the two layers. One approach is to reinforce the role of the districts as state territorial administration while enabling planning regions to become regional development bodies with a legal personality and adequate resources. Two potential models of regional organisation for planning regions are proposed based on a typology developed using examples from OECD and EU countries.


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