Annual Meeting of Bulgarian local authorities - planning ahead the development of Local self-governance



Over 800 participants from municipalities, central government and partner organizations took part in the forums and events of the 13th Annual meeting of Bulgarian local authorities. The largest forum of municipalities was held from 1 to 3 October in the Blacksea resort of Albena.

The intensive program of the meeting included lively discussions with key ministers and chairmen of parliamentary committees, parallel forums on hot topics and two plenary sessions, involving the President of the National Assembly and the Deputy Prime Minister.

The forum dedicated to the contributions of municipalities for the protection of public order and the protection of the population in crisis, included two major themes – the interaction between the interior ministry and local authorities in the protection of public order and safety and the management of municipal dams in the context of the recent amendments in the Law on waters, which gaves the right of local authorities to transfer their water bodies to the State.

On the topic of the future of educational and social systems, local authorities presented their proposals for the achievement of an integrated model of services and were supported by the Ministers of education and labour and social policy.

The municipalities and the State in the joint management of the territory was the subject of the forum with the Ministry of regional development and public works. It examined mainly measures to alleviate administrative burdens, opportunities for joint activities in the segregated areas and dealing with illegal construction. Other themes discussed by the representatives of local and central authorities, were the water supply services and general activities in this sector, as well as the opportunities for national funding of activities for maintenance and development of municipal roads.

Meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister was devoted to e-Government. The municipalities stated that they expect the State financial support to speed up the process of introducing e- services. So far 220 of total 265 municipalities have joined the electronic exchange of data. The major challenge to the process is the lack of specialists.

The moto of the plenary session – "Strong municipalities-strong state" focused the discussions with the representatives of the legislative and executive power. The NAMRB President and mayor of Veliko Tarnovo municipality Daniel Panov, outlined the successful involvement of municipalities and NAMRB in the local and regional dimension of the first Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU. He announced the initiative of the Association for the start of the internal debate on the development of local self-governance in the next ten years: "I believe that we will be able to prepare a visionary document, on which basis our colleagues from the following mandate to seek an agreement with the the central government. The important thing is to put together our ideas and suggestions generated by our daily problems and anxieties”

Forum dedicated to the economic activity of municipalities, focus on the capability of local authorities to attract investors through the development of industrial infrastructure and via different sources of financing. The discussions focused on opportunities the municipalities to become equal partners to the business, the scope of the government support for the development of the industrial sector in the regions, ways to attract high-tech industries and world renowned industrial producers. The model of economic zone "Trakia" for an integrated approach to the promotion of economic activity in the industrial and agricultural sector was presented.

As well, within the meeting forums were organized with two partner associations – the Association of the Chairmen of the municipal councils and the Association of the city managers. The serious commitment of the municipalities are discussed connected with the population census in 2021 and responsible tasks in the forthcoming European and local elections in 2019.

The program of the annual meeting included various accompanying events, demonstrations and presentations of good municipal practices. This year the traditional exhibition Municipal EXPO brought together many representatives of businesses, municipalities and non-governmental organizations. Modern solutions for the management of cities and towns in the area of waste management, telecommunications, intelligent transport solutions and street lighting, road construction, etc. were presented. Also, agreements were concluded on the spot and agreed terms for the partnership. For the first time NAMRB proposed to the forum participants the mobile application "Digital annual meeting of local authorities 2018 (ComSy Virtual World Meeting)." Thanks to the application, participants by using their mobile phones were informed in live about the meeting, forums and other events.

At the Annual meeting NAMRB awards in 6 categories were traditionally granted.

Photos: 13th Annual Meeting of Bulgarian local authorities.