During the past Autumn General Assembly, Liberal Integration Foundation was voted in as an affiliate member. Could you tell us more about the foundation, your positions and your activities?
The Liberal Integration Foundation is the political foundation of the Bulgarian party “Movement for Rights and Freedoms Party (MRF)”, which embraces the Bulgarian ethnic model as a successful development of multi-ethnic policy in Bulgaria, and results in a tolerant, peaceful co-operation of different ethnic and religious communities. This model is characterized by stability, equality and common responsibility and promotes the Liberal values of equality and human rights. The development of the multiethnic policy in the Bulgarian context helped the transaction towards democracy and revealed its positive effects by creating favorable conditions for preserving stability in the Balkans. Representing the Bulgarian ethnic model, we can faithfully participate and contribute to common European discussion on integration of minority groups and migrants with different cultural and religious backgrounds.
The biggest and remarkable success for us in 2017 was becoming an affiliate member of ELF. This will give us the chance chance to host an international roundtable on minority and mother tongue issues. The Finnish Magma Foundation, a full member of the European Liberal Forum, visited Bulgaria upon invitation of the Liberal Integration Foundation for a collaborative cooperation on the study of minority groups.
Last year we organized several events in cooperation with the Youth Movement for Rights and Freedoms, MRF and Association “Tolerance”: seminars (Training for trainers; (Open Governance – a New Opportunity for the Liberal Democracies, Involving the citizens in the local decision-making).), academies (Summer academy for liberal policies), and public discussion (Brexit opened the way to a new Europe).
In January 2018, Bulgaria has taken on, for the first time in its history, the Presidency of the Council of the European Union and Sofia, the capital, will host the ALDE Party Council at the end of April. The Liberal Integration Foundation will support the European Liberal Forum in implementing a Ralf Dahrendorf Roundtable. What can we expect from the event? What will the discussion touch upon?
For the first time in the Bulgarian history, Bulgaria has taken over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. This is a challenge for Bulgarian authorities, but also a big chance for the country to be better recognized and to express the value of the EU membership for Bulgarian citizens and ambitions of Bulgarians to participate actively in the processes of Governance of the EU.
The Movement for Rights and Freedom, a Bulgarian party – member of the ALDE Party family will host the ALDE Party Council, which is a great responsibility and opportunity for us.
Support from the European Liberal Forum for organization of Ralf Dahrendorf Roundtable will give the Liberal Integration Foundation opportunity to include the challenges of the Future of Cohesion policy into the Agenda of the events, supporting the programme of the ALDE Party Council.
The Cohesion Policy is one of the core policies of the European Union. All member states and their regions participate and use the benefits from the Cohesion Policy. For Bulgaria, and especially for the regions from which we, the Bulgarian liberals, receive support from our constituency, the Cohesion policy covers more then 60% of public investments. If we include the support from the Common Agricultural Policy(CAP), the percentage will rise up to 100%. But we know that the Europe with the new challenges of the latest years, namely the economic crises and slow recovery, the defence and security of the Union and its citizens, the competitiveness of the European Economy, climate change, digitalisation and quality of education, require changes and modernisation of the original Cohesion policy.
There are two directions for modernization we are going to discuss during the Roundtable – Conditionality and implementation of Structural reforms as a bases for modernization and efficiency.
We will underline the importance of the continuation of the ex-ante conditionalities introduced for the period 2014-2020. They brought a more strategic approach into the programming of ESI (European Structural and Investment) funds and improved the quality of spending. Smart Specialisation Strategies became a model how ex-ante conditionalities improved cohesion policy and ESI funds. Furthermore, the macroeconomic conditionality introduced the link with a sound fiscal and macroeconomic policy. We will discuss how to maintain this conditionality in post 2020 multiannual financial frameworks, adding positive incentives to funds suspension and taking into account the risks on beneficiaries. In addition, we will highlight the importance of introducing a conditionality based on the EU founding values as stated in the article 2 of the EU Treaty. ESI funds cannot achieve an EU added value without compliance with the EU founding values principles.
We will stress the importance of implementing structural reforms prior to investing in the sectors concerned. The Treaty objective on reducing disparities between levels of development of EU regions can be achieved by ESI funds investment but also by structural reforms. Therefore, we consider that the Structural Reforms Support Programme should be better equipped in budgetary terms in the multiannual financial frameworks post 2020 and better linked with the ESI Funds. We will underline the importance of the strong link between structural reforms, Economic and Monetary Union and ESI Funds should to be continued post 2020 and to allow ESI Funds to also support convergence programmes. Synergies between cohesion policy and stability and convergence programmes should be created. We will recommend deeper integration of cohesion policy and ESI funds into the European semester cycle. National reform programme should be the basis for programming the ESI Funds and should include a merged version of the current partnership agreement and operational programmes under a new chapter referent to as investment strategies. When programming the ESI Funds, the Country Specific Recommendations should be taken into account.
Within the ELF network, there is a variety of members which work on very different topics. What can we expect from LIF in the coming years?
The most important goal for the upcoming year is to become a full member of ELF. This will give us an opportunity to realize projects on thematic areas of work of European Liberal Forum, such as security, energy and environment, migration and integration, digitalization and common European values.
Liberal Integration Foundation’s agenda for 2018 is filled with activities. Some of them are:
- The Conference “EU in a search of meaning”, organized in April together with Friedrich Naumann Foundation, LIPA and under the patronage of Ilhan Kyuchyuk, MEP;
- Seminars like “Open Governance – a New Opportunity for the Liberal Democracies. Involving the citizens in the local decision-making” under the patronage of Iskra Mihaylova MEP;
- Possibly, a Ralf Dahrendorf Roundtable “Successful multicultural and multilingual models: Switzerland – a paradise of diversity in era of nationalism and extremism” in cooperation with a full ELF member.