Malina Edreva is a chairwoman of the standing committee on education, culture, science and cultural diversity in Sofia Municipality. She manages the group of GERB in the Municipal Council. In February, this year, she was elected as a deputy premier of the EPP group in the European Committee of the Regions.
– Ms Edreva, what are your expectations about the Tech City conference, which is organized by the site of the Bulgarian municipalities KMETA.BG? How the work of Sofia Municipality and in particular Sofia Municipal Council has managed to secure Sofia’s leadership position in the „Innovation“ sector?
– I have big expectations about this future event. The conference is a place, where the municipalities can reach to innovative decisions for practical issues. It also develops the partnership and exchange of experiences between municipalities, but at the same time it makes connections between the municipal administrations and offers technology solutions. Every municipality is obliged to be more innovative and to apply technological and social innovations. Sofia Municipality has very consistent policy in this direction. Sofia is the first municipality in Bulgaria, which has developed, accepted and applied the Strategy for intelligence specialization. The capital has won recognition as a host of international events for innovations, like Webit. 4 000 people from 73 countries participated in the festival last year. The motto was “Sofia-the digital capital”. Recognition that Sofia is a leader and can be an engine for the development of policies at European level is the fact that we managed to become the coordinator of the partnership „Digital Transition“ in the „Urban Agenda of the European Union.“ „Sofia, together with Estonia and the Finnish city Oulu, are chosen to coordinate this luxury and very useful initiative, which resulted in analysis and planning of European policies in the field of digital transition after 2020. The initiative allows us to give recommendations for better legislation, funding tools and exchange of knowledge and experience among European countries.
-Which are the gaps of the municipal administrations in the development of projects for cross-border cooperation?
– Municipalities has changed a lot for the last 10 years, since Bulgaria is part of the European Union. They became more active in developing projects and their successful management. It isn’t only about Sofia, which can share many examples of how European funds are changing the face of the city. There are many small municipalities in our country – like Gabrovo, which are exemplary and recognized at European level. Municipal governments are closest to people. Through a shared experience we can find better solutions for people in our communities, but also we can form partnerships which can change the European policies and make future Europe open to its citizens.
– This year marks 10 years of Bulgaria’s membership in EU. What Bulgaria couldn’t finish over this time?
– We accomplished a lot on a national level. Although there are still major differences in financial terms for individuals, our cities increasingly resemble that Europe has become an attractive place for thousands of tourists. Young people can speak 2 or 3 languages and they are becoming citizens of the world. Despite of what we achieve, which can always be more, we are quite often angry and dissatisfied with the world around us. Sometimes it is not bad, because this stimulates us to grow and move forward, but on the other hand, this attitude forms our inadequate self-esteem. From my experience, I can say that Bulgaria also has many good practices that we can share with Europe, but we don’t. Last year Sofia hosted a study tour, which involved 25 representatives of European cities and regions. They came to learn from Sofia’s culture and innovative solutions in this field. The event was part of an initiative of the European Commission and the network of cities Eurocities. 700 cities applied, 15 were selected and Sofia was one of the chosen because it had the confidence to apply and share their experiences. After only two months on May 19, Sofia will host an international conference on the future of European policies in the field of culture, which we organize together with the Committee of the Regions. These are just two examples which show that if we have confidence, we can become more visible at European level.