Three of the nine projects were implemented by the end of 2017. Two of the six thematic funds were completed. Both the completed and ongoing projects have resulted in a high number of positive and concrete results.
Results in Bulgaria
An overview of the results:
Thanks to the SCIEX-NMS scholarship programme (exchange programme between Switzerland and the new EU member states), 22 doctoral students and post-doctoral researchers have completed research fellowships at a Swiss university. Within the framework of a Swiss-Bulgarian research programme, 13 joint projects are under way in the fields of environmental protection, the social sciences, medicine and engineering. These two programmes have helped Bulgarian researchers and research institutions become better integrated in the international academic and scientific network, as is evidenced for example by articles published in prestigious scientific journals.
Reform of vocational education and training
A new project was launched in Bulgaria in 2015 to facilitate access for young people to the job market. The project is based on the Swiss system of dual vocational education and training. At the beginning of the 2016 academic year, 15 vocational schools throughout the country and over 50 partner companies were using completely redesigned curricula to train 366 apprentices in five professions. At the same time, efforts to reform the vocational education and training system are well under way with the participation of all stakeholders.
Social inclusion of the Roma and other minorities
The Swiss programme is supporting the Bulgarian government with the implementation of its national strategy on integrating the Roma (2012-20). The strategy aims to improve the living conditions of this community through access to education, and social and medical services. It also aims to support the participation of vulnerable groups in public affairs.
The municipalities of Ruse, Burgas and Sliven began to implement projects combining health and education activities in 2015. The municipalities of Montana, Plovdiv and Shumen followed suit in 2016. For example, thanks to the extension of the primary school in the Roma district of Burgas, 200 children can now attend kindergarten and have better prospects of integrating into school life and doing well academically in the future. The health mediators are also raising awareness of issues related to disease prevention and a healthy lifestyle among the Roma community in these cities. They encourage members of the Roma community to visit primary healthcare centres, in particular for antenatal care and the vaccination of children.
Home care and assistance
Setting up a system of outpatient hospital care helps improve the quality of life of people suffering from a chronic illness or handicap, and elderly people. The system is based on the Swiss model of home care, the effectiveness of which is well known. 350 patients are now benefiting from home treatment and care in four municipalities in the Vratsa district. The current aim is to extend outpatient care throughout the country and to develop funding models.. The Bulgarian parliament is moving in this direction. In 2015, it approved amendments to laws introducing these medical services into the public health system. The project has led to close cooperation between the Swiss and Bulgarian Red Cross Societies.
A Swiss firm has delivered 28 decommissioned trams from Basel's transport system to Sofia. In this way, Switzerland is helping to improve the public transport system in Sofia and also reduce traffic congestion and air pollution.
Improving border security
The abolition of border controls in the Schengen area necessitates enhanced police collaboration between the national SIRENE offices and the sharing of information via the Schengen Information System (SIS II). Bulgaria’s admission to the Schengen Agreement was postponed while the project was under way but will nonetheless require enhancing the capacities of the stakeholders concerned. The Bulgarian-Swiss project has thus helped to increase the professionalism of the Bulgarian SIRENE office. The cooperation between Bulgarian and Swiss SIRENE/SIS II officers during the project’s implementation phase has become a long-term partnership.
Reforming juvenile justice
The project helps Bulgaria align its judicial system for minors, criminals, victims and witnesses with European and international standards. Progress is under way on legislative changes that have been initiated in the juvenile justice system. Judges, police officers and prosecutors have also strengthened their capacities in various training modules based on the expertise of the International Institute of the Rights of the Child, a Swiss NGO. Pilot projects establishing Five Child Pedagogical Rooms to ensure judicial procedures that are more respectful of the rights and interests of children are also under way in the country.
Civil society fund
A total of 36 NGOs obtained funding from a support fund set up to promote and strengthen civil society's participation in the economic and social development of the country. The supported projects focus on social and environmental activities. As a result of these projects, these NGOs have enhanced their capacities, gained public support for their causes and had an impact on a number of reforms.
Reconciling environmental protection and sustainable development in the agricultural sector
This project helps six Bulgarian NGOs, cooperating closely with Swiss partner organisations such as Pro Natura and the Réseau Echange – Développement Durable (Exchange network – sustainable development [REDD]). The project promoters actively participated in developing the Rural Development Programme 2014–20, which was approved in May 2015. Measures to promote protected zones and family organic farms have already been put in place. The first transfers of public and private funds for services to facilitate the sustainable use of natural resources have been made. Thanks to its integration in the 2014-2020 Rural Development Programme for Bulgaria and to legislative amendments, it will be possible to use the new public financing mechanism in other areas, particularly as part of Bulgarian Rural Development Programme supported by the EU. Nineteen farms have received authorisation to process their milk and sell their products directly. Another nine farms are expected to follow suit soon. Initial data indicate that direct marketing has enabled farmers to triple their income. The farmers' market in Sofia has become a model and the Ministry of Agriculture plans to provide subsidies to other cities intending to set up similar markets.
This fund aims to facilitate the sharing of experiences between the institutions of new member states and their Swiss partners. In Bulgaria, 27 partner projects on a variety of themes encourage the sharing of knowledge and practical know-how between Switzerland and a number of Bulgarian municipalities and institutions. Seven projects have strengthened existing partnerships.