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ERDF and ESF for social services and their implication in Bulgaria (2021-2027)

1. ERDF – European Regional Development Fund

  • Official program website
  • Changes from the 2014 – 2020 period 
  • Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works 
  • Currently open programs for territorial cooperation

The ERDF has two main goals, namely:

  • Investment for growth and jobs – aiming to strengthen the labor market and regional economies.
  • European Territorial Cooperation – aiming to strengthen cross-border, transnational and interregional cooperation within the EU.

The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) provides funding to public and private bodies in all EU regions to reduce economic, social and territorial disparities. The Fund supports investments through dedicated national or regional programs.

In 2021-2027, the fund will enable investments to make Europe and its regions:

  • more competitive and smarter – through innovation and support to small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), as well as digitization and digital connectivity
  • greener – low-carbon and resilient.
  • more connected – by enhancing mobility.
  • more social – supporting effective and inclusive employment, education, skills, social inclusion, and equal access to healthcare, as well as enhancing the role of culture and sustainable tourism.
  • closer to citizens – supporting locally-led development and sustainable urban development across the EU.

The first invitation for project proposals under the Transnational Cooperation Program “Danube Region” 2021-2027 has been announced. It consists of 2 rounds – submission of an application, outlining the logic of the intervention of the proposal and strategic meaning of the program, and a fulfilled participation form from the approved applicants from round one.

The invitation is open to project ideas from the following project priorities: “More competitive and innovative Danube region”, “Greener, lower carbon Danube region”, “More social Danube Region” and “Better management though cooperation”: Specific objective 4.2 “Increased institutional capacity for territorial and macroregional management”.

Currently open programs for territorial cooperation 2021-2027:

  • INTERREG VI-A IPA Bulgaria-Serbia 2021-2027
  • INTERREG VI-A IPA Bulgaria – North Macedonia 2021 – 2027
  • INTERREG VI-A IPA Bulgaria – Turkey 2021 – 2027
  • INTERREG VI-A IPA Greece – Bulgaria 2021 – 2027
  • INTERREG VI-A IPA Romania – Bulgaria 2021 – 2027
  • Danube Region Programme 2021-2027
  • INTERREG VI-A IPA Euro – Mediterranean Programme (EURO MED) 2021 – 2027
  • INTERREG Europe VI-C Cooperation Programme 2021-2027
  • INTERREG “NEXT Black Sea Basin” 2021-2027
  • INTERREG VI-C URBACT IC 2021-2027 Programme
  • ESPON 2030 Cooperation Programme 
  • INTERREG VI 2021-2027

2. ЕSF+ – European Social fund

The ESF is Europe’s main instrument for supporting jobs, helping people get better jobs and ensuring fairer job opportunities for all EU citizens. It works by investing in Europe’s human capital – its workers, its young people and all those seeking a job. The main priority. One priority is to boost the adaptability of workers with new skills, and enterprises with new ways of working.

Another priority focuses on helping people from disadvantaged groups to get jobs. This is part of enhancing ‘social inclusion’ – a sign of the important role that employment plays in helping people integrate better into society and everyday life. The financial crisis has led to a redoubling of efforts to keep people in work, or help them return to work quickly if they lose their jobs.

The COVID-19 crisis has affected all sectors of Europe’s economy, and has required a tenacious, coordinated response to ensure all in Europe are able to navigate this extraordinary situation.

The EU will channel substantial resources to help Member States and regions deal with the socio- economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and prepare for a green, digital and resilient recovery. The European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) and the Recovery Assistance for Cohesion and the Territories of Europe (REACT-EU) initiative will provide needed funding for creating and preserving jobs, advancing education and skills, and promoting the social inclusion of people in vulnerable situations.

3. Human Resources Development Programme for the period 2021-2027

Through the implementation of the Human Resources Development Programme, support will be provided for the development of the workforce in Bulgaria and overcoming the challenges facing the labor market. Over the next seven years, measures will be implemented to provide more opportunities to improve the qualifications, knowledge and skills of employees. The most vulnerable groups in society – the unemployed, people with disabilities, people living in poverty, children, the elderly, representatives of the Roma community will receive support for full inclusion in the economic and social life of the country.

The support will be complex – on the one hand, opportunities for professional realization will be created, and on the other – their access to quality social and health services will be improved. The socio-economic integration of disadvantaged people will be promoted by increasing the range and quality of services provided.

It is planned to identify the individual needs of each person in need and to prepare profiles with the most appropriate measures for that person. European funds will be used to provide services and quality care in the community or at home.

I START WORK – Component 1 “Activation”

The measure “I start work” is presented in the operating program Development of the Human Resources. It consists of three components and the only beneficiary is the Employment Agency.

Operation “I start work” has a strategic meaning for the program “Development of the Human Resources”.

Component 1 “Activation” aims to implement innovative approaches to the activation of inactive persons and comprehensive support to motivate them to join the labor market. The activities are aimed at identifying and motivating inactive persons for active behavior on the labor market, incl. inactive youth to start looking for work and move towards employment or back into education. Furthermore, Inactive persons will have the opportunity for psychological support, professional guidance and inclusion in labor exchanges.

Component 1 will be supplemented with follow-up activities under Component 2 “Training” and Component 3 “Employment” to include the target groups, incl. of the persons activated under Component 1, in employment and/or training.

“Care at home”

The main purpose of operation “Care at home” is to support people with disabilities and elderly people, who are dependent on special care at home.

Operation “Care at home” will expand the possibilities for providing social and integrated health services in a home environment. These services will be provided to those people for a period of 12 months and will include delivery of food and essential products, medical assistance, and psychological assistance and support. The measure will also provide back and forth transportation to the homes of people in need, as well as training and supervision of employees.

Program for food and basic social support for the period 2021-2027

The European Commission has approved the Program for Food and Basic Material Assistance 2021-2027, through which Bulgaria will receive funding in the amount of BGN 411.7 million. The funds are to provide support to the most vulnerable groups living in poverty and deep social isolation. Thus, the two programs of the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy – for food and for human resources management – are the first to be officially launched in Bulgaria and are co-financed by the European Social Fund+.

In the new Program, the focus is on children. The families of 10,000 newborns will receive essential baby products. Children’s kitchen vouchers are planned for another 10,000 children from 10 months to 3 years.

The various types of support are expected to reach a total of over 600,000 persons who are unable to provide for themselves and their children’s basic life needs. Beneficiaries under the Food Program are obliged to provide the assisted persons with accompanying measures after assessing their individual needs. By including them in employment, in training, providing access to social services, health care, etc., the aim is to achieve permanent overcoming of poverty and social isolation and thus to ensure sustainability and effectiveness of the Program. Accompanying measures are also aimed at ensuring conditions for an equal start and early childhood development for all children, by supporting families who are experiencing difficulties in coping with the challenges of parenthood.

“Warm meal for people in need”

The main purpose of giving a warm meal is to provide healthy, varied and nutritious food for people who are unable to provide it by themselves or with the help of somebody else.

The consumers of “Warm meal” are highly dependent on this food and use it daily. Warm meals for the most in need are provided year-round, in response to identified persistent and/or urgent needs. The service is also accessible for people who live in rare places and have struggles with providing their food. Freshly prepared hot food, in the form of soup, main course and bread and at least once a week dessert, will be provided to consumers from all over the country, which should be full and varied, in accordance with generally accepted recipe norms in the country and in compliance with the safety requirements of the foods.

“Purchase of basic food and hygiene products”

The purpose of the procedure is to provide packages containing a predetermined set of food products and packages containing a predetermined set of hygiene products for subsequent annual distribution to needy persons from the target groups, in accordance with Ordinance No RD-06-53 of 17.09.2021 of the Minister of Labor and Social Policy.

The purchase of food products and hygiene materials for the current materials is a prerequisite for implementation and achievement of the goals of the aid type “Packages with food products and hygiene materials”, according to the Program for Food and Basic Material support.

The types of food items that will be included are basic food items, which can be used for providing of the meal of the whole family. The content of the packages is balanced and includes products that are necessary for a complete and varied diet. The hygiene products include basic personal care products and cleaning products used by the whole family.

Program for Education – “Overall and additional support for personal development in the schools” in Priority 1 “Inclusive education and educational integration”

Education Program 2021-2027 Operational Program “Science and Education for Smart Growth” will continue from the expiring program period. The main goal of the Program is to support the process of innovative and intelligent development of Bulgaria by providing quality and inclusive education for all, proactively aimed at the changing trends of the labor market, with a view to increasing the quality of skills and forming higher education, innovative and active individuals capable of realizing themselves successfully as professionals and citizens and thus contributing to their personal well-being and the development of society.

The priority directions in the inclusive education are the following:

  1. Inclusive education and educational 
  2. Modernization and quality of the education
  3. Activities that will support the renewal and quality assurance of the workforce in the educational system by affirming alternative access to the teaching profession and by supporting young teachers.

4. EaSi (ESF+)

Employment and social innovations

The Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI) programme is a financing instrument at EU level to promote a high level of quality and sustainable employment, guaranteeing adequate and decent social protection, combating social exclusion and poverty and improving working conditions.

For the period 2021 – 2027 the EaSI programme will become a strand under the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+).

The informational center of EaSi is managed by BCause foundation in cooperation with the Association for Development in Sofia. Also, associate partners are the Ministry of labor and social policy, SIS Credit and Trust for social achievement.

The program is focused on the following priorities of the policy:

  1. Employment and skills 
  2. Labor markets and mobility of the working power
  3. Social protection and active inclusion
  4. Working conditions

EaSI is to support analytical activities (surveys, studies, statistical data, methodologies, classifications, micro-simulations, indicators, support to European-level observatories and benchmarks) to promote evidence-based policy making in the areas of employment and social policy.

For more information click here.


Co-funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.

Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.


Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.
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