Veliki Preslav's first experience in a partner network under the URBACT III program


Along with the serious list of implemented social and infrastructure projects financed by the EU Structural and Cohesion Fund during the past two program periods), Veliki Preslav (Bulgaria) is working hard towards the finale of its first transnational project as a network partner in the “Global Goals For Cities” network, in which the city of Tallinn is a leading partner.

The main product of the project implementation, for each partner, is their own jointly developed Integrated Action Plan based on the localization of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, supported by transnational knowledge exchange, expert network support and the participation of multiple local stakeholders countries.

For Veliki Preslav, the Integrated Action Plan will be the first strategic document based entirely on the principles of sustainable development. The expectation is that this plan will be a connecting element that will ensure coherence between municipal policies and change the planning, implementation and monitoring approach - namely through the use of the 17 sustainable development goals and targets applicable to the local context. One cannot fail to notice the direct connection with one specific target of the 2030 agenda - 17.14 Enhance policy coherence for sustainable development, to the achievement of which the strategic document mostly contributes.

Working with stakeholders at the local level is a mandatory element for any network under the URBACT program and thus the URBACT Local Group of Veliki Preslav was formed. The latter walked a difficult path in the joint preparation of the integrated action plan, and the work proved to be both challenging and inspiring. Challenging - because it took time and effort from the administration to sustain commitment and interest in an unfamiliar and vast matter such as the framework of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, their 169 targets and 232 indicators. Inspirational - because after getting to know the philosophy and logic of the 17 global goals, the participants started to feel comfortable with them, resulting in the generation of an avalanche chain of ideas and opportunities for the future development of the city, as well as for dealing with not a few local challenges. Last but not least, the satisfaction of the personal contribution in determining the directions for the future socio-economic and ecological development of the city remained with the participants of the ULG. 

At the beginning of November, Veliki Preslav co-hosted one of the 9 planned transnational meetings within the framework of the project, together with the host city of Veszprém - Hungary. The main task during the meeting was the mutual review of the draft integrated action plans to date. Using the Four C's tool from the URBACT toolbox, the Coherence, Completeness, Concerns and Continuation of action plans for partners were assessed to ensure that no essential elements were missed. Thus, already at this stage, there was an opportunity to track and measure the effectiveness of the actions identified in the integrated plans. Another very important highlight during the meeting in Hungary was the review of EU funding programs, revealing a horizon of financial support opportunities, including interregional cooperation programs, research and innovation programs, environmental protection programs, etc. The range of advice given on how to make project proposals more accurate and score more points in the assessment was also appreciated.

The series of training panels, the work with tools from the URBACT toolkit, the work with the Sustainable Cities Reference Framework, as well as the guidance, support at every stage of the development of the integrated action plan provided by the lead partner, lead expert and ad-hoc experts, the shared experience of the partners from already implemented sustainable policies, participatory management models and various partnerships, as well as the established contacts and accumulated experience are invaluable for Veliki Preslav, and for its ambition to become the most sustainable small town in Bulgaria.

Submitted by Karin Luhaäär on 10/02/2023