/CROSS/ The green deal is no longer an unknown matter for businesses and people in Bulgaria. And green has long been a symbol not only of environmental policies and conservation intentions. The real transformation of the economy has already begun and all professionals are checking their watches with the event of the year – Green Week 2023, the largest regional forum on Green Transition, Innovation and the Future, which for the third consecutive year was organized by Dir.bg and 3E-news.
The latest edition of Green Transition 2023 has become a conversation about the future that everyone wants to participate in. The conference took place from 20 to 22 June and the expert talk in Sofia gathered a record number of participants. 184 panellists from Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania, Kosovo, Serbia, Poland, Croatia, France, Portugal, the Republic of North Macedonia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, the UK and Canada took part in the panel discussions and over 2,500 people attended live.
This is a clear sign that Bulgaria can be an unavoidable factor with a vision, approach and proposals for the transition. This year’s event aimed and succeeded to go beyond national boundaries and expand the regional discussion on the future and policies that can make the green transition sustainable and successful for businesses and people.
The role and impact of the Forum is measured not only by the impressive number of participants, but also by the huge media interest and the record coverage in TV, print and electronic media. Over 450 publications in more than 50 Bulgarian and international media, dozens of posts on social networks, bilingual live streaming in 3 channels, watched by more than 120 000 people, reports in the three national TV channels BNT, BTV and Nova, in the media partners of the event Eurocom, BTA, BNR, Economic.bg, ESG news, reached a million viewers and readers. More than 430 000 readers were informed about the event on the websites of Dir.bg and 3E-news.
The European Commission strongly supported the Forum for the third consecutive year – three Commissioners participated in the discussions.
The forum brought together in Sofia representatives of the European Commission and the European Parliament, leading politicians and ministers from Bulgaria and the countries of the region, key figures from the EIB, IMF, development banks from CEE, industrial companies, participants from business and local government, experts, employers and trade unions, universities, academia, NGOs and media. European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič, Commissioner for Cohesion and Reform Elisa Ferreira and Commissioner for Environment Janez Potočnik (2009-2014) joined the strategic conversation on Green Transformation in CEE countries. And Francisco Barroso Castro, Member of the Commissioner’s Office for Convergence and Reform, Charlina Vicheva, Director General of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Matthew Baldwin, Deputy Director General of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Energy, Adriana Sukova, Deputy Director General of the Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion of the European Commission, Iliana Tsanova, Deputy Director General of the Directorate-General for Budget of the European Commission contributed their expertise to the panels.
The inspiring speakers at Green Transition 2023 were Ivan Krastev, researcher at the Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences in Vienna (IWM Vienna), IMF Regional Representative for Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe Jeff Gottlieb and Harvard professor and co-author of the bestsellers “The AI Republic” and “Understanding How the Future Unfolds” Dr. Mark Esposito.
President, Parliament and Government sit together in discussion on Green Transition in our country
The conference was opened by President Rumen Radev. Key participants were: President of the National Assembly Rosen Zhelyazkov, Minister of Economy Bogdan Bogdanov, Minister of Agriculture of North Macedonia Lyupcho Nikolovski, Minister of Environment of the Republic of Kosovo Liburn Aliu, Chairman of the Environment Committee in the Parliament of Albania Arben Pelumb, EIB Vice President Liliana Pavlova, Rosen Plevneliev, President of Bulgaria (2012-2017), Boris Tadic, President of Serbia (2004-2012), Sergey Stanishev, Prime Minister of Bulgaria (2005-2009), PES President (2011-2022), Member of the European Parliament, Atanas Pekanov, Deputy Prime Minister of Bulgaria (2022-2023), Borislav Sandov, Deputy Prime Minister for Climate Policies and Minister of Environment and Water (2021-2022), Erion Veliai, Mayor of Tirana, George Kremlis, Director Emeritus of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Environment, Daniel Abou, President of EAIF (European AI Forum)
MEPs Iskra Mihaylova, Petar Vitanov, Andrey Novakov, Radan Kanev and Atidze Aliyeva-Veli took part in the three-day discussions. Partners of the forum were employers’ organizations, associations, NGOs and dozens of business representatives.
Moderators of the discussions during the three days of the event were respected opinion leaders and renowned experts such as Gergana Passy, President of PanEurope Bulgaria, Assoc. Dr. Atanas Georgiev, Dean of the Faculty of Economics at Sofia University, Tsvetelina Penkova, Member of the European Parliament, Slavcho Neykov, President of the Institute for Energy Management, Georgi Stefanov, Policy and Climate Change Expert at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Kristina Eskenazi, Member of the Board of the CEIB, Artificial Intelligence Cluster Bulgaria, Zornitsa Rusinova, Chairperson of the Economic and Social Council of the Republic of Bulgaria, Georgi Malchev, Co-founder and Managing Partner of Xplora. bg, arch. Hristo Stankushev, founder and managing director of Studio 7561 Architects, Ilia Levkov, chairman of the board of Industrial Cluster Electric Vehicles (ICEM), Dr. Dimitar Georgiev, CEO of Paralax Life Sciences, Vanya Ananieva, founder of Language Schools Intellect, Lyubomir Stanislavov, CEO of Automotive Cluster Bulgaria, Petko Anchev, head of commercialization, Pneuma Inc., Zinaida Zlatanova, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice (2013-2014), Maria Hristova, European Institute for Innovation and Technology.
7 ministers showed the Cabinet’s strong commitment to Green Transformation and the Dir.bg forum
The first day focused on energy and its key role in the transition. Participants from across the region debated important topics such as energy independence in the Balkans, energy connectivity, the potential of energy storage systems, renewable energy and the future of baseload power plants. A special discussion on COP 29 sent a message that even if Russia blocks Bulgaria’s hosting of the global climate meeting, COP 29 should have a strong focus on Central and Eastern Europe. According to Environment and Water Minister Julian Popov, “Eastern European countries will have a very serious place in the climate negotiations” and “Bulgaria is one of the EU countries that is leading in solar engineering”. The topic “How to make the Green Transition fair for all?” was also commented by leading politicians, experts and trade union representatives.
Green Transition 2023 also set itself the ambitious task of holding a roundtable on Bulgaria’s vision and energy strategy. It was there that the key discussion on the development of the sector emerged and the views of politicians, businesses and experts were heard, outlining the direction of the energy sector for decades to come.
The focus of the second day was on sustainable finance, circular economy and decarbonisation. Bankers and leading experts from European and Bulgarian financial institutions commented on the best options not only for financing, but also for innovation, circular economy and sustainable use of resources. Prominent participants in the debate on the topic of green financing included: Zanko Arabadzhiev, Executive Director of the Bulgarian Development Bank, Patrick Darowski, Director of Industrial Risk and ESG at Bank Gospodarstwa Krajowego, Alan Herjavec, Member of the Board of Directors of the Croatian Development Bank, Larisa Manastirli, Director of Financial Institutions, CBRD, Nadia Dankinova, Executive Director, Flag Fund, and Tsvetanka Mincheva, CEO, UniCredit Bulbank, while the panel discussion was moderated by Sofia Kasidova, Head of Strategic Development and Green Policies Team, CBRD.
In the parallel sessions of the forum were heard recommendations that green investments should be made wisely and supported by the state, the topic of green building and the European Bauhaus was commented. These policies cannot do without new technologies, ESG norms, circular economy and decarbonisation. Among the participants in the panel debates on the topic were Sasha Bezuhanova, founder of MOVE.BG, Elvin Guri, CEO of INVENIO Partners, entrepreneur and investor, Desislava Simeonova, leader of the Sustainable Finance Program of KBC Group and CEO SME Banking of UBB, Ivelina Vassileva, expert on European policies and project management, Minister of Environment and Water (2014-2017), EPPA, Dobri Mitrev, Chairman of BIA, prof. Prof. Antonis Zorpas, Open University, Cyprus and others.
A highlight of the second day of the forum was the hot discussion on innovation, artificial intelligence, deep technology and digitalization in education. Innovation Minister Milena Stoicheva stressed that her ministry supports green investments and is about to announce a procedure for the circular economy worth 180 million leva. The discussion was also attended by Maria Marinova, Executive Director of BVCA, Martin Danovski, Chairman of the State Agency for Research and Innovation (2021-2022), Pavel Lisev, Fund of Funds, Borislav Petrov, Executive Director, INSAIT, Maria-Fatima Lucas, Co-founder and CEO of Zymvol Biomodeling.
The unique edtech panel with recommendations and ideas included Natalia Miteva, Deputy Minister of Education and Science of the Republic of Bulgaria, Alexandra Mechkova, CEO of Telerik Academy, Karol Gornowicz, CEO of EdTech, Poland, Yani Gebedzheliev, Senior Technology Consultant at TBS Telelink, Darin Madjarov, founder of the online platform “Ucha. se”, Albena Spasova, Education Manager, Microsoft CEE, Ana-Maria Stanku, President of E-civis, Gergana Efremova, Education Expert, Together in Class Foundation, William Florence, Google Strategic Programs for Education.
A special Biotech Workshop hybrid panel discussing innovations in medicine, ethical issues and opportunities related to Chat bot GPT employment and the future of healthcare.
A green transition without transport connectivity and green mobility is also unthinkable. The topics were discussed during the third day of the Green Week 2023 event. Transport Minister Georgi Gvozdeykov took part in the discussion on sustainable options for transport security and vehicle electrification together with key representatives and industry experts. He said that in the next 7 years in Bulgaria will be invested more than 1.5 billion BGN in policies related to transport security, which are important for improving the climate and implementing green policies. Within 4 years, electric cars will displace conventional cars, top industry experts said.
A key element in the discussion were the topics of smart green cities, cybersecurity and digitalization. Minister Alexander Iolovski announced an alarming statistic that as of last year only 31% of able-bodied people in Bulgaria are digitally literate, and the target is 80% by 2030. He noted that our country is now in the penultimate place in Europe on the index that measures digital technologies in the economy and society, but also said that the native IT sector gives us a strong position to catch up.
Sustainable agriculture issues were also a highlight of the day, along with the opportunities offered by the agritech sector. And this is particularly important for all of us, because every day we need to remind ourselves that we live on a planet with limited resources, which we need to use properly. Farming is no longer just about maximising yield per acre, it is a modern sector working for people and protecting biodiversity. All this has to happen and at an affordable price for people. The discussion was attended by the Ministers of Agriculture of Bulgaria and North Macedonia Kiril Vatev and Lyupcho Nikolovski.
The conference became a catalyst for the processes and a platform for dialogue on the challenges and opportunities that the Green Transformation poses to institutions, businesses, governments and citizens of European countries.