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Bulgaria’s Incoming Prime Minister Mariya Gabriel Champions Widening Measures for Research and Innovation Bridge

As Mariya Gabriel prepares to assume the role of Bulgaria's prime minister in March, she champions the effectiveness of Horizon Europe's Widening measures in addressing Europe's research and innovation disparities. Speaking at the Science|Business annual conference commemorating 40 years of the Framework research programmes, Gabriel endorsed the impact of Widening measures in narrowing the research performance gap between Western and Eastern European states.

Acknowledging the substantial challenge of bridging this gap, Gabriel emphasised the importance of aiding Widening countries in reaching their research potential. Against the backdrop of Europe’s lagging innovation compared to global competitors like the US and China, Gabriel stressed the need for enhanced competitiveness and collective efforts.

Gabriel stepped down as European research commissioner in May last year to facilitate the formation of a new coalition government in Bulgaria. She currently serves as deputy prime minister and foreign secretary. Under the terms of the coalition agreement, she is set to replace Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov in March.

Gabriel’s remarks coincide with ongoing debates about the future of Widening measures, with suggestions for funding them through separate schemes like EU structural funds. Despite calls for reorientation, Gabriel defended the measures as a “powerful tool” for enabling countries to catch up, citing examples of excellence transcending geographical boundaries.

Expressing her vision for Bulgaria as a regional innovation hub, Gabriel stressed the necessity of investment in research and development. While supporting the goal of allocating 3% of GDP to research, she highlighted the significant gap between Bulgaria’s current research expenditure and the EU average.

Identifying a lack of coordination between ministries and stakeholders as a challenge, Gabriel referenced Bulgaria’s recent legislative efforts to strengthen ties between academia and industry. She emphasised the shared understanding in Bulgaria of the transformative potential of research and innovation in driving societal benefits and economic growth.

In conclusion, Gabriel underscored the importance of collective efforts to establish Bulgaria and Europe as attractive destinations for research and innovation.

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