"The Change in the Border Regions after Joining EU”(2006-2007)


Project contractor: ISI

Implementation period: June 2006 - June 2007

Source of funding: "Open Society Institute"


The project was carried out in four municipalities: Satovcha and Hadjidimovo (Blagoevgrad), and Rudozem and Zlatograd (Smolian). A special typological study methodology was being prepared for them, as well as specific criteria and indicators for the selection of participants and for assessing the result of training.


Standardized interviews were conducted in the selected municipalities, based on  quota extracts, and a focus group was formed in Zlatograd.


The summarized results on the information gathered from the interviews and the focus group show the following:


-         All four municipalities lack clear idea about the future development of the region. This feature is characteristic both at institutional and individual level. There is no transparency and a wide range of people are not included in the promotion of the municipality activities for its future development.

-         The second characteristic of all four municipalities is the uncultivated lands, scattered agriculture and primitive land treatment.

-         The third feature concerns human resources - aging population, dominated by pensioners /an exception is Rudozem, where according to municipality data, there was increased growth of population in the past two years/.

-         It is characteristic for all four municipalities that there are citizens occasionally working in another EU country.

-         Another general conclusion that characterizes the situation in the four municipalities is the inconclusive local authorities – they do not have a strategy concerning the advantages and disadvantages of lifting the border restrictions.


Based on the conclusions made from the typological study on the effects of changes in border regions after joining EU, there were two Meetings for civic dialogue, being prepared, in the municipalities of Hadjidimovo and Rudozem.


During the interviews, the team selected five young people up to 40 years old from each municipality, to participate in two workshops on the preparation of these meetings. The first workshop, on "Organizational management. Working meetings. Time management. Team cooperation", took place on the territory of Blagoevgrad region, in the town of Ognyanovo from 12 to 14 January 2007 with speakers Ventseslav Panchev, sociologist, and Ivelin Nikolov, political scientist. The module consists of ten sessions.


The second seminar, on "Planning and project oriented thinking. Project cycle. Lobbying and civic support. Meetings for civic dialogue", took place on the territory of Smolyan Municipality from 2 to 4 February 2007 with speakers Violeta Chavdarova and Tenyo Manolov, organizational consultants; and Reneta Veneva – a social psychologist. The module consisted of eight sessions and three practical sessions, during which participants worked divided into four teams.


During the workshops, the results of the typological study were presented to the participants and they were included as a target group. During the last two sessions of the workshop they presented an idea for a topic, on which the meeting on civil dialogue in their municipality to be held.


At the last session, the teams presented the following topics on projects developed by them:

-         "Improving the living conditions of citizens in Zlatograd". Objective: informing about the current status of the living spaces between blocks and houses, and discussing proposals for their improvement.

-         "Building an ecological network on the territory of Rodozem Municipality”. Objective: Discussing ideas for solving environmental problems in the municipality.

-         Promoting natural and historical landmarks of Hadjidimovo Municipality. Objective: To inform more people in the country and abroad about the natural and historical landmarks of Hadjidimovo Municipality, in order to attract tourists and investors.


A study was conducted, aiming to find out, in which of the municipalities the projects have greatest chance of being implemented and get support from the local community. The representatives of all four municipalities offered their hospitality but the project team focused on the municipalities of Hadjidimovo and Rudozem.



Meetings for Civil Dialogue


The main purpose of these meetings is to bring together for discussion about 50 citizens and local officials to discuss a pre-selected topic. During these meetings an agreement should be reached on a list of the major issues on this topic and their prioritization.


In Hadjidimovo Municipality (March 9, 2007) about 60 people joined the dialogue - teachers, high school students, youth NGOs, community center workers, local activists of the cultural life in the municipality, participants in amateur artistic groups, etc.  Participants from the training in Satovcha also took part. The meeting was facilitated by the moderator Reneta Veneva – a social psychologist. The mayor of the municipality refused to participate in the meeting, basing on personal considerations. Additionally, the meeting turned into an occasion for the creativity expression of children from the municipality.


Forum Topic: Promoting the natural - historical landmarks of Hadjidimovo Municipality.

Objective: To inform more people in the country and abroad about the natural - historical landmarks of Hadjidimovo municipality, in order to attract tourists and investors.

The meeting ended successfully with the formation of working teams to continue work on concrete proposals and to development a project that can be submitted to the State Agency for Youth and Sports /SAYS/.



The second meeting was held in Rudozem (March 23).


The meeting was opened by the Deputy Mayor of Rudozem and was facilitated by a moderator - Reneta Veneva. The Forum topic was: Discussing ideas for solving environmental problems in the municipality.


Results of the meeting: Written recommendations being made, aimed at the various authorities and institutions; Working groups were formed, with representatives from different social groups, on the issues concerning the development of a specific proposal, which had been discussed earlier.


The team believes that one of the main achievements of the project is being able to trigger the creation of civil dialogue during the project activities. The project participants were introduced to a successfully working model for keeping a discussion on topics relevant to the municipality. At the same time, the participants who took part in the training modules of ISI, managed to attract other people around them to work in a team.


The Expert Council of ISI evaluated the implementation of this project as a successful model for increasing citizens’ participation of small municipalities.