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Mariya Gabriel Endorses Horizon Europe’s Widening Measures to Bridge Research Gap Ahead of Bulgarian Premiership

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Mariya Gabriel, set to ascend to Bulgaria’s prime ministerial role in March, champions Horizon Europe’s Widening measures as a key strategy to address Europe’s research and innovation disparities. Speaking at the Science|Business annual conference, marking four decades of the Framework research programmes, Gabriel lauded the efficacy of Widening initiatives in narrowing the research performance gap between Western and Eastern European states.

Recognising the formidable challenge of closing this gap, Gabriel stressed the imperative of supporting Widening countries in unlocking their research potential. Against the backdrop of Europe’s trailing innovation compared to global counterparts like the US and China, Gabriel emphasised the pressing need for enhanced competitiveness and collaborative action.

Gabriel relinquished her role as European research commissioner last May to facilitate Bulgaria’s coalition government formation. She currently serves as deputy prime minister and foreign secretary. Under the coalition agreement terms, she is slated to succeed Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov in March.

Gabriel’s endorsement coincides with ongoing debates over the future of Widening measures, with proposals to fund them through separate mechanisms such as EU structural funds. Despite calls for reevaluation, Gabriel defended Widening measures as a “powerful tool” for enabling countries to catch up, citing examples of excellence transcending geographical boundaries.

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Articulating her vision for Bulgaria as a regional innovation hub, Gabriel emphasized the critical need for investment in research and development. While supporting the goal of dedicating 3% of GDP to research, she underscored the substantial gap between Bulgaria’s current research expenditure and the EU average.

Identifying a lack of coordination between ministries and stakeholders as a key challenge, Gabriel referenced Bulgaria’s recent legislative strides to bolster collaboration between academia and industry. She underscored the shared understanding within Bulgaria of the transformative impact of research and innovation in fostering societal advancement and economic prosperity.

In closing, Gabriel stressed the imperative of collective endeavors to position Bulgaria and Europe as attractive destinations for research and innovation.

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