Iskra Mihailova, MEP, Deputy Chair of the “Renew Europe” Group: BCC will play an extremely important role in the modernization of the construction industry in BulgariaThe “renovation wave”, the increase in energy efficiency and renovation of buildings is task N1 for all member states
Ms. Mihailova, we are in a wonderful place near Brussels - in the Chateau de La Hulpe, after a very successful high-level conference in the European Parliament (EP), according to the participants. Why was this place chosen?
I am glad that the participants at the conference are pleased with the event in the EP, and that after it we managed to gather in this special place. Chateau de La Hulpe is located 15 km from the Belgian capital. It was built by the Solvay family, which is well known in Bulgaria. The chemical company Solvay Sodi in Devnya was founded by this Belgian family, and the company still operates.
Solvay is an old and highly respected family in Belgium. After running the Solvay mansion, now known as the Chateau de La Hulpe, for several generations, the family chose to donate it to the Flemish government to host cultural events, instead of selling it. We decided to gather here because the place is very Belgian and because the chateau is extremely beautiful. I was sure that the builders from Bulgaria will appreciate both the building itself and the beautiful view outside, as well as the opportunity to feel the Belgian culture.
Could you comment a little more on the high-level conference in the EP? Tell us about the topics that were discussed and the current issues that were raised at the event?
The conference was conceived in 2020. At that time we did not expect that there would be a pandemic of COVID-19. The main topic that we defined at that time, and which is still of paramount importance, is the digitalization of the construction industry in Europe and in our country in particular. For the past two years, digitalization in our country has developed, because during the period the Bulgarian Construction Chamber (BCC) has not stood idly by, but prepared a project for a European digital innovation hub in the construction sector. I hope that it will be supported by the EU, and there is every chance that this will happen. Thus, the BCC will be able to play an extremely important role in the modernization of the construction industry in Bulgaria.
For the past two years, new topics have emerged - energy efficiency (EE), national recovery, and sustainability plans. Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, a key issue has been Europe's energy independence, which is going through energy-saving and EE again. At the EP conference, together with the BCC, we discussed all these topics, and I am very grateful that the participants in the forum managed to combine them into one complex topic, which gives clear messages to construction companies and outlines their responsibilities.
During the event, in your speech you mentioned several forthcoming European directives that will play a significant role in the development of the construction industry. What should the construction industry in Bulgaria focus on?
The construction industry needs to be very careful, invest in research, and monitor what is happening in the European Parliament. In Strasbourg, we will vote on 8 directives, which concern the industry. They are in a package of 14 directives entitled "Prepared for 55". These are the directives that will reduce harmful carbon emissions in Europe by 55% by 2030. The construction sector has a very responsible aim to realize this goal.
Firstly, the buildings in Europe produce more than 40% of harmful emissions and also use more than 36% of the energy produced in the EU. If we want to reduce energy consumption and harmful emissions, we need to pay attention to buildings. Number one task for all member states is the "renovation wave", the increase in energy efficiency and renovation of buildings, starting with public and continuing with private ones. This is also enshrined in the National Plan for Recovery and Sustainability. I hope Bulgaria will realize it quickly. In addition, the construction industry is linked to the directive on energy efficiency, renewable energy, and energy performance of buildings, as well as emission trading from buildings and transport, and the directive on the creation of a social climate fund, because they all concern buildings.
If we want to trade emissions from the building stock, we must have a clear passport. If we want energy efficiency, we need to renovate buildings. If we want to use renewable energy, we need to prepare plans according to which to introduce RES in the sites. It is no coincidence that one of the directives makes it very clear that there will be no new building built in the EU after 2027 that will be licensed if it does not have the resources for an independent energy supply. Whether it will be solar panels, geothermal energy, or hydrogen, I do not know, but these will be EU requirements. We are working on this in the European Parliament and I am very glad that together with the BCC we organized the conference right now, and I can send the necessary messages to the Bulgarian builders to be ready for the challenges that await them.
You have a long-term partnership with the BCC. What will be your next joint initiative with the branch organization?
Whenever I give an interview to the Stroitel newspaper, I answer the question: What will be your next step with the Bulgarian Construction Chamber? I hope this one has been successful. If so, I think the next initiative should be a more expert conversation to analyze the National Plan for Reconstruction and Sustainability, see the capabilities of the construction industry, assess the readiness of operational programs, and give a clear message to construction companies about what to expect, and especially what should be the requirements for workers, engineers, specialists and all those employed in the construction sector in Bulgaria.