Wednesday, June 27, 2007

EU executive chides Romania, Bulgaria on corruption

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission told EU newcomers Bulgaria and Romania on Wednesday they have made insufficient progress in fighting corruption and that they risk sanctions in the future if they do not meet detailed benchmarks.

The European Union executive adopted surveys of the Black Sea neighbors warning them there was no room for complacency despite some progress in remedying weaknesses on justice and home affairs.

The Commission said it was too early either to decide on possible sanctions or to remove that threat for the two states which joined the bloc in January.

Romania was credited with progress in judicial reform and substantial progress in creating a National Integrity Agency.

But in both countries, "progress in the judicial treatment of high-level corruption is insufficient", the reports said.

The Bulgaria report was critical of the absence of practical results across the whole area of crime-fighting, saying there was no room for complacency.

"'Contract killings' continue to be of great concern, and in particular most recent killings of local politicians since January. To date no prosecution and conviction has taken place."

The EU executive was mandated to report every six months on the eastern Balkan newcomers' progress in meeting a series of benchmarks on judicial reform, corruption and organized crime under their accession treaty.

It is also due to report separately later this year on their ability to administer and absorb regional aid and agricultural subsidies, which may lead to a partial withholding of some money from Brussels, EU officials say.

The Commission set out a series of detailed measures each country should take to implement reforms and demonstrate results to meet the benchmarks on justice and home affairs.

It said Sofia had met one key benchmark by passing a constitutional amendment establishing the independence and accountability of the judiciary.

Bulgaria had also made some progress towards transparency in its judicial process, improving the professionalism and efficiency of judges.

However, the overall picture was unsatisfactory.

No comments: