Wednesday, June 27, 2007

New EU states attacked over graft

By Oana Lungescu
BBC News, Brussels

The European Commission is to criticise Bulgaria and Romania for failing to tackle deep-rooted corruption and reform their judiciary. Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU six months ago. A report by the Commission highlights the lack of convictions in high-level corruption cases and voices concern about contract killings in Bulgaria.

The report, seen by the BBC and due to be released on Wednesday, stops short of calling for sanctions. Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU on the strictest terms ever but the report shows that, in the last six months, judicial reforms have had little or no result. Politicians killed The main concern is the lack of convictions for high-level corruption. The report says Romanian judges have failed to show they understand their role in curbing corruption.

Judges in the country continue to hand down suspended sentences or to refer the most important cases, including one against a former prime minister, to the constitutional court. The report also highlights contract killings in Bulgaria as a great concern. It draws particular attention to the targeting of several local politicians since January, which have not led to any prosecutions. Risk to businesses The European Commission says it is too early to trigger sanctions and it will continue to monitor both countries for at least another year.

The monitoring reports are supposed to keep up political pressure on new and future EU entrants. But the only penalty available to the commission is to refuse to recognise court decisions made in Bulgaria and Romania, such as arrest warrants or decisions on company law. Many fear that would hurt western businesses and let criminals off the hook. As one EU official put it, it would be like using our only missile against our own navy.

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