Monday, July 16, 2007

EU criticises Bulgaria, encourages Romania for management of EU funds

AFP

16 July 2007, 12:00 CET

(SOFIA) - The head of the European Union's Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) criticised Bulgaria and praised neighbouring Romania for their preparedness to make proper use of the bloc's funds in an interview in the Dnevnik newspaper Monday.

The Bulgarian authorities have to realise that "the problems will not disappear if they have been ignored long enough," OLAF Director General Franz-Hermann Bruner told the newspaper.

"We hope for improvements as soon as possible," he added.

Romania, which joined the EU together with Bulgaria on January 1, is "four years ahead" in its preparedness to efficiently manage European money and prevent fraud, Bruner said.

"The Romanians began to prepare long before Bulgaria and made the proper distribution of European funds their priority even before their accession," he added.

Bulgaria still has trouble with ensuring clear and transparent public tender procedures, while "the system creates the impression that it works for certain people by leaving loopholes that can be used by those who know the procedures," he said.

OLAF is currently investigating 12 cases of fraud with money from the EU pre-accession funds as the country still has not started to make use of the over 11 billion euros made available to it in the first years after accession.

In February, police arrested five Bulgarians, two Germans, and two Swiss for syphoning off some 7.8 million euros from the SAPARD programme for rural development.

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