Friday, February 13, 2009

EU chides Romania, Bulgaria over corruption

Thursday, February 12, 2009

BRUSSELS: The European Union on Thursday chided Romania for backtracking on key judicial reforms meant to combat corruption and organized crime.

The European Commission said in the latest judicial review Romania's pace of progress in meeting EU standards "has not been maintained" over recent months, citing delays in high-level corruption cases.

"Romania must demonstrate the existence of an autonomously functioning, stable judiciary which is able to try and sanction corruption and the rule of law," the Commission said.

A similar report was also issued for Bulgaria, which along with Romania joined the EU in 2007.

The two have so far failed to live up to promises to move quickly to bring their judicial systems up to EU standards and are facing cuts in much needed funds out of fears at EU headquarters that they will be mismanaged.

"Everything will depend on the progress being made," said EU spokesman Johannes Laitenberger.

Bulgaria's report was slightly better than last year's review, which led the Commission to freeze around Euro 500 million ($643 million) in aid to Bulgaria because of what it called rampant corruption, organized crime and severe spending irregularities.

The EU report welcomed "initial steps" in implementing reforms to restructure Bulgaria's prosecution office and its justice and interior ministries to tackle corruption and organized crime. But the EU did not restore frozen aid, some of which has lapsed as programs ran out.

EU concerns were echoed by anti-corruption group Transparency International. It urged "continued anti-corruption progress monitoring" for both countries.

"Hardly any concrete, irreversible measures to prevent and combat corruption have been implemented," the group said in a statement.

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