Bulgaria ‘Working with EU’ in Fraud Probe

Sofia – A spokesman for the EU’s Anti-Fraud Office says Bulgaria has so far showed political will in cooperating with the body over the misuse of funds.

“It would be unfair to say the problem with corruption does not exist in Bulgaria. What’s important is the trend, namely that there are strong declarations on part of the Bulgarian authorities to strengthen their cooperation with (European Anti-Fraud Office) OLAF OLAF,” Alessandro Buttice said in an interview with Bulgarian National Television.

Buttice emphasised, however, that OLAF expected specific results in Bulgaria’s judicial affairs.

In his words, it would be logical to expect financial sanctions if abuses were uncovered because European Union funds did not come from another planet but were the money of all European taxpayers.

The OLAF spokesman believes that corruption was more of a cultural phenomenon and that therefore more time was needed to deal with it.

Buttice also explained OLAF was a completely independent organisation within the European Union and based its investigations solely on facts.

Last Monday a Bulgarian court launched a landmark trial against nine people accused of embezzling millions from European Union aid funds.

The defendants were accused of stealing 14 million levs (€7.1 million) in funds made available to Bulgaria by the EU as part of the SAPARD (Special Accession Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development) programme.

However two resignations in less than a week have dealt a blow to Bulgaria’s efforts to persuade the European Commission to unfreeze a total of €825 million in aid.

The European Commission is expected to decide on November 23 whether to resume some of these payments or suspend the money altogether.

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