Monday

16th May 2022

Bulgaria and Romania taken to task by Brussels over corruption

The European Commission is on Wednesday (23 July) set to strongly criticise Bulgaria and Romania for their failure to take effective action against corruption.

The language will be particularly harsh towards Bulgaria – but neither of the countries will face concrete sanctions at this stage, according to the reports on the justice and home affairs situation in the EU newest member states seen by EUobserver.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Plovdiv - Bulgaria's second biggest city (Photo: EUobserver)

The Bulgaria report welcomes efforts made by the country in the area, but says they are insufficient as initiatives are rarely followed by concrete results.

Addressing the issue of persistent corruption problems, it also notes that only few cases have actually been effectively dealt with.

"While there has been movement on a few cases and widespread publicity given to the 'war on corruption,' these cases represent a negligible share of crimes effectively punished in Bulgaria."

Additionally, "the fight against high-level corruption and organised crime is not producing results."

"Institutions and procedures look good on paper but do not produce good results in practice; recommendations are made but are not followed up. The core problems remain," the paper goes on.

'A growing sense of frustration'

The commission also underlines that while much assistance has been provided to the country, Sofia has not been making full use of it.

As a result, it says, "a growing sense of frustration" is developing "amongst member states who have offered support."

"They are withdrawing their experts or are reluctant to provide additional expertise because of lack of transparency and results in their dealings with the Bulgarian administration and poor results."

In a separate report, the commission will also assess the management of EU funds in Bulgaria, slamming the country for poor handling of the bloc's money.

"Bulgaria… has to make the commitment to cleanse its administration and ensure that the generous support it receives from the EU… is not siphoned off by corrupt officials, operating together with organised crime," says this second commission's draft.

Additionally, Brussels is to announce the freezing of €600 million for Bulgaria under the PHARE pre-accession programme, and to threaten Sofia with losing these and more millions of pre-accession funds for good if it does not take necessary measures.

But despite the shortcomings and the unusually strong language about a fully-fledged member state, the commission is to stop short of punishing Sofia, as "for the time being, [it] considers support to be more effective than sanctions."

Nevertheless, Brussels stresses that the formal monitoring of the justice and home affairs field in both countries will continue "for some time to come." The unprecedented surveillance was established amid concerns that the two were not sufficiently prepared for membership when they joined the EU at the beginning of last year.

Romania: an 'encouraging start'

Romania comes off the better of the two countries. The criticism it receives is less harsh than that of its southern neighbour – and a separate report on its management of EU money is not to be released.

The Romanian document stresses that progress is still needed in both the fight against corruption and judicial reform; that the reform process is "volatile" and "there are too few final convictions in high level corruption cases".

It also says that "the Parliament has to demonstrate an unequivocal commitment to rooting out high level corruption" - a reference to the institution's delay in examining corruption cases involving a former prime minister and other top officials.

But Bucharest is judged to have had a "modest, but encouraging start" and have re-established "its commitment to judicial reform and the fight against corruption."

According to the commission, the country "presents a mixed picture. It has put the fundamental elements of a functioning system in place. But the foundation is fragile and decisions on corruption are highly politicised."

The conclusion for Romania is that it is generally "starting to move in the right direction. The new institutions and processes need time to prove their effectiveness and should be allowed to continue on a steady course."

By contrast, "Bulgaria has taken steps in the right direction … But improvements are still superficial – Bulgaria has to translate words into deeds and deliver on its commitment to serious reform."

The final versions of the draft documents will only be ready and presented by the commission on Wednesday.

Bulgaria under fire for corruption levels

The European Commission is next week to release a report harshly criticising Bulgaria for the way it has been handling EU funds, and suspend payments to two of the country's agencies charged with managing EU projects. The draft talks of organised crime, corrupt officials and an outdated administration.

Commission softens tone on Bulgaria, Romania corruption

The European Commission on Wednesday released its annual reports on the justice and home affairs situation in Bulgaria and Romania, criticising the two countries for their persistent corruption problems. But the tone of the criticism, notably towards Bulgaria, was considerably softer than in a previously circulated draft version of the documents.

Hungary turned into 'hybrid regime', MEPs say

The new draft European Parliament report is an update to the 2018 report which triggered the Article 7 procedure against Hungary, a sanctions probe aiming to rein in member states that break EU rules and values.

Exclusive

EU to clean house of Russia lobbyists

Brussels is to wave goodbye to Russian lobbyists under new sanctions, ending a 20-year era of influence peddling in Europe.

MEPs urge EU not to relax policing rule-of-law amid war

European lawmakers debated the lack of progress in the EU sanctions probe against Poland and Hungary, and warned Russia's invasion of Ukraine should not be a reason to turn away from rule-breaking within the bloc.

News in Brief

  1. German ruling party in regional election blow
  2. EU expanding arms-for-Ukraine programme
  3. Reports: EU drafts plans for Russia energy payments
  4. Pro-Russian hackers targeted Eurovision
  5. EU to donate extra €400m for Africa vaccines rollout
  6. Spain plans five-days 'menstrual leave' and to ease abortion rules
  7. MEPs reject proposal for stricter 2030 target on cars and vans
  8. Study: EU spent €341m on AI border technology

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  3. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  4. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersHuge support for Ukraine
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBWorkers want EC to limit subcontracting chains in construction

Latest News

  1. Sweden to join Finland in applying for Nato
  2. Russia sanctions and energy dominate Next WEEK
  3. Will 'Putin's Nato' follow Warsaw Pact into obscurity?
  4. EU reaches deal on flagship cybersecurity law
  5. EU to help Ukraine export grain — amid food shortages fears
  6. Revealed: Big Oil shaped EU's gas-cutting strategy
  7. EU: Ukrainians hesitating to register for protection
  8. UK says 'no choice but to act' over post-Brexit trade rules

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us