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EU spending in Bulgaria
05.06.2008   bulgarien.dk
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Bulgaria along with Romania became the newest members of the European Union, since their accession in January 2007. Bulgaria is currently on probation however a lot of money has been spent improving areas in which the EU feel is needed. Bulgaria is the poorest country in the Union, with some of the lowest monthly salaries, for example health care workers receive as little as 219 Euros per month compared to countries in the West where the equivalent position would yield an income of around 2,144 Euros.

Unfortunately, Bulgaria has incurred a lot of scrutiny from the European Commission over the way funds have been distributed. EU Commissioner Michael Leigh in a recent letter to Bulgaria’s EU Co-coordinator suspended two areas of financial support due to corruption. The areas of suspended funding fall under the Finance Ministry and the Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works. Leigh recommended the firing of those ministers responsible for overseeing the funds and demanded an inquest into the misuse, which may result in the country having to pay back some of the money.

This does not mean that all spending in Bulgaria has been stopped, indeed the total amount of gross financial support for Bulgaria during 2007 and 2013 will be 11,113 billion Euros. Priority areas include improvements to the water system, which will give foreign water companies and consultancies opportunities to operate in Bulgaria. The environment is another priority sector and encompasses areas like waste disposal. Transport is also a key priority with the improvement of roads, railways and airports bringing further opportunities for foreign consultancy and development.

Currently, Bulgaria is negotiating with the European Commission to double its compensation for the early closure of four nuclear units at its Kozloduy power plant. The EU has allocated 550 million Euros to the decommissioning of the four units however ministers claim that 350 million Euros has already been used up. Bulgaria is planning to build a new nuclear power plant in conformity with Western standards, on the Danube island of Belene, but the project will take several years to become fully operational.

So how is the EU money spent and what sectors benefit at the moment?

Health care system

Bulgaria has allocated 12% of its EU funding to the health care system. However, EU finance ministers say that Bulgaria could utilize its own income more effectively in conjunction with EU funds by seeking a greater effectiveness of public spending, in particular through health care reforms. “Health care systems are not sufficiently effectively geared to control, and the fact that in 2005 we found over 200 million Leva arrears in the system testifies that in purely financial terms the system is not managed well,” the EU has recommended that money should be spent on increasing the salaries of doctors and nurses who work more than 42 hours a week, as well as improving the emergency services by giving them more updated equipment to perform more effectively at the scene of an accident and on training young doctors and nurses to European standards.

Water

Bulgaria has allowed 25% of the EU funding to be spent on improving its water services. Bulgaria wants to have in place main sewerage services and to provide all citizens with a constant flow of water all year round. Such measures will also clean up the environment by disposing waste water in an environmentally clean way. The plans for this section are currently only in the planning stages and it is estimated that it will take around 20 years to achieve these aims throughout the whole of Bulgaria.

Education

Bulgaria has allocated 30% of the EU money to education yet, the EU believes that the sector does not need such a large boost. Money currently is being spent on improving buildings, increasing wages and improving equipment and training. Yet half of the money is unaccounted for. The EU suggests that the money should be used to increase the wages of ancillary staff and not just for teachers and for improving not just school buildings but those within universities and teacher training centres.

Stray dogs Stray dog are a found loitering wild in all cities, towns and villages in Bulgaria and pose massive concerns for safety and tourism. The EU suggests that the country spend a percentage of its funding on creating facilities for stray dogs. They also believe that part of the funding in this area should be put towards a neutering programme in order to stabilize the stray population. Dogs as pets must stay within its owner’s property or risk being picked up and removed or when out must be walked on a lead.

Tourism

Over 50% of EU funding is spent in this section. The money is used to improve the infrastructure in resort areas and to upgrade airports to include larger duty free shopping areas and better parking facilities. Leading resorts such as Bansko have been given funds to improve and upgrade ski areas. Another area of tourism funding is the introduction of more training areas for tourism including a Tourism University.

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