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BRITISH PRESS REACTIONS TO EU WITHHOLDING FUNDS FROM BULGARIA
27.11.2008   bulgarien.dk

British press reactions to EU withholding funds from Bulgaria

 

In an unprecedented move Bulgaria has lost 220 million euro of European Union funding for failing to crack down on fraud and corruption. The foreign press reported on the news laconically. No commentators expressed surprise at the confirmation of the news or sympathy with the government.

The Financial Times cites the reaction of Bulgaria's Deputy Prime Minister Meglena Plougchieva who described the Commission’s decision as “disappointing”. The paper quotes her as saying: “The administration made tremendous efforts in the past six months. But we will continue to work…to protect the interests of Bulgarian and European taxpayers.”

Stephen Castle, whose report was published in The Times of London, says that the decision confirmed longstanding disquiet over Bulgaria's perceived failure to root out corruption. “Alarm bells rang in Brussels after the arrest of the head of the Bulgarian roads agency for handing a 50 million euro contract to build a new highway to his brother. Since then investigations have started into 101 projects designed to modernise the country’s agricultural sector but which are suspected of falling into the hands of organised crime”.

The Times cites a particular example: “In one notorious case, an agency allegedly claimed for the cost of brand new tractors for a modernisation programme but actually bought scrap vehicles from the former East Germany, pocketing the difference.”

The Daily Telegraph's Bruno Waterfield notes the irony of such a “backward” country forfeiting so much money. “The Europe Union's poorest country, has set a new record by being stripped of £187 million in EU funding because of widespread spending irregularities, corruption and fraud linked to organised crime,” he writes.



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