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Bulgaria Gets Back EUR 82,56 M Frozen Aid under PHARE
19.11.2009   European Commission, funds, PHARE, ISPA, SAPARD

Brussels decision to unblock PHARE aid comes after it released earlier in the year EUR 115 M of ISPA

The European Commission confirmed it has unblocked EUR 82,563 M in EU funding for Bulgaria under PHARE program, which was suspended last year for the country's failure to adequately tackle corruption.

This was announced by an official statement of the European Commission Representation in Bulgaria.

“The Commission is lifting the suspension of payments for the accession-related programmes PHARE and the Transition Facility in Bulgaria,” European Commission spokesman Mark Gray said.

In his words the decision is the result of the considerable efforts made by the Bulgarian authorities in close liaison with the Commission, to identify previous irregularities and to offer proposals for corrective action.

"The decision shows that Bulgaria has taken the recommendations of the Commission seriously and improved the financial management and control of EU funds,“ he added.

Bulgaria has been allowed to fund, through its own budget for the time being, projects under PHARE pre-accession program, concluded by July 2008, when the European Commission barred two agencies from handling PHARE money.

The unblocked funds must be used by the end of the year.

A total of EUR 340 M of contracted but unpaid aid were shelved after the Commission revoked the accreditation of the Central Finance and Contracts Unit of Bulgaria's Finance Ministry and the Executive Agency of the Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works in July 2008.

In an unprecedented move, the European Union's executive arm upheld in November the same year a suspension of EUR 220 M under PHARE programme, designed to help Bulgaria prepare for its January 2007 accession to the bloc by funding infrastructure projects, and helping to strengthen institutions and the rule of law.

Brussels decision to unblock PHARE aid comes after it released earlier in the year EUR 115 M of ISPA road funds and authorized payments of EUR 109,6 M blocked under the SAPARD agricultural program.

The news follows last week's special report by the EU commission, which said most EU funds are still on hold in Bulgaria due to weak financial supervision and scant follow-up on irregularities.

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