The European Commission has informed Bulgaria that the payments from the EU funds under the Operational Programme (OP) Environment for the programming period 2007-2013 are restored. The official letter has already been sent to the Bulgarian authorities on 13 November.
This means that the European Commission will now process payment requests from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Cohesion Fund for projects under this Operational Programme.
The payments towards Bulgaria will now be restarted and the Commission will proceed with a first payment of EUR 166m from the Cohesion Fund and EUR 74m from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
Commissioner Corina Creţu, in charge of Regional Policy, said: "I welcome the positive steps taken by the Bulgarian authorities to improve and strengthen the OP Environment's management system. The payments towards Bulgaria will now restart, which is excellent news for the Bulgarian economy, but also for the future of the partnership between Bulgaria and the European Commission."
Vice-President Kristalina Georgieva, responsible for Budget and Human Resources, said: "The recovery of the funds under OP Environment is great news for Bulgaria. It comes at the right time for the country and its budget, and shows that the European Commission recognises it when a job is done well and the rules are respected. The funds envisaged for Bulgaria have to be used effectively, in order to ensure a better quality of life for people. I would like to encourage the Bulgarian government to make the best use of funds - next year will be the last chance to benefit from the money of the programming period 2007-2013."
In the beginning of 2014 the European Commission initiated a procedure leading to a temporary suspension of payments from the EU funds due to suspected irregularities related to public procurement in the implementation of the projects and due to the weaknesses in the OP's management and control systems.
After an audit mission in October 2014, the Commission concluded that all corrective measures had been implemented. This will significantly reduce the risk of errors and irregularities with expenditure in future.