Brussels, 23 July 2008
Why does the Commission report on the management of EU funds in Bulgaria?
Bulgaria, like other Member States, has received important financial and technical support from the European Union in the pre-accession period and is eligible for high levels of financial support in the period up to 2013 - €6.852 billion from the Structural Funds alone. Whereas Structural Funds are at an early stage of implementation in Bulgaria, funds received in the pre-accession period (under programmes such as PHARE, ISPA and SAPARD) are already being implemented. In addition to administrative delays common to many Member States, the Commission has become aware of weaknesses in the control systems used in Bulgaria and a number of cases of fraud and irregularity. The Bulgarian authorities are aware of these problems and have been taking steps to address them, including by nominating a deputy Prime Minister to oversee the administration of EU funds in the country. Given its responsibility under the Treaty for the implementation of the EU budget and for protecting the EU's financial interests, the Commission has decided to report about these implementation difficulties in Bulgaria to the EU's budgetary authority, Parliament and Council. In its report, the Commission outlines the implementation problems encountered and provides an overview of remedial measures taken to date and of next steps.
What does the report on the management of EU funds say?
Common management and financial control standards must be met by all Member States in the management of EU funds. These include strict procurement procedures (e.g. on tendering, evaluation and award of contract) and rigorous financial control. European Union funding is made available only once sound financial management can be demonstrated and certified. Bulgaria is experiencing serious implementation difficulties in several EU funded programmes still has to demonstrate that sound financial management structures are in place and operate effectively. Administrative capacity is still weak and there have been serious allegations of irregularities as well as suspicions of fraud and conflicts of interest in the award of contracts. These have led to the temporary suspension of funds.
In recognising the dimensions of the problem, the Bulgarian government has recently taken a number of corrective steps. It has started work on procedural and legislative changes needed to effectively deal with conflict of interest. It has made some key high level appointments – such as the appointment of a Vice-Prime Minister responsible for the co-ordination of EU funds who is at the same time the head of the Bulgarian Anti Fraud Coordination Service. A new Director of the Audit Authority has been appointed. These are steps in the right direction. But, all of this must be followed up by credible, structural corrective actions and a fundamental reform.
What must Bulgaria do urgently to get back on track?
EU funds earmarked for Bulgaria are the practical expression of the Union’s solidarity with the citizens of Bulgaria. In its report, the Commission encourages Bulgaria to take urgent action to implement EU funds which are aimed at fostering social cohesion, improving regional development and at enhancing Bulgaria’s overall economic performance and stability. It advises that:
Where can the report be obtained?
The report is ready for download at the following website: http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/secretariat_general/cvm/index_en.htm