The European Commission has suspended hundreds of millions of euros worth of aid to Bulgaria over corruption and organised crime.
In a damming report, the Commission said Bulgaria had failed to produce results in its fight to tackle corruption. Two key payment agencies will be barred from receiving aid.
But, Commission spokesman Johannes Laitenberger said the decision to freeze funding was not irreversible: “The Commission recognises the efforts taken over recent months by the Bulgarian authorities. Nevertheless it is the Commission duty to safeguard the financial interests of the EU. The Commission has made it clear that it is prepared to reverse this decision as soon as Bulgaria has taken the necessary corrective measures.”
Almost 500 million Euros of EU aid to Bulgaria is being frozen.
The report, and another on the Bulgaria’s justice system, is one of the most scathing ever levelled by Brussels at a member state.
Gergana Noutcheva from the Centre for European Studies welcomed the Commission’s findings: “This pressure from the European Commission is quite welcome at a popular level. Because we have seen a lot of promises and commitment by successive governments to make progress on corruption and fight against organised crime and we’ve seen zero results”.
Fellow member state Romania was also criticised by the Commission for shortcomings in its judiciary and progress in combating corruption.
But the newcomer will escape financial penalties for now.