Von: Alexandra Stiglmayer
Gesendet: 22 July 2006
An: 'Kristof Bender'
Betreff: Bulgaria courts EU with
summer clampdown on sleaze
courts EU with summer clampdown on sleaze
20.07.2006 - 16:27
BRUSSELS - Bulgaria is waging a summer offensive to improve how it is perceived
in Brussels, opening anti-corruption hotlines and sacking shady officials, with
the European Commission saying Sofia can take "no holidays" if it wants to avoid
EU entry delay.
The Bulgarian government last Friday (14 July) submitted
a roughly 1,000 page long report to the commission including a series of
measures taken against corruption, money laundering and organised crime.
An internal note highlighting parts of this report, seen by EUobserver,
reveals an intense campaign by Sofia to avert any delay in its scheduled 1
January EU membership.
The commission could propose a year delay of its
membership in a report due on 26 September if entry preparations are deemed
insufficient, particularly in the so-called "red flag" areas of crime and
Bulgarian foreign minister Ivailo Kalfin told reporters on
Monday (17 July) that these issues fall within the "perception sphere," as they
go beyond the simple adoption of EU legislation.
The minister said the
report sent to Brussels last week, updating
progress made by Sofia since the commission's last report in
May, contains "very promising results."
161 cases of corruption were
investigated from 1 January to 31 May this year, with corrupt officials having
pocketed €14.2 million and taken bribes worth €357,836, according to the
In a bid to clamp down on further sleaze, Sofia opened a national
telephone number - 982-22-22 - as well as a website where people can report
corrupt behaviour, which produced 624 alerts this month.
document states that "standards for administrative ethics have been elaborated
and disseminated at all levels of the state administration - 600 posters and
On top of this, 20,000 self-education CDs on
corruption were distributed to civil servants, while public administrations have
installed post boxes where sleaze can be reported.
Two high level
officials, the chief of the State Reserves agency, Dimitar Dimitrov, as well as
the popular head of the National Fire and Emergency Services, Kiril Voynov, were
respectively sacked and suspended.
Meanwhile, the Bulgarian parliament
adopted a new anti- money laundering law by which "the prosecutor general will
have competences to request from banks information constituting bank secrecy,
which cannot be refused," according to the document.
government also reassured Brussels that "in the period January-May 2006, the
criminal activity of 44 organised crime groups was dismantled," amid media
reports of uncontrolled violence by gangs in Sofia.
EU enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn during the
commission's last meeting before the summer break on Wednesday (19 July) shortly
briefed other commissioners on Bulgaria as well as Romania which is also
scheduled to enter the union in January.
A commission spokesman said
after the meeting "There is progress, but we need to maintain the momentum. Work
has been undertaken and this has led to good results, but this is a snapshot of
the situation right now and efforts must continue in order to reach the
One commission official added that Sofia and Bucharest can take "no summer holidays" as a
lot of work still needs to be done.
A Bulgarian diplomat confirmed that
all officials working on the EU file have been told not to take any holidays,
with a discussion currently ongoing on whether parliamentarians should cancel
Even some commission officials - normally enjoying long
holiday breaks - will be working during the summer visiting Bulgaria and Romania for a
series of so-called peer reviews ahead of the September report.
Bulgaria's Mr Kalfin said he expects
a "critical report" from the commission in September, which will still mention
"But we will make sure that there are not too many to
activate the postponement clause," he added.