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EC to check on Bulgaria in December

Date: 11.11.2008

The European Commission will send a fact-finding mission to Bulgaria in early December 2008, Bulgarian news agency BTA quoted European Commission spokesperson Mark Grey on November 5 2008. The mission will check the country's progress in addressing the criticism that the Commission levelled at Bulgaria in its previous report in July.

The focus of the EC criticism was the country's progress in fighting organised crime and corruption, as well as the use of European Union funds and the conflict of interest situations that top Government officials found themselves in.

Grey told BTA that the findings of the mission would be included in the next report on Bulgaria ,scheduled to be published in the summer of 2009, around the time the country holds its next Parliament elections. By that time Bulgarians would have voted for their members of European Parliament as well.

Grey also said that Bulgaria had still a lot to do to meet the EC criteria but he welcomed the appointment of Meglena Plougchieva as Deputy Prime Minister in charge of EU funds. The use of EU funds by Bulgaria has been a subject of heavy criticism lately, not only from the EC, but from the the European Anti Fraud Office (Olaf) as well.

Talking to Bulgarian journalists in Brussels on November 4 2008, Olaf spokesperson Jorg Wojahn said that the fight against corruption was Bulgaria's own responsibility and that Olaf was in no position to do the country's job in this respect.

One of the main points of criticism was Bulgaria's lack of court sentences for corruption, he said, raising question marks over the Cabinet's efforts in this direction.

He said that Olaf could name the problems in Bulgarian judiciary, but could do nothing to solve them. Recently, Bulgaria presented in Brussels a report on corruption court cases that have been closed as an example of the work of its judiciary. The report was published by Bulgarian-language Dnevnik daily and showed that the highest-ranked public officials to have been sentenced were mayors of small towns, often from political parties that are currently in opposition.

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