WORLD

The EU’s most corrupt new member

PATRICIA TREBLE August 4 2008
WORLD

The EU’s most corrupt new member

PATRICIA TREBLE August 4 2008

The EU’s most corrupt new member

PATRICIA TREBLE

Critics of the European Union’s massive expansion, worried that the community’s selection criteria had become too lax, have singled out Bulgaria, which joined last year without the usual EU-

mandated reforms to its government, judiciary and economy. Last week, those concerns were vindicated when a scathing draft report on Bulgaria’s mismanagement of billions of dollars of EU aid meant for desperately needed infrastructure funding was leaked. Sofia was urged to “cleanse its administration and ensure that the generous support it receives from the EU actually reaches its citizens and is not siphoned off by corrupt officials, operating together with organized crime.” The EU is also alarmed over 150 mafia killings, since the Communists lost power, without a single conviction.

BOMB BLASTS are common in Bulgaria, where the mob rules

Brussels didn’t just talk tough. It froze around $1.6 billion in aid. And two Bulgarian agencies are likely to lose control of nearly $1 billion in subsidies because of financial mismanagement. The problems are massive: in February the head of the road infrastructure project resigned after allegedly giving $100 million in contracts to his brother. As a result, the EU could reconsider at least $11 billion in aid expected to flow into Bulgaria over the next five years. And Bulgaria will likely be blocked from joining the passportfree area and the euro-currency zone.

The news got even worse for the EU’s poorest nation, ranked just No. 64 on Transparency International’s corruption index. Another leaked report, by the EU Anti-Fraud Office, described a “criminal network” of more than 50 Bulgarian and foreign firms, with ties to senior politicians, that could be skimming farm subsidies. In response, Deputy Prime Minister Meglena Plugchieva asked the antifraud unit to send more auditors to Sofia. The government also hired two PR firms.