Bulgarian report shows corruption level did not change "significantly" in 2003 BBC - 2004/2/17
The level of corruption in Bulgaria did not change significantly in 2003. Corruption is still perceived to be one of the gravest problems of society. This is indicated by the Coalition 2000 Corruption Indexes, which measure the spread of corruption and the perceptions of the general population, the business community and analysts. The results have been put together in a Corruption Assessment Report for 2003 unveiled at a news conference in Sofia Monday [16 February].

"Corruption" is defined as the number of corruption transactions concluded in a given period of time in the country.

In the Transparency International rankings, which show similar results as the Coalition 2000 report, Bulgaria's scores are equal to those of the Czech Republic and higher than those of some acceding states such as Poland, Latvia and Slovakia, the Corruption Assessment Report says.

In a positive trend, the values of the 2003 indexes for levels of corruption among the population and the business sector are the lowest since 1998. The absolute number of corruption transactions carried out by citizens and companies, however, remains disturbingly high. The average monthly number of corruption transactions which corresponds to an index value of 0.4 (for the population) is about 100,000. For the business sector, the average monthly value of the index for 2003 is about 1.2, which corresponds to about 4,000 corruption transactions.

The steady corruption level is in contrast to the Bulgarian public's expectations for improvement, the report says. This lack of development signals that the anticorruption measures undertaken so far have been exhausted. In the last few years, anticorruption efforts have, to a certain extent, succeeded, due to certain "soft" forms of curbing corruption, i.e., extensive public pressure. However, few of the essential structural faults that breed corruption in various segments of society have been remedied.

The main challenge of the annual assessment of corruption in Bulgaria is distinguishing actual corrupt practices from the accusations of corruption used in partisan politics, the authors of the report write. They distinguish between two divergent trends in this context: the destabilization of political life which expands opportunities for corrupt practices, is one, and a contrasting trend concerns the plummeting of corruption-generating resources in the economy.

In the political field, interest groups lobbying for private economic or criminal interests are becoming ever more active. As conflicts between the groups have been aggravated, various forms of political corruption have become public. Unfortunately, the main political parties have commonly used anti-corruption rhetoric to discredit political rivals. Thus, public trust in anticorruption efforts has diminished, the report says. [passage omitted]

A widespread belief lingers that corrupt officials are immune to punishment and the reason for that was considered to be the low effectiveness or lack of action by law enforcement and the judicial authorities. Corruption in the judiciary itself was widely debated. Public expectations for future reforms in the judiciary are very high, as a profound transformation is considered necessary, instead of the skin-deep measures against institutional and political corruption that have been undertaken so far, the report says.

The lack of change in the level of corruption in 2003 is a fact that has negative meaning, Coalition 2000 concludes.

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