Corruption may scuttle Bulgaria and Romania's 2007 EU bid EurActive - 2006/3/22
According to a fresh report by the independent Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD), the number of known corruption cases is on the increase in Bulgaria, and most of these cases go unpunished. Furthermore, while in the 1990s corruption occurred mainly in misappropriation of funds and bribes associated with privatisation deals, the current cases are found in public tender management, EU fund distribution and VAT fraud. As a result, the doors are opens for organised crime to gain control over large parts of the economy. "'Soft' anti-corruption measures have exhausted their potential and more effective approaches [...] must be found, especially at the administrative and political levels," the report says.

Meanwhile, fighting corruption was also singled out by the Commission as an "issue of utmost importance" where Romania must make further effort in order to meet the target accession date of January 2007. Alongside high-level corruption, the Romanian authorities should focus on "the enforcement of existing anti-corruption laws and on the build-up of a convincing track-record of investigations carried out at all levels," said Michael Leigh, the Commission's director general for enlargement.

On 16 May 2006, the Commission will publish its next monitoring report on the progress of Bulgaria and Romania toward accession. Failure to meet the EU's requirements may trigger the so-called safeguard clause and may thus result in a one-year delay in EU membership.

Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn has urged both countries to "run the last 100 metres of the race and use all their energy to implement reforms, to show that nobody is beyond the law and to eradicate high-level corruption."

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