EU report won’t mention Bulgaria aid

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Commission said yesterday that a report on the state of justice, corruption and organized crime in Bulgaria and Romania this month would not discuss a possible withholding of EU funds from either newcomer. It was responding to questions about a Reuters report that quoted a senior EU source as saying the Commission was considering recommending withholding some aid from Bulgaria because of concerns about corruption and poor administration. «The report that the Commission will adopt at the end of June will deal with the judicial system, the questions of corruption and the question of organized crime for Bulgaria and Romania,» Commission spokesman Mark Gray told a news briefing. «It will not deal with the question of the possibility of withholding EU funds.» Gray said the Commission would consider whether to propose such a measure later in the year after a separate audit of whether the Black Sea countries which joined the EU in January have put in place proper financial control mechanisms. The EU has the right to curb farm subsidies, regional aid payments and judicial cooperation in the first two years if they do not meet certain benchmarks. The senior source said the Commission was likely to trigger at least one financial safeguard to show EU taxpayers it was protecting their interests and to press Sofia to crack down harder on corruption and improve public administration. No such action was likely against Romania, he added. Romania is due to receive EU aid worth -11.5 billion in 2007-09 and Bulgaria -4.6 billion. The Bulgarian member of the European Commission, Meglana Kuneva, told reporters Sofia had fulfilled an EU requirement to amend its constitution to secure judicial independence and was making progress on justice reform and crime fighting. Asked whether she expected the EU executive to trigger any of the safeguards, she said: «It could happen if there was no delivery on the Bulgarian side. But the constitutional amendment has been delivered and the rest is the result of peer reviews, and I think there have been developments.»

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