ECONOMY

EU argues Bulgarian civil society should act against graft

SOFIA – Bulgaria’s civil society should be more active in pressing a reluctant government to tackle corruption, EU and anti-graft watchdog officials said yesterday. The poor Balkan country, which joined the European Union in January, was criticized by Brussels last week in a progress report for being too soft on organized crime and graft. Michael Humphreys, the Sofia representative of the European Commission, the EU’s executive, told a conference Bulgaria should no longer rely only on the Commission to tell it what to do and how to tackle the problems. «We are not there as a teacher anymore, that phase is over,» he said. «When talking about corruption and organized crime it is not just the legal authorities, the judiciary, the police that are responsible, it is also civil society as a whole.» Anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI) told the conference they expected no progress in the fight against graft in Bulgaria this year because politicians lacked the will to tackle it. «The government keeps following certain stereotypes, they write anti-graft strategies only aiming at submitting them to Brussels. There is no will whatsoever to fight corruption,» said Deputy Chairman of TI Bulgaria Dimitar Kyumyurdzhiev. Bulgaria ranked 57th among 163 states on TI’s Corruption Perception (CPI) Index in 2006, scoring 4.0 on a 10 point scale where zero indicates the highest level of perceived graft. The figure has remained almost unchanged for four consecutive years. A study by the Sofia-based Center for the Study of Democracy has showed Bulgaria lost over 2 billion levs ($1.39 billion) to corruption last year.