ECONOMY

EU criticizes Sofia, lauds Bucharest

SOFIA (AFP) – The head of the European Union’s Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) criticized Bulgaria and praised neighboring Romania for their preparedness to make proper use of the bloc’s funds in an interview in the Dnevnik newspaper yesterday. The Bulgarian authorities have to realize that «the problems will not disappear if they have been ignored long enough,» OLAF Director General Franz-Hermann Bruner told the newspaper. «We hope for improvements as soon as possible,» he added. Romania, which joined the EU along with Bulgaria on January 1, is «four years ahead» in its preparedness to efficiently manage European money and prevent fraud, Bruner said. Bulgaria still has trouble ensuring clear and transparent public tender procedures, while «the system creates the impression that it works for certain people by leaving loopholes that can be used by those who know the procedures,» he said. OLAF is currently investigating 12 cases of fraud with money from the EU pre-accession funds as the country still has not started to make use of the over -11 billion made available to it in the first years after accession. In February, police arrested five Bulgarians, two Germans, and two Swiss for siphoning off some -7.8 million from the SAPARD program for rural development.