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Bulgaria, Romania again criticised for failing to tackle corruption effectively

Irish Times – The European Union has again criticised Bulgaria and Romania for not doing enough to combat corruption, and said it would continue to monitor their efforts.

The European Commission says in an annual report on the two Black Sea countries, published on Wednesday, that despite some progress, anti-corruption measures in Romania were fragmented, while Bulgaria had failed to rein in organised crime.

Underlining its concerns over the failure to root out corruption, which could further dampen enthusiasm in the EU for letting other Balkan countries accede, the Commission said it would continue to monitor the two countries annually.

The EU has the right until the end of 2009 to punish the two member states by suspending certain EU laws there.

“The reform momentum that has been established now needs to be backed up by a national political consensus involving all political parties and institutions, and more convincing delivery of results,” Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso said.

New Bulgarian prime minister Boiko Borisov, whose centre-right Gerb party won an election this month, responded by reiterating a pledge to step up the fight against corruption.

“To soften Brussels’s tone, it is important to demonstrate political will from day one in office of the new government,” said Tsvetan Tsvetanov, Gerb’s chairman.

Romanian justice minister Catalin Predoiu called for a political consensus to allow the judicial system to function efficiently and the courts to take fast decisions.

“With or without a monitoring mechanism, Romania will remain committed to pursuing judicial reforms because such reforms are, first of all, in the interest of its citizens,” Mr Predoiu said.

Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU in 2007, but the Commission still monitors their efforts to tackle corruption and carry out reforms, and publishes regular progress reports. None of the 10 countries which joined the EU in 2004 face such scrutiny.

The EU has already frozen hundreds of millions of euro in aid funds for Bulgaria for failing to control organised crime.

The Commission praised Bulgaria for some technical steps, such as a reform of prosecution of serious crimes, and said Romania deserved praise for adopting new criminal and civil codes and launching a new anti-corruption body.

© 2009 Reuters

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