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Eyes on Bulgarian Corruption as EU Presidency Looms

Pressure is mounting on Bulgaria to focus on border corruption ahead of its European Commission presidency. 

7 December 2017

Ministers of the European Parliament have published a report on corrupt border officials at the Turkish-Bulgarian border, urging Sofia to take immediate action to address the problem, reports Euractiv.

 

Dutch European Parliamentary Member Kati Piri and her Belgian colleague Kathleen van Brempt, who are both from the center-left Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats political group, said they received a significant number of complaints from EU citizens, who travelled to and from Turkey by car for holidays last summer.

 

The report details the solicitation of bribes by border guards and a spurious requirement to pay for compulsory vehicle “disinfection,” which one EU citizen quoted in the report described as “driving over a puddle of muddy water.” 

 

Rezovo is a checkpoint on the Turkish-Bulgarian border. Image via Pudelek (Marcin Szala)/Wikimedia Commons.

 

“This corruption must come to an end. Bulgaria joined the EU 10 years ago and has received millions of grants to put an end to corruption, but far too little progress has been made,” Piri said, cited by Euractiv.

 

Pressure is especially mounting on Bulgaria to tackle corruption ahead of its term as president of the Council of the European Union, which will begin in January 2018. The autumn sitting of the Bulgarian Parliament opened on 1 September with promises of new anti-corruption legislation, reports The Sofia Globe.

 

The parliamentary leader of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov’s center-right GERB party, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, said there was widespread public expectation for an effective anti-corruption body.

 

“We will move towards a fairer, faster, and more efficient justice system,” he said.

 

 

  • A report released this year by Transparency International was damning in its assessment of the perception of corruption in Bulgaria. The report, which rates countries based on the levels of press freedom, access to budget information, and integrity and independent judiciaries, concluded that Bulgaria had the highest levels of corruption perception in the European Union.

 

  • Instances of border corruption in Bulgaria are not limited to the Turkish border. In June, Agence France Presse reported that 23 customs officers and businessmen had been arrested in an investigation into corruption at a major checkpoint on Bulgaria's border with Greece. The probe highlighted alleged kickbacks paid by Bulgarian transport firms to let trucks pass through the Kulata border point without a check.
  •  

  • During a Brussels visit in November, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said that Sofia’s upcoming position at the EU helm "is an opportunity for us to bring the Western Balkans on board as the UK withdraws from the EU," according to EUobserver.

Compiled by Kate Syme-Lamont

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