PM Stanishev: "Concrete Measures Taken About Halted EU Funds Payments"

PM Stanishev:

"Concrete measures have been taken in connection with the problems with the Phare Program, and the dialog with the European Commission is very serious and will continue at the expert level,"Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev said Monday, answering a question about the halted payments under EU programs at a news conference at the Council of Ministers, BTA reports.

"I am sure that it will end reasonably, with serious commitments on our part," he added. "They will also see the goodwill on the part of the Bulgarian Government, and this applies to the rest of the cases as well, including SAPARD."

"Bulgaria is now at the beginning of absorption of the EU operational programs and if there are any flaws in the system, poor organization, coordination, communication or weak administrative capacity, this is the right time to mend them," Stanishev argued.

At the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Finance Minister Plamen Oresharski will submit for approval concrete proposals for addressing the problem with the European Commission's suspension of financing under the pre-accession instruments ISPA, Phare and SAPARD, the PM said.

"We are doing everything possible to maintain a steady good dialog with the European Commission, to provide them with the most transparent information possible, so as to convince them that here there are no serious problems or reasons to delay or suspend financing," State Administration and Administrative Reform Minister Nikolay Vassilev said, asked for comment on the halted payments. "We realize that the monitoring, control and audit regime has been tightened not only for Bulgaria but for other European countries or institutions as well," he said.
Since 2007, prosecutors have referred to the court seven criminal proceedings in connection with violations under the SAPARD Program in Sofia, Dobrich, Sliven, Plovdiv, Vidin etc., the prosecuting magistracy said.

Prosecutors have completed an investigation under a pre-trial proceeding, initiated on December 5, 2006 on an alert from the German Embassy about abuse of a 7.5 million euro subsidy from the SAPARD Program and money laundering by Bulgarian citizens within Bulgarian territory. Charges have been brought of participation in an organized criminal group and use of documents making a false statement. All persons investigated have had their movable property garnished and immovable property attached.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Food Supply said in a press release earlier on Monday that at the 14th meeting of the SAPARD Monitoring Committee, due on Wednesday, the representatives of the European Commission Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development: Kaj Mortensen, Head of the SAPARD programs unit, and Stylianos Vayanos, Program Manager, are expected to familiarize the officials of the Ministries of Agriculture and Finance and the Agriculture State Fund with the information provided by the Directorate-General on the investigations conducted by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF).

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