Bulgaria to Overhaul Anti-Corruption Agencies Under EU Pressure

Bulgaria plans to merge anti-corruption agencies and give them access to high-profile public figures’ banking and tax information in response to relentless European Union criticism.

The plans presented by the cabinet seek to counter corruption in the judiciary and in the security system, Meglena Kuneva, deputy prime minister in charge of European policy and a former EU commissioner, said at a briefing in the capital Sofia on Friday. The proposal, which needs formal approval by the cabinet and by parliament, also sets out to reduce bribes in the lower tiers of public administration.

“The European Commission won’t let us forget what we need to achieve,” Kuneva said. The rebukes from the EU’s executive arm “will be repeated every year until we move forward,” she said.

Bulgaria and Romania, which entered the now 28-nation bloc in 2007, have received repeated warnings to fight corruption harder to ensure a fair distribution of EU aid. While Romania has already made “impressive” progress, Bulgarian policy changes have stalled amid political turmoil, the EU said in a report in January.

Prime Minister Boyko Borissov regained power in November after five government changes in two years. His first cabinet was ousted by anti-austerity protests in 2013, and the Socialist administration of former premier Plamen Oresharski resigned in July following the failure of the country’s fourth-largest lender and protests against a corrupt political system.

Piecemeal Response

Bulgaria’s responses to corruption and organized crime have remained piecemeal and lacking in overall strategic direction, the EU said in the January report.

The latest proposal still won’t suffice without working out a more detailed plan of action, said Kalin Slavov, executive director of the Bulgarian branch of the Berlin-based Transparency International.

“We need to see a clear vision in this strategy - where we want to be in the next one, two, five years,” Slavov said at the same event as Kuneva.

Bulgaria is among the EU’s most corrupt countries along with Romania, Greece and Italy, according to the organization.

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