EU freezes aid to Bulgaria over corruption

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The EU Commission suspends hundreds of millions of financial aid to its member over failure to stop crime and corruption.

23 July 2008

BRUSSELS / SOFIA - For the first time ever, the European Union cut off financial assistance to one of its own members Wednesday when it ordered a stop to aid to Bulgaria over corruption and organised crime connection allegations.

The EU Commission suspended hundreds of millions of euros' worth of payments to Bulgaria, which joined the EU on 1 January 2007.

In addition, according to a commission spokesman, Brussels also had stopped payments for major infrastructure projects in Bulgaria.

The commission said that once Sofia took the necessary measures against corruption and organised crime, then EU payments would be resumed.

In the EU's view, Sofia's measures against crime and corruption were long overdue, 18 months since the country's joining the union.

The move by the EU came as meanwhile in Sofia the political opposition in parliament called for a no-confidence vote in the government of Socialist Premier Sergei Stanishev.

The rightist opposition charged the government with responsibility for having inflicted "moral and financial damage" on the country and its people through Sofia's poor management of its European affairs.

Former interim premier Stefan Sofijanski said that the EU's report on Bulgaria and the mood in the country had laid bare the presidency and government in Sofia.

The no-confidence vote motion is the sixth which the rightist parties have presented since the current cabinet took power in August 2005.

Previously, the opposition parties had agreed to stage a "joint national protest" in the autumn in order to topple the government and push for new elections.

[dpa / Expatica]

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