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EU Suspends Aid to Bulgaria


The European Commission has suspended nearly $800 million in aid to Bulgaria because of concerns over corruption and organized crime.

An EU report says Bulgaria's fight against high-level corruption and criminal gangs is not producing results.

The top EU executive body says corruption and spending irregularities are so prevalent that it canceled the accreditation of two government agencies disbursing EU funds.

EU lawmaker Geoffrey van Orden told Bulgarian radio Wednesday there does not appear to be "enough political will and resolve" on the part of Bulgaria's government "to achieve the [reform] results" sought by the European Union. He also said the benefits of EU accession have not reached average Bulgarians.

Meanwhile, Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev acknowledged "serious problems" in many Bulgarian institutions, especially in the judiciary. But he also cited "positive steps" in recent months, including new laws on conflict of interest.

The EU today also warned neighboring Romania to speed up reforms, but announced no financial penalties.

Bulgaria and Romania joined the 27-nation European bloc in January 2007. The union warned at that time that it will closely monitor efforts in both countries to deal with crime and corruption.

In Sofia today, opposition right-wing lawmakers submitted a no-confidence motion against the center-left government of Prime Minister Stanishev.

The government, with a firm majority in parliament, is expected to survive the vote set for next week.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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