Sound financial control
and audit, the fight against fraud and corruption and transparent public
procurement tenders should be priorities for Bulgaria on the way to the
country’s planned EU entry in January 2007. That was the message from Siim
Kallas, European Commissioner for administrative affairs, audit and the fight
against fraud, on a working visit to Bulgaria on May 16.
“My main message
to the Bulgarian authorities was to take protection of financial interests,
fighting fraud and corruption very seriously, as the European Union addresses
all these issues with great sensitivity”, Mr Kallas told journalists after a
series of meetings with high-ranking Bulgarian officials. He praised the
progress made by Bulgaria towards EU accession, saying that it “has every
possibility to be ready for entering the EU in 2007”. He warned, however, that
“the latest steps must be taken very seriously”. As with Romania – which also
hopes to join the EU in January 2007 – accession could still be delayed by a
year if preparations go seriously awry.
The Commissioner said that basic
structures were in place for sound financial control and audit and that
substantial progress had been achieved. And he welcomed the creation of an
anti-fraud coordination service by the Bulgarian authorities as a counterpart to
the European anti-fraud office OLAF. But “a number of gaps remain to be closed”,
the Commissioner added.
“Strong efforts” were needed to foster Bulgaria’s
capacity to effectively prosecute organised crime and corruption. Judicial and
police structures should be further strengthened, and efforts made to tackle
high-level corruption, Mr Kallas continued. “More effort” was needed to ensure
the protection of the EU’s financial interests and of the euro against
counterfeiting, the Commissioner advised. He also talked of the need for a clear
division between internal audit and inspection: “A decentralised internal audit
system should be implemented to guarantee functional independence of internal
auditors from managerial tasks”.
Mr Kallas also encouraged the Bulgarian
administration to “use transparency” – such as through the publication of data
on agricultural beneficiaries – as an “effective tool for public control of how
tax-payers’ money is spent”.
recruitment of Bulgarian nationals who will work in the European Commission
after accession, Mr Kallas explained that there would be no ‘quota’ reserved for
the newly acceded countries. “Merits come first”, Mr Kallas said. But he
mentioned that the Commission was working on a timetable and targets for
recruitment from Bulgaria and Romania based on the same criteria as for the ten
countries that joined the EU in May last year. “We are seeking to ensure a
reasonably proportionate national balance amongst the newcomers to the
Commission civil service”, Mr Kallas added.