Sofia – The director of the European Anti-Fraud Office, OLAF, claims the EU budget had lost between €10 million to €100 million because of misuse of EU money in Bulgaria, local media report.
However, Franz-Hermann Bruener declined to specify the exact amount of the losses caused by the violations in Bulgaria as well as to say who benefited from the abuses of European Union money.
During his one-day visit to Sofia on Thursday the OLAF director met with Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev, Justice Minister Miglena Tacheva, Head of the State National Security Agency Petko Sertov, and Chief Prosecutor Boris Velchev.
During a joint press conference with Stanishev and the Deputy Prime Minister on EU funds Meglena Plugchieva, Bruener gave a positive assessment of the work of the Bulgarian authorities during the last three months.
However, he did insist on more preventive measures against future EU money abuses as well as on the issuing of actual sentences on the embezzlement cases.
“A number of things have been done but also a number of things have not been done properly, and a lot of money have ended up where they are not supposed to,” Bruener said.
The OLAF head also explained that his body and the Bulgarian government had crafted a working program of measures for the next three months.
In Bruener’s words, the actions of the Bulgarian government in the three-month period starting now would be critical for confirming the present positive assessment. The OLAF head expects more structural and staff changes on part of the Bulgarian authorities.
He also posed the question about the potential use of evidence gathered by OLAF in Bulgarian courts, and about the respective legislative changes.
During the talks, Stanishev told Bruenner that Bulgaria aspires to overcome its negative image in the EU, the government information centre said.
“We aspire to achieve everything set in the government’s action plan and to overcome this country’s negative image which has been deliberately projected in recent months,” Stanishev said.
The government will sustain its pressure for improved transparency and effective prevention of the abuse of EU funds, he added.
“We have a lot more to learn as an EU member state, but we must mitigate the adverse effect of our country’s bad image, and we will spare no effort to achieve it,” the prime minister assured his guest.
“We will be working even harder and in close cooperation with OLAF, as well as with all institutions concerned, so as to achieve more tangible results at all levels,” he added.
Bruener’s previous visit to Sofia was at the end of August 2008.