EP's Budgetary Control Committee Discusses EU Funds Administration in Bulgaria

EP's Budgetary Control Committee Discusses EU Funds Administration in Bulgaria

The European Parliament's Committee on Budgetary Control (CONT) late on Monday had an exchange of views with representatives of the European Commission (agricultural and regional units) and of the European Anti-fraud Office (OLAF) on the administration of EU funds in shared management in Bulgaria. The discussion was organized in light of the recent US sanctions on Bulgarian individuals and companies under the Global Magnitsky Act. Whether the matter will later be discussed at a plenary session of the European Parliament, is yet to be decided. Among the documents for Monday's exchange of views is a country fiche on Bulgaria extracted from an upcoming study on "The Impact of Organised Crime on the EU's Financial Interests" requested by the CONT, to be published in late July. According to the country fiche, Bulgaria lost 1.2 billion leva in VAT to fraud and evasion, tax avoidance, bankruptcies, financial insolvencies and miscalculations in 2018, the latest figures by the European Commission show. "Between 2015 and 2019, OLAF detected fraudulent and non-fraudulent irregularities in 1,126 cases under the European Structural and Investment Funds and Common Agriculture Policy, which is similar to the number of cases in other Eastern European states," the fiche reads. "In 2019 alone, the number of irregularities reported as fraudulent in Bulgaria affecting the EU's financial interests accounted for six in the agriculture sector and for one in the context of cohesion policy and fisheries, with the two combined amounting to more than 685,000 euro together. Non-fraudulent activities were even higher with 184 in agriculture and 57 within cohesion policies and fisheries, amounting to more than 13.9 million euro together in expenditure," the document says. The fiche cites data of the Center for the Study of Democracy, according to which EU funds fraud in Bulgaria ranges between 70 million and 300 million leva a year. The abuses in EU programmes vary between 5 and 50 per cent of the funded project value. With a total budget of 23.2 billion leva (11.7 billion euro), the potential damages for the 2014-2020 programming period are between 1.16 billion leva (0.59 billion euro) and 3.48 billion leva (1.78 billion euro).

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