ANALYSIS ON BULGARIA BASED ON THE EXTRACTS FROM THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION REPORTS (2004 – 2006) AND GRECO COMPLIANCE AND EVALUATION REPORTS (2004, 2005)
In its Progress Report (2004), European Commission states that corruption continues to be perceived as a serious problem, underlining that renewed efforts are needed for tackling high-level corruption.
Following year, the Commission repeats that widespread corruption remains a serious concern that affects many aspects of society, underlining again that Bulgaria has to vigorously fight high-level corruption. In conclusion, it is pointed out that the main problems in combating corruption are the weak results in the investigation and prosecution of high-level corruption cases.
European Commission states, in 2006, that in the area of fight against corruption very limited progress was made despite the fact that urgent action was requested in 2005. It is stressed, again, that indictments, prosecutions, trials, convictions and dissuasive sentences for high-level corruption remain rare, therefore the Commission emphasizes, again, that Bulgaria needs to present further tangible results – in particular in the cases of high-level corruption.
Capacities to Fight Corruption and Anticorruption Policies
In 2004, European Commission states that Bulgaria partly aligned its anti-corruption legislation with the acquis, pointing out, as well as GRECO, that the inter-ministerial committee is in charge of coordinating and controlling the implementation of the National Strategy and the Action Plan. It is underlined that progress is made in implementing the strategy, and it is generally acknowledged that this policy is starting to have visible results on the ground as regards petty corruption. However, the Commission emphasizes that the approach taken by the Bulgarian authorities in the fight against corruption left aside the need to take specific measures in the fight against high level corruption, in the political, local and business circles, pointing out that substantial delays due to frequent referrals of cases back to the investigation and preliminary investigation stages negatively affect Bulgaria’s capacity to prosecute organized crime and corruption. In conclusion, European Commission states that significant further efforts are needed to strengthen the law enforcement capacity and policy formulation in order to step up the fight against corruption.
Following year, the Commission points out that efforts continued on the implementation of Action Plan through the Commission for the Coordination of the Fight against the Corruption, underlining that the administrative capacity of this Commission remains weak. It is highlighted that the Strategy is amended to include a number of measures to fight high-level corruption, even though deadlines to implement these measures are missed. In addition, the Commission stresses that there are weak results in the investigation and prosecution of corruption cases, underlining that enhanced efforts are needed to improve the functioning of the justice system, particularly to combat corruption. In particular, it is highlighted that the Bulgarian authorities are strongly encouraged to invest further efforts to fight corruption in a pro-active manner.
European Commission, in 2006, greets adoption of the Anti-Corruption Strategy covering the period 2006-2008 and an accompanying Action Plan, underlining that the Commission for the Prevention and Counteracting of Corruption needs to increase its capacity if it is to perform its role effectively. In addition, it is pointed out that a specialised department was established at the General Prosecutor’s Office with as main task to lead and supervise the pre-trial procedure in cases related to organised crime and corruption and that constitutional amendments were adopted making members of Parliament liable for all types of crimes and allowing for lifting the immunity. However, the Commission expresses its concern over the incomplete coordination of the anti-corruption strategy, underlining that non-partisan investigations of allegations of high-level corruption need to be conducted.
International Conventions and Obligations
In its Progress Report (2004), the Commission highlights that Bulgaria signed the UN Convention against Corruption and ratified the Additional Protocol to the Council of Europe Criminal law Convention against Corruption.
Following year, it is pointed out that Bulgaria continues to participate in the monitoring of anti-corruption measures adopted by the OECD Working Group on Bribery in International Business Transactions and in GRECO.
In 2006, European Commission greets Bulgaria’s ratification of the UN convention against corruption.
In 2004, European Commission highlights that the Supreme Judicial Council adopted a strategy for the fight against corruption in the judiciary which was followed by the adoption of a professional code of ethics for judges. Moreover, a Commission for Prevention and Counteracting Corruption was established under the authority of the Supreme Judicial Council with a role to define the policy for the fight against corruption in the judiciary. In conclusion, it is pointed out that the independence of judicial action from political interference needs to be pursued as an important guarantee for the rule of law.
In its Report (2005), the Commission states that corruption within the justice system remains a serious problem and that a prosecution service needs to be more transparent and accountable, underlining that it must be tackled in a more pro-active manner and that the procedure for lifting immunity need to be revised. In conclusion, it repeats that an independent, reliable, and efficient judiciary is of supreme importance.
Following year, European Commission repeats that corruption within the judiciary remains a serious challenge and that a prosecution service needs to be more transparent and accountable, underlining that very few investigations of alleged unethical behavior of magistrates have led to prosecutions and convictions. Moreover, it is pointed out that any ambiguities regarding the independence of the judiciary need to be removed and that accountability, transparency and efficiency of the justice system need further strengthening.
In 2004, the Commission greets adoption of a code of ethics for police officers, however it is pointed out that internal disciplinary procedures against police officers accused of corruption tend to be very long, non-transparent and prone to irregularities and procedural errors. In addition, it is pointed out that the arrangements for dealing with recruitment, promotion and demotion of police officers are non-transparent.
Following year, European Commission highlights that the overall organisation and intra-departmental control of the prevention and detection of acts of corruption at the Ministry of the Interior is further improved by refining the mechanism for receiving, checking and taking action on information concerning corruption amongst Ministry of the Interior officials.
In its Report 2006, European Commission highlights that within the border police arrangements are made to reduce the risk of corruption through random changes in working hours and places of work, however pointing out that additional steps are needed to prevent corruption at border crossing points.
Public Administration and Business Environment
In 2004, the Commission states that a code of conduct is adopted for the civil service and a code for the business sector is under preparation, however pointing out that corruption pressure remains important for the business sector. Finally, GRECO points out that the authorities reported that the previous year brought the widespread introduction of ethics and guidelines.
Following year, European Commission states that there is a positive downward trend as far as administrative corruption is concerned, but pointing out that some areas of public administration remain particularly vulnerable to corruption with the main problem of the poor track record in investigation and prosecution of corruption cases. In addition, GRECO states that Bulgaria need to establish anti-corruption programmes for public administration at local and regional levels. In conclusion, the Commission notes that improvement of the functioning of the judicial system remains crucial for providing a transparent, stable and reliable legal framework for doing business, while GRECO states that commercial register is widely considered ineffective, unreliable, lacking in transparency, as well as a possible source of corruption within the judiciary.
In its Report in 2006, the Commission greets establishment, in accordance with the Law on the Administration, of inspectorates which may propose disciplinary or legal measures against staff in case of misconduct. It emphasizes that the inspectorates within the public administration are not yet sufficiently independent and their institutional competences need to be strengthened and it repeats that no complete and reliable statistics is provided regarding disciplinary sanctions due to allegations of corrupt activity. In conclusion, it is pointed out that the privatisation process is still not sufficiently transparent, and problems with postprivatisation control persist.
In its Progress Report (2004) European Commission perceives as an important step the adoption of a new Law on public procurement and the establishment of the Public Procurement Agency under the Ministry of Economy, emphasizing that further efforts are needed to align the legislation on public procurement with aquis.
Next year, the Commission states that there are several exemptions from the new law on public procurement, underlining that claims of non-transparent procedures for procurement and the granting of concessions are continuing. In conclusion, it is pointed out that further efforts are required regarding a clear separation of advisory and review functions of the Public Procurement Agency as well as regarding ways to ensure an effective implementation of the procurement rules.
In the Report from May 2006, is pointed out that Bulgaria generally meets the commitments and requirements arising from the accession negotiations in public procurement areas. However, European Commission emphasizes that preparations in the field of public procurement need to be completed regarding implementing rules full operation at all levels of an ex-ante control system need to be ensured.
European Commission, in 2004, expresses its concerns over the problems with institutions regarding the reporting obligation and over the fact that the Financial Intelligence Agency receives little or no feedback from the Prosecutor’s Office on cases referred to the prosecution. GRECO greets extension of the reporting regime by the Law on the Measures against Money Laundering. In conclusion, the Commission stresses that there are no convictions for money laundering in Bulgaria.
In its Report 2005, European Commission states that Bulgarian anti – money laundering legislation is generally in line with the acquis, however it repeats that results in terms of prosecutions for money laundering are still non-existent, underlining that the effectiveness of anti – money laundering defences is seriously hampered by corruption, organised crime and the large informal economy. In conclusion, it is pointed out that particular attention should be paid to the effective implementation of legislation by improving supervision on reporting entities, more effective cooperation between relevant entities and in particular by ensuring effective enforcement and prosecution in this area, while GRECO stresses that measures should be taken to raise awareness among professionals about their reporting obligations in respect of the laundering of proceeds of corruption.
Following year, in its two reports, the Commission repeats all its concerns from the previous years. Namely, it is pointed out that effective implementation of legislation remains very limited with constant absence of tangible results in terms of enforcement and prosecution of cases of money laundering as no successful prosecutions for money laundering can be reported. Moreover, it is stressed again that the effectiveness of the fight against money laundering continues to be seriously hampered by corruption, organised crime and the informal economy. Finally, it concludes that the awareness of reporting obligations amongst reporting entities, of suspicious transaction reporting and supervision of reporting entities need to be improved.
Conflict of Interests
In 2005, European Commission notes that amendments to the law on civil service adopted in November 2003 contain a definition of the situations related to conflicts of interest and disclosure for civil servants.
Following year, the Commission states that the Law on making public the property of persons occupying high state positions continues to be implemented. In conclusion, GRECO notes that the measures to prevent conflicts of interest and incompatibilities are provided for in the Law on Public Officials underlining that it provides a basis for an appropriate financial disclosure system and a conflicts of interest control mechanism, both of which are accompanied by sanctions in cases of non-compliance.
In its Reports 2006, European Commission welcomes the adoption of Code of Ethics regulating the work of the members of government and other politically appointed officials of the executive as well as amendments to the Law on publicity of the property owned by persons occupying high state positions, according which the National Audit Office will be obliged to publish annually a list of people who did not comply with the obligation to declare their property. Moreover, it greets increase of the fines for non-compliance, further emphasizing that Bulgaria will have to report on internal inspections of public institutions and on the publication of assets of high-level officials.
Free Access to Information
In 2004, the Commission underlines that the 2003 report contained recommendations to improve access to public information, while GRECO states that transparency of information in respect of the public is provided for by the Law on the Restriction of the Administrative Regulation and Administrative Control over the Economic Activity providing access to information concerning current licence holders, registration regimes, and of various relevant regulations.
In its Report (2005) European Commission and GRECO state the Law on Access to Public Information ensures the right of access to information, however GRECO underlines that although there is an increase in the number of decisions issued by the Bulgarian administration on the basis of this law, the impact of the law remains limited.
Financing of Political Parties
In its Progress Report 2004, European Commission stresses that there is little transparency regarding the financing of political parties and election campaigns.
In 2005, the Commission greets adoption of a new Law on Political Parties, which is setting out a number of anti-corruption measures to guarantee the transparency and accountability of political party funding, including a complete ban on anonymous donations and better mechanisms for monitoring the activities of political parties.
Following year, the Commission states that Amendments to the Law on Political Parties are adopted, underlining that political parties have to name their donors as well as the type and value of donations and they have to submit to the National Audit Office a list of bodies in which their senior members participate.
Customs and Taxation
In its Progress report (2004), European Commission points out that the combat of fraud and corruption within customs is receiving continuous attention, however emphasizing that it remains an area where swift and constant action is needed.
Following year, the Commission greets establishment of a Customs Intelligence and Investigation unit within the customs administration, underlining that there is little effect in practice regarding fight against corruption and petty corruption at border posts remains a serious problem.
In its Reports in 2006, European Commission states that Customs Agency and Tax collecting agencies remain very vulnerable to corruption. In conclusion, it is pointed out that additional steps are needed to prevent corruption at border crossing points.
Competition and State Aid
In 2004, the Commission highlights that regarding anti-trust the overall assessment is positive. Namely, the Law on the protection of competition contains the main principles of Community anti-trust rules as regards restrictive agreements, abuse of dominant position and merger control. The Commission for the Protection of Competition sets a high standard for independence, objectivity and quality, and for this reason the appointment procedure of the Commission for the Protection of Competition Commissioners also needs to improve. Moreover, it is underlined that more progress is made in adopting state aid legislation and increasing the transparency in the system, as well as in establishing a state aid enforcement record which will need further strengthening. In conclusion, it is pointed out that Bulgaria needs to place more emphasis on the prevention of the most serious distortions of competition, to continue its efforts to follow a more deterrent sanctions policy.
Following year, the Commission highlights that the state aid enforcement record of the Commission for the Protection of Competition improved and that in the field of state aid, legislation and implementing rules covering the main principles of the acquis are adopted. In conclusion, it states that in order to ensure further strengthening of enforcement record, emphasis needs to be given to the cases which most seriously distort competition.
In its Report (2006), European Commission states that further progress is made on competition, where the Commission for Protection of Competition continued to build up a positive track record of anti-trust decisions and therefore the Commission did not examine this chapter.