By Clive Leviev – Sawyer of The Sofia Globe
The European Commission (EC) has informed Bulgaria that payments from EU funds under the Operational Programme (OP) Environment for the programming period 2007-2013 have been restored. The official letter was sent to the Bulgarian authorities on November 13, the EC said in a statement.
This means that the European Commission will now process payment requests from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Cohesion Fund for projects under this Operational Programme.
At the beginning of 2014, when the administration that was in power on the basis of a mandate handed to the Bulgarian Socialist Party was still in office, the EC initiated a temporary suspension of payments from the EU funds because of suspected irregularities related to public procurement in the implementation of the projects and due to the weaknesses in the OP’s management and control systems.
After an audit mission in October 2014, two months after the BSP government left office and a caretaker cabinet appointed by President Plevneliev was running the country, the EC concluded that all corrective measures had been implemented. This will significantly reduce the risk of errors and irregularities with expenditure in future.
The payments towards Bulgaria will now be restarted and the Commission will proceed with a first payment of 166 million euro from the Cohesion Fund and EUR 74 million euro from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
European Commissioner Corina Creţu, in charge of Regional Policy, said: “I welcome the positive steps taken by the Bulgarian authorities to improve and strengthen the OP Environment’s management system. The payments towards Bulgaria will now restart, which is excellent news for the Bulgarian economy, but also for the future of the partnership between Bulgaria and the European Commission.”
EC Vice-President Kristalina Georgieva, responsible for Budget and Human Resources, said: “The recovery of the funds under OP Environment is great news for Bulgaria. It comes at the right time for the country and its budget, and shows that the European Commission recognises it when a job is done well and the rules are respected.
“The funds envisaged for Bulgaria have to be used effectively, in order to ensure a better quality of life for people,” Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov said.
“I would like to encourage the Bulgarian government to make the best use of funds – next year will be the last chance to benefit from the money of the programming period 2007-2013.”
At least it cannot be said the MPs did not deserve their salaries, he said in a statement in the National Assembly on the morning of November 14.
”We worked hard these days but I came here to tell you that thanks to you, the will of the MPs to have a Parliament, a Government, a Cabinet, to be all here together, and Europe saw there is a normally functioning Parliament and democracy in Bulgaria, 800 million leva is flowing into the Bulgarian economy,” Borissov said.