Bulgarian Prime Minister invites OLAF for exchange of views on investigative co-operation

OLAF /09/12 Brussels, 9 September 2009

An exchange of views on operational issues was the subject of today’s meeting between Bulgarian Prime Minister Mr Boyko Borisov and the Director-General of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), Mr Franz-Hermann Brüner, in Brussels. On the invitation of the Prime Minister, OLAF representatives discussed anti-fraud co-operation between the Office and the Bulgarian authorities.

At the end of the meeting in the Bulgarian Permanent Representation in Brussels, Mr Brüner declared: "We had a very open dialogue. We discussed current challenges in Bulgaria and I addressed a number of operational issues that remain of concern to OLAF in the fight against fraud affecting the EU financial interests." He added: "My impression is that the Prime Minister and the new government demonstrated strong political will to take the necessary steps in order to further facilitate OLAF’s work in Bulgaria."

Currently, OLAF’s investigations in Bulgaria mainly concern cases involving pre-accession funding (SAPARD, PHARE and ISPA). In the area of Structural Funds, where project approval and spending are still at an early stage, OLAF has already opened a number of investigations and other cases are currently under assessment in order to determine whether investigations are to be opened. In total, OLAF currently has 66 Bulgarian cases under assessment; in another 69 cases investigations are ongoing.

During his conversation with Prime Minister Borisov, OLAF Director-General addressed several concrete issues: "In the past, the co-operation with the State Fund Agriculture (SFA) left a lot of room for improvement. I am confident that under the newly appointed Executive Director the situation will improve." He continued: "The performance of the judiciary is still of concern despite the good efforts of the task force created in the General Prosecutor’s Office. The dismissal of cases in court without convincing explanations remains frequent. OLAF is waiting to see some concrete results of cases concerning EU funds".

Mr Brüner further declared: "I invited the Prime Minister to reconsider the organisation of the Bulgarian investigative services responsible for the protection of the EU’s financial interests and I addressed the need for appropriate measures in order to protect administrative staff in Bulgaria working according to EU rules. Those who are doing their best to comply with the law and to co-operate with the EU authorities should not be subject to threats from interested parties".

The OLAF Director-General concluded: "I have assured the Prime Minister of OLAF’s firm commitment to a continuing close co-operation with Bulgaria. I promised him all possible operational support as well as all necessary OLAF presence on the ground in the framework of our mandate and in respect of the EU rules and regulations.

Alessandro Butticé
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