Bad Marks for Bulgaria in Report

Organized crime and corruption remain unpunished crimes in Bulgaria though the country has been a European Union (EU) member for two years, noted a Sofia-based public policy institute in a new annual report. “Two years following Bulgaria’s accession to the EU, the key challenge before the country is still the de facto impunity of high-level corruption and organized crime,” stated the ninth annual report from the Center for the Study of Democracy.

The number of court cases involving corruption and organized crime fell in 2007 and 2008, with nearly 80 percent of corruption investigations between 2004 and 2007 never making it to court, according to the authors of “Crime without punishment: Countering corruption and organized crime in Bulgaria.”

The report cited the lack of political will among Bulgaria’s leaders as a major reason for the problem.

The report also identified a new trend in the country’s political corruption landscape – politicians getting involved in Bulgaria’s non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which until recently were considered the least corrupt of Bulgarian organizations.

“The number of NGOs has increased fivefold (since 2000), with most new organizations having been established by high-ranking state officials as instruments for ostensibly legitimate extra income, as tools for establishing political and personal circles of cronies, and as a safeguard against the loss of political power,” the report said, adding that more than 75 percent of Bulgarian members of parliament, ministers, and heads of executive agencies are on NGO boards of directors. For municipal mayors, the proportion is more than 90 percent. The report noted that all the weaknesses associated with public procurement and other government activity have now infected the NGO sector.

The percentage of Bulgarians who see corruption as the worst problem facing the country has also jumped, from 31 percent in 2004 to nearly 65 percent in 2008.

-- Beth Kampschror