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EU anti-fraud head wants more effort from Bulgaria

By Staff
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Google Oneindia News

BRUSSELS, July 9 (Reuters) The European Union's anti-fraud chief urged Bulgaria today to step up cooperation on fighting graft involving the bloc's funds, and praised fellow EU newcomer Romania for its efforts.

The statement compounded a June European Commission report saying Bulgaria, which joined the EU on Jan. 1 with Romania, was making insufficient progress in fighting corruption.

''Romania has a very active investigative authority and we have established excellent cooperation. We need some progress in the level of cooperation with Bulgaria,'' Franz-Herman Bruener, chief of the EU anti-fraud office OLAF, told a news conference.

The overall level of suspected misuse remained largely unchanged last year compared with 2005, said Bruener, jointly presenting an annual report on irregularities in spending EU funds with Anti-Fraud Commissioner Siim Kallas.

The number of financial irregularities -- which do not necessarily involve crime -- stood at 12,092, involving about 1.16 billion euros (1.58 billion dollar), the figures showed.

Of that, suspected fraud involved 323.4 million euros.

A persistently high number of irregularities did not mean misuse was on the rise, because cooperation with the bloc's 27 member states on detecting them was improving, Kallas said.

''A high number of reported irregularities can be a good indicator of thorough and effective controls,'' he said.

Irregularities included national governments awarding EU aid to farmers under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to people who were not entitled to it or funds for transport infrastructure to projects that did not meet EU criteria.

The EU spends most of its budget, worth 115 billion euros this year, on regional aid and agriculture.

REUTERS SBC PM2142

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