Bulgaria faces further EU funds freeze – reports

Written by on November 19, 2013 in Bulgaria - No comments

Bulgaria could see up to 400 million euro worth of EU money in next programming period frozen unless the government in Sofia sacked the current management of the country’s Employment Agency, Bulgarian media reports said.

In a sharply-worded letter, the head of the European Commission’s directorate-general for employment, social affairs and inclusion Koos Richelle, said that the agency’s activities gave rise to doubts about its impartiality. Furthermore, the letter said that the EC believed “[the agency’s] current management is a serious risk to the proper utilisation and good reputation of European structural funds.”

This was the third such letter sent to Bulgarian authorities this year and the second received by the current Government. Unlike the previous one in the summer, addressed to the Deputy Prime Minister in charge of EU funds Zinaida Zlatanova, the latest missive was addressed to Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski, according to news website Offnews.bg, which posted a facsimile of the letter.

Earlier on November 19, public broadcaster Bulgarian National Radio on November 19 that the head of the Employment Agency, Kamelia Lozanova, could be sacked within days. But when asked to comment, Oresharski was ambiguous, saying that “we are thinking about improving the entire activity of the Employment Agency in the context of the letter from Brussels.”

Labour and Social Policy Hassan Ademov had a similar position, saying that the Cabinet had to get better results from the Employment Agency, but declined to make a comment on Lozanova’s standing.

Lozanova told reporters that she had not been asked to resign, dismissing the criticism in the letter as “opinions and doubts that are not linked to any misdeeds by me or any policies.”

According to Offnews.bg – one of the media outlets most critical of the ruling axis and the Oresharski cabinet during the five months of anti-government protests in Bulgaria – Oresharski could not afford to sack Lozanova, who was appointed under the previous government, because of her close ties to Podkrepa, one of the two major trade union blocs in the country. Lozanova’s dismissal could push Podkrepa towards a nationwide strike, possibly giving a new impetus to the protests against Oresharski’s government, the report said.

(European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso and Oresharski after a meeting in June 2013. Photo: European Commission)

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