This past summer, thousands of European Union citizens again experienced serious obstacles because of corruption in Bulgaria, being forced to pay off border police and fraudulent fines to traffic police, according to Netherlands member of the European Parliament Kati Piri.
In statements and questions in the European Parliament, Piri said that waiting times at the Bulgarian -Turkish border were up to 14 hours and the compulsory disinfection of cars entering Bulgaria had rightly led to much irritation.
Together with fellow MEP Kathleen van Brempt, she has put a series of questions to the European Commission.
The first is, “in addition to annual CVM reports, what actions does the Commission take to ensure that all EU citizens can travel safely through Bulgaria?”
The CVM is the Co-operation and Verification Mechanism, set up in 2007 when Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU. Intended to bring the two countries up to EU standards in justice and home affairs, part of the mechanism is the production of regular progress reports.
Piri and Van Brempt also asked what was the effectiveness of the actions undertaken by the Commission and how this effectiveness was assessed.
“Does the Commission consider corruption against EU citizens in Bulgaria as a possible obstacle to the right to free movement of persons?” the two MEPs asked.
Piri said that 10 years after Bulgaria’s accession to the EU, Dutch travellers still could not travel safely through the country, despite the millions of EU subsidies to put an end to corruption.
Piri will also send a report to the government of Bulgaria. The country is due to take over the rotating presidency of the EU on January 1 2018.
“These practices have been running for years and it is high time that this will end. The rights of EU citizens are being violated by a country that is to be EU president,” Piri said.
After Piri posted a call on Facebook for people to share their experiences about the Bulgarian-Turkish border, responses flowed in, according to a post on the website of her party.
People had been putting aside money for bribes to cross the border.
“Travellers who refuse to pay are intimidated and have to wait for hours before they can pass. There is clearly a structural problem.”
According to official figures, corruption among Bulgarian agents and customs officials has fallen since the country has joined the European Union. However, many travellers see nothing change in practice, and continue to pay bribes.
“Every Dutch holidaymaker must be able to travel safely through Europe. Investment in a poor country like Bulgaria is necessary, but ultimately it must also be effective. There, tens of thousands of Turkish Dutch taxpayers did not notice much again this year,” Piri said.
Every summer, there is a considerable flow of traffic between western European countries such as Germany and the Netherlands, and Turkey. Many of the motorists are people from Turkey who have EU countries’ citizenship.
Piri, who is the European Parliament’s rapporteur on Turkey, called on the European Commission to take the problem seriously and deal with it without delay.