EU Funds and the Path to Good Governance

Ten years after accession to the EU, the challenge of corruption continues to define both Bulgaria`s and Romania`s status within the Union. The systematic effects of corruption remain the number one problem in both counties. It has also called into question the EU’s efficiency at delivering effective governance change through enlargement. The EU has imposed a series of conditions on the two countries in the area of anticorruption while allocating considerable financial support for modernization for nearly two decades. The question remains to what degree have EU funds specifically targeted greater anticorruption progress and what has been their tangible impact.

Have EU funds improved governance? This was among the core questions discussed during the Round Table organized by the Center for the Study of Democracy on 24 February 2017. The event included a keynote by Ms. Malina Krumova, Deputy Prime Minister for EU Funds, and presentations of country case studies from Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Ukraine, researched as part of ANTICORRP – the biggest corruption-related research effort in social sciences and humanities in the history of the EU framework programme for research. Bulgaria`s former Vice President, Ms. Margarita Popova, members of the Diplomatic Corps, media, academics and representatives of national and international organisations were among the Round Table`s participants.

An overview of the EU financial support for anticorruption-related actions since 1998 reveals that, irrespective of the actual amount of the overall EU financial support throughout the years, Bulgaria has devoted attention and resources to anti-corruption commitments only when approaching a major EU conditionality milestone. The allocation of anti-corruption-related support grew on three occasions – at the start of negotiations in 1999, just before signing of the Accession Treaty in 2005, and in early 2010, the year in which the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism`s (CVM) safeguard clauses were set to expire. However, Bulgaria seems to have allocated very limited resources for anti-corruption overall in contrast to its allegedly high significance in the country’s accession and membership efforts. Yet, EU funds have provided a positive example and have supported the building up of administrative capacity in public procurement, as in both countries corruption risks in public procurement involving EU funds have been assessed as lower than those involving only national funds.

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