Bulgaria's Ruling Party, Opposition in War of Words over EU FundsDomestic | June 15, 2016, Wednesday // 14:16| views
Korneliya Ninova, leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party. File photo, BGNES
Lawmakers on Wednesday exchanged harsh rhetoric following the opposition socialist party's claims that Bulgaria might be prevented from using more than a billion of BGN in EU funding.
The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) had earlier warned that some BGN 1.1 B (EUR 0.55 B) worth of funds could become unavailable to the country due to mismanagement, citing a letter sent by the European Commission to the Agriculture Ministry.
Ninova then told private bTV station that, according to the letter in question, the government was invited to attend a Brussels meeting in October where violations related to the use of EU funding and their impact on the EU budget was to be discussed.
Agriculture Minister Desislava Taneva described the allegations, hurled by BSP leader Korneliya Ninova, as a "lie", confirming there was a letter from the commission but denying it contained information of frozen funding.
"When the information began for the first time, we were transferring another BGN 56 M," news website Dnevnik.bg quotes her as saying. Prior to that, speaking from Parliament's rostrum on Wednesday morning, Taneva showed MPs a document she explained was evidence of a recent allocation of BGN 100 M to farmers that had been disbursed as EU funding."
"Could these payments be carried out, could money be reimbursed by the EU this morning after being paid under the program if [the latter] was halted?," she asked lawmakers.
But the opposition accused Bulgaria's government, dominated by conservative GERB party, of hiding the letter from the public, adding the cabinet could not count anymore of its "most successful stunt, [which is] that the European Commission is backing GERB".
Following the dispute, which later turned into accusations about wrongdoings of previous governments, Deputy Agriculture Minister Vasil Grudev met with BSP lawmakers for a closed-doors meeting to elaborate on the letter.
The BSP later backtracked, with some MPs saying no funding had been locked, but part of the money already absorbed might have to be given back to the Commission.
The document itself, however, has not been made public as of 14:00 local time on Wednesday.
No EU body has immediately reacted to the developments.
Growth of Bulgaria's GDP has relied heavily on EU funding over the past years.