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2329 opinions matching your query "CJB"

CJB - 3 Aug 2007 // 13:36:54

"doesn't look too rosy" is something of an understatement!

Bulgaria's murder rate per capita is higher than that of the USA! Also just behind Georgia, a country known for "tough chaos". That's pretty scary.

CJB - 3 Aug 2007 // 11:50:14

Everybody knows there is a large criminal fraternity in BG. Also we know there is endemic corruption - one small example is the "tax" that traffic cops routinely extracted from anyone driving a fairly new car, which only recently appears to have stopped. I guess we're in "Evropa" now so the more obvious petty corruption has been swept away by offical crackdowns.

Eurotourist's story is horrifying, but rings depressingly true. The majority of Bulgarians welcome visitors, are friendly and don't harbour ill feelings towards outsiders. Alas there are also many people in BG, not just bent coppers, who see foreigners simply as a quick way to make some money. Unfortunately the fact is many people are struggling on low incomes in what is a very unequal society. Seeing wealthy tourists waving cash around and indulging in hedonistic lifestyles makes certain individuals resent foreigners. Add that to some fairly xenophobic attitudes amongst the less educated sections of the population, and it is a recipe for trouble.

Yes, BG is a cheap destination for the less wealthy West Europeans to make merry on the beach or in the mountains. The vast majority of holidaymakers never experience serious problems. But they should be careful about a possible backlash from the people whose country they are visiting.

CJB - 2 Aug 2007 // 18:26:54

Bulgaria was never going to get this Communist-era debt back anyway. Not even interest was paid in 18 years. So it is a purely symbolic act, which doesn't cost Bulgaria anything as Qadaffi had no intention of honouring the debt anyway.

This symbolic act might yet bring a warming of relations with Libya, and those Arab states who are sympathetic to them. So all this talk of dignity is just foolish. This writing off of debt is a smarter move than many might realise now.

CJB - 30 Jul 2007 // 23:46:40

This quote from UK Conservative MP Edward Leigh may be of interest.
( from )

"Some frauds are so ludicrous that they should be blindingly obvious. For example, certain Balkan countries have preferential trade agreements with the EU for exporting sugar. The anti-fraud authorities eventually came across some suspect activities with the importation of sugar into Greece from Croatia, where it had been produced. What was the problem? It was not a complicated, underground system nor a corrupt and complex fiddling of the books. No, the fraud was even more blatant than that and yet went unrecognised—Croatia does not produce sugar cane at all.


Such activities happen in the United Kingdom, too. We cannot sit in a warm bath of our own prejudices and say that it is all down to Johnny Foreigner. It is not. My Committee has reported on several cases when abysmally lax control by public bodies allowed serious frauds to be perpetrated on EU funds, and further control improvements are still needed.
I shall cite two examples. In 2002, my Committee published a scathing report on a notorious fraudster, a farmer called Joseph Bowden, who claimed against the common agricultural policy for different crops on the same piece of land and went on to give fictitious co-ordinates for some of the fields for which he was claiming. If those claims had been examined by experts, or anyone with a map, it would have been discovered that the fields were apparently in Greenland, the North sea and the Norwegian sea. He received a 30-month jail sentence as a result and new controls were imposed, but at the time he got away with it because controls were obviously lax in the then Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.
My second concern is perhaps even more worrying. It could be said that that was just one fraudster and one case of lax controls in one Department, but the Committee also looked at the sheep annual premium scheme in Northern Ireland, an EU strategy designed to support sheep producers through payments for eligible sheep. When we investigated the administration of that scheme, we were shocked to find a catalogue of errors and control failures, all of which pointed to what we described as a "particularly slack regime" in place under the Department concerned, and I believe that there was almost certainly collusion. We found, for example, that some payments were made for dead sheep—surely something that is not unknown in Irish history, but there we are—even though there was often no evidence that they had ever existed. These dead sheep were never alive. When visiting farms, the Department's inspectors detected more than four times as many irregularities when accompanied by staff from the National Audit Office as when they were not accompanied by them, which suggests that they were on occasions turning a blind eye to the rules."

CJB - 30 Jul 2007 // 22:02:15

I have to say that I agree with Alex Ivol. The man is speaking plainly and with common sense, something of a surprise given that he allegedly holds other views which are not so palatable. Maybe though we are seeing the emergence of "economic liberalism" on a "libertarian right" model in Bulgarian politics, which may be no bad thing.

The government needs to implement anti-corruption and anti-tax avoidance measures if they want this to work; not just say "well, the legislation complies with EU standards" when the problem is enforcement. Bulgaria has many fine laws, but very few are effectively enforced. It's that "South" mentality again...

In other words, officials need to stop paying lip service and actually get off their comfy chairs and do some work! Is that too much to ask?

CJB - 30 Jul 2007 // 13:49:48

I think there IS an EU-wide problem with fraud, the Bulgarians are just a little more blatant than most! However if you look at Greece, Spain, Italy (especially Sicily and the South), Poland, even the UK there are plenty of instances of fraud going on, particularly in agriculture but also structural funds. Kick-backs, over-charging, developments that don't exist, VAT scams: these are far from unique to BG.

It's not just EU funding. VAT carousel fraud is a huge international problem, costing the UK alone billions of pounds in lost revenue. Is anything being done about it? Precious little. UK Customs seem more interested in catching cigarette smugglers. I wonder why?

So whilst the situation here in BG is certainly deplorable, let's not forget that other countries have corruption and fraud problems too. Focussing on how to improve the situation might be more constructive. However we'll never completely eradicate such crimes: for example, has Greece managed to investigate all its cases? If the judiciary and government are cleaned up, fraudsters will just get better at hiding their activities...

CJB - 30 Jul 2007 // 11:28:29

2 days' notice? Luxury. Try Ryanair if you think that's harsh: no notice at all! Why is this "story" in here? Was one of your journalists a passenger? Surely there must be more important news in the country?

CJB - 29 Jul 2007 // 22:46:58

Maybe you should read the BBC version for a different viewpoint:

My own experience with EU funding is that the financial rules are incredibly tough. That doesn't mean there's no scope for people to commit fraud, but then those kinds of people are unlikely to play by the rules.

Remember that national governments control and distribute the vast majority of EU funding, so if there's a problem with fraud, the investigations need to start closer to home...

CJB - 22 Jul 2007 // 11:49:37

Why so negative? Do you have a story about the race itself, which countries are taking part? No, just one about disruption to traffic. This is a strange attitude, given that your other headline is about road deaths and injuries last night. Isn't it a good thing that a few roads are closed? At least no-one will be killed on these roads while they are closed!

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