Bulgarian dairy farmers staged a number of protests last year against the blocking of EU funds for Bulgaria, including money for its agriculture. They demanded their SAPARD payments in order to continue keep their cattle.
Experts from the European Commission agriculture directorate and OLAF, the EU anti-fraud watchdog, start a visit to Bulgaria on July 29 to decide whether payments worth millions of euros under the EU-backed programme SAPARD should be restarted.
The European Union froze reimbursements in agricultural funding last year, saying Bulgaria fails to curb frauds with EU funds.
"The European Commission mission will stay in Bulgaria until August 31. The visit is crucial for unblocking payments under SAPARD pre-accession program," the new Agriculture Minister Miroslav Naydenov told the Bulgarian National Radio on Tuesday.
At the beginning of July GERB party leader and current Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said he had been assured by his European colleagues that the SAPARD money may be unfrozen soon. He linked that to the high voter turnout at the July 5 Parliamentary Elections, with which the Bulgarians expressed their desire not be the poorest and most corrupt EU nation any more.
A European Commission representative denied the statement, saying Brussels will continue to monitor Bulgaria before taking a decision to this effect.