Suspension of EEA Grants in Bulgaria lifted
The suspensions of payments to Bulgarian projects supported by the EEA Grants have been lifted following the replacement of an implementation agency.
On 10 June, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway reached an agreement with Bulgaria to replace the Central Finance and Contracts Unit (CFCU) in the country`s EEA Grants implementation set-up with the Structural Funds and International Educational Programmes (SFIEP) Directorate General. The pending grant agreements for 42 individual projects will now be signed, allowing their project promoters to start project implementation.
Payments to Bulgarian projects and the role of CFCU were suspended by the Financial Mechanism Committee in September 2008. The decision followed in the wake of the European Commission`s withdrawal of the accreditation of CFCU and suspension of payments of some EU funds in Bulgaria.
The SFIEP Directorate has been accepted on the condition that the new agency expands its role in verifying public procurements processes and contracts made by project promoters. In addition, the Financial Mechanism Office, the secretariat of the EEA Grants, will assess the quality of payment check procedures at the SFIEP Directorate and the standard of audit trails all the way to the project promoter level. The Financial Mechanism Office and the donor states will continue to monitor developments in Bulgaria closely in cooperation with the national authorities and the European Commission.
The bilateral cooperation programme with Bulgaria, administered by Innovation Norway, has not been subject to suspension.