{"title": "Corruption is Bulgaria's biggest problem: report","content": "
Bulgarians consider corruption to be their society's most serious problem, an independent democracy watchdog said in a report Monday.The Centre for the Study of Democracy (CSD) said that instances of corruption fell from 150,000 in July 2006 to 115,000 in January 2007, when Bulgaria joined the European Union.But despite this positive development, 'grand political corruption involving members of the government, MPs, senior state officials remains a serious challenge', the report said.'There is a growing body of public opinion that political corruption is on the rise, almost institutionalized in the corrupt networks that came to be known as 'loops of companies'', chanelling state money towards certain businesses, the report said.'Bulgarians for the first time in a decade identify corruption as currently the gravest problem in society,' it added.The CSD calculates corruption rates on the basis of violations recorded by the state institutions, victimization surveys among people and businesses, and analysis of the financial resources behind major political parties.'Given the current environment of virtual impunity for political corruption, there is a real threat that the opportunities of EU membership will be hijacked by private interests,' the watchdog warned Monday.Bulgaria joined the EU in January together with neighbouring Romania but the two newcomers were placed under close monitoring due to their lack of results in fighting crime and corruption.Bulgaria was also criticized for its low capacity to absorb the EU funds of over seven billion euros (9.52 billion dollars) it will have available in the first four years after accession.The CSD said corruption risks would rise as such funding did.