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Europe

World Bank steps up cooperation for development in Bulgaria

Bulgaria has one of the most outdated infrastructures of the entire European Union, and most EU development funding has been suspended because of corruption fears. But the year-old government is trying to change that.

Rusty road sign in Bulgaria

Bulgaria's infrastructure is in desperate need of renewal

The World Bank and Bulgaria on Tuesday signed an agreement to better cooperate on development projects for the country's outdated infrastructure.

The memorandum of understanding signed by World Bank President Robert Zoellick and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov included "accelerating maintenance and investment in roads and railways," but did not specify the amount of aid the bank would provide.

The support is to come in conjunction with billions of euros from the European Union and development organizations.

Bulgaria has already been granted seven to 10 billion euros ($9 to 13 billion) in EU aid, but has only been able to use 7 to 8 percent of that money because of corruption concerns expressed by Brussels, Zoellick said. He added that the World Bank would send experts to help with project preparation and management.

Infrastructure renewal

Borisov, head of the conservative Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria party, came into power last year on a platform of rooting out corruption and crime.

He has made accessing EU aid one of his government's top priorities and said on Tuesday that he would use World Bank and EU funds to build around 60 kilometers of highway each year by the end of his term in 2013.

"We have probably the worst infrastructure in the whole European Union," Borisov said.

Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007, and despite significant growth after the fall of communism in 1990 it remains the bloc's poorest and least-developed member state.

Author: Andrew Bowen (AFP/dpa)
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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