European Union agriculture subsidies have historically been surrounded by controversy, including corruption allegations. In the case of Bulgaria, there are indications that a questionable scheme has been in operation since 2010. This scheme has been tolerated, if not designed, by members of the Bulgarian ruling elite. The alleged scheme has placed one of the main agriculture regulatory agencies of the country in the middle of a corruption scandal. Government officials have been empowered to arbitrarily grant subsidies to certain landowners, who in exchange have allegedly bribed these officials with cash and luxury assets.

Impact

  • An amendment made to an agricultural regulatory law in 2010 has endowed the head of the State Fund Agriculture with significant power by giving this position the main supervisory responsibility for European agriculture subsidies.
  • There are indications that the government has been tolerating a questionable distribution scheme that has enabled certain members of the political elite to personally benefit from how agricultural subsidies are distributed.
  • Arguably, the way in which agricultural subsidies are distributed as reduced competition in the country’s agriculture sector. It is believed that as much as 80% of arable lands in Bulgaria are controlled by a minority of landowners loyal to the government.