Bulgaria says will do more to fight gang crime

ATHENS, April 9 (Reuters) - Bulgaria is committed to combating organised crime, Foreign Minister Ivailo Kalfin said on Wednesday, a day after the European Union urged Sofia to step up the fight following the killings of two prominent figures.

An author of books on the Bulgarian mafia was shot dead in the Balkan country's capital on Monday, a day after the chief of an energy firm that repairs Bulgaria's nuclear power plant had been killed.

The European Commission told newcomer Bulgaria on Tuesday that "urgent action" was needed in fighting organised crime.

"We had two dead people in the past days and this is serious," Kalfin told Reuters on the sidelines of an international conference in Athens.

"There is still work to be done but we are not trying to escape from this," Kalfin said. "We are committed."

Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007 along with neighbouring Romania in the second wave of the bloc's eastward expansion, despite complaints by some European politicians it was not doing enough to combat organised crime and corruption.

The Commission will publish a report in mid-2008 on Bulgaria's progress in fighting graft and organised crime, in which it may propose sanctions if it deems the country's actions as insufficient.

Since joining the EU, Bulgaria has submitted to the Commission two progress reports on its fight against organised crime, Kalfin said. The Commission had in the past been "quite critical" of Sofia's progress, he said.

Under the accession treaty, EU states may refuse automatic recognition, and enforcement, of civil and criminal judgments and arrest warrants issued by Romania or Bulgaria.

There have been more than 150 gangland assassinations in Bulgaria since 2001. Despite its campaign against crime and graft, Bulgaria has failed to convict a single suspect, nor has it charged any senior officials with graft.

Diplomats say the killings from the past few years are the work of powerful crime gangs who, born in part from the former Soviet secret services, control large parts of the economy with help from graft-prone courts and high-level corruption. (Editing by Ibon Villelabeitia)