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First Policy Forum of Coalition 2000 , 1998
 
The first Policy Forum of Coalition 2000 had the main objective to discuss and adopt an Anti-Corruption Action Plan for Bulgaria. The Policy Forum is the supreme body within the Coalition 2000 structure and is constituted of prominent public personalities with established integrity and reputation representing state institutions, non-governmental and international organizations. Its mandate is to oversee the Coalition 2000 process, to review the progress of anti-corruption efforts, and to adopt the agenda for future work.

More than 150 high-rank government officials, representatives of non-governmental organizations, members of Parliament, media editors and representatives of foreign missions and organizations actively involved in the international fight against corruption gathered on November 11, 1998 in Boyana Residence near Sofia for the first Policy Forum of Coalition 2000. "This forum is, on the one hand, part of the process of growing public awareness about the need for an anti-corruption policy whereas, on the other, it is an integral part of the internal structure and the logic of the Coalition 2000 initiative," Dr. Ognian Shentov, President of the Center for the Study of Democracy and a member of the Coalition 2000 Steering Committee, pointed out in his address to the forum participants.

According to Dr. Shentov, the Coalition 2000 process has two major aspects. With regard to the development and implementation of an anti-corruption policy, Coalition 2000 may serve as a model for partnership between the organizations of civil society and state institutions. At the same time, Coalition 2000 has employed a systemic and comprehensive approach towards the process of developing and implementing an anti-corruption policy without a parallel in other transition economies. In the words of Mr. John Tennant, Mission Director of USAID, Bulgaria, "Coalition 2000 is really a unique private-public partnership that … puts Bulgaria in a leadership position for all countries struggling to deal with corruption."

The Policy Forum endorsed the Coalition 2000 Anti-Corruption Action Plan published under the title Clean Future. The plan contains six major action lines: creating a favorable institutional and legal environment for curbing corruption, reforming the judicial system, curbing corruption in the economy, enhancing civic control in the fight against corruption, changing public perceptions of corruption and promoting international cooperation.

According to Svilena Simeonova, Head of the Legal Department at the State and Financial Control Directorate of the Ministry of Finance and a coordinator of a work group within Coalition 2000, the new institutional and legal framework proposed by the Coalition 2000 contains four main components: public administration reform, establishing new institutions and offices with controlling and monitoring functions and improving existing ones, developing the public procurement system, and reforming the political party sphere. With regard to the first component, the reform will be based on the Public Administration Act and the Civil Servants Act. The second component includes proposals for extension of the authorities of the National Audit Office and for the establishment of the institution of ombudsman in Bulgaria. The public procurement system will be improved with the adoption of a new public procurement act. Concerning the fourth component, the proposal of the Coalition 2000 is for political parties to be funded only by the state, removing the option for money donations by private entities.

"The reform in the legal system has four main components. The first is a legal reform. The second is reorganizing the operation of the judicial system. The third is improving staff recruitment procedures and professional training. The fourth is taking measures to expose corruption in the judicial system," explained Nelly Koutzkova, Chair of Sofia District Court and a member of the Coalition 2000 Steering Committee.

Corruption in the economy will be curbed by reducing the number of licensing and permission regimes, by enhancing the effectiveness of economic arbitration procedures and by increasing transparency and accountability in the privatization process, explained Dimitar Bachvarov, Head of Structural Reform Department at the Council of Ministers and a member of the Coalition 2000 Steering Committee.

Enhancing civic control in the fight against corruption will be achieved through engaging professional organizations and the media in an anti-corruption campaign. "The very presence of non-governmental organizations and the media means continuous transparency in the decision-making process and a constant civic control [of this process]," said Mr. Evgenii Dainov, Director of the Centre for Social Practices and a member of the Coalition 2000 Steering Committee.

Emil Georgiev, Coordinator of the Coalition 2000, explained that a change in public attitudes towards corruption will be achieved through an anti-corruption awareness campaign (Clean Future), through a public education campaign about the rights of citizens and the obligations of the administration, and through an anti-corruption campaign within the system of public education.

According to Mr. Boyko Todorov, Director of the Information Centre on the Council of Europe in Sofia and a member of the Coalition 2000 Steering Committee, the Anti-Corruption Action Plan of Coalition 2000 envisages cooperation with international governmental organizations, such as the Council of Europe and the European Union (authors of the Octopus project on combating corruption and organized crime in states in transition), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States Agency for International Development, the United Nations Development Program as well as with non-governmental organizations, such as Transparency International and its Bulgarian branch. In addition, Coalition 2000 draws on the experience of international financial institutions, such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Nevertheless, as pointed out by Avis Bohlen, Ambassador of the United States in Sofia, Coalition 2000 remains a purely local initiative.

"I would like to congratulate Coalition 2000 very much for its excellent plan," Mr. Antonio Vigilante, Resident Coordinator of the United Nations in Sofia, said in his address to the Policy Forum. "This is more than an anti-corruption plan; this is a plan for good governance as well," continued Mr. Vigilante. According to the Resident Representative of the World Bank in Bulgaria, Mr. Thomas O'Brien, "many of the steps and ideas in the Coalition 2000 plan are at the forefront of best international practice." Mr. O'Brien indicated that the World Bank is studying possibilities for assisting the government and its partners from the non-governmental sector in their fight against corruption.

Mr. Tennant emphasized that the main challenge the Coalition 2000 initiative will face in order for it to be fully successful will be to win the support of state institutions in its fight against corruption.
 
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