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Coalition 2000 Leads Anti-corruption Efforts in Bulgaria

On April 7, 1998 representatives of 15 non-governmental organizations gathered at the Center at for the Study of Democracy to officially launch the Coalition 2000 initiative to fight corruption in Bulgaria. The coalition's main objective, as described in their Anti-Corruption Action Plan, is "to enhance corruption awareness as part of the adoption and the practical implementation of democratic values, such as transparency, trust and integrity." The Plan contains proposals for corruption-curbing reforms in public administration, the judicial system, the political party sphere and the economy.

A draft of the Anti-Corruption Action Plan developed by Coalition 2000 was first presented at the Policy Workshop organized by the coalition at the Center for the Study of Democracy on July 7, 1998. The participants in the Policy Workshop, including members of Parliament, high-ranking state officials, representatives of non-governmental organizations and foreign guests, gave a very positive assessment of the Plan and agreed to cooperate in its practical implementation. "I think that this plan is a very good beginning [of the fight against corruption in Bulgaria]," Michael Hager, Director of the International Development Law Institute, said after the meeting. Only ten days later two representatives of Coalition 2000 were invited to join a team of experts led by the deputy minister of justice, Nicholas Filchev, in charge of producing a draft law on the fight against corruption.

"The Coalition 2000 project is the most impressive anti-corruption initiative I have come across in all the twenty countries I am currently working with," Petter Langseth, an anti-corruption expert working with the Economic Development Institute at the World Bank, said during his meeting with the Coalition 2000 secretariat on September 9, 1998. He added that the World Bank intended to assist Coalition 2000 in its work.

More than 150 high-ranking government officials, representatives of non-governmental organizations, members of Parliament, media editors and foreign guests gathered on November 11, 1998 in Boyana Residence near Sofia for the first Policy Forum of Coalition 2000. "The present forum is, on the one hand, part of the process of growing public awareness about the need for an anti-corruption policy and, 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, told the forum participants.

The Forum adopted the final version of the Anti-Corruption Action Plan of Coalition 2000 under the title Clean Future. The Coalition 2000 corruption indices developed by the social survey agency Vitosha Research were also presented at the Forum. "The Anti-Corruption Action Plan contains a number of valuable initiatives that can be implemented by the institutions of the state together with non-governmental organizations," said Ekaterina Michailova, Head of the Parliamentary Group of the ruling Union of Democratic Forces and a Deputy Chair of the Parliamentary Committee to Counter Crime and Corruption. There is already an agreement for exchange of information and for joint actions between the Parliamentary Committee and Coalition 2000, Michailova announced.

Part of the reform proposals included in the coalition's Action Plan have already been implemented. In the fall of 1998 the Bulgarian Parliament adopted a new Public Administration Act and a new Judiciary Act, both of which had been included among the Coalition 2000 proposals for reforms in public administration and the judiciary. A Civil Servants Act, which is another of the Coalition 2000 proposals, is to be adopted in following months. Meanwhile, in 1999 Coalition 2000 will launch a series of service delivery surveys at a municipal level. The survey results will be published in the local media, which is expected to lead to increased control over the work of local administration and to reduce the level of corrupt practices. The Action Plan also envisages a corruption awareness campaign, whose aim will be to promote intolerance towards bribery.

"Coalition 2000 is really a unique public-private partnership that provides a powerful framework and mechanism for dealing with corruption in a comprehensive and systemic way," says John Tennant, Mission Director of USAID-Bulgaria. "USAID-Bulgaria is pleased to be able to support this creative initiative, which puts Bulgaria in a leadership position for all countries which are struggling to deal with corruption."

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