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Southeast Europe Anti-Corruption Forum
 

The Forum was held on 25 and 26 February in Bistritza International Conference Center with some 70 representatives of non-governmental organizations from Southeast Europe, experts from USAID, the Council of Europe, OECD, Transparency International, the US State Department, the U.K. Agency for International Development and other international organizations, as well as representatives of Bulgarian state institutions. The post communist countries of the region were presented at the Forum as well - Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Macedonia, Moldova, Slovakia, Roumania and Yugoslavia.

 

A glimpse at the Forum

A comparative study conducted in Albania, Bulgaria and Macedonia in January 2000 was presented in the first problem area on Monitoring and Assessment. It was prepared in cooperation between Vitosha Research with the Center for the Study of Democracy, the Center for Economic Studies, Albania, and Forum – Center for Strategic Studies, Macedonia. The study was based on the Corruption Monitoring System of Coalition 2000.

Within the second thematic area on Anti-corruption Partnership between State Institutions and NGOs both potential possibilities and problems in shifting from declarations and general intentions to concrete actions were analyzed. Special attention was paid to the Bulgarian experience. Addressing the participants in the conference, the Vice-President of the Republic of Bulgaria Mr. Todor Kavaldzhiev focussed on the great urgency of the problem of “corruption” in the country, underlying that unless the problem is not coped with, the country could face a new national catastrophe. US Ambassador Richard Miles dwelled on the need to provide his personal example in imposing principles of transparency and accountability, and explained the way he himself regularly accounts for his personal income and property status.

Mr. Dimitar Bachvarov, Director of the Economic Policy Department of the Council of Ministers and member of Coalition 2000 Steering Committee, stressed the necessity for even more concrete forms of cooperation, including through the development of mechanisms and draft resolutions, which should be brought to the attention of the state administration. The importance of this kind of partnership, which is already yielding results within the framework of the Coalition 2000 process, was also stressed by Mr. William Loris, Deputy Director of the International Development Law Institute (Rome), and by Nadereh Lee from USAID – Bulgaria.

 

Informal conversations among participants (from left to right): US Ambassador Richard Miles, Dr. Ognian Shentov, President of the Center for the Study of Democracy and Mr. Todor Kavaldzhiev, Vice-President of Republic of Bulgaria

Within the work of the Specialized section on local problems, representatives of Bulgarian NGOs shared the experience gained in the projects they were currently developing within the Small Grants program of Coalition 2000. Georgi Georgiev from the Political Processes Research Center in Shoumen talked about the establishment of a new institution of “Civic Observer” as a result of the cooperation with Shoumen Municipality.

Another interesting experience was the joint initiative of the Mayor of Pleven, Mr. Naiden Zelenogorski and the Revived Civil Society, a local NGO, for establishment of a “local ombudsman” institution. Mr. Deyan Ashkov from “Stefan Stambolov” Bulgarian Youth League in the town of Smolyan talked about the experience of the Regional Municipal Anticorruption Council in its attempts to cope with corruption in this part of the Rhodopes region. The experience of the Bourgas Black Sea Law Community and the “NGO Lecturers” Association of Plovdiv and others was also discussed.

On a regional aspect Mr. Alexander Seger, Program adviser with the Octopus II Program of the Council of Europe, introduced the Southeast Europe Anti-corruption Initiative, adopted in mid-February 2000 within the Stability Pact, which had been joined by Bulgaria.

Mr. William Loris introduced the Southeast Europe Legal Development Initiative (SELDI). He emphasized that SELDI had used the positive experience garnered by Coalition 2000 to a large extent.

It was also stressed that SELDI cooperates actively with other regionally oriented international initiatives: the Stability Pact for Southeast Europe, the Southeast Europe Cooperation Initiative, the Central European Initiative, the Royaumond Process, etc.

The “Corruption/Smuggling” complex was discussed in the Fourth section of the conference. The problem regarding the interrelation between the corrupting of state officials and the organized smuggling, as well as the assessment measures of contraband markets and the barring of these crimes, were presented from a special Expert Group of the Center for the Study of Democracy. The Expert group was hailed as a successful model of partnership between state institutions and civil structures in the fight against corruption and smuggling, as it consists of representatives of state entities (General Customs Directorate, Specialized Investigation Agency), Coalition 2000 experts and profiled journalists.

 
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