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Round Table: "Public-Private Partnerships in Preventing Drug Abuse and Trafficking"


March 14, 2003
Center for the Study of Democracy

Opening remarks by Dr. Ognian Shentov, Chairman
Center for the Study of Democracy

Your Royal Highness,
Mrs. Parvanova,
Minister Kotzev,
Ambassador Soutar,
Ladies and gentlemen,

- I would like to welcome all of you to the Center for the Study of Democracy and express our gratitude for your interest and participation in today's roundtable discussion on Public-Private Partnerships in Preventing Drug Abuse and Trafficking. We are particularly pleased that His Royal Highness has taken the time to meet with us on an issue that is of concern to both our countries.

- Our interest in this topic has a long history. We have consistently been confronted with the problem of drugs use, particularly in our work on contraband and corruption. In this, we are seeking to bridge the various aspects of drug trafficking and abuse and bring together all concerned public and private institutions.

- Past experience has shown that the only effective way of addressing the issue of contraband and transnational crime is through broad Public-Private Partnerships that involve, on an equal footing, all relevant actors in government, international institutions, business community and civil society. CSD has done quite a lot in the area of coalition building over the past years. Since 1998 we have set up various working groups which include experts from government institutions, including the security services, alongside independent researchers and media.

- The same framework has been applied to a Task Force on the use and abuse of drugs in Bulgaria which we set up with the support of the British Embassy in Sofia. I have to say that this is just one example of our joint efforts and we are quite pleased with the level and quality of cooperation we have established with the Embassy, particularly in the area generally known as "justice and home affairs".

- Why was setting up the Task Force needed? The usual answers to the question "How many drug users are there in Bulgaria?" were somewhere between "nobody can tell" and "more that 100 thousand". As this was obviously not an adequate basis for designing public policy in this area, we decided that a common starting point for gauging the use of drugs in the country had to be established. To this end, we conducted the first population-based survey of drug consumption in Bulgaria, the results of which will be presented to you today. We are fully aware that this type of studies are often unreliable in capturing stigmatized and hidden patterns of drugs use (such as heroin), but this survey provides a comprehensive background picture of the situation and relevant information which is crucial for the definition of effective policy measures.

- This national survey has shown that Bulgaria is indeed seriously affected by drugs use - a phenomenon that was alien to this country only about 10 years ago. But the survey has also proven that, however grave the problem of drugs use and abuse in Bulgaria is, it has by no means reached the apocalyptic magnitude described by some experts.

- The excessive exposure of this topic has obviously projected in the public mind an unrealistic and too pessimistic view of the degree to which the country has been affected by the problem of drugs. But while ordinary citizens are overly sensitive to the problem, they also show a sympathetic attitude to the victim' of drug abuse - an attitude that was very uncharacteristic some 7-8 years ago.

- We hope that this survey, and the work of the Center's task force, will provide a common ground for discussion among the various viewpoints.

- Once again, welcome to the Center for the Study of Democracy and I am pleased to give the floor to Minister Kotzev.

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