March 14, 2003
Center for the Study of Democracy
Opening remarks by Dr. Ognian Shentov,
Center for the Study of Democracy
Your Royal Highness,
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
- 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