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Coalition 2000 Presents an Anti-Corruption Action Plan for Bulgaria
Coalition 2000 unveiled its Anti-Corruption Action Plan for Bulgaria at a Policy Workshop held at the Center for the Study of Democracy on July 7, 1998. More than 50 representatives of the state administration, of non-governmental organizations as well as members of Parliament took part in the discussions. Special guests to the Policy Workshop included Mr. Michael Hager, Director of the International Development Law Institute (IDLI), Ms. Ekaterina Michailova, Chair of the Parliamentary Group of the Union of Democratic Forces and Deputy Chair of the Parliamentary Committee to Counter Crime and Corruption, the newly appointed Resident Representative of the World Bank in Bulgaria, Mr. Thomas O'Brien and Mr. John Tennant, Mission Director of USAID - Bulgaria.

Corruption has become a global phenomenon, which hampers economic growth, Mr. Hager pointed out in his address to the participants in the workshop. The world financial institutions and many of the governments were now determined to curb corrupt practices. Non-governmental organizations could contribute to this process by mobilizing the anti-corruption forces in society. In the words of Mr. Hager, the Anti-Corruption Action Plan of the Coalition 2000 was "the corner stone of the fight against corruption in Bulgaria."

Combating corruption is among the priorities of the Bulgarian government, Ms. Michailova told the participants in the Policy Workshop. "I am glad that non-governmental organizations have already joined the fight (against corruption)," she said. Ms. Michailova proposed a meeting between the Parliamentary Committee to Counter Crime and Corruption and the non-governmental organizations engaged in anti-corruption efforts in order to adopt common measures in the fight against corruption.

According to Mrs. Svilena Simeonova, Head of the Legal Department at the State and Financial Control Office at the Ministry of Finance and a Coordinator of a Work Group within the Coalition 2000, corruption can be curbed by the introduction of a new institutional and legal framework. It should include a public administration reform, establishing of new institutions and offices with controlling and monitoring functions in addition to improving the existing ones as well as a reform of the political party sphere.

The Anti-Corruption Action Plan developed by the Coalition 2000 recommends improvement of the interaction between the National Audit Office and tax, financial and customs authorities, said Mrs. Maria Yordanova, a Senior Fellow at the Center for the Study of Democracy and a Coordinator of a Work Group within Coalition 2000. Introducing the Ombudsman institution in Bulgaria is another proposal included in the Anti-Corruption Action Plan.

"We would like to see the introduction of probation, changes in the penal procedure code, the establishment of the possibility for out-of-court settlement of disputes, the implementation of ethical codes and the introduction of a public register for the incomes and the property of magistrates," said Mrs. Nelly Kutzkova, Chair of Sofia Regional Court and a member of the Steering Committee of the Coalition 2000. The Anti-Corruption Action Plan developed by the coalition envisaged a legislative reform, reorganizing the operation of the judicial system, improving staff recruitment procedures and professional training as well as measures to expose corruption in the judiciary.

According to Mr. Vasilis Maragos, Economic Counselor with the Delegation of the European Commission to Bulgaria, the withdrawal of the state from the economy will lead to reduction of corrupt practices. Better mechanisms for financial control should be introduced, especially in the field of public procurement, where control should be exercised by more than one institution, Mr. Maragos believes. The European Commission was prepared to support the introduction of the principles of competition in public administration, to provide expert assistance in the drafting and amendment of legislative acts and to help in the training of legal experts.

The reduction of the number of licensing regimes and the overall liberalization of the business environment are important factors for limiting corruption, Dr. Stefan Hadjitodorov, a Secretary to the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and a member of the Coalition 2000 Steering Committee, told the participants in the workshop.

The Anti-Corruption Action Plan recommends cooperation with international organizations and financial institutions known for their active role in the fight against corruption, Mr. Boyko Todorov, Director of the Information Centre on the Council of Europe in Sofia and a member of the Coalition 2000 Steering Committee, said. These include the Council of Europe, the European Commission, the World Bank, the IMF, the USAID, the IDLI, etc.

According to Mr. Tennant, the present political and economic situation in Bulgaria creates very good prospects for the success of the Anti-Corruption Action Plan developed by Coalition 2000.
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