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1997 – BUILDING AN EXPERT POTENTIAL FOR EU ACCESSION
 

 

In 1997, as both the EU and the candidate countries accelerated support measures for the next round of enlargement, CSD's input focused on providing expert assistance for the preparation of accession negotiations.

Originated as the Europe 2000 project within the general institutional structure of the organization, in 1997 CSD's EU-related initiatives developed into a European Program. The Program's activities and projects were carried out under service contracts with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the former Secretariat on European Integration at the Council of Ministers, financed by the general Phare assistance facility for Bulgaria with the support of the Open Society Fund-Sofia.

Two main components of the Program's work stand out for - policy studies and expert discussions.

I. Policy Studies

1. Europe 2000: Bulgaria and the European Union

In continuation of the cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the main coordination agency with respect to accession, the focus of the project in 1997 was put on providing analysis in several specific policy areas as a key background resource for the preparation of the negotiation process. Started some three years ago, the collaboration between CSD and the Ministry has built an impressive record of policy analysis and expert networking. The Center provides the Ministry with technical assistance and hosts informal meetings for government officials and Bulgarian non-governmental experts on EU integration.

The areas in which policy papers were produced included financial services and movement of capital as priority issues in view of the economic developments in Bulgaria in 1997; particularly the introduction of a currency board. Special attention was also devoted to evaluating the degree to which Bulgaria has met the first EU Copenhagen Council criteria for membership formulated in 1993 - stable democratic institutions, rule of law, human rights and protection of minorities. Some other sectors of key importance such as customs union, competition, and telecommunications were also covered by the project team. The policy analysis and recommendations were developed against the background of the Commission's opinion on Bulgaria's application for membership published in July 1997.

In the development and evaluation of the policy papers, CSD has involved over 40 leading Bulgarian experts and policy makers. Thus the public policy aspect of the European Program's work has fostered an independent networking facility to establish a critical mass of Bulgarian experts in the various sectors of integration. Added to the interface with the government implementation agencies, this has provided an especially valuable impetus to the emerging public-private cooperation in the area of integration.

2. Impact Studies

Assessing the potential consequences for the economy as well as for the political and social development of the country of its accession to the EU is crucial to an informed decision making process and the implementation of a feasible accession strategy. In 1997, CSD's European Program set up a task force to examine the political, socio-economic, legal and/or institutional implications of Bulgaria's accession to the European Union in several key areas of accession. The impact studies represent an important tool to enable an evaluation of the costs and benefits of Bulgaria's accession to the European Union, to identify priorities, potential difficulties, counteracting measures, etc. The studies also designed assessments of the various consequences of adopting certain policy and legislative accession measures in the target fields.

The purpose of the studies was also to provide a pilot project basis for development and evaluation of an effective methodology for carrying out future impact and cost-benefit assessment of Bulgaria's EU accession.

As a follow-up to the impact studies, in late 1997 the Program started a project which will analyze Bulgaria's participation in EU structural funds which is one of the impact studies' target areas. The study, to be completed in mid-1998, will identify the opportunities, scenarios and most appropriate policy, institutional and budgetary options and measures for Bulgaria's future participation in EU structural funds.

The overall of eleven public policy and legislative reports produced as a result of the impact studies and Europe 2000 project will be published in early 1998 in a bilingual (English and Bulgarian) print publication on Bulgaria's accession to the European Union. The topics to be covered in the publication included:

· Democratic institutions, rule of law, human rights and protection of minorities

· Foreign and security policy

· Free movement of capital

· Financial services

· Competition

· Telecommunications

· Capital markets development

· Instruments for the development of regional cooperation

· Company law

· Environmental legislation and policy

· Customs union.

II. Forum Europe 2000

As the efforts of the Program have the broader objective of enhancing the awareness and understanding among Bulgarian politicians and experts of the implications of the EU accession process, a discussion forum was initiated to allow a wider pool of scholars and policy makers to benefit from the experience and expertise accumulated under the analytical component of the Program's work.

Started in July 1997, the Europe 2000 Forum is a series of breakfast meetings designed to provide an opportunity for informal and in-depth discussion of Bulgaria's EU accession efforts. Bulgarian participants include senior government officials, representatives of major public policy institutes involved in the integration effort, and distinguished journalists.

Guest-speakers from the EU institutions and the members states are invited to take part in the Forum as part of its mission to facilitate closer contacts among Bulgarian and European experts and policy makers. In the second half of 1997, guests were:

· Professor Alan Dashwood, former Head of the Legal Service of the Council of the EU;

· Mr. Michiel Patijn, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands;

· Mr. Douglas Henderson, MP, Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom.

In addition to bringing the Bulgarian participants in direct dialogue with their European counterparts, the Forum also serves as a driving force for the public-private interface in the integration effort. NGO professionals and government officials have the opportunity to consider cooperation ideas and joint projects. In this way, the Forum both produces an impact on integration policy and fosters a community of experts on the European Union in Bulgaria.

 
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