CSD.BG RSShttp://csd.bg/en-ENCSD.BGSun, 21 Jul 2019 14:20:25 +0300Sun, 21 Jul 2019 14:20:25 +0300events-2006Tue, 09 Jul 2019 10:00:00 +0300From Criminals to Terrorists and Back? Evidence from Europehttps://csd.bg/events/event/from-criminals-to-terrorists-and-back-evidence-from-europe/The most well-known ISIS terrorist atrocities in Europe, including the 2015 Paris and 2016 Brussels attacks, saw individuals who in the past had been involved in organised crime and illegal trade graduate into the ranks of the world’s most successful terrorist organisation. To respond to the threat emanating from the “crime-terror nexus” in Europe, GLOBSEC, along with a team of leading experts on terrorism based in 11 European countries (including the Center for the Study of Democracy), conducted a study looking at the potential criminal pasts of over 350 individuals arrested for terrorism in 2015.The key findings of the study, as well as opportunities for prevention of radicalisation and violent extremism in Bulgaria, were discussed during the roundtable From Criminals to Terrorists and Back? Evidence from Europe, held at the Center for the Study of Democracy on 9 July 2019.The most well-known ISIS terrorist atrocities in Europe, including the 2015 Paris and 2016 Brussels attacks, saw individuals who in the past had been involved in organised crime and illegal trade graduate into the ranks of the world’s most successful terrorist organisation. To respond to the threat emanating from the “crime-terror nexus” in Europe, GLOBSEC, along with a team of leading experts on terrorism based in 11 European countries (including the Center for the Study of Democracy), conducted a study looking at the potential criminal pasts of over 350 individuals arrested for terrorism in 2015.

The key findings of the study, as well as opportunities for prevention of radicalisation and violent extremism in Bulgaria, were discussed during the roundtable From Criminals to Terrorists and Back? Evidence from Europe, held at the Center for the Study of Democracy on 9 July 2019.

Viktor Szucs, Project Coordinator at Globsec provided an overview of the findings of the study, which covered the criminal pasts of 349 arrestees for Europol in 2015 of whom 310 were accused of jihadist terrorism, along with over 120 variables such as socio-demographic profile, radicalization pathways, mental health issues, previous criminal involvement. The data is based mainly on open sources, such as media, as well on court files and information provided by national institutions (prosecutors, police, etc.). The data allowed for a typical profile of a European jihadist to be outlined as follows: mostly male, with the average age of 34 years, an EU citizen (either born in the EU or naturalised). Accordingly, a link with unemployment and low levels of education was also established. The main reasons reported for radicalisation include perceived discrimination and the disregard of the Western civilisation towards Muslim culture. Radicalisation, however, is not a fast process and took more than 4 years to evolve for most cases studied. The analysis mainly focused on the correlation between criminal activities and radicalisation of individuals, indicating a very small margin between the number of petty crimes and that of the severe crimes, rendering the assumption that mainly petty crimes lead to terrorism no longer valid. Financing for the terrorist activities on the other hand mostly has legal origin, such as benefits, salaries, and savings. The study concluded that there is no clear pathway between crime and terrorism.

Rosita Dzhekova, Director of the Security Program of the Center for the Study of Democracy then discussed challenges to prevention of radicalisation and violent extremism having in mind the Bulgarian experience. She underlined the need of better understanding of the vulnerability factors in the process of radicalisation, emphasizing the interaction between individual susceptibility and exposure to an environment where engagement with extremist narratives and ideology (offline and online), as well as direct contact with recruiters is taking place. The online space deserves urgent attention in this regard - youth in Bulgaria is increasingly exposed to far-right narratives and ideas on social media, which are increasingly becoming mainstream, violence and hateful content are normalized. Rositsa highlighted findings from a new study on vulnerability of youth towards the influence of such narratives, based on social media observations and a national representative survey among youth aged 14-19. It showed how echo chambers are created online and fuel polarization, while the domonizing of “others” flows into the general discourse and becomes the norm. Over 30% of young people have been exposed to hateful or violent content online without perceiving it as inappropriate. Approval of far-right narratives is much higher and reaches 70%. A possible course of action is to change the conversation online and provide positive alternative narratives, as well as help young people build essential life skills and develop critical thinking trough interactive social media campaigns and engaging teachers in prevention.

The participants discussed potential implications for policy and practice and concluded that proper diagnostic and sound evidence are crucial for designing appropriate responses.

 

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events-2004Fri, 28 Jun 2019 10:00:00 +0300Low-carbon mobility and its challenges to energy transition policies in Europehttps://csd.bg/events/event/low-carbon-mobility-and-its-challenges-to-energy-transition-policies-in-europe/The challenges to energy transition policies in Europe regarding low-carbon mobility and electrification of vehicles in particular have been discussed at a roundtable in Brussels, organized by the Center for the Study of Democracy in cooperation with the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung European Union office.The challenges to energy transition policies in Europe regarding low-carbon mobility and electrification of vehicles in particular have been discussed at a roundtable in Brussels, organized by the Center for the Study of Democracy in cooperation with the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung European Union office. The experts from the business sector, public and research institutions, civil society organizations and think-tanks, underlined that the 2030 targets, set up by the separate EU member countries are still not enough ambitious and will not allow for reaching the 2030 climate and energy objectives. One of the examples has been the delay in the development of electric batteries’ production facilities and related R&D in Europe, which is still well behind the USA and other leading countries. The discussion highlighted also the need for development of rail transport as one of the most effective in terms of CO2 emissions and the need for shift in the next EU multiannual financial framework from construction of high-speed roads towards railway infrastructure and services.

The electrification of vehicles and the corresponding regulatory and technological challenges regarding the power grid flexibility and stability have been the natural focus of the prevailing national and European transport decarbonisation policies according to the majority of the experts. However, the latter are still suffering from underdeveloped regulations as compared to dynamic technological advancements. For instance, an important objective for the EU regulations in the field should be the standardization of charging infrastructure. At the same time, the policy objectives could not rely only on technological innovation but should prioritize also the public services’ improvements and social innovations, which incentivize changes in individual behavior, e.g. shared mobility options ranging from e-cars to e-scooters and (e-)bicycles, cheaper combined ticketing for public transport or electrification of car- and bus-fleets of public institutions and other public services.

Recent research done by CSD in nine European countries, underlines as a major driver for the electrification of vehicles the fact that the industry is leading both the regulatory and technological developments in the sector. However, the respective policies still have several drawbacks and among them the major one is the insufficient political commitment and policy coordination, particularly on national and local level, despite the existing EU priorities. Moreover, unlike renewable energy sources – and mainly solar and wind, e-mobility has not received high public attention and usually remains only a sectoral policy in most of the European countries. As a result, incentives and drivers for shift in individual behaviors on a large-scale are largely missing.

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events-2003Thu, 27 Jun 2019 10:30:00 +0300State Capture Assessment Diagnostics: From Concept to Policy Instrumenthttps://csd.bg/events/event/state-capture-assessment-diagnostics-from-concept-to-policy-instrument/The Center for the Study of Democracy released its latest report State Capture Assessment Diagnostics (SCAD) at a round table in Brussels on 27 June 2019. SCAD is a comprehensive open model allowing the study, measurement and monitoring of state capture risks at national and sectoral level. SCAD combines hard and survey data with contextual analysis, such as media monitoring. It diagnoses country and sectoral risks along three main dimensions: business capture, institutional enablers and environmental enablers. CSD piloted SCAD in five European countries - Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Italy, Romania and Spain - each displaying different governance gaps. The pilot diagnostics showed that Bulgaria and Romania were the two countries most vulnerable to capture. In terms of sectors, electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply and telecommunications have shown the highest average capture risks across the five countries. Wholesale of pharmaceuticals has also emerged as a high risk sector in some of the countries.
 
The round table participants noted that unlike a decade ago, state capture is well understood as a policy threat to the EU. This is particularly true in the context of EU enlargement and internal rule of law. In the 2019 semester reports corruption is present as a topic in all 10 countries, including the two countries under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (Bulgaria and Romania).

The round table participants identified the following policy domains where SCAD could be implemented:

  • Rule of law. SCAD can underpin or aid the European semester instrument or to the future rule of law instrument.
  • Enlargement. Developing a more comprehensive and adaptable system of monitoring anticorruption and good governance in the enlargement context is critical to preserving EU’s international interests and standing.
  • Anti-fraud and financial instruments. The EU should be looking for instruments on how to better measure the impact of its cohesion policies and how to better leverage its development aid inside and outside the Union.

The concluding discussion at the round table took a closer look at the way forward. It noted that the EU needs to focus on tangible utility and procedural integrity towards justice, fairness, and the restoration of trust in elected officials. This is a critical contribution SCAD could make. It would strengthen EU’s internal cohesiveness and allow it to better fend off the rising authoritarian tide around in Europe and the globe. The participants recommended that SCAD continues to develop looking into additional questions such as how state capture emerges in the first place; why should everyone be concerned with it; what could be done to tackle it and how the private business sector could help in this process.

 

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events-2001Thu, 27 Jun 2019 10:00:00 +0300Sharp power grip: Dimensions of Russian influence in Southeast Europehttps://csd.bg/events/event/sharp-power-grip-dimensions-of-russian-influence-in-southeast-europe/Russia has successfully leveraged its economic influence in strategic sectors to achieve an outsized political influence using sharp power instruments in the political, social and cultural arenas throughout South East Europe. This was the main focus of a roundtable on Sharp power grip: Dimensions of Russian Influence in Southeast Europe in Belgrade, co-organized by the Center for Study of Democracy (CSD) and the National Endowment for Democracy.

During the discussion, CSD experts presented the key preliminary findings of a regional study of the different channels of Russian influence in SEE. Although the Russian economic footprint as share of the region’s economy has gradually decreased since 2014, this is more a reflection of domestic growth and international factors, such as the declining oil prices, the sanctions on Moscow and the following countersanctions, rather than a decline in the scope of the Kremlin’s influence. Despite shrinking structural, bilateral deficits, Russia has been able to leverage its monopoly over energy markets in the region, to lock-in countries in long-term, politically-driven and costly infrastructure projects undermining the independence of the decision-making of key institutions and state-owned companies. Roughly EUR 10 billion in Russian capital has entered the region since 2006, most of it invested in purchasing strategic assets in the energy sector but also in a number of other areas including infrastructure, banking and finance, real estate and the media. In many instances, the Russian economic presence has been channeled through non-transparent capital inflows, often from offshore jurisdictions.

The participants in the discussion maintained that the Kremlin’s penetration into the regional economy is enabled by domestic institutional weaknesses as well as the lack of assertive political involvement from the EU and the U.S. The Russian economic interests are often supported by local oligarchic networks which have close ties with the government or with influential policy elites. In this network of state capture, Russia has been able to sustain its position through a series of sharp power amplifiers including the spread of disinformation, the sponsoring of sports and cultural entities, and the direct or indirect financing of fringe political parties.

The presentation of the key findings of the study set the tone for a policy-oriented debate that brainstormed a series of measures for national governments and international actors. Among the recommendations on a national level, the fight against grand political corruption emerged as the main theme. The experts advocated measures including competitive public procurement procedures, more independence for key regulators, and the development of robust anti-money laundering authorities including on EU level.  The speakers underlined the need for a free and transparent media environment and more active public diplomacy in the region. There is also a need for greater cooperation between civil society and independent liberal-minded political actors.

On a European and international level, the policy experts advocated greater involvement from the EU and the U.S. not only in terms of more investment in strategic economic sectors and the improvement of the macroeconomic environment, but in winning over the hearts and minds of local populations through stronger engagement in socially impactful religious and cultural initiatives. The discussion emphasized the need for building up the region’s resilience against foreign malign influence via a more assertive, multilateral political and diplomatic involvement from the West.

 

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events-2000Wed, 12 Jun 2019 09:00:00 +0300Corruption and State Capture Monitoring, Advocacy and Impact in a World of Hybrid Threatshttps://csd.bg/events/event/corruption-and-state-capture-monitoring-advocacy-and-impact-in-a-world-of-hybrid-threats/The 3-day training, organised by the SELDI anti-corruption initiative on 12-14 June 2019 in Sarajevo, had as key objectives to inspire CSOs and grassroot organisations to engage in anti-corruption initiatives, instruct them how to apply corruption and state capture monitoring methodologies, and encourage them to collaborate among themselves and with the public institutions in order to achieve positive impact over the national and regional policies.

During the opening, Dr. Janina Berg, Policy Officer at the Center for Thematic Expertise – Rule of Law (Anti-Corruption desk) of DG NEAR, European Commission underlined the importance of CSOs bringing out the voices of the public and holding the institutions accountable. She noted the challenges that countries from the Western Balkans face in the area of the rule of law, and the observed links between organised crime and corruption. In that regard she recommended that countries utilise the  principle "fundamentals first" and tackle the issues with greatest negative impact through systematic investigations. Vladimir Pandurevic, Programme Manager for Civil Society/EIDHR/Culture/Youth at the  Delegation of the European Union to BiH recommended a stronger cooperation between the public institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, necessary in order to tackle state capture.

Day 1 of the training was dedicated to sharing SELDI’s experience and research methods in delivering anti-corruption solutions, advocacy and policy enhancement. SELDI’s experts demonstrated to the CSOs and the grassroots the main SELDI corruption monitoring and anti-corruption assessment instruments, with a specific focus on state capture and corruption risk assessment at institutional level (Monitoring Anticorruption Policy Implementation (MACPI) State Capture, MACPI Micro, Corruption Monitoring System, Hidden Economy Index). The afternoon session was reserved for training the grantees on the specifics of project implementation and reporting based on the EU Rules and Standards. The grantees shared their project ideas, thus finding supporters and collaborators among the audience. The future projects of the grantees will focus on the following topics:

  •  Democracy Plus, Kosovo* - public procurement monitoring in selected municipalities
  • Centar za humanu politiku, BiH - promoting the better treatment of institutional audit reports by the prosecution
  • Roma Center for Democracy, Serbia, with project partner the citizen’s organisation for Ecologic and Sustainable Development Green Institute, North Macedonia - assessing the corruption in the spending of public funds for environmental projects
  • CSR Communication, Albania - social audit to fight corruption in public procurement
  • Studiorum, North Macedonia - conflict of interest as a gateway to corruption
  • Centre for Civic Education, Montenegro - misuse of public financing in the higher education

Day 2 of the training focused on two key topics. The first one was the establishment of civil society-media relations and the benefits to CSOs of working with investigative journalists. Day 2 was also dedicated to the final objective of any anti-corruption effort: improving the current policies, strategies and laws through efficient public-private partnerships. All participating anti-corruption agencies from the SEE region and other public organisations tasked with countering corruption confirmed their willingness to work with the civil society. They noted the benefits presented by the human potential of CSOs and grassroots in terms of receiving advice or technical support regarding legislative changes, evaluation of the efficiency of the current policies and strategies and the formulation of new ones. The CSOs and grassroots also gained better understanding on their potential role as partners to the public institutions, and the existing opportunities for policy participation. In addition, all countries highlighted the unsatisfactory rate of reached convictions, despite the numerous instances of corruption uncovered. The anti-corruption agencies explained that their authorities constitute mainly preliminary investigations of corruption cases, education and prevention. Thus, they advocated for stronger commitment by the prosecutors' offices and courts in the region, which are in charge of the effective processing of the corruption signals. During the discussion, representatives of the private sector and the civil society suggested that the countries from the region explore the possibility for increased use of disciplinary actions, such as fines and dismissals of public servants. On the one hand, these can prevent a corruption action before it happens, and on the other hand, the procedures are faster than in criminal prosecution.    

Day 3 of the training was be dedicated to the role of the civil society as drivers of the EU transformation processes, and the importance of CSO networking. The CSOs and grassroots were able to hear best practices from practitioners, experienced in building CSO anticorruption coalitions and achieving policy impact. SELDI members and other partner CSO organisations also shared their methodologies and good practices, with a focus on the monitoring of public spending and public administration reforms, further inspiring CSOs and grassroots to engage in these areas. A specific focus was placed on the process of CSOs developing analytical content. The participants agreed that CSOs need to always be innovative and improve their methods of effectively communicating advocacy messages, including through infographics and videos, published on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and other social media. 

 

* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence

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events-1999Thu, 30 May 2019 10:30:00 +0300Russian Disinformation in Europehttps://csd.bg/events/event/russian-disinformation-in-europe/The Center for the Study of Democracy addressed those issues by organizing a round table on 30 May 2019: Provocation and Resilience: The Differential Challenge of and Response to Russian Disinformation in Europe. The participants fostered an enhanced understanding of the different levels of susceptibility to Russian media influence across Europe, further outlining best practices and gaps in tackling foreign anti-democratic propaganda.The challenge of Russian disinformation and propaganda is manifested in a varied and contextual manner, as different countries in Europe experience differentiated vulnerabilities and resilience capacities in relation to authoritarian state-sponsored media operations.

The Center for the Study of Democracy addressed those issues by organizing a round table on 30 May 2019: Provocation and Resilience: The Differential Challenge of and Response to Russian Disinformation in Europe. The participants fostered an enhanced understanding of the different levels of susceptibility to Russian media influence across Europe, further outlining best practices and gaps in tackling foreign anti-democratic propaganda.

During the discussions, a number of highlights regarding the state of Russian disinformation and propaganda were emphasized.

In the Polish case, it has become hard to identify whether the national-conservative discourse, which has taken over the media space, is directly promoted by the Kremlin or just coincides with Russian narratives. The challenge of raising the media literacy of the population was further noted.

In the Czech Republic, the online sources disseminating propagandist messages have grown in number and can be categorized into two types: those which both translate Russian articles, while also creating their own original content, and those which operate in a less sophisticated manner by only spreading translated content to the public.

The French media landscape has been characterized by the popularity of Sputnik France and RT. These Kremlin-backed media sources have been instrumental in supporting a Russian strategy of ‘negative’ soft power, which does not directly focus on glorifying Russia but on stressing the negative aspects of French – and more generally European, developments.

The technological capacities for detecting Russian disinformation activities were demonstrated through the Sensika tool for (near) real-time monitoring of online news and social media.

 

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events-1996Wed, 29 May 2019 09:00:00 +0300Bulgaria’s International Competitiveness 2019https://csd.bg/events/event/bulgarias-international-competitiveness-2019/According to the 2019 World Competitiveness Yearbook of the Institute for Management Development (IMD, Switzerland), the Bulgarian economy, being driven by the EU, is slowly, though unimpressively, recovering. In 2019, Bulgaria ranks 48th out of 63 economies, an improvement of seven positions compared to 2015, but a decline compared to 2007. The Bulgarian economy remains among the most uncompetitive ones. Its long-term factors of competitiveness remain stagnant, and change in the near future is rather unlikely unless a substantial correction of the policies of the Bulgarian government and business leaders occurs.

Key Competitiveness Challenges and Opportunities for Bulgaria 2019:

  • Economic institutions lack a strong judicial system and control of corruption.
  • Further efforts should be made to curb the informal economy.
  • Structural reforms to join ERM II and the Banking Union are slow.
  • Insufficient action in reforming the energy sector.
  • Access to skilled labour is a growing challenge.
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events-1990Wed, 15 May 2019 09:00:00 +0300RACCOMBAT – Integration of foreigners and prevention of racism, xenophobia and intolerancehttps://csd.bg/events/event/raccombat-integration-of-foreigners-and-prevention-of-racism-xenophobia-and-intolerance/On 15 May 2019 the Center for the Study of Democracy held an international conference devoted to integration of foreigners and the prevention of racism, xenophobia and intolerance within the framework of the RACCOMBAT initiative, dealing with social orientation of refugees and migrants as tool to prevent and counter acts of hatred against them. The conference gathered representatives of social services, the Employment Agency, the State Agency for Refugees with the Council of Ministers, law enforcement authorities, integration agencies and NGO service providers from Bulgaria, Romania, Belgium, Austria, Greece and Latvia.On 15 May 2019 the Center for the Study of Democracy held an international conference devoted to integration of foreigners and the prevention of racism, xenophobia and intolerance within the framework of the RACCOMBAT initiative, dealing with social orientation of refugees and migrants as tool to prevent and counter acts of hatred against them. The conference gathered representatives of social services, the Employment Agency, the State Agency for Refugees with the Council of Ministers, law enforcement authorities, integration agencies and NGO service providers from Bulgaria, Romania, Belgium, Austria, Greece and Latvia.

During the conference opening Mr Mathijs le Rutte, UNHCR Representative in Bulgaria outlined the main challenges before the integration of foreigners in the educational sphere and the avoidance of acts of racism and discrimination through critical thinking and mobilisation of public effort. Dr Maria Yordanova, Senior Fellow with the Law Program of the Center, emphasized on the importance of the topic of migration and integration in the organisation’s research and its contribution to strengthening the capacity of responsible institutions. Miriana Ilcheva, Senior Analyst with the Law Program, presented the main conclusions of the RACCOMBAT initiative, the good practices it gathered and its guidelines on incorporating tolerance and mutual respect in language tuition and social orientation of foreigners.

In the conference’s first panel, devoted to the integration challenges before institutions and NGOs on central and local level, Dr Isabella Meier, Researcher at the European Training and Research Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, Graz, Austria, outlined the main particularities of the integration models, led, respectively, by the state and civil society representatives. Vladimir Milev, Project Coordinator, Bulgarian Council for Refugees and Migrants, Athena Konstantinou, Social Scientist with the Athens Development and Destination Management Agency, Greece and Els de Wacker, Head of Social Orientation Department, Atlas Antwerp, Belgium described their countries’ systems of social orientation of migrants and the main difficulties both before developed integration models and those meeting huge refugee inflow and unfavourable material conditions.

The event’s second panel looked at the RACCOMBAT initative’s main topic – the prevention of racism, xenophobia and intolerance. Prof Dirk Vanheule and Sanne van de Pol from the Centre for Migration and Intercultural Studies, University of Antwerp, Belgium outlined how the co-existence of the host society and foreigners stands within the system of fundamental rights. Robert Bosiger, Project Manager, Weichenstellwerk Graz, Austria, Angelina Kaneva, Protection and Fundraising specialist at Caritas Sofia and Fabrice Ciaccia, Project Manager at CRI Charleroi, Belgium presented good practices in training refugees and migrants on human rights and in the capacity building of training providers.

After an introduction on the importance of integration support to foreigners by Agnese Lace, Senior Policy Analyst at PROVIDUS, Latvia, the conference’s third panel gave the word to representatives of leading integration entities from several EU Member States. Florina Dragulin, Refugee Caseworker at the Jesuit Refugee Service, Romania, Ilze Dūmiņa, Project Manager at the Society Integration Foundation Latvia and Yoana Argirova, Social Worker at the Refugee-Migrant Service, Bulgarian Red Cross outlined where integration and the overall support for migrants fall within the general context of humanitarian assistance to vulnerable social groups.
In the event’s last panel, Annie Camarioti, International Projects Co-ordinator, Center for European Constitutional Law, Greece and Gabriela Ionescu, International Projects Expert, psychologist, Pro Refugiu, Romania described the policy and psychological aspects of racism and discrimination as introduction to the presentation of some of Bulgaria’s most successful practices in the inclusion of foreigners into the host society. Milena Karakanova, Co-ordinator, Bread houses Sofia, Bulgaria, Miroslava Georgieva, Project Co-ordinator, Tulip Foundation, Bulgaria and Panayot Chafkarov, Project Co-ordinator, Multi Kulti Collective, Bulgaria tackled various aspects of intercommunal communication, fighting stereotypes and the strive to make refugees and migrants feel ‘at home’ in the country and among its people.

In the last part of the conference, Emiliya Bratanova van Harten, Integration Associate at UNHCR Bulgaria presented conclusions from the foreign and national experiences shared during the event and the recommendations of UNHCR and the integration community towards Bulgarian institutions.

 

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events-1988Thu, 09 May 2019 16:16:00 +0300The Right to Free Movement of Same-Sex Families in the EUhttps://csd.bg/events/event/the-right-to-free-movement-of-same-sex-families-in-the-eu/Recently released data from a national representative survey on attitudes towards LGBT people in Bulgarian society reveal a worrying trend - the attitude towards LGBT people in Bulgaria in recent years has been regressing. The share of people rejecting the right of LGBT to live their lives as they wish has increased from 18% to 25% between 2012 and 2018. By comparison, in 2008 this percentage was 30%, according to European Social Survey data. The social distance between the general population and LGBT communities has also increased. A big number of people feel relatively to strongly uncomfortable to have LGBT neighbors: 63% if they are bisexual; 65% if they are lesbians; 66% if they are gay men; and 68% if they are trans people. By comparison, according to the European Values Survey data, the rejectors in 1999 were 54% and 51% in 2008.Recently released data from a national representative survey on attitudes towards LGBT people in Bulgarian society reveal a worrying trend - the attitude towards LGBT people in Bulgaria in recent years has been regressing. The share of people rejecting the right of LGBT to live their lives as they wish has increased from 18% to 25% between 2012 and 2018. By comparison, in 2008 this percentage was 30%, according to European Social Survey data. The social distance between the general population and LGBT communities has also increased. A big number of people feel relatively to strongly uncomfortable to have LGBT neighbors: 63% if they are bisexual; 65% if they are lesbians; 66% if they are gay men; and 68% if they are trans people. By comparison, according to the European Values Survey data, the rejectors in 1999 were 54% and 51% in 2008.

In this unfavorable context, on 9 May 2019, the Center for the Study of Democracy took part in a discussion on "The Right to Free Movement of Same-Sex Families in the EU".

The main focus of the event was presenting data from the report "Free movement of EU citizens - rights and challenges for same-sex families in the Republic of Bulgaria", which review of the rights guaranteed to EU citizens and an analysis of the measures and deficiencies in the implementation of the Directive in Bulgaria, a review of administrative and judicial practice in the country and data from a national survey of same-sex couples with recognized status in other EU Member States who reside temporarily or live in Bulgaria. Another highlight at the event was the presentation of a petition urging the leaders of the European institutions to take measures to protect same-sex families in the EU. The petition is addressed to the Presidents of the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Council of the EU and is backed by 17 758 signatures of citizens from across the European Union.

 

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events-1984Wed, 24 Apr 2019 11:30:00 +0300Innovative approaches in measuring the illegal market for cigarettes and the institutional counteractionhttps://csd.bg/events/event/innovative-approaches-in-measuring-the-illegal-market-for-cigarettes-and-the-institutional-counterac/The illicit tobacco market has been one of the largest criminal markets in Bulgaria over the past three decades. The set of indicators used by the institutions in assessing the work of the competent general and regional directorates in the field of illicit trade in tobacco products mainly regard the the number of registered offenses, the number of apprehended perpetrators and the amounts of illegal cigarettes being seized.

Opportunities for identifying innovative approaches to measuring the size of the illegal cigarette market as well as the evaluating effectiveness of the counteraction applied by the various competent services were discussed during an expert round table held at the Center for the Study of Democracy on 24 April 2019. A statistical model resulting in an integrated evaluation index was presented to executives and experts from all competent institutions as well as representatives of the leading companies in the field by the Center’s experts. The model takes into consideration a number of variables identified as highly influential by means of regression and correlation analysis. These variables were observed in two categories based on their character – either enabling and suppressing the market, and include the amount of seized products, the strength of the police force, the economic environment and the criminogenic activity, all on calculated on regional level. Changes in the leadership of the regional police structures, which often lead to an increase in the amounts of seized products, the overlapping competences between institutions, leading to increased effectiveness, as well as the improved counteraction as a result of systematic data collection and analysis of data sets in all competent institutions were identified as the major external factors that have strong influence on the market. Particular attention was paid to the fact that the cooperation between the Customs Agency and the General and Regional Directorates of the Ministry of Interior since 2015 (the first public release of the Empty Pack Survey (EPS) together with the improved information collection processes lead to the availability of a set of "good data", an improved environment for scientific research and increased capacity for identifying anomalies.

The event takes place under the initiative "Illegal Trade in Tobacco Products and the Balkan Route: Overcoming Institutional Weaknesses and Corruption" and is funded by PMI-IMPACT - a global initiative to combat illegal trade and related crimes.

 

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events-1982Tue, 23 Apr 2019 10:00:00 +0300The Decarbonisation of the Bulgarian Economy: European and National Perspectiveshttps://csd.bg/events/event/the-decarbonisation-of-the-bulgarian-economy-european-and-national-perspectives/Forthcoming in English

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events-2008Tue, 23 Apr 2019 10:00:00 +0300Training Module for Cultural and Civic Orientation of Asylum Seekers and Beneficiaries of International Protectionhttps://csd.bg/events/event/training-module-for-cultural-and-civic-orientation-of-asylum-seekers-and-beneficiaries-of-internatio/In search for solutions to address gaps in the reception and integration system for asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection in Bulgaria, the Center for the Study of Democracy developed a training module to aid the work of trainers in providing cultural and civic orientation to refugees in the country. The publication provides information on key topics relating to the cultural and civic orientation as well as a package of training methods and techniques for group wirk. In addition, it provides a comprehensive training program offering a systematic training approach and an interactive learning process to acquaint refugees with the host society’s living, civic, social and cultural milieu. In search for solutions to address gaps in the reception and integration system for asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection in Bulgaria, the Center for the Study of Democracy developed a training module to aid the work of trainers in providing cultural and civic orientation to refugees in the country. The publication provides information on key topics relating to the cultural and civic orientation as well as a package of training methods and techniques for group wirk. In addition, it provides a comprehensive training program offering a systematic training approach and an interactive learning process to acquaint refugees with the host society’s living, civic, social and cultural milieu.  

On April 23, 2019 the Center for the Study of Democracy organised a seminar to present the finalized training module to state institutions and civic organisations designing policy and providing services to refugees and migrants. Keynote speakers during the event were Ms. Yanita Manolova, Director of the Social Activity and Adaptation Directorate at the State Agency for Refugees and Ms. Emiliya Bratanova, Integration Expert at UNHCR Bulgaria. Dr. Mila Mancheva, Director of the Sociological Program of the Center for the Study of Democracy, presented the main aims and components of the published training module. Ms. Katerina Stoyanova, Director of CVS – Bulgaria, provided a review of the main observations and recommendations stemming from an eight-month testing of the module through a total of 50 training sessions for asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection.   

Seminar participants took part in a discussion about the modalities of ownership transfer of the module and its use in the framework of existing programs for refugee support as well as in the context of future measures and programs for adaptation and integration of persons from this target group. Representatives of the State Agency for Refugees, Employment Agency, National Agency for Professional Education, Sofia Municipality, Districts of “Vitosha” and “Krasno Selo”, UNHCR, Bulgarian Red Cross, and Sofia University took active part in the discussion. The event served to outline some first steps in the inclusion of the training module in the work of some of the organisations providing support to asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection in the country.

 

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events-1980Thu, 18 Apr 2019 10:00:00 +0300Standards for Forced-Return Monitoring in Bulgariahttps://csd.bg/events/event/standards-for-forced-return-monitoring-in-bulgaria/The issue of forced-return monitoring is a constituent part of the common European return policy, which is regarded as one of the highest priorities of the common EU migration policy. The importance of return as a tool to reduce irregular migration and migrant smuggling, as well as the issue of improving the systems for carrying out returns (voluntary or forced) are discussed in basic EU documents, such as the European Agenda on Migration (2015), the EU Action Plan on return (2015, 2017), the EU Action Plan against migrant smuggling 2015 – 2020 (2015), as well as the Return Handbook (2015, 2017). The obligation on the Member States to implement forced-return monitoring was introduced by Directive 2008/115/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2008 on common standards and procedures in Member States for returning illegally staying third-country nationals.

Aimed to support the establishment of such a system in Bulgaria, the Center for the Study of Democracy developed Standards for Forced-Return Monitoring and presented them during a policy briefing on April 18, 2019. Тhe policy briefing gathered representatives from the Migration Directorate of the Ministry of the Interior and members of the diplomatic community in Sofia.

During the policy briefing, several main recommendations for the development of legal framework governing the status of the organizations carrying out forced-return monitoring were presented and discussed, e.g. provisions on terms and procedures for selecting monitoring organizations and their mandate, establishment of procedures for conducting forced-return monitoring, ensuring that the MoI’s Migration Directorate provide timely information about all upcoming forced-return operations, as well as guaranteeing targeted funding to ensure sustainability of the system.

 

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events-1978Tue, 02 Apr 2019 09:30:00 +0300Social Orientation of Foreigners and Counteracting Racism and Xenophobiahttps://csd.bg/events/event/social-orientation-of-foreigners-and-counteracting-racism-and-xenophobia/On 2 April 2019 the Center for the Study of Democracy held a national training seminar on integration of foreigners, social orientation and counteracting racism and xenophobia. The seminar was part of the RACCOMBAT initiative, tackling the social orientation of refugees and migrants as tool for prevention and fighting hate and intolerance against them. The event gathered representatives of social services, the State Agency for Refugees with the Council of Ministers, law enforcement authorities and a multitude of service providing NGOs.

In her opening remarks Petya Karayaneva, Protection Officer at UNHCR Bulgaria, elaborated on UNHCR’s role throughout refugee crises and in countering prejudice and hatred against refugees in Bulgaria. Miriana Ilcheva, Senior Analyst at the Law Program of the Center, introduced the RACCOMBAT initiative and its accomplishments in including fundamental rights, tolerance and mutual respect throughout the language tuition and social orientation of foreigners.

During the training’s first panel, devoted to social orientation of foreigners in Bulgaria, Yanita Manolova, director of Social work and Adaptation Directorate with the State Agency for Refugees, outlined the activities of the Agency in receiving, informing about key rights and obligations and ensuring safe environment and prevention of abuse for children and adults seeking international protection. Violeta Galabova from the Refugee-Migrant Service of the Bulgarian Red Cross presented the various activities of the Red Cross on improving the situation and social orientation of refugees and migrants in Bulgaria. Katerina Stoyanova from CVS Bulgaria emphasized the lack of a common framework for language tuition and integration of foreigners and presented another initiative, led by the Center for the Study of Democracy, INTEGRA-TRAIN, aiming to create a handbook on orientation of foreign citizens. Radostina Pavlova from the Center for Legal Aid Voice in Bulgaria criticized the lack of holistic approach in migration management in Bulgaria and sketched the various models and extent of state intervention in the integration trajectory and the general deficiencies in the work of administration, substantially affecting its work with foreigners.

The second panel was devoted to presenting good practices from Bulgaria in social orientation of refugees and migrants as tool to counter racism and xenophobia. Angelina Kaneva from Caritas Sofia described the experience of the organization in holding sessions on fundamental rights and countering gender based violence. Emilia Bratanova van Harten from UNHCR Bulgaria outlined the main principles of equality, the structural deficiencies of Bulgaria’s integration system and the multitude of print and online information materials aiming to orient foreigners about Bulgarian realities. The Talk with Me initiative on language mentorship of refugees and its potential to empower foreigners against racism and xenophobia was presented by Miroslava Georgieva, project co-ordinator at the Tulip Foundation. Zdrava Vodenicharova and Sandra Topalska from the Bread Houses Network elaborated on the events of the Network offering mixed bread making sessions for migrants and host communities.

The discussions throughout the seminar looked at topics such as state and NGO led integration models, the need for sustainable state financing, the lack of systematic approach in introducing integration components and the necessity for the state to offer refugees opportunities to integrate themselves. Questions were also raised about the blurred borders between racism and discrimination and structural problems, for example in hiring beneficiaries of international protection, and the importance of housing support for foreigners.

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events-1975Thu, 28 Mar 2019 09:00:00 +0200Assessing the Impact of Criminal Proceedings on the Social Situation of Suspects and Accusedhttps://csd.bg/events/event/assessing-the-impact-of-criminal-proceedings-on-the-social-situation-of-suspects-and-accused/On 28 March 2019 in the Palace of Justice in Pernik the Center for the Study of Democracy, with the support of the District Court of Pernik, held a training on assessing the impact of criminal proceedings on the social situation of suspects and accused. Members of the judiciary and law enforcement as well as NGOs took part in the training.

Judge Kalin Batalski, president of the District Court in Pernik, welcomed the participants, expressing his satisfaction with the visit of the CSD team and hope for future meetings and co-operation. In her opening remarks Dr Maria Yordanova, Director of CSD’s Law Program, outlined the Centre’s long experience in working in the criminal justice and fundamental rights areas, as well as the key research priorities in studying the situation of suspects and accused. She acquainted the audience with basic facts and arguments regarding the impact of criminal proceedings, and especially of compulsory measures, on those persons and elaborated on the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights against Bulgaria regarding violations of the presumption of innocence.

In her presentation on assessing the impact of criminal proceedings on the social situation of suspects and accused, Miriana Ilcheva, senior analyst in the Law Program of the Center, outlined the main accomplishments of the organisation’s initiative ‘ARISA – Assessing the risk of social isolation of suspects and accused’ and in particular the national reports on Bulgaria, Greece, Italy and Belgium and the report on the factors affecting the social status of suspects and accused. Special attention was given to the Handbook on assessing the impact of criminal proceedings on the social situation of suspects and accused and the proposed methodology for assessing the risk of social isolation during the proceedings. The handbook contains eleven factors of impact by proceedings, and especially by compulsory measures, on persons – family, home, community, children, dependants, employment, education, economic situation, social life, media exposure, political participation – as well as short explanations what these are, why they are important, what their impact on persons might be, what authorities should check, case-law examples as well as additional references on each of the topics. The proposed methodology contains a questionnaire on the impact of criminal proceedings on the suspects and accused, scales for such assessment and an interpretation grid for the respective levels of impact.

In the ensuing discussion the representatives of the judiciary and law enforcement claimed they were sure no abuse was made of compulsory measures within criminal proceedings and expressed their concern with the impact of media exposure on the suspects and accused and on the authorities leading the proceedings. The cases under the Law on the Liability of State and Municipalities for Damage and of the European Court of Human Rights were discussed, as well as the need for multidisciplinary approach to avoid the negative impact of proceedings on suspects and accused, and society as a whole. The representatives of NGOs supported the development of assessment tools for the risks of social isolation and measuring the impact of proceedings on the social situation of those charged with crime.

 

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events-1976Thu, 21 Mar 2019 15:00:00 +0200Assessing the Impact of Criminal Proceedings on the Social Situation of Suspects and Accusedhttps://csd.bg/events/event/assessing-the-impact-of-criminal-proceedings-on-the-social-situation-of-suspects-and-accused-1/On 21 March 2019 in Plovdiv the Center for the Study of Democracy held a training on assessing the impact of criminal proceedings on the social situation of suspects and accused. Members of the judiciary and law enforcement as well as attorneys took part in the training.On 21 March 2019 in Plovdiv the Center for the Study of Democracy held a training on assessing the impact of criminal proceedings on the social situation of suspects and accused. Members of the judiciary and law enforcement as well as attorneys took part in the training.

In her opening remarks Dr Maria Yordanova, Director of CSD’s Law Program, outlined the Centre’s long experience in working in the criminal justice and fundamental rights areas, as well as the key research priorities in studying the situation of suspects and accused. She acquainted the audience with basic facts and arguments regarding the impact of criminal proceedings, and especially of compulsory measures, on those persons and elaborated on the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights against Bulgaria regarding violations of the presumption of innocence.

In his presentation on assessing the impact of criminal proceedings on the social situation of suspects and accused, Dimitar Markov, senior analyst and project director in the Law Program of the Center, outlined the main accomplishments of the organisation’s initiative ‘ARISA – Assessing the risk of social isolation of suspects and accused’ and in particular the national reports on Bulgaria, Greece, Italy and Belgium and the report on the factors affecting the social status of suspects and accused. Special attention was given to the Handbook on assessing the impact of criminal proceedings on the social situation of suspects and accused and the proposed methodology for assessing the risk of social isolation during the proceedings. The handbook contains eleven factors of impact by proceedings, and especially by compulsory measures, on persons – family, home, community, children, dependants, employment, education, economic situation, social life, media exposure, political participation – as well as short explanations what these are, why they are important, what their impact on persons might be, what authorities should check, case-law examples as well as additional references on each of the topics. The proposed methodology contains a questionnaire on the impact of criminal proceedings on the suspects and accused, scales for such assessment and an interpretation grid for the respective levels of impact.

In the ensuing discussion the representatives of the judiciary expressed their satisfaction with the thorough review of case law the initiative’s team made. An attorney was of the opinion that it is difficult to assess whether the content of decisions, cited by the experts, reflect the conviction of the judges or the arguments of the defence which the judges had adopted.

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events-1942Mon, 18 Feb 2019 23:00:00 +0200Assessing Russian Economic and Political Influence in Southeastern Europehttps://csd.bg/events/event/assessing-russian-economic-and-political-influence-in-southeastern-europe/On 19 February 2019, The Center for the Study of Democracy organised an expert workshop on “Assessing Russian Economic and Political Influence in Southeastern Europe” with participants from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. Among the discussed topics were the Russian economic presence, the governance deficits exploited by Russian entities to penetrate strategic markets and the role of Russian soft power instruments for amplifying the strategic importance of economic dependencies. The discussion was financed by the National Endowment for Democracy and is part of a year-long study of the Russian economic and political influence in Southeastern Europe.

 

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events-1944Thu, 07 Feb 2019 09:15:00 +0200Cultural and Civic Orientation of Women, Beneficiaries of International Protectionhttps://csd.bg/events/event/cultural-and-civic-orientation-of-women-beneficiaries-of-international-protection/In the context of the increased refugee inflows since 2014 the EU Member States had to design and implement practical solutions to address the gaps in their reception and integration systems. In the second half of 2018 the situation with refugee intake in some EU states has undergone changes, with Italy shifting its heretofore favorable integration approach towards refugees and Spain undergoing a much larger inflow of migrants than in recent years. Simultaneously, such changes in Italy and Spain coincide with decreased inflows of refugees moving through Bulgaria and Greece.


On February 7-8, 2019, the Center for the Study of Democracy hosted a seminar discussing the outcomes of pilot trainings for cultural and civic orientation and integration of women, beneficiaries of international protection in Bulgaria, Greece and Malta. The seminar gathered participants from policy institutes and service providing organisations in the asylum and migration field in five EU member states. It was part of an international initiative running since 2017 between the Center for the Study of Democracy (Bulgaria), the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (Greece), Melissa: Network of Migrant Women in Greece (Greece), the People for Change Foundation (Malta), Comissió Catalana d’Ajuda al Refugiat (Spain), Fondazione Centro Studi Investimenti Sociali (Italy) and Cooperation for Voluntary Service – Bulgaria. 


Seminar participants presented the thematic focus, the training methods and the general training approaches of the national modules for cultural and civic orientation of women beneficiaries of international protection developed in Bulgaria, Greece and Malta. In addition, they discussed the positive outcomes and the challenges encountered during the implementation of pilot training in the three countries. Four main questions relating to the successful implementation of trainings were put under discussion: assuring continuous attendance, successful cooperation within training teams (trainers, interpreters and guest-speakers), conducting labor orientation of refugee women who are reluctant to work and transferability of training modules. A set of recommendations were formulated to aid the finalization of the national training modules in Bulgaria, Greece and Malta and the subsequent transfer of ownership to relevant national actors. 
 

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events-1936Mon, 21 Jan 2019 23:00:00 +0200Improving the situation of victims of crime and the co-operation of stakeholdershttps://csd.bg/events/event/improving-the-situation-of-victims-of-crime-and-the-co-operation-of-stakeholders/Practical skills of institutions for working with victims of crime and of domestic and gender-based violence need to be improved. This is the conclusion reached by the participants in the two-day training held on 22-23 January 2019 by the Center for the Study of Democracy. It gathered representatives of the Ministry of the Interior, the Social Assistance Agency, the Ombudsman, the State Agency for Refugees, the State Agency for the Protection of Children, the National Investigation Service, the National Anti-Trafficking Commission, medical establishments and NGOs. 

In her opening remarks Senior Commissioner Dr Blagorodna Makeva – Naydenova, deputy director of the National Police General Directorate (NPGD), Ministry of the Interior, outlined the co-operation between the Center for the Study of Democracy and the General Directorate in preparing a general referral mechanisms for victims, a victims’ right booklet and a mobile app on the rights of victims. Commissioner Makeva emphasized the role of the Directorate in the organization and implementation of the training and wished the participants success in the dialogue and exchange of experience for improving the situation of victims. 

On the first day of the training, Miriana Ilcheva, senior analyst with the Law Program of the Center, outlined the legal and ethical framework of victim protection and presented the parameters of the initiative within the framework of which the training was held. Inspector Desislava Viktorova from the Crimes against the Person sector of the NPGD and Inspector Penka Stoyanova from the Directorate, National Co-ordinator on Domestic Violence in the Ministry of the Interior, reviewed the internal acts of the Ministry and other institutions, co-ordinating the protection of victims, and the main difficulties police officers and other front line practitioners face in processing complaints about violence. The work on cases of sexual violence and the repeat and secondary victimisation, suffered by victims, was looked at in detail. Role plays were staged where participants discussed the specificities of immediate protection orders against domestic violence and the work with various vulnerable groups of victims.

On the second day of the training Inspectors Viktorova and Stoyanova presented the various co-ordination mechanisms among institutions in working with victims, including children. Ms Diyana Videva, member of the Management Board of the Demetra Association, presented the viewpoint of NGOs in the co-operation with competent authorities. 

Three case studies were presented and discussed, two on domestic violence and one on murder, where institutions and NGOs follow different models of co-operation and treating victims and show various weaknesses in their protection and support. In the ensuing discussion participants shared their experiences and concrete cases in working with victims of crime and domestic violence and expressed their gratitude for the practical directions received. Ideas were given for follow-up trainings, as well as for co-ordination mechanisms in the medical establishments for working with victims of violence and their referral to law enforcement.

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events-1934Tue, 18 Dec 2018 23:00:00 +0200Unified Standards for Forced Return Monitoring in Bulgariahttps://csd.bg/events/event/unified-standards-for-forced-return-monitoring-in-bulgaria/Bulgaria is one of the 26 Member States of the EU (without Ireland and the United Kingdom), which are bound by the Directive 2008/115/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2008 on common standards and procedures in Member States for returning illegally staying third-country nationals. Article 8 (6) of the Directive introduces an obligation for all member states to create an effective system for forced return monitoring.

As a contribution to the fulfilment of this obligation for Bulgaria, on 19 December 2018 the Center for the Study of Democracy and CVS-Bulgaria organized a final expert meeting, part of a national initiative for developing and implementing unified standards for forced return monitoring, realized with the financial support of the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund, co-financed by the European Union.

During the meeting, the Center for the Study of Democracy presented a guidebook with standards for forced return monitoring in Bulgaria. The guidebook was developed based on an exhaustive desk research on European and national regulations in the field, expert interviews and a visit for exchange of experience and good practices in Vienna, Austria. The standards were then put to practice by experts from CVS-Bulgaria and the Center for the Study of Democracy, who took part as monitors in forced return operations, executed by the Migration Directorate of the Ministry of Interior in Bulgaria. Following their practical testing and using the experience gathered from the field work, the standards were finalized and presented for discussion in front of specialists in the field of migration and forced return. Mr. Hristo Atanasov, Chief Expert in the National Preventive Mechanism and Fundamental Rights and Freedoms Directorate within the Ombudsman of the Republic of Bulgaria joined the first part of the event by presenting the experience of the Ombudsman institution in the field.

In the second part of the meeting recommendations were made and discussed on how to develop the regulatory framework as well as how to set up a national mechanism for forced return monitoring in Bulgaria. The event was attended by participants from 3 Directorates within the Ministry of Interior - Migration, International Projects and European Union and international cooperation, the National Preventive Mechanism and Fundamental Rights and Freedoms Directorate within the Ombudsman of the Republic of Bulgaria, UNHCR, Foundation for access to rights – FAR, Center for legal aid “Voice in Bulgaria”, who participated actively in the discussion.

 

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events-1930Mon, 03 Dec 2018 23:00:00 +0200Countering Malign Russian Influence and Propaganda in Moldovahttps://csd.bg/events/event/countering-malign-russian-influence-and-propaganda-in-moldova/In recent years Russia has reinforced the use of media propaganda and disinformation as one of its major instruments for exercising malign influence over national internal and foreign policies in the Central and Eastern European countries, in favor of the Kremlin’s economic and political interests. Particularly Moldova, due to the wide presence of official Russian media in the country, as well as the knowledge and use of Russian language by the majority of population, has become heavily vulnerable to Russian propaganda and disinformation. The latter are the preferred tools, used by the Kremlin, to undermine the credibility and moral authority of the European Union and NATO and to delay and impede the Euro-Atlantic developments and aspirations of the country. Pro-Russian propaganda and disinformation have flourished in Moldova also because the media regulatory framework is not sufficiently clear and effective and does not ensure the required transparency of media activities. In this situation, civil society organisations are leading the efforts for building resilience capacity in the country through independent analysis, trainings, civil activism and policy advocacy.

These were among the major issues, discussed during the workshop on “Countering Malign Russian Influence and Propaganda in Moldova” which was held on December 4, 2018 in Chisinau, Moldova. The workshop was co-organized by the Center for the Study of Democracy and the European Institute for Politics and Reforms and brought together media experts, journalists and civil society representatives.

During the workshop, several good practices for countering Russian media propaganda and disinformation were presented and discussed, e.g. the development and introduction of a curriculum and respective class on media literacy in the schools in Moldova in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, the establishment of online platforms for independent monitoring and fact-checking, as well as building capacity in most vulnerable groups, e.g. youth and people, living in rural and underdeveloped regions.

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events-1925Mon, 26 Nov 2018 23:00:00 +0200Decentralisation and democratisaion of Bulgaria’s energy sectorhttps://csd.bg/events/event/decentralisation-and-democratisaion-of-bulgarias-energy-sector/Lack of consistency in the field of energy policies, insufficient administrative capacity as well as heavy administrative and tax burdens are among the main obstacles preventing Bulgaria to unlock its huge potential for the decentralization of electricity generation. These were some of the points outlined by the speakers in the “Decentralisation and democratisaion of Bulgaria’s energy sector: reaching EU’s main energy and climate goals” round table. The discussion took place in the National Assembly on 27 November 2018, and was jointly organised by the Center for the Study of Democracy and the Parliamentary Committee on Energy.

Among the main participants were Delyan Dobrev, Chairman of the Energy Committee at the National Assembly, Zhecho Stankov, Deputy Minister of Energy, MPs as well as energy transition experts from the Ministry of Energy, Ministry of Environment and Water, Ministry for Regional Development and Public Works, Energy and Water Regulation Committee, as well as the Executive Agency on Forestry at the Agriculture Ministry. Representatives of the district system operators (DSOs) and the non-governmental sector also took part in the round table.

The debate focused on the development of the National Energy and Climate Plan that the Bulgarian government is preparing as a future framework for energy transition until 2030. The experts agreed on several recommendations that could ease the energy transition and decrease energy poverty:

  • A better integration of the energy efficiency measures and the policy promoting the use of renewable energy sources;
  • Setting up more ambitious goals for increasing the number of passive buildings and for more eco-friendly and efficient use of the biomass resources in the country;
  • Supporting and promoting the research and development agenda in the field of low-carbon technologies, which have high added value and can literally transform those regions in Bulgaria which are highly dependent on coal power plants and the mining industry.


The representatives of the Ministry of Energy and the Ministry of the Environment and Water underlined that for the realisation of the key climate and energy priorities, the government will rely on resources from the EU structural funds and the Modernisation Fund allocated for the 2021-2027 period, which support projects for technological upgrades and low-carbon energy innovations. The National Climate and Energy Plan will also include a series of measures that will decrease the administrative burden for the launch of new renewable-based power plants and create adequate market stimuli for the industry.

In his closing remarks, the Chairman of the Energy Committee, Mr. Delyan Dobrev asked the participants to send further recommendations for legislative amendments aiming to decrease the administrative burden before the small RES power plants, in addition to those already outlined in the report by the Center for the Study of Democracy.

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events-1924Sun, 25 Nov 2018 23:00:00 +0200Energy Security Risks and Energy Security Agenda in Southeast Europehttps://csd.bg/events/event/energy-security-risks-and-energy-security-agenda-in-southeast-europe/Overcoming the energy security risks of Bulgaria and Southeastern Europe including widespread energy poverty, low energy efficiency and dependence on one supplier of oil and gas remains a distant perspective. The diversification of the natural gas supply has stalled and the liberalization of cross-border gas trading is yet to be unlocked. State capture of energy policies by private domestic and foreign state interests has been all too visible and we continue to pay its dues. Russia, for example, has skillfully exploited these governance gaps and lack of capacity to among others sabotage the country’s natural gas diversification including the Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria and the domestic exploration and production of energy resources.

These have been some of the main issues raised during the policy round table Energy Security in Southeast Europe: the Greece-Bulgaria Interconnector, co-organized by the Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD) and the Kondrad Adenauer Foundation on 26 November 2018. Among the speakers were the Chairman of the Parliamentary Commission on Energy, Mr. Delyan Dobrev, the Energy Minister, Ms. Temenuzhka Petkova, the Chairman of the Energy Regulator, Dr. Ivan Ivanov, the U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria Mr. Eric Rubin, , and the Ambassador of Greece to Bulgaria Mr. Grigorios Vassiloconstandakis.

The participants in the discussion united behind several measures for tackling the country’s energy security risks successfully: Bulgaria needs a long-term, consistent strategy for liberalizing the electricity and gas markets, and prioritize critical infrastructure projects such as gas and electricity interconnection lines, gas storage facilities and LNG regasification terminals in cooperation with neighboring countries. Good governance and stable market institutions within the country and in line with agreed EU policies is the only way to be best prepared for the geopolitics of energy, shaped by the big suppliers and consumers, among which Bulgaria is not. This requires a smart approach for freeing enough pipeline capacity on the transmission system for alternative gas volumes from Greece, Turkey and Romania to flow towards bigger markets in Central Europe; the development of a liquid gas trading exchange where all gas suppliers will offer products at equal conditions; and the implementation of a gas regulatory framework that would prevent discriminatory practices.

CSD Policy Brief No. 81: Energy Security in Southeast Europe: the Greece-Bulgaria Interconnector

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events-1922Mon, 19 Nov 2018 23:00:00 +0200Strengthening Cooperation in Energy Sector between Korea and Bulgariahttps://csd.bg/events/event/strengthening-cooperation-in-energy-sector-between-korea-and-bulgaria/On 20 November 2018 the Center for the Study of Democracy together with the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Bulgaria organised the Korea-Bulgaria Energy Forum “Strengthening Cooperation in Energy Sector between Korea and Bulgaria”. The forum discussed several key topics such as the current state and the future developments of the energy sector in Bulgaria, the challenges related to energy transitions in Korea and Bulgaria as well as the opportunities for cooperation between Bulgaria and Korea in the energy field.

Among the keynote speakers were Dr. Ognian Shentov, Chairman of the Center for the Study of Democracy, H.E. Jeong Jinkyu, ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Bulgaria, Ms Temenuzhka Petkova, Minister of Energy and Mr Lyu Hyang-Reol, CEO of Korea South-East Power Co.

The Bulgarian and Korean participants agreed that there is a need of further bilateral cooperation in the energy sector and a potential for expansion. This collaboration could be especially fruitful in the area of renewable energy sources (RES) as both countries are striving to increase their energy independency. The event brought together representatives of the Bulgarian and Korean governments, executive agencies, business, NGOs, energy experts, academics, journalists and interested citizens.

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events-1938Mon, 19 Nov 2018 23:00:00 +0200Employment among Vulnerable Youth in the Regions of Sliven and Yambolhttps://csd.bg/events/event/employment-among-vulnerable-youth-in-the-regions-of-sliven-and-yambol/On November 20, 2018 the Center for the Study of Democracy participated in a one-day workshop on the topic of youth employment policy and its effects on youth from vulnerable groups (mainly Roma youth) in the regions of Sliven and Yambol. The workshop aimed to gather local stakeholders in youth employment and inspire dialogue among them on the topic of youth employment and the impacts of the EU Youth Guarantee scheme in the regions of Sliven and Yambol. Present at the workshop were representatives of local Public Employment Service offices, municipal and regional government representatives, representatives of non-governmental organizations and local business, and youth from vulnerable groups. During the workshop, the Center for the Study of Democracy presented results from a study that it and a partner organization, the World Without Borders Association, conducted on the outreach of the EU Youth Guarantee to Roma youth in the regions of Sliven and Yambol. The workshop participants raised the following points concerning the dynamics of the Youth Guarantee outreach in the two regions:

  • The limited interest of local businesses in participating in the scheme and hiring youth through the Youth Guarantee;
  • The limited interest among targeted youth in Youth Guarantee participation due to the low monetary motivation of positions offered through the scheme;
  • The divergence between employers and youth on their expectations concerning working environment, conditions and payment;
  • The trend among Roma youth, and youth more generally, to look for work abroad and not consider possibilities offered through interventions such as the Youth Guarantee in Bulgaria;
  • The need for closer collaboration between business and education institutions in supporting youth from vulnerable groups so that these youth can offer business high-quality labor.


The workshop was one of a series of similar events organized by World Without Borders with the support of CSD as part of the project “Mind the Gap: Facilitating Access to and Take Up of Youth Guarantee Measures by Roma Youth in Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania.” In September and October 2018, CSD took part in two similar workshops organized in the City of Stara Zagora and the City of Vidin, respectively.

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events-1917Wed, 07 Nov 2018 23:00:00 +0200The Links Between Crime and Terrorism in Europehttps://csd.bg/events/event/the-links-between-crime-and-terrorism-in-europe/Radicalisaiton and terrorism are among the most pressing security threats in the European Union. The possible interaction or convergence between conventional and organised criminals on the one hand and extremists on the other can amplify the risks presented by both security issues. On 8 November 2018, the Center for the Study of Democracy hosted a conference on The Links between Crime and Terrorism in Europe, during which Prof. Dr. Peter NeumannRajan Basra and Zora Hаuser from the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence at King's College, London presented the results from the Crime-Terror Nexus Project.

In Western European countries the crime-terror nexus is particularly pronounced as exemplified by Islamist extremists engaging in crimes such as drug trafficking both prior to and after subscribing to radical ideologies. With regard to both radicalisation to extremism and crime, social networks are particularly important as they can provide access to an extremist ideology or facilitate the acquisition of skills and contacts which can be useful both for terrorist and criminal purposes. Prisons are also environments which are particularly conductive to processes of radicalisation and can thus foster the adoption of extremist narratives among criminals. Therefore penitentiary institutions need to be prioritised in efforts to counter radicalisaiton. Contrary to Western European countries, a crime-terror nexus is hardly observed in Bulgaria and Romania. Nevertheless, both countries have established organised criminal groups which can potentially provide important services to terrorist organisations, such as facilitation of illegal migration. Therefore, it is important to be cognizant of the security risks presented by the intersections between different types of crime and extremism and develop a comprehensive approach to prevent and counter such processes when they occur.

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events-1940Wed, 07 Nov 2018 23:00:00 +0200The Rights of Recognized Same-Sex Partners Moving Across the EUhttps://csd.bg/events/event/the-rights-of-recognized-same-sex-partners-moving-across-the-eu/In 2001, the Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalize marriage equality for same-sex couples. This creates a precedent, followed by dozens of other countries, both inside and outside of Europe. Today, twenty-two of the EU Member States already offer some form of legalization of same-sex families - registered partnership or marriage. At the same time, a study on the values in Bulgarian in 2017 shows that over 75% of the respondents are opposed to allowing same-sex couples to marry.

On November 8, 2018, the Center for the Study of Democracy participated in an international conference on the topic of marriage equality, part of a national initiative to study the rights of same-sex couples residing in Bulgaria with officially recognized marriage or partnership in another EU Member State. In the framework of the conference, experts from six European countries (the Netherlands, Ireland, Malta, the Czech Republic, Romania and Bulgaria) exchanged experiences on marriage equality, addressed the implementation of the Free Movement Directive for same-sex couples in the EU, discussed the institutional obstacles to the introduction of marriage equality in Bulgaria and other European countries, as well as the role of the non-governmental sector, politicians, activists and institutions.

Within the framework of the event, Liliya Dragoeva, an analyst at the Center for the Study of Democracy's Sociological Program, presented the results of the first study for Bulgaria among same-sex couples with a recognized marriage or partnership in another EU Member State. The data show that none of the rights which the couples enjoy as spouses and partners in other countries are recognized in Bulgaria. This includes the right of residence, the exercise of custody, property rights and the right to inheritance. Interviewed families associate Bulgaria with a strong sense of injustice due to systemic discrimination by institutions and negative public attitudes and stigma of same-sex relationships.

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events-1915Mon, 29 Oct 2018 23:00:00 +0200Employment Dynamics among Youth in Northwestern Bulgariahttps://csd.bg/events/event/employment-dynamics-among-youth-in-northwestern-bulgaria/On October 30, 2018, CSD took part in a one-day workshop held in Vidin, Bulgaria, the topic of which was “Youth Employment in Northwestern Bulgaria: Reality and Perspectives.” Present at the workshop were local stakeholders including representatives of the Vidin Public Employment Service office, representatives of local schools, youth and health mediators, a member of the local branch of the National Committee for Protection against Discrimination, representatives of the local evangelical community. CSD presented results from a study it conducted in northwestern Bulgaria on the outreach of the EU Youth Guarantee schemes to Roma youth in the region.

Participant discussion breeched the topics such as the lack of qualified labor in the region; the tendency of Roma youth to leave Bulgaria and pursue work abroad; the reasons why businesses may feel demotivated to participate in EU Youth Guarantee schemes; the challenges of motivating Roma youth and local youth in general to pursue education; the need for more commitment in participation in youth employment processes by local business; the need for a closer connection between business and educational institutions.

The workshop was organized by World Without Borders with the support of CSD as part of the initiative “Mind the Gap: Facilitating Access to and Take Up of Youth Guarantee Measures by Roma Youth in Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania.”

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events-1912Tue, 16 Oct 2018 00:00:00 +0300Protection of the Rights of Victims of Traffickinghttps://csd.bg/events/event/protection-of-the-rights-of-victims-of-trafficking/On 16 October 2018 the Center for the Study of Democracy held a roundtable, dedicated to European standards and new Bulgarian experiences in the effective referral, support and protection of the rights of victims of trafficking. The event gathered representatives of the executive and the judiciary, such as the National Commission for Combatting Trafficking in Human Beings, the National Legal Aid Bureau, the State Agency for Refugees, the Migration Directorate with the Ministry of the Interior, the State Agency for Child Protection, the Employment Agency, the Sofia Regional Court; UNICEF as well as NGOs from the Alliance for Protection against Gender-Based Violence.

In his opening remarks, Mr Dimitar Markov, Project Director at the Law Program of the Center, cited findings from a recent CSD publication according to which the human trafficking phenomenon is growing, while new technologies provide traffickers with easier control over victims.

In his presentation, Mr Stefan Ralchev, Chief Expert at the Administration of the National Commission for Combatting Trafficking in Human Beings, presented the co-ordination mechanisms, which the Commission applies in its work, and especially the National Referral Mechanism, oriented towards the rights of victims. Among the achievements of the Commission in the last two years, Mr Ralchev emphasized on the opening of two new services for victims – a shelter and a crisis center for children. As a concrete example for successful co-operation between Bulgarian and EU authorities, the Commission representative described a case from Toulouse, France where an organised criminal group exploited Bulgarians for begging. As a result of the swift actions by authorities, 23 Bulgarians returned to the country. Ms Miriana Ilcheva, Senior Analyst at the Law Program of the Center, gave details on the international initiative which the roundtable was closing, emphasizing on the support of the National Commission for Combatting Trafficking in Human Beings, a number of NGOs and magistrates. As part of the initiative, experts had visited several countries with substantial achievements in the prevention and countering of trafficking, such as Sweden, Spain and Belgium. A handbook for professionals working with victims was drafted and presented at a training, main topics including EU and national legal frameworks, secondary victimisation, support by psychologists and social workers, as well as interinstitutional co-operation in cases of trafficking. Several issues were put out for discussion – how victim support should reach all the country’s regions, how to integrate all support services into a one-stop-shop, how to take care of the families of trafficking victims, how to implement counter-trafficking and migration management together.

Ms Petya Dobreva, Director of Legal Aid Directorate of the National Legal Aid Bureau, outlined the main directions in the work of the institution – facilitating the access of persons and improving the effectiveness and quality of legal aid. Besides the creation of the national legal aid telephone line and regional consulting centres, the vital importance of the co-ordination between the Bureau and social support directorates and the support and information by NGOs was emphasized. Ms Miriana Ilcheva from the Law Program of the Center presented a strategic paper for referral to legal aid of victims of trafficking, developed within the framework of the initiative. She outlined the key role of the independence and loyalty of lawyers in defending victims’ interests. The need for constant improvement of lawyers’ expertise and the accompanying disciplinary liability in cases of violations were also outlined.

In the panel dedicated to the experiences of the NGO sector, Ms Daniela Gorbounova, attorney-at-law, Bulgarian Gender Research Foundation, presented cases from her practice, commenting on the specifics of the legal protection of victims of violence and the need for profound knowledge on the psychological impact of the crime. Ms Gorbounova pointed to the role and contribution of NGOs in the sphere and noted that trials usually take a long time during which the support of relatives and experts is vital for the victim.

Ms Tania Tisheva from the Alliance for Protection against Gender-Based Violence presented the activities of the Alliance and member organisations throughout the country. The Alliance’s main aim is to support and co-operate with national and local authorities in cases of violence and lobby for legislative amendments in relevant areas. Ms Tisheva gave examples of successful projects in the fields of protection against violence and human trafficking.

In the ensuing discussion Ms Diana Videva from the Demetra Association recommended the creation of one stop shops – integrated centres where victims of trafficking may benefit from an array of services. There is also necessity for effective co-operation among lawyers, social workers and psychologists which would be a pre-requisite for successful victim support. Ms Antonia Seizova from UNICEF posed questions on the Swedish experience with children victims of migrant origin as well as on the avenues for seeking sustainability of the initiative’s activities. Mr Dimitar Markov commented that there was lack of capacity among institutions dealing with migration which prevented them from identifying incoming trafficking victims. Other important factors cited were the language barrier and the non-differentiated approach of institutions. Answering to those findings, Mr Nikolai Cholakov and Ms Katina Andreeva from the State Agency for Refugees pointed out the substantial progress in overcoming language barriers and the improvement of the Agency’s institutional capacity to counter trafficking. Ms Gorbounova joined the discussion by giving examples from the European Court of Human Rights case-law on ineffective investigations of sexual violence cases in Bulgaria.

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events-1952Tue, 09 Oct 2018 00:00:00 +0300Bulgarian Organized Crime Threat Assessmenthttps://csd.bg/events/event/bulgarian-organized-crime-threat-assessment/On 9 October 2018 the Center for the Study of Democracy organised a round table to discuss the findings of the Bulgarian Organized Crime Threat Assessment (BOCTA) report prepared with the financial support of the European Union Internal Security Fund. The event brought together representatives of the Ministry of Interior, the Customs Agency, the National Revenue Agency, the National Commission for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, the Supreme Court of Cassation, and the State e-Government Agency.

In his opening remarks, Lt. Gen. Chavdar Chervenkov, Senior Fellow at the Security Program of the Center for the Study of Democracy, reviewed the analysis’ highlights, pointing out that the assessment is based on a Europol-developed methodology and the ordering of illegal markets in the report corresponds to the amount of financial losses for the treasury.

Dr. Mois Faion, Senior Fellow at the CSD Security Program, presented the methodology and the scope of the Bulgarian organised crime threat assessment. He outlined the major trends, structure and size of the country’s main criminal markets and the damages they cause, and offered some recommendations on how to minimize the impact of organised crime. Dr. Faion also stressed that the analysis assesses the threats, rather than the efforts to counter organised crime.

Tihomir Bezlov, Senior Fellow at the Security Program, explored the dynamics in the main criminal markets in Bulgaria in the past year. The assessment data indicates that the percentage of companies subjected to extortion racketeering and usury over the year is on the decrease. At the same time, there is growth in the domestic sex market, with the percentage of men over 15 years of age who paid at least once for a sex service during the last year having risen to 5.9 % compared to 1.6 % in 2010. Another criminal market displaying a significant surge since the last organised crime assessment is the illegal trade in fuels where estimates of damages for the state budget amount to about BGN 650 million per year. With regard to the trafficking and sale of narcotics, the analysis shows an impressive increase in cannabis trade, which is currently positioned as the main pillar of drug trade. The Bulgarian cannabis market turnover has expanded from BGN 41.4 – 92.6 million in 2008 to BGN 63.4 – 142 million.

Participants in the round table emphasized the benefits of BOCTA, as well as the possible extension of its scope to include some less studied, yet problematic criminal markets.

Senior Commissioner Rumen Ganev, Director of the Internal Security Directorate at the Ministry of Interior, joined the debate to address the problems related to illegal logging. He emphasized that illegal logging leads to serious social problems in certain regions of the country and even though it does not seem to be a significant market in terms of financial damages, it is proportionate to human smuggling. Commissioner Ganev also noted that investigation of illegal trade in fuels remains a major challenge.

Petar Tsankov, Head of Department at the National Revenue Agency, supported the opinion that the illegal logging market is being underestimated. With reference to the available data concerning the illegal fuel market, Mr. Tsankov underlined that further research is necessary and it is important to maintain the monitoring process.

Kamelia Dimitrova, Secretary General of the National Commission for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, observed that the data presented in the BOCTA report corresponds to the data published by Europol. She informed the round table participants that Bulgaria will host a meeting dedicated to the role of the Internet and social networks as an intermediary tool in human trafficking, and the measures which need to be taken to minimize this illegal market.

Zlatka Padinkova, Chief Inspector at the National Police, agreed with the findings of the report which define the telephone fraud market as a relatively small, yet significant one. She commented on the fact that a major part of phone scams are committed through calls made from Romania or with Romanian SIM cards, where there is no legal obligation for SIM card buyers to register. In addition, phone fraudsters often change their whereabouts, which impedes investigation.

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events-1911Thu, 13 Sep 2018 00:00:00 +0300Standing Up To State Capture: Innovative Methods to Investigate Fraud and Corruptionhttps://csd.bg/events/event/standing-up-to-state-capture-innovative-methods-to-investigate-fraud-and-corruption/Unlike in the majority of EU member states, in Bulgaria and Romania the agricultural sector still has a major impact on the economy. The value added of the sector as a share of GDP in the two countries is more than twice as high as the average in EU28. Romania and Bulgaria remain the two countries in EU with the highest share of agriculture in their national GDP accounts. As such, fraudulent irregularities and corruption-related activities in the EU financing of Bulgarian and Romania’s agricultural sector present a serious threat to the financial interests of the EU. At the same time, the high concentration of land ownership, particularly in Bulgaria, together with persistent levels of irregularities and corruption in the procurement process, puts the national interest in agriculture at risk of being captured by private interests. This may lead to detrimental effects for economic life, opposite to those intended by the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) funding rationale.

On 13 and 14 of September 2018, the Center for the Study of Democracy organised a high-profile international conference with the support of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) and the Open Society Initiative for Europe. The event brought together academics, practitioners and innovators to discuss methods for assessing and measuring the state capture phenomenon and showcase the current and up-and-coming tools and techniques in detecting, preventing and investigating fraud and corruption in the EU funding for agriculture. The conference also tackled the potential impacts of organised crime and the state capture phenomenon on the rural and agriculture sectors in the EU and explored key aspects of the risks for the EU’s financial interests posed by white collar crime in the agricultural sector.

In his opening remarks CSD Chairman Dr. Ognian Shentov stressed that the state capture phenomenon is a key political issue which needs to be addressed via a set of specialised tools such as a State Capture Index. He also pointed out that the fraud in the agricultural sector both in Bulgaria and Romania remains a serious problem that could be tackled through institutional cooperation and technological innovations. Amira Szönyi, Head of Unit B4 Agricultural and Structural Funds II at OLAF, drew attention to EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and its diverse goals. She underlined that frauds with agricultural funds pose a tangible risk to CAP’s successful implementation and noted the importance of bringing together experts with different backgrounds who could exchange knowledge, opinions and expertise to better address EU funds fraud issues.

Mariana Prats from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) offered an overview of the policy capture practices and noted that policies do not always reflect the most pressing concerns of citizens. The resultant institutional asymmetry is an important factor in facilitating the decrease in public trust in government. Ms. Prats underlined the need for legislation regulating party financing and reducing the policy gap in lobbying regulations. Tihomir Bezlov, Senior Fellow at CSD’s Security Program, focused on the modus operandi of fraudsters exploiting EU agricultural funds in Bulgaria. A main pattern is to circumvent the Euro 300,000 limit on subsidy for farmers. Large land owners and operators in Bulgaria engage in complex schemes to parcel their lands into smaller plots in order to drain the EU direct payment mechanisms. This practice contributes to hyper-concentration of agricultural land, weaker competition and a decline in productivity. The President of the Romanian NGO Expert Forum Sorin Ionita, pointed out that most countries in Southeast Europe put more trust in EU, rather than in national institutions, but still vote for clientelist policies in times of crisis. Mr. Ionita stressed the lack of powerful civil service and independent judiciary leading to the failure of democratic policy mechanisms.

Dr. Alexander Gerganov from CSD’s Economic Program introduced a quantitative assessment of state capture in Italy, Bulgaria, Romania and the Czech Republic. He underlined that the problem is rooted in the combination of poor governance, the monopolisation of key business sectors, and enablers such as media capture. Valentina Dimulescu from the Romanian Academic Society presented a recent study conducted in Romania, demonstrating that despite its evident economic growth, the country is still affected by pervasive corruption and overall poor governance. She gave examples from an analysis of public procurement in the infrastructure and construction sectors in order to highlight how anti-corruption efforts have not yet yielded the expected results. Nicola Capello from the Research Centre on Security and Crime in Vicenza presented the results of a study on state capture in Italy, which assesses the risk of external pressure on Italian institutions, as well as a case study of the MOSE project in Venice – a local example of state capture and its financial implications. Dr. Vit Simral, Lead Researcher at the University of Hradec Králové analysed the capture of key economic sectors in the Czech Republic such as agriculture, the pharmaceutical industry and energy. He emphasised the lack of regulations on the “revolving door” phenomenon as well as on conflict of interests.

In her presentation, Amira Szönyi introduced OLAF’s mission and several case studies detailing the most common corrupt and fraudulent practices involving EU funds. She stressed the importance of a more effective verification of market prices, transparent ownership structure, as well as improved legal definitions in the fight against fraud and corruption in the EU funding for agriculture. Dr. Philip Gounev, Deputy Minister of Interior of Bulgaria (2013–2017), presented a mapping of corruption processes upon which a comprehensive anti-corruption policy design could be based and highlighted the main components hampering anti-corruption measures, most notably the lack of public pressure. The Romanian investigative journalist Atilla Biro (Rise Project) showcased various tools and databases that may be used by both researchers and law enforcement officer and shared some of the challenges in corruption investigation, notably off-shore companies. He highlighted the complications in collecting corruption evidence because of the need to prove both corrupt acts and the corresponding laundered money.

The issues of detecting and investigating fraud and corruption in the EU funding for agriculture were discussed by Col. Amedeo De Franceschi, Head of the Carabinieri Command Office for Agri-Food Protection in Rome, who described the recent technical improvements in the fight against agri-food crime, notably document and scientific traceability, the development of database, GIS and remote-sensing technologies. Andrei Atila Luca Chendi, Director at the Control Directorate at DLAF, Romania’s Fight Against Fraud Department, stressed the need for prevention, while insisting that legislation remains the most effective tool for combating fraud with EU funds. He highlighted insufficient investigative authority as a main obstacle to successfully bring EU funds fraudsters to justice. Andon Tashukov from the Anti-Fraud Coordination Service (AFCOS) of the Bulgarian Ministry of Interior underlined the main constraints to collecting evidence in both spot checks and digital forensic operations, as well as the need for cooperation between national and EU institutions in order to carry out effective investigations. Brendan Quirke, Senior Lecturer at the Manchester Metropolitan University drew attention to the structural problems undermining the fight against corruption and fraud, which are rooted in the fragmentation of both skills and knowledge, as well as in the relations between national administrations and EU institutions. He insisted that the relations between OLAF and AFCOS should be more horizontal.

Focusing on public procurement, Ágnes Czibik, Managing Director of the Budapest-based Government Transparency Institute, demonstrated the use of big data analysis in developing corruption indicators. She maintained that such indicators may be used for risk assessment or for setting up automatic compliance checks in public procurement procedures. The Secretary General of the Romanian National Integrity Agency Silviu Ioan Popa introduced PREVENT, an IT tool designed by the agency to identify and prevent conflict of interests by detecting connections and relationships in public procurement through analysing a number of variables, including previously held positions in the administration. Dimitar Dimitrov, Director for Anti-Fraud at the Bulgarian State Fund Agriculture presented the structure and activities of the Anti-Fraud Directorate, the legislative changes that would increase anti-fraud effectiveness, and the main IT tools and databases used to investigate fraud and corruption in EU funding for agriculture. Radu Nicolae from the Romanian Syene Centre for Education gave an overview of the deficient structural processes in the agricultural sector in Romania, which act as enablers for tax evasion and corruption. He maintained that an agricultural cadastre needs to be implemented in Romania in order to facilitate combatting fraud, corruption and abuse in the sector.

Going on to discuss the role of statistics, high-tech and remote sensing technologies, Francesca Tortifrom the Text and Data Mining Unit of the Joint Research Center (JRC) presented statistical tools such as THESEUS and WebARIADNE aiming at the identification of anomalies in the trade of goods between state members and third countries, as well the “fair price” concept developed by the European Commission for precise estimates of the price of imported products. She drew attention to some trade volume monitoring methods to detect potential misdeclaration of origin. Kamen Iliev, Director of the European Association of Remote Sensing Companies (EARSC) and General Manager of TAKT-IKI Ltd. explained the more recent innovations in satellite and EO technology such as thermal mapping and Hyperspectral along with their possible applications in the field of the anti-corruption and anti-fraud prevention and investigation. Dan Nica, irregularities officer at the Control and Anti-Fraud Directorate of Romania’s Agency for Rural Investment Financing (AFIR), dwelt on the IT tools used by AFIR to detect fraud and anomalies, namely the digitalisation of application and payment claims, applicant’s automatic threshold verification, and project mapping. Mr. Nica also stated that online access to government databases and registries is a great facilitation to the agency’s daily activities. Sergio Gomez de Rozas, Head of the Audit Area II at the Spanish Agrarian Guarantee Fund O.A. (FEGA) described the Spanish approach in identifying and preventing fraud in the agricultural sector based on the specific administrative and political structure of the country He focused on the use of GIS and remote sensing technologies in identifying parcels and lands under direct payments.

Dr. Christopher Brewster, Senior Scientist at the Data Science Department of the Dutch research institute TNO, gave a comprehensive overview of the challenges and opportunities of blockchain in the agricultural sector. He highlighted several aspects wherein blockchain may have a potential fraud and corruption diminishing role, such as in document management. Tomáš Pošepný, data analyst at the Czech company Datlab, presented the results of a longitudinal study on the presence of companies established in tax havens, which enjoy much less stringent competition and operate with higher profit margin in public procurement bids in the EU. He stressed the evident risk for tax evasion, but also for potential conflict of interests. Paul C. Johannes, member of the Project Group on Constitutionally Compatible Technology Design at the University of Kassel, explained the main overlapping elements of fraud prevention and fraud detection before introducing tools such as INSPECT for financial fraud, and LiDaKrA. He presented the overall legal framework within which innovative technologies such as blockchain must operate in order to be compliant with current EU requirements. Bozhidar Bozhanov, founder and CEO of the Bulgarian company LogSentinel, offered an overview of the potential of blockchain technology in the fight against fraud, highlighting its strengths in guaranteeing data integrity. He argued that if blockchain cannot address the main problems of fraud, it could help in protecting the alteration documents and measurement-related data. He introduced the fraud detection tools Hyperledger and Logsentinel, also stressing the high prevention potential of such technology.

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events-1919Wed, 12 Sep 2018 00:00:00 +0300Youth Employment in the Stara Zagora Regionhttps://csd.bg/events/event/youth-employment-in-the-stara-zagora-region/A one-day workshop on youth employment schemes was held in the City of Stara Zagora on 12 September, 2018. The workshop gathered around 40 youth employment stakeholders from Stara Zagora and the region in discussing the state of youth employment in the region and exploring possibilities for building partnerships to enhance youth employment.

The workshop raised topics such as the impacts of EU’s Youth Guarantee measures on Roma youth and other vulnerable youth groups in the region of Stara Zagora; the lack of motivation among youth to work in Bulgaria, and instead to seek professional realization abroad; the need for stronger partnership between businesses and public institutions (such as the Public Employment Service and education institutions) in promoting more youth employment; the need to design new approaches for motivation of youth employment.

The workshop was organized by World Without Borders in collaboration with the Center for the Study of Democracy in the framework of the initiative “Mind the Gap: Facilitating Access to and Take Up of Youth Guarantee Measures by Roma Youth in Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania.”

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events-1910Tue, 04 Sep 2018 00:00:00 +0300Diagnosing and Countering Russian Influence and Media Capture in the Black Sea Countrieshttps://csd.bg/events/event/diagnosing-and-countering-russian-influence-and-media-capture-in-the-black-sea-countries/Russian influence in the media sectors of the Black Sea countries has become more visible in recent years and has been established through the deployment of a diverse set of instruments. Some of these instruments include the establishment of financial dependencies especially on the basis of ownership; political support for pro-Kremlin domestic media; the utilization of organizations outside the media sector - such as commercial companies, NGOs, educational and cultural institutions for agenda-setting; the exploitation of the Black Sea countries’ governance deficits to prevent media transparency and freedom; the conferral of honors and awards on pro-Russian media and their staff; the use of hybrid warfare tools such as fake news and internet trolling.

In order to address the challenges stemming from Russia's media influence, the Center for the Study of Democracy organized an international policy roundtable on 4 September 2018 in Kyiv, Ukraine, which brought together policy-makers, media experts, journalists and representatives of civil society organizations. The participants discussed the main findings, conclusions and policy recommendations of a recently published regionally comparative study titled 'Russian Influence in the Media Sectors of the Black Sea Countries: Tools, Narratives and Policy Options for Building Resilience', further putting forward their own ideas and suggestions for dealing with Russian propaganda.

In the opening session of the event, Ms. Julia Kazdobina, Advisor to Ukraine's Minister of Information Policy, pointed out that Ukraine was the first country to experience the full force of Russian tools of influence on public opinion - Moscow captured Crimean media and Russia-linked Ukrainian media, thus attempting to make Crimeans distrustful of Ukraine and of the rest of the world. Hence, it is difficult to devise a policy response because Russia is developing its own broadcasting infrastructure, jamming Ukrainian signals. The most promising way forward is contained in the employment of a strictly analytical-investigative approach to the question of Russia's media influence. Dr. Roman Shutov, Strategic Advisor for the Partnership Programme, Baltic Centre for Media Excellence, Ukraine/Latvia, directed attention to the fact that truth is being weaponized by the Kremlin. Indeed, the most dangerous form of propaganda is hidden behind seemingly professional journalism that ostensibly follows standards of impartiality, whereby one can hide behind patriotic and anti-Russian narratives and still subtly disseminate pro-Kremlin messages. So the best way to combat such messages is to apply rigorous content analysis.

The first panel of the roundtable was dedicated to the presentation and discussion of the findings of the regionally comparative study. Dr. Todor Galev, Senior Analyst at the Center for the Study of Democracy, introduced the economic and political tools (including state capture instruments, corporate presence, media propaganda and disinformation, geopolitical pressure) that the Kremlin has used to reinforce the governance deficits in the Black Sea countries. He focused on the links between media ownership and anti-Western propaganda as essential forms of Russian malign influence in the region, outlining the instruments and mechanisms for direct and indirect support to both Russia-owned and domestic pro-Russian media. Dr. Roman Shutov presented the characteristics of pro-Russian propaganda in Ukraine, stressing the employment of shocking, emotionally manipulative images and the coverage of glaringly untruthful information. Dr. Rumena Filipova, Research Fellow at the Center for the Study of Democracy, emphasized the commonalities of pro-Russian narration and style of dissemination shared by the selected media outlets in Bulgaria as a function of these outlets' general pro-Russian tilt. She also focused on the differentiations in propagandist discourse and transmission techniques, conditioned by the different degrees of the political-economic enmeshment of the outlets with pro-Kremlin groups and interests. Ms. Sopho Gelavaand Ms. Ana Chitaladze, Researchers at the Media Development Foundation, Georgia, provided an overview of the Russian liaisons of the selected media sources in Georgia, spelling out the effects of these liaisons on news coverage. An important caveat concerned the fact that in respect of the energy theme, the portrayal of Moscow is not unequivocally positive given Tbilisi's efforts at energy diversification. Mr. Gegham Vardanyan, Editor in Chief of the Media Initiatives Center, Armenia, stressed the overwhelmingly favorable coverage of pro-Russian narratives, use of Russian sources and positive attitudes to the Kremlin not least due to the specificities of the Armenian media landscape, including the popularity of the Russian language and accessibility to Russian TV. Mr. Simion Ciochina, Communication Manager at the Institute for European Policies and Reforms in Moldova, focused on the common trends of pro-Russian propaganda shaped by the heritage of Soviet-descended media links to Russia, the popularity of the Russian language and the establishment of political control of the press. 

The general discussion following the presentations was marked by two important queries. The first concerned the issue of the actual impact of the established Russian propaganda on public opinion and domestic political discourse. The second was related to the unexpectedness of the heavy coverage of the Syrian topic in the Bulgarian case, which was explained as evidence of the imposition of pro-Russian narratives on the Bulgarian public that may not necessarily be so interested in the Syrian conflict. The only two locally-relevant topics covered with regard to Syria include the issue of Bulgarian weapons supplies to the rebels and the possible dissemination of violence from Syria to Southeastern Europe and the Baltic states.

Subsequently, elaborations of concrete, analytically- and experience-based proposals for tackling anti-Western propaganda followed. Ms. Liubov Tsybulska, Deputy Director of the Hybrid Warfare Analytical Group, Ukraine Crisis Media Center, argued that the main element in Russian propaganda is related to narratives, which feed into culturally established beliefs and values (of Russia as a country with a proud imperial history, of the Russians as victims of external aggression), which cannot be easily defeated. That is, combating Russian propaganda cannot be just about revealing the truth, as the narratives play into the national psyche. Dr. Andreas Umland, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation, directed attention to the problem of 'dis-balance'. The most effective form of disinformation has been the exaggerated presentation of truthful information about Ukraine, which is dis-balanced from more positive information about the country. Moreover, he argued that the Western discussion of Russian influence emphasizes the confrontation between democracy and authoritarianism, the continuation of the Cold War, the possibility of a World War 3. This is too dramatic and leads to policy mistakes as the question is more about the kleptocracy of the Russian political class. Dr. Umland also noted that Russian social networks are insufficiently used by Westerners. Dr. Volodymyr Yermolenko, Director of European projects, Internews Ukraine, pointed out that we already know the key features of Russian propaganda so the next step is to start being pro-active about combating it. Information is being weaponized and therefore the corresponding approach should be disarmament. Also, it is a false dilemma to decide whether fake news or narratives should be addressed first. Both should be tackled because our minds gather facts, which need to be united by narratives to become comprehensible. Useful ways of combating propaganda include due diligence of the financial ties of pro-Russian outlets, naming and shaming, applying sanctions. 

As regards the EU's role in tackling Russian propaganda, Latvia's experience was hailed as a positive example in that Riga was the first to call attention to the question of disinformation and the European Commission came up with corresponding initiatives. The EU's Eastern Partnership program was suggested to be used more actively as a platform through which the partnership countries can play the role of 'experts' on Russia within the EU, given their historical intertwining with and deep knowledge of Moscow. On the other hand, a warning was sounded that the EU's initiatives on countering disinformation are treated as issues of diplomatic concern rather than as internal problems for the Union. Also, the EU underestimates the security dimension of Russian propaganda, while Ukraine overestimates it so a proper balance should be found between a focus on security vs. freedom. Finally, it was argued that it is paramount to disseminate the findings of studies on Russian propaganda to Western countries, such as Italy, that are more prone to accept Kremlin narratives. Disinformation has become a global topic, which represents a perfect opportunity to transcend national boundaries in dealing with this matter.

Finally, a capacity-building exchange for journalists, bloggers and CSOs featured talks that provided a wider treatment of issues related to Russian influence. Dr. Rumena Filipova presented The Kremlin Playbook (a joint CSD-CSIS publication), which establishes a relationship between Russia's economic footprint and the deterioration of democratic standards in Central and East European countries, charts out the vulnerable sectors of CEE economies where Moscow is dominant, clarifies the amplifiers of the Kremlin's economic leverage and puts forward policy recommendations for tackling this leverage. Dr. Todor Galev introduced a media content analysis toolkit, whose aim is to trace, reveal and map Russia's financial and corporate ties to the domestic media outlets of other states as avenues for exercising and channeling media influence through propaganda. 

The discussion fleshed out participants' own observation of the link between Moscow's economic influence and the deterioration of democratic standards. For instance, it was pointed out that in Ukraine the Russian language is heavily promoted as a business strategy. It was also stressed that a counter-argument to the one put forward in the Kremlin Playbook refers to the presence of a weaker threat coming from Russia that may not be guided by a concerted Russian political strategy. It was responded that observations about the overrepresentation of the Russian threat depend on the (recent) historical context. Now it may seem that as concern about Russian policy has increased, analyses have also been focused on that direction, but back in time when the study was devised and especially in 2008, CSD was warning about the insufficient attention paid to the malign effects of Russian policy. This was not immediately heeded, with the 2009 letter to Obama on the part of CEE leaders being an important first step. Indeed, the key consideration was that once CEE states acceded to the EU and NATO, this did not completely mean that Western allies could be assured of the 'positivity' of economic and political trends in those countries. Just like cultural paradigms and visions of national identity can return and be enacted cyclically, so too Russia was gradually making a comeback in the region, which was no trivial matter.

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events-1909Mon, 03 Sep 2018 00:00:00 +0300A Euro-Atlantic Future for Macedonia?https://csd.bg/events/event/a-euro-atlantic-future-for-macedonia/A roundtable discussion on "A Euro-Atlantic Future for Macedonia?" was held on 3 September 2018 in Skopje. The roundtable focused on the role the EU and NATO on the European future of Macedonia, the impact of the progress of Macedonia on the Western Balkans, as well as the experience of neighbouring countries.

The event was organized by the European Policy Institute (EPI), the Institute for Democracy "Societas Civilis" and the Center for Economic Analyses, in cooperation with the Aspen Institute in Berlin. Speakers included Mr. Ruslan Stefanov, Director of the Economic Program of the Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD) and representative of the SELDI Network, Mr. Nikola Dimitrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Macedonia, Mr. Nikola Poposki, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Republic of Macedonia, and Ambassador Dr. Christian Helbach, the Special Representative for Southeastern Europe, Turkey and the EFTA countries of FR Germany.

Mr. Stefanov suggested that even if the referendum on the future name of Macedonia has a positive outcome, which is seen as the key hurdle to the country’s EU integration, it would only represent the beginning of the real reforms that Macedonia has to complete. He further remarked that after joining NATO and the EU, Bulgaria had a wider agenda and more obligations compared to the pre-accession period. Mr. Stefanov commented that Macedonia can become an important and strategic partner for the EU and NATO only if it fully commits to be part of the Western alliance and to meet its goals. He also noted that joining NATO and the EU should not be seen as an end to itself - the real challenge that the country is faced with is assuring better quality of life for its citizens, through focusing on tackling corruption and poverty.

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events-1906Thu, 28 Jun 2018 00:00:00 +0300Financing of Human Trafficking for Sexual Exploitationhttps://csd.bg/events/event/financing-of-human-trafficking-for-sexual-exploitation/Trafficking in human beings (THB) for the purpose of sexual exploitation has become one of the largest Bulgarian criminal markets since the beginning of the new millennium. Trafficking and prostitution not only generate huge incomes for Bulgarian organised crime but also have detrimental social and economic impact on local communities. Trafficking in human beings (THB) for the purpose of sexual exploitation has become one of the largest Bulgarian criminal markets since the beginning of the new millennium. Trafficking and prostitution not only generate huge incomes for Bulgarian organised crime but also have detrimental social and economic impact on local communities. 

On June 28, 2018, the Center for the Study of Democracy held a round table discussion on Financing of human trafficking for sexual exploitation. The event brought together representatives of the National Commission for Combatting Traffic in Human Beings, General Directorate National Police, General Directorate for Combating Organised Crime, Sofia Metropolitan Directorate of Interior, Commission for Countering Corruption and Forfeiture of Illegally Acquired Assets, academia and experts working in this field.

Dr. Atanas Rusev, Director of the Security Program of the Center for the Study of Democracy, and Ms. Kamelia Dimitrova, Secretary of the National Commission for Combatting Traffic in Human Beings, delivered opening remarks. Ms. Dimitrova introduced the Commission’s structure and activities with regard to the support and protection provided to THB victims, as well as its role in the area of prevention and strengthening capacity building for countering human trafficking. Dr. Rusev highlighted the fact that over the last years the Center has been working on different aspects of the THB phenomenon and that the data presented at this round table comes as a result of a nearly two-year research and interviews conducted with representatives of the prosecution and police and with criminal markets actors. 

Tihomir Bezlov, Senior Fellow at the Security Program of the Center for the Study of Democracy, outlined the scale, structure and trends of the domestic and cross-border sex markets. According to estimates from 2012, there were some 10 000 – 20 000 sex workers from Bulgaria involved in the cross-border sex market, while the available data for the time period 2016-2017 indicate a decrease in this number by 30-50%, both as a result of changes in the criminal market structure and for demographic and economic reasons. With reference to the domestic market, the decreasing number of victims registered by the Prosecutor’s Office reflects just the fewer number of initiated pre-trial proceedings. Yet interviews with criminal business actors point to growth, evolution and adjustment to the new conditions, which make the old model of police control less effective.

Georgi Apostolov, Coordinator of the Bulgarian Safer Internet Centre, Applied Research and Communications Fund, emphasized on the partnership with the General Directorate on Combating Organised Crime and with Interpol, taking into account that the majority of sexual content on the Internet featuring children involves child victims of criminal networks with servers located in Europe. Ms. Kamelia Dimitrovaadded that the reports of the European institutions also highlight the role of the Internet and that the European Commission has launched a partnership with Facebook aimed at raising the awareness of sexual exploitation by sending alerts to the potential victims.

Dr. Atanas Rusev presented data related to the financing of THB for sexual exploitation and noted that while institutions tend to focus solely on the proceeds from this crime, financing actually happens prior to and at the time of its commitment. Dr. Rusev defined the sources of initial capital necessary to enter the market of TBH for sexual exploitation, the costs associated with each stage of the process, various forms of settlement of payments and the methods for money laundering and re-investment of proceeds. The possible steps for countering the problem are the development of institutional capacity for effective financial investigations and their simultaneous handling along with the criminal ones, as well as improving the coordination among Bulgarian authorities.

Inspector Stoycho Kubatov from the General Directorate National Police stated that due to its complex nature, sometimes the crime of THB for sexual exploitation is being accompanied by a broad array of severe crimes against the person, including murder.

Inspector Milen Stoyanov from the General Directorate for Combating Organised Crime claimed that internal reorganizations and the reduced number of officers specialised in money laundering investigations pose serious impediments in the work of law-enforcement agencies. As regards cross-border crimes, the work process is being additionally hindered by the lack of information exchange with foreign counterpart police forces. 

Trifon Trifonov, Director of the International Activities, Coordination and Control Directorate at the Commission for Countering Corruption and Forfeiture of Illegally Acquired Assets, elaborated on the role of the Commission with respect to TBH and money laundering. As one way of neutralising the result of those crimes, Mr. Trifonov referred to the non-conviction based forfeiture of illegal assets as a tool for countering organised crime. The total value of the illegal assets seized as of the establishment of the Commission up to date is 116 million BGN, which has a preventive effect as well. 

In conclusion, Dr. Rusev stressed that CSD’s work on this important topic will continue, focusing on the traffic of human beings for labor exploitation. 

CSD Policy Brief No. 78: Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation in Bulgaria: Criminal Finances and Capacity for Financial Investigations

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events-1904Tue, 19 Jun 2018 14:18:00 +0300Priorities for the National Energy and Climate Plan until 2030: decentralization and decarbonizationhttps://csd.bg/events/event/priorities-for-the-national-energy-and-climate-plan-until-2030-decentralization-and-decarbonization/On 19 June 2018 the Center for the Study of Democracy welcomed representatives from all relevant institutions on a round table discussion: “Priorities for the National Energy and Climate Plan until 2030: decentralization and decarbonization”. Experts from CSD presented the key trends and obstacles towards Bulgaria’s energy decentralization, based on the three SEERMAP scenarios for the development of the electricity sector in Southeast Europe.On 19 June 2018 the Center for the Study of Democracy welcomed representatives from all relevant institutions on a round table discussion: “Priorities for the National Energy and Climate Plan until 2030: decentralization and decarbonization”. Experts from CSD presented the key trends and obstacles towards Bulgaria’s energy decentralization, based on the three SEERMAP scenarios for the development of the electricity sector in Southeast Europe.

Participants from the Ministry of Energy; Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works; Ministry of Transport, Information technologies and Communications; Ministry of Environment and Water; Ministry of Agriculture and Food; the Sustainable Energy Development Agency and the Energy and Water Regulatory Commission took part in the discussion. They pointed out to some key issues to be resolved in relation to the development of the National Climate and Energy Plan, namely the need for an integrated approach, including all stakeholders and in particular the municipalities, overcoming the sharp decline of investments in RES, and reducing the number of energy poor and vulnerable groups.

 

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events-1900Thu, 14 Jun 2018 14:17:00 +0300Governance Practices in the Transition to a Low-carbon Futurehttps://csd.bg/events/event/governance-practices-in-the-transition-to-a-low-carbon-future/Europe is at a crossroads in its transition towards a sustainable energy system, which aims to address challenges related to climate change, high levels of pollution and growing energy security concerns. On 13-14 June, 2018 the Center for the Study of Democracy held a Stakeholder workshop on governance practices in the transition to a low-carbon future with representatives from government agencies, research institutions and universities and business associations from across the EU and beyond. The workshop was organised within the framework of the ENABLE.EU project and aimed at discussing with relevant stakeholders governance practices and quality of governance as drivers or obstacles for public acceptability of low-carbon energy transition in the areas of heating and cooling and prosumers-practices. Europe is at a crossroads in its transition towards a sustainable energy system, which aims to address challenges related to climate change, high levels of pollution and growing energy security concerns. On 13-14 June, 2018 the Center for the Study of Democracy held a Stakeholder workshop on governance practices in the transition to a low-carbon future with representatives from government agencies, research institutions and universities and business associations from across the EU and beyond. The workshop was organised within the framework of the ENABLE.EU project and aimed at discussing with relevant stakeholders governance practices and quality of governance as drivers or obstacles for public acceptability of low-carbon energy transition in the areas of heating and cooling and prosumers-practices. 

The participants discussed seven areas of governance bottlenecks and obstacles for public acceptability of low-carbon policies, as well as measures and possible solutions with regards to:

  • energy efficiency and prosumer practices in households;
  • energy poverty and high cost of investment for RES installations;
  • costly administrative procedures and/or improper taxation;
  • low institutional administrative and professional capacity, especially on regional/local level;
  • lack of strategic thinking and political commitment;
  • dominant position of incumbents in energy systems and policy;
  • low level of awareness and lack of transparency.

 

The event on the ENABLE.EU website

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events-1902Thu, 14 Jun 2018 14:17:00 +0300Envisioning the transition to low carbon energyhttps://csd.bg/events/event/envisioning-the-transition-to-low-carbon-energy/The two-day Transition Visioning Workshop was held on 14-15 June 2018 in Sofia, Bulgaria with 60 participants from 10 countries. Interactive work in small groups allowed all participants to speak and share their knowledge. The two-day Transition Visioning Workshop was held on 14-15 June 2018 in Sofia, Bulgaria with 60 participants from 10 countries. Interactive work in small groups allowed all participants to speak and share their knowledge. Taking into consideration the targets set by Europe 2020 and the Energy Union Initiative, the workshop addressed the following questions:

  • What are the desired end results or functions of energy practices?
  • What are the emerging actions and practices that are considered marginal but could shape our energy behaviours in the future?
  • What are the most promising actions related to technologies, policies, and behavioural changes that will have the highest impact on individual and collective energy practices in the future
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events-1994Fri, 01 Jun 2018 18:00:00 +0300Bulgaria’s International Competitiveness 2018https://csd.bg/events/event/bulgarias-international-competitiveness-2018/According to the 2018 World Competitiveness Yearbook of the Institute for Management Development (IMD, Switzerland), the Bulgarian economy, being driven by the EU, is slowly, though unimpressively, recovering. In 2018, Bulgaria ranks 48th out of 63 economies, an improvement of seven positions compared to 2015, but a decline compared to 2007. The Bulgarian economy remains among the most uncompetitive ones. Its long-term factors of competitiveness remain stagnant, and change in the near future is rather unlikely unless a substantial correction of the policies of the Bulgarian government and business leaders occurs.

Key Competitiveness Challenges and Opportunities for Bulgaria 2018

  • Improve the judiciary’s and public administration’s performance.
  • Redirect greater numbers of skilled workers from the public to the private sector.
  • Increase EU funding for vocational training.
  • Prioritize the development of the national innovations system both in terms of improving relevant legislation and boosting the budget.
  • Enhance transparency and European integration of the Bulgarian energy system.
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events-1898Wed, 16 May 2018 00:00:00 +0300Democracy That Delivers: Ten Years Later. Unlocking the Potential of the Western Balkanshttps://csd.bg/events/event/democracy-that-delivers-ten-years-later-unlocking-the-potential-of-the-western-balkans/The Western Balkans have made continued progress in addressing rule of law and governance issues since the turn of the century. The advancement has been made possible thanks primarily to triangulation of reforms, led by local civil society, reformist minded politicians, and external aid. The Corruption Monitoring System of the Southeast European Leadership for Development and Integrity, has shown that corruption pressure on citizens in the Western Balkans has declined by 15 percentage points between 2000 and 2016 but at 26% remains unacceptably high. In some countries and policy domains systemic rule of law issues have resulted in state capture. Governance gaps have been exploited and amplified by resurgent authoritarian powers in the region, further slowing the transition to democracy and market economy. This calls for a renewed engagement with the Western Balkans by its European and US partners.The Western Balkans have made continued progress in addressing rule of law and governance issues since the turn of the century. The advancement has been made possible thanks primarily to triangulation of reforms, led by local civil society, reformist minded politicians, and external aid. The Corruption Monitoring System of the Southeast European Leadership for Development and Integrity, has shown that corruption pressure on citizens in the Western Balkans has declined by 15 percentage points between 2000 and 2016 but at 26% remains unacceptably high. In some countries and policy domains systemic rule of law issues have resulted in state capture. Governance gaps have been exploited and amplified by resurgent authoritarian powers in the region, further slowing the transition to democracy and market economy. This calls for a renewed engagement with the Western Balkans by its European and US partners.

The international conference, organized in partnership by the Center for the Study of Democracy, the European Fund for the Balkans (EFB), the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the European Commission with the support of SELDI.net and the Bulgarian Swiss Cooperation Program on 16 May 2018, brought together the key transatlantic players for the Western Balkans with representatives of the civil society and the private sector on the eve of the informal meeting of the heads of state in Sofia on May 17-18, 2018. 

The discussion focused on the key policy actions, necessary for strengthening the stability and unlocking the potential of the Western Balkans and its Euro-Atlantic perspective: effective prosecution of high level corruption; utilization of innovative tools for countering administrative corruption (such as MACPI - Monitoring Anti-Corruption Policy Implementation); streamlining EU assistance; engaging directly with civil society; development of dedicated units to track illicit transactions; stronger oversight on development funds; assessments of the economic diversification and placing stronger focus on critical sectors such as energy, banking, telecommunications. The donor organizations’ representatives also highlighted the importance of setting up new support programmes at national and local level directed towards the citizens, including their involvement in the policy debate and the decision-making, improvement of skills for tackling youth unemployment, job creation, vocational trainings, development of entrepreneurship and increase of the media freedom. 

Security threats should be addressed together according to Christian Danielsson, Director General, DG Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, European Commission. He noted that while the EU has already stated its re-commitment towards the Western Balkans, it is a political choice if the countries make use of this opportunity. There is a need of substantial reforms to address issues related to state capture, governance, rule of law. The expanding of the economic potential is already being observed, but investments will come much easier if governance issues are addressed. Ambassador Elisabeth I. Millard, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, U.S. Department of State underlined that USA would like to have an united Europe as a close partner, aligned with their shared values, however challenges remain considerable and the stakes are high. She reminded the audience that EU and NATO are standard based institutions, and it is vital for the Western Balkans to show political will, strengthen their institutions, security and rules. To achieve the common goal of energy security in particular, the region should build a competitive market through diversification and interconnectors, following the aims of the EU Third Energy Package.

During his lunch address Zoran Zaev, Prime Minister of Macedonia stated his commitment to build bridges of trust in the region, and expressed his hope that the name issue will be resolved soon. He noted that “the Balkans had a difficult past, but we are creators of our future”. 

The participants stressed that the European Commission has rightly prioritized the rule of law and security, including hybrid threats, in its new Enlargement Strategy from February 2018. They acknowledged the progress made so far, but also noted that the region needs to stay vigilant, and find the balance between the development and security agenda.They expressed their hope that the EU and NATO, as well as major donor countries in the Western Balkans, such as Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the US and Japan, would engage directly with civil society groups for tackling corruption and state capture more effectively.The speakers underlined that the European integration process provides an opportunity to reinforce also the national governments’ policy towards civil society. It should not be forgotten that civil society is part of the Berlin process, although currently it is involved only on technical terms in the decision-making. The provided recommendations are usually not taken into account. In that regard, now is the moment to develop more efficient policy tools to enhance the impact of civil society. These could include, for example, CSOs’ assistance to the EC and the national governments in monitoring and evaluation of public policies, especially in areas, such as public procurement, concessions and public-private partnerships. In that way the civil society will be able to provide an external unbiased perspective, expertise, as well as a mechanism for checks and balances against any inefficient or otherwise flawed distribution and utilisation of national or donor funds.

Videos

Policy Brief No. 77: Making Democracy Deliver in the Western Balkans: Strengthening Governance and Anticorruption

Russian Economic Footprint in the Western Balkans. Corruption and State Capture Risks

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events-1896Tue, 15 May 2018 14:15:00 +0300Promoting EU-Russia Non-governmental Cooperationhttps://csd.bg/events/event/promoting-eu-russia-non-governmental-cooperation/On 15 May 2018, the Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD) hosted a networking meeting with non-governmental stakeholders to discuss options for possible collaborative activities that facilitate EU-Russia dialogue on civil society and law-related issues. The meeting was held on the margins of the 8th General Assembly of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum (CSF) which is taking place on 15-18 May 2018 in Sofia. The EU-Russia Civil Society Forum was established in 2011 and the Center for the Study of Democracy is among its founding members.On 15 May 2018, the Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD) hosted a networking meeting with non-governmental stakeholders to discuss options for possible collaborative activities that facilitate EU-Russia dialogue on civil society and law-related issues. The meeting was held on the margins of the 8th General Assembly of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum (CSF) which is taking place on 15-18 May 2018 in Sofia. The EU-Russia Civil Society Forum was established in 2011 and the Center for the Study of Democracy is among its founding members.

The networking meeting was held under the auspices of the EU-Russia Legal Dialogue Programme of the CSF. Among the attendees were experts of the CSD and other Bulgarian non-governmental organisations, such as the Bulgarian Institute for Legal Initiatives and the Law and Internet Foundation, as well as CSF General Assembly guests and participants – representatives of think-tanks and policy institutes from Russia, Poland, and the Netherlands.

The meeting provided an opportunity for participants to present their respective activities and research interests and to exchange and brainstorm ideas and suggestions for future collaboration and joint initiatives in the areas of human rights and the rule of law, rights of vulnerable groups (such as prisoners, children, victims of crime, migrants, refugees), digital rights, fight against corruption and organised crime, civil society empowerment, judiciary monitoring, legal aid etc.

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events-1894Wed, 25 Apr 2018 00:00:00 +0300Training Module for Cultural and Civic Orientation of Beneficiaries of International Protectionhttps://csd.bg/events/event/training-module-for-cultural-and-civic-orientation-of-beneficiaries-of-international-protection/A national study on the information and training needs of beneficiaries of international protection in Bulgaria conducted in 2017 identified the need of development of coherent and comprehensive program for information and orientation to facilitate the adaptation and inclusion of members of this group in the host society. Aiming to respond to this need Center for the Study for Democracy organized a national workshop “Training Module for Cultural and Civic Orientation of Beneficiaries of International Protection” that took place in Sofia on 25 April 2018.A national study on the information and training needs of beneficiaries of international protection in Bulgaria conducted in 2017 identified the need of development of coherent and comprehensive program for information and orientation to facilitate the adaptation and inclusion of members of this group in the host society. Aiming to respond to this need Center for the Study for Democracy organized a national workshop “Training Module for Cultural and Civic Orientation of Beneficiaries of International Protection” that took place in Sofia on 25 April 2018.

The workshop gathered professionals from public and NGO institutions mandated to provide services to refugees in Bulgaria as well as members of the refugee community. They discussed a draft Module for cultural and civic orientation of refugees, developed by the Center for the Study of Democracy and provided input for its fine tuning and finalization. By way of group discussions participants formulated guidance regarding the chosen topics, the relevance and comprehensiveness of the provided information and the proposed training techniques. The pack of recommendations formulated at the workshop will serve to finalise a Module for Cultural and Civic Orientation for beneficiaries of international protection in Bulgaria.

 

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events-1892Fri, 30 Mar 2018 14:13:00 +0300Countering Corruption in the Private Sectorhttps://csd.bg/events/event/countering-corruption-in-the-private-sector/The problem of private corruption is relatively new to corruption research, since traditionally corruption is seen as a public sector phenomenon associated with the use and abuse of public power, rather than with the operations of the private sector. The results from the first systematic study and report on private corruption in Bulgaria, implemented by the Center for the Study of Democracy, show that there are phenomena and practices in the private sector, which are to a large extent similar to the ones taking place in the overall corruption environment in the country. This was stated by Ruslan Stefanov, Director of CSD Economic Program at the opening of the round table on Countering Corruption in the Private Sector in Bulgaria on March 30, 2018.The problem of private corruption is relatively new to corruption research, since traditionally corruption is seen as a public sector phenomenon associated with the use and abuse of public power, rather than with the operations of the private sector. The results from the first systematic study and report on private corruption in Bulgaria, implemented by the Center for the Study of Democracy, show that there are phenomena and practices in the private sector, which are to a large extent similar to the ones taking place in the overall corruption environment in the country. This was stated by Ruslan Stefanov, Director of CSD Economic Program at the opening of the round table on Countering Corruption in the Private Sector in Bulgaria on March 30, 2018.

Dr. Alexander Stoyanov, Research Director at CSD and author of the report, highlighted the fact that one in five companies in Bulgaria has experienced corruption pressure. The prevalence of corruption in the private and public sector seems to be approximately equal and no major differences between the two forms of corruption can be found. Around 20 % of the interviewed company executives report to having experienced corruption pressure, while in the public sector (in regards to the relations between the state and private business) this figure is 16 %.

The participants in the round table pointed out that the existence of private corruption in such dimensions considerably distorts the market environment, leads to implementation of practices, which destroy the normal market competition and eventually decreases the overall effectiveness and competitiveness of the private sector. 

An example of countering corruption in the private sector was provided by Delyan Dobrev, Chairman of the Energy Committee at the National Assembly, who referred to the electrical energy market, where in order to avoid purchase and resale of electrical energy at higher prices on behalf of private companies, as of 1 January, 2018, a formal requirement was introduced that all electrical energy transactions should be performed only through the energy stock exchange.

Nicola Yankov, Managing Partner and Chairman of the Board of Directors at Expat Capital, called attention to the fact that corruption in the banking and non-banking financial sector does in no way concern just the private interest, as when it comes to allocation of cash flows by corrupt persons, resources are usually dissipated at the expense of society. This kind of behaviour is detrimental to the economic growth and curbs economic and social development. Even though there are strict legal frameworks in place, given the lack of effective regulatory supervision, the results are still far from satisfactory. A viable resolution would be Bulgaria’s joining the EU system of financial supervision.

In conclusion, the round table participants united around the view that the existence of corruption means lack of effectiveness and loss of prosperity for society as a whole. It was emphasized that even if Bulgaria takes one of the first places in Europe in terms of corruption awareness and counteracting, the efforts in this respect should continue.

Media Coverage (in Bulgarian)

Private Sector Corruption in Bulgaria

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events-1890Tue, 27 Mar 2018 14:13:00 +0300South East Europe Electricity Roadmap until 2050: Decarbonization and Decentralizationhttps://csd.bg/events/event/south-east-europe-electricity-roadmap-until-2050-decarbonization-and-decentralization/Bulgaria faces the challenge to adapt the dynamically evolving European strategies and policies for a low carbon economy to its national priorities. The process of reaching the targets set by the EC reflects the regional characteristics of SEE and the technological potential of the Bulgarian economy and energy sector, which causes some tension between the market players, consumers and stakeholders, thus hindering adequate policy formulation and implementation. Bulgaria faces the challenge to adapt the dynamically evolving European strategies and policies for a low carbon economy to its national priorities. The process of reaching the targets set by the EC reflects the regional characteristics of SEE and the technological potential of the Bulgarian economy and energy sector, which causes some tension between the market players, consumers and stakeholders, thus hindering adequate policy formulation and implementation. 

In response to these challenges and the need for communication between the various stakeholders, the Center for the Study of Democracy organized a round table on South East Europe Electricity Roadmap until 2050: Decarbonization and Decentralization on 27 March 2018.

Experts from CSD presented their analysis based on an elaborate outlook for the development of the electricity sector in SEE until 2050. This was followed by a constructive discussion focusing on electricity market liberalization and the decarbonization and decentralization of electricity generation in order to identify possible solutions to respond to the existing regulatory and governance obstacles. 

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events-1888Tue, 06 Mar 2018 13:10:00 +0200The Illicit Tobacco Market: Limits to Institutional Enforcementhttps://csd.bg/events/event/the-illicit-tobacco-market-limits-to-institutional-enforcement/The trade in illegal tobacco products contributes to significant loss in state budget revenue for many countries. The traditionally high levels of illicit tobacco product’s consumption in Bulgaria have brought about an estimated BGN 4.83 billion in VAT and excise tax losses for the last ten years. The concerted efforts of Bulgarian authorities have brought about a significant reduction in the market for illicit cigarettes since 2015.The trade in illegal tobacco products contributes to significant loss in state budget revenue for many countries. The traditionally high levels of illicit tobacco product’s consumption in Bulgaria have brought about an estimated BGN 4.83 billion in VAT and excise tax losses for the last ten years. The concerted efforts of Bulgarian authorities have brought about a significant reduction in the market for illicit cigarettes since 2015.

On 6 March 2018, the Center for the Study of Democracy organised a round table discussion on “The illicit tobacco market: limits to institutional enforcement”, where key stakeholders explored the possibilities for further curtailing of the illicit tobacco market. The round table was organized the as part of the project "Illegal Trade in Tobacco Products and the Balkan Route: Overcoming Institutional Gaps and Corruption", which is funded by PMI-IMPACT - a global initiative to combat illegal trade and related crimes. The event brought together representatives of the National Revenue Agency, the Directorate-General for Combating Organized Crime, the Directorate-General Border Police, the Directorate "Analyzes and Policies" at the Ministry of the Interior, the Customs Agency, as well as representatives of the tobacco industry.

Tihomir Bezlov, Senior Fellow at the Security Program of the Center for the Study of Democracy, presented the main trends since 2008, noting that the revenue generated by VAT and excise tax on tobacco products forms a significant share of the Bulgarian state budget. Whereas the average share of budget revenues stemming from tobacco taxation in Western European countries is about 1-2% of the overall tax revenue, the share of these revenues in the Bulgarian budget is between 9% and 10%. Institutional efforts for countering the illicit tobacco trade in the last three years have been largely successful as profits from illicit tobacco products and its consumption have declined, while the VAT and excise tax collections have increased.

The participants from all represented institutions agreed that the limiting of the trade in illicit tobacco products can be considered as a significant success, notwithstanding the limited resources that control organs have in comparison to the well organised and funded criminal actors. As a result of the institutional efforts, the trade in illicit product has been forced underground, as evidenced by the disappearance of sale of illicit tobacco from public spaces and retail locations, as well as the redirection of criminal entrepreneurs towards smaller quantities. In many localities authorities register very low levels of illicit tobacco products. The further limiting of the illicit market is a challenge especially with regard to tracking and control of the sale of chopped tobacco. At the same time, the results achieved can only be sustained with continuous enforcement, since any change of institutional priorities is followed by an expansion in the illicit trade.

A notable trend in the market is the diversification of the available products and retail options. Illicit shisha tobacco is an important new product which poses a significant threat to public health due to the poor conditions in which it is often produced and handled. Combatting the online sales of illicit tobacco and other products is another area which is increasingly coming to the attention to the authorities. On the other hand, there is no evidence that entry of new heat-not-burn products on the market is expected to lead to sales of counterfeited analogues in the medium term. This is due to the relatively higher costs for production and the generally low purchasing power of the Bulgarian consumers, which most likely will lead to a limited appeal for these products.


CSD Policy Brief No. 75: The Tobacco Market in Bulgaria: Trends and Risks

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events-1886Thu, 22 Feb 2018 13:10:00 +0200Mapping the Links between Russian Influence and Media Capture in the Black Sea Countrieshttps://csd.bg/events/event/mapping-the-links-between-russian-influence-and-media-capture-in-the-black-sea-countries/The growth of Russian economic influence and propaganda in the media of Central and East European countries has become evident in recent years. To address these issues, CSD has engaged in analyzing the Russian economic footprint and ownership links in the media sector. The preliminary results show several similarities as well as differences between different CEE countries in the “tools” used by Russian-controlled media for disseminating content and political messages. The growth of Russian economic influence and propaganda in the media of Central and East European countries has become evident in recent years. To address these issues, CSD has engaged in analyzing the Russian economic footprint and ownership links in the media sector. The preliminary results show several similarities as well as differences between different CEE countries in the “tools” used by Russian-controlled media for disseminating content and political messages. 

In Bulgaria, for example, media ownership is not the primary means of influence, but rather the Russia-backed community of content creators and providers such as online news platforms, independent journalists, bloggers and internet trolls. The study further suggest that the presence of non-media companies from the energy, real estate and banking sectors in the shareholding and management of media companies also influences to a large extend the decisions-making and agenda-setting. 

In contrast, Georgian media is the main source of anti-western messages, followed by the pro-Russian political agenda of some political parties. The most common media propaganda methods used are the fake news, photo fabrications, conspiracy theories and demonization of NATO, the European Union and the European values. The Armenian media landscape was also described as one lacking freedom of speech and influenced by the strong economic involvement of Russia. Russian television plays prominent role due to the significant Russian diaspora in Armenia and use of Russian language. 

Ukraine presents a special case. Due to the ‘active’ conflict between Russia and Ukraine at the moment, the media is focused more on the anti-war rhetoric. Thus, the participants argued that rather than direct anti-western propaganda, Kremlin aims at shaping internal social conflicts. Media outlets evade the glorification of Russia, as well as discussing the issue of Crimea. The media topics are instead concentrated on depicting the Ukrainian government, its attempts for reforms and closing ties with the EU as harmful for the Ukrainian society. As a result, the trust in the government and the state is undermined. 

The speakers underlined that Russian propaganda and disinformation tactics are evident in Moldova since the Transnistrian conflict in 1992. With the recent outbreak of the conflict in neighboring Ukraine, Russia has transitioned to a more aggressive stage of media use as means of control. The biggest television channels, which are the primary source of information in Moldova, are owned by pro-Russian oligarchs. Within this media landscape, the West and its values are vilified, portraying US, NATO and EU as responsible for the military conflicts around the world. 

At the closing of the workshop, held on 22 February 2018, the CSD experts presented their goals on the development of a methodology, quantifying the Russian economic footprint in the media sector in the Black sea region. It will combine multiple data sources and data collection methods, such as financial, ownership and management hard data, case studies, expert assessment and content analysis of selected media outlets. Thus, by developing a clear and transparent guideline for other organisations to use, CSD hopes to raise the awareness on this issue. 

Round table brief "Mapping the Links between Russian Influence and Media Capture in Black Sea Countries"

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events-1884Tue, 20 Feb 2018 23:00:00 +0200Tackling Russian Economic Footprint in the Western Balkanshttps://csd.bg/events/event/tackling-russian-economic-footprint-in-the-western-balkans/On 21 February, 2018, the European Endowment for Democracy (EED) hosted the panel Tackling Foreign Economic Footprint in the Western Balkans in cooperation with the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) and the Center for the Study of Democracy. Jerzy Pomianowski, EED Executive Director, opened the event.On 21 February, 2018, the European Endowment for Democracy (EED) hosted the panel Tackling Foreign Economic Footprint in the Western Balkans in cooperation with the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) and the Center for the Study of Democracy. Jerzy Pomianowski, EED Executive Director, opened the event.

The panel presented how governance gaps create opportunities for the inflow of corrosive capital, and how this capital in turn exacerbates those governance gaps in four Western Balkan countries. The assessments were written by the Center for the Study of Democracy and a network of local experts in Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina with the support of CIPE.

Ruslan Stefanov, Director of Bulgarian Center for the Study of Democracy, explained the process behind developing the methodology to measure Russia’s economic footprint in the Western Balkans and noted the difficulty local experts had in accessing the necessary information. Stefanov also stressed that the focus should not be on the footprint alone, but on the governance gaps in the Balkans that allow for the proliferation of corrosive capital. “The nature of corrosive capital is the lack of a clear-cut border between politics and economics,” Stefanov said.

The panelists called on the European Union to take a strong stance on governance gaps in the Western Balkans, while providing support to local civil society in closing those gaps, in collaboration with the local administrations.

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events-1882Mon, 29 Jan 2018 23:00:00 +0200Foreign Meddling in the Western Balkans: Guarding against Economic Vulnerabilitieshttps://csd.bg/events/event/foreign-meddling-in-the-western-balkans-guarding-against-economic-vulnerabilities/The Center for the Study of Democracy participated at a briefing at the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, held on 30 January 2018 in Washington D.C. The participants in the briefing noted that malign outside influence in the Western Balkans, in particular by Russia, is of increasing concern. The lack of a strong legal framework makes countries in the region especially vulnerable to foreign capital that can be used to sow instability, undermine integration, and delay democratic development. The discussion also highlighted how the United States and Europe can help boost economic resiliency, encourage good governance, and protect democracy in the Western Balkans. The Center for the Study of Democracy participated at a briefing at the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, held on 30 January 2018 in Washington D.C. The participants in the briefing noted that malign outside influence in the Western Balkans, in particular by Russia, is of increasing concern. The lack of a strong legal framework makes countries in the region especially vulnerable to foreign capital that can be used to sow instability, undermine integration, and delay democratic development. The discussion also highlighted how the United States and Europe can help boost economic resiliency, encourage good governance, and protect democracy in the Western Balkans. 

In an attempt to improve the understanding of this process, the Center for the Study of Democracy developed assessments of the Russian economic footprint in Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, presented at the event. Mr. Ruslan Stefanov, Director, Economic Program, Center for the Study of Democracy made a short statement, further explaining that the indirect footprint of Russian companies goes through several channels, including 1) the dependence of local companies on imports of Russian raw materials such as natural gas; 2) debts accumulated for gas supply; and 3) the dependence of domestic companies on exports to Russia or loans provided by Russia-controlled banks. He recommended that all infrastructure projects be in compliance with the highest standards for transparency and competitive tendering, and subject to independent cost-benefit analysis. 

Helsinki Commission Briefing to Assesses Foreign Economic Influence in the Western Balkans 
Statement by the Center for the Study of Democracy regarding Russia’s Economic Footprint in the Western Balkans 
Facebook Live Webcast of the Briefing: Foreign Meddling in the Western Balkans 
Podcasts at the CIPE Development Blog: CIPE and the Helsinki Commission Look at the Impact of Russian Investments in Four Western Balkan Nations
 

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events-1880Tue, 23 Jan 2018 23:00:00 +0200Love Moves: The Rights of Recognized Same-Sex Partners Moving Across the EUhttps://csd.bg/events/event/love-moves-the-rights-of-recognized-same-sex-partners-moving-across-the-eu/Homophobia and unequal treatment for LGBTI people remain widespread across the EU. While indicators vary in the different Member States and the situation seems more favorable in some, compared to others, data shows that no country has achieved full LGBTI equality. Bulgaria is among the countries where the situation remains quite unfavorable. According to the ILGA-Europe Rainbow Map (2016), which shows the human rights situation of LGBTI people across the EU, Bulgaria scores 24 % (with 100 % denoting “rights fully respected” and 0 % denoting “violations, discrimination”).Homophobia and unequal treatment for LGBTI people remain widespread across the EU. While indicators vary in the different Member States and the situation seems more favorable in some, compared to others, data shows that no country has achieved full LGBTI equality. Bulgaria is among the countries where the situation remains quite unfavorable. According to the ILGA-Europe Rainbow Map (2016), which shows the human rights situation of LGBTI people across the EU, Bulgaria scores 24 % (with 100 % denoting “rights fully respected” and 0 % denoting “violations, discrimination”).

On 24 January 2018 the Center for the Study of Democracy hosted the first Workshop along the national initiative for conducting a study on the situation of same-sex couples with recognition in another EU Member State who travel and reside in Bulgaria. The initiative is aimed to Identify discrimination practices of Member States which don’t acknowledge the rights of same-sex couples recognized in another EU country jurisdiction and thus violate the right of free movement within the European Union. Participants in the seminar were representatives of the partnering organizations Youth LGBT Organization Deystvie, GLAS Bulgaria Foundation, Resource Center Bilitis Foundation and Marginalia.

Liliya Dragoeva, analyst at the Sociological Programme of the Center for the Study of Democracy, presented the framework of the initiative and stressed on its aims and activities. The session was continued with a discussion pointing out the need for raising awareness among the LGBTI community in Bulgaria and abroad about the limitations regarding freedom of movement across the EU which same-sex couples face. The participants also underlined the importance of putting the topic of discrimination of same-sex couples from other EU Member States in Bulgaria high on the public agenda.

Dr Mila Mancheva, Director of the Sociological Programme of the Center for the Study of Democracy, presented research methodology for conducting a national study on the situation of same-sex couples with recognition in another EU Member State who travel and reside in Bulgaria. Aimed Following the conduct of the study and based on its results an awareness rising strategy will be developed with the aim to trigger improvements in the treatment of the LGBT community and targeting the relevant authorities and the general public.

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events-1878Mon, 11 Dec 2017 23:00:00 +0200Counter Terrorism: Bush, Obama, and Trump Policieshttps://csd.bg/events/event/counter-terrorism-bush-obama-and-trump-policies/Whilst the US counter-terrorism policy is still being debated within the Trump Administration, there are already indications that it will remain consistent with the underlying trend observed under the Bush and Obama Administrations, whereby terrorism is framed as a foreign rather than a domestic threat against which America must protect itself with stronger borders, travel restrictions, and reductions in refugee flows and immigration as part of an open-ended conflict. Yet, in the absence of a major terrorist crisis requiring hard decisions and testing views, Trump’s counterterrorist policy is largely judged on the basis of his speeches, remarks to reporters, and tweets. This was one of the main conclusions of a roundtable on the US counter-terrorism policy organised by the Centre for the Study of Democracy following the publication of a report by the RAND Corporation entitled The Origins of America’s Jihadists which shows that US jihadists are not ‘imported’ but rather, home-grown. The round table gathered Bulgarian policy makers, experts and Sofia-based diplomats.Whilst the US counter-terrorism policy is still being debated within the Trump Administration, there are already indications that it will remain consistent with the underlying trend observed under the Bush and Obama Administrations, whereby terrorism is framed as a foreign rather than a domestic threat against which America must protect itself with stronger borders, travel restrictions, and reductions in refugee flows and immigration as part of an open-ended conflict. Yet, in the absence of a major terrorist crisis requiring hard decisions and testing views, Trump’s counterterrorist policy is largely judged on the basis of his speeches, remarks to reporters, and tweets. This was one of the main conclusions of a roundtable on the US counter-terrorism policy organised by the Centre for the Study of Democracy following the publication of a report by the RAND Corporation entitled The Origins of America’s Jihadists which shows that US jihadists are not ‘imported’ but rather, home-grown. The round table gathered Bulgarian policy makers, experts and Sofia-based diplomats.

At the roundtable held on 12 December 2017Brian Michael Jenkins, Senior Advisor to the President of the RAND Corporation pointed out that the USA still maintains its military presence in Afghanistan, the Middle East, and parts of Africa. The Trump Administration has sent a reinforcement of troops to Afghanistan. In contrast to its predecessor, geopolitically President Trump has moved explicitly closer to Saudi Arabia and hardened the US stance on Iran. Another departure from the policy line maintained by the Obama Administration is the reduced emphasis on “soft power” and the human rights agenda, something evident in the termination of support for the Syrian rebel movement.

The domestic context within Syria remains complex. ISIS has been defeated territorially but not ideologically, which in turn provides favourable conditions for a continuing underground insurgency within a destabilised country with sharp sectarian divides. As the government struggles to maintain control both politically and militarily, the role of foreign actors, including Iran, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the US, and Israel and their competing interests in determining the future of Syria is likely to become ever more important.

 

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events-1876Thu, 07 Dec 2017 23:00:00 +0200Victims of Crime – New Trends in Identifying, Needs Assessment and Referral in Bulgaria and the EUhttps://csd.bg/events/event/victims-of-crime-new-trends-in-identifying-needs-assessment-and-referral-in-bulgaria-and-the-eu/Despite the transposition of the EU acquis on the protection of victims of crime, Bulgaria is still lagging behind in providing victims adequate support and participation in criminal proceedings. This was the conclusion reached by participants in the round table Victims of Crime – New Trends in Identifying, Needs Assessment and Referral in Bulgaria and the EU held by the Center for the study of Democracy on 8 December 2017. The event gathered magistrates, representatives of the Ministry of the Interior, the social assistance services and NGOs.Despite the transposition of the EU acquis on the protection of victims of crime, Bulgaria is still lagging behind in providing victims adequate support and participation in criminal proceedings. This was the conclusion reached by participants in the round table Victims of Crime – New Trends in Identifying, Needs Assessment and Referral in Bulgaria and the EU held by the Center for the study of Democracy on 8 December 2017. The event gathered magistrates, representatives of the Ministry of the Interior, the social assistance services and NGOs.

In his opening remarks Dimitar Markov, Senior Analyst at the CSD Law Program, outlined the main research and practical achievements of the Center in the area of improving the situation of victims of crime, such as a comprehensive report contributing to the drafting of relevant EU legislation, factsheets on the European e-Justice portal and a number of initiatives in the area of legal aid to victims of crime and the involvement of NGOs in their protection.

Prof. Dr. Dobrinka Chankova, criminal procedure professor at the Neofit Rilski South-West University, presented a selection of good practices from Cyprus, Estonia and the Netherlands concerning the rights of child victims of crime and integrated services provision to victims of gender-based violence. Inspector Desislava Viktorova from the National Police General Directorate summarized the latest data on victims of crime in Bulgaria and the challenges in victim identification faced by police officers. She also mentioned the need to differentiate between authentic and false complaints for committed crimes filed at the police and to counter the latter.

Miriana Ilcheva, Research Fellow at the CSD Law Program, focused on practices from Poland, Austria and Cyprus exemplary of integrated multidisciplinary work with victims of sexual and gender-based violence. She also dwelt on the amendments to the Law on Assistance and Financial Compensation of Victims of Crime and the Criminal Procedure Code made in relations to transposing Directive 2012/29/ЕU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime, and replacing Council Framework Decision 2001/220/JHA.

Prosecutor Ivaylo Iliev, Administrative Head of the Regional Prosecutor’s Office in Kyustendil, presented a critical overview of the criminal procedure provisions on the rights of victims of crime introduced in recent years. He stressed on some of the challenges the prosecution faces and the need to improve the conditions in which practitioners work with victims, such as raising the fees of interpreters and allocating resources to fit up ‘blue rooms’ for interviewing children and provide video conferencing equipment.

In the discussion that followed participants pointed to the outstanding challenges in the process of supporting victims of grave premeditated crimes and to the need to transfer foreign models into local practice only after adapting them to Bulgarian conditions.

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events-1874Wed, 06 Dec 2017 23:00:00 +0200Protection of the Rights of Victims of Trafficking in Human Beingshttps://csd.bg/events/event/protection-of-the-rights-of-victims-of-trafficking-in-human-beings/In order for the referral, support and protection of the rights of victims of trafficking of human beings (THB) to be effective, stakeholders need to work in cooperation towards a common goal and each of them should understand the others’ perspectives. This was the conclusion reached by the participants in the two-day training seminar Multidisciplinary Approach to Effective Referral, Support and Protection of the Rights of Victims of Trafficking in Human Beings organised by the Center for the Study of Democracy on 7–8 December 2017. The event gathered prosecutors, lawyers, and officials from the National Commission for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, the Agency for Social Assistance, the National Legal Aid Bureau, the Ministry of the Interior, the State Agency for Refugees and a number of NGOs. The trainees were given a Manual on the Multidisciplinary Approach elaborated as part of the initiative under which the training was delivered.In order for the referral, support and protection of the rights of victims of trafficking of human beings (THB) to be effective, stakeholders need to work in cooperation towards a common goal and each of them should understand the others’ perspectives. This was the conclusion reached by the participants in the two-day training seminar Multidisciplinary Approach to Effective Referral, Support and Protection of the Rights of Victims of Trafficking in Human Beings organised by the Center for the Study of Democracy on 7–8 December 2017. The event gathered prosecutors, lawyers, and officials from the National Commission for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, the Agency for Social Assistance, the National Legal Aid Bureau, the Ministry of the Interior, the State Agency for Refugees and a number of NGOs. The trainees were given a Manual on the Multidisciplinary Approach elaborated as part of the initiative under which the training was delivered.

In her opening remarks Law Program Director Dr. Maria Yordanova noted that the topic of victims of crime, those of human trafficking in particular, is a key priority in the Center’s legislation and policy drafting efforts. CSD researchers have worked on initiatives aiming to enhance the integration of child victims of trafficking, analyse the role of the Internet in THB, and improve the provision of legal aid to victims of crime.

In the first training session Vladimir Nikolov, prosecutor at the Regional Prosecutor’s Office in Pleven, outlined the international and domestic legal framework for combating THB and protecting victims of THB, as well as the mechanisms for victims’ referral between institutions. Miriana Ilcheva, Research Fellow at the CSD Law Program, focused on the importance of Codes of Ethics for practitioners working with THB victims, which are an indispensable tool for the adequate treatment of victims in the course of and beyond criminal proceedings. During the discussion, participants pointed to several areas where legislative amendments are needed to improve the situations of victims: healthcare, employment, social service financing, prostitution regulation / incrimination, child protection.

The second session was dedicated to secondary victimization. Diana Videva, Project Coordinator at the Demetra Association, reviewed the main characteristics of post-traumatic stress disorder often affecting victims of THB and the situations in which criminal justice authorities often additionally traumatize victims. Petya Dobreva, Director for Legal Aid at the National Legal Aid Bureau, examined the ways in which public defenders‘ capacity for working with victims of THB could be enhanced and common procedures for approaching such victims could be created. Trainees discussed the case of a victim of trafficking for the purpose of begging who should be convinced to participate in the proceedings against the traffickers despite her distrust to institutions. They engaged in a role play where a victim of THB is interrogated by a prosecutor in the presence of a psychologist from a crisis centre. The role play was followed by a heated discussion on the role of supporting staff in the work of the criminal justice system with victims and on the tough balance between observing procedural norms and securing a safe environment for victims, as well as between random case distribution and magistrates’ specialization.

In the thirds training session Diana Videva reviewed the benefits for both the victims and the criminal procedure of psychologists’ and social workers’ involvement in the communication between victims and institutions. The case presented was of a victim in a state of severe anger accompanied by outbursts of aggression whom supporting professionals should prepare for the criminal proceedings. Participants discussed a number of possible coordination mechanisms on the local level in facilitating the collaboration between prosecution offices, police departments and crisis centres and stressed that these should be formally regulated by the law.

In the last session Ms. Videva examined the specifics of multidisciplinary work in cases of transnational THB. Tanya Gyunova, Secretary of the Local Commission for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings in Pazardzhik, presented several cases from the commission’s practice – some successful, with the victims coping and managing to reintegrate into society, while others challenging, with the victims turning unable to get away from the traffickers. A case study – of a victim returning home from France where an action is taken against traffickers and a financial compensation is about to be adjudicated, was discussed in detail. The role of the National Commission for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings in coordinating institutional response, especially in transnational trafficking, was reiterated and made clear to participants.

 

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events-1950Wed, 29 Nov 2017 13:00:00 +0200Practices for Provision of Orientation and Information to Enhance the Integration of Beneficiaries of International Protectionhttps://csd.bg/events/event/practices-for-provision-of-orientation-and-information-to-enhance-the-integration-of-beneficiaries-o/Since 2014 the countries of the European Union face intensified inflows of asylum seekers with the number of asylum claims coming up to nearly 1,4 million in 2015, over 1,2 million in 2016 and above 500 000 between January and October 2017. The considerable inflow of forced migrants coming predominantly from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq called for reconsideration of the structures and functionalities of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) and for expansion and improvement of the reception and integration systems across all member states.

The provision of relevant information and orientation becomes key component in the process of reception and integration of beneficiaries of international protection. This was the topic put at the centre of the training seminar “Facilitating the Integration of Beneficiaries of International Protection by Provision of Orientation and Information”, organized by the Centre for the Study of Democracy in Sofia between 29 November and 1 December 2017.

The seminar gathered professionals in the refugee reception and support field from Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Malta and Spain who discussed possibilities to transfer, adapt or invent approaches and tools in the provision of orientation and information support to beneficiaries of international protection. The training was provided by professionals from Italy and Spain working at refugee support organisations with a mandate to implement government run reception and integration programs in the two countries.

Valentina Fabbri and Sebastiana Masuri from the Italian Cooperative Programma INTEGRA conducted two training sessions the one dealing with practical overview of the methods and mechanisms for integration of refugees in Italy and the other with the design and implementation of practical tools for job orientation. The sessions were built along the discussion of case studies and the roles and functions of the assistance teams working with them.

Karina Zubiaga and Susanna Nicolas from the Catalan Commission for Assistance of Refugees (CCAR) conducted two more training sessions. The first one provided practical information on the three-stage Spanish program for reception and integration of refugees which involves tools for support of up to 18 months per beneficiary. The second session presented concrete action tools conceptualized around group work to support refugees in the process of language acquisition, job orientation and overall adjustment and adaptation to the Spanish society.

In the last day, December 1st, participants from Bulgaria, Greece and Malta presented concepts for the development of training modules to facilitate the orientation and integration of beneficiaries of international protection in each of the three countries. The concepts were presented respectively by Rosa Vasilaki from ELIAMEP and Dilara Demir from MELISSA Network in Greece, Mila Mancheva from CSD in Bulgaria and Marcella Pisotti from People for Change Foundation in Malta. In the discussion that followed participants agreed that the modules should be directed at social workers so as to aid their work with beneficiaries of international protection and thus support the enhancement of the assistance and integration systems in the three member states. Some of the main topics to be included in the mdules stressed by the presenter included: cultural orientation, civic education, job orientation, women’s rights, health and the role of women in European societies, access to justice and basic services including inter-cultural competences.

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events-1848Mon, 27 Nov 2017 23:00:00 +0200The New Enlargement Strategy for the Western Balkans: How to Enhance Civil Society Role in Anti-Corruption and Good Governancehttps://csd.bg/events/event/the-new-enlargement-strategy-for-the-western-balkans-how-to-enhance-civil-society-role-in-anti-corr/Facilitated by the Bulgarian and Austrian EU Council presidencies, as well as by shifting European focus towards to region, 2018 will grant Western Balkans an unprecedented access to the EU. Further European initiatives, especially the Berlin Process and the upcoming new Enlargement Strategy, will also contribute to the strategic importance of the upcoming 12 months.Facilitated by the Bulgarian and Austrian EU Council presidencies, as well as by shifting European focus towards to region, 2018 will grant Western Balkans an unprecedented access to the EU. Further European initiatives, especially the Berlin Process and the upcoming new Enlargement Strategy, will also contribute to the strategic importance of the upcoming 12 months. These prospects will provide opportunities for closer EU integration of the region. But national governments will have to take ownership of their own integration process though demonstrating tangible results and concrete progress in both economic governance and anti-corruption.

Civil society has a key role to play in this process. Anti-corruption has to be addressed both comprehensively and horizontally with the increasing prioritization of economic governance. This needs to be channeled through clear commitment on part of the Western Balkan countries and establishment of sustainable wide cooperation platform, involving decision-makers, CSOs, the business sector, as well as local, national and regional initiatives. These were some of the key messages communicated during the roundtable discussion ‘The New Enlargement Strategy for the Western Balkans: How to Enhance Civil Society Role in Anti-Corruption and Good Governance’, held in Podgorica, Montenegro, on 28 November 2017.

The principles of locality and target funding for CSOs will play an important role for such a cooperation to be successful. Ensuring independent evaluation, effective monitoring and assessment by CSOs should be prioritized. Western Balkan countries need to commit to establishing and promoting proper functioning of core institutions necessary for securing the rule of law. Prosecuting high-level corruption, fighting organized crime and corruption are hereby considered fundamental to countering the criminal infiltration of the political, legal and economic systems. The role of the public administration also needs to be highlighted, especially understood as impact-orientated, going beyond the current image of a formal technocratic process, alienated from the citizens.










Photo Gallery
 

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events-1845Mon, 30 Oct 2017 23:00:00 +0200Cross-Border Organised Crime in the Context of the Migrant Crisishttps://csd.bg/events/event/cross-border-organised-crime-in-the-context-of-the-migrant-crisis/The recent migration and refuge crisis poses significant challenges to European governments. The unprecedented migration pressure provided many avenues for the generation of major profits by organised criminal networks. The recent migration and refuge crisis poses significant challenges to European governments. The unprecedented migration pressure provided many avenues for the generation of major profits by organised criminal networks. The large influx of irregular migrants looking for facilitation has led to the evolvement of human smuggling as a substantial criminal market in Europe. On the other hand some countries have experienced a concurrent rise in human trafficking cases.

How have cross-border organised crime networks and markets adapted to the migration crisis? How effective was the response of law enforcement bodies towards evolving threats such as human smuggling in both, transit and destination countries for irregular migrants? These are among the core issues examined in a study conducted by the Center for the Study of Democracy in cooperation with the Norwegian Police University College, and discussed during the conference “Cross-border Organised Crime in the Context of the Migrant Crisis”, held on 31 October 2017 in Sofia.

Rositsa Dzhekova, Coordinator of the Security Program at the CSD, introduced the main points for discussion during the event, noting that the way criminal markets and groups are impacted by and adapt to external developments of the magnitude of the recent migrant crisis has not been the focus of an in-depth discussion so far.

Tihomir Bezlov, Senior Fellow and Nadya Stoynova, Analyst at the Security Program presented the findings of the first in-depth study of human smuggling in Bulgaria. The authors discussed different aspects of the organisation of human smuggling operations, including their historical development and the effects of the migrant crisis, the networks involved, the financial aspects of the crime as well as the relation with other criminal activities. Human smuggling networks emerged already in the 1990s and readily adapted to changes in the migrants’ profiles and desired destinations. Since 2013, the migrant crisis significantly increased the demand for facilitation services leading to the expansion of existing networks, the emergence of new ones and the involvement of a significant portion of the criminal underground. Despite the magnitude of smuggling operations, the response of the Bulgarian institutions was delayed and insufficient, largely failing to bring about the dismantling of smuggling networks.

Prof. Paul Larsson, Associate Professor at the Norwegian Police University College, discussed practices and challenges to policing human trafficking and human smuggling in Norway, where the threat of organised crime has been traditionally associated with drug crime. Nevertheless, human trafficking for sexual and labor exploitation is another criminal activity that has become a priority for the police. Difficulties in countering trafficking in Norway include the international character of the crime, the reluctance of victims to cooperate, as well as the availability of resources to conduct complex investigations. Therefore, the dark number of unidentified cases is likely large. The response to human trafficking would benefit from the accumulation of more expertise, strengthened international cooperation and preventive initiatives. On the other hand, human smuggling so far has not been considered a major threat, although more police attention is being devoted to the issue recently. At the same time, countering human smuggling is plagued by similar challenges as those encountered with regard to human trafficking.

The approach of Bulgarian law enforcement bodies in countering illegal migration and smuggling was discussed by Inspector Mihail Dimitrov of the General Directorate Border Police (GDBP), Chief Inspector Dimitar Kangaldhziev of the General Directorate National Police (GDNP) and Inspector Petar Petrov of the General Directorate Combating Organised Crime (GDCOC). In response to the increased migration pressure at Bulgarian borders over the past few years, the GDCOC and GDNP have been increasingly involved in countering human smuggling, while the GDBP’s capacity has been strengthened by support from Frontex and advancements in border surveillance equipment. In addition, efforts have been made to establish effective channels of cooperation and information exchange between the different competent bodies. However, despite an accumulation of expertise, the police notes challenges with regard to the availability of resources (е.g. translators competent in the languages of the migrants and some perpetrators) and proving criminal activity due to specificities in the crime and its cross-border component.

Slavyanka Ivanova, Senior Analyst at the Sociological Program, explored the way new technologies have been utilized to aid human trafficking and human smuggling. The internet, social media and mobile apps are important tools with significant potential for the successful recruitment of victims for exploitation in labor and sexual services, while with regard to human smuggling, they facilitate the communication between the migrants and the smugglers.

Report 'Cross-border organised crime: Bulgaria and Norway in the Context of the Migrant Crisis'

 

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events-1846Mon, 30 Oct 2017 23:00:00 +0200Priorities for the Bulgarian Energy Sector until 2050: Strategic Vulnerabilitieshttps://csd.bg/events/event/priorities-for-the-bulgarian-energy-sector-until-2050-strategic-vulnerabilities/Bulgaria and Europe have reached an energy crossroads. To meet the European Energy Union’s ambitious goal of reducing greenhouse gas emission in the electricity sector by over 90% until 2050, they should transform their energy systems, taking into account the inevitable socio-economic implications. Bulgaria and Europe have reached an energy crossroads. To meet the European Energy Union’s ambitious goal of reducing greenhouse gas emission in the electricity sector by over 90% until 2050, they should transform their energy systems, taking into account the inevitable socio-economic implications. Within this strategic framework, Bulgaria should clearly state its objectives and outline its key policies and the topics for public debate needed to achieve them. These were some of the conclusions of the policy round table Priorities for the Bulgarian Energy Sector until 2050: European Perspectives and Strategic Vulnerabilities organised by the Center of the Study of Democracy on 31 October 2017.

The CSD Chairman Dr. Ognian Shentov and the Director of Konrad Adenauer Foundation’s Bulgaria Office Mr. Thorsten Geissler opened the round table. They outlined the main energy security risks for Bulgaria within the European Energy Union’s framework. Dr. Shentov pointed out that Bulgarian public bodies continue taking long-term energy decisions (such as the construction of a new large nuclear power facility) without any effective energy policy planning mechanism based on a cost-benefit analysis. Mr. Geissler spoke of the energy priorities of Europe and Germany: secure energy, energy efficiency, decarbonisation of the electricity sector based on renewable energy resources (RES), and the phasing out of nuclear power.

Martin Vladimirov, Analyst at CSD’s Economic Program, presented three scenarios for complete decarbonisation of the electricity sector by 2050 based on data and modelling used by the European Commission. The results of the modelling work on Bulgaria show that under the scenario with an ambitious decarbonisation target and corresponding support schemes for renewable energy sources, the country would have an electricity mix with 53-54% renewable generation, mostly solar and wind, and some hydro-power by 2050. By then, due to the rising electricity prices resulting from more expensive carbon emissions and natural gas prices, more than two thirds of the needed investments in new RES capacity will be private market-based, rather than state subsidised investment. State support for RES technologies will be funded through the sale of carbon emission quotas, rather than power price based subsidising mechanisms. As per the scenarios, coal based generation capacities are expected to be priced out of the market by 2040, while a new nuclear capacity would not be financially viable and justified.

The main findings of the scenarios were discussed by a panel of speakers including Dr. Ivan Ivanov, Chairman of the Bulgarian Energy and Water Regulatory Commission, Delyan Dobrev, Chair of the Parliamentary Energy Committee. Dr. Ivanov underscored that Bulgaria would not need new large-scale generation capacities at least until 2035. He added that in the long term, the country would have to meet the EU goals, among which is the closing down of the large coal burning plants in the Maritsa basin. He noted that the promotion of new RES capacities will be completely funded through greenhouse gas quota sales, while preferential feed-in tarrifs will remain only for roof solar panels and passive solar buildings. Ivanov’s forecast was more optimistic than the scenarios presented, including a more gradual electricity price increase due to dropping consumption, rising energy efficiency and the demographic crisis leading to lower electricity demand across the country.

Delyan Dobrev focused on the need of greater investment in energy efficiency. He quoted data from the ongoing national scheme for multi-story building renovation showing power savings of close to 1 TWh to date, which is equal to the power produced by a generating capacity of 140 MWh. Dobrev emphasised the role of natural gas in Bulgaria’s energy system, noting that the possible discovery of sizable gas deposits in the Black Sea shelf would alter significantly the decarbonisation scenarios. In this case, he stressed natural gas would have a much larger share in the country’s electricity mix, its lower price making gas power plants more competitive in a liberalised power market.

In the discussions that followed, Mr. Martin Dimitrov, Chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Economic Policy, Energy and Tourism (2009–2013), and Mr. Traicho Traikov, Minister of Energy and Tourism (2009–2012), supported the view that Bulgaria should first of all adopt a transparent, data-based decision-making framework based on detailed scenarios before embracing expensive large-scale projects such as the Belene nuclear power plant, the latter project being, according to Traikov, a severe problem, rather than a solution for the country’s energy security. Mr. Ivan Hinovski of the Bulgarian Energy Forum and Mr. Petko Kovachev of the Green Policy Institute were also more positive on the use of natural gas and RES respectively, as factors that could change the presented scenarios to an earlier pricing out of the market of coal-fired power plants.







CSD Policy Brief No. 70: A Roadmap for the Development of the Bulgarian Electricity Sector within the EU Until 2050: Focus on Fundamentals

Media Coverage (in Bulgarian)

Photo Gallery
 

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events-1844Wed, 25 Oct 2017 00:00:00 +0300Effective Prevention of Corruption through Risk Assessmenthttps://csd.bg/events/event/effective-prevention-of-corruption-through-risk-assessment/Experts from ministries of justice, anti-corruption bodies and non-governmental organisations from South East Europe, gathered in Ljubljana, Slovenia to discuss the implementation of corruption risk assessments and corruption proofing of legislation across the region. Over 60 experts from ministries of justice, anti-corruption bodies and non-governmental organisations from South East Europe (SEE), gathered in Ljubljana, Slovenia on 25-26 October 2017 to discuss the implementation of corruption risk assessments (CRA) and corruption proofing of legislation (CPL) across the region. The participants reviewed the patterns of corruption in society and focused on specific corruption-related occurrences in SEE economies.

The forum, organized by the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) and the Regional Anti-corruption Initiative (RAI), in cooperation with SELDI, made important contributions for enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of corruption proofing and risks assessments. It remains essential that authorities look out for the three key legislative risks: lack of sanctions; excessive discretion and ambiguity of language. Though public authorities in SEE still encounter multiple risks and challenges, including lack of awareness, low human resources capacity, legal deadlocks, etc., good practices prevail. A notable example is the case of Moldova, which has had positive experience implementing strong CRA methodology and producing tangible results. Other positive trends discussed included: top-down approaches for identifying corruption risks, integrity plans, sectoral Anti-Corruption Plans, prepared as result of the CRA, and risk assessment methodologies used in the private sector.

In a separate panel discussion, SELDI presented its experience and future plans, seeking to deepen its public-private cooperation with public authorities across the region. During the upcoming four years the coalition aims to further its policy impact not only on national and region levels, but also locally, enhancing the capacity of grassroots organizations to influence the decision-making process. SELDI will continue to apply its, already recognized by national and local actors, corruption monitoring instruments, while focusing on enforcement of anti-corruption policies at institutional level and on the assessment of emerging threats, most notably the state capture phenomenon.

For additional information on the main conclusion and topics, discussed during the conference, visit the official webpages of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) and the Regional Anti-corruption Initiative (RAI). For more insight into the CRA and CPL methodologies, developed and implemented by the RCC and RAI, see Anti-Corruption Assessment of Laws in South East Europe (‘Corruption Proofing’) and Corruption Risk Assessment in Public Institutions in South East Europe - Comparative Research and Methodology.





 

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events-1847Mon, 09 Oct 2017 00:00:00 +0300Improving Bulgarian and Norwegian Law Enforcement Capacity for Tackling Cross-border Organised Crime in the Context of the Migrant Crisishttps://csd.bg/events/event/improving-bulgarian-and-norwegian-law-enforcement-capacity-for-tackling-cross-border-organised-crime/Experience and expertise exchange between European countries affected by transnational organised crime can foster the development of law enforcement approaches informed by best practices but suitable for addressing specific national contexts. Experience and expertise exchange between European countries affected by transnational organised crime can foster the development of law enforcement approaches informed by best practices but suitable for addressing specific national contexts. Strenghtening international cooperation can thus aid in increasing police capacity, recognising gaps in law enforcement practices and strengtening and adapting response towards emerging and established threats. The recent migrant and refugee crisis led to the emergence of new threats and trends in the activity of transnational organised crime such as the proliferation of human smuggling networks, as well as adaptation of traditional criminal markets to new profit opportunities. These require a timely reaction and adjustment of approach on the part of law enforcement authorities in both transit and destination countries for the illicit migration flow.

To strenghten police cooperation and contribute to improving police capacity in tackling cross-border organised crime, on 9 October 2017 the Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD) and the Norwegian Police University College (NPUC) organized a study visit in Oslo to facilitate exchange of experience between Bulgarian and Norwegian law enforcement bodies. The study visit was part of the initiative “Strengthening law enforcement responses to transnational organised crime in the context of the migrant crisis” and focused on discussing good practices in policing human smuggling and human trafficking in Bulgaria and Norway. Тhe seminar fostered successfully the exchange of experience and closer ties between relevant police bodies from the two countries and improved understanding of new cross-border criminal threats through sharing key research findings as a result of a joint study conducted by CSD and NPUC. The Bulgarian threat picture and key police measures to counter illicit migration and cross-border organised crime was introduced by representatives of the General Directorate Combatting Organised Crime, the General Directorate Border Police, the General Directorate National Police and the Directorate Internal Security. The Norwegian experience in tackling human trafficking and human smuggling was discussed by representatives from the National Criminal Investigation Service, the National Police Immigration Service and the National Police Directorate, as well as academic experts from NPUC as hosts.
 

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events-1842Wed, 04 Oct 2017 00:00:00 +0300Free movement of young Europeans in times of crisishttps://csd.bg/events/event/free-movement-of-young-europeans-in-times-of-crisis/The right of free movement within the European Union is a way for young Europeans to achieve their adequate career path, following their education, and reach a better quality of life.The right of free movement within the European Union is a way for young Europeans to achieve their adequate career path, following their education, and reach a better quality of life. This was the conclusion of the seminar ‘ON-THE-MOVE – challenges before the free movement of young Europeans in times of crisis’, organized on 4 October 2017 by the Center for the Study of Democracy. The event gathered representatives of the State Agency for Bulgarians Abroad, the State Agency for Child Protection, NGOs working with Bulgarian communities in the EU and the US and returning young people, as well as representatives of the private sector.

Dr Maria Yordanova, Director of the Law Program of the Center for the Study of Democracy, presented the main aims of the initiative, under which the seminar took place, and the challenges free movement faces – economic crisis, youth unemployment, as well as the growing number of terrorist attacks throughout Europe.

Miriana Ilcheva, Research Fellow with the Law Program, outlined the main stages of the research under the initiative, delineating aspects of the challenges free movement encounters. During the national phase, interviews had taken place with young people in process of free movement, during the comparative phase reports on groups of countries were drafted, while in the concluding phase useful manuals were produced. The manual for young people tackles the main models and stereotypes, hindering free movement, among which discrimination at the workplace, bureaucracy and language barriers. The manual for authorities presents promising practices from the 15 partner Member States in areas like information on free movement, prevention of brain drain, streamlining of administrative procedures, etc.

Angelina Kaneva, researcher under the project and graduate student at the London University, presented the main conclusions of the national phase on Bulgaria and the key push and pull factors for young Bulgarians to leave their home country and settle abroad. Among the push factors, there are the inadequate opportunities for professional development, the overwhelming corruption and political instability, while the pull factors include better living standard and options for personal and career growth. Barriers to free movement include the intensive competition when finding a job in the EU, instances of discrimination, language barriers and cultural differences.

Dimitar Kararusinov, state expert, Bulgarian Communities and Information Activities Directorate, State Agency for Bulgarians Abroad, presented the Agency’s main priorities in registering, communication with and support for Bulgarian youth communities abroad, as well as for career fora in Bulgaria and other EU Member States via which Bulgarians can move back to their home country. A variety of quantitative and qualitative data was presented on the number of Bulgarians abroad, as well as on the different models Bulgarian students abroad use to associate for mutual support and presenting Bulgarian culture and traditions.

Yulia Georgieva, project manager at Tuk-Tam, outlined the organization’s numerous projects in support of young Bulgarians in process of movement to the EU or the USA, of Bulgarians throughout the world and those returning to the country. Among those are the career forum ‘Career in Bulgaria. Why not?’, whose last edition gathered over 1000 candidates and over 100 companies, and the master programme scholarship fund ‘Go, study and come back’, supported by a number of personal and corporate donors. The organization has ambassadors in a number of countries throughout the world and maintains a rich information fund on studying abroad.

The ensuing discussion pointed to the lack of reliable data on the number of Bulgarians moving to different EU Member States and returning back to Bulgaria to work in marketing, management and IT. The participants reached the conclusion that the modern young European has a high degree of mobility and no one-way trajectory can be true to reality. The moral and practical dimensions of the return of young Europeans to help their home countries were discussed, as well as the intolerance to differences as a push factor. The importance of the co-operation among the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, the Employment Agency, the Bulgarian Investment Agency and the State Agency for Bulgarians Abroad was emphasized in creating conditions for the return of highly qualified experts.




 

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events-1841Wed, 27 Sep 2017 00:00:00 +0300Roma Youth and Youth Guarantee measures in Bulgaria, Hungary and Romaniahttps://csd.bg/events/event/roma-youth-and-youth-guarantee-measures-in-bulgaria-hungary-and-romania/Between 2013 and 2016, the EU member states started the implementation of the Youth Guarantee Programme aimed at NEET youth (youth not in employment, education or training). In Bulgaria, as well as in Hungary and Romania, substantial part of the youth in similar situation originate from Roma communities. Between 2013 and 2016, the EU member states started the implementation of the Youth Guarantee Programme aimed at NEET youth (youth not in employment, education or training). In Bulgaria, as well as in Hungary and Romania, substantial part of the youth in similar situation originate from Roma communities.

On 27th and 28th of September, 2017 the Center for the Study of Democracy conducted a kick-off meeting within the framework of an international initiative for Facilitating access to and take up of Youth Guarantee measures by Roma youth in Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania. At the meeting, methodology and indicators for study on the involvement of Roma youth in the Youth Guarantee Programme was discussed, as well as a strategy for dissemination of results and advocacy activities at local, national and regional level.

Mila Mancheva, Director of the Sociological Programme of the Center for the Study of Democracy launched the event with presentation of the activities and experience of the Programme. Liliya Dragoeva, Programme Assistant at the Sociological Programme of the Center for the Study of Democracy presented the main goals and activities to be implemented within the initiative. Slavyanka Ivanova, Senior Researcher at the Sociological Programme of the Center for the Study of Democracy proposed methodology and indicators for study on the inclusion of Roma youth in the Youth Guarantee Programme. The study envisages gathering of existing data from the statistical offices and employment offices in Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania and in-depth qualitative study in 30 settlements that will include the viewpoints of the main local stakeholders. Petra Reszkető from the Budapest Institute, Alexandra Toderiță from the Romanian Center for European Policies and Albert Memeti from Roma Entrepreneurship Development Initiative (Romania) presented the strengths and resources of their organisations that might be employed for the implementation of the initiative and outlined main challenges for the planning and implementation of the research and advocacy activities at national level for their countries. Gancho Iliev from World without Borders Association (Bulgaria) presented main ideas for implementation of advocacy activities at local level in Bulgaria, stressing the involvement of educational institutions and the offering of interesting and attractive qualification and type of jobs to the young people.

The second day of the meeting was launched by Liliya Dragoeva, who presented the priorities of the upcoming Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU and the opportunities for implementation of advocacy activities within the framework of the announced events. She stressed the necessity of joint work with the Roma Standing Conference in Bulgaria for inclusion of the Roma integration among the topics of the Presidency and of participation in selected events to present the conclusions and recommendations of the forthcoming study. As most appropriate events were identified those connected with the Danube strategy, the Non-Formal Council on Employment, Social Policy, Healthcare and Consumer Issues, as well as the Public Employment Services Network Meeting. Alexandra Toderiță from the Romanian Center for European Policies noted that more opportunities for advocacy activities would be available in the framework of the Romania Presidency in 2019, because the programme is not adopted yet and steps could be made for inclusion of specific topics and events in it. Slavyanka Ivanova presented a concept for internet portal dedicated to Roma inclusion-connected initiatives, to serve the dissemination of the results of the commenced initiative. The portal will be intended to present news, data, results, recommendations of the current and possible future initiatives connected with Roma integration, as well as useful links to webpages of organisations working in the field.
 

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events-1949Wed, 12 Jul 2017 00:00:00 +0300International Seminar and Study Visit in Cataloniahttps://csd.bg/events/event/international-seminar-and-study-visit-in-catalonia/Between 12 and 14 July, 2017 Center for the Study of Democracy organised a study visit to Barcelona for the purpose of acquainting representatives of relevant institutions with the system of reception and integration of asylum seekers and refugees in Catalonia. The Bulgarian delegation included representatives of the State Agency for Refugees at the Council of Ministers, the Bulgarian Red Coss, CVS Bulgaria and CSD. The study visit was joined by delegations from Greece, Italy and Malta and was hosted by the service providing organisation Catalan Commission for Refugees(CCAR).

The international delegation visited range of institutions such as reception centers in Barcelona, Sabadell and Sant Boi, different local municipalities and service providing organisations such as ACCEM, the Autonomous Solidarity Foundation, ACATHI and Centre Exil. In addition to the study visit, the 18 participants from Bulgaria, Greece, Italy and Malta took part in an international seminar and had the opportunity to discuss matters relating to reception, integration and training of asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection with representatives of the Spanish Commission for Refugees, the Equality, Migration and Citizenship Department at the Catalan Government and the Barcelona city Council. In a final debate all participants exchanged information and experience coming from their own countries and discussed good practices in relation to what they learned from the Catalan experience.

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events-1837Wed, 28 Jun 2017 00:00:00 +0300The EU Energy Union and the Russian Gas Projects: Energy Choices and Energy Security in Europehttps://csd.bg/events/event/the-eu-energy-union-and-the-russian-gas-projects-energy-choices-and-energy-security-in-europe/Russia has been a critical but controversial energy supplier for Europe for centuries, and the way the EU and Russia energy strategies develop and interact in the decades to come is going to be important for the energy choices of European households. Gas has been a particular case in point in this regard. Russia has been a critical but controversial energy supplier for Europe for centuries, and the way the EU and Russia energy strategies develop and interact in the decades to come is going to be important for the energy choices of European households. Gas has been a particular case in point in this regard. The recent Russian gas energy projects seem to have been largely politically motivated with the aim of undermining the EU’s efforts to deepen its internal energy market and keep gas prices in Western and Eastern Europe apart, preserving Gazprom’s dominance on as many national markets in CEE as possible. Governance deficits in many of the CEE countries have contributed to a lack of policy consistency on the main energy security priorities of the region including diversification of gas routes, liberalization and integration of markets. These were some of the main conclusions of a round table discussion on the EU Energy Union and the Russian Gas Projects: Energy Choices and Energy Security in Europe held at the Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD) on 28 June, 2017.

Ilya Zaslavskiy, Academy Associate at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) and Research Expert for Free Russia Foundation, presented his latest analysis on the The Kremlin’s Gas Games in Europe: Implications for Policy Makers, where he discusses the energy security implications of the Russian attempts to bypass existing transit routes and embark on new pipeline projects such as the Nord Stream 2 and the Turkish Stream pipelines. If built, the two projects would undermine the fragile economic and political stability of Ukraine, as well as the EU internal unity. Martin Vladimirov, Analyst at the CSD Economic Program, focused on the impact of the building of Nord Stream 2 on Bulgaria and the SEE region. Bulgaria, which is among the most dependent countries on Russian gas, would be disproportionately hurt by the completion of the Russian-German pipeline. Mr. Vladimirov cited the findings of a recent report by the Hungarian-based Regional Center for Energy Policy (REKK) in Budapest, which estimates that Bulgaria would face a negative economic effect from Nord Stream-2 worth around EUR 167 million. He noted that the building of pipelines circumventing the existing transit routes from Russia would necessitate the completion of new transmission infrastructure costing at least EUR 1 billion in Central and Eastern Europe, which would inevitably drive up wholesale gas prices. He juxtaposed the negative economic impact of Nord Stream-2 with the benefits of diversifying the gas supply to Bulgaria. The construction of the Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria (IGB), for example, would produce a positive economic outcome of close to EUR 1.2 billion, if existing transmission routes are shifted to the Baltic and Black Seas.

Mr. Vladimirov focused on several steps that may be taken to improve the Bulgarian gas supply security including:

  • The completion of the expansion of the natural gas storage, “Chiren”, to a total capacity of 1 bcm.
  • The construction of all interconnectors with Bulgaria’s neighbors with a priority given to the interconnector with Greece, which would enable the delivery of 1 bcm/yr of natural gas from the giant Shah Deniz II field in the Caspian Basin.
  • The full liberalization of the natural gas market including the finalization of the entry-exit regime and the regulatory framework for virtual gas trading using the existing Transbalkan pipeline network.

These three solutions would provide Bulgarian consumers with more options to choose from, and could lead to the lowering of the carbon footprint of Bulgarian households.

 

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events-1836Mon, 19 Jun 2017 00:00:00 +0300Improving Democratic Governance to Unlock Growth in Southeast Europe: Dialogue on Current Policies and Future Perspectiveshttps://csd.bg/events/event/improving-democratic-governance-to-unlock-growth-in-southeast-europe-dialogue-on-current-policies-a/The Berlin Process initiative opened a new chapter for EU integration of the Western Balkans countries, as the Southeast Europe (SEE) region continues to experience serious governance and democratic deficits. The Balkans Barometer 2016 of the Regional Cooperation Council shows that corruption remains one of the key concerns for the people in the Western Balkans. The Berlin Process initiative opened a new chapter for EU integration of the Western Balkans countries, as the Southeast Europe (SEE) region continues to experience serious governance and democratic deficits. The Balkans Barometer 2016 of the Regional Cooperation Council shows that corruption remains one of the key concerns for the people in the Western Balkans. Data from the Southeast Europe Leadership for Development and Integrity (SELDI) network points to a stagnation at best in corruption victimization levels between 2014 and 2016, which denotes backsliding in terms of rule of law and democratic development in the region despite improvements in some of the countries. The SEE 2020 Strategy seeks to close such gaps through reinvigorating the regional economy and focusing on improving governance processes. But the economic growth, prioritized also by the Berlin process, cannot be achieved without improving governance, reducing systemic corruption, and tackling state capture. And while the European Union remains the key external anchor for reforms, it is regional civil society organizations that have a crucial role to play both in terms of addressing the existing challenges and of keeping good governance high on the regional and European policy agendas.

These and other issues were put forward during a roundtable discussion, organized on 19 June 2017 in Belgrade, by the Center for the Study of Democracy and the SELDI network, with the support of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC). The round table gathered uner Chatham House Rules representatives from RCC, the Anticorruption Agency, Serbia, the Delegation of the European Commission in Belgrade, United States Department of Justice, Serbian CSOs and SELDI. Its outcomes are going to serve as a stepping stone for SELDI’s work in the region and cooperation with government and non-governmental organizations in further tackling corruption and state capture.

The discussions revealed that the sustained high and systemic administrative corruption in the region has turned into a precondition for state capture. Hence, the Berlin Process needs to support long-standing EC efforts to improve governance in the region by focusing on two distinct areas. On the one hand, finding a systematic counteraction to bribery and petty corruption through improving the work of the public administration and reducing the hidden economy, which would spur growth and jobs. On the other hand, the EU and governments from the region need to focus their criminal justice law enforcement efforts exclusively on higher level corruption cases and state capture. State capture subverts the logic of governance, as specific groups collude to use state institutions to their own private interest to the detriment of the public interest. In this environment, there is a need for reinforced partnership between regional CSO networks, the European institutions, and governments from the region.

Against these developments, country elites across Western Balkans understand the benefits of closer proximity and ultimately EU membership but at the same time have tried to downplay the role of EU conditionalities. Hence, the European Commission and member states need to carefully manage expectations from the Berlin Process noting that the increased attention to enhancing economic governance and growth would not come at the expense of rule of law and effective public administration objectives. At the same time the European Commission needs to make its support more visible and vocal and seek to firmly and decisively safeguard organisations in the region from being bullied and labeled as foreign agents, in particular the ones working in the anti-corruption and good governance domain. CSOs on their part have to focus on better outreach both regionally and nationally, in pursue of gaining wider public support. CSOs have to also continue increasing their cooperation with national institutions while adhering to high standards of transparency.



 

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events-1992Thu, 01 Jun 2017 17:46:00 +0300Bulgaria’s International Competitiveness 2017https://csd.bg/events/event/bulgarias-international-competitiveness-2017/According to the 2017 World Competitiveness Yearbook of the Institute for Management Development (IMD, Switzerland), the Bulgarian economy, being driven by the EU, is slowly emerging from stagnation. Bulgarian politicians and business managers have failed to improve the competitiveness of the country during the 10 years of its EU membership. Bulgaria currently ranks 49th out of 63 economies in 2017, an improvement of six positions compared to 2015, but a decline compared to 2007. The Bulgarian economy remains among the most uncompetitive; however, it is still ahead of Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, Greece, Croatia, and Ukraine. The Bulgarian economy’s long-term factors of competitiveness remain stagnant, which makes the probability of change in the near future very small without substantial correction in the policies of the Bulgarian government and business leaders. This year, for the first time, IMD published the Digital Competitiveness Ranking, in which Bulgaria ranks 45th out of 63 countries.

Key Competitiveness Challenges for Bulgaria 2017

  • Improve judicial performance to tackle high-level impunity.
  • Modernize public administration and independent regulators to reduce corruption and improve market competition.
  • Improve the quality of healthcare and education to reverse the brain drain and population decline.
  • Enhance EU funding priorities and delivery system with a focus on economic and social impact, rather than absorption.
  • Complete energy market liberalization and diversification with a focus on consumer engagement and low carbon emissions.
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events-1960Wed, 31 May 2017 00:00:00 +0300Identification, needs assessment and referral of victims of crime in the EU and in Bulgaria – legal and social dimensionshttps://csd.bg/events/event/identification-needs-assessment-and-referral-of-victims-of-crime-in-the-eu-and-in-bulgaria-legal/Social services are seriously hampered in identifying, assessing individual needs and referring victims of crime to services due to lack of clarity and resulting gaps in legislation, due to which institutional functions are not comprehensively defined. This was the conclusion reached by the participants in the training seminar ‘Identification, needs assessment and referral of victims of crime in the EU and Bulgaria – legal and social dimensions’, organized on 31 May 2017 by the Center for the Study of Democracy. Representatives of the Social Assistance Agency, the State Agency for the Protection of Children, as well as of NGO victim service providers were present at the event.

Dimitar Markov, Senior Analyst and Project Director at the Law Program of the Center for the Study of Democracy, summarized the long years of research experience of the Center on the topic of victims’ rights and outlined the scope of the seminar – the processes of identification, individual needs assessment and referral of victims by and among various institutions and organizations. He emphasized the need for a holistic approach towards victims and dwelt upon the contemporary social and political challenges before the system of criminal justice.

Prof Dr Dobrinka Chankova, criminal procedure professor at the Neofit Rilski South-West University, spoke about the conceptual bases for raising the status of victims on the national and supranational scene and gave a short overview of Directive 2012/29/EU establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime, as well as of other important acts of the Union, of the Council of Europe and of the UN, regulating the status and rights of victims. Particular attention was paid to the rights of victims to understand and be understood, to be informed about their entitlements and options for support, as well as to the norms regulating victim support and participating actors. Further on, she outlined Bulgarian legislation, related to victims, and the difficulties in transposing EU acts, hampering the everyday work of institutions and organizations involved.

Miriana Ilcheva, Research Fellow with the Law Program of the Center for the Study of Democracy, related to the participants the main objectives and parameters of the initiative, under which the seminar was held – the formation of national practices in identifying, assessment of needs and referral of victims, compliant with EU law. She outlined several promising practices from other Member States and presented the main conclusions and recommendations of the national report, prepared under the initiative. Recommendations tackled the co-ordination among institutions and organizations involved in victim protection and the delineation on legislative and practical level of each actor’s role in supporting and providing services to victims.

Participants discussed a hypothetical on victims of human trafficking and spoke about the identification and self-identification of victims, how probable it is for them to agree to be referred to services and for full reintegration to be achieved. A short video was offered on the application of restorative justice in the United Kingdom.

In the ensuing discussion representatives of NGO victim service providers raised the issue of assessing the specific needs of victims within the criminal procedure, as well as the importance of compensating victims’ moral damages, which current legislation hardly achieves. The representatives of the civic sector and social services dwelt upon getting the agreement of adult victims of crime to refer them to services, as well as upon the difficulties in obtaining medical aid for children victims of human trafficking. The need for the state not to abandon its duties towards victims and delegate most work to NGOs was strongly emphasized. A checklist on the compliance of national victims’ practices with EU law was also discussed.

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events-1962Tue, 30 May 2017 00:00:00 +0300Victims of crime in EU and national law – identification, needs assessment and referralhttps://csd.bg/events/event/victims-of-crime-in-eu-and-national-law-identification-needs-assessment-and-referral/The work on identifying, individual needs assessment and referral of victims of crime is largely hampered by the lack of resources, specialized officers in each institution, as well as proper training. This was the conclusion reached by the participants in the training seminar ‘Victims of crime in EU and national law – identification, needs assessment and referral’, organized on 30 May 2017 by the Center for the Study of Democracy. Judges, representatives of the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Justice, as well as of NGO victim service providers were present at the event. 

Dr Maria Yordanova, Director of the Law Program of the Center for the Study of Democracy, summarized the long years of research experience of the Center on the topic of victims’ rights and outlined the scope of the seminar – the processes of identification, individual needs assessment and referral of victims by and among various institutions and organizations.

Prof Dr Dobrinka Chankova, criminal procedure professor at the Neofit Rilski South-West University, spoke about the conceptual bases for raising the status of victims in the national and supranational legal order and gave a short overview of Directive 2012/29/EU establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime, as well as of other important acts of the Union, of the Council of Europe and of the UN, regulating the status and rights of victims. Particular attention was paid to the rights of victims in the criminal process, their rights to understand and be understood, as well as to be informed about their entitlements and options for support. Further on, she outlined Bulgarian legislation, related to victims, and the difficulties in transposing EU acts, hampering the everyday work of institutions and organizations involved. The role of restorative justice and the challenges before its application in the criminal sphere were specifically mentioned.

Ms Miriana Ilcheva, Research Fellow with the Law Program of the Center for the Study of Democracy, related to the participants the main objectives and parameters of the initiative, under which the seminar was held – the formation of national practices in identifying, assessment of needs and referral of victims, compliant with EU law. She outlined several promising practices from other Member States and presented the main conclusions and recommendations of the national report, prepared under the initiative. Recommendations tackled the co-ordination among institutions and organizations involved in victim protection and the delineation on legislative and practical level of each actor’s role in supporting and providing services to victims.

Participants discussed a hypothetical on victims of human trafficking and spoke about the elements of the crimes committed, the identification of victims and their referral to proper services. A short video was offered on the application of restorative justice in the United Kingdom.

In the ensuing discussion the importance of advance compensation to victims for the damages they sustain was emphasized, as well as its lack in Bulgaria. The representatives of NGO service providers pointed to the difficulties the victims suffer from until the closing of criminal proceedings only after which they can get compensation. The representatives of police recalled the various functions, entrusted to them by legislation, and called for finding a practical mechanism for the implementation of their duties towards victims. The financial burdens for victims in getting medical certification for their injuries by forensic doctors were also mentioned. The compensation, provided for by Bulgarian legislation, was found inadequate, while the need for training of reception officers in police units was mentioned to be urgent. A checklist on the compliance of national victims’ practices with EU law was also discussed.

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events-1947Tue, 16 May 2017 00:00:00 +0300International Seminar and Study Visit in Italyhttps://csd.bg/events/event/international-seminar-and-study-visit-in-italy/Between 16 and 19 May, 2017 Center for the Study of Democracy organised a study visit to Rome for the purpose of acquainting representatives of relevant institutions with the system of reception and integration of asylum seekers and refugees in Italy. The Bulgarian delegation included representatives of the State Agency for Refugees at the Council of Ministers, Sofia Municipality, CVS Bulgaria and CSD. The study visit was joined by delegations from Greece, Malta and Spain and was hosted by the Italian public policy institute CENSIS.

The international delegation visited range of institutions such as Via Staderini, the largest first stage temporary reception Center in Italy; Casa Giorgia and S. Bernardo, second stage integration centers; as well as Programma Integra and Ciofs Fp Lacio, training bodies providing various training services to refugees. In addition to the study visit, the 21 participants from Bulgaria, Greece, Malta and Spain took part in an international seminar and had the opportunity to discuss matters relating to reception and integration of asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection with representatives of the Central Directorate of Immigration and Asylum Civil Services at the Italian Ministry of Interior, the Italian Protection System for Asylum Seekers (SPRAR), the Municipality of Rome and a range of local level service providers. In a final debate all participants exchanged information and experience coming from their own countries and shared of ideas of promoting relevant good practices in the area of reception and integration of refugees.
 

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events-1834Thu, 11 May 2017 00:00:00 +0300Independent Monitoring of Forced Return: Monitoring Standards in Bulgariahttps://csd.bg/events/event/independent-monitoring-of-forced-return-monitoring-standards-in-bulgaria/In the context of the increased migratory pressure on Europe in recent years, the European Union is actively seeking solutions to address the challenges it faces. The European Agenda on Migration 2015 focuses on enhancing the effectiveness of the return system by adopting a Return Handbook in order to standardize return practices in all Member States and develop stronger partnerships with third countries in the field of readmission.In the context of the increased migratory pressure on Europe in recent years, the European Union is actively seeking solutions to address the challenges it faces. The European Agenda on Migration 2015 focuses on enhancing the effectiveness of the return system by adopting a Return Handbook in order to standardize return practices in all Member States and develop stronger partnerships with third countries in the field of readmission.

In order to improve mechanisms for the return of third-country nationals with respect to their fundamental rights, on 11 May 2017 the Center for the Study of Democracy held a training seminar for future independent monitors to acquaint with the developed Standards for forced return monitoring. The event was attended by experts from the Migration Directorate at the Ministry of the Interior, the UNHCR, the Center for Legal Aid - "Voice in Bulgaria" and experts and independent monitors from the partner in the initiative CVS-Bulgaria.

The seminar was opened by Lt. Gen. Chavdar Chervenkov, Senior Fellow at the Security Program of the Center for the Study of Democracy, who stressed the importance and responsibility of working in the field of return of third-country nationals who no longer have permission for legal residence in Bulgaria as well as the importance of the conduct of independent monitoring of return operations to ensure respect for the fundamental rights and dignity of the returnees.

Dr. Mila Mancheva, Senior Analyst at the Sociological Program of the Center for the Study of Democracy, briefly outlined EU's policy in the fields of voluntary and forced return. Dr. Mancheva stressed that the topic of return currently is a priority within the EU and is perceived as one of the key tools for counteracting irregular migration. However, statistics show that the rates of effective return operations within the EU remain low at in comparison to the number of return decisions issued.

The representatives of the Migration Directorate, Rosen Talov and Mariyan Dyankov outlined the experience of the Ministry of the Interior in implementing the compulsory administrative measures under the Foreigners in the Republic of Bulgaria Act. The two experts commented on the similarities and differences between the returns of illegal migrants with civilian flights and FRONTEX operated missions and shared some practical examples that would serve observers in their future work.

After the break, Dimitar Markov, Senior Analyst at the Law Program of the Center for the Study of Democracy, presented the developed Standards for forced return monitoring in Bulgaria, paying special attention to the basic definitions, the fundamental rights of the returnees and the aspects of monitoring in the different stages of the forced return operation. In the ensuing discussion, the participants gave their suggestions for fine-tuning of the Standards, and specific questions about the technology of forced return monitoring were discussed. In the closing part of the event, Ilina Angelova shared UNHCR's experience in monitoring MoI’s Special homes for temporary accommodation of foreigners.

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events-1972Wed, 26 Apr 2017 00:00:00 +0300Tackling Energy Security and Governance Risks in Turkey in the Framework of a European Energy Unionhttps://csd.bg/events/event/tackling-energy-security-and-governance-risks-in-turkey-in-the-framework-of-a-european-energy-union/Although the EU-Turkey relations are going through difficult times, the two partners should rather focus on their common challenges and opportunities, such as the security of energy supply and the harmonization of energy legislation to enable efficient gas and power flows from East to West, supporting the establishment of the European Energy Union and the energy hub position of Turkey. These were some of the key conclusions of the participants in the international conference on Tackling Energy Security and Governance Risks in Turkey in the Framework of a European Energy Union, held on 26 April 2017, the closing event of a 15-month study of the main areas of EU-Turkey energy cooperation and the Turkish energy security profile.

Martin Vladimirov from the Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD) presented the key findings of the analytical report Towards a Stronger EU-Turkey Energy Dialogue Energy Security Perspectives & Risks. The report draws an overall picture of the state of the EU-Turkey energy dialogue, energy security risks and perspectives, and the role of the Energy Union in helping to overcome them. The study has incorporated the statements, opinions and recommendations provided by EU and Turkish policy-makers, energy experts, civil society organizations, and business representatives during a series of capacity-building workshops and study visits in Brussels and Ankara.

Commenting on the study, several speakers including Volkan Özdemir, the Chairman of the Turkish energy think tank, EPPEN Energy, said that the common denominator in the EU-Turkey relations is the diversification of supply sources. However, Turkey should not necessarily be seen as an oil and gas hub but as a transit corridor with only limited impact on EU markets.

The presentations of the following speakers focused on the different dimensions of the EU-Turkey energy dialogue. Most of them pointed out that the key impediment for the integration of the two energy markets has been the inability of the Turkish government to tackle key governance deficits related to the liberalization of the natural gas market and the unbundling of the monopoly gas importer and supplier, BOTAS. The delay in the opening up of the strategic Turkish gas sector has contributed to the stalling of more substantial regional market integration in Southeast Europe. One explanation, according to Dr. Bilge Yabancı, Visiting Fellow at the University of Graz, is that despite the fact that both sides acknowledge their mutual energy dependence, bigger political problems impede the development of a pragmatic dialogue focused on improving the efficiency of market transactions.

Dr. Nicolò Sartori, Senior Fellow, at the Energy Program in the Italian think tank, Istituto Affari Internazionali, stressed that for cooperation to work, the policy priorities should be shaped by pull and push mechanisms on both sides. The reality is that the EU and Turkey have remained aloof and not ready to facilitate even purely technical issues. Mustafa Güzel, Natural Gas Operations Unit Manager at the day-ahead power market, EPİAŞ, pointed out that on the Turkish side, governance deficits have threatened the financial stability of state-owned companies, where the Board is appointed not based on the professional capacity of its members but on political considerations. Speakers united behind the idea that Turkey has almost reached full completion of the power market but still faces a lot of implementation gaps in its legislation on natural gas, energy efficiency and renewable energy.

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events-1833Fri, 31 Mar 2017 00:00:00 +0300Enhancing the Integration of Beneficiaries of International Protectionhttps://csd.bg/events/event/enhancing-the-integration-of-beneficiaries-of-international-protection/The Syrian crisis has created unprecedented inflow of refugees on the European continent putting the reception and integration systems of all member states under strain. South and Eastern European member states in particular appear less prepared to receive and integrate increased numbers of refugees on their territories.The Syrian crisis has created unprecedented inflow of refugees on the European continent putting the reception and integration systems of all member states under strain. South and Eastern European member states in particular appear less prepared to receive and integrate increased numbers of refugees on their territories. In this context it becomes highly relevant to propose and implement practical actions responding to existing gaps in migrant and refugee reception and integration across the EU member states.

On 30th and 31st of March 2017 the Center for the Study of Democracy hosted the first Workshop along the international initiative implemented in Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Malta and Spain for development and implementation of reception and integration trainings for beneficiaries of international protection. The workshop involved presentation and discussion of the trends in asylum related migration and an overview of the refugee reception and integration systems in the five participating countries. In addition, a discussion was held regarding the methodology for the forthcoming conduct of national mapping studies of the training needs of beneficiaries of international protection to provide basis for development of relevant training modules in the countries in need.

Mila Mancheva, Senior Analyst at the Sociological Programme of the Center for the Study of Democracy, opened the event by presenting the framework of the initiative and stressed on its aims and activities. In the following sessions of the workshop the Italian and the Spanish research teams outlined the situation regarding asylum seekers and refugees in their respective countries. Anna Italia and Luigi Bellesi from CENSIS presented the good practice of the Italian System of protection for asylum seekers and refugees (SPRAR) and stressed on the roles that the different national, local and non-governmental stakeholders have in regards to addressing the needs of the refugees and asylum seekers. For example, at local level, Municipalities with the support of NGOs and volunteers ensure an integrated reception activities that go far beyond the mere supply of accommodation and meals, including many different activities towards socio-economic inclusion. Rosa Añó and Joana Lumbierres from CCAR gave a brief overview of the refugee reception in Catalonia and outlined the differences between the reception and integration systems in Spain. For example, language courses in Spain are considered as part of the reception phase along with basic needs coverage and social and psychological attention, while during the integration phase refugees obtain temporary work permits, have access to pre-training and training workshops and sign agreements with companies.

The second day of the Workshop was opened by Mila Mancheva who presented the structure of the research methodology for mapping the training needs of refugees and the existing mechanisms for training provision. The session was concluded by a discussion about the most relevant research approaches to be adopted in the five countries. In the following session Maria Samara from ELIAMEP and Nadina Christopoulou from MELISSA Network outlined the situation regarding asylum seekers and refugees in Greece and Katerina Stoyanova from CVS-Bulgaria presented and overview of the situation in Bulgaria. The researchers from both teams stressed that opposite to Spain and Italy, the systems in place in the two Balkan countries are more or less fragmented and that they lack clear and easy to follow rules and procedures. However, Ms Christopoulou reported that the Municipality of Athens is actively engaged in supporting the provision of services and activities to the refugee and asylum seeking population in the city.

 

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events-1958Tue, 21 Mar 2017 23:00:00 +0200Human Trafficking and Smuggling – The New Challengeshttps://csd.bg/events/event/human-trafficking-and-smuggling-the-new-challenges/Like other EU countries, the Bulgarian economy and society greatly benefited from the revolution in information and communication technologies and the high speed Internet in the country. The rapid development of information technology and the widespread use of the Internet in everyday life, however, are inevitably associated with some significant security risks and increasing potential for certain crimes. Recent studies by Eurostat show that Bulgaria and Romania are among the Member States which are leading countries of origin of victims of trafficking in the European Union. During the period 2004 - 2015, the number of Bulgarian citizens who are trafficked into Western Europe ranges between 3,000 and 4,500 people. However, this figure does not reflect the actual number of victims because it applies only to registered cases of human trafficking.

In the light of these data, the Center for the Study of Democracy investigated the role of the Internet in the process of human trafficking and smuggling and presented the results at a national workshop on the 22 March 2017. The study was conducted within an international initiative, coordinated by the eCrime research group of electronic crimes at the Faculty of law of the University of Trento (Italy) in collaboration with the Center for the Study of Democracy (Bulgaria) and the University of Teesside (United Kingdom). Participants in the event were experts from the National Commission for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings (NCCTHB); Prosecutor’s Office of Appeals (POA); the National Investigation Service (NIS), General Directorate "Border Police", General Directorate "National Police", Directorate "Internal Security" and Directorate "Migration" at the Ministry of Interior; Institute of Psychology at the Ministry of Interior; Representation of the European Commission in Bulgaria; representatives of various NGOs and experts.

The seminar was opened by Lt. Gen. Chavdar Chervenkov, Senior Fellow at the Security Program of the Center for the Study of Democracy, who focused on the complexity of the human trafficking and smuggling processes. He also stressed that the data available are only the tip of the iceberg and in order to achieve effective results in combating this type of crime the good cooperation between all stakeholders is essential.

Ms Slavyanka Ivanova, Senior Analyst at the Sociological Program of the Center for the Study of Democracy, presented the methodology and the results of the study. The study conducted includes a web-based research on the use of the Internet in the processes of human trafficking and human smuggling, as well as in-depth interviews conducted with key informants (representatives of LEAs and NGOs, traffickers, smugglers, human trafficking victims and refugees/illegal migrants). Ms Ivanova emphasized the role of the Internet in the process of recruitment, transportation and exploitation of victims. According to most of the interviewed, Internet is mainly used in the phases of recruitment and advertisement/exploitation, to a greater extent in human trafficking than in smuggling. The interviews conducted with both smugglers and with persons involved in illegal crossing of the border however, testify to the use of the Internet in these processes. From the results it becomes clear that in the non-homogeneous processes of recruitment the smugglers are not always the active side. Moreover the persons who want to go in another country through the services of smugglers, search and find information about the country of destination mainly via the Internet and mobile applications.

In regard to the trafficking for sexual and labor exploitation, the Internet also plays an essential role. The most significant is the use of the Internet in the stages of recruiting victims for sexual exploitation: the identification of the victim, establishing contact, arranging a personal meeting and subsequent negotiation of the travel of the victim. Only at the stage of conducting a personal meeting the Internet does not play a key role.

Although some opinions expressed that in the process of recruiting victims for labor exploitation the Internet is not used because of low education and poor computer literacy of potential victims, the data obtained by directly involved persons testify that the Internet actually plays a very important role, mainly in the stages of dissemination of false job offers, establishing a contact and applying for a job (often through Skype, where the communication cannot be traced) and in the finalization of working conditions and departure.

Nadya Stoynova, Analyst at the Security Program of the Center for the Study of Democracy, focused on the place and the importance of corruption in the process of trafficking of women in Bulgaria and outlined the main mechanisms and actors. Particular attention was placed on the three business models to which groups, dealing exclusively with trafficking of women for sexual exploitation, resorted most frequently; namely the model of private participation, the model with specialized involvement and the family model. Ms Stoynova also presented the types of corruption mechanisms and analyzed the effects that corruption has on the phenomenon of human trafficking.

In the ensuing discussion, Ms Kamelia Dimitrova, Secretary of NCCTHB shared that the theme of the role of the Internet is a key priority in the National Program for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings and in the Commission's plan for this year. She determined this first study in Bulgaria on this topic as very important and encouraging for the Commission and drew attention to the need for a reversal of the role of the Internet and its transformation into a method for prevention of human trafficking.

After the break, Ms Slavyanka Ivanova presented the risks for involvement in trafficking online, shared by users of job offering websites and dating websites within the study. The survey data on the Internet establishes a potentially dangerous content only in terms of recruitment for the purpose of human trafficking as predominant are the examples in relation to sexual exploitation. In terms of advertisements of jobs abroad with potentially risky content are the ones in the sectors of personal care and agriculture. The data show that a very large share of people (about a quarter) responds to a similar advertisements of jobs abroad. Of those who came into contact, over 90% have asked only for additional information on the nature of the proposed job, a mere 4% have set off, and only 3% have departed and started working. The lack of clarity about the working conditions and the fact that the advertisements are anonymous are indicated as a major source of doubt that the job offering is potentially risky.

In the ensuing discussion Ms Denitsa Dolapchieva of DG "Border Police" shared that the recruitment of persons wishing to cross the border illegally is increasingly organized through various websites and Facebook, but this concerns mainly cases of passing from foreign territory to Bulgaria. More rarely, there are cases of accommodation of immigrants on our territory followed by a transfer to Western Europe. Ms Dolapchieva emphasized the need to collect data about the websites used in order to provide effective countermeasures.

Tihomir Bezlov, Senior Expert at the Security Program of the Center for the Study of Democracy, commented that information about the activities of smugglers in social networks takes place primarily in closed groups and channels and there is no way to obtain and analyze this data. Mr Bezlov pointed out the possibility of extracting information about the mode of transport by checking the networks and the websites which persons captured on our territory visited via their mobile phones.

In the course of the discussion emerged another possible strategy to solve this problem, which involves specialized training of people and technical resources that can reach hidden Internet content. Dr. Atanas Rusev, Senior Analyst at the Center for the Study of Democracy, drew attention to the fact that the majority of Internet content is offered by large companies, which can be attracted to cooperate with the efforts of combating human trafficking and smuggling. In response, Nadya Kozhuharova of Animus Association Foundation shared a negative experience of negotiating with job offering websites for placing attractive banners against trafficking. Ms Kozhuharova stressed that the website jobs.bg refused to cooperate, arguing that they work with loyal customers and do not have cases of false advertisements.

Ms Galya Gugusheva, prosecutor at the Prosecutor's Office of Appeals, pointed as a major problem in proceedings related to human trafficking and smuggling the formality of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC), explaining that the CPC does not allow the use of additional evidence, including those collected through the new technologies. In her opinion a change in this part of the CPC is compulsory, as it would avoid the repeating interrogations during the proceedings which will be mostly for the benefit of the victims.

Ms Desislava Ivanova, an expert at the National Commission for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, also stressed the need for changes in CPC, but along with this she highlighted the necessity for parallel work towards raising the awareness of potential victims since there is a trend of reduced sensitivity and reflex for seeking additional information in order to eliminate suspicions about the veracity of the advertisements.

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events-1830Mon, 27 Feb 2017 23:00:00 +0200Radicalisation and extremism risks in Bulgaria: towards more effective diagnostic and assessment toolshttps://csd.bg/events/event/radicalisation-and-extremism-risks-in-bulgaria-towards-more-effective-diagnostic-and-assessment-too/Over the last decade radicalisation and extremism are of growing concern for European societies. New risks of Islamist and far-right radicalisation have impelled the introduction of policies, the effects of which are only now being evaluated. As radicalisation that risks escalating into violence is more amenable to prevention than repression, having the capacity to detect early warning signs and trace the spread of extremist activity over time is critical. Over the last decade radicalisation and extremism are of growing concern for European societies. New risks of Islamist and far-right radicalisation have impelled the introduction of policies, the effects of which are only now being evaluated. As radicalisation that risks escalating into violence is more amenable to prevention than repression, having the capacity to detect early warning signs and trace the spread of extremist activity over time is critical.

In Bulgaria, radicalisation as a potential threat to society has only recently been raised in public debates and entered the political agenda. Despite the formulation of a new strategic approach with focus on prevention, there is insufficient understanding of the contributing factors to radicalisation and the most suitable measures to diagnose and address risks. To bridge these gaps, the Center for the Study of Democracy analyzed the threats associated with different manifestations of radicalisation in Bulgaria (including Islamist, far right and far left radicalisation and football hooliganism) and developed a set of methodologies for monitoring radicalisation risks and trends in extremism. These were discussed on 28 February 2017 at the Academy of the Ministry of the Interior, during a round table held by CSD with experts from the Ministry of the Interior, the General Directorate National Police, the State Agency for National Security, the General Directorate Combatting Oranised Crime, the Institute for Psychology and others.

Rositsa Dzhekova, Coordinator of the Security Program at the Center stressed that a sound methodology for situational assessment of extremist trends based on criminal statistics, surveys, intelligence and open source data is crucial to obtain an accurate picture of extremist acts and actors and the evolvement of threats over time. Such an assessment is an invaluable aid for strategic and operational planning and the informed formulation of counter-measures. Rositsa further highlighted that the share of unreported extremist crimes in Bulgaria is high, which accompanied with the often incorrect registration and classification of some crimes with discriminatory motive in the statistics impedes mapping the actual extent of the problem. At the same time, victimisation surveys and other data sources can compensate for missing or unreliable data.

Tihomir Bezlov, Senior Еxpert at the Security Program discussed the factors behind the emergence, growth and recent trends in football hooliganism in the country. He focused on the importance of the tendency for political instrumentalisation and radicalisation of football fan clubs, which became especially prominent during the public protests of 2013-2014.

Dr. Mila Mancheva, Senior Analyst at the Sociological Program of CSD, elaborated on the risks of Islamist radicalisation in Bulgaria, noting that while there are some isolated cases of worrisome or potentially criminal behavior, Bulgarian Muslim communities are on the whole resilient to radicalisation. She differentiated between two sets of phenomena and associated factors: the process of adoption of Salafi interpretation of Islam among some Bulgarian speaking Muslims and some Roma communities, and the expression of support for terrorist organisations among an isolated group of individuals.

Rositsa Dzhekova presented a framework for risk indicators developed to raise awareness and understanding of signs of radicalisation among first line practitioners. It provides a foundation for key institutions to develop tailored early warning mechanisms for the purposes of prevention.

During the discussion, participants highlighted the establishment of contacts with mosques in Western Europe as a potential risk factor for radicalisation of some local Muslim communities. Further issues discussed were recent developments in football hooliganism and their propensity to violence.

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events-1829Thu, 23 Feb 2017 23:00:00 +0200EU Funds and the Path to Good Governance in Bulgaria and Romania: Lessons Learnthttps://csd.bg/events/event/eu-funds-and-the-path-to-good-governance-in-bulgaria-and-romania-lessons-learnt/Ten years after accession to the EU, the challenge of corruption continues to define both Bulgaria`s and Romania`s status within the Union. The EU has imposed a series of conditions on the two countries in the area of anticorruption while allocating considerable financial support for modernization for nearly two decades. The question remains to what degree have EU funds specifically targeted greater anticorruption progress and what has been their tangible impact. Ten years after accession to the EU, the challenge of corruption continues to define both Bulgaria`s and Romania`s status within the Union. The systematic effects of corruption remain the number one problem in both counties. It has also called into question the EU’s efficiency at delivering effective governance change through enlargement. The EU has imposed a series of conditions on the two countries in the area of anticorruption while allocating considerable financial support for modernization for nearly two decades. The question remains to what degree have EU funds specifically targeted greater anticorruption progress and what has been their tangible impact.

Have EU funds improved governance? This was among the core questions discussed during the Round Table organized by the Center for the Study of Democracy on 24 February 2017. The event included a keynote by Ms. Malina Krumova, Deputy Prime Minister for EU Funds, and presentations of country case studies from Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Ukraine, researched as part of ANTICORRP – the biggest corruption-related research effort in social sciences and humanities in the history of the EU framework programme for research. Bulgaria`s former Vice President, Ms. Margarita Popova, members of the Diplomatic Corps, media, academics and representatives of national and international organisations were among the Round Table`s participants.

An overview of the EU financial support for anticorruption-related actions since 1998 reveals that, irrespective of the actual amount of the overall EU financial support throughout the years, Bulgaria has devoted attention and resources to anti-corruption commitments only when approaching a major EU conditionality milestone. The allocation of anti-corruption-related support grew on three occasions – at the start of negotiations in 1999, just before signing of the Accession Treaty in 2005, and in early 2010, the year in which the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism`s (CVM) safeguard clauses were set to expire. However, Bulgaria seems to have allocated very limited resources for anti-corruption overall in contrast to its allegedly high significance in the country’s accession and membership efforts. Yet, EU funds have provided a positive example and have supported the building up of administrative capacity in public procurement, as in both countries corruption risks in public procurement involving EU funds have been assessed as lower than those involving only national funds.









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events-1831Wed, 22 Feb 2017 23:00:00 +0200Monitoring radicalisation risks in Central and Southeast Europe: Shaping diagnostic tools for EU policymakershttps://csd.bg/events/event/monitoring-radicalisation-risks-in-central-and-southeast-europe-shaping-diagnostic-tools-for-eu-pol/The rise of Islamist and right-wing radicalisation processes among disaffected young people is pushing some to acts of terrorism and is a growing concern. Many EU Member States have been proactive in countering this phenomenon and have acquired substantial experience in developing prevention and de-radicalisation policies and programmes. However, many European national authorities have followed a ‘trial-and-error’ approach, adopting untried and untested measures in the face of an immediate threat and in response to public concerns.The rise of Islamist and right-wing radicalisation processes among disaffected young people is pushing some to acts of terrorism and is a growing concern. Many EU Member States have been proactive in countering this phenomenon and have acquired substantial experience in developing prevention and de-radicalisation policies and programmes. However, many European national authorities have followed a ‘trial-and-error’ approach, adopting untried and untested measures in the face of an immediate threat and in response to public concerns.

A variety of diagnostic tools and mechanisms, designed to identify potentially dangerous, radicalising individuals and groups, have already been deployed in a number of EU Member States. For countries in Central and Southeast Europe, in particular, radicalisation presents a new policy priority. Reliable diagnostic tools, designed to identify individuals and groups who might pose a threat, or are vulnerable to radicalisation, are needed, along with an accurate assessment of trends in extremist and terrorist activity and actors, not least in order to guide effective policy action, both in those countries and across Europe more generally.

What is the extent of the radicalisation risks in Central and Southeast Europe? What knowledge and methodology gaps exist in monitoring the radicalisation phenomenon in those regions? How can the EU better support Member States in identifying, monitoring and countering the Islamist and right-wing radicalisation in Europe, and how can the research community and EU policymakers work better together to address this threat? These were the main questions discussed during an expert round table on 23 February 2017, organised by the Center for the Study of Democracy in cooperation with the European Policy Centre and held in Brussels.

Andrea Frontini, Policy Analyst, European Policy Centre (EPC), delivered welcome remarks and provided some background on the rise of both right-wing and Islamist radicalisation across Europe, enumerating some of its root causes and the challenges these posed for European governments and societies, and for the European Union (EU) as such.

Günther Sablatting, Adviser, Office of the EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator, highlighted that while the number of foreign fighters (FFs) leaving Europe to join ISIS/Daesh in the Middle East had been decreasing in the past few months, the issue of returnees was expected to become more prominent in the near future, including when it came to FFs’ accompanying family members such as women and children. He also hinted at the migration-radicalisation nexus as an emerging policy topic, but also one marked by a high degree of (toxic) politicisation. He also presented EU’s multi-dimensional approach to radicalisation as one combining repressive, preventive and domestic and external engagement measures, and insisted in particular on information and data-sharing among EU Member States as a crucial pillar of that approach. The need to tackle current and future returnees, the improvement of conditions in prisons to prevent their role as radicalisation ‘hotbeds’, and the importance of engaging with Islamic moderate voices, were also pointed out.

Rositsa Dzhekova, Coordinator, Security Program, Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD), provided a first overview of the main findings of the two Reports produced by CSD and other partners on, respectively, “Monitoring Radicalisation: A Framework for Risk Indicators” and “Situational Assessment of Extremist Trends”, tackling in particular the theme of working methods in monitoring radicalisation risks in Central and Southeast Europe. She highlighted the need for tailored solutions for that region, since radicalisation-related lessons learnt and best practice from Western Europe did not always seem to apply there. She pointed to home-grown radicalisation as a worrying trend in Central and Southeast Europe, and presented a ‘monitoring toolkit model’ based on situational assessment of local extremist trends and a tested methodology being applied to Bulgaria, Greece and the Czech Republic, among others. She concluded by presenting a number of main conclusions and recommendations, including on the need for a unified institutional mechanism to provide effective public policies against radicalisation.

Mila Mancheva, Senior Analyst, Sociological Program, Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD), complemented the first report presentation by focussing on risk indicators of radicalisation trends in those regions. She first presented a series of behavioural and cognitive indicator categories, and then zoomed on national case studies in the countries concerned, insisting in particular on radicalisation trends in a local Roma community in Bulgaria. She noted that factors such as a charismatic (radicalising) leader, the community’s high mobility, societal circumstances, and contacts with radical mosques in Western Europe, all played a role in triggering the phenomenon. Looking at recommendations for the policymakers concerned by anti/counter-radicalisation measures, she highlighted, among others, the need to develop appropriate institutional structures, provide effective mechanisms for practitioners, and build-up targeted capacities, knowledge and expertise.

Alexander Ritzmann, Executive Director, European Foundation for Democracy (EFD) and Co-Chairman, Communication and Narratives Working Group, Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN), first congratulated the reports’ authors for the work carried, noting that often times research was unable to take the essence of complexity and provide workable advice for policymakers. He then reflected on the challenges facing the ‘prevention side’ of radicalisation, marked by a small but growing expert community. He highlighted a set of priority areas to increase responsiveness by policymakers at all levels, namely focussing on Islamist radicalisation given its prominent role in this context, strengthening resilience, promoting positive role models and focusing on selected factors such as ideology, recruiters and hotbeds. He also stressed the circumstance-specific patterns of radicalisation, encompassing motives as diverse as petty crime pedigrees, discrimination, mental illness but also intellectual sophistication and foreign policy grievances. He then pointed to the ‘ideology factor’ as one deserving further investigation, and argued that empowerment of credible voices and an effective counter-narrative provided key elements of a working prevention strategy at all levels.

Alexandra Antoniadis, Head of Sector, Fight against Terrorism and Prevention of Radicalisation, Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs (DG HOME), European Commission, first stressed that prevention was key, along with tackling fundamental issues like returnees and the concrete implementation of counter-terrorism/radicalisation legislation at national and EU level. She then highlighted the added value of the EU in this policy field as two-fold: on the one hand, as an ‘information multiplier’, on the other as one having a ‘convening power’, as witnessed by the Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN) and the ‘EU Internet Forum’, among others. She then focussed on the EU’s role in enhancing national capacities, notably via funding, support to training and sharing of best practice among EU Member States, empowerment of civil society organisations (CSOs), and wider networking with policymakers and operators at various levels. Among the emerging and foreseeable challenges for the future, she listed the ones of transferability, the need for a strategic framework/vision for Member States, the importance of a truly multi-agency model for public authorities, information-sharing among all the actors concerned, the applicability of radicalisation risk indicators, and the implementation of concrete actions on the ground.

During the following debate with the expert audience, participants discussed counter-terrorism and anti-radicalisation cooperation with third countries, how to identify and empower alternative messages and messengers, lessons learnt from UK’s PREVENT programme, how to engage with teachers and schools across Europe, the role of Salafi mosques and potential radicalisation risks in Roma communities in Bulgaria, the rise of right-wing extremism in Greece, radicalisation of individuals having a Western Balkans background in Austria, and the state of play of right-wing and Islamist radicalisation in the Czech Republic, among other topics.

 

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events-1970Sun, 22 Jan 2017 23:00:00 +0200Ensuring Transparency and Accountability in the Energy Sectorhttps://csd.bg/events/event/ensuring-transparency-and-accountability-in-the-energy-sector/Good governance in the energy sector is crucial for the success of the EU-Turkey energy dialogue because the collaboration between states is often difficult to achieve amid divergent energy policy paths. This was one of the main conclusions from the third workshop of the EU-TR Dialogue for Energy in the Black Sea Region project, which was organized in Ankara on January 23, 2017 by the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV), the Sofia-based Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD), the Mediterranean Energy Observatory (OME) and the Turkish Oil and Gas Association (PETFORM). Leading Turkish and EU energy experts, CSOs, policy makers and business representatives joined the workshop to discuss different policy options for overcoming entrenched governance deficits impeding the Turkish integration in the EU internal energy market and the overcoming of energy security risks.

The workshop consisted of two sessions focusing on the Integration of Turkey with the Energy Union Governance Framework and Developing Energy Governance in Turkey. Among the speakers were leading Turkish policy-makers, business leaders and representatives of the civil society organizations to debate and contribute to promoting the energy security and good governance dialogue between the EU and Turkey. The European Commission was represented by Hasan Özkoc, Energy Sector Manager, EU Delegation to Turkey, while Barış Sanlı, who is an adviser to the Undersecretary at the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, presented the Turkish position in the talks.

The speakers in the first session focused on the common energy challenges facing Turkey and the EU including their excessive dependence on energy imports and the struggle to design an efficient regulatory framework to enable energy flows from the East to West on competitive basis. Despite the number of common policy areas being pursued, what the EU-Turkey energy dialogue lacks is the political will to integrate better their energy markets through a transparent and open policy process. Due to the fear of a major gas supply cut in Eastern Europe, provoked by a Russian-Ukrainian dispute, the European Commission has identified Turkey as an “essential strategic partner” for energy security. Turkey declared its intention to take this position, meaning to act as an energy hub while simultaneously covering its own growing demand. However, it is still uncertain if and to what extend Turkey can live up to this self-established claim.

More specifically on governance issues, Mr. Sanli pointed out that the Turkish government had been struggling to fulfill the energy acquis in the natural gas sector, which is in stark contrast to the already well-advanced electricity sector reform and integration within European market. Lack of data and asymmetric information in the energy sector between different stakeholders were identified as two important impairing factors in improving Turkey’s energy governance. The speakers in the second panel also agreed that nepotism and favouritism are big impediments to driving forward key reform bills. This often results in political appointments of non-qualified people to key positions in government institutions that would than replace expertise with personal connections. In addition, the decision-making of the energy regulator, EMRA, remains non-transparent producing inconsistent regulations that may favor certain private interests instead of the national one.

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events-1827Mon, 16 Jan 2017 23:00:00 +0200Members of the Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN) Center for Excellence visit the Center for the Study of Democracy https://csd.bg/events/event/members-of-the-radicalisation-awareness-network-ran-center-for-excellence-visit-the-center-for-the/Radicalisation is a complex phenomenon that requires holistic policy approaches to prevention, involving a multitude of state and non-state actors. Тhe key role of frontline practitioners in prevention has been increasingly recognized at national and EU levels. The Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN) brings together practitioners from around Europe who work daily with people who have already been radicalised, or who are vulnerable to radicalisation. Radicalisation is a complex phenomenon that requires holistic policy approaches to prevention, involving a multitude of state and non-state actors. Тhe key role of frontline practitioners in prevention has been increasingly recognized at national and EU levels. The Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN) brings together practitioners from around Europe who work daily with people who have already been radicalised, or who are vulnerable to radicalisation.

On 17 January 2017, the Center for the Study of Democracy, together with the “Analysis and Policy” Directorate of the Ministry of the Interior, hosted a RAN study visit in Bulgaria, dedicated to the challenges in prevention of radicalisation. The study visit gathered members of the RAN Center for Excellence, representatives from Eastern European NGOs and practitioners from the police, health, social and education sectors, involved in countering radicalisation, as well as representatives of key Bulgarian institutional stakeholders such as the State Agency for National Security, the Ministry of the Interior and the penitentiary administration.

The participants were familiarised with the counter-radicalisation strategic approach and measures adopted by the Bulgarian government in response to emerging risks. Rositsa Dzhekova, Coordinator of the Security Program and Mila Mancheva, Senior Fellow of the Sociological Program at the Center for the Study of Democracy presented the findings from a study on radicalisation risks in Bulgaria, as well as ongoing efforts to develop a risk assessment toolkit for practitioners.Other topics discussed during the visit included prevention of radicalisation among youth, the role of the internet, challenges to addressing radicalisation risks faced by prison staff and other frontline practitioners from the educational, health and social services sector.