A critical year for Bulgaria’s EU membership, 2006 was also a period of intense public and political debate on the issues at the core of the agenda of the Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD) – justice and home affairs (JHA) reform. CSD’s impact in this respect was achieved mainly in shaping the policy agenda by making a substantial contribution to the drafting of the government’s 2006-2008 anti-corruption strategy.
CSD participation in the drafting was one of the key components of its institutional support to the Commission for the Prevention and Counteraction of Corruption (CPCC) of the Bulgarian government established in early 2006. The Strategy for Transparent Governance and for Prevention and Counteraction of Corruption for the Period 2006-2008 and the Program for the Implementation of the Strategy for 2006 reflect the key issues advocated by CSD:
• political corruption is one of the key areas of concern in the new strategy. Some of the policies which the government is undertaking, following CSD’s recommendations, relate to the income and assets of high level governmental officials.
• as regards particularly vulnerable areas of the economy, the strategy prioritizes anti-corruption measures related to VAT fraud and the grey economy.
• monitoring and evaluation of the strategy implementation are also prioritized. The system of indicators, developed by CSD for the monitoring of the delivery of the strategy policies, provide a comprehensive feedback instrument not just for government but for all anti-corruption stakeholders.
CSD was also a major resource institution as regards the other JHA aspects – crime and judicial reform. The Bulgarian National Crime Survey (NCS), modeled on the British Crime Survey and introduced by CSD, has been supplying information on the victims of crime in comparison to official police statistics. The NCS was also one of the main instruments of the National Crime Prevention Commission, an institution established with the support of CSD.
In 2006, CSD also contributed to reinforcing criminal justice in border districts by identifying the existing problems and propose relevant solutions as regards the law enforcement and administration of justice on trans-border crime. Also, business registration reform – making the registration of legal entities an administrative, rather than a judicial procedure – which was initiated and advocated by CSD entered a new stage in 2006 following the adoption of the respective legislation.
The national ombudsman, whose introduction in Bulgaria is among the success stories of the Center, started to practically perform his activities in 2006. During its first full year of operation the ombudsman relied strongly on the support from CSD which provided various types of assistance: from awareness, capacity building and training activities to facilitating the international relations and cooperation of the ombudsman with similar institutions from other countries.
The centrality of the JHA in the agenda of the 2004 and 2007 EU enlargements is making its impact on the level of effort devoted to them by the European Commission. Increasing attention is being paid to the development of indicators for evaluating progress in this area. CSD, having developed and applied its Corruption Monitoring System for almost 10 years now, is well equipped to contribute to the capacity of anti-corruption monitoring at the European level. The Center’s network of academic and research partners in the Union is a resource that would be increasingly utilized by the EU institutions advancing the JHA agenda.