The Coalition 2000 Policy Forum is the event which every year brings together politicians and activists, leaders and representatives of non-governmental organizations, journalists, businessmen and diplomats. The two main topics on the agenda were: “Countering Corruption in the Context of Democratic Reforms,” and “Dialogue and Trust: Cooperation Between Civil Organizations and Local Authorities against Corruption.”
A Corruption Assessment Report for 1999 was presented, in addition to two smaller documents: The Coalition 2000 process in 1999, and Local initiatives in the period 1999-2000. At a press-conference preceding the event representatives of the Coalition briefed the journalists about its activities. Four newly published anti-corruption readers were also presented to the audience.
Ognian Shentov, President of the Center for the Study of Democracy, opened the Forum and spoke about the major activities of Coalition 2000.
Ekaterina Michailova, Deputy Chair of the Parliamentary Commission for Counteraction to Crime and Corruption, and Chair of the Parliamentary Group of the UDF, stated that the public coalition against corruption is already a reality. According to her, anti-corruption policies get their real meaning and importance in the context of pre-accession efforts to adapt Bulgaria’s institutional and legal environment to the European Union.
Alexander Stoyanov, CSD Director for Research, reported the results of the monitoring of corrupt practices conducted by Coalition 2000, and evaluated the state of corruption in the country.
Some of the speakers made proposals for concrete cooperation in implementing the Coalition’s objectives, for instance:
- To develop and present specific anti-corruption texts to governmental organizations (Mr. Dimitar Bachvarov, Head of the Structural Reform Department at the Council of Ministers);
- To include the Coalition in the monitoring of privatization deals (Mr. Georgi Prohaski, Director of the Center for Economic Development).
The participants expressed their support for the Coalition 2000 local initiatives aimed at increasing the transparency of local government. John Grant, Mission Director of USAID in Bulgaria, stressed the importance of curbing corruption at the local level for common citizens.
Evgenii Dainov, Director of the Center for Social Practices, shared his optimism about the maturity of civil society, but he also reminded the audience of the need for a renewed dialogue between the government and citizens on various issues, including the fight against corruption.
Ginka Kapitanova, Executive Director of the Foundation for Reform in Local Government, pointed out the significance of the greater transparency of public services, as well as the need for establishing trustworthy partnerships between the third sector and local authorities.
Naiden Zelenogorski, the newly elected mayor of Pleven, recounted his joint initiative with Coalition 2000 to establish the institution of Local Ombudsman, and presented his idea “Pleven: A City without Corruption.”
Mila Georgieva (Black Sea Law Community, Bourgas), Georgi Milkov (Citizen Coalition “Citizen Council-Razgrad”), Dimitar Tashkov (“NSO Lecturers” Association, Plovdiv), Deyan Ashkov (Bulgarian Youth League “Stefan Stambolov,” Smolyan) spoke about their organizations’ work and about forthcoming activities within the framework of the Small Projects program.
Speakers who presented their opinions included Mr. Richard Miles, Ambassador of the United States to Bulgaria, Antonio Vigilante, special representative of the UN Development Program for Southeastern Europe, Bill Loris, Deputy Director of the International Law Development Institute, Rome, and others.
Representatives of the executive branch also took part in the discussions. According to Bogomil Bonev, Minister of the Interior, the government has taken into consideration part of the Coalition’s recommendations, and it is going to propose the revocation of Article 307 of the Penalty Code, which has hindered the disclosure of corrupt persons so far.
Alexander Bozhkov, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Industry, expressed his doubts that something radical could be done at the final stage of privatization to change the perception that this sphere is plagued by corruption. At the same time, he encouraged non-governmental organizations to monitor auctions of significant importance for the country’s economy.
Plamen Minev, Deputy Minister of Finance and Director of the Customs Office, declared his willingness to cooperate with Coalition 2000. He also offered to supply a report about the internal measures to fight corruption within his agency.
Representatives of political parties also spoke at the Forum. Anastasia Moser, Co-chair of the Parliamentary Group of the Peoples’ Union, provided information on the draft law on the financing of political parties submitted to the Parliament. Tatiana Doncheva, Member of the Parliamentary Group of the BSP, endorsed the Coalition 2000 report and criticized the governing majority for the lack of transparency, and for the lack of concrete results from the work of the Parliamentary Commission for Counteraction to Crime and Corruption.
Ivanka Petkova, Executive Director of the Institute for Economic Policy, and Katia Hristova, Executive Director of the “Transparency without Borders” Association, shared their views as well.
Many participants expressed their satisfaction with the coalition partnerships between non-governmental organizations and governmental institutions. “We recognize that the public-private dialogue and partnership in preventing corruption introduced by Coalition 2000 is unique in the post-communist context,” the Ambassador of the United States Richard Miles said.
The speakers made a number of suggestions for the future work of the Coalition in its fight against corruption in Bulgaria. They also made some recommendations which will be taken into account in the forthcoming revision of the Report on the Evaluation of Corruption 1999.