Article by Stefania Abati for the "International-Survey: Bulgaria-Italy" of Novinite.com (Sofia News Agency)
Launched in May 1998, Twinning is now one of the principal tools of ‘Institution Building’ assistance. Twinning provides the framework for administrations and semi-public organisations in the beneficiary countries to work with their counterparts within the EU. Together they develop and implement a targeted project aimed at supporting the enforcement and implementation of a specific part of the acquis communautaire.
Member State administrations provide core teams of long-term experts to new Member States, acceding, candidate or potential candidate countries. Each Twinning project has at least one Resident Twinning Adviser (RTA) and a Project Leader (PL).
Bulgaria (and Romania) entered the Union in 2007 but the Twinning Institution Building assistance has been scheduled beyond accession to consolidate the administrative capacities of the country during the first years into membership.
Between 2004 and 2009 Bulgaria (as Beneficiary Country) has chosen Italy as Member State partner in about thirty Twinning Projects (5 in 2004, 7 in 2005, 4 in 2006, 6 in 2007, 4 in 2008 and 4 in 2009).
The European Commission, Bulgaria and Italy have mobilised significant human and financial resources to carry out the following activities: 1) improving the coordination, management and implementation mechanism of EU structural instruments in Bulgaria, 2) managing the Operational Programmes for Human Resources Development, Administrative Capacity, the Environment, Transport, Competitiveness, 3) strengthening the institutional capacity of the Ministries of Finance and of Regional Development and Public Works in order to implement the Rural Development Policy; 4) improving the capacity of the Public Prosecutor’s Office for fighting organized crime in the field of cultural goods; 5) giving technical assistance to stakeholders in the field of water and waste products; 6) improving the Public Procurement System and the Bulgarian Customs Administration; 7) preparing the Commission of Protection Competition, the Managing Authority of the Community Support Framework and the single Paying Authority for the Structural Funds and the Cohesion Fund; 8) preparing the Financial Supervisory Commission, an integrated State Treasury and the National Bank to operate in the EU system of central Banks; 9) preparing the Energy Efficiency Agency; 10) improving the healthcare sector and control of infectious diseases; 11) improving the agricultural sector (e.g. production of organic fruit and vegetables); 12) harmonising the acquis communautaire in the field of Research & Development.
The Italian Administrations and organisations working together with their Bulgarian counterparts to facilitate the implementation of EU legislation are also worthy of mention, i.e. the Ministry for Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies, the Ministry of Work and Social Policies, the Ministry for the Public Administration and Innovation (with the agency Formez PA, specialised in vocational training), the Ministry of Economic Development (with the Studiare Sviluppo agency), the Ministry of Health (which also controls the Istituto Superiore di Sanit?, the leading technical and scientific body of the national health service, and the National Institute for Infective Diseases), the Ministry of the Environment and for the Protection of the Territory and the Sea, the Ministry of Education, University and Research (together with the National Research Council), the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities. Last but not least the Italian Regions Sicilia, Campania, Emilia Romagna, Umbria, Basilicata, Veneto, Abruzzo and Puglia were involved in Twinning projects, too.
As for the economic and financial sector, we must mention the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance (and its four connected but operationally independent tax and revenue agencies) and the Bank of Italy. The first is the executive body responsible for economic, financial and budget policy, planning of public investment, coordination of public expenditure, revenue policies and the tax system; its tasks also include the establishment of cohesion policies. It operates the State's public land and heritage, land register and customs and performs a supervisory role over entities and activities as well.
The Bank of Italy is the central bank and part of the European System of Central Banks (ESCB) and the Eurosystem. It is a public-law institution which pursues aims of general interest in monetary and financial matters, operating autonomously and independently, in compliance with the principle of transparency and the relevant provisions of EU and Italian laws. Bank of Italy is one of the four Italian Regulators of the financial sector together with CONSOB-Italian Securities Regulator, COVIP-Italian Pension Schemes Regulator, ISVAP-Italian Insurance Regulator.
The Antitrust Authority is an independent institution which makes its decisions based on the law without the possibility of interference by the government or other bodies of political representation. The Authority ensures compliance with rules prohibiting agreements between undertakings, abuse of dominant position, and mergers deemed to create or strengthen a dominant position.
Finally, the Authority for the Supervision of Public Contracts, an independent body which ensures compliance with the principles of transparency and fair competition in the public procurement market and also plays a role in the prevention corruption in public procurement.
Thanks to the proactive attitude of the Twinning Experts, all benchmarks and mandatory results have been achieved. Three projects deserve special mention because of their especially interesting follow-ups.
TW BG 05 IB SO 01 “Strengthening of the National Surveillance System for Communicable Diseases” followed by the TWL BG 07 IB SO 01 “Regular quality and standard operating procedure aspects in strengthening molecular biology laboratories operating in communicable diseases surveillance in Bulgaria”: these projects aimed “to strengthen the national surveillance system for communicable diseases” in Bulgaria and to establish a nationwide early warning system to assure better control of communicable diseases. Thanks to this mutual experience, the Italian and Bulgarian National Institutes for Health are now partners in a similar TW Project in a Third Country (Turkey).
BG 07 IB JH 02 UE TWL “Further strengthening the administrative capacity of the Public Prosecutor’s Office for fighting organized crime in the sphere of cultural goods in particular and related applicable EU acquis”: Italy is recognised as one of the world leaders in fighting the illegal traffic of cultural goods and artefacts, thanks to the close cooperation among a qualified team of magistrates, the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities (MIBAC) and a unit of the Italian Carabinieri police force which reports directly to the MIBAC and is specialised in combating this kind of crime.
BG 07 IB EC 02 “Further strengthening of the administrative capacity of the Financial Supervision Commission aiming at the efficient implementation of the acquis communautaire”: the purpose of this Project was to strengthen the administrative capacity of the Financial Supervision Commission – which is the Regulator and Supervisor in Bulgaria for the Securities, Insurance and Pension scheme sectors – in order to operate according to EU requirements in the area of financial supervision; moreover, the improvement of controls against money laundering and terrorism financing has been one the main issues selected as a priority of the Twinning‘s aims and the development of the culture of the financial sector in Bulgaria has been a specific task under this Project.
At this time, the purpose of the TW has to be related to the Commission’s proposal (2009) to replace the EU's existing supervisory architecture with a European system of financial supervisors (ESFS) as a consequence of the international financial crisis and in order to prevent the build-up of risks that threaten the stability of the overall financial system. In September 2010, the European Parliament - following agreement by all Member States - voted through the new supervisory framework proposed by the Commission and as from January 2011 three European supervisory authorities (ESAs) and a European Systemic Risk Board (ESRB) were established to replace the former supervisory committees.
In the end, as a matter of fact, not only has Bulgaria benefited greatly over the years from the Twinnings, which have enabled it to draw the most from its newly acquired status as a member of the EU, but these projects have also offered a good basis for the development of lasting and fruitful contacts among Bulgarian and Italian Institutions.