Thursday, January 27, 2011
innovation; paintings; and paranoia
I arrive at the Forum Hotel just in time for the coffee break – and a chat with Stella, the Greek specialist on cross-frontier projects within the Structural Funds. She then leads a lively and interactive session (in Bulgarian!) with the 6 Bulgarian local officials who have been selected as co-trainers for the intensive round of workshops on SF which will start in March. I learn later that the problems Bulgaria is having with managing the money are so great that the penalties and clawbacks to which it is now subject means that it is currently one of only three EU member states which is a net contributor to the EU – the other two being Brtian and Germany! Stella makes a nice effort to bring me into the discussions by asking me why some countries have such a poor record in generalising the lessons generated by the various projects. I look quickly at a short exective summary of Good Practice on a Greening Regional development project which ran for three years led by the Environment Agency for England and Wales, South West England Region (UK) with a Europe-wide network of 17 legal partners from 8 EU Member States (UK, Austria, Spain, Italy, Malta, Poland,Hungary and Greece) and with a budget of 1.5 million euros. The results semed positive. My tentative answer would run at several levels –
• It’s a small budget – particularly for a complex cross-boundary project
• It’s doubtful whether key national actors saw the project as a demonstration or pilot one. It seemed to be more of a local initiative
• Bureaucracies have a cunning habit of giving innovative work to new sections and younger people while the mainline work trundles along on its old tramlines (I know from bitter experience in Scotland in the 1980s)
• Some governments have proactive strategies for encouraging mainline departments to work more innovatively. Most don’t. And strategies sometimes are never implemented! (remember Burns – „the best-laid schmes o’mice and men gang aft aglay”!)
There is a large literature on the huge differences between even older EU member states in implementation of new acquis obligations. This reflects different styles of government (in some cases absence of government!); and presumably this also the case for take-up of good practice?
After a good lunch with the group, I catch the number 5 tram (which arrives just as I reach the stop!) – and pop into to see Vihra and her Astry Gallery. You can get a sense both of what she brings to the venture – and also of the gallery and the annual exhibition she organises of smaller (30cms by 30 cms) paintings on this video.
Vihra is a friend of Yassan – and the two of them would make great partners for this idea of mine about a booklet about Bulgarian painting of the past century. I promised to draft a concept paper to discuss with them
Then off to the shops for final purchases for the Burns supper – which was, in the event, very enjoyable. The haggis – despite the initial suspicion with which it was received – was much appreciated; and some good wines follwed it down! In between it all there was some heavy discussion of the mess Bulgarian public administration is in - and the lack of trust, if not paranoia, which basically prevents any real cooperation. I remember the interview I had in 1992 in Warsaw with the LOcal Democracy Foundation where it was clear that an outsider simply could not win - either he knew too little about the Polish context; or he knew too much (and the wrong people). I had spent about 2 weeks in Poland in 1991 for the World Health Organisation and could drop some names - but they were probably not the right names! At that stage, Poland was notorious for the suspicion and paranoia - but at least they had an excuse! As Enzo says, countries like Romania and BUlgaria were wrongly called Eastern countries - they are actually southern. Everything operates by informal contact and the debts you build up. Superiors have to have the low-down on inferiors - and confident that they can control them.....
The latest issue of Eurozine has an article about how the newer EU members have developed in the last 20 years.
The painting is the one painting I own by Alexander Mutafov