what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Revisiting the scene of the crime

The biting cold continues – just as well I have friends who know the good Rakis (or are prepared to share their home elixir) and that there are so many red wines whose acquaintance I still have to make here. As I write, I’m tasting a Chateau Rossenovo from the „southern black sea region” (Pomorie??) which I took from the sparse shelves of my old wine merchant in his little basement store on Bvd General Totleben (did they make that up? The German name means ”deathlife”!) just before it hits Bvd General Skobelev (Did these two generals have a feud – over a woman perhaps??)
It’s not as good as the Brestovitza reds to which he introduced me some 3 years ago.
Although I spent a couple of hours today with the trainers, most of my time in the last 2 days has been with paintings, drawings and artists. Even last night’s meal with close friends was at the Architects' Association - one of Sofia’s best restaurants (for me).
I still haven’t made up my mind about the Dionesev seascape at Valmar (a bit gaudy). But I was deeply impressed with a dark blue young Stoian Vassilev seascape – and a powerful Petar Boiadjiev cliffscape.

The nice thing about revisiting the scene of your crimes (previous projects) is the possibilities of building some continuity. As the trainers were working on their exercises, I had the time to look again at the Discussion paper I left behind here 2 years ago and was interested to see again some of the points I made in that final document. The project aim was to help Bulgaria implement new EU requirements in fields such as food safety, environment, consumer protection by working with the Institute of Public Administration to design and deliver training programmes (including some distance learning) for local officials charged with the implementation of the new systems, prodecures and obligations. I was not, frankly, very familiar with what is called the EU Acquis Commuanitaire (the huge volume of legal obligations on EU member states) and found quite fascinating the huge academic literature which has developed on "the transposition and adoption of EU norms"(as the jargon puts it). As a "political scientist" (I don't like the term) rather than a lawyer, it is not surprising that I have become pretty critical of the emphasis placed on legislation. For me, legislation is perhaps necessary but never sufficient to achieve the changes being sought. As I put it in the conclusion to the Final Discussion Paper Learning from Experience - some reflections on the role of training in developing administrative capacity-
• laws are enacted in order to achieve specific social purposes
• they are one tool amongst many to achieve such purposes
• although EU law is dominant in many fields –particularly those relating to the single market – considerable scope is left to member states for complementary national legislation and structures of implementation
• this is particularly true of enforcement systems (in the general rather than legal sense)
• the transposition of EU laws in new member states outruns the capacity of institutions, budgets and societies to apply them in the manner intended
• derogations which were negotiated at the accession stage recognise this – but perhaps not fully
• governments in new member states are, however, hesitant about admitting too openly that they have to – and actually do - prioritise areas for improvements consistent with the EU acquis and good practice. Setting priorities is currently one in an ad-hoc and implicit manner
• transparency requires that this process of setting priorities is done more explicitly and openly – and reflected in the action plans
• such a process requires a realistic set of monitoring instruments
• effective training is linked to realistic action plans
Of course, I was just indulging myself since I was just a foreigner parachuted in for a year and why should anyone (let alone senior) listen to me? In fact I did have some conversations with one of the Deputy Ministers (of the Ministry for Administrative Reform) and the Final Conference did give an opportunity for an exchange about such things with one of Bulgaria's prominent jurists who understood perfectly what I was driving at and gave as good as he got!
I'll say more about the project tomorrow
The painting is a Petar Boiadjiev - the one I bought yesterday is much much better!

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