European Conference on European cities, urban planning and safety, September 16th 2007, Sofia

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Bulgaria has recently joined the European Union.  This should certainly help the country escape from the poverty from which it currently suffers, judging from the experiences of Poland or Lithuania.  But Bulgaria is still very centralised, with a clan style political system dominated by two or three large political families.  The concept of guarding information is still very apparent; I’m not even able to reveal to you the statistics of a police station! This system encourages corruption at all levels and to such an extent that the European Commission has stepped up its monitoring of public administration and will only award the country money on condition of improvements. The Bulgarian authorities, afraid of public opinion, expect from Europe the necessary means to “normalise” public life.
The accession of the City of Sofia to the Zaragoza Manifesto is one sign that the country is modernising.  The Mayor of Sofia, who will shortly stand for re-election, organised a European meeting on the city and how it operates.  Next to the themes of water, transport and waste collection, the question of security was one of the issues examined.  The main conclusion of the conference on the issue was that integrating the question of security into the different action programmes would be necessary, i.e. from programmes relating to the metro to the social regeneration of deprived areas.  The City of Sofia is keen to organise a seminar with project managers from different European cities in order to strengthen its expertise and so that the city will be able to learn from other European cities how to effectively manage finances.
Interviews with the Interior and Justice Ministers allowed the question of the involvement of the police and the judiciary in security policies to be investigated, especially with regards to the different types of punishments.  The visit in Bulgaria also allowed questions to be raised on “petty criminals” and human trafficking.  All the participants were keen to take part in the Forum’s activities.