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Senior Officials' Workshop, 25 - 26 March 2009, Vienna

On the Way to Europe: Senior Officials Meet in Vienna to Discuss Financial Reporting Challenges

On 25 and 26 March 2009 senior officials from Finance Ministries of South Eastern European economies gathered in Vienna to initiate the development of a program of regional activities under the "Road to Europe - Program of Accounting Reform and Institutional Strengthening" (REPARIS). Regional REPARIS is a program designed to motivate and support financial reporting reform activities across South East Europe, specifically in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Macedonia, Moldova and Serbia.

The workshop will provide the foundation for building commitment to a 5 year program of activities designed to support the development of a sound financial reporting infrastructure across the region.

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Gunter Schall, Head, Private Sector and Development, Austrian Development Cooperation, the principal funder of the Regional REPARIS program, welcomed participants and spoke about his agency’s expectations in supporting the program.  Speakers from the World Bank’s Centre for Financial Reporting Reform (CFRR), as well as Jan-Peter Olters, the World Bank’s Country Manager for Montenegro, set the stage for discussions by outlining for participants the goals of the program and how sound financial reporting contributes to promoting private sector growth and financial stability.  Thomas Wieser, Director General, Austrian Ministry of Finance, provided a stimulating overview of the international financial crisis and its impacts across the region, while highlighting the role of financial reporting.

Following a comprehensive review of the key financial reporting and auditing elements of the acquis communautaire presented by Ulf Linder, Deputy Head of the Accounting Unit at the European Commission, Agnieszka Stachniak from the Ministry of Finance of Poland shared her practical experiences in dealing with the challenges of implementing the acquis in a new member state. Recognizing the importance of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in the economies of the region, participants also benefited from a presentation by Sven Morich of PricewaterhouseCoopers in Berlin who addressed the policy issues in determining how SMEs should report.

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Importantly, participants also had an opportunity to get to know each other in a more relaxed environment over dinner. To provide additional stimulation for the informal discussions, Jules Muis, former Vice-President/Comptroller of the World Bank shared some thought provoking views on the financial crisis and potential implications for the role of the accounting profession.

By the conclusion of the Workshop, participants had identified several areas in which they each face common challenges in creating sustainable improvements to the financial reporting infrastructure in their economies.They also recognized the significant potential benefits of working together on these common issues. To facilitate realizing these benefits, participants agreed to work with the CFRR to achieve political commitment to a program of work that will support reform objectives to be endorsed at a high level Ministerial Conference to be held in Vienna on June 25, 2009. The conference will bring together relevant Ministers from across the region to meet with their Austrian counterparts. It will also provide an opportunity for dialogue among the ministers, the World Bank, the European Commission and the private sector. The CFRR will work closely with the senior officials over the coming weeks to prepare the agenda for the Ministerial Conference and to begin delivering programs that will meet the needs of the economies of the region.

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