In light of the current financial crisis, the action plan seeks to urgently assist each economy in fundamentally improving financial reporting regulation as well as in modernizing professional and academic education systems in the area of accounting and auditing.
"Financial Reporting reforms are critical for economic development," said Philippe Le Houérou, Vice President for the World Bank's Europe and Central Asia Region. "The action plan agreed to by the Finance Ministers will assist each economy in overcoming the immediate challenges of the current financial crisis, by improving the climate for internal and external investment, which is important for job creation and economic growth. It will also help each economy to speed up the harmonizing of financial reporting and auditing to be in line with EU requirements."
In statements at the conference, the Ministries reaffirmed their support for the jointly developed "Road to Europe – Program of Accounting Reform and Institutional Strengthening" (REPARIS) plan for the period 2009-2013. The REPARIS Program is designed around the introduction, implementation, and effective enforcement of relevant portions of the EU acquis communautaire. The acquis communautaire not only includes the Company Law Directives and Regulation referred to above, but also the implementation of European Union best practices, which incorporate the international standards.
Representatives from the European Commission and the Regional Cooperation Council welcomed the timeliness and importance of this initiative. REPARIS aims to contribute to foreign direct and portfolio investment, foster private and financial sector developments, improve the business environment and investment climate, and facilitate integration into the European Union.
To achieve this, regional communities of practice that comprise the major stakeholders within each economy have been established to address the urgent implementation challenges in financial reporting, auditing and professional accountancy education.
"Though all economies are not at the same stage of their journey on the Road to Europe, and transition to a thriving market based economy, the desired destination is the same and the challenges identical," said John Hegarty, Head of the World Bank's Centre for Financial Reporting Reform. "Some economies have already succeeded in solving some of the transitional challenges, and through the new Communities of Practice, have usefully shared their experience with their neighbor economies."
Key interventions of the program include strategic input on
- drafting and phasing-in of legal and regulatory instruments to comply with the EU acquis communautaire;
- institutional design and operating procedures; and
- design of ongoing education and training programs, both academic and professional.
In addition, the Program includes twinning arrangements with leading foreign institutions, as well as the establishment and start-up support of a network of regulators, standard-setters, and officials from participating countries.
The conference was addressed by the Austrian Foreign Minister, Mr. Michael Spindelegger, and the State Secretary in the Austrian Finance Ministry, Mr. Reinhold Lopatka, who highlighted the Austrian Government's support of this initiative and partnership. Funding for the REPARIS program is made available by the Austrian Development Agency.
"We recognize the importance of this initiative because sound financial reporting and auditing are indispensable elements of an investment climate conducive to foreign investments and sustainable economic growth," said Ambassador Brigitte Öppinger- Walchshofer, Managing Director of the Austrian Development Agency.